Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

The Taleist survey is out: “Half of self-pub authors earn less than $500”. I ask, so what?

May 24, 2012 32 comments

I read a very interesting article this morning (OK, most of an interesting article) in regards to the recent Taleist survey of self-published authors. I was one of the 1,007 respondents and received my comp copy of the survey results yesterday, but haven’t had a chance to read through it yet. However, the Guardian has, and posted this article, with the somewhat-negative headline of:

Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500

The article starts off as a bit of a wet blanket, though not the sky-is-falling doomsaying one might expect from that headline, so I’m here in defense of the poor, downtrodden self-published heathen.

Disclaimer: I have been very fortunate over the past year and am on the other side of that half, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Three things I take out of this article – one is an assumption, one is my thought on the self-pub/traditional income subject, and closing with a stat Taleist came up with.

Those who want to do best at self-publishing, they found, would be well advised to focus on romantic fiction. Romance authors earned 170% more than their peers, while authors in other genres fared much worse: science-fiction writers earned 38% of the $10,000 average, fantasy writers 32%, and literary fiction authors just 20% of the $10,000 average.

I don’t like this one bit. Whether it’s The Guardian or the Taleist survey conclusions, this paragraph screams at me in a shrill tone. Apparently this is saying if you want to be successful, write into a successful genre.

Phooey. Write what YOU want, write what YOU enjoy reading, and above all, DON’T write for what is successful NOW. Ten years ago it was boy wizards. Two years ago, it was sparkly vampires. Ten years from now? It may be literary fiction featuring trolls and light sabers. Who cares. Write because you want to, don’t try to fit into a preconceived box that will make you ‘more successful’. That may work when choosing between jobs, but not when it comes to pouring one’s heart out onto paper.

Half the respondents failed to reach $500 in royalties in 2011, and a quarter of the books are unlikely to cover the direct costs of production. “Sobering” news, wrote Cornford and Lewis. “Who’d come back for more?”

So 503.5 respondents earned less than $500 last year. If every one of those had submitted their work to an agent, then on to the publisher, then on to… (you get the point), how much would they have earned? About as much as I earned for writing this post. Squadoosh. Those authors took a leap of faith and sent their work out into the world, and a handful (or several handfuls) bought it and read it. In that same time, going traditional, their book most likely wouldn’t even have been in pre-production by the end of 2011. And that’s assuming they would be accepted through the slushpile. What’s the percentage who get published traditional? Very low – let’s call it 5%. So of those 503.5 authors, 25.175 (okay, I’ll round off – 25) get the “deal.” The other 478 continue to lick stamps, send emails, and so on, without a dime to show for it. And those 25? If the stars align correctly, they may see a portion of their small debut-author advance before the year is over. This is always a frustration of mine when I see traditionally published bring up the ‘low income by self-publishing’ subject.

Which brings me to a much better 5% subject:

But money isn’t always the primary goal for self-published writers, they discovered, with only 5% considering themselves “unsuccessful”. The respondents were also still keen to continue self-publishing: nearly half plan to release more titles this year than they did last, and 24% have a whopping five or more works due for publication this year.

Of 1,007 respondents, over 950 consider themselves successful – by extrapolation, 478 of the authors who didn’t “cover the direct costs of production” finished 2011 with a smile on their face, toasted loved ones with champagne on January 1st, and considered themselves successful. And they’re still writing and publishing.

I consider anyone who takes that leap of faith incredibly successful, covering costs or not. Let’s keep this amazing ball rolling, friends.


It’s been a humbling, exciting, wonderful Year One of writing

February 3, 2012 7 comments

Today is Friday, February 3rd, and tomorrow morning I’m getting on a plane to Mexico with my family on a week’s vacation, one we have done for the past seven years this same week (a Super Bowl party on the beach is better than hanging in some dude’s basement watching it). Today is also the one-year anniversary of something that turned out to be fairly significant for me: my first book sale.

One year ago yesterday (2/2/11), I uploaded Gabriel’s Redemption to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. One year ago today, I was driving to the airport at seven in the morning when I saw an email on my phone from Smashwords with the subject line “Purchase Notification.” Ho. Lee. Crap. Someone, out of the blue, bought the book I wrote.

Here it is, one year later, and it’s been a helluva year – one that saw two more books released, and some fantastic feedback and reviews received. I’m still flabbergasted (love when I get to use that word) at how the year went, and I’m incredibly humbled.

I just want to give huge shouts of thanks to my fellow writers for their unending support, and all those readers out there who supported in a different way – by buying, reading, reviewing, and spreading the word about my books.

I’ve had success beyond my wildest dreams. Gabriel’s Redemption was written as a personal challenge to myself, and as something I thought my kids would get a kick out of; never did I think it would have gotten to this point. A point where just yesterday, on that one year anniversary of publishing my first book, the first shipment of the paperback versions of books two and three arrived in the mail. Wow…just…wow.

I’m both thankful, and inspired. 2012 will be even more exciting.

Pssst…those two new paperbacks are now available to be ordered, and I’ve got a secret blog-reader-only discount code for all three…

Gabriel’s Redemption (1) ~ Gabriel’s Return (2)Gabriel’s Revenge (3)

Super Secret Createspace Discount Code: HBV5NXDP ($3.00 off – don’t spend it all in one place)

Are books worth more than gas station coffee?

December 16, 2011 40 comments

Normally my blog posts are very reader-centric (book reviews, random thoughts and ramblings), but I just received a Twitter DM last night (actually several in a row) I really wanted to talk to someone about. And since authordom is a lonely profession, I figured I’d blab about it here and see what other authors (and readers) thought.

Here’s what I received, around 1AM (yep, still awake):

“Just wanted u 2 know i finished gabriels return and really loved it, very fun, cool scifi”

“but ur price is way out of wack. its 86 thousand words for $2.99”

“i can get 3 novels 4 that price, plus free ones. u shud make it .99”

“or add some chapters and stuff 2 make it over 100k. i hope the last 1 in trilogy is .99, or i might not get it”

So yeah. Setting aside the professional athlete type of abbreviated grammar (hey, I get the 140 character limit, but 2 for to? Come on…), here’s what I took out of this:

  • This person really loved my book, which is a great compliment
  • This person feels that three bucks is too much to spend for an under-100k words novel
  • This person thinks I should add filler to a book he/she ‘loved’ to make it worth more
  • This person, who (presumably) read first two in my trilogy won’t spend more than a buck to read the last one

I appreciate the first point, I sort of understand the second, but totally don’t get the third or fourth.

We are in a recession, some of the worst financial times I’ve seen in my 40 (ahem) years, so I get the dollar issue. I really do. Do I sometimes opt for the Wawa or 7-11 $1.29 coffee instead of the $4.25 Starbucks latte? Sure. Do I cross the $2 toll bridge that’s a few minutes more out of my way than the $5 one? Sometimes. But to me those are commodities, instant purchase decisions that are used in a matter of minutes. I don’t get hours of enjoyment from driving over the bridge (barring major traffic), nor do I curl up on the couch every night for a week with the same $1.29 cup of coffee.

I’ve talked about this before. A book is worth what the market will bear, not a penny more or less. So I’m certainly not to going to argue a book should be priced based on the work put into it, or the time spent creating it, and so on. I’ve priced my first book anywhere between $.99 and $4.99, and have come down squarely on the side of price vs. value. I feel that $.99 is an impulse buy and may never get read, whereas someone who spends $3 to $5 will invest their valuable time in reading it. I believe that there is a perception out there that $.99 books are self-published junk (right or wrong) that people absolutely won’t touch with a 39 1/2 foot pole (and to some extent, that can be applied to $2.99 books, as those are the two magic price points for self-published books).

I know there’s a whole contingent of buyers out there who will buy nothing but $.99 books, and I get that. I’m not going that way. I still feel $3-$5 is a great value for a book, whether it’s 50k words or 150k. But to say add more to the book to make it worth more, even after they loved it, or saying they won’t buy the last one for that extra $2? Still scratching my head…

Am I wrong to wonder why someone would not spend less than a Starbucks latte for a novel, and instead insist on it being less than a cup of coffee from a gas station? What is the reader and Kindle/Nook book buyer’s perspective on this?

Update: In the spirit of the holidays, I changed “ten foot pole” to “39 1/2 foot pole.” See what I did there? 

In celebration of the new Nook, join me in promoting fellow authors

June 2, 2011 24 comments

I was lying in bed last night (no worries, this blog post isn’t going there) reading Game 7: Dead Ball by Allen Schatz on my Nook Classic (tip: go buy that book). As I swiped my finger from right to left on the awesome little color nav screen, I realized I really love my Nook. And I feel for it. It’s like the forgotten middle sister to the older, more experienced Kindle, and the younger, flashier iPad.

I’m not a button kinda guy (see aforementioned finger swipe), which explains why I don’t have a Kindle…not a fan of that circa-2004 cellphone keyboard it sports. But I also don’t want to read on backlit LCDs, since for the past couple of years I’ve read books on my iPhone, and I’ll probably go blind from the (a) strain in sunlight, or (b) glare at night. So when I got my Nook (again, not the Color backlit one), ostensibly for a giveaway, I fell in love with it (my apologies to the person who may have won it in the never-kicked-off contest I planned to have).

But then it dawned on me last night…even though I use a Nook, and love it, it’s still that middle sister, even in my own marketing efforts. If I send a tweet about my novel (shameless plug & links: Gabriel’s Redemption scifi-adventure just $2.99 for Nook & Kindle), I invariably will send the Kindle one. Why? Market leader, of course – if I only have one sales message to send, it’s a Kindle message. Makes perfect business sense. But then I look at my sad Nook, staring back at me with its plaintive eyes (OK, color nav screen), and I feel like I’m cheating on that middle sister.

So here’s the deal. I’m gonna single-handedly vault the Nook into the number one spot for ereaders. Okay, that’s absurdly optimistic. I can’t even get my novel into the Top 10,000 on Kindle. I’ll start smaller. Starting tomorrow (Friday), and in celebration of the new Nook Simple Touch reader that is now available for purchase (man, that’s an awesome piece of tech), I’m going to throw out a hashtag and promote fellow authors’ ebooks on the Nook every Friday. I’d love it if you joined in. It will be the oh-so-creative hashtag #nookfriday.

Promote your novels and shorts, promote your friends…hell, promote a $38 ebook about King Arthur. Doesn’t matter. If you see a tweet from someone promoting a Nook book, even if it’s not your cup of tea, retweet it if you like…perhaps one of your Twitter followers enjoys that type of tea.

With the new Nook shipping next week, I do foresee a jump, if even a small one, in market share for Barnes & Noble…at least until Amazon catches up. So I think it’s an excellent time to start getting the word out on my novel, as well as others, that can find a home on a reader’s Nook.

Whaddya say…are you in?


Update: My current sales rank (June 2) for Gabriel’s Redemption in PubIt for BN is 342,782 (stellar, I know). We’ll see if the needle moves at all…

How editing for a friend made me a better writer

May 23, 2011 13 comments

I just wrapped up a line-edit for a very good friend last week. It was for his existing novel he was looking into putting into print. We chatted a bit ahead of time, and because he had mentioned in the past he wished he could have put it through an editor previously, I volunteered to go over it for him to see if I could pick out and help improve any of what I call the “mechanics” of the writing. Not the content, plot, active/passive voice, that sort of thing. Just the mechanicals – the punctuation, capitalization, spelling, word repetition, point of view shifts, etc.

The hardest part of my offer was my constant thinking of, “who the hell am I?” and not wanting to come across as arrogant. Because, really, who the hell am I? I don’t have a degree in English, I’m not a teacher, I never worked as an editor; my only claim to fame is a state finals spelling bee in 7th grade. Not exactly the resumé of one to offer his services to another author. But if someone were to ask me what my best asset is as a writer, I’d probably say those mechanics. I may not be a typical reader, as even the tiniest of mechanical errors will jump off the page to me and ‘pull me out’ of the story. It’s probably borderline OCD and although I tend to self-medicate a lot (red wine and Guinness among my preferred libations) I suppose it is an asset in the end.

Am I a perfectionist? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I had a 3 star review posted on Amazon where the reviewer mentioned I had serious style issues he didn’t want to get into in the review. I commented back with my email address and he was kind enough to respond with a thorough, detailed listing of particular issues I had in my writing. And you know what? He was 100% correct – which makes me really anxious to read over my existing novel to see what I’ve learned over the past few months since writing it (and with the magic of e-publishing, I can make those changes in near real-time). So Scott – another sincere thanks.

That brings me to the crux of this post. I realized while editing, marking up, striking through, making red type suggestions, I was making myself a better writer. I was looking closely at someone else’s work and picking out things a reader would, or an editor would, and more and more as I went along I was essentially teaching myself to write all over again.

As strange as it may sound, by trying to help a friend, I was, in the end, helping myself. In the few days since I completed the edit, in the few hundred words I’ve written in my book two WIP, I am consciously avoiding those mechanical issues. I’m looking for the POV shifts, the incorrect participle phrases, the extra or missing commas. I skimmed back through my WIP at the previous few chapters, and I’m picking out a minor error here and there (and those of you who know my philosophy, you know editing-before-completing is a no-no in my book). It has made me, and continues to make me, a better writer.

Maybe what I took from the whole experience is that I’ve got a lot of great friends in the writing community, a community I’ve only been a part of for less than four months. I’ve seen friends suggest changes in cover art, offer beta readings, “Like” author pages, retweet Amazon links, and so on – especially in the fantastic community within a community on Twitter, #pubwrite. We’re all in this together, and I know myself it’s been a very rewarding experience. If I can pass on some of that help, I’ll do so wherever and whenever I can. Hopefully we all feel the same way and we can all continue to help each other.

A rising tide floats all boats.

E-books officially pass print books, no looking back now…

May 19, 2011 9 comments

From time to time, in both my personal life and business ownership, I make decisions that don’t work out. Whether it’s to lay a tile floor (weeks of backache afterwards said that was a mistake), try to install my own fence (complete disaster), try a trade show outside of our business focus (waste of several people’s time and my money), or hiring the wrong person (yep…not so smart in that one case), I’ve put myself out there and given it a shot. Like Wayne Gretzky once said, he missed 100% of the shots he didn’t take. However, in the past few months I’ve realized that one big decision I made was the proper one:

I decided to self-publish my novel as an ebook.

If you’ll notice the blog title, e-books are a wave rolling over the publishing industry. The reason I wrote this post is some incredible news that was just released this morning via press release. Amazon announced that books for Kindle are now outselling all paperback and hardcover books combined. Read the full press release here.

Think about that for a minute. Done? Yep, all paperback and hardcover combined just got passed by instant-download, lower-priced (well, not in all cases yet), mass-storable, read-anywhere e-books.

So my conclusion? I firmly believe I made the right decision (for once) in going e-book. I decided not to try for the traditional route (and I realize e-books don’t necessarily equal self-published, or vice versa, but for the sake of this post, I’m using the lower barriers to e-book publishing as being at odds with traditional publishing). I didn’t want to query, and query, and query; hope to find an agent; hope a publisher said yes to a full read; wait 12-18 months before my book hit the shelves; and finally see the book pulled after two months, relegated to bargain bookstores.

I’m certainly not arguing against traditional publishing, or even print books in general. I’m just satisfied in my decision to go the e-book, self-published route. And like the e-book wave, there’s no looking back for me now.

Oh, and if you were curious, my self-published e-book is available somewhere in that massive wave…

What are your thoughts on e-books?

I’m an author unwilling to talk about himself…

April 28, 2011 17 comments

This just in: I’m uncomfortable talking about myself. The problem? It may be the only way to succeed as an independent author…

Hi, I’m Steve, and I’m an author.

[audience: Hi Steve…]

That’s about all I’m usually prepared to say. I mean, who cares who I am, what I do, where I’ve been? My wife, kids, family, friends, they know the answers (and most of the time don’t really care anyway) but now that I’ve jumped in to writing with both feet, I find it’s a necessity to promote my book as a product, me as a brand.

Yes, that’s how I view it. The book I wrote, Gabriel’s Redemption, is a product that needs to be promoted. I’m totally fine with that; I’ve been in some form of sales or another most of my adult life, and most of those years as a business owner. I could easily step up to a podium in front of a hundred industry professionals (my company’s industry, not writing!) and wax philosophically about the benefits of swim-up bars, beach waiters, and mojitos (bet you’re now curious what I do, aren’t you?) without batting an eyelash. However, if I had to stand up there and speak about me, who I am, there would be a plethora of “uhhhs” and “ummms” being uttered. It’s just not me. I don’t feel I’m important (or famous) enough for anyone to care.

However, I can’t keep hiding behind that veil of anonymity. For a self-published author to succeed, he or she must promote not only the product, but the brand itself – the author. And yes, the author is a brand. Say Stephen King, or Tom Clancy, or Stephenie Meyer, or Dan Brown (ugh), and a brand comes to mind. Not really a person (although in King’s case he’s done well for himself as a ‘face’ brand), but a name, a product line. And they’ve done that on purpose. Building a brand means promoting oneself as a name, and that name needs background. A story.

The reason I wrote this post is that I’m currently in the middle of completing an author interview sent to me by one of my great online friends. I just completed one two weeks ago, another two days ago, and I have two more in the near future I will be working on. Each and every one of them not only asks about the product, but also the brand. Me. And I’m forced to talk about myself. I have to tip my cap to Emlyn Chand, as her “twitterview” of me in February, after having been published for a matter of days, was the first time anyone had thought enough of me to want to interview, and it got me off the sidelines.

I’m not one to walk into a room and take over the conversation. I don’t normally think of myself as having an outsized personality, or dominant presence. But in these interviews, I need to! Building a brand means forcefully and truthfully relating who I am to the readers in order to let them know who I really am. How I came up with the motivations for the story. Showing them the face/person behind the name on the front cover of the book. And it’s damned difficult. No, I’m certainly not complaining – I am truly flattered that anyone would even consider the possibility of interviewing me (again my mindset is, who the hell am I?) but it’s trying to put words on paper describing myself that’s causing some angst…

I think I need a bigger ego…