Monday, November 22, 2010

Launching Your Career Via Kindle, the Unpublished

What is your thought about authors who publish on Kindle? I first became aware that authors were doing this with their backlist about a year ago. Kindle makes it easy by offering a 70% royalty rate at a certain price point. Then J.A. Konrath announced she was releasing a new title on Kindle. That seemed to open the floodgates. Now, I know so many multi-pubbed authors who are not only selling to NY, they are releasing their backlist and even new fiction on Kindle as well.

What do agents think about this new trend of authors self-pubbing through Kindle? In your opinion, does it harm us? Help us? Does it affect the way you look at prospective authors?


This is a post I’ve been wanting to do for some time, but knowing it would take a lot of thought and work, it took me a while to get my thoughts together or, more to the point, my thoughts on paper.

Today’s post is going to be Part One of a two-part piece on self-publishing electronically, whether it’s through Kindle or another format. Today’s post will focus on the unpublished author, as per the reader’s question, while tomorrow’s will take a look at the published author who wants to use electronic self-publishing as a way to build or enhance an already successful career.

It’s a really interesting time in publishing. Self-published electronic books are changing the way many of us think about books and giving authors quick and easy ways to get their books out to readers without the help of traditional publishers or agents. And there is no doubt that we’re seeing success stories from authors who are doing it their own way and on their own. That being said, we’ve seen this before.

When I first launched BookEnds 10+ years ago there was something hot and new on the scene, something that was going to revolutionize the way we publish and finally get rid of those “gatekeepers,” otherwise known as agents and editors. That something was POD (print on demand). Sites like iUniverse and Lulu were popping up everywhere and for a mere $99 (or something like that) authors could publish their books and find an audience themselves. The talk at the time was that we didn’t need agents anymore, we don’t need editors. Readers are going to be able to make the decision about what books should and shouldn’t be published, and some bookstores were even working with these sites to carry the books. Sound familiar?

Just as there is today, there were success stories with POD, authors who went out there and did it their own way and found readers, a lot of readers. Eventually a number of those authors were picked up by what we’re calling today “traditional publishers.” The truth, though, is that, just like today, there were many, many more authors who floundered, sold very few copies, and never had anything near the success they dreamed of.

It’s true that self-epublishing is different in the fact that you are guaranteed “bookstore” space since most of the opportunities available are directly through the sites readers are already going to for their books. Right there you see more potential for success than you did with POD. And there’s no doubt that it’s appealing to sidestep the tedious process of finding an agent and finding a publisher, but is it really easier to find a reader? I’m not so sure. Remember, just because you put the book out there doesn’t mean the readers will come. Think of it this way: If every single person who is querying me this week (that’s 300+ people) decides to epublish on their own, it’s not going to take more than a week before the market is flooded with books, and when readers are overwhelmed, what do you think they’re most likely to do? My guess is go back to those books that are tried and true, those authors they already know will deliver a good read. Heck, there might even become a time when readers rely on the brand name of publishers to help them weed through the mass of books to choose those they feel will be quality books.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against self-epublishing, not by a long shot, but I think it’s important that authors carefully consider all sides of the story before jumping in, just as I hope you would carefully review any publishing contract before signing. There’s definitely a time and place when self-publishing through places like Kindle can be beneficial to an author, and I have authors who I think it can help, but I also think you need to consider exactly what you want out of publishing or epublishing and whether putting everything you write out there is necessarily the best thing. Frankly, this is the exact same advice I gave five or ten years ago when authors were asking my opinion on self-publishing or POD publishing. What are your goals as an author and your dreams for this book?

Lately I’ve read a lot of blog posts and articles on self-epublishing and how it’s the downfall of traditional publishers and that we’re all terrified of this new world. I suppose there are some who are terrified, in the same way there were people who were terrified to give up the typewriter, wordperfect, or put a credit card online. You might be nervous about change, but eventually you’re going to have to take that step. That being said, I feel that some of the articles I’ve read have been incredibly biased and misleading. They praise the authors who have had major successes in the self-epublishing world and throw their names around like it’s so easy. Frankly, I think that’s a discredit to those authors like J. A. Konrath who have worked hard to achieve the success they’ve achieved, whether by self-publishing through Kindle or finding a home with a traditional publisher.

J. A. Konrath created quite a stir when he (not she) announced his deal on Kindle and regularly discusses his thoughts on epublishing, but this world isn’t necessarily for everyone. Joe has a following, he has an audience, and most important, Joe works damn hard to constantly promote his brand. In my opinion, he’s an exception to what’s happening, not the rule. Trust me, Joe has a lot of great points, and the biggest is the amount of money one can make going directly to places like Kindle rather than through a traditional publisher. That being said, can you make the money if no one buys your books? Joe was selling books to readers well before he entered the self-epublishing world, he had a fan base, and people were hungry to read more of what he had written. Let me put it this way: For every success story like J. A. Konrath, there are hundreds of authors who put a book out on their own, only to see a hundred or so sales to friends and family and then nothing.

Do I think it’s a mistake to go out on your own? No, but I do think you need to be aware of the pitfalls, and one of the biggest is falling into a clump with thousands of other authors who have grown tired of the query process and are convinced that no one in publishing knows any better. I think self-epublishing is much easier for those with a recognizable audience already. J. A. Konrath has that and so does Seth Godin, another author who has decided to stop using traditional publishers and epublish on his own.

While self-epublishing is certainly different from POD, primarily because in self-epublishing you can actually get your book to readers through stores, I don’t think finding readers is any easier than finding a literary agent or publisher.

The world is changing and so is publishing. It’s an exciting time and frankly, with all the discussions that are happening, I’m not convinced anyone has touched on what the future will really be like just yet. Personally, I think it’s still going to include traditional publishers, editors, and agents, because who wouldn’t want a smart team of people on their side to help market, edit, and promote their book, and who wouldn’t want a business manager to help guide their career and take on some of the headaches that any business can create? I just think we’re going to see things happening in a different way.

To sum up (to really answer your question), because obviously there’s a lot I could continue to say, I think self-epublishing is a viable option if you know why you’re doing it. If your hope or plan is to build your career and use it as a way to get out your debut novel, you might want to either rethink whether that’s the best way, or seriously consider how much work you are willing to put into it. In other words, do you have the time (and money) to spend marketing and promoting the book like you would really need to do to find readers? If, however, you have a story you love, that you want told, and you just want it out there, I certainly think it’s a great alternative to “traditional publishing.”

Jessica

45 comments:

Mike said...

Great post. One thing I'm curious about, as far as marketing such a book: If you epublish your own book on Kindle, you have an electronic book being sold through an electronic bookstore. Doesn't that make it difficult to include author appearances and/or signings in your marketing plan because A) bookstores have nothing to stock, and B) you have nothing to sign? You could debate just how much signings and appearances contribute to a book's bottom line, but they've been author promotional staples for so long, it's kind of strange to imagine a no-book book signing, isn't it? Although I suppose an author could sign someone's Kindle. I know of a guy who had Jimmy Page sign his laptop because he didn't have any paper on hand.

Megs said...

I've been reading a lot of Dean Wesley Smith's New World of Publishing (www.deanwesleysmith.com) and Kristine Rusch's The Changing Times (www.kriswrites.com), and one of the big things they're saying in addition to the options of self-publishing this way is that e-books are more likely to save Big Publishing than destroy it. Makes sense the way they present it.

Kimber An said...

I'm ePublished and happy to be so.

Yes, by all means, do all your homework and go into it with a very practical attitude.

Here's one reason I went in which I have not heard or read yet.

I went with ePublishing because I could not grow anymore as a writer on my own. I'd grown all I could with all the free help available to me. I did not have the money to pay for help that was not free.

Agents do not have time to teach. I think the last Full which was declined did come with a tiny bit of feedback. "Learn more on the craft." Well, that's great advice, but there was no one left to teach me more for free. So, when I scored three offers from ePublishers, I leapt at the one with the contract I liked the best (did tons of homework on that too.)

Hey, I am no J.K. Rowling, but I can tell you this. I've grown a lot as a writer since I signed that contract. Just as I'd hoped. The editors I've worked with have been awesome, patient, thorough, tough. It's been a lot more fun than continuing to spin my wheels in the sand of Queryland with no where else to grow.

Do I have an eye on traditional? Well, I still come to this blog, but this is the only one. I really don't have time to think about it otherwise. Being an ePublished author is hard work.

Mark Terry said...

As someone who has been and plans to be continue to be traditionally published, but has also dabbled in POD and in e-publishing, I can say that e-publishing has some positives over POD. It's not just the bookstore issue (which is significant, actually), but the costs themselves are very low.

The primary difference between the two may be in book pricing. I did an iUniverse book several years ago and it cost me nothing, because for a 6-month period or so iUniverse hooked up with Mystery Writers of America and offered free publishing. So CATFISH GURU, a collection of mystery novellas featuring a forensic toxicologist, cost me nothing to publish and they did a great job with the cover art (not always the case with POD publishers). To my mind, however, there were 2 big problems--aside from electronic bookstores, i.e., Amazon, you couldn't get the book (less of a problem now, for sure, given Amazon's market penetration); but a larger issue was that the trade paperback was priced at $17.95. That was very high at the time for a trade paperback and seems fairly high today, although not as extreme.

Flashforward 10 years or so and I've got a couple e-books out I've self-published, including re-issuing 2 of my traditionally published novels, THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK and THE SERPENT'S KISS that went out of print and I managed to get the e-rights back. I can name the prices, so I did--$2.99. And due to Amazon's policies, my royalty is 70%.

Out of the 5 or 6 e-books I have, those two sell a fair amount of copies, probably because they're the first 2 books in a series and my latest novel, THE FALLEN, continues the series, which will continue next year. THE FALLEN is also an e-book, but my publisher controls that.

What's of further interest is that paper books tend to start out with good sales and taper off. E-book sales, for whatever reason, seem to gather momentum, particularly as you put more books out there.

So there are some real pluses. However, I also think Joe Konrath is something of an outlier, although certainly not the only one.

taratyler said...

Sometimes I think I entered the book market at the wrong time. As I keep getting rejected, I have considered epublishing. It sounds great to a newbie. During this transitional era it seems more difficult to get an agent. They are more selective because publishers are being cautious on what they decide to take. But I do not want to go it alone. I want an agent, who knows a ton more about the business than I do, to help me with marketing and building a readership as you mentioned. I believe endorsement and promotion from agents and publishers are invaluable. I agree that by just "putting it out there" only friends and family would buy. Publishers and agents aren't going anywhere, the strong will adjust and survive.

Kristan said...

Maybe you'll touch on this in part 2, but what I'd like to know is, Does e-publishing "ruin" an aspiring writer for agents?

The reason I ask is, I experimented with e-publishing purely for fun -- I didn't think of it as a true foray into publishing, and I wasn't trying to circumvent anyone or anything. I consider myself a serious writer, and I have always wanted (and still do) an agent and a traditional deal and all that. But in addition to my "real" manuscript, I was writing serial fiction for my blog, and I thought, Why not make it available on Kindle?

It has sold (and continues to sell) modestly, which is all I really expected. But now I worry that it's a black mark on my record, because I used my real name.

Am I being paranoid? Or did I really mess myself up? Is there a best way to proceed moving forward? Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Suzi McGowen said...

I have a book that I want traditionally published (and I'm planning on start sending it out around the first of the year).

But I'm thinking about creating some short "tie in" stories for the main book and e-publishing those.

Rik said...

Everything I want to say about this issue, I've already said a couple of weeks back over at Lynn Price's Behler Blog in this thread:


Dear Publishers, do we even need you?

Jane Makuch said...

So true!

I think it would be helpful for you to explain the importance of companies like "BubbleCow" and I would love to see if any agents are going to start working with respected editing companies to look for new authors.

LadyGenette said...

My mother has been pressuring me to write a novel and publish it to Kindle. I made the mistake of sharing with her the story of a debut author who was able to make thousands of dollars in a few short months.

I am extremely thankful for this post. With all of the confusion surrounding self-publishing, with the pros and cons, I struggled between the desire for instant publication and the desire for delayed success. Turns out, I'm patient.

E.J. Wesley said...

Hi Jessica,

I've followed your blog for a long time and really, really enjoy your thoughts. I'm also very interested in the electronic shift in the publishing business (both as a reader and writer). Consequently, when I saw you were tackling the issue I had to jump on over and take a look!

I think your points are extremely valid about JA's success (I also follow his blog). He did have a fan base before jumping in, and I'm sure that has played some part in his success. Furthermore, you also make a great point (in so many words) about simply not expecting success because you can slap your work in a space full of consumers. How many books do we bypass in a bookstore before getting to what we want? There are many, many factors that contribute to sales success for a title, not the least of which are its quality, cover, publicity, and market.

That leads me to a couple of things that I disagreed with you on. The first thing I'd point out in regards to your thought about the eBook market becoming flooded is that the 'physical' book market is over-saturated. Back to my point about bookstores, if you've been in one of the mega-chains lately you can't help but be overwhelmed by the volume of titles. However, we still manage to find what we (readers) want and occasionally sniff out something unexpected. My point: people will find the books (be they electronic or physical) that appeal to them through the tried-and-true methods of word-of-mouth, author/brand recognition, and good old trial and error. I've heard people decry the lack of professional filtering for eTitles, and frankly I think it's a non-issue. You may not have an awesome salesperson following you around on Amazon telling you what you'll like, but there are so may ways to filter, view reviews, etc. that it's really no disadvantage at all.

The second thing I'd disagree with you on is the similarities between POD and ePublishing, particularly as a financial investment. While you might have been able to get started with POD for $99, the long-term investment would be far greater, and the day-to-day responsibilities of book selling (such as distribution, marketing, etc.) much more involved. Most of the folks I've read about who POD with any success spend thousands of $$ and burn up months of their lives not writing in the process. I don't see the two as being financially similar investments at all from a risk/reward standpoint.

Overall, I agree with much of what you said. However you choose to publish, a few things will always stay the same: the writing must be of the highest quality you possess, you must have a little luck on your side, and you have to reach people who value what you're writing.

Thanks again for your post, and I'll be looking forward to the 2nd installment.

EJW

Roni Loren said...

Great overview on the debate. I think what it comes down to for me as a consumer is that gatekeepers provide quality control.

I judged for a few contests last year and I realized really quickly that there is a lot of bad writing out there. And the people who entered the contests considered this their best, most polished work. If they had notions to self e-pub, this is what would go out there. And 99% of the time, it's just not work that's ready yet.

Therefore, for me, there are too many great books available to read for me to waste my time and money sifting through things that people put out on Kindle themselves.

Having said that, I do read a lot of ebooks from the reputable digital-first publishers because I know there are gatekeepers and professional editors involved. And had I not landed a deal with a traditional publishing house, I would've been open to submitting to a few of the e-pubs.

So for me, all things considered-- I'm just wary of self-published books regardless of the format. It's a rare writer who can get enough perspective on their own writing to do it all on their own.

Anonymous said...

There's a big difference between venturing into self e-publishing vs. going through an e-publisher. If going with an e-publisher (a reputable one), your book will have been vetted before a contract is offered. It will be edited, it will be promoted on the e-publisher's website and perhaps through print ads.
When my first book was rejected by traditional publishers, I turned to e-publishers and like another commenter said, I learned a lot from my editors. When I found it hard to sell as many books as I'd hoped, I did research and found other e-publishers with more impressive sales figures. I learned and my writing improved through this process. I now earn decent royalties with the 6 books I have with a top-earning e-publisher. Apparently I am not the only person who thinks my writing improved greatly because I now have an agent who is shopping several of my manuscripts to NY publishers. I never would be where I am and my future wouldn't be nearly as bright without the experience I gained through e-publishing.

Kate Douglas said...

Excellent post, Jessica. I'm passing the link on.

Fawn Neun said...

You can't really equate 'ePublishing' with 'self-publishing' - since they aren't the same thing. With self-publishing, you can go digital or go print, you're still 'self-publishing'. Many traditional publishers 'ePublish' - it only means to release an electronic version of a book. There are also plenty of small publishers that 'ePublish' only, or do both.

So, it's a bit like the problem with terminology with 'POD' - POD is a print method, as opposed to 'offset'. It's not a business model.

ePublish does not equal self-publishing.
POD does not mean vanity or self-publish.

What it comes down to is - Who owns the company that's responsible for putting your work on the market?

If it's you - you're self-published.
If it's Harpers or Salt or Carina - you're not. Whether the actual work is produced digital only, or POD, or offset, or a combination of all three, plus audio or iPad apps.

Self-publishing on Kindle can be a fun and interesting source of revenue, but it can also be a big disappointment, and like everything, it sort of depends on your expectations.

But I think it's important to make sure people get the terms right.

T C Mckee said...

I agree with Roni. I generally wonder why a book hasn't been picked up by an agent, if it's that good. I've looked at a few e-pubs that were self launched and some should have found a home with a Trad. publisher. But others are just an embarrassment to the author to say the least. I understand a lot of great books get lost in the slush pile. But you can't give up. Personally, I've worked too hard on my novels to have them looked at in a cautious light right off the bat. First impression is everything and I would want my readers to know that I stopped at nothing to make my book successful. I know of a few agents who are starting to delve into this area. They feel that it's possible to e-pub the right way while investing very little into a debut author. There's less risk involved in e-publishing a polished shelf worthy debut than actually going through with the costs of printing it. I'd consider this option, but I'd never go it alone. An agent would be the only way. They're the experts on the path to publishing, not me. To go it alone would be the equivalency of me upgrading the fuse box on a whim one afternoon. That would be a very bad thing since I'm not an electrician.

Daron D. Fraley said...

Great post. I couldn't agree more.
I am a first time, traditionally published author with a small regional publisher. Because of contractual reasons which I don't want to get into here, I revoked my rights from the publisher and have re-released my book as an ebook. I certainly had hopes for my book sales taking off, but so far it has not. Sales have been slow. Using facebook, twitter, my blog, etc, I can see that it's going to take a LONG, LONG time to build my readership.

A few recommendations for those who want to try the self-pub ebook route:

1. Get the ebook edited by a professional editor.
2. Get professional help with the layout, perhaps a typesetter who also does ebooks.
3. Get a professionally done book cover.

Even after getting help with all three of these things, I am still having a slow go of it.

My plan for next year: Write another book outside my series. Shop it with agents while I continue to press forward on the ebook front for my current release and the sequel.

Anonymous said...

I understand the question, but in the answer I'm curious about how you're referring to e-publishing.

E-publishing and self-publishing e-books are two different things. And, for that matter, all publishers are e-publishing now, which, again, is very different from self-publishing e-books.

I'm in back-listed books that have been released by print publishers as e-books, which is e-publishing.

Five years ago I started submitting work to a valid e-publisher (not self-publishing e-books) and saw great results in royalties. And then I started submitting to another e-publisher and now I'm working with two e-publishers. And one of my books was sold to a print publisher in collaboration with an e-publisher. This, however, all falls under the title e-publishing, not self-publishing electronic books.

I also know people who are self-publishing their books as e-books and they are happy with the results. I never wanted to do that because I personally didn't want to be bothered with the expense or all the other factors that come into play with self-publishing. The *e-publishers* I work with treat me just like all the print publishers I've worked with in the past, from editorial to advances to royalites.

So I do think you should clarify the terminology in this post, especially for the newer, younger agents who are repping authors and shopping to well respected e-publishers. E-publishers and authors working for e-publishers are extremely different areas from authors self-publishing electronic books. And the people reading this blog aren't going to know the difference.

ryan field said...

Mike said..."Doesn't that make it difficult to include author appearances and/or signings in your marketing plan..."

Not at all, Mike. Though I've never self-pubbed anything, I do have over forty books out with e-publishers in genre romance and I interact more with readers now than I did when I was being pubbed the traditional route.

I do both live and written online interviews and interact on social networks. My in-box is usually jammed with reader mail. Readers send me requests for signed book plates (You can order book plates in several places online) they either keep in scrap books or attach to their e-readers. And I know a lot of other romance authors who work with reputable e-publishers who go to conventions and meet their readers in person that way. If anything, the interaction is far more personal than ever before. At least that's been my own personal experience.

K.L. Brady said...

As an originally self-published author (kindle and trade paperback) who was picked up by a big six publisher, I am a proponent of self-publishing on Kindle. I tried the traditional route before self publishing and couldn't find an agent, but that all changed when an editor contacted me and expressed interest in acquiring my novel.

I find many authors don't understand that you cannot just post your book on Kindle with an "If I post it, they will come" mentality. You have to write an entertaining book, get it edited (the best you can within your budget), get a professional cover...and most importantly, market the heck out of it. I was on a daily grind, marketing late at night, every single night, doing one or two activities.

You can't market every now and then and expect to be successful. You've got to CONSTANTLY reach out to book clubs, visit online sites where readers are and post in reader forums, do booksignings at bookstores and book fairs, and basically use every tool in the marketing arsenal. Book reviews by "neutral parties" are extremely important, especially when you're self published.

With that said, if you write a good quality book and you put the work into it, there's no reason you can't experience success. And self publishing on Kindle WILL NOT preclude you from finding literary representation or getting picked up by a publisher later. I'm proof positive of that...along with people like Boyd Morrison and Karen McQuestion (Google them). Editors want books they believe will be profitable. If you can make your book profitable on your own, you become market-tested and market-proven. And in this economy, that's no small thing in the publishing business, whatever route you take.

For more information on self-publishing on Kindle and in print, my blog www.CheapIndieAuthor.blogspot is a good resource.

Rezden said...

Amazing post. This is the conclusion my research had led me to as well. I certainly don't think this will be the end of the traditional route, just another option. I look forward to the second part.

Mary McDonald said...

As a self-pubbed author, I want to thank you for addressing this honestly. It does take a lot of work to market an e-book. The mistake some authors make is that all they have to do is upload it, and they're done.

Mostly, the author has to be visible on sites where people with e-readers gather. I participate on various forums, and not just pushing my book. In fact, I recently received a Kindle, so I'm there as a device owner, as a reader, and as an author. Consequently,I've had a few instances where a forum participant has read my book and started a thread about it--and no, it wasn't due to me asking anyone to do it.

If I wasn't around, I doubt the reader would bother to post anything.

As far as author signings, I had a local authors group contact me about participating in some book signings. I've declined because I have nothing to sign. I may go wiht a print version after the new year, but I doubt I will sell many of them. It probably wouldn't be worth the hassle except I have an aunt who wants one. ;-)

BookEnds, LLC said...

I assumed since the question was specifically about Kindle and since I started explaining self-publishing most would understand that when discussing epublishing in this article I am discussing self-epublishing. However, since that's not the case I have gone and made the correction.

--jhf

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making the correction. Not everyone is up on the jargon and there are a lot of misconceptions about the differences between e-publishing and authors self-publishing e-books.

Some might even argue that self-published e-books are part of the slush pile, while books published by valid e-publishers go through almost the same strict process as an agent/author query situation.

Jesse said...

The disagreement I have is when you say that the market will be flooded. Isn't it already? Truth of the matter is, for every one traditionally published book that makes the best seller list, there are another forty-nine that are selling. So, what's the difference?

The same argument is made for the quality of the stories and it's just as bogus there as well. There's just as much badly produced crap in the traditional world as there is in the nontraditional, the only difference is the traditional has the "name" behind it. But crap is crap.

Do I think we need agents? Absolutely, but getting one is this side of impossible.

I have a great story and I believe in it enough that I'm going to put it out there in one way, shape, or form. And I believe that it will sell. And the rest will either come in time or I'll make it without. And I think there's room for both systems. One is no better or worse than the other.

April Henry said...

I've put all my out-of-print mysteries and thrillers on the Kindle (and in other formats through Smash Words). I basically make grocery money on it, not living on money.

I would never do it for a new book, though. No distribution, no one to promote you, no one to police that you're not pirated, no one to edit, no one to copy edit (unless you hire out all those functions).

jjdebenedictis said...

When you think about J. A. Konrath's success, remember the stock market:

People brag when they're making a lot of money. They shut up when they're losing a lot of money.

This creates the impression that it's easy to do well--just look at all the success stories you're hearing!

Remember that the failure stories are the ones you're not hearing.

Stories such as: I published an ebook under a pseudonym in mid-October. It's well-written, I worked hard on the editing, formatting and cover art--and I have sold exactly 6 copies.

If you're going to self-publish, you need a platform. J. A. Konrath had one from his time in traditional publishing. An unknown author has to build one, and doing so is a damned hard slog.

Anonymous said...

Good post, good post! Looking forward to Part 2.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of the physical-copy 'e-publishing' options; quality of the product is but one concern. I self published my novel. My feeling was that if I could generate some talk about the book, it could be directed to my website as easily as anywhere else. Yep, I've got a house full of books. But I've got the book that I wanted. 2,000 copies. It's up to an average of five copies a week now. Only 1,100 to go. And though I'm certainly not making any real money, I would have given up a lot to get it out with a traditional publisher, and they would have to have sold 8-10 times as many copies (as best that I can gauge) for me to be even on the money. No regrets, even if it stops selling and I wind up with 800 doorstops.

Anonymous said...

It's all just about selling. It doesn't matter how it gets out there, it's what happens once it does. Nothing else matters. So if you think self-pubbing a Kindle is all you need to make it sell, then do that. If you think the Big 6 is the only way you'll ever be able to sell, then wait for that to happen. If you need the validaiton of an advance, maybe small press is the way to go.

Heidi C. Vlach said...

I think the really notable part of J.A. Konrath's success is that he's making above-and-beyond efforts to educate people about his self e-publishing experience. He's not just saying that he's successful and letting people think that sticking a book online is instant easy money. He's always talking about what exactly he does to sell and promote his work, and how many hours per week he works, and how all the numbers break down. Konrath is just providing an opposing viewpoint to the old stance that you're (likely) an impatient fool if you want to self-publish anything ever. His blogging might be the mentoring a lot of writers need to succeed in e-publishing -- the same way that a lot of writers struggle along blind with terrible query letters until they read a literary agent's blog.

Kimber An said...

Hmm, I have one self-published eBook too. I didn't think anyone would buy it, so it's a free download. It gets downloaded, on average, five times a day.

Anonymous said...

Well. Here's what I did as an experiment:

I took my short stories and pubbed them all on Kindle and Nook for .99 under a pseudonym. I created a compilation and sell it for 1.99. I made sure I had quite a few, the covers, copy, & editing kicked butt (but no, I did it all myself, which was actually pretty easy), I tried to weight my pubs with popular genres (holidays, suspense, etc.), and I didn't get an ISBN (because I believe writers should diversify and BookScan is not always your friend). I added my blog to Kindle subscriptions as well. I didn't promote.

First month, I did pretty well. So well, I then pubbed my two novels that were dead.

Then I did really well.

I've had an agent (two actually). I've had plenty of shorts published. I've made more in the last two months on my writing than I have in the last three yrs. I'm now expanding into turning my e-novels into audios. It's exciting.

Oh. And I'm also querying new agents again for my third novel and will pursue commercial publication for it.

But then I think the smart writer is going to focus on diversity in the future. You don't have to go all one way or the other. I figured why NOT try it?It was fun, and has been lucrative.

But then, that's exactly the same as with "traditional" publishing-not everything takes off. Actually most doesn't-and e-pubbing is no different. It's not a get-rich scheme. But if you know what you're doing and do it well, you can do quite well. I found that out. I'm glad I did.

Anonymous said...

I think we'll see a lot of author's books that don't make it to the Big 6 going the Kindle route under a pseudonym. There is nothing to lose if it's already written and you use another name. I'm surprised there's not even MORE stuff for sale already.

In other words, while the writers of yesteryear let their manuscripts fester on their hard drives when they didn't sell to NYC, today's writers slap a cover on them, mention them on a few blogs, and let them fester on Amazon. And every now & then a few will pleasantly surprise.

Levonne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Evangeline Holland said...

IMO, the key word for any venture in publishing is platform, product, promotion ((c) Bob Mayer). Konrath has mentioned that he knows many self-epublished authors who make more than he does and they were never traditionally published.

Plus, even for veteran authors self-epublishing their OOP books, unless there is a demand for their backlist, their e-books could languish in just as much obscurity as a never published author (whose to say their fans will want to buy e-books?).

Sure, there are people on the sidelines praising self-published authors to the skies and declaring the death of traditional publishing, but those making a success of the venture largely see themselves as entrepreneurs who chose to take a path best suited for their personality, genre, time, platform, etc and don't care about "taking down" traditional publishing--they want to reach readers (and of course, make a living doing what they love).

I am shooting for traditional publishing at the moment, but I think self-published--or indie--authors have a lot of lessons any writer hoping to rise to the top can learn from.

Anonymous said...

The things is that, sooner or later, every writer who starts out targeting NYC will at some point face the choice: let it die or try the next tier down. So they try to get a traditional deal with a small/indie press. If that fails, they again face a choice: let it die or take it to the next tier down. So they try e-pubs or pubs who don't pay advances. If THAT fails, then there's one decision left: let it die or self e-pub.

So I suspect that after everyone "Shooting for the big 6" shoots and misses, they'll be signing up with AMazon rather than let their work go to complete waste. Perhaps under a pseudonym. Then, they try NYC again with a new project and the cycle begins anew. However many books you have in you, this is their fate: they trickle down the tier system until they die.

Donna Hole said...

So much to think about.

I've very much enjoyed the discussion too.

......dhole

Rebecca Stroud said...

My two cents? If you are a practiced writer (and, therefore, should already pretty much know how to "self-edit" to some extent), I see no reason not to do your own work, then submit to Amazon. In other words, why "hire" someone to rewrite and/or edit? And just because a book is e-published does not mean that it is something slapped together in a nanosecond like a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. I mean, there are some pretty tasty steaks out there.

Which brings me to separating the wheat from the chaff: I am an avid reader and am astounded at the number of books I buy - some by very, very well known authors - that are riddled with typos, discrepancies, and an overabundance of punctuation (I won't name names here but if I see one more exclamation point from a certain assembly-line author, it will be one hundred too many).

Very true that not everyone will find success with e-publishing. Yet the same goes for traditional pubs. And as for marketing? Anymore, it's basically up to the author no matter how anyone tries to tell you otherwise.

It all boils down to good work. Whether discovered by an agent, an editor, or the reading public. Of course, there will always be great books that never find success.....

Meaning: Don't ever forget Lady Luck (aka timing) plays a huge part in the stair-steps that must be taken to be a well-known author...Unfortunately, my timing has always sucked eggs.

Anonymous said...

A few things to consider about J A Konrath before anyone decides to leap into Kindle publishing based on Konrath's success alone.

First, Konrath's reader-base was established by a big print publisher, which threw money at his earlier books in order to promote them. This went a big way towards developing Konrath's following (although I'll agree that Konrath has since worked hard to develop that following even more).

When I did a bit of math on the sales figures, earnings and Amazon rankings that Konrath reported, I couldn't get them all to agree. It looked like some of them were exaggerated to a decent degree. Math isn't my strongest subject though so do the figures yourself if you want to be sure.

I've been told that Konrath's latest book was rejected by his publisher and a few others, leaving him with little option but to go it alone. Since he spent so long telling everyone how great self publishing is, he now has to make the best of it. He's lucky to have that big readership behind him, but I doubt he could have established that readership without Big Publishing behind him in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Yup, it's true.

Konrath is a guy who started out with NYC, was dropped by NYC and decided to keep going on his own rather than give up. That's all it is.

So it is misleading for unpublished writers who consider starting out that way. At least try small presses first. I mean, if NOBODY wants the thing, you have to ask yourself, why the heck not?

Bastet said...

Perhaps you don't know it, but there are imprints that are going e-publishing only. So it's not just e-publishing. I am proud to say that I signed a contract with Fiction Studio, run by Lou Aronica (and I'm sure you know who he is). He will publish on ALL e-plaforms, from Kindle to iPad to Nook to Kobe, to all the rest. Plus there will be POD support.
There is no money to be made in traditional publishing anymore, and I'm thrilled to be part in this venture, which will be in no way "self-publishing."

Anonymous said...

Does TFS pay advances for ebook only deals?

Is it mandatory to use their "editorial services' first in order to be offered a contract with them?

sapphicscribe said...

Great post. Really useful to see what others (especially agents) think about the route. Personally, I chose to use the epublishing route for a very specific reason: agents are too afraid to promote my book.
Sugar & Spice has an 'uncomfortable' subject matter and whilst I was constantly receiving positive feedback from well-respected agents, they all admitted to not wanting to take the risk.
I am currently writing more mainstream, commercial fiction that I HOPE to be able to publish via the traditional route, but S&S is too important for me to shelve, so I am using epub. Time will tell. I guess it definitely has its place. Saffina Desforges

Gregory House said...

This article has generated a lot of very interesting feedback and I have found it very revealing both in personal and professional attitudes. As an aspiring antipodean writer I wish to put up a few points. First the internet was suppossed to break down the distance divide in terms of communication and markets. From some of these comments, that is not the case and appear to state that success relies more on geographic location. Considering that to those in the northern hemisphere I live at the bottom of the world it creates a difficulty. This implies that since I cannot easily physically access the North American continent my chance of success is next to nil. No matter how good my work is. Having already suffered from the tryanny of distance 'Downunder', I'll take epublishing thanks.