Friday, December 31, 2010

The Death Spiral

This today from PW:

Still reeling from record losses and a continuing drop in sales in the third quarter, the Borders Group announced that it is delaying payments to some publishers.

The whole article is HERE.

This is something that has concerned me for a while. Here's how it could play out.

1. Publishers insist on being paid.
2. Borders begins returning books for credit, to pay what they owe.
3. Fewer books on the shelf means fewer sales.
4. Fewer sales means more bookstores closing.
5. More bookstores closing means fewer sales.
6. Repeat.

If Borders closes a lot of stores, or closes their doors completely, it will mean publishers will make less money.

If they make less money, they won't be able to publish as many books. Fewer books published means fewer books sold, which means even less money.

I've heard a lot of anecdotal evidence from my writing peers about authors being dropped by their houses, or being offered smaller advances. I've heard more anecdotal evidence that it has become harder to sell books to publishers.

So what are authors going to do if they can't sell their books to publishers?

The smart ones will self-publish.

Here's a broader possible forecast:

1. Borders withholds payments.
2. Publishers demand to be paid.
3. Borders returns books.
4. Fewer books means fewer sales, which means smaller profits.
5. Publishers tighten their belts and don't buy as many books.
6. Fewer books published means fewer books sold.
7. Bookstores close, meaning fewer books sold.
8. Fewer books sold means fewer books bought by publishers.
9. Authors, unable to sell to publishers, decide to self-publish.
10. Self-pubbed books means fewer books sold in bookstores, and fewer sales for publishers.
11. Repeat.

Things don't look good for bookstores.

They don't look good for publishers either.

But could the skyrocketing ebook market save publishers?

It depends. If the majority of bookstores close, the print midlist will probably disappear. Bestsellers will still be sold in big boxes and non-bookstore outlets, but if a book isn't a blockbuster, it likely won't be released in print.

The reason publishers are so important to authors is because they have a lock on distribution, and they get those print books onto shelves and into stores. Everything else--editing, cover art, marketing--can be outsourced by the author. But the author can't get their book into Sam's Club or CVS or every Borders store.

If publishers stop printing books and focus on ebooks, authors have to ask themselves what are the benefits of signing with a publisher? Why let a publisher take 52.5% of the cover price of an ebook, while an author takes only 17.5%? Especially when an author can do it themselves and make 70%?

This death spiral may not happen for a while. It might not happen at all.

But authors should be thinking about all of the changes happening in the industry right now. If you sign a book deal which states the first book won't be released until June 2012, will there be any chain bookstores still standing? What if it's a three book deal, with the last book out in 2015?

In the past, publishers could be counted on for stability. But in the last year, we've seen Leisure and Medallion stop their print lines. I have friends who haven't gotten their latest royalty statements or checks.

Here are some things for writers to discuss with their agents to protect themselves:

1. Make sure there is a reversion of rights clause based on the book being in print and selling a certain number of copies per year.

2. Look out for "non compete" clauses, which wouldn't allow a writer to release ebooks on their own during the duration of the print deal.

3. Make sure there are clauses that protect the writer in case of a publisher's bankruptcy.

4. Look out for clauses that state the publisher can release the ebook without releasing the print book.

5. If ebooks become the dominant format (a possibility if the death spiral ensues), then the 17.5% royalty rate publishers currently offer needs to change. A "most favored nations" clause along the lines of "if the publisher ever offers another author more than 17.5%, that rate will automatically be applied to this contract" is a way for authors to avoid getting locked into a lousy royalty rate for life.

6. Get as much money up front as you can.

In my previous post, I said that authors should self-publish because they can make more money.

Looking at the current publishing climate, I'd be really hesitant to sign a deal because I'd be afraid bookstores, or publishers, won't be around much longer.

In the past, it made monetary sense for publishers to allow books to go out of print.

Today, a savvy publisher would want to hold onto those rights as long as possible, to exploit the erights.

That scares me more than a little.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

You Should Self-Publish

One of the traits I value most about myself is my ability to change my mind about something as more data becomes available.

Well, the data is in. And I'm reversing one of my long-held beliefs about writing.

For many years, I said DO NOT SELF-PUBLISH.

I had many good reasons to support this belief.

1. Self-publishing was expensive
2. The final product was over priced and inferior
3. Self-pubbed were impossible to distribute
4. Most self-pubbed books weren't returnable
5. Chances were, the reason you had to self pub was because your writing wasn't good enough
6. Most POD houses were scams

I had ample evidence to support my opinion. Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors and Absolute Write all had detailed tales of authors being screwed. I'd done enough local signings with self-pubbed authors to see how epic their failures were. I was a judge for several self-pub contests for Writer's Digest, and saw firsthand the dreck being released.

Yep, I was pretty confident that traditional publishing was the only game in town.

Then, in 2009, I became aware of the Kindle.

Even though I began to experience some success self-publishing my ebooks, I still believed in traditional publishing. For all of its flaws, signing with a Big 6 house was still the best way to make the most money and reach the most readers.

So now it's December 2010, and I'm selling 1000 ebooks a day, and I'm ready to change my mind on the matter.

Two close friends of mine have books on submission, waiting for the Big 6 to make offers. They've been waiting for a few months, and will probably have to wait a few months more.

Even being conservative in my estimates, these writers have lost thousands of dollars, and will continue to lose money every single day their books are on submission, rather than on Amazon.

Selling 1000 ebooks a month equals $24,000 a year. Being on submission for 6 months is a loss of $12,000, and then waiting 18 more months for the book to be published is a loss of another $36,000.

Even if they got a nice advance, say $100,000, they'd still be losing money hand over fist.

Let's compare:

Two years of extra sales (the submission time and the time to publication) = $48,000
Three years of sales beyond that @ $24k per year = $72,000
Total five year earnings for self pubbing = $120,000

Traditional Pubbing
Advance = $100,000. But the agent takes $15k, and the advance is broken up into three payments of $57,000 each over three years
Five years of sales = $0 (a $100,000 advance, in today's market, with bookstores closing all around and ebook royalties at 17.5%, will never earn out)
Total five year earnings = $85,000

1000 ebook sales a month for a $2.99 self-pubbed ebook is a very conservative number--I have ebooks regularly selling 2000 or 3000 a month.

But I've NEVER had a $5.99 ebook sell 1000 copies a month, and that's what a traditional publisher will price their ebooks at. Each $5.99 ebook that sells will earn the author $1.05, and they'll sell considerably fewer (as many as ten times fewer, according to my numbers) than the $2.99 ebook earning them $2.04.

Yes, there will be paper sales, but my best selling paper book, Afraid, didn't even earn me $25k in print royalties, and it has a hardcover, trade paper, and two mass market releases on three continents.

I'm also very concerned that many print publishers, in the next few years, are going to go bankrupt. I'd hate to wait 18 months for my book to come out, then have it canceled. And if it is canceled, what happens to the rights? Do they get tangled up in some lengthy court battle? Do I ever get my erights back?

And how about after the five year period? Chances are high, five years from now, that ebooks will be the dominant format. Do I want to be locked into a contract making 17.5% on every sale when I could have been making 70%?

Let's say publishers wise up and begin selling ebooks for $2.99. That would mean authors only get 52 cents from each sale, or 1/4 of what they could make on their own. That's $6k a year in royalties, rather than $24k.

If that went on for ten years, an author who signed with a publisher would make $60,000. An author who self-pubbed and sold the same amount of ebooks would make $240,000.

Yes, traditional publishers offer editing and cover art. But is editing and cover art worth you losing $18,000 a year, every year, forever?

Even if we assume print will remain competitive, I can trot out the royalties I've earned on my Jack Daniels books over the last seven years. With six JD books, including ebook sales, I've made over $300,000.

I'm on track to make over $200,000 on ebook sales in 2011, and have made over $100,000 this year. So I can earn more in two years on my own than I could in seven years with a traditional publisher. Hell, I earned more this month than I got as an advance for Afraid ($20k for Afraid, $22k for this December self-pubbing.)

If I look at the poor royalty rates publishers offer, the changing, volatile marketplace, the long time to publication, and then add in the multitude of mistakes publishers continue to make (like high ebook prices), I'd be hard pressed to think of ANY reason to sign a book deal.

Unless it's for a huge sum of money. If that happens, take the money and assume you'll never get your rights back or make another cent off of that book.

Years ago, publishers used to grow authors. When authors reached a certain number of books in print, the publisher would have a huge marketing campaign to break the author out into the mainstream and hit the bestseller lists. That's how a lot of NYT bestsellers got there.

These days, you can grow yourself. You can put out books quicker than the Big 6, earn more money, reach more readers, and have more control over the entire process.

But don't take my word for it. Go to and look at all the self-pubbed authors selling like crazy. Go to and look at the bestseller lists, which are full of indie authors (who are competing with huge bestselling authors, and in many cases making more money than those bestsellers.) Crunch the numbers yourself, and try to find a scenario where you'd actually do better in the long term by signing with the Big 6.

I'll now take some questions.

Q: But Joe, I've got a self-pubbed ebook on Kindle, and I've only sold 6 copies. Wouldn't I sell more through a publisher?

A: I've seen evidence that the return rates on print books are over 70%. If your book is selling poorly on Kindle, what makes you think you'll sell well having two copies, spine out, in a bookstore that will soon go out of business?

And do you think you'll sell more ebooks through a publisher when they list it at $9.99 and only pay you 17.5%?

If your sales are poor, change the cover art, change the description, rewrite the book, write more books, change genres, etc. There are a lot of ways to improve sales, because you have control.

You have no control once you sign over your rights to a publisher.

Q: Print is still the dominant form of media. Don't you think you're putting all your eggs in the ebook basket?

A: Not at all. Most of my self-pubbed ebooks are available in print, through Createspace. This December, I've earned over $2300 on them.

Q: You're such a hypocrite. You've got several print deals.

A: I signed those deals before I came to this conclusion. I highly doubt I'll ever sign another print deal.

Q: But I need the traditional publishing gatekeepers in order to know my book is good enough. Aren't you concerned a whole bunch of wannabes will flood the Kindle with self-pubbed crapola?

A: Decades ago, pulp writers learned to write while on the job. Early books by many of the greatest mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, and romance writers, weren't very good. But getting paid allow those writers to improve, and become the masters we now revere.

If you write crap, it probably won't sell very well. But you can learn from it and get better. You can rewrite and revise your early work to improve it. With self-publishing, readers become the gatekeepers, and if you work hard, keep an open mind, and learn from your mistakes, you'll improve as a writer.

Q: But what about editing and formatting and cover art?

A: See my sidebar for the folks I use to make my cover art and format my ebooks and print books.

As for editing, I'll be candid here. My last four print releases, all done my major houses, required very little editing. That's because I have writing peers who help me vet my manuscripts.

Join a writers group, or make friends with a writer in your genre and trade manuscripts.

Q: But I want to be traditionally published so my books are in bookstores, and so I can join professional writer organizations like HWA, SFWA, RWA, MWA, ITW, NinC, the Author's Guild, so I can get nominated for awards, and so I can get professional reviews in newspapers and Kirkus, PW, Booklist, and so my books get into libraries, and so I can sell to foreign countries and sell audio rights and get movie deals.

A: Years ago, self-pubbing was called "vanity publishing" because it existed to appeal to the writer's ego.

Joining organizations, winning awards, getting into newspapers, and seeing your books in bookstores and libraries all seems like it caters directly to a writer's vanity.

As a writer, I could give a shit what the New York Times thinks of my latest, or if MWA gives me an Edgar award, or if I'm on a shelf in the Podunk Public Library. Those are all ego strokes.

I care about money, and reaching readers, and none of these things are necessary to make money or reach readers.

As for foreign, audio, and movie rights, watch what happens over the next few years. Print is no longer a prerequisite.

Q: You're doing well because you have a platform in traditional publishing.

A: Will this assumption ever die? I'm not saying every self-pubbed writer will sell as well as I do. But there are many writers selling just as well, or better, and many of them never had a print deal. I'm sure my backlist helps. I'm also sure a backlist isn't needed to succeed.

Q: You're a bitter, angry man, your mediocre success has turned you into an insufferable egomaniac, and your bashing the publishing industry is petty and misguided.

A: I'm guessing you work for the publishing industry. Better get that resume up on ASAP.

Q: But what if your ebook predictions are wrong? What if the bubble bursts? Do you think any publisher in the world would ever offer you another contract? I'd much rather stick with a multi-million dollar company who has had a hundred years of experience. Publishers are too smart, and there is too much money involved, for them to fail.

A: I'm sure a lot of people felt the same way about Enron, Delta, Chrysler, General Motors, Northwest Airlines, Montgomery Wards, Kmart, Delta, the Tribune Group, Pacific Gas and Electric, etc.

Bankruptcy happens to big companies all the time. And technology changes how media is distributed and sold.

I wouldn't want to be associated with any company who still supported Betamax, VHS, 8 tracks, cassette tapes, vinyl records, 35mm film, analog televisions, CRT monitors, dot matrix printers, etc.

I don't doubt that print will always exist.

I also don't doubt that digital will dominate print, just as it has dominated music, TV, film, communications, etc.

If you want to stick with the old guard, that's up to you. I wish you much success.

In the meantime, I'll be self-pubbing, making money.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Bedtime Story

Once upon a time, there was a writer named Joe.

Joe very much wanted to make a living writing stories. But the market was very difficult to break into. It was controlled by the Gatekeeper, who was very picky, often arbitrarily so, about what he allowed to be published.

When Joe got out of college, he wrote his first novel. The Gatekeeper rejected it. So Joe wrote another one, and the Gatekeeper rejected that one too. Then Joe wrote a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, a seventh, an eighth, and a ninth, but the Gatekeeper didn't like any of them.

Finally, after trying for over 12 years, and getting more than 500 rejections, the Gatekeeper bought Joe's tenth novel for $33,000.

Joe was very happy. Though it wasn't a lot of money, it allowed him to write full time, which had always been his dream.

But now Joe needed to make sure his dream wouldn't whither and die on the vine. He knew he had to sell a lot of books, or else the Gatekeeper could become fickle and turn his back on Joe.

So Joe worked hard to make sure he sold as many books as he could. He visited forty states in the US, and signed books in over 1200 bookstores. He created a popular blog. He spoke at hundreds of libraries, book fairs, and conferences.

But even though Joe's books sold well, they didn't sell well enough for the Gatekeeper, and Joe was dropped.

So Joe changed his name, and sold a book for $20,000. He worked very hard to make that book a success, traveling to over 200 bookstores, appearing on over 100 blogs in a single month.

The Gatekeeper seemed happy, but wanted changes in Joe's next book. Joe didn't want to make these changes. After all, he was the writer, not the Gatekeeper. But the Gatekeeper insisted, so once again Joe found himself without a publisher.

So Joe changed his name again, and sold another book... for $6000. He knew this was a small amount of money, but he also knew that he'd make it back very fast, because his other books had earned out their advances. Joe didn't understand why the Gatekeeper was being so fickle and cheap, when his books were selling well and making money. But then, there were a lot of things about the Gatekeeper that didn't make sense. And it wasn't like Joe had a choice. If he wanted to make a living, he had to take whatever crumbs the Gatekeeper offered.

In the meantime, Joe began selling some of his early, rejected books as ebooks on his website. When fans told Joe they couldn't read these on their new Kindle devices because the format was incompatible, Joe went to Amazon and uploaded the ebooks there.

Soon, Joe was making over $1000 a month on Kindle.

Joe was shocked by this. He thought the only way to make a living as a writer was with the Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper offered advances. The Gatekeeper did the editing and the cover art. And most importantly, the Gatekeeper controlled distribution. There was no way to reach readers without the Gatekeeper.

But ebooks didn't need to be distributed in the same way print books were. So the Gatekeeper wasn't needed.

Because the Gatekeeper wasn't needed, writers could make a much better royalty rate.

The Gatekeeper gave Joe standard royalty rates. 8% on paperbacks. 10% - 15% on hardcovers. 17.5% on ebooks.

But on his own, self-publishing, Joe could earn 70% royalty rates. Instead of earning $2.50 on a Gatekeeper published $25 hardcover, Joe could earn $4.50 on a $14 trade paperback if he did it himself. Instead of earning $1.75 on a Gatekeeper published $9.99 ebook, Joe could earn $2.04 on a self-pubbed $2.99 ebook.

As the year went on, Joe's ebooks, and ebooks all over, began to sell in greater and greater numbers. Joe went from making $1000 a month, to $3000, then $6000, then $16,000.

Joe realized he could make more money without the Gatekeeper. He could write the books he wanted to, and he could publish them when they were finished, rather than having to wait a year for the Gatekeeper to publish them.

He didn't have to rely on the Gatekeeper getting him reviews, or buying coop space in bookstores, or sending him on tour, or offering discounts. He didn't have to compete for shelf space with the bestselling authors the Gatekeeper pushed.

For the first time ever, Joe had control.

And a funny thing happened. Once Joe didn't have the Gatekeeper determining his future, he became more successful than he ever dreamed.

Joe began to blog about what he was doing. He posted his sales figures. He encouraged other authors to self-publish. He got more publicity than he ever had in the past, all on his own.

Joe was very happy. He no longer had to worry about appeasing the Gatekeeper in order to get another contract. He no longer got paid only twice a year. He no longer had to cut things out of his books he didn't want to cut, or change his titles, or have zero say in cover art.

Joe was selling more books, making more money, and reaching more people than he ever had in the past, and he didn't have to go on any crazy two-month-long book tours, or mail out 7000 letters to libraries.

Best of all, Joe never worried about getting rejected ever again. Joe realized he was the brand, not the Gatekeeper. His fans would follow him, and retailers like Amazon and Smashwords and Barnes and Noble and Apple and Sony and Kobo and Borders and Android would allow Joe to find even more fans.

But the story doesn't end there. The Gatekeeper is still controlling the industry. Still looking for new writers, offering them 17.5% ebook royalties while he takes 52.5%. Still treating authors badly, while claiming they should be grateful. Still playing by the old rules, even though there are now new ones. Still trying to stay relevant in a changing industry and a dying business model.

But Joe knows that writers will eventually wise up. Why should authors live from advance to advance, hoping to get another contract? Why put up with heartache, depression, and abuse, when authors can, for the very first time, take control of their own career?

To put it another way, why sell your cow to a dairy for one lump sum, when you could make money forever if you just keep the cow and sell the milk yourself?

Joe began to preach this to writers. He preached long and loud. He wanted to spare his peers the angst and worry and pain and depression he went through while dealing with the Gatekeeper.

And writers began to listen.

Now Joe has a problem.

He doesn't have enough time in the day to answer all of the email he gets from authors, who want to thank him because they too have decided to self-publish. It seems like Joe wasn't the only one fed up with the Gatekeeper, and thousands of others have followed Joe's journey and embarked on similar journeys of their own.

Joe is humbled by all of the attention he's gotten, and all of the praise and thanks he's received. He's thrilled that so many authors are making money. And he's very excited about the future. Not just for himself, but for writers everywhere.

Once upon a time, there was a writer named Joe. He wanted to make a living writing stories.

Now he does.

Joe has made $22,000 in December, all without the Gatekeeper.

And he's just getting started...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Ebook Buying Guide

Greetings ereader owner!

There are literally millions of ebooks currently available to put on your Kindle/Nook/Sony/Kobo/iPad/Other Ereading device.

But have no fear. I'm here to help.

The following ebooks have all been vetted by readers just like you. Each of these indie authors is selling at least 1000 ebooks a month on various platforms.

Best of all, most of these are under $2.99.

Happy holidays!

Suzanne Tyrpak -- Vestal Virgin
Kindle US Smashwords Kindle UK

(Introductory priced at just .99 cents through January 1, 2011)

Q: What is Vestal Virgin about?

My debut novel Vestal Virgin is dark suspense set in ancient Rome. Elissa Rubria, a visionary and priestess of the sacred flame, is one of the most powerful women in The Roman Empire, but when the emperor, Nero, brutally executes Elissa’s brother, she’s locked into a deadly game of wits and sexuality.

“A torrid tale of love, honor, and sacrifice pitted against horrific acts of murder, betrayal, and depravity. Rife with intrigue and brimming with exquisite detail.”
— Eldon Thompson, author of The Divine Talisman

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

The advice Terry Brooks gave me:

Write, write, write. Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Repeat.

Also, take your work seriously. You are the writer and the publisher--the editor, the art director, the marketing department. And keep writing--the more books you publish, the more you sell. I've also published a collection of nine short stories Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction).

J.A. Konrath -- Shot of Tequila

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I've sold over 100,000 self published ebooks, and am currently selling
around 9000 a month.

Q: What is Shot of Tequila about?

Shot of Tequila, a thriller featuring my series character, Jack Daniels, is
currently my bestselling title.

Several million bucks, stolen from the mob...

All caught on video, with no chance of redemption...

Now one man must face the entire Chicago Outfit, a group of hardened Mafia
enforcers, a psychotic bookie, the most dangerous hitman on earth, and
Detective Jacqueline Daniels...

His name is Tequila.

And he likes those odds.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Make sure it's a good book, professionally formatted, with a good cover. And
price it low, under four bucks.

Blake Crouch -- Desert Places

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?
I put my first ebook up in March of this year. I now have 12: (3 novels, 2 novellas, a short story collection, and six short stories). I’m selling about 2000 ebooks a month now.

Q: What is Desert Places ebook about?

Here’s the product description:


Andrew Z. Thomas is a successful writer of suspense thrillers, living the dream at his lake house in the piedmont of North Carolina. One afternoon in late spring, he receives a bizarre letter that eventually threatens his career, his sanity, and the lives of everyone he loves. A murderer is designing his future, and for the life of him, Andrew can't get away.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

If you’re an established author and you have out-of-print titles, releasing them as an ebook can truly be a resurrection for these books, provided you have professional formatting, a great cover, and a great product description.

Valmore Daniels -- Forbidden the Stars
Amazon US Amazon UK Smashwords B&N Kobo Sony

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

Forbidden The Stars just passed the 4000 copies sold mark, and has sold over 1000 copies per month in the past two months.

Q: What is Forbidden the Stars about?

Forbidden The Stars takes place at the end of the 21st century when a catastrophic accident in the asteroid belt leaves two surveyors dead. There is no trace of their young son, or of the asteroid, but a new element is discovered that unlocks the secret to interstellar travel.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Research all aspects of the industry before you put your book out there. Make sure you have a quality cover, a strong hook in your description, and an error-free manuscript.

William Meikle -- The Invasion (Extended Version)
Smashwords Amazon US Amazon UK B&N

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I've been averaging over 1200 a month, and a lot more some months

Q: What is The Invasion about?

The Invasion is my homage to '50s SF. It's an old-school alien invasion story, complete with fleets of ships overhead, plucky survivors, and last-minute rescues. And slime. Lots of slime

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Treat it seriously. Make sure your product is the best it can be, from beginning to end, cover to back-copy. Once that's done, target your audience and you're well on the way.

Danielle Lee -- Inhuman
Kindle Nook Smashwords

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

My total is 3600 since July 2010.

Q: What is Inhuman about?

With tuition fees looming, university student, Cassia Tiponi, is forced to offer herself as a guinea pig to the science department. After much poking and prodding by future doctors and nurses, a blood test reveals something startling...

Cassia does not have human DNA.

While being hunted by a dark faction of the government, she must uncover the secrets surrounding her mysterious birth to discover who...and what...she is.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

My advice to authors would be that it is extremely hard work, but so worth it. The pride I feel for what I've accomplished in such a short amount of time is immeasurable. There are three essentials: a great book, a great cover and belief in your work.

D.B. Henson -- Deed to Death
Amazon Smashwords

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

Deed To Death
has sold a little over 42,000 copies since being published on April 26, 2010. It has already sold over 7500 copies this month alone, and recently made Amazon’s Best of 2010 Customer Favorites list.

Q: What is Deed to Death about?

Real estate agent Toni Matthew's problems begin when her fiancé, Scott, is murdered just a few days before the wedding. Frustrated with the police, she begins her own investigation into his death. Toni soon realizes she didn't know her fiancé quite as well as she had thought. Scott had been keeping secrets. Secrets that make Toni the killer's next target.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Write the best book you are capable of writing. Once the book is complete, hire a professional editor. What may seem like a large investment at first will actually pay for itself many times over in the long run. If you aren’t already familiar with HTML, hire a pro to do your formatting. If you expect to build a readership, your self-published novel must look just as professional as a traditionally published book.

Maria Rachel Hooley -- October Breezes

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I've sold almost 9,000 books since I started publishing.

Q: What is October Breezes about?

October Breezes is an edgy young adult novel that deals with the aftermath of rape and abortion. Neither pro-choice or pro-life, it's a novel about picking the pieces when life falls apart.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Writing is about taking risks, not playing it safe. Sometimes you're going to fall. There's no way around that, but if you don't try, you're never going to publish, either.

Karen Cantwell -- Take the Monkeys and Run
Kindle Amazon print B&N

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I have sold over 7800 ebooks since June of 2010. Over 7500 of those were my novel, Take the Monkeys and Run. I released my short story collection in November and have sold just over 250 of those.

Q: What is Take the Monkeys and Run about?

Take the Monkeys and Run is a humorous mystery about a soccer mom and movie lover named Barbara Marr who finds monkeys in her trees and a severed human head in her neighbor’s basement. When she gets a little too nosy for her own good, she lands herself into the middle of a major action adventure, just like in the movies . . . only these bullets are real.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Now is the time. I say go for it, but make sure you do your research and that you have a quality product: a good story that is well written, great cover, excellent formatting, enticing description. The beauty of self-publishing is that you, as the creator of the art, can keep control. And it’s fun!

Sandra Edwards -- Secondary Targets
Kindle Amazon print Nook Smashwords

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I've sold over 1300 books so far this month--mostly on Kindle.

Q: What is Secondary Targets about?

Secondary Targets is currently my bestselling book. My log-line is: What would you do if you woke up one day and found out everything you thought you knew about your father turned out to be a lie?

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Learn everything you can about the process before dipping your feet into the pond to maximize your chances of success.

Tess Oliver -- Camille
Nook Kindle

Q: How many books have you sold?

From Dec. 1 to Dec. 20 I sold 1205 books on Amazon and 800 books on Barnes and Nobles.

Q: What is Camille about?

Sixteen-year-old Camille Kennecott and her guardian, Dr. Bennett, live a most unconventional life. They hunt werewolves.

When unwitting victim, Nathaniel Strider, wanders into one of their full moon pursuits, Camille and Dr. Bennett believe they have found a specimen for their study. Finding a scientific key to unlocking the mystery of lycanthropy would end their late night excursions. But as each experiment fails, Camille faces the prospect of destroying the boy who has stolen her heart.

Q: What advice would you give to other authors who want to self-publish?

Write what you love. Be your own harshest critic. Don’t be afraid to delete even if you’re certain it’s pure gold. If after a gazillion read-throughs, revisions and edits, you can still stand to look at it and it still makes you smile, then upload, baby! Oh and don’t forget a really cool cover.

David Dalglish -- A Dance of Cloaks
Amazon Smashwords B&N

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I've sold over 10,000 ebooks on Amazon, plus another 3,000 or so on the iBookstore. Overall my sales have really taken off recently, on pace for more than 3,000 sales in December alone.

Q: What is A Dance of Cloaks about?

A Dance of Cloaks: in a dark medieval city, thief guilds wage war against the wealthy Trifect who control the nation.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Take it seriously, and go all out. Don't limp into the marketplace with a mediocre cover, rambling product description, and no idea of how to promote. Find those who are selling well in your genre and then do your best to learn from them. Hit the ground running.

David Derrico -- Right Ascension
Kindle Nook Smashwords CreateSpace

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I've sold over 9,000 e-books, across 3 titles. My best-selling title has sold over 5,500 copies. I reached a high point of #188 in the Kindle Store, and #1 in "Technothrillers." My best sales month was over 1,500 sales, although my sales have dipped since then.

Q: What is Right Ascension about?

Right Ascension is a science fiction novel that combines action & adventure with the exploration of serious underlying ethical dilemmas. Set in the year 3040, Right Ascension examines mankind's place in the Universe, how we ascended to that lofty position, and the horrifying price of that ascension. It tells the story of one highly virtuous man who comes face to face with an invincible adversary and is forced to choose between honor ... and humanity's very survival.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

I would echo many of the things that Joe has said: work very hard on honing your writing craft, and get some good editing help. Polish your work before you release it for public consumption. Act like a professional. Also ensure that you have a good-looking cover, well-written description, and pristinely-formatted e-book files. Then understand that you'll spend as much or more time promoting the book as you did writing it.

H.P. Mallory -- Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

Since uploading my two books on Amazon in Jul 2010 and Barnes and Noble on Oct 2010, and adding a third book on Dec 1, 2010, I've sold over 21,000 books. So far from Dec 1-Dec 20 I've sold over 11,000.

Q: What is Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble about?

My bestselling ebook, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble, is a paranormal romance (the first book in a series) about a woman who realizes she's a witch and consequently becomes a pawn in an Underworld war. And of course there's lots of flirting and sexual tension between the witch, her warlock boss and a vampire who isn't what he seems.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Make sure your book is in as good shape as it can be--proper grammar, spelling, etc. Then make sure your covers are awesome. Ebooks are definitely judged by their covers. Lastly, spread the word. Don't be afraid to approach book bloggers or introduce your books in the forums.

Richard Jackson -- The Gift of Fury

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

Last month I sold over 2256 copies of my book, The Gift of Fury. That doesn't include copies given away for free by Amazon. Last week, I released a new book called Fall from Grace.

Q: What is The Gift of Fury about?

The Gift of Fury follows the adventures of Count Albritton, a paranormal investigator, who helps people with supernatural problems the authorities are either unwilling or unable to deal with. It's dangerous work. Luckily he has Kara, a beautiful guardian angel to help him.

Q: What advice can you offer author thinking about self-publishing?

Take care of your readers and they will take care of you. Give them a good story. Listen your fellow authors, you'll learn a lot of things that can help you. Most importantly, keep writing and reading. It's the only way you'll get better.

David McAfee -- 33 A.D.
Kindle Nook Smashwords Kobo Amazon print

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?
I published my first book on March 9, 2010 and so far I've sold about 6,500 eBooks. It started out very slow (in March I only sold 11), but for the last few months I’ve been selling 1,200 or so every month. Not a bad way to start, and it hasn't even been a year yet. I'm looking forward to even more growth next year.

Q: What is 33 A.D. about?
Vampires in Biblical Jerusalem who try to assassinate Jesus of Nazareth.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Make sure you have a quality product. This is a trap too many self publishers fall into. Edit, revise, edit revise, etc. Run the work by a few trusted beta readers, by which I do not mean your mom or your spouse. Send it to people who aren’t invested in your happiness. Most readers will not know you, and they won’t be squeamish about telling you if they don’t like your work.

Beth Orsoff -- Romantically Challenged
Amazon B&N

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I uploaded Romantically Challenged less than six months ago and have sold 2000 copies. I've uploaded two more books since then, Honeymoon for One and recently How I learned to Love the Walrus, and between the three I'm selling over 1000 e-books a month.

Q: What is Romantically Challenged about?

Romantically Challenged
is the story of Julie Burns, a single thirty-something lawyer who after being dumped and disgraced by her boyfriend, decides to reenter dating hell in search of that one elusive commodity—a decent guy...who steals her heart, of course. When Julie becomes convinced that finding The One is "just a numbers game," she sets out to increase her numbers by any means necessary. From chance meetings and blind dates to dating services and the wonderful world of the Internet, Julie will try anything to meet her man.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Do it. Why some books sell and others don't is a mystery. It was a mystery to me when I was a writer, and now that I'm my own publisher too, it's even more of a mystery. All you can do is write a good book, a great blurb, and design (or hire someone to design) an excellent cover. Then cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Victorine Lieske -- Not What She Seems
Kindle Nook Smashwords CreateSpace

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I’ve sold over 10,000 ebooks, mostly through Amazon. I’m currently selling over 200 ebooks a day on the Kindle, counting both the US and the UK.

Q: What is your ebook about? (List your best selling ebook)

Here is a brief description of my book: Steven Ashton, a billionaire from New York, and Emily Grant, on the run from the law... and when they meet he can’t help falling for her. What he doesn’t know is that interfering in her life will put his own life in danger.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

1. Don’t skip the critique group process. Get other writer’s eyes on your work, and learn how to critique their work as well.

2. Your cover will probably be the first thing that attracts people to your book. Make sure it is good.

3. Network with other authors who have self-published on the Kindle. is the best place for this. Hang out in the writer’s cafe and you’ll learn a lot of great tips.

Terri Reid -- Loose Ends
Kindle Nook Smashwords

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I am selling three e-books--Loose Ends, A Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery (Book One), Good Tidings, A Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery (Book Two), and The Ghosts Of New Orleans.

Loose Ends - released in August - 2925 books sold

Good Tidings - released Thanksgiving 2010 - 1158 books sold

The Ghosts of New Orleans - released October 2010 - 815 books sold

Q: What is your eBook about?

Mary O’Reilly, Chicago cop, dies in the line of duty. On the other side, she’s offered the chance to come back to life. When she returns, she discovers she can see and communicate with ghosts. She moves to a small town and opens a P.I. Agency investigating cases that involve ghosts. Solving the twenty-five year old murder of a local girl makes Mary the target for a serial killer tying up his loose ends.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Make sure you edit and edit again. You should only publish your very best!! Give your book to people who aren’t afraid of hurting your feelings and have them edit it for you. Don’t give it to someone who is going to tell you how they would have written it--that doesn’t help you. If you are part of a writer’s group - be sure you send each other your work--reading it out loud doesn’t give you the review you need.

Market your book--through your local paper, Facebook, interviews, forums, blogs--whatever it takes. Be bold!! Believe in yourself! Ask your friends to post the links to your book on their Facebook page too. Be available to speak at local libraries or at writer’s groups or book clubs.

Ellen O'Connell -- Sing My Name
Kindle Smashwords

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

My first ebook was published in February of this year; the second in April; and third in late November. In those 10 months I have sold 6,500 ebooks. Average sales for December to date are 45 a day.

Q: What is Sing My Name about?

Sing My Name, a historical romance, tells the story of Matt Slade, who fought in the bloodiest Civil War battles under Robert E. Lee, and Sarah Hammond, who avidly followed war news with her abolitionist family. Matt and Sarah should never have met, never have fallen in love, but they did, and the consequences nearly destroyed them both. Years later, Matt and Sarah meet again. Can they put their lives and their love back together?

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Use information from other authors for encouragement, ideas and support, but find your own path. I published my first ebook at an older age than many and will never have the body of work of someone who started younger. Necessarily, my ambitions are different than they would have been at 30 or 40. Even so, my first goals are already specks in my rearview mirror.

C.S. Marks -- Elfhunter

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I have sold over 12,000 eBooks, but I've only joined the "Thousand-book-club" recently, mostly due to sales in the UK. We've been averaging about 60 books a day.

Q: What is Elfhunter about?

There are three books in a single trilogy; the best-seller is, naturally, the first book. Elfhunter is a classic epic fantasy suitable for readers of all ages. It concerns a monstrous entity, known as Gorgon Elfhunter, and heroine Gaelen Taldin, who has vowed to rid her world of the Elfhunter even as she is hunted by him. The resulting conflict blurs the line between light and darkness, love and hatred, free will and fate.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Don't rush your books into print before they are ready. Be ready to make the investment in proofing/editing, quality cover art, and formatting. Remember, self-publishers must assume all the roles of a traditional publisher, including promotion and marketing. This will require investment of time and money--the higher your sales goal, the greater the investment. If you have produced a quality product, the return may also be great. :-)

Chris Graham -- Free Books for Kindle

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

My first and, so far, only book has sold around 4,000 copies since October. Sales have really taken off in the last few weeks though after it made it into's top 20.

Q: What is Free Books for Kindle about?

Free books for Kindle: The secrets of how to get the world's greatest books for a radical price
is a short guide to getting free books. I originally wrote it for a couple of friends with new Kindles. One of them said I should publish it - so I did.

It's very much aimed at new Kindle owners who don't want the hassle of trawling Google or get to grips with lots of ebook jargon.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Being found is perhaps the hardest thing. If you're listing your book on Amazon - then it's worth thinking about what people might type into the search tool if they were looking for your book. Then you might use these words in your title, description and even tags.

Think carefully about pricing and experiment to see the impact it has on sales.

Finally don't forget - most of my sales and reviews have come from there.

Keith Lenart -- Simple Word Find

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

My top title sells at a pace of around 900 copies/month. My whole portfolio (of 14 offerings presently) is ~ 1400/month with steady weekly growth. I've achieved these numbers in an incredibly short period as I only started self-publishing about 5 weeks ago.

Q. What are your eBooks about?

All of my offerings are focused on puzzles & games. My top seller Simple Word Find is word search puzzles custom tailored for Kindle displays. The puzzles are simple and fun and that's why I think the series (I have 7 volumes now) has become a hit so quickly. They provide a nice break from reading or a quick time-filler when you only have a few minutes available.

Q. What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

1. Not every offering will become an immediate hit, so don't get discouraged. (One title in my portfolio accounts for nearly 65% of my total sales.)

2. Focus on the formatting of your material so that the reader has a great eBook experience. Know the ins and outs of eReader technology or partner with someone who does.

3. Serious consider pricing at the 0.99 price point to gain more exposure for your content.

Michael J. Sullivan -- The Crown Conspiracy
Kindle Nook Smashwords Amazon print

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?
In just over 2 years I’ve sold almost 26,000 ebooks. With the release of the fourth book (April 2010) sales were around 1,000 per month. In October I released book 5 and sales have jumped to 7,500 a month.

Q: What is your ebook about?
The Riyria Revelations is a six-book epic fantasy series starting with The Crown Conspiracy. There is no ancient evil to defeat, nor orphan destined for greatness, just two thieves in the wrong time and place—accused of murdering the king. This series harkens to the roots of fantasy presenting light, fast-paced reads filled with drama and humor. Conceived as a single tale, it is divided into individual episodes each with their own conflict and resolution.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?
Develop an exceptional product and present it with the same professionalism as any produced by a major publisher. Pay close attention to title, cover design, and back of the book blurbs as this is the first thing that captures a buyer’s eye. Make sure you have a compelling story that excites people to become your cheerleaders and recommend your books to others. Encourage fans to leave reviews to provide independent validation of the books appeal.

Stephan Windwalker -- Kindle Free For All

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I have about 25 ebooks available for download from my Amazon Author Central page at, ranging from fiction to a Kindle guide that was the #1 bestselling book in the Kindle Store for the entire calendar year 2008, and, most recently, KINDLE FREE FOR ALL and the Kindle Nation Daily blog. And, oh yes, my senior honors thesis from college, Vision and Revision in the Fiction of D.H. Lawrence: A Consideration of the Manuscript Development of Lady Chatterley's Lover, has sold over 600 copies in the Kindle Store, which has more than paid my Gnomon Copy bill from 1973.

Q: What are your eBooks about?

My current bestselling book was released just this week and is averaging over 500 copies a day so far! It's called KINDLE FREE FOR ALL: How to Get Millions of Free Kindle Books and Other Free Content With or Without an Amazon Kindle (For Use with the Latest Generation Kindles and Kindle Apps), and with excellent editorial help from April Hamilton I think we've hit the sweet spot for the most complete resource yet for finding free Kindle content.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

The five most helpful things I can say in less than 75 words are (1) read Joe Konrath's A Newbie's Guide to Publishing blog; (2) read Joe's book of the same title; (3) connect with readers; (4) be grateful when people try to help you, because it's a smaller world than you think; and (5) cast a wide net, because it's a larger world than you think. Case in point, I'm making five grand a year from the Japanese paperback translation of my Kindle guide, and who knew?

Scott Nicholson -- Disintegration
Kindle UK B&N Smashwords

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?
I averaged 2,500 ebooks a month overall for U.S. Kindle last year, with most of the sales in the last few months. Disintegration hit #30 on the overall Kindle bestseller list and sold about 9,300 copies in November. I also have books that sell few copies.

Q: What is Disintegration about?
Disintegration is a mystery/romantic suspense novel. Identical twins vie for control of a family empire built on deceit, dark secrets, and blood, and two women vie for their place on the family throne. It's been praised and condemned for having no redeeming characters. Sort of like real life. Only with more sex and less violence.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?
Start yesterday. Get professional help. Have standards as high as New York's. Realize the reader is your customer and your boss. Serve the reader.

Ellen Fisher -- In the Mood

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

I've sold over 12,000 total since February. The amount sold every month has remained fairly steady, but this month I've gotten a nice boost from B&N. It's the first time I've sold any significant amount o
f books there, and as a consequence this will be my best month for sales since I started.

Q: What is In the Mood about?

In the Mood is a light and fluffy contemporary romance. It's about a boy who meets a girl... stop me if you've heard this before:-). Seriously, it's about a male romance writer and the female fan who helps him grow more comfortable with writing love scenes by, er, tutoring him. I honestly can't guess why this one has sold more than my other romances, but I'm not complaining!

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

Make sure your manuscript is perfect. That's the most important thing-- to make sure your book is truly worth reading. Publishing poorly edited junk doesn't show respect for your readers, or for other indie authors, for that matter. Respect your readers, and yourself, by creating the best product possible-- a good manuscript, a good cover, and courteous behavior wherever you promote.

Vicki Tyley-- Thin Blood
Amazon B&N Smashwords

Q: How many ebooks have you sold/are you selling?

30,069 since May 2010 (@ 22 Dec 2010)

Q: What is Thin Blood about?

A stockbroker’s wife disappears. Blood on his hands and an adulterous affair with the missing woman’s younger sister sees him charged with murder. With no body and only circumstantial evidence he walks free. Ten years later, journalist Jacinta Deller decides to investigate, only to become embroiled in a warped game of delusion and murder.

Q: What advice can you offer authors thinking about self-publishing?

1 - Make sure your book is the best it can be, from the cover through to the editing and formatting. If you don’t have the skills to do it yourself, pay someone to do it. It’s an investment in your future.

2 - Believe in your product.

3 - Learn from the experiences of Indie pioneers.

4 - Have fun!