Statistics and a few recipes for success (Ι)
British writer Louise Voss did not have much luck in selling her novel Catch Your Death to literary agents, so she decided to self-publish her book through Amazon. Hoping to attract readers, as she was an unknown author, Voss lowered the price of her e-book to 0.95 pounds. The low price helped the book climb Amazon’s selling charts and soon gained the attention of a major publisher. The same sales development model was applied by Vincent Zandri, who not only managed to make his book an Amazon bestseller when he lowered the price to really low levels, but also sold several thousand copies.
You can write a very good book — many writers write a very good book — but with all the competition out there, who will notice it?
Will publishers eventually find themselves without a purpose when aspiring authors learn how to self-publish and sell thousands of copies through Amazon and other online bookstores? It is doubtful, but after all these success stories, one has no choice but to consider this.
All these authors use blogging and social networks to the fullest extent in order to create ‘friendships’. The ‘friends’ are the very people that buy the books of these authors. You cannot publish just anything and expect it to sell like crazy without putting in any effort. Your relatives and friends may buy your work, but who wants to stop there? You should therefore use social networks in the best way possible, but above all, you should write a very good book after getting to know who your audience is.
– Successful Authors –
A. Hocking lives in Austin, Minnesota. She worked as a Group Home Worker until 2010, and also wrote 17 novels in her spare time. In April 2010, she began publishing them herself in e-book format. By March 2011, nine of them had sold over one million copies and earned her two million US dollars, something unheard of at that time for books that had been self-published. In early 2011, Hocking sold an average of 9,000 books a day. Her exclusively self-published works include: My Blood Approves, a series of vampire romances; the Trylle Trilogy, a young girl’s journey of self-discovery in an imaginary urban landscape; and Hollowland, a novel about zombies. In March 2011, Hocking signed her first contract with St. Martin’s Press for the (conventional) publication of four of her books for two million US dollars.
Brian S. Pratt
This particular fantasy writer, after being rejected by literary agents and publishers alike, published his books on his own, initially in print form. He barely got any profits (because the cost of self-publishing in printed form, the traditional method, is quite high, especially if you print several copies) until he discovered self-publishing via e-books or p.o.d (print on demand: the printing and sale of each paper copy when an order is placed by a retail customer).
According to an interview, he only earned 17 dollars in the first three months after the publication of his book. Not that much money, right? But this happened in the beginning of 2009. In 2010, however, he received over 200,000 dollars from the combined sales of his 17 novels, which are available for sale everywhere from Amazon to the iTunes Store. (Ambitious independent writers do not limit themselves to selling their books only via Amazon).
What is his marketing method? He gives the first book of a series for free to encourage the readers to then buy the rest. His first e-book is The Unsuspecting Mage, the first book in the series The Morcyth Saga.
John Locke is a detective fiction writer and is the first one who sold over one million self-published e-books on Amazon. NY Times has declared him a bestselling author and is member of the “Kindle Million Club”. He was also the first self-published writer who sold 1,100,000 e-books in five months with the ‘word-of-mouth’ promotion! He wrote and published six bestsellers in three separate genres in six months, only writing as a part-time occupation! Every e-book he has written and published has become a bestseller.
The prices of Locke’s novels start at 0.99 US dollars, which is significantly lower than the usual prices for the publication of books in e-book or paper format.
Lindsay Buroker is the first independent fiction author who published the complete sales statistics of her e-books in a blog post titled: ‘Can an ordinary author live from his books?’
She writes that although a profit of 724 dollars is far from securing your livelihood, most would agree that it is a very good start for a newly published author, especially when he or she has only published two novels (if one compares them with Brian S. Pratt’s 17 novels!). Therefore, there is the potential for independent writers to earn an income equal to that of a full-time job from their writing. If you want to read her first novel, look for The Emperor’s Edge. Although not all people will become rich and successful as independent writers, it is exciting to live in a time whene this is possible.
Statistics and a few recipes for success (ΙΙ)
Several articles have been published in the press about independent superstar authors such as Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath, and John Locke. While these success stories are remarkable, we have to examine them for what they are: very big successes in the world of self-publishing, just as Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer became extremely successful in the traditional publishing industry. Although most authors cannot hope that their monthly sales will amount to several hundred thousands, there are many who sell from 800 to 20.000 copies per month. While the sale of so many books would be considered significant if compared to traditional publishing standards, the fact that so many self-published authors have achieved this goal (and even more are added to their number each month) shows that this is not an unusual occurrence.
Not only is it important that such large book sales are recorded thanks to these new formats, but that the authors earn significantly more money from each sale (the standard royalty rate in traditional publishing ranges from 10 to 25 per cent of net revenue for the e-books under a contract with a big publisher). If self-published authors sell the books themselves on Amazon, then the company will pay them 70 per cent. The high volume of e-book sales along with the high profit rate can ensure that self-published authors have an annual income that will allow them to quit any other job and earn a living by doing what they love most: writing.
Because writers shared the sales and prices of their books with users on forums, we can calculate that the monthly income alone of some of them was as follows:
- Michael J. Sullivan – $ 16.648
- Hodge Siebel – $ 15.425
- David McAfee – $ 6.085
- David Dalglish – $ 12.132
- Victorine Lieskie – $ 7.281
- Μ. Η. Sergent – $ 4.211
- Nathan Lowell – $ 9.296
From these writers, only Victorine Lieskie had a book that sometimes entered the Top 100 of Amazon’s bestseller list. Most of the writers who sell over 800 books per month appear to be between the 300th to the 6,000th place.
The publishing industry is definitely changing at lightning speed. Until recently, there was only one choice if someone wanted to earn a decent amount out of writing novels: months (or years) would be spent looking for a literary agent, then you would have to wait more months (or years) while the agent tried to find a publisher, and then, if your book was accepted, it would take up to two years for it to reach the shelves. And the royalties received after the necessary deductions were so low that, most of the time, you couldn’t have writing as your main occupation.
Then there was a time during which self-publishing yielded little to no income, and this made it a last resort for a work that had been rejected by all sides. Now, thanks to the digital revolution, the model has been reversed. Authors can publish and sell many books in a short period of time.
Of course, self-publishing is not for everyone, but at least those who decide to follow this path now know that you need not be one of those who will reach the extreme success of selling more than one million copies of your books. It is enough simply to be somewhere in the middle of the sales list to tell your boss: ‘I resign because I have to go home, write my book, and earn a living.’