MC Gebhard A/B tests her novel chapters
To find out which book will be most financially successful — before she even writes it.
Mary Catherine Gebhard self-publishes romance novels through her website — and she can earn between $60,000 and $80,000 on a book — but she kept coming up with a problem: some of her books were big hits, others weren’t — and she had no way to understand which ones would succeed and which wouldn’t.
It didn’t seem like a good solution to just keep writing books and hope that one out of five would “make it,” so she came up with an innovative solution — a way to A/B test novel chapters before she even started writing the book. Through her website ReaperHouse, she now tests chapters for several book ideas at once — for an audience of more than 250 members (I’m one of them!). The best performing chapters get turned into a book, with MC serializing new chapters through her members-only website.
She does this, not only because she wants to see what works and what doesn’t, but also because she has so many book ideas in her head that she can’t decide which ones to write. She admitted to me over the weekend that she has a spreadsheet of more than 90 books she is currently writing — ReaperHouse helps her know which ones to pursue.
I interviewed MC about what has and hasn’t worked along her self-publishing journey — and how her new members-only website might be the future of fiction. Here’s our interview.
What have you learned so far?
I can make between $60,000 to $80,000 on a book, but the expenses I had undermined any profits. It really only takes about $5,000 to put out a book — this includes editors, proofreaders, and the book cover. The shock factor really only comes in when looking at my marketing expenses. Ads, blog tours, PR, they ate up 80 percent of my profits, and are almost entirely unnecessary.
These outrageous expenses are shared between too many authors. So many of us are on the same hamster wheel, pumping out six-plus books a year, just to reach some modicum of a profit. I did this, and it fried me. For an entire year, I couldn’t write. I have friends who want to quit because they’re still doing this. Authors stay on the wheel even longer…