Saturday, March 3, 2012

Self-Published E-book riches. How?

Amanda Hocking, John Lock, Joe Konrath, Darcie Chan and Throwawaywriter, the list goes on and on--a veritable who's who in the self-publishing phenomenon, writers who have dismissed agents and publishers in favor of a unique trail-blazing experience in digital self-printing/publishing. Upload a formatted file and cove art, and you too can join the ranks of the digital rich and famous at Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, Kobo and other retailers. I'm all for the digital revolution. The projections are pretty favorable, since e-readers are currently being introduced to the classroom, including the Kindle Fire (color version) which is being adopted for the younger classroom age group. Digital sales are right around $870,000,000 at the present, and by the end of the 2013, they are expected to reach nearly 2-billion.

So what's the problem?

There's a major caveat to it, or several. It's great listening to all these success stories and seeing the screen shots of these incredible dollar figures, posted by the elite writers who have gone this route. But it's another thing knowing precisely how they gained and maintained these ranks to begin with. It's what they, sometimes, don't tell you that can land you in a bucket of shite. If you plan on going this route.

Content. The majority of these people have multiple books and short stories listed, or an incredible back-list. The more content you have, the larger your reading base, and this goes for series titles or standalone genre books and stories. Some of these writers have re-published their entire back-list and out-of-print books. Some have taken trunked novels, put a spit shine on them, and thrown them out there. Any short story that didn't hit the big leagues is fair game for an e-pubbed reprint. A noted exception is Darcie Chan, who has a one-book best-seller, but we'll get to that topic in a minute.

Platform. These writers, for the most part, have had running, active websites and blogs for months, if not years. Joe Konrath, and many others like him who had gone the "legacy" route, had enormous fan and readership bases from the very beginning. Non-celebrity writers, via their social networking skills, have accumulated hundreds, if not thousands of followers and subscribers on websites and blogs that were already in place. If your blog or website is getting several hundred or several thousand page-reads a day, and has been for a very long time, you're a great candidate for starting your own e-publishing business. If you have multiple, active blogs, your chances of selling e-books and stories are that much better.

Ads. Many of these e-pub success stories are the result of purchasing ad space or reviews, sometimes at considerable cost. One writer spent $475 on a Kirkus review, as well as ad space in several  mid-size to smaller genre publications. Some have hired publicity departments, while others have invested in blog tours and banner ads. All of this costs advance money, just to get the word out, with the hopes of recouping the costs with book sales. This is something that many of these successful self e-publishers won't tell you. Darcie Chan, at least, admits to this tactic, and the reason was to create buzz about her single title. So, if you don't have a huge website or blog following, are you prepared to toss a thousand dollars or more at this venture and hope for the best? Because if you're unknown, it will take approximately one year or more of solid social networking to get your name and your book/s titles out there in cyber space.

Driving rank up and self-purchasing. I've had several people propose that I drive up my sales rank by purchasing my own books. And you can do this and keep yourself in the top 100 best selling lists by making periodic self-purchases. Amazon, for example, doesn't care a wit about who is purchasing these books, only that they are being bought. Some writers enlist friends to purchase their titles in exchange for monetary compensation--a tit for tat type exchange. If you don't believe this is happening, you have your head in the sand. I've never done it, but I can imagine how well it could work if you have 99-cent e-book up for sale. What would keep you in the top 100 lists? Five bucks a day? Seven? You'd have to experiment to find out. But keep that up for 30 days, then you can claim such a "Best-seller" victory, and probably stay in the top 100 list because of the inertia that you've created.    

Time and labor. Anybody who thinks internet marketing and promotion is a gas, will wake up one day after a year (or several) and smell the Yuban. It's incredibly labor intensive and requires nearly all of your time, or at the very least, a half working day, just to maintain your sales momentum. Then there's the chores of writing and publishing new content to keep the fan monster fed and happy. Then it's right back to marketing and promo again, over and over and over again. You'll have write polite letters of introduction to book reviewers and blog hosts, waiting and hoping that you'll be given some pixel ink. Then you'll need to announce your reviews and interviews all over hell's half acre. Link-link-link. You'll will be your own sales force, unless you hire a publicity agent to do all of that for you.

After taking all of that into consideration, and these are just some of the major points, I'm considering self-publishing in the e-book format. But I'm tech illiterate and that is going to cost me for formatting and cover art. Another ching-ching. However, I am going to make sure I have a huge following, or at least a sizable fan base readership before I even attempt it. Can I or you get rich too? It's a crap shoot. If you have all of those points covered and realize what it takes to join the self e-publishing venture, you stand a great chance of making some money off your inventory and future-written books. But I would caution anyone considering this to go into it with your eyes wide open.

The Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared." That applies tenfold to self-publishing in the e-book industry.
Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars (Engage Science Fiction) (Illustrated)


  1. Chris, As a published author I am responsible for most of my own marketing for my first book, a WW2 biography and family memoir, Dad's War with the United States Marines (Seaboard Press,an imprint of James A Rock & Co, Florence SC) 2005, and will be doing a lot on my forthcoming mystery, Crimes of Design (L & L Dreamspell, London, TX), Spring, 2012,since both are independent presses. You mention several facts that have caused me to be dragged kicking and screaming into social networking because I know how much work it entails. Good luck on your new book--I love your title, which relates to the environmental theme in my mystery, although much more limited in scope, just Earth! Peter

  2. Thank you, Peter, and the best of luck and wishes to you on your books, as well.