Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guest Post by H.P. Mallory

HP Mallory is one of the authors smoking me in sales. Not only are her Kindle numbers fantastic, but she's going gangbusters on Barnes & Noble. My B&N numbers are so-so--roughly 400 a month. I expect this to change when I switch from Smashwords to PubIt next week. While I love Smashwords, in order to upload to B&N through them I have to use shorter descriptions and fewer product tags. Several of my peers have shown me that this is often the key to selling big numbers, so I look forward to seeing if I have similar results.

Like Karen McQuestion and Amanda Hocking, Mallory is kicking ebook butt without ever having sold a book through traditional publishing, even though she tried.

Now, I don't discount that the Big 6 reject a lot of crap. But their ability to separate wheat from chaff is impressing me less and less. My rejected books have sold over 100,000 copies, and I'm currently selling 600 ebooks a day (In the first ten days of January, I made over $12,000.)

Yes, everyone makes mistakes. And hits are hard to pick. Last I heard, only 1 out of 5 books lucky enough to get past the gatekeepers actually turns a profit (two lose money, two break even.) But every indie success story is a crapload of money that NY missed out on, and we're seeing more and more writers making big dollars on books that were passed on by both publishers and agents.

Publishers have had a hard few years. The recession was tough. Fewer bookstores mean fewer sales. Amazon and the rise of ereaders is eating into their print sales. But I don't think bookstores closing, or customers switching to ebooks, are what publishers need to fear most.

Publishers need to fear authors.

Now, if you talk to any group of newbie authors who have been rejected by the industry, you'll feel their bitterness toward the difficult, often humiliating, and seemingly arbitrary nature of the query-go-round.

And if you talk to any group of professional authors, you'll feel their bitterness toward publishers who have made a lot of mistakes in regard to their books and careers.

Add the fact that publishers take 52.5% royalties on ebooks, leaving the authors only 17.5%, and that even if an author landed a contract today there would still be an 18 month wait for the book to come out, and I have to wonder what publishers are going to do in order to keep authors submitting to them. Hint: DRM and high ebook prices aren't the answer.

As more authors hear about the possibilities self-pubbing offers, and read about success stories like this, what could possibly motivate them to ever sign another publishing deal? Publishers, once an essential part of the equation, are no longer needed to connect authors and readers. And, amazingly, they don't seem to understand this yet.

But they will. Now here's HP...

Hello! HP Mallory here! Joe was kind enough to let me borrow his blog for a quick post about a pretty fun contest I’m running. The winner will become a character in my next book, due out in April! You can find more information here.

OK, so now that my shameless promotion is out of the way, LOL, I thought I should introduce myself since I imagine none of you have a clue as to who I am. Well, as you know, my name is HP and I’m a self-published author. I sort of prefer the term indie—it just sounds cooler.

Anyway, my story starts about three years ago when I was living in England and decided to write a book. Although it might sound like my book writing debut was a whim, it was anything but. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was young. But, it seems like life (aka parties, drinking and boys) got in the way while I was in my twenties. Fast forward to my early thirties and I was ready to write my novel. I’m a big fan of paranormal romance/urban fantasy so writing in these genres just felt right.

After I finished my first paranormal romance, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble, I figured it was time to get an agent. So, I sent out query letters and was pretty encouraged by the responses to the book, as agents requested partials and fulls. Imagine my elation when my dream agent requested the full, stayed up all night reading the book and offered representation the next day! Oh, happy day! Well, happy day turned into two or three months of rejection after rejection and then the fab agent gave up on me and I never heard from her again.

So, thinking I had something in common with Hester Prynne, only my scarlet letter would be a big “L” for loser, I gave up. And I gave up for about two years. Then, my fabulous critique partner, Lori Brighton, told me about a lady named Karen McQuestion who had uploaded her books to the Kindle self-publishing platform and was outselling traditionally published authors. Well, I figured I had nothing to lose and decided to put myself out there and see what happened.

On July 7, 2010, I uploaded Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble followed by my other book, To Kill A Warlock. And…nothing really happened. I sold a few books here and there—not exactly earth shattering. Figuring I needed more of an audience, I started thinking about how to spread the word. I created a robust website, joined Facebook and started blogging. Then I got fairly involved in the Kindle forums and started contacting book bloggers to see if they might be interested in reviewing my books. I was amazed to find they were interested! Little by little my reviews grew and my rankings on Amazon improved bit by bit.

Then Barnes and Noble came out with the Nook self-publishing platform, Pubit, and I uploaded both of my books right away. The Barnes and Noble Gods must have liked me because my books were suddenly ranked first for searches like “fantasy” and “paranormal romance”. I was amazed as more and more sales rolled in. At this point, I was selling about 1,000 books a month across both platforms.

In December I came out with a third book, the second in the Fire Burn series, Toil and Trouble. And, wow, December was an incredible month for me. I sold nearly 23,000 books and to date, I’ve sold roughly 37,000.

So, the long and short of it is that self-publishing saved my books from a life of quiet desperation in my PC. Now, I have a thriving Facebook community, I’m on the Kindle bestseller list, I landed a new agent who hopefully will be better than the last one and some marketing company in Brussels just wrote an article about me! Random!

I’m an indie author and I couldn’t be happier!!!

Thank you to Joe for allowing me to tell my story and plug my contest!!

Joe sez: Success like Mallory's isn't the norm. Luck plays a part. Luck always plays a part. But selling 20,000 ebooks in a single month is more than just luck. She's done a lot right in order to maximize that luck.

Cute, professional-looking covers, good writing, low prices, and her ability to utilize social networks no doubt helped her sell so many. She's spent the last 17 days in the Kindle Top 100, and all three of her books are in the Top 50 on Nook. (Incidentally, two other indie authors, Amanda Hocking and Selena Kitt, also have several spots each in the Nook Top 50.)

Now, hindsight is always 20/20, and I'm sure the comments section will abound with Monday Morning Quarterbacks eager to explain and dismiss Mallory's success. These may include:

"Paranormal Romance is a hot genre."

Joe replies: Then you write one and crack the Top 100.

"She's an anomaly compared to the 300,000 other indie authors who sell poorly."

Joe replies: A New York Times bestseller is an anomaly too. But unlike the NYT, Mallory did this on her own, without a big advertising push or coop.

"If she had a traditional publishing deal, she'd sell ten times this amount."

Joe replies: If she had a traditional publishing deal, her books wouldn't be out until June of 2012. Will there even be bookstores still around then? And how much money will she have lost during those 18 months her books aren't available (best guess, minimum $300,000.)

"The majority of indie authors will never reach this level of success."

Why has it become "unless you sell 10,000 ebooks a month you're better off going the traditional route"?

The point of this blog is to show authors what is possible, not what is likely.

But I'm convinced that it is more likely to make money self-publishing ebooks than it is to make money landing a traditional publishing deal.

It's still notoriously difficult to find an agent and sell a book. And even if you manage that, the book takes a long time to be released (and it will be at a high price with DRM, which readers hate) and there is no guarantee it will be successful. To make the odds even worse, there is a high likelihood that it will be difficult to ever get the rights back, and the writer will be stuck in a bad royalty situation forever.

If there's something to be learned by me, HP Mallory, Selena Kitt, Karen McQuestion, Amanda Hocking, LJ Sellers, Michael R. Sullivan, and the many other indies currently doing well, it's that good books can find a wide audience without New York.

But before that can happen, those books have to be self-published.

How many trunk novels do you have? How many books of yours are currently on submission? How many of your backlist titles are out of print?

There is NO GOOD REASON not to get those up on Kindle, and Nook, and Smashwords.

Every day you wait is a potential sale lost.


Barry Eisler said...

Congratulations, HP, and thanks for sharing what you've learned as an indie. There are so many misconceptions and so much magical thinking out there regarding paper and digital, traditional vs indie... the clear vision, reasoned argument, and empirical evidence here on A Newbie's Guide is incredibly helpful and refreshing.

Plus Joe is damn sexy.

Kelley said...

Your articles are like you're dangling a carrot in front of my face...tempting yet for whatever reason still makes me nervous to take the plunge. Still inspiring though I must say. And having read one of Amanda Hocking's works recently, I know self-publishing doesn't diminish quality.

Stacey Cochran said...

Awesome story! Thanks so much for sharing.


Read our Literary Agent Interviews at howtopublishabook.org

Cheryl said...

@K.D. Lum: The wonderful thing about reviews is that they are going to tell you the quality. Sure, you can't please everyone and there will be bad reviews but if it's good enough, it'll be balanced with good reviews. This holds true whether you traditionally-pubbed or self-pubbed, IMO.

It's certainly not a perfect system. Shady business practices abound and some morally ambiguous folks will try to pad their reviews and sales but in the end, I still think it's going to be about the book.

jtplayer said...

I like her book covers.

Very cool ;-)

Cool story too.

Jack Badelaire said...

Although I dearly love a printed book (I don't own a dedicated e-book reader, although I've played around with e-books on my iPad and iTouch), I have to admit that we are entering the age of Publishing 2.0, and just like web admins of yesteryear panicked at the thought of the unwashed masses being able to put their own content on the World Wide Web, traditional publishing will have to get over Pub 2.0 in the same manner.

Honestly, I'm a struggling, unpublished author, and if/when I finish my first revenge thriller (currently burning a hole in my laptop), ebook self-publishing is the place I'm going to turn in order to get my book into the public's hands.

Anonymous said...

It's great to hear all of the success stories, such as HP, Amanda, Boyd and Karen.

Oh, and of course Joe. :)

Keep on truckin', Indies.


Anonymous said...


No better time than the present to finish it than now!


Manley Peterson said...

That's awesome, HP. Congratulations, you deserve it, and I think your covers are amazing.

Also, thanks Joe for continuing to beat the drum and highlight great authors. It is nice to have a 500 lb gorilla in our corner...not that I'm calling you fat or anything...

Manley Peterson
Manley's Bookshelf

Fran Friel said...

Consider me converted, Joe and HP. I've finally reached the tipping point and it feels good.

Thank you!

A happy, prosperous publishing year to all...


CJ West said...

Congratulations HP. Thanks for sharing your great story. Like LJ and Joe, you are an inspiration to the others following behind.

Continued success in 2011,

Amy said...

I love these posts because they give other writers a much needed shot of optimism. Not every author will reach these levels but the fact that some do is very hopeful.

I do have one big question. If H.P. is doing so well as an Indie, why is she looking for an agent?

What does she hope the agent will do for her?

Is she still, therefore, trying to land a "regular publishing contract" with one of the big 6?

Okay, that was more than 1 question, but they're all related...

Joe D'Agnese said...


Do you mind telling us how you got those cute covers?
Any trial and error before you hit upon this artist/style?


Derek J. Canyon said...

Congrats, HP! I really like your covers. Remind me of Bewitched.

Dead Dwarves Don't Dance

Edie Ramer said...

I'm thrilled and excited for HP! I love that she's doing so well. And besides the cover and the promo, part of her books' success is that people enjoy them. And these are books that NY publishers wouldn't buy. Big mistake--and I'm sure they've made more.

Misty Evans said...

What an inspirational story, H.P.! Your success is well deserved because your books are excellent.

The indie community is growing in leaps and bounds, thanks to folks like you and Joe. It's time authors took back their power.

Thanks for sharing H.P.'s story with us, Joe.

Douglas Dorow said...

Thanks for sharing. Reinforces I'm on the right path.

HP Mallory, Author said...

Hi Everyone,
Thank you so much for the comments and Joe, thank you for the very kind words. I really appreciate them.
So, why am I looking for an agent? Mainly to handle my foreign, audio and movie rights. I was considering selling my erights if the price was high enough but the more I think about it, the less I want to! Joe had lots to do with that decision. I think his ideas just make total sense!

Tony Benson said...

Many thanks for this post. I have been following your blog and I'm convinced you're right. There are, however, some questions that I still have. The first one is this. You talk about DRM as though it's bad, and as a consumer I agree wholeheartedly. As an author I would love to self publish without DRM.

Do you?

I can see many arguments to support the stance that not using DRM is not damaging for the copyright owner, but I haven't got to the publishing point yet (soon!) so I don't have first hand experience. (The potential for damage is obvious).

Do you recommend publishing without DRM?

Thank you

Karen Cantwell said...

You did it right, HP! I have your Fire Burn and can't wait to dig into it. Keep writing and proving that we Indies are a power to be reckoned with. :-)

Jennifer St. Giles said...

Fabulous inspiration HP. My story is slightly different but running generally in the same direction. I have 9 print books on the shelf and when the economy tanked I was ditched. The name Jennifer St. Giles was seemingly dead. I self published two sexy 2 sexy romances under the name Jennifer Saints on Amazon kindle in October. Then came out with a romantic thriller through Samhain Publishing in December. It stayed in Amazon top 100 for two weeks. I don't yet know what my sales are but I am hopeful.

Mark Feggeler said...

Inspirational, as always! Thank you for serving as the self-appointed pep squad for indie authors. Congratulations, as well, to HP!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Post H.P. Mallory!

This is great to see. Thank you for sharing.

I still cannot understand why all the writers in the query-go-round don't see this yet. The comments on literary agents blogs are filled with writers querying and knocking self-pubbers.

As Joe says, even the publishers aren't wary of what authors are doing here yet.

The boat has left the shore, the train the station...

Stephen Prosapio said...

HP - welcome and congratulations on your success!

Joe, thanks for continuing to introduce us to those shaping publishing's future!

Stephen Prosapio

David A. Todd said...

Good posts, Joe and H.P. Gives me hope that maybe I can do this.

BTW, what does DRM stand for?

JA Konrath said...

DRM is digital rights management. It's the lock publishers put on ebooks so they can't be shared, or put on more than one device.

None of my self-pubbed ebooks have DRM. Neither does Shaken, which AmazonEncore released.

Anonymous said...

"Now, I don't discount that the Big 6 reject a lot of crap. But their ability to separate wheat from chaff is impressing me less and less."

You're even less impressed than you were after finding out that 8 publishing houses passed up on Harry Potter? Talk about Epic Fail of Biblical proportions!!! And the funniest part of that is that there's still anonymity and no accountability for decisions like those. Publishing houses are now passing up more hits than they make. Bitter? Damn straight!

Bella Andre said...

Your enthusiasm is infectious, HP! :) So glad to hear how well things are going for you. Fantastic, really unique covers, and wonderful stories. I can't wait to see what happens for you in 2011. I have a feeling it's going to be phenominal.

:) Bella

Claudia Lefeve said...

HP, you're great! I am looking forward to the next Jolie book! (I need get started on Dulcie...) After reading your works, I added your website to my blog to encourage others to check you out.

Tina Folsom said...

HP said: Mainly to handle my foreign, audio and movie rights. I was considering selling my erights if the price was high enough but the more I think about it, the less I want to!

You are so right, HP. These days that really is the only reason you need an agent, since selling foreign rights without one is practically impossible.

Congratulations on all your success, and I'm proud to be your "blog-sister" on our Indie Urban Fantasy Blog.

Tina Folsom

Joe Flynn said...

Joe is absolutely right about making the best and quickest use of indie publishing. My book, The Next President, was published mainstream, sold 50K copies, got great media reviews…and then gathered dust. But because my agent had the foresight to strike the electronic rights clause from my contract, I'm lucky enough to be able to put my book up on Amazon. It went live yesterday and is once again earning money for me. Bless indie, e-book publishing and thanks, Joe, for spreading the gospel.

William J. Thomas said...

Joe...even Banana Hammock (an Amazon e-exclusive) was released without DRM? So in theory, one could use Calibre (as you promoted with Draculas) to read Banana Hammock on a non-Kindle e-reader?

HP, I agree that your covers are perfect for the type of stories you write. They look fun and professional and really set your books apart from others around them. Congrats on your continued success!

Nicole said...

Congrats HP - must be so satisfying to do it on your own :)

I'm having an awesome day today!! I got my first Amazon review and it was 5 stars! *eeee* I cried I was so happy ;p and then I discovered that I finally formatted my book right and it got approved for the premium channels on Smashwords! Wooohoo - what a trial! Especially now that I'm thinking I should go check out pubit ;p thanks a lot Joe *grin*

The Arrival, on Amazon NOW!

Ellen Fisher said...

Congrats, HP! Thanks for sharing your story!

JA Konrath said...

Joe...even Banana Hammock (an Amazon e-exclusive) was released without DRM? So in theory, one could use Calibre (as you promoted with Draculas) to read Banana Hammock on a non-Kindle e-reader?

Yep, you can do that with all my ebooks. But I'm not sure if the links in Banana Hammack will work right if you switch formats.

That said, Banana Hammock will be live on all the other platforms later this month if you want to wait.

Or, if you buy the Kindle version and it doesn't work right, email me and I'll send you the epub file.

Ruth Harris said...

Great covers! Great story! Great post! Thanks so much, HP, you're an inspiration, soon to be a goddess!

Unknown said...

The covers are wonderful! So is your writing success. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:08pm

Harry Potter was rejected by a dozen publishers, two of which were Penguin and HarperCollins.

Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, took it on because the C.E.O.’s eight-year-old daughter begged her father to.

Anonymous said...

How sweet it is...my exit from TP began after the last farcical event. I spent a great deal of money to attend a conference for the sole reason that it would allow me a few minutes of time with a real agent. Cut to the event, a room jammed with prospective hopefuls and six agents, all screaming at the top of their lungs trying to be heard over each other. Impossible. I finally gave up and left her with a synopsis, since neither of us could hear each other at all. She read it quickly and seemd very excited about the book. ONE YEAR Later, I received a two sentence rejection for someone else's book.
Lots of wasted money that could have been spent to write at home. Never again. I don't blame the overwhelmed agent at all, but really, waste of time.

Gretchen Galway said...

Admiring and emulating you, HP! So glad you're taking off, and thanks for sharing your steps on the way, especially about B&N.

I've still got a foot (one manuscript) on the Query-Go-Round, but I'm about to upload my first novella onto Kindle, all thanks to Joe and the folks here. I expect next to nothing from the query process from this point.

It's remarkable how little general support there is in the writing community (forums) for giving up on the NY print model. I've been shouted down as a naive newbie when I've posted about pursuing indie epub instead of the old ways. Always the argument is: there's no guarantee you'll have that kind of success (like KONRATH) as a nobody, so don't get your hopes up.

As if even being a big success (already a pipe dream) via advance-massmarket pb-royalty path is any cash cow for most writers, either. The most depressing information I read comes from well-known writers who post their actual earnings (under the old model), and how even being a NYT bestseller doesn't bring a living wage. (This comes from some great romance authors warning the newly published to be realistic.)

I'm in this for the long haul, and have more enthusiasm than ever for writing, writing, writing.

Thanks, Joe, for the forum to come together on this.

Jon VanZile said...


Your story is eerily familiar to me ... except I haven't yet made the jump into self-publishing. Yet.

Your story is a great inspiration. Thanks!

HP Mallory, Author said...

Thank you all so much for your posts! I really appreciate your very kind words. And a hello to my friends Tina, Edie and Misty!
I guess if I had a lesson to learn from this whole process, it's never to give up. I was pretty down in the dumps when no one wanted my books and then my agent went MIA. Now, I see it was all for the better. It's such a great time in publishing right now because indies are literally rewriting the rules!

Empress said...

Awesome article! I'm going into my "final" rewrite before starting the querying process (paranormal, funnily enough...), so right now I'm looking for all the advice I can get.

I have a question: a number of indie bookstores have installed print on demand machines. Can something that is being sold as an ebook be printed this way? (And if y'all don't know the answer, no problem! I'm just curious.)


Sharper13x said...

H.P. - I bought "Fire Burn" last week after I kept seeing those great covers. Nicely done.

For the group:
I have a couple probably dumb questions about DRM and ISBN numbers.

I've seen someone (Joe maybe) saying that getting an isbn number for your ebook is a mistake. Can anyone chime in as to why?

Re: DRM's. Pardon me for being dense, but I'm still not sure I get this one. My books are DRM and I seem to be able to read them just fine on 3 different devices. This is through Kindle and Nook apps of course. But still, what audience am I missing out on? When you say "readers hate drm," which readers and why?

Sharper13x said...

Joe said: "DRM is digital rights management. It's the lock publishers put on ebooks so they can't be shared, or put on more than one device."

I wasn't ignoring this earlier response. But my books have DRM and can be shared too, at least in the kindle and nook sharing programs.

Tara Maya said...

Great post, H.P. I look forward to reading excerpts from your book on 500 Words! :)

Tara Maya

JA Konrath said...

But my books have DRM and can be shared too, at least in the kindle and nook sharing programs.

The sharing is limited with DRM.

Without DRM, there is no limit. I could buy a Kindle ebook, save copies to my computer and my wife's computer, send my mom a copy, and convert it to epub to read on my Nook. Total freedom.

bowerbird said...

here we have the essence,
summed up in two quotes...

first, the value proposition:
> I figured I had
> nothing to lose
> and decided to
> put myself out there
> and see what happened.

second, the payoff:
> self-publishing
> saved my books from
> a life of quiet desperation
> in my PC

the money is nice, of course.
and big money is even better.
it's what the world understands.

but the writers here understand
that, even without any profits,
there is still a worthwhile payoff
if the work is no longer invisible.

let your stories roam the world.


Sharper13x said...

Joe said: "Without DRM, there is no limit. I could buy a Kindle ebook, save copies to my computer and my wife's computer, send my mom a copy, and convert it to epub to read on my Nook. Total freedom."

Gotcha. Thanks. So this kind of boils down to the question of whether that level of freedom is a good thing or not. I've read your opinions on piracy and such before and tend to agree with you on that. However, I'm not so sure "total freedom" in this way is the same thing. Wouldn't there logically be a tipping point down the road where not having DRM or something like it, becomes bad. For instance do you have no concern that, as word of mouth spreads from family to family and friend to friend about your books, that they will simply be free at some point because copies are just one button away? Not "pirated," but just free. As in, "got any Konrath books?" "Yes, I've got copies of them all! Which ones do you want?"

I'm too new to argue this point. Just curious about your opinion and the group's.


Anonymous said...

"None of my self-pubbed ebooks have DRM. Neither does Shaken, which AmazonEncore released."

Joe, don't all Kindle ebooks have DRM? Or am I mistaken? (Or is there an option to choose "open" versus "DRM" when publishing a Kindle book?)


Sharper13x said...

"Or is there an option to choose "open" versus "DRM" when publishing a Kindle book?)"

There is an option. And they are very intense about it. "You will never be able to change this once the selection is made" or something like that.

TheSFReader said...


I don't like DRMs because if I change my ereader (Kindle -> Sony for example) I'm not able to read books I previously bought.

I don't like DRMs because the reseller is the only one to guarantee my investment.
(Some customers having bought ebooks have lost access to them when the stores who sold them closed...)

I don't like DRMs because I'd like my grandchildren to be able to read stuff people like you wrote.
I'd like them to be able to leaf through my library and find out what I am interested in.

I don't like DRMs because it doesn't work (http://readingandraytracing.blogspot.com/2010/10/drms-and-ebooks.html) and even is counter-productive.

Marie Simas said...

Publishing houses are now passing up more hits than they make.

But Snooki and J-Woww both got book deals. Woo-hoo-- literary magic at work.

None of my books are published with DRM, like Joe. I even found my most recent book on a torrent site about two weeks after it was released. I'm not terribly worried about it.

I follow the Apple philosophy-- the best solution to "free" is "easy".

Plus, finding my book requested repeatedly on pirate sites kind of exciting... it gave me a girl-boner.

A Catholic Girl's Memoir

JA Konrath said...

"Yes, I've got copies of them all! Which ones do you want?"

This already happens. It's called a library.

Free is fine. Obscurity is the true enemy of writers, not sharing copies.

Sharper13x said...

Thanks for the link SFReader.

This is an interesting topic that I suspect will only get more interesting and complex in the future.

Phillip Thomas Duck said...

Wonderful story! So glad your dreams are coming true for you, HP.

Jamie Sedgwick - Jeramy Gates said...

Great post on both counts, thanks! I started thinking about e-pubbing over a year ago. I put it off and put it off. I really wanted to break through the traditional way. Finally, in December, I decided to go for it. My greatest regret is that I waited so long.

There are hundreds of millions of readers out there. I now have an opportunity to grab a few of them. No gatekeepers, no more 6+months waiting for a response... I'm in with both feet. And the best part is, I don't need to sell half a million copies to be considered a success. I'd out-earn my day job with a couple thousand.

Stephen Prosapio said...

HP - my agent specializes in foreign rights and I'd be happy to provide info/make the introduction. Jot me a line through my website.


Anonymous said...

another lesson learned on the JA blog. I'm switching DREAM WAR to non-DRM as we speak...

Anonymous said...

and yet another lesson learned: I guess once DRM is chosen you can't switch it off.

Unless someone knows how to do this without unpublishing and republishing?

Selena Kitt said...

Unless someone knows how to do this without unpublishing and republishing?

Nope. You'd have to republish. And then you'd lose your rankings (just an FYI).

I love that cover, btw, HP. Totally fun! :)

Monique DeVere said...

Hello, Joe and HP,

I recently discovered Joe's blog through an Indie author friend. I'm published with a small press and am looking into Indie publishing.

What I crave to know is what sort of marketing/promotion Indie authors do in order to procure such huge book sales. Can you do a blog post on this subject, Joe?

Happy New Year btw :)

evilphilip said...

Thanks for your great article. I had seen your books listed on the Kindle and I thought the covers were fantastic.

James Harden said...

Hi HP,

Just a quick question. I read that you published your book through Amazon and then through B&N (Pubit). I've only just published my first novel, 'The Secret Apocalypse' through Amazon DTP and would love to make it available through B&N.

The only problem is I live outside the US (Greetings from Australia) and apparently you need a US bank account/tax file number/credit card to register (which I think is kind of counter-intuitive for an internet based venture).

Do you (or anyone else) have any idea when B&N's Pubit will be available to people outside of the US?

Tara Maya said...

Who does your cover art, HP?

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Hope Welsh said...

As always you're awesome, H.P.! you and Amanda are my favorite Indie Authors--well there's also Imogen Rose and....well the list goes one and on...

These ladies are good writers. NY lost out in my opinion.

One reason readers lose interest is the long time frame between books in a series. Indie publishing gives the author the opportunity to put out books in series much faster--before the reader can forget us.

Anyone hate waiting a year for book 2? I do! From complaints I've read on blogs--readers do, too.

There are numerous Indie Authors out there--and we are GOOD!

While I can only dream of hitting her numbers--I'm not complaining for a first month out in Indie Land.

Go for it, writers. Put your best work out there--as error free as possible and TALK about it.

Rock on, girl!

ps: Please help me figure out facebook!
PSS: If you haven't read her--READ HER.

Hope Welsh said...

to Amy:

Agents help Indie Authors with foreign rights. They also help with any potential movie rights. It would be dangerous for an author not to have representation in a foreign market.

I know of several indie authors that have been approached by foreign publishers.

I'm sure H.P. will reply--but thought I'd toss in my two cents.

Matthew W. Grant said...

Congratulations on your success, HP. I love the premise of your stories and the covers are quite eye-catching. I look forward to checking them out further.

I just released my first Kindle novel a two weeks ago. I have a couple questions I hope people here can answer.

I've had a couple sales, but my product page still has a blank area where "Customers who bought this item also bought..." should be. Is this normal? Does it take a certain amount of sales before that is filled in?

My other question is on right justification of text. I followed the Smashwords Style Guide which advised left justification and ragged right. Is that what the rest of you have chosen? Have you received feedback from readers about that?

Would a few of you be willing to check out my sample and let me know if it looks OK to you format wise?

Secrets of Slaters Falls

Thanks so much. Wishing much success to all of you.

Matthew W. Grant

Gary Ponzo said...

Nice post H.P. I find it interesting the only people who are down on self-pub writers are other writers. Readers couldn't care less. Give them a good book at a good price and watch them tell all their friends.
Great work.

Mike Dennis said...

Joe, I've been following your blog now for nearly a year, and I'm really impressed with your success. However, this HP Mallory post has me baffled. I see this story over and over and I just don't get it. Here's why.

HP started from nothing. According to her post, she developed a website, joined facebook, and started blogging. Next thing you know, she's selling 1000 books a month. Just from the website, facebook, and blogging?

And six months later, she's selling 23,000 books.

I've seen virtually this same story repeated many times on both your blog and others.

I have a novel out right now, published by a small publisher, in both print and ebook form. A year ago, when I got my book deal, I developed a website, started blogging on a regular basis, left articulate comments on many other blogs, joined facebook, and have gone absolutely nowhere. I mean, nowhere.

What am I missing here? Don't say my book might not be any good, because how does anyone know that unless they buy it? I have a cover blurb by Vicki Hendricks, so I must be doing something right. The cover itself is pretty good, and so is my description (although both were done by the publisher, not by me).

If I read one more success story on your blog by someone who has done exactly what I have done, I don't think I can take it. Surely there is some step in between that I have missed.

Go on the Kindle boards? Well, I've done that. The Writers Cafe is basically for Kindle authors who just want to brag about their sales, and doesn't look like something readers would be drawn to. The Book Corner is for readers, but self-promotion is frowned upon, if not excised altogether. Goodreads is pretty much the same thing.

Please tell me where I am going wrong here.

The Daring Novelist said...

Mike: I think there is a clue to the problem right there in your post. You say the Kindleboards writing area is just a place for writers to brag about their success....

If that's what you think, you've missed exactly the thing you need to help your success. The writers on KB aren't bragging, they are sharing techniques and methods.

The other thing is that your book is not indie published -- so you don't have the same tools and control at your fingertips. You don't get real time numbers, so you can't really tell how well you're doing the way indie publishers can. You don't have control over covers and price.

If you actually pay attention to most of the threads on KB, you'll also realize that there is a full range of authors there. Most of us are not doing as well as H.P., and we're talking about our numbers the same as she is. We're learning from each other.

IMHO, all your story tells us is that traditional publishing is not a magic bullet, and you don't do better than you would if you had published independently.

JA Konrath said...

Mike, I agree with everything Camille said. I'd add that I haven't found $4.79 to be an ideal price point, and that it helps to have multiple novels available. HP has three ebooks, the first for 99 cents. Amanda, Selena, Karen, LJ--they all have multiple books.

Keep writing good books, keep the prices low, keep active on the net, and don't get frustrated. Your book will sell for eternity. Eternity is a long time to find to find readers.

TheSFReader said...

Regarding current DRM implementations, there is an other interesting thread at Mobileread :

Unknown said...

I always want to ask this question:

Do you think self-pub is a viable option for oversea authors? Or is it better to go through the traditional route?

Guy said...

Hi, Matthew.
I downloaded the sample of your book Secrets of Slater Falls, and looked at it with Kindle for PC. The formatting looks perfect. I couldn't find a thing wrong.

From what I read, it sounds pretty good. I think I'll have to buy it, read it, and review it, when I get a chance.

I like the cover art, also.

Guy said...

Congrats, HP. I love to hear success stories like yours.

One question. Which came first, the thriving Facebook community, or the increase in book sales?

Guy said...

If I win the contest to be a character in your next book, can I choose who plays my part in the movie? I want Brad Pitt to play as me. People say Pitt and I look exactly alike, except for the face, body, hair, and eyes.

Tinker's Toys

Unknown said...

"Do you think self-pub is a viable option for oversea authors? Or is it better to go through the traditional route?"

Viable - no difference to being in the USA except on Pubit due to their parochial way of looking at the world.

You have to sort out the withholding tax issue, just a matter of form filling and patience - and upload to your hearts content. The web is global. About a quarter of my sales come from outside the US and UK (I know this because Amazon only gives 35% royalty on those sales).

As for the traditional route... depends where you are but the most significant market for English language books is the States. Agents typically want the path of least resistance to earning dollars. Dealing with an author in another country is not the easiest path; not when Snooki is just down the road...

Also we can see that agents are now jumping on the indie publishing bandwagon by gaining clients through - this blog for one thing, as well as other places where indie authors hang out. Better to get a phone or email that to be querying - and you make money at the same time.

Steve said...

Well done, HP. It's folks like you and Joe that keep me writing.

Dolores said...

Dear Joe,
Your sales figures leave me reeling. I've got five books published in print by commercial publishers (with good reviews and some firm fans) and one on Kindle and I'd love to have even a tiny bit of your success. Is there a magic wand?

Robin Sullivan said...

Congratulations HP and thanks Joe for providing a forum where success stories like HP and Michael J. Sullivan can be shared.

One thing I'd like to note. There were a lot of the indies that seemed to be right at the 1,000 books a month range then just EXPLODED in November and December. Because the Amazon rankings are high and they are getting cross promotions they continue to have good sales in January. I think HP's sales are probably even better in Jan than Dec just based on the "best seller" positions I've seen her in. The real $64,000 question (for me at least) is will these high volumes continue or will they fall back to the 1,000 book level? I don't think they'll go down that far but somethine between 1,000 and 10,000 (or 20,000) seems more possible.

And yes HP I love your covers. They really make you stand out from a crowded genre.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to comment on Mike Dennis's post. I agree. I am in the same boat. Small publisher, web site, blog tour, I even have a good price point for my ebook at $1.99. I wish I had a head for doing promotion. I've been warned by KB because of talking about my book. I am not a computer guy per se and I really didn't know it was a problem.

Joe, love the posts. Any interest in a YA author just starting out?

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

wannabuy said...

Congrats HP for taking the risk of self publishing. These early authors amaze me for their willingness to hang out their shingle. They must be doing something right, my first five recommendations on Amazon are all Indie author ebooks!

"Joe replies: If she had a traditional publishing deal, her books wouldn't be out until June of 2012."

That cannot be over-emphasized. If you want an audience, the customer must have a chance to review.

@Robin: "The real $64,000 question (for me at least) is will these high volumes continue or will they fall back to the 1,000 book level?"
There will be season dips. Yet look at Kindle, Nook, tablet, and cell phone production rates. I put them in the order they'll generate customers (IMO).

I'm also excited about authors 'switching genre.' IMO, that will only boost sales. Always with the assumption the work is worth reading. I'm excited to see what Joe does with Scifi.


Anonymous said...

Hi All,
Again, thanks for all the comments. I can't really advise anyone on the overseas question as I just don't know so apologies for that. On the covers, I don't have a cover artist--I did them myself in photoshop. I just purchased the images and then paired them with the halloweeny backgrounds and added the text and boom, done! LOL And to answer a few other questions, (Hello to Hope and Robin, btw), the facebook community started thriving after the book sales increased. I put a ton of effort into my facebook community not only because I enjoy it but I think it's important to make that personal connection with my readers. There was a marketing company who recently wrote an article about me that talks all about the importance of that personal connection. Here it is: http://www.futurelab.net/blogs/marketing-strategy-innovation/2011/01/about_vampires_warlocks_and_au.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Futurelab+%28Futurelab%27s+Blog%29
This might help out with questions about marketing...

Hope Welsh said...

The response to this has been impressive. I read some comments I wanted to address as someone who is not HP or Amanda or ....

"I've sold to small publisher and blog and etc....why don't I sell?"

Two reasons I've found: First, you don't set the price. My publisher, God Bless Them for taking my vampire anthology on--is listed at $5.99. It has been for over a year--I have not made $100 in royalties--and it got ALL 4 and 5 star reviews.

My next two, I published myself last month. I've made more in the last month than I made with my publisher in a year...but my books are 99 cents (no, they won't stay that price)

So, while people are taking a chance and buying me 99 cent books--they are not buying my $5.99 book at all.

Both are paranormal--I like to think they both are well-written. I like the covers on both. The two I put out in December and Jan have absolutely NO reviews--as I'm still waiting on reviews--but they do have sales. Certainly not as high as HP has, but it's early days, and I'm seeing an increase EVERY day.

More than one book helps, I think. It seems as if the ones getting good numbers have multiple things up and available.

The economy isn't great. We all are watching how we spend our hard earned dollars. I'll spend a buck on an unknown to see if they can write--it's how I found HP and Imogen and Amanda--but would I have spent $5.99? Unless I knew them, probably not.

They all promote, I believe, the first book at 99 in their series--then go to $2.99. I'm going to shamelessly follow their example in my pricing.

Just my two cents.

wannabuy said...

@Hope"but my books are 99 cents (no, they won't stay that price)"

My two cents: Leave at least one book at $0.99 to attract attention. There is a large audience out there that doesn't have much money today, but will in the future (e.g., students).

Your $5.99 example shows how critical pricing can be. You already noted how you wouldn't have tried three 'established Indie authors' at a higher price.

I'm not saying all e-books should be cheap. In my opinion, some authors need to start pushing up their prices for the *newest* works. Novellas should stay at $0.99 to $2.99.

Example: Today I realized I haven't 'read out' some of my favorite authors who recently put their backlists onto Kindle. At $7.99+/book, I'm hesitating.

Ebooks are expanding the market but also increasing the price elasticity.


Donnell Ann Bell said...

HP, so well deserved and inspirational. Joe, thanks for sharing HP with us!

Mike Dennis said...

Joe & Camille--
Thanks for the quick replies. I guess it's back to the drawing boards.

Selena Kitt said...

"There will be season dips. Yet look at Kindle, Nook, tablet, and cell phone production rates."

There will be a new iPad out this year, Verizon just got the iPhone - people are really reading electronically all over the place. It's just starting to simmer! :)

James Viser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Viser said...

HP - congratulations on your success!

Joe - Thanks for continuing to highlight examples of commercially successful indie authors. That is important, because there is no lack of people who tell us that we can't do something. Sometimes, we are are worst enemies too.

Examples like HP, Amanda Hocking, you and others all demonstrate that commercial success is possible as an indie author.

There are great stories out there and now there is no excuse for them not being read, other than the author's own fear or procrastination.

I write technical stuff for the oil and gas industry, but always wanted to write a novel. I finally did it and went the traditional route. After about 100 rejections (despite requests for partials and full manuscripts from agents), I decided that self-publishing was the best option.

I published my first novel Lie Merchants as an ebook in mid-November. Since then, sales have been increasing every week and month. Mind you, my sales are modest, but I am not advertising or doing much marketing other than working the blogs and other sites.

I am a little embarassed by my current low level of sales, but here they are: Month to date in January, I've sold nine copies on top of seven sold in December and three in November. That means 19 people I don't know are being influenced by the concepts in Lie Merchants.

I have a day job, so I didn't necessarily write Lie Merchants to become rich, but I did have something to say and now the ideas are out there. I will work harder to build sales, but now that I have self-published, I have something to build on!

For those who are still thinking about self-publishing, stop it. You are thinking too much. Just do it and then work to build your sales and platform from there. If you think you have a good story to tell, then others probably want to read it. Get your story out there so others can be entertained and maybe even changed.


Karen McQuestion said...

Another great guest post, Joe! If I had a nickel for every writer I've referred to your blog, I'd have a whole lot of nickels.

Congratulations, HP! Add me to the list of people who love your covers and will now be reading your books.

I get a flush of happiness whenever my name is mentioned as part of the reason a writer decided to self-publish on Kindle. Books that wouldn't be published otherwise are now reaching readers, and writers are experiencing the joy of being read (and making money!). I agree with Joe's comment to writers considering self-publishing on e-book: Every day you wait is a potential sale lost.

I have friends who don't want to self-publish, even after I tell them how well I've done. They're still holding out for the dream of traditional publishing, and that's fine, but I see their frustration and the way they get beaten down by the system and it makes me sad. These are talented people who've written excellent novels. Maybe their books aren't right for NY publishing, but there are readers out there who would love to read them, and isn't that what it's all about?

Sharper13x said...

HP - thanks for that link to your interview at futurelab. Perfect.

And Joe, damn this blog is informative. Thanks again.

Tim Frost said...

This blog is like a masterclass! Thanks Joe and to HP for a fascinating post.

I just wonder if a price can be too low ... I priced my Kindle thriller at 86p (UK) and after a month Amazon reduced it to 49p ($0.77). Sales have been terrific, but I wonder if some readers think 'How good can it be if this guy's book is that cheap?' HP's strategy of pricing up with the 'big 6' (and getting 70%)suddenly looks quite appealing. But will this kill the golden goose? I'd hate to lose my Top 100 ranking ... not sure I dare try ...

Unknown said...

Thank you for your post! I have been experiencing the query black hole and have been teetering on the exploring this avenue. This was extremely helpful.

Cathryn Grant said...

I get a flush of happiness whenever my name is mentioned as part of the reason a writer decided to self-publish on Kindle.

Here's another flush of happiness for you, Karen. Reading the story of your career was a huge influence on my decision to self publish The Demise Of The Soccer Moms on Kindle. I'm just starting out, but already enjoying it more than I'd imagined.

Chris Stout said...

This is going way back in the comments, but STH asked:

"I've seen someone (Joe maybe) saying that getting an isbn number for your ebook is a mistake. Can anyone chime in as to why?"

I wouldn't say it's a mistake per se, but it's probably not necessary. First, it's expensive (currently the cheapest you can buy is a block of 10 ISBN's for $250. Single numbers apparently can be had, but it's harder to get them and still pricey). If you upload through PubIt!, you can have B&N assign you an ISBN. Likewise with Smashwords. Amazon doesn't currently require an ISBN to upload to Kindle. Apple does require an ISBN, and frankly I've found that the process of trying to upload to the iBookstore is so maddening, that I've bailed on it entirely. If they accept my Smashwords edition, awesome. If not, oh well!

HP, congrats on your success! Good luck this year as well!

Hope Welsh said...

"My two cents: Leave at least one book at $0.99 to attract attention. There is a large audience out there that doesn't have much money today, but will in the future (e.g., students).

Your $5.99 example shows how critical pricing can be. You already noted how you wouldn't have tried three 'established Indie authors' at a higher price. "

Oh, I will always have something at 99 cents. But, I think the one I have for $5.99 via a publisher is too high--however; I can not control that pricing, or it'd be $2.99. It is one of my best books--written after the two that are up now. I wrote "Forbidden & Once Bitten" amazingly fast--literally within a week. I didn't sleep, didn't do anything much but write. And, I loved it. I had no question that it was good. None of the author "Oh, is it really good" I stand by it--it's good. it's not the next American Novel--it's what it is--a romance with vampires--with new twists--and great characters that came to me from the opening line.

Why am I saying this? Because, I think I'd have done MUCH better with the book doing it Indie. I've made $75.00 with that book in a year and half. I made more than that, obviously, with my indie books in December.

Indie is for me.

DCS said...

HP, you are awesome. Thanks for helping tip me toward self-publishing. I am concerned about vetting my manuscript(s). How do you handle that? Have you hired an editor?

The Daring Novelist said...

The warning against getting an ISBN number is dated info. Even a year ago, we were all concerned about the stigma of self-publishing and the ability of a publisher to look up your sales numbers. Now, it doesn't really matter.

Meanwhile, another thought on 99 cent intro books. Somebody said that they might not have even tried a well-known indie author if not for a 99 cent offering.

I've been paying attention to my own reactions and I'm finding two things.... One is that if I keep hearing about somebody, I will check them out eventually. It may take a long time. They may have six more books out before I actually sit down and give them a shot, but I will check them out.

The other thing is that 99 cents doesn't work much on me any more. I'll buy because of the price if it's a pity buy (i.e. to support someone), but there is no reason to pay anything to "try" an author because I do all samples now.

The thing is, I don't sample like I browse in a bookstore. I treat my samples like my TBR pile: so I'm sitting and reading, and if the book prompts me to buy it, price doesn't matter so much. If I don't want to buy it, but don't hate it, I leave it in the TBR pile and try again later.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Did you see this?

According to a new report by Price Waterhouse Coopers called “Turning the Page, The Future of eBooks,” by the end of 2010, eBooks accounted for more than 7% of sales in the US book market.

The PCW report has more: “Additionally, industry observers estimate that up to 8 times as many of these sales are coming through Amazon’s Kindle Store than all other online retailers combined.

Whoa! I'm currently selling 150 Kindle book per day. Can't wait until ebooks are 15, 20, 50% of the market!

Toni Lotempio said...

I've been writing for several years now - in fact, HP and I shared the same agent :) HP convinced me to put one of my books up as an "indie" and although my sales are far from stellar, I appreciate the freedom self publishing gives an author, rather than the restrictions imposed by some editors.

As a matter of fact, I'm self-pubbing my YA fantasy that was turned down by practically every agent in creation in March.

Flying into your digital bookstores soon: MY SUPERHERO SISTER.
Thanks for a very informative article.

Sharper13x said...

Thanks DCS and Daring Novelist. Daring, you confirmed what I had previously thought. Thank you.

Also worth noting, if you are self pubbing as a business and starting your own publishing entity, you need an isbn in order for Amazon to acknowledge your company as the publisher.

RBR - you've got a very good website. A lot of functionality. If you don't mind, are you using diy software or did you hire someone?

Thanks all for all the great info.
- Steve

Karen McQuestion said...

@ Cathryn Grant--thanks so much! I'll take any extra happiness that comes my way...

Matthew W. Grant said...

@ Guy Dragon: I downloaded the sample of your book Secrets of Slater Falls, and looked at it with Kindle for PC. The formatting looks perfect. I couldn't find a thing wrong.

From what I read, it sounds pretty good. I think I'll have to buy it, read it, and review it, when I get a chance.

Thanks so much for the enthusiasm and checking out the formatting of the sample for Secrets Of Slaters Falls.

Also, I was reading your blog and noticed you were gearing up for a lot of work to remove tabs from your manuscript for formatting purposes. I ran into that too and found a solution to make it much quicker.

In Word and OpenOffice, you can use global search and replace. In Word, search for ^t or in OpenOffice, search for \t - then leave the replace field blank.

I've used this method and it removed all but a small handful of the tabs. I removed the rest manually. It only took a few minutes instead of a few hours.

wannabuy said...

@The Daring Novelist:"The other thing is that 99 cents doesn't work much on me any more."

A good point. There are multiple markets. If one's work is not likely to be of interest to students, $0.99 is a silly strategy. Selena has done remarkably well avoiding $0.99/$2.99.

On Amazon.com I see Stephen King has ebooks at $2.99 (Novella?), $3.19, $3.99 (multiple works, include Cujo), and $4.99. I speculate he is trying to reach out with these low price novels to enlarge his audience. If an Indie wants to compete with a HUGE name like Stephen King, they should not out price him.

@Hope Welsh" can not control that pricing, or it'd be $2.99. "

You have the idea. ;) I wish you the best of luck!

I'm reading your link. Thank you. It deserves its own reply.


Lauryn Christopher said...

Setting prices is a tricky thing ... You don't want to set prices so high that you put yourself out of the "zone" (as if any of us really know what that really is - this whole digital revolution being so new). But you also don't want to undervalue your own work.

My friends and I are using $.99 short stories and $1.99 novellas to introduce people to our work, and putting novels up for $2.99 - $4.99 (depending on length). So far that seems to be working, and we're starting to build audiences.

I've also noticed that velocity really is driven by quantity - the more you have out there, the more chances you have that a potential reader will see your name and take a look at what you're offering. Right now I have two stories out (a novella and a novel) and I'm writing as fast as I can to get the next piece out and keep the momentum building.

This really is a very exciting time to be a writer!

Lauryn Christopher
"Conflict of Interest" (a crime novel)
Published electronically by Camden Park Press

Jason W. Chan said...

Longtime reader, first time poster. I want to say that I'm so happy that there are now more ways for authors to get their stories out there.

wannabuy said...

@Robert:"According to a new report by Price Waterhouse Coopers called “Turning the Page, The Future of eBooks,” "

That link was incredibly rich in ebook data! It should be read like a scientific paper and not a novel.

One amusing thing, the report, based on May 2010 data, wasn't optimistic enough about ebooks! I suspect those that paid to have the report generated were reading it before August. ;)

I predict one thing opposite from that report: Faster ebook growth in 2011 than 2010. Just from the rate of Kindle and Nook production, we'll meet the 2011 growth target before tax day.


noothergods said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I'm hoping Lantern Hollow manages the same kind of sales that you have.

Selena Kitt said...

"Selena has done remarkably well avoiding $0.99/$2.99"

Just a clarification, I sell short stories at $0.99 now. They used to sell at $2.99 (really, ebook readers used to pay $2.99 for a short story, way back in the day in 2008 :)

My novels and novellas are currently priced at $3.99.

wannabuy said...

Congrats to Nora Robers, the third author to sell more than a million ebooks:


wannabuy said...


Thanks for the clarrification. I should have said 'avoided selling novels at $0.99/$2.99.'

I'm not into short stories, so I overlook that category more than one should.


bowerbird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bowerbird said...

always a good thing to do is to
check your book's _formatting_
if you upload to amazon's d.t.p.,
because there can be _glitches._

and since a sample is available,
readers can spot 'em and decide
to pass on making a purchase if
the formatting ain't up to snuff.

book designers and typographers
have long scoffed at formatting
done by self-publishers, often
with good reasons for doing so.

but these days, even the major
publishing houses put out some
crappy formatting themselves...

so you -- as a self-publisher --
can actually _distinguish_ your
book if you do a good job on it.

with a little elbow-grease and
the right knowledge behind it,
you can out-shine those majors.
not "just as good" but _better_.

but sadly, most of you don't...

i've looked at some books here,
and seen some amateur goofs...

for instance, no typographer
would _ever_ release a book
that had straight apostophes.

let alone straight quotemarks!
(oh my word, are you kidding?)

dashes are another giveaway.

and you'd be amazed at what
some people do with ellipses...

the worst thing of all, though,
is inconsistency across a book.

if half your quotemarks are
straight, and half are curly,
you weren't paying attention.

if _any_ of your curly quotes
curl in the _wrong_direction,_
you weren't paying attention.

if some of your en-dashes
should have been em-dashes,
you weren't paying attention.

if spacing around your dashes
is inconsistent across the book,
you weren't paying attention.

if your headers are inconsistent,
you weren't paying attention.

the list goes on and on...

i agree most ordinary people
"don't care" about such things,
at least on a conscious level...

but i also agree with designers
that people _notice_ this stuff,
on an unconscious level, and
it feeds into their judgments
on underlying professionalism.

so it's a way to get an edge...

like i said, i've looked at some
of the books mentioned here,
and i can document all this...

i examined one extensively,
and found 40+ serious errors,
and hundreds of minor bugs...

ain't my job to call anyone out,
plus i have learned some people
don't like it when you point out
their errors; they fail to realize
that you're doing them a favor.

but nonetheless, i can't help but
shake head and shrug shoulders;
this looks like a delightful book,
but it's working with a handicap,
and it's an unnecessary burden,
as these things are easily fixed.


p.s. if you suspect it's your book,
you can ask me and i'll tell you:
bowerbird at aol dot com

Coolkayaker1 said...

This was an informative post by H.P.

I would like to comment that, although the agents and big publishers all want to find the next Da Vinci Code, writing is a truly subjective art. We can go on and on about gatekeepers and examples of rejected books, like Harry Potter, but I would remind all that no agent or publisher is trying to reject a hit book.

You might like the paintings of Jackson Pollack – I think I could paint like him with my pinkie finger. And while blindfolded, no less! Writing is art, appreciated differently by all human beings.

E-pubbing certainly puts the onus of quality and emotionally entertaining novels in the hands of the author. Popular writing scores boatloads of sales—author to reader, no middleman. A good model.

But constant degrading of the agents and publishers is a badge of contempt, sort of like “My Lexus has more leather and chrome than your BMW.” Unnecessary one-upsmanship.

Here's hoping for excellent writing and plenty of memorable prose and success for all in the publishing universe.

Kendall Swan said...

I love reading these guest posts! They are so inspiring!

I have been going at it for a year and a half now with modest success (I'm in the 1000+/mo club-yay!) but these writers are blowing it out of the water!

Here's to everyone having similar success! (sounds of glasses clinking)

Kendall Swan
Erotica Writer Extraordinaire

Chryse Wymer said...

HP, thank you for sharing so much knowledge here on Joe's blog and elsewhere. You're such an incredibly nice person as well as a darn good writer. And, um, I have a question for Joe before I forget. (Senility sets in early for some of us.)

Mr. Konrath, Do you think there is ever an instance where traditional publishing is the better option? Thank you for any information you can provide, and good luck with making your amazing writing even more amazing and lucrative :)

Cheryl Tardif said...

Thank you, HP, for sharing your inspiring story. It really does mean there's hope for the rest of us, especially those who have been marketing and branding themselves for far longer than a year. Kudos to everything you've accomplished. :-)

Thanks again, Joe, for featuring an unknown author on your blog. It's very inspiring to see others rise to "fame" so quickly and apparently easily.

All the best to you both.

And good luck to everyone else here who is aspiring to reach these numbers.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Dianna L. Gunn said...

Congrats HP, and thanks for your story. It's amazing what you've accomplished especially considering that you only started your novel three years ago-and you only started building your platform a year ago.

I personally will be seeking a publisher as soon as I am old enough to sign with one; but it will be an e-publisher rather than a print publisher.

JA Konrath said...

Mr. Konrath, Do you think there is ever an instance where traditional publishing is the better option?

Not anymore, no.

Even a million dollar deal has strings attached. You'd have to be the organ grinder monkey, jumping to every command, without any say so in your future.

I can't see a single upside to traditional publishing in the current climate.

Things may change, of course. And if they do, I reserve the right to change my mind as new facts come in.

But right now? Anyone signing a deal with the Big 6 clearly hasn't thought things through...

Jim Thomsen said...

As someone planning to self-publish an e-book soon, I am intrigued by the sidebar discussion on price point ... and think it would be worth its own post, if Joe cares to take that one up soon.

I just assumed that 99 cents, for a debut author, was the best way to bag the highest number of readers. But you folks have me wondering if I am misreading the e-book market.

Monica said...

I came to your blog via Linda's and something compelled me to read on... Your post is so encouraging and motivating. Thanks for sharing your story...
I have a dream, too, of writing a book or two. Hope I get there one day. Maybe you will succeed in inspiring me.

Congrats for your success and may you succeed even more.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Konrath, Do you think there is ever an instance where traditional publishing is the better option?

Not anymore, no.

I disagree. Not everyone who self publishes generates anywhere close to the book sales or income levels mentioned so frequently here. I am a traditionally published midlist mystery author currently working with two major NY publishers, and have a substantial backlist I had reverted to me as earlier books went out of print. I've put them all on Kindle, BN, and Smashwords, but when both of my publishers offered extensions of series with substantial raises last month, I gladly took them. Why? I'm making quite a bit more with them than I am on my own. The decision should be up to the individual. I agree with much that you say here, Joe, but it is reckless to advice folks to turn their backs on traditional publishing altogether, and most people who believe they would reject a NY deal are just kidding themselves.
The best plan, in my own humble opinion, is to live in both worlds.
I make my living via traditional publishers.
Ebook income goes straight into my retirement account.

Robin Sullivan said...

wannabuy said...
Congrats to Nora Robers, the third author to sell more than a million ebooks:

While I think this is great...and will grow faster than her print sales it is interesting that she has 280 M print books making her kinle sales less than 0.4%

Robin Sullivan said...

Regarding - "No reason to accept a NY Publishing contract"...From a monetary standpoint that may be true. But everyone has different goals...and money is not always the only (or even primary) factor. Some people don't "like" doing it all themselves...or would prefer to write and not "handle" other aspects. Some WANT a shot at the NYT best seller list (which would be impossible without bookstore distribution). And others want the validation that comes with "being picked". I think for Joe that is probably right - because his goal is to maximize $'s (and absolutely nothing wrong with that) but others, who are early in their career may have other goals and in their cases it might make perfect sense.

JA Konrath said...

when both of my publishers offered extensions of series with substantial raises last month, I gladly took them. Why? I'm making quite a bit more with them than I am on my own.

You posted anonymously, so I'm going to be frank--something I might not have done if you attached your name, because I wouldn't want to draw unwanted attention to your mistake.

Even if you got a large advance (high six figures), if you'd released these books yourself for $2.99, you'd sell more copies. Period. And since you'd be getting 70% royalty instead of 17.5%, forever, you'd make more than you got from your big advance in the long run. It might take a few years, but it WOULD happen. Guaranteed.

Publishers have shown themselves to be exceptionally inept when it comes to ebooks. Allowing the future of your books to be in the hands of companies that have no idea what they're doing is, in my learned opinion, a bad move.

I wish you had gone back and read my posts about comparing my traditionally published sales to my self-pubbed sales before signing a deal that will ultimately cost you a lot of money. I have reams of data that show a $2.99 ebook sells as much as 20 to 1 over a $6.99 ebook.

It isn't reckless to tell folks to self-pub. It's reckless to take a bad publishing deal. And if you signed a deal for 25% ebook royalties on net, that's an insanely bad deal.

I know it isn't polite to publicly point out someone's mistake, but you posted anonymously, and I don't want anyone reading this blog to take your poor advice, so I gotta call you out on this.

Apologies for being harsh, but you really should have crunched the numbers.

JA Konrath said...

But everyone has different goals...and money is not always the only (or even primary) factor.

This is true. If your goal is to make less money, the traditional publishing route is an option.


jtplayer said...

Joe, you act as if it's a given that every self-published author will have success equal to yours with ebooks.

You know that isn't true.

To knock someone's traditional deal based on facts that are in no way "guaranteed" is a little shortsighted, IMO. There are lots of variables to consider, not to mention many different personal motivations that push us to one choice or the other. And as hard as it may be to believe, not everyone is doing this strictly for the money.

So I gotta ask, is there no middle ground for you?

For years you knocked self-publishing as the wrong way to go. Now you've changed your mind, based on your own personal success, and you advocate it as seemingly the only way to go.

Are you really this cut & dried, black & white in real life? Or is this some kind of put-on used to gain notoriety for your blog?

The Daring Novelist said...

Anonymous: If you have a backlist to sell, why are earth are you posting anonymously? I'm a fan of mystery, and when I see posts like yours, I automatically go and send a sample of the author's books to my Touch.

But I can't because I don't know who you are.

This may be part of why you aren't doing so well on your own.

jtplayer said...

For what it's worth, my question was an honest one. I was not casting aspersions on Joe in any way.

Obviously this blog serves many purposes, one of which is to promote Joe and his career. I have no issues with that.

I do feel there's a huge middle ground in this debate that gets completely overlooked in the conversations taking place here. And Joe is one of those constantly framing the issue as an either/or deal.

Either you're smart and go the epub/ebook route, or you're dumb and go traditional.

In my mind life ain't that black and white.

Joe spent a lot of years pursuing the brass ring via the Big 6. Likewise, he's spent a lot of time teaching others all that he's learned. I find it hard to believe that barely a year or so of wild ebook success completely wipes out all of that previous effort, and somehow makes it invalid as a viable way to pursue a writing career.

JA Konrath said...

Joe, you act as if it's a given that every self-published author will have success equal to yours with ebooks.

Not at all. But the likelihood of making money self-pubbing is much higher than making money traditionally--especially since the majority of those who submit to big publishers are rejected.

So I gotta ask, is there no middle ground for you?

Not anymore.

As I've said many times before, every writer needs to figure out what they want, then set appropriate goals. But having walked both roads, I truly do question why anyone would take the traditional route these days.

Also, I'm bored with the pitiable TPS idiots who come here anonymously to troll, and I'm going to delete those who do.

If you post anonymously, don't be an asshole.

Joanne said...

Hi JA and HP,

JP, as always, loving the posts! HP, After reading your guest blog, I took a peek at your amazon author page. I am excited to start on Toil and Trouble (the first one). I love the cover art too.

I have a question that I hope you or other members of this forum could help me answer. It may be a sensitive subject, but I am very curious as an Asian-American writer: How well do you think minority authors would sell in self-publishing? In traditional publishing, the pattern has been that Asian authors and other minority offers sell less than their Caucasian counterparts and atleast it's suggested that authors with "American-sounding" last names do better in book sales. I wonder if this trend continues in the e-book realm.

What are your thoughts on this? In the future, I would love to see a guest post with a minority author discussing his or her self-publishing experience.

Joanne said...

oops, correction: I meant JA of course, not JP. Sorry!!!

Sharper13x said...

Joe, for what it's worth, I'm glad you deleted that comment. As soon as I saw it I thought, "damn, there goes the good conversation for the rest of the day." I think everyone would rather have the conversation continue.

And to the Anon with the backlist. I'm just starting out at this e-book process, so take this with a grain of salt, but I'll echo what Daring Novelist said. You've got to show your book and your name as you move around the internet.

I think of it like flying a kite - getting it off the ground is the hard part. I've been selling 4-5 books a day since releasing my series around Christmas, which is not "off the ground" yet. But the kite is getting closer to the windstream. When you get it high enough, it should start to go on it's own. Hopefully. That's the idea anyway.

The hardest part, and this may be why you prefer traditional publishing, is finding the time to promote the book AND write the next project. Personally, I find myself coming to places that I like and calling it "promotion." I don't think that's going to be enough for the results I want. But it's also fun figuring all that out.

The great part is that the pressure to get my kite off the ground is solely on me. Not having to rely on random factors, or others without the same skin in the game, is very empowering and comforting at the same time. And it's unique in my experience writing in other industries. I feel like I just stumbled onto something I didn't know I was always looking for.

JA Konrath said...

How well do you think minority authors would sell in self-publishing?

It's tough to sell any book written by anyone, but your chances are better self-pubbing than going the traditional route.

I have no clue if a foreign sounding name will hurt sales, but it hasn't hurt Stieg Larsson.

You could always experiment. Release a book, get sales data for a month, then change the author name and see if sales go up or down.

scubaski said...

Please disable Anonymous comments. I'm posting from a newly minted blogger ID. To anonymous: After setting up a new blogger ID then edit the 'User Profile' to display whatever name you feel like (otherwise it is your email username).

The only two 'middle grounds' are:

Publishers need to adapt to create the middle ground. The #1 adaptation is time to market. A new author either has multiple books out by Christmas 2011 or will develop little market presence.

Bookstores need to also invest in POD for the backlists. One fact that is killing print: Series genre readers want the entire series to be available. Easy on Kindle... Not usually the case for print.

I'll post from my normal 'wannabuy' account in the future. This was just to prove a point that the net is anonymous. Only 'drive by trolls' won't set up an account.

JA Konrath said...

Please disable Anonymous comments.

Anonymous comments allow people to post who would be wary of it otherwise. I encourage that, just like I encourage debate and disagreement.

But when people attack each other, or attack me, I'll delete it. I want this blog to be friendly and foster discussion. Trolls, snipers, and flame warriors can go play elsewhere.

Chryse Wymer said...

Thanks for the feedback, Mr. K. There are just so many options, and things to consider. As far as people having goals other than making money for their work, aren't those people unpublished? If I didn't want to make any money from my work, then I wouldn't try to get it published in the first place. I would just lock myself in a room and write. But I like weird things like paying the bills, food, getting diapers for my kid's a$$....

Coolkayaker1 said...

Poster: "Mr. Konrath, Do you think there is ever an instance where traditional publishing is the better option?"

"Not anymore, no," Joe Konrath.

Coolkayaker1: I have never seen a National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize for Fiction given to an e-book. So, sales aside, there is one instance that traditional publishing trumps e-pubbing. For now.

P.S. When any e-author buys a castle in England like J.K. Rowling...nevermind, we'll save that one for another thread.

Unknown said...

Coolkayaker1: I have never seen a National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize for Fiction given to an e-book. So, sales aside, there is one instance that traditional publishing trumps e-pubbing. For now.

Chryse: We were talking about self-pubbing versus traditional pubbing, not e-pubbing versus traditional publishing. At least, that's what I thought we were talking about. And, on that topic: if it's published, it can be nominated. I'm sure there are plenty of other self-published authors in the future who will nominate other self-published authors.

And JK Rowling didn't win no stinking National Book Award or Pulitzer so if she should win...but that's for another time :)

Coolkayaker1 said...

Okay, has a self-pubbed author won the National Book Award or the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction?

Coolkayaker1 said...

And postscript: I'm not here for venom. I just wanted to reply to the question posted in the thread. No e-book author, or self-published author, that I'm aware of has become a billionaire (and yes, that's what she is according to Forbes--I know, I can't believe it either), or has won the National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as of January 15, 2011.

That's all I'm stating (and if someone has an example of that, then I'm wrong).

Notice I'm not making a judgement here; I'm stating a fact. No reason for rancor.

bowerbird said...


really? rancor?

no danger of that.

i thought your comment was
the funniest thing all week!

i remember when detractors
said you would _never_ make
_any_ money self-publishing...

gee, it seems like it was only
a couple of years ago, in fact.

oh yeah, because it _was_ just
a couple of years ago, in fact.

in fact, joe was one of those
who was telling people that...

look how fast things changed!

now the line is, "well, yeah, but
you will never be a billionaire..."

a _billionaire_?

that is _funny_. :+)


shoe on the other foot, though.

if you got a baby who depends
on you to cover a bare bottom,
and depends on you to load up
the other end too, you _might_
wanna go for a situation where
the certainty of a paycheck is
a lot higher than self-publishing.

this "business model" is so new
that it needs "quotes" around it,
especially since it's so dependent
on just one player -- amazon...

when your "business" depends on
a company that's a heckuva lot
_bigger_ than you are, you don't
really have any "business" at all.

you have something that can be
smashed to bits in half a minute.

and recall when joe related that
odds of hitting the top lists are
smaller than making the n.f.l.?

i feel he may be wrong on that,
at least if you're female and/or
you weigh under 180 pounds...
but it's not too far off the mark.

the world of prospective authors
has always been over-run with
vastly unrealistic expectations...

vastly. unrealistic. expectations.

publishers used to restrain that.
now that _you're_ the publisher,
make sure you've got a handle...

because _nobody_ wants to see
your kids go bare-ass or hungry,
least of all you...


JA Konrath said...

I have never seen a National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize for Fiction given to an e-book.

I know a LOT of writers. But I don't know a single one who writes to win awards.

Now, if you dialed that back a bit, and said the goal was nationwide attention from the literati, then indeed traditional publishing would be the thing to pursue.

But needing the approval of others in the form of accolades, awards, reviews, and praise, is a rather narrow and rather unhappy goal to pursue.

Julianne MacLean said...

Hi Joe - love your blog. I'm a traditionally published author and I have just published my first ebook on Amazon - just a short story, but a good way to dip my toe in the water and learn how it's done.
I'm sitting on a complete ms right now and flip flopping back and forth about self-pubbing it (I already have the cover designed) or giving NY one more try.
Here's a fear of mine: Given that Borders is in trouble and Dorchester has already gone down the tubes, I don't think anyone is safe. I'm hoping that publishers will be willing to sign deals for JUST the print rights, and let us keep our ebook rights to self publish.
I wonder if anyone has been successful at negotiating this sort of a deal yet. Have you heard of any authors who have?
I apologize if this was covered in a previous blog, but I'm only just starting to learn all there is to learn.
Again - love your blog.

Unknown said...

I do understand what you are trying to say, Coolkayaker: if you want to win literary awards, self-publishing probably isn't the route for you. And I do have to say I don't know of any billionaires who are self-published. Come to think of it: can you think of one author other than Rowling who's a *traditionally* published billionaire? Me either. However, this reminds me of something. Rowling made a big chunk of change off of her movie rights, I'm sure. Does anyone here know someone who's had to deal with selling movie rights while self-published? I know of at least one self-published book that was made into a movie. So, just curious.

Oh, add me to your list, Joe. I write because it's a heck of a lot of fun, and I want people to read and enjoy my work.

(And no, I'm not dumb enough to try to make my full income from writing just yet, having only started with self-publishing. I was exaggerating to make a point...something authors often do.)

bowerbird said...

(i wrote this thursday,
so if it seems to be
that's why... it is...)


most authors "fail"...

at least in the sense that
they fail to sell a lot of books.

so let's compare models...


under the traditional model,
95% of the authors fail to
pass the gatekeepers, so
they fail to sell any books.

95% of the remaining 5%
also fail to sell a lot of books,
which means 99.75% fall in
the didn't sell well category.
oh, they'll sell some books in
their window of opportunity
in bookstores, but not many.
overall, just .25% sell well...

however, all of the authors
who passed the gatekeepers
_can_ feel like a _success_,
because they got "published",
and that's a badge of honor.
plus they received an advance,
for some monetary success...


in the self-publishing model,
100% of the authors "pass"
the gatekeepers, because
there are no gatekeepers...

95% of them nonetheless
will fail to sell a lot of books.
indeed, of the remaining 5%,
95% of those won't sell well,
oh, they'll sell _some_ books,
probably more than authors
traditionally did, due to the
long "shelf-life" of e-books,
but still not enough to matter
in terms of a financial sense.
overall, just .25% sell well...

however, _all_ these authors
_can_ feel like a _success_,
because they got their story
out to people in the world...


so here's the real tradeoff...

if you're willing to be in the
95% who get _nothing_ from
the traditional model, and the
badge of honor you _might_
get if you fall in the lucky 5%
who pass the gatekeepers
would be _important_ to you,
and you don't really care if
your story gets out to people
(should you fail to be chosen),
then you should go traditional.
if you're in the lucky 5%, your
money will be in your advance.
but that'll be the extent of it.
because just .25% sell well...


in summary...

if you want to be _assured_
that your story _will_ be told,
and you don't need a badge of
honor, you should self-publish.
your money will be in the sales
that you make, which will likely
be comparable to any advance
that you'd have received if you
had gone the traditional route
_and_ passed the gatekeepers.
but that'll be the extent of it.
because just .25% sell well...

the only real losers in _either_
model are the people who use
the traditional model but fail
to pass the gatekeeper so thus
get _absolutely_nothing_ -- and
remember, that's 95% of them...


Anonymous said...

Hi JA,

Just wanted to say thanks for answering my question about minority authors and sales. Appreciate it!! :)


Nancy Beck said...

I know I'm late to the game here, but I wanted to wish H.P. continued success. Love those covers! :-)

And as soon as I get my TBR pile down to something managable (whatever that means), I'm hoping to pick up at least one of your books...even though I don't have the standalone Kindle, I do have the Kindle app thingie on my PC.