Saturday, April 30, 2011

Adventures and Lessons in Self-Publishing

As an author with many published books in the realm of digital first publishing, I had always looked down upon self-publishing as a second class citizen of sorts. I figured only authors who weren't able to get their work published through a legitimate publishing house would go to that extreme.

Self-publishing, only a few years ago, meant paying sometimes big bucks to a company that would offer their services to design a cover, maybe edit your book, create the digital file for you and maybe even help with distribution channels. All of these services could be purchased a la carte or in packages. The whole notion of the money flowing from the author to the publisher was against everything I believed in.

But very recently, all that changed. Digital publishing was made nearly free through outlets like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and other sites if you were somewhat technically savvy. And the money started flowing immediately in the right direction - straight to the author.

Successful self-publishers like J. A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking emerged and more and more traditionally published authors started taking notice. Barry Eisler turned down a half-million-dollar deal from a New York publisher to self-publish a series on his own. More and more mainstream authors started giving the self-publishing route a try, most using the technology to get their backlists out there or maybe offer a shorter book or something that didn't fit the much more rigid confines of traditional publishers.

So I decided to dip my toes in the water. I took a manuscript that didn't fit the romance convention of the hero and heroine meeting in the very first chapter. The story required more setup but I loved the story and so did my crit partner. Since said partner tried self-publishing first and was having good luck with it, I went for it.

My friend Jax of Jaxadora Design made me an awesomely hot cover for Game of Smoke and Mirrors, an erotic romantic suspense. I was very pleasantly surprised when the Kindle book started selling well immediately. Smashwords and B&N were slower going. I listed it on All Romance EBooks as well and it quickly became my fastest selling book there out of the eleven I had at the time. The best part about it was that I could neurotically check my sales several times a day, rather than wait for a royalty statement every month or every quarter, as I do for my regularly published books.
Next I decided to re-edit an older book I'd published under another name. I'd gotten the rights back months before. That book, however, was not erotic. And it dealt with the heavy subject of drug addiction, but it was the book I'd gotten the most fan mail about. So I put Not Enough up for sale and it sat. I didn't make my first sale for several days and I started to get nervous. It did start selling, but it still hasn't come close to the level of my erotic romance.

I wondered if my first experience had been a fluke. So I started looking at books I'd written more recently but for one reason or another, I hadn't sold. I had a book I loved, but again, it didn't fit my publisher's unofficial guidelines for a different reason - the hero had a teenage daughter who played heavily into the plot. My erotic romance publishers don't usually want anything with kids in the story.
Since Not Enough hadn't even earned enough to pay for the cover, I decided I'd have to make my own cover for the next one, just in case it too didn't sell well. So I took four Photoshop classes at my library then bought a scaled down version of the program on ebay for $50.
My first attempt at a book cover came out pretty well. (It helped that the photo I bought for it was uber hot!) So I loaded Employee Relations yesterday and crossed my fingers. Thankfully, it is already starting to sell well.

Lesson learned. For me at least, erotic romance sells best. It's where I've made my name and my brand.

Do I plan to quit writing for my publishers? Hell no! I'm only self-publishing books that I've already written, books that I love, hoping other people will love them, too. And I figure that expanding my backlist and hopefully growing my fan base can only help. Time will tell if my plan works. In the meantime, I'm supplementing my income and learning some new computer skills.

For readers - have you bought any self-published books? For writers - have you tried self-publishing? If so, how is it going for you?


Kaylea Cross said...

Sounds like you're doing exactly the right thing. Self-pubbing books that don't quite fit with a certain publisher is a win-win situation for you.

I've got a manuscript sitting around that actually means the most to me of all the books I've written, but it's too in-between genres and so far I haven't been able to sell it. I know the story's good, and I think I'll end up going the self-publishing route with it in the near future. It's not an erotic romance, though, so I'll have to expect lower sales numbers :)

I don't have any of my erotic romance titles out yet (a few will release later this year), but I'm definitely looking forward to comparing the difference in sales numbers to my romantic suspense titles. I'm married to an accountant, so if those sales show good numbers (because for him, it's all about the bottom line!), hopefully he'll stop pushing me to go back to work full time next year when our little guy finally starts Kindergarten. *crosses fingers*

Wynter Daniels said...

Sounds like your book would be a perfect candidate to try. The numbers comparison for my erotic vs. non-erotic might just be me. It could also be the heavy subject matter for my non-erotic book. I'd encourage you to go for it.
It's always more rewarding to see your work published vs. sitting in a file.

Kristal Lee said...

Congratulations! I didn't realize that you were self-publishing now. You go girl!

Wynter Daniels said...

Thanks, Kristal. I'll probably stick with the three I have out there for a while. No more manuscripts under the bed;-)

Terry Odell said...

I just looked at my combined royalty totals for my self-published/republished/backlist novels. (Two books!) Although the numbers aren't huge (they're romantic suspense, not erotica), I've made more this year than I did from the publishers in the years they were with them. I plan on getting rights back to 2 more books, and trying a couple of original titles.

Not to say I didn't love getting that carton of author copies of my hard cover release. The digital market is a good alternative, but not everyone is going to have the results of JA Konrath or Barry Eisler.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Wynter Daniels said...

Thanks for your input, Terry. I agree - Eisler and Konrath are the the exceptions, but the extra income from self-pubbing is a nice supplement to my other royalties from publishers.

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

Wonderful post, Wynter! When you left your kind congrats for my new book release on my FB page this morning I hadn't realized you were going the indie author route yourself. I found the link to this post on your FB page and smiled.

I’m so glad you’re having positive results. Me too! Happily, my 2 indie books (erotic romantic comedies) are far outselling my other published books. I hope my new release (humorous diet-related memoir) will do the same.

While this experience is certainly exciting, it’s not entirely new for me. More than a decade ago, under my own name, I owned and operated Wordbeams, one of the first epublishing companies. So this “new” ebook revolution is a joyous return to my roots.

I wish you continued success, Wynter! :D

Wynter Daniels said...

Thanks, Daisy - I wish you great success, too! I've only been at this a month, so I can't say yet if my self-pubbed books will outsell my others or not. But I will update this in a few months when I have a better handle on it.

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