Saturday, July 06, 2013

Guest Post by Mark Terry

Joe sez: If you've missed the previous guest blogs, they've been fascinating and informative.

You can read Mike Dennis talking about noir here:

You can read Douglas Dorow talking about the publishing game here:

You can read Iain Rob Wright's 10 self-publishing tips here:

You can read about Tracy Sharp talking about just doing it here:

You can read about AJ Abbiati's Transliterator here:

You can read G.E. Nolly's fifty year journey as a writer here:

You can read Kevin Hardman talking about Amazon ranking here:

Now here's Mark Terry...

The Numbers Game

Joe made me do it. Back in about 2009, Joe was ahead of the curve when it came to self-publishing e-books. As it happened, I had written a couple of well-reviewed but modest-selling thrillers that were available in trade paperback and/or hardcover featuring my “franchise” character, Derek Stillwater, a troubleshooter for Homeland Security. Those novels were THE DEVIL’S PITCHFORK and THE SERPENT’S KISS. In between Stillwater books I had written a thriller starring Joanna Dancing, a former security agent for the State Department who had become a high-level bodyguard. Originally titled DANCING IN THE DARK, my agent and I couldn’t place the book, so, following Joe’s lead, I self-published it as an ebook and trade paperback.

It didn’t sell terribly well.

Somewhere in there I completed two more Derek Stillwater novels, THE FALLEN and THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. I had recently made a jump in publishers after Derek Stillwater. Luckily, the rights to the first to Stillwaters were released to me. So I went ahead and also released Pitchfork and Serpent as ebooks and trade paperbacks. In this case, the Stillwaters sold better than Joanna. Not amazingly well, but better. And besides, now I had three books . . . technically 5, once my new publisher got going with FALLEN and SHADOWS. (Actually 7, if you include the two books that were issued only in paper and to which I have yet to lock in ebooks – CATFISH GURU and DIRTY DEEDS).

Which is the point. During a fairly prolific period, I wrote several more books. I wrote two novellas that were prequels to THE DEVIL’S PITCHFORK titled DIRE STRAITS and GRAVEDIGGER, three children’s novels titled THE BATTLE FOR ATLANTIS, MONSTER SEEKER, and THE FORTRESS OF DIAMONDS. I also wrote and published another novel, HOT MONEY, featuring a political consultant in Washington DC who, THE SINS OF THE FATHER.
as he notes, knows where all the bodies are buried, often because he did the burying, and another Derek Stillwater novel titled

Some of those books we shopped around traditional publishers, some I went straight to self-publishing.

I also put together a nonfiction book, FREELANCE WRITING FOR A LIVING, and an anthology of crime fiction titled DEADLY BY THE DOZEN. My son wrote a sequel to one of my novels, MONSTER SEEKER 2: RISE OF THE PHOENIX KING and we co-published it.

Somewhere along the line I realized something that makes a lot of sense. Not all of these books have to sell tons (it would be nice if ALL of them did, or any of them did) – but by having more books out there, each book can sell 20 or 30 or 50 or 100 or whatever amount of copies they might sell each month, and by having 10 or 15 or 20 books, it starts to add up in a significant way. So, yeah, be productive! Write your ass off! Write the best books you can, but write a lot of them!

A couple other points, besides the rather obvious point that the more books you publish, the more money you make. One is that I changed the title of DANCING IN THE DARK to EDGE and gave it a new cover. I may have to change that cover again, actually, since I’m still not completely happy with it. (I also really should write another book featuring Joanna and maybe introduce her to Derek Stillwater). I changed the cover to the first MONSTER SEEKER book and am very pleased with it. This is something you can do self-publishing.

The last point, I think, is the freedom this all gives me. The books for kids are fun. They are also very, very different from the books I write for adults, which are, for the most part, thrillers. The books for kids fall into adventure and fantasy. I’ve also written and published a science fiction short story under the name T. Ray Drew titled “Humanitarian Aid” and am working on a novel featuring the same character. I’m developing another potential series character with a novel I expect out later this summer titled CHINA FIRE. This is the cover and it should be out by August.

So let’s sum up a few of the advantages of self-publishing as we currently understand them: publish on your own schedule, can jump genres, can change titles and covers to try and improve sales, can collaborate on projects easily with other people, and oh, yeah, because there’s a 70% royalty rate for ebooks over $2.99, you’re making money, sometimes a lot of it!

Thanks Joe.

Joe sez: I remember Mark interviewing me for some magazine years ago, when I had made some waves landing a six figure deal as a first time authors. This was back when authors didn't discuss money, so my three book $110,00 deal was misinterpreted by some as half a mil or more. Which worked to my advantage, publicity-wise. A new author getting six figures generated buzz, and hopefully that buzz translated into sales.

Perhaps it would have, if my publisher actually gave me coop. But they didn't, and I wound up busting my ass and touring, and readers of this blog know I eventually got those books back and make more in a month on them than I made in three years with that publisher.

Mark will get there too. He has to. He's doing everything right. He's changing titles and covers, genres, working with co-writers, and tying his books together with series.

A lot of ebooks selling a few dozen each month can result in significant money. But more importantly, if people like those books, they go on to buy others. So one sale leads to ten or fifty.

I don't need a million fans. I just need 20,000 fans who buy everything, and that's a million sales if I have fifty titles.

If I have 100 titles, I only need 10,000 fans to make 2.7 million dollars (assuming $3.99 an ebook).

And this doesn't take global sales into account. Amazon now has Kindle stores in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, India, Spain, Japan, and Canada. It won't be long before ebooks are everywhere, and finding those 10,000 fans will be a lot easier out of a potential pool of 7 billion.

Never before, in the history of the world, have artists (or anyone) had such an incredible business model. The old model was to create a product, manufacture a product using resources (employees, offices and factories, raw materials), distribute a product (planes, trains, trucks, boats, warehouses) to a retailer, who then sells to a customer. Everyone takes a cut, and supply and demand rule the roost.

The paradigm has changed. Once you create an ebook, it can be manufactured for a small, sunk initial investment, zero overhead, distributed globally for pennies, and you keep 70% of the price you list.

Here's a conversation with a reporter I had about a year ago when I was still giving interviews.

Joe: How much are you getting paid for this article?

Reporter: Uh, about $1500. It's a feature.

Joe: About two weeks to write?

Reporter: Yeah, plus research.

Joe. And you get the check, cash it, then have to go write another story?

Reporter: Yeah.

Joe: I spend two weeks on a novella (or in some cases a novel) and I make money forever. My grandkids will be getting my royalties someday. I've written things in two weeks where I've made $75,000, and that number keeps going up. We're both writers. Why the hell are you writing features ?

Why indeed.