Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts on ePublishing

The publishing industry continues to ravage itself. Borders is closing 200 stores and considering whether to close 75 more. For those who travel a lot, the good news is that so far, they say they are trying to keep their airport stores open.

With more and more bookstores closing, it seems like the game is changing in favor of mass market outlets like Wal-Mart, Target, and other discount stores. Category romance books from industry giants like Harlequin will therefore continue to have strong sales as they’ve always maintained a strong shelf presence in those spaces. Likewise, bestseller authors with traditional companies should continue to do well as they’ve always received shelf-space in those stores.

If you’re a mid-list author (or lower, non-existent/small-publisher-list like me) you can pretty well forget about sales except through Internet store-fronts like B&N and Amazon.

But it’s not all gloom and doom out there. Just a lot of turmoil. A lot of authors are finding success with the rise of ebooks. Most people are familiar with the mega-success of Amanda Hocking and J.A. Konrath, who have been talking about the glories of epublishing for a couple of years now. Even Bob Mayer in his recent blog has turned the corner on accepting epublishing as a viable route for new and mid-list authors.

As Mayer points out, mid-list authors get virtually no marketing/promotional assistance from their publishers, anyway, so it’s up to the author to market his/her work.

However, unlike Konrath, I’m not as sanguine that new authors won’t get lost in the huge tidal wave of backlist books by established authors with well-developed fan bases. Literally hundreds, if not thousands, of excellent, well-edited books coming out as folks upload them into various ebook outlets such as

I’m hoping, however, that there will still be room for small press and independent authors. It will be a challenge to find an audience when you’re one tiny voice amidst thousands, but I feel sure at least some will make a success of it, like Amanda Hocking.

There are some lessons learned, however, that are particularly relevant here.

• Amanda’s success grew gradually, over the course of 8 books. That’s right, it was her 8th book in combination with 30 or so reviews that tipped the scales toward success. The lesson here is two-fold: a) the chance of having a hit on your first, indie ebook are very, very slim; and b) you’re going to have to work like the devil to socialize your books to garner enough reviews and attention to attract sales.

• Editing, cover art, and pricing are critical. Most indie sales occur at the $.99 price. But now that everyone has learned that lesson and is offering their books at $.99, you’re going to have to have an even better product and work even harder to socialize it to beat out well-known authors like Konrath. That means, your cover art and editing have to be top-notch. Some recommend buying professional editing and art work.

• This isn’t a competition…or is it? There are only 100 books in the top 100 list for any genre. Amazon doesn’t list all books for every genre when it offers suggestions. Like it or not, you’ve got competition for the reader’s dollar.

There are reasons for optimism, even heavily tempered with the harsh realities of the marketplace. Much as we might like, we can’t all be Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath, or Bob Mayer, but at least if we work really, really hard and then harder still, and are willing to edit the heck out of our books, we can get them in front of readers.

In my case, I’m ecstatic that The Vital Principle, a historical mystery has sold well over 100 copies in the first two weeks. It’s a start and a good one.


Shawna Thomas said...

Hi Amy,

Great post! I love the points you made. There is room for small-press published authors like us, but we have to work even harder to get our name out there!

8 books, huh? Well, I'm well on my way. : ) Congratulations on The Vital Principle's success! That's pretty impressive!

Amy said...

Thanks--and I agree--with hope. I think there is room for all kinds of authors and all kinds of stories now.

Thank goodness!

Betsy Ashton said...

One clear point is that every writer also has to be a marketeer. That doesn't come easy to many writers, because we'd rather "write" than "sell." But, to be successful, we have to hustle our books. It's no longer enough to write and hope they buy. That Field of Dreams approach leads to disappointment among writers. Good luck to all of us who know how to be marketeers as well as writers.