Friday, March 11, 2011

Guest Post by Selena Blake

I asked Selena Blake to do a guest post back in January, and she did, but I haven't had a chance to post it until now. At the end of her post there's an update on her sales figures.

The Times They Are A-Changin'
By Selena Blake

Like so many authors, I’ve been reading Joe’s blog with a great deal of fascination. And dare I say, skepticism. For six months now I’ve wondered if Joe was for real or just pulling my leg. In my defense, you know what they say about something that sounds too good to be true.

At the same time, I was hopeful that his success wasn’t a solitary event and that his background in traditional publishing wasn’t solely responsible for his current success.

I've been in the publishing industry for over ten years now. A few years ago I decided it was time to try my hand at getting published. As a long time fan of ebooks, I worked out a marketing plan and career path that started with publishing digitally. I found a well recommended ebook publisher in my genre, submitted and had an offer four days later. They really liked the book and my series concept. Though that publisher bought five books from me and most of them sold well, my background is in marketing and I always thought I could reach a larger audience.

When my publisher gave me one reason after another as to why my books wouldn't/couldn’t be distributed through venues such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords, I was aghast.

Distribution is key, in my opinion.

I started my independent publishing journey with one novella that I really liked but wasn't quite right for the publishers I'd submitted it to. After playing the waiting game for over three years I published Surprising Darcy to Amazon and Smashwords in August of 2010. That was about the time I found Joe’s blog. And shortly after, Pubit came on the scene. I was making around $300 a month total, which to me was fabulous! That's a car payment. But I still thought I could do better.

I had to build my list of books on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. When my contracts were up with my publisher in the autumn of 2010, I took the books back.

I released the first book in my series, The Cajun’s Captive, on December 29, 2010. That same day I published another short story from my “early publishing days” and gave it a new title, Just a Little Taste.

In mid January I released my fourth self published ebook, Bitten in the Bayou, which is the second in my series.

At the time of writing this, I’ve sold just over 12,000 copies in less than a month.

12,000 copies. That number truly blows my mind. Actually, I almost fell out of my chair.

Now, instead of just paying the car payment, royalties from January’s sales will cover ALL my expenses. That’s an incredibly beautiful and humbling thought. And I’m terrified that I’ll wake up tomorrow and it will all have been a dream. I imagine a great many of the authors Joe has allowed to guest blog here lately feel that way, even though Joe keeps telling us, we’re not dreaming.

If you’re looking for an anomaly, of those 12,000 copies about 11,000 sold via Nook. Not Kindle. I sold a little over 1,000 copies on the Kindle in January. My numbers at Kindle get a little better each month and I like to think of that platform as my steady seller.

With numbers like this, I’m rethinking that original career plan. And the marketing plan too. And even the books I write. Where I once planned on digital publishing being my introduction to the industry and would later go after print contracts, I’m now much more focused on writing novels and letting them just be ebooks. Ebooks are real books.

Do I still want a publisher in addition to self publishing? Yes. Why? To further increase my audience and for the dedicated staff. These days I’m much more concerned about working with people who understand and embrace this new frontier, those who are keen on exploring and taking risks. I’m interested in working with publishers who understand that distribution and promotion are very important. I want to partner with companies that are aggressively pursuing all options and who understand that publishing is a business. An ever evolving business.

Do I have any interest in “traditional publishing?” Not really. Not the way traditional publishing has been defined for the last few decades. I think we are at a point where the rules are being rewritten, new lines are being drawn in the sand, and publishers as we used to know them are changing forever. What an exciting time to be an author.

If you’ve read Joe’s blog for any length of time, you’ll have noticed his comments on the downward spiral of these “traditional publishers.” I’ll let Joe speak for himself, but I believe that publishers need to “get with the program” if they’re going to survive.

Getting with the program, in my opinion, means embracing digital publishing, becoming more flexible and offering their backlist books in e-formats. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that digital needs to completely replace print publishing, I know that I haven’t bought fiction in print for quite a while. I still like a full color cookbook for my collection or perhaps a lovely coffee table book, but my purchasing habits have changed. As have the purchasing habits of millions of other consumers.

the times they are a-changin’. I remember the days when ebook authors were looked upon like second class citizens by friends, family, consumers, and writing organizations. I’ve watched this little corner of the market grow from a time where there were only a handful of digital publishers and we readers were still waiting to get our hands on an actual ereading device. Over time more epublishers cropped up and we ebook fans waited for ereaders to hit a lower price point, somewhere between $100 and $150. For years, experts agreed that if we could get a popular ereading device at a low enough price point, digital books could really take off.

Guess what? We’re there.

The question is where do we go from here? Continued education of the public. I met a lovely reader on Twitter the other day who did not know Kindle has an app for the PC. When I mentioned that to her, she downloaded it and I sent her a complimentary copy of The Cajun’s Captive. She loved it and has since spread the word about me and my books.

I had another reader email me asking what the Kindle is. Yes, there are still folks who don’t know what the Kindle is. As authors (and ebook fans,) it’s our duty to educate them, write good books, and spread the word.

If you think you’d like to give it a go, here are some of my observations. I’m by no means an expert so take them with a grain of salt.

1. Be Professional
To me, it means looking at your writing like a business. Making sound business decisions. That may mean hiring a professional cover artist and editor. Spending money (when you really need to!) to make money, as LJ Sellers did.

2. Publish Clean Copy
It’s not enough to write the book. You need to polish it. Luckily, most of my current releases had been previously published which means that I polished them a lot before I sent them to my editor where they went through three more rounds of editing. I got to keep those edited copies. As Joe says, have your betas and fellow authors proof your work. I’m lucky enough to have two editors as friends.

3. Use Professional Cover Art
The saying goes: never judge a book by its cover. But we all do it anyway. Why would you want to submit a small, fuzzy, hard to read cover to sell your book? You wouldn’t roll in the mud before going into a job interview would you?

4. Promote
I’ve done plenty of it. I’ve joined message boards, yahoo groups, Goodreads, Shelfari. I have a website and a blog and a newsletter. I offer free reads. I’ve joined sites within my niche where I’ve met readers, shared book recommendations and purchased advertising. I also write guest blog posts like this one. And in February I’m going on a blog tour. I have profiles on all the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Shelfari, Myspace, Bebo, Linkdin) and of course, Amazon. The key is interacting, I think. Subtle promo, not drive by promo.

5. Advertising
I’m a big fan of having someone else do my promotion for me while I’m sleeping. So I’ve had advertisements on half a dozen sites over the years and I’m looking to increase this in the future.

6. Distribution
I’ve always felt that distribution is important. When I look at the most successful companies, the ones who pay attention to getting their products into the hands of their customers as easily, efficiently, and cost affectively as possible are generally at the top of the list. With so many options available to us now, making your books available on as many platforms as you can makes sense to me.

7. Be willing to change
Along with the brand new cover art that graces all my current books, I changed the descriptions on many of them as well. I’ve even changed the blurbs more than once. The great thing about digital publishing, in my opinion, is the ability to craft a description that gets more attention. It’s being able to go back and adjust your key words, change your title or cover if you feel you can do better. Adjust your price points. Or even, updating your book.

8. Grow your readership
That sounds trite, doesn’t it? But what I mean, and what I’m trying to do, is meet new readers. Introduce myself to them. Become friends with them. Discover what THEY want to read. Publishers often think they know what readers want and authors often feel like readers should want something out of the ordinary. Independent publishing gives you the flexibility to try something new. To give readers what they say they want.

9. Have a plan
Just like businesses have a business plan and many professionals have a career plan, I recommend having a career plan and a marketing plan. Both of these will help keep you focused and they’ll provide guidance along the way. But don’t carve these into stone. As I mentioned, I had a career path and marketing plan developed way back when. Now I’m readjusting that to include self publishing. And perhaps even a POD anthology of my Stormy Weather series.

10. Writing Another Great Book
The key here I believe is to always be learning, always improving your craft. As Joe mentioned here, there are plenty of popular authors who weren’t the best writers in the beginning. But time and knowledge will allow you to write a better book. And when you write a better book, that should help you sell better.

There it is. My publishing journey thus far and my observations, for what they’re worth, on self publishing.

By the way, I no longer think Joe is pulling my leg.

What about you? Are you a self-publishing convert? A disbeliever? Or do you just feel more secure going the traditional publishing route? What do you think are key aspects of doing well as an independently published author?

Joe sez: To date, Blake has sold 23,000 ebooks. Which is impressive. I expect she'll begin to sell as well on Amazon as she is on Nook, and will eventually work her way up to a six figure annual income, selling 99 cent titles.

While I agree with much of what she has to say, I think advertising is pretty much a waste of money (any time I've done it I haven't noticed an uptick in sales, let alone one big enough to justify the cost of the ad.)

And while having a business plan is fine, it's important to differentiate between what you can accomplish on your own (writing and uploading an ebook, getting killer cover art) and what requires luck (selling 23,000 ebooks, making the Nook bestseller list.)

A goal is something you can attain through hard work. Dreams are things that require crossed fingers.

Luck is ALWAYS a factor in success, no matter how you publish.

That said, since January 1st I've profiled more than 15 authors who are doing extremely well self-pubbing, and I've turned down requests from many others who want to guest post.

Seems like a lot of writers are getting lucky with ebooks.

That doesn't mean everyone will hit the jackpot. But I'm convinced is better off going solo than trying to work through legacy publishing.

So if you're an author, what exactly are you waiting for?

97 comments:

Jake said...

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to hear this! I'm about to release my next novel in eBook format on Tuesday, and then in paperback on the 31st. I've been blogging about the entire experience - come check me out at www.jakebabad.com

The Writers Canvas said...

Great and informative post, Selena. I am an unpubbed author, have written 6 manuscripts and continuing to write more. It's the same old story, they're interested, they read the full, it just isn't something they know how to sell.

But at the same time, I guess I have to wonder how readers separate out the polished ebooks from the crappy ones? I know several people on Facebook, message boards, twitter, etc. who promote their ebooks--then offer a sample chapter to read. And I read it. And it's crappy.

With so many people embracing the do-it-yourself-without-the-big-6 attitude, are you at all concerned that more books (including by those who don't polish their work) will just mean more slush that readers have to get through in order to find yours? How are you dealing with this in your approach?

Thanks,
Elaine

jenniferlaurens said...

Yet another success story to show there's more than one way to sell a book. It's a day to celebrate, embrace the future and get on board.

G.P. Ching said...

Wonderful post, Selena. I agree with your ten commandments of indie publishing. Congratulations on your success so far, and thank you for sharing your experiences.

Alan Ryker said...

Every success story like yours, Selena, makes me more confident that I'm making the right choice to self-publish.

I'm wavering on whether I want to have a publisher at all. I think I would eventually enjoy teaching in an MFA program, and would need a nod or two from the gatekeepers on my CV.

Jon F. Merz said...

Congrats Selena! Very happy for your success - those numbers are amazing and enviable! Keep going!

Gary Ponzo said...

I'm curious, with all of these huge ebook figures, including Amanda Hocking, Joe, Blake Crouch, how long will the N.Y Times continue to ignore indie ebook sales? For example it lists Lisa Gardner's "Alone," as the #1 bestseller for ebooks, yet it isn't even in the top 10 on the Kindle bestseller list. There's 3 John Locke books ahead of hers. I'd love your take on this Joe.

Rebecca M. Senese said...

Excellent post, Selena! Thank you for sharing your list of commandments for indie publishing. I'll definitely be referring to them often.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

Congrats Selena, 23,000 copies is amazing! I think a lot of us, like Joe says, are experiencing success, albeit at different levels. I'm hoping that I will be able to sell that many books this year based on the things I can control (content/cover/editing/price). I just need that 'luck' thingy. Anybody got any extra?

hehehe

Karly
www.karlykirkpatrick.com
www.darksidepublishing.com

S.E. Gordon said...

Also, make sure your story delivers!

Have you ever read a novel based on the promise the cover / description, only to discover that it falls way short? If you promise action, suspense, etc., you've got to deliver the goods; otherwise, you break your trust with your readership.

And if you're not giving your best effort nor trying to produce the best novel you can, you are cheating your readership. You may as well start issuing refunds.

S.E. Gordon
http://segordon.blogspot.com/
http://www.segordon.com

Mica Jade said...

Selena, your experience, success and vision for your career are very motivating. Hearing your story and others over the last couple of months on Joe's blog has helped to solidify my decision to go indie.
Thanks!
I wish you continued success!

Miranda Baker said...

Here is what I struggle with - my old-school dreams want my book in print form, but the last 3 books I have purchased have been Kindle editions. Thought-provoking post, Selena. Thank you. I'll continue to sidle up to the issue!

Kaye Manro said...

There is a lot of stuff to ponder here on Joe's blog. About epubbing in general-- going with an epublisher (as I did) has it's ups and downs. And hearing you and others talk about success in doing it yourself, make an author think. Most who are published already promote to the max-- esp if we are epubbed. But I must say, being in charge of your own work is intriguing.

Good luck, Selena. Thanks for all the great tips. And from Joe's two cents too.

Kendall Swan said...

Cool post Selena and Joe.

I have seen Selena's name around lately and was wondering who she was. Since I only shop in the Kindle store, it makes sense that I didn't know who she was even though she is already an established author.

@Elaine
Editing and proofing is and will always be an issue. Books missing these without a wiz bang story to overcome those flaws will get bad reviews and sink like a stone.

As indie pub takes over, editing and proofing will become even more important and valued....but these tasks can be hired out (if not done for free by the more well-connected writers). Don't marry yourself to a business partner for the entire lifetime of an asset (one of your books) for just some contract labor.

Megg Jensen said...

Wow, Selena, I too have experienced most of my success through Barnes & Noble - even hitting their top 100 teen ebooks list. Yet I feel like I don't even exist on Amazon. We were talking about this on Kindle Boards yesterday, in fact. I wonder what accounts for this disparity?

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I think a lot of indie writers have BIG dreams and every time Joe hosts another successful guest it gives us more to think about.

I appreciate you sharing so much solid information on how and where you've marketed your books and yourself. I think that is the most valuable information we can all get (once we get the cover, edits, etc under control).

Continued success to you!!!!

Megg Jensen
www.meggjensen.com
www.darksidepublishing.com

Eliza Gayle said...

I couldn't agree more on distribution. It's a personal pet peeve of mine with small press. Besides working as an author I actually still hold down a full time job doing marketing in this industry. Yes, it's a bit of work to get your book out to every available venue but it's not hard and its invaluable in long term success. Those small press publishers who fight it with delays and excuses drive me batty.

There I've said it out loud.

Selena Blake said...

Jake, I feel the same way reading about other Indie's successes. Very motivating. Very uplifting in a rocky climate.

Elaine, you ask some very good questions, ones I think many Indie authors are thinking about these days.

How will readers separate polished ebooks from crappy ones?

Well, I think they do just what you do. Read an excerpt. You can download a sample at Kindle, Nook and Smashwords. I also include a brief excerpt in my description to entice readers.

I think readers rely on word of mouth. They'll visit authors' sites to learn more about the books, find other excerpts. They'll rely on ratings and reviews.

At the same time, it can be tricky to rely on ratings, reviews and excerpts. Ratings and reviews are highly subjective. You may think you're getting one thing but you're really not. People will ding you for that. One reader thought The Cajun's Captive was 200+ pages. I'm not sure where she got that information. The story isn't nearly that long and I've never claimed it was. That hurts me that she feels she was mislead. But again, I'm not sure where she even got that information to be mislead.

Author's can polish the first 20 pages of their manuscript till it shines! And then the rest...not so good. So excerpts can be a toss up.

I think what it'll ultimately come down to is finding new authors that you really enjoy. Ones who've "done right" by you and your $$. And word will grow from there.

Kendall Swan said...

@Gary

Publishers Marketplace has been covering this issue. (They mentioned John Locke yesterday at the end of the article-yay!) They have been pointing out discrepancies between the NYT and somewhat for USAToday vs Amazon and BN bestseller lists.

When the NYT first decided to use ebooks (and follow USAT's lead), they expressly stated they would not include self published books. But then they accidentally did... a few times. So they changed the wording in their policy to exclude self pubbed books from a single vendor, i.e. Kindle only, etc.

It is promising that the traditional medial outlets are starting to recognize the prominence of ebooks as well as indie bestsellers. They risk irrelevance if they don't.

Viva la Indies!

Kendall Swan

Michael said...

Congratulations to Selena and thanks to Joe for posting another great and inspiring story.

Michael said...

I think what it'll ultimately come down to is finding new authors that you really enjoy. Ones who've "done right" by you and your $$. And word will grow from there.

I think you're absolutely right. Following Joe's gold rush analogy, it isn't the miners looking for a lucky nugget in the nearest river who will do well, but those who think like Levi Strauss or who use science and hard work to stake the best claims.

We're in the chaotic early days at the moment, but I believe that in the end, the strong, dedicated, serious writers will have the most success finding a good audience.

Selena Blake said...

re: Elaine's other question about flooding the market with books. Am I concerned?

Yes and no. I know my readers are smart enough to find me.

But yes, I see many writers saying "oh, I'll just finish this book and publish it."

I don't know if they mean to be as cavalier as they sound. But I think that idea of "finish and publish" is a disservice to the hard work it takes to become a successful Indie author. As Joe says, it's a lot about luck. But I also think it takes a lot of hard work to get to the point where you can take advantage of that lucky break.

Joe didn't just sit down one day and write 50k of drivel and post it to Kindle and make $40k a month. That's not how it happened. He worked REALLY hard at his craft, building his reader base and publishing top quality books.

The same is true for me. I spend more time now at my writing business than I ever did with my previous publisher. I wear almost all the hats in the business and it'll sink or swim by the work I put into it.

It's not enough to write a great book. You have to promote the heck out of it and figure out how to do so efficiently. You have to take advantage of distribution options and trust me, that takes a lot of time. Then you have to go back and write another great book.

My approach to dealing with the "slush" is educating my fellow writers through my experiences. I have a new section on my blog called Selena's Adventure's in Publishing where I chronicle my experiences. I figure one day when I'm old I can look back on these posts like a scrapbook. :-)

I'm by no means an expert. But I have experience that I feel is valueable in such a new publishing climate. Author's like Joe are paving the way on brand new roads. Places we've never been to before (where indie author's can make a living with a bit of luck while playing their cards right.)

I also think it's supremely important to stay in touch with readers. When they speak, I listen. They said they wanted longer books, I write longer books. They want more plot, I give them more plot. You can't make everyone happy. But you can listen to people, make informed decisions and go from there.

Staying connected with readers gives me a built in audience (not to mention some truly fabulous friends.) And from there, I hope that they'll tell their friends. I'm hoping that's a way around the "slush."

Lovelyn said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Selena. Reading the success stories of other indie authors inspires me and give me ideas about how to handle my writing business.

Selena Blake said...

Jennifer, yes, it is a day to celebrate. TGIF! LOL Thanks for stopping by.

G.P. I like that. Ten Commandments! They're just my thoughts and experience. Many of which Joe has discussed in the past. But I think that they're helpful points (worth driving home) in such a shifting climate.

Alan, I can see your point about "publish or perish" where teaching goes. I'm afraid that's probably still the best (only?) option for you. But I think fiction is a great match for Indies. Even some non fiction (reference, cook books, how to books.)

Knowing how much work I do as an Indie gives me respect for publishers who are paving the way in the industry. Those who have embraced ebooks, authors, new distribution methods, online promotional avenues. Those are the kinds of publishers I'd like to work with in the future. I have one or two picked out. :-)

Joshua James said...

Selena, a quick question ... who do you do your advertising through, and, if you don't mind, what's an estimate of the cost to you for it?

Gregory said...

I love number 10 on your list. You can promote and market every day, but if you don't keep writing, how is your next book going to get finished, right? This was a great article to read.

Gregory M. Thompson
www.nightcrynovel.com

Sarra said...

Great post, Selena! And I love your book covers. Who does them?

Like you, I always thought traditional print was where I wanted to eventually end up. But once I started self-publishing through ebooks, I knew this was the way to go. I haven't gotten to the point where I'm selling 12,000 ebooks in a month, but this month so far, I've sold over 2300 books in just 10 days. I'm not going to give up, and hopefully the sales will continue to grow.

I love reading the stories of other Indie authors who are doing well. It's such an inspiration and helps me find the motivation to keep going. Thanks for sharing your story.

Selena Blake said...

Thanks Jon! I appreciate your comments. I have to say though, I feel really weird talking about my "success" with everything that's going on in Japan today. :-(

Gary, good question! I wonder about that too. I also wonder what sort of numbers it takes to hit those lists these days. I do know that Maya Banks hit the NYT list with one of her recent Samhain Publishing releases. I'm still figuring out how all of that is tallied. Does anyone know when the digital list started and how they're getting those numbers?

Thanks Rebecca, so glad you found it useful!

Selena Blake said...

LOL, Karly. Luck is definitely key. Looking at the charts of my sales, they were okay, steadily increasing until December. Then January hit and wham...off we went. It was like a rubber band snapping.

I'm not sure how to get luck except to work hard so you'll be prepared to take advantage of it when you find it.

I was talking to Eliza Gayle (who commented here today) earlier about all this. One thing we agreed on was being prepared, having good people surrounding you (editors, copy editors, cover artists, friends who understand promotion and can co-op with you, die hard fans who can make you smile when you're having a bad day) as well as a backlist. The longer I sell books myself the more I realize that building a good backlist is really where it's at.

Thanks for stopping by!

Ty Hutchinson said...

Congrats Selena. It was an informative and enjoyable read. I'm getting ready to release my first book and am excited. After a couple of weeks of reading Joe's blog and a little research of my own, I was convinced self-publishing was the way to go, especially for people with entrepreneurial sprits.

I'm proud to associate myself with indie authors. We rock!

Thrilling Covers said...

"3. Use Professional Cover Art
The saying goes: never judge a book by its cover. But we all do it anyway. Why would you want to submit a small, fuzzy, hard to read cover to sell your book? You wouldn’t roll in the mud before going into a job interview would you?"

Great advice, especially now that thrilling covers are available for as little as $95.00. www.thrillingcovers.blogspot.com

Selena Blake said...

S.E., excellent point.

Thanks Mica. Glad I can be motivating. LOL Thanks for stopping by!

Miranda, I understand. Truly. It's a dream I share. Holding your book in your hands, seeing your name on the cover. That's very...tempting. And it's still a goal. It's still achievable I think. Many Indie authors are gaining the attention of the Big 6 these days.

But it's not the only dream. It's not the only goal. A more important dream, at least for me, is earning a living through my writing. So many writers aren't able to do that.

So I think it's important now to reassess. Figure out how your goals and dreams fit into the Indie market. Holding out for a print contract is fine if that's what's important to you.

If you're an entrepreneur who doesn't mind hard work and long hours and billions of details and a fair amount of nail biting, dip your toe in the Indie pool. It's nice here. ;)

Ellen Fisher said...

Congrats, Selena. I've been admiring your covers-- they're beautiful.

My erotic titles (under a pen name) did really well in the B&N store last month, too. This month, however, they've fallen off quite a lot, and I'm hearing other people say the same thing. Like you, writing covered most of my expenses last month, but it's not looking like that's going to happen this month unless things pick up soon. I hope this is just a temporary aberration, but it's been a reminder to me that writing income can fluctuate quite a bit.

Selena Blake said...

Kaye, going indie is definitely something to explore. But I know it's not for everyone. I know many, many people who have no desire to handle all the details themselves, to the point where they'd rather take a lower royalty rate and make less money. And I can understand that. But I think that there are enough people being successful as Indie authors that it's an avenue worth considering. Especially for backlist books. Hopefully every Indie book I sell will increase my readership. And at the end of the day, that's what's most important.

Hey Kendall, yes, my epublishers aren't on Kindle at the moment. But you have no idea how delighted I am to see you say you've seen my name around. LOL Thanks for commenting!

Selena Blake said...

Megg, I admit I'm baffled by the Nook numbers as well. But I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say.

I will add that my Kindle numbers picked up a lot in February. And I really think that has a lot to do with having more books in my backlist as well as simply gaining momentum. I think some authors rocket to the top almost instantly (outside of all the promo they do and all the work they've put into it.)

I did that (more or less) on the Nook. But other authors (me again!) build more slowly over time (like on the Kindle.)

I'm not sure there's any way to tell why that is or to change it other than to keep working, keep engaging readers, keep writing great books and building that backlist.

Eliza, you know how I feel about distribution. :-) I believe I said earlier how hard distribution is and I want to clarify. I don't think it's particularly hard to go in, fill out the forms, upload the book, etc. What I think is hard about distribution is all the different options available and knowing which ones to choose, which ones to try, and which ones to pass on.

I started with the basics. Kindle. Nook. Smashwords. I would like to get into other stores. I would like to find alternate avenues for selling my books. I think diversity is important.

But there are so many options and so many details to take note of. Reading it all, understanding it, reformatting, make sure I have all my Is dotted and Ts crossed...a lot of work. And who knows how much reward. But is it worth looking into? Absolutely.

Marcia Colette said...

I love your post, Selena. As a newbie self-published author, stories like yours are definitely an inspiration.

To answer one of your questions, my conversion to self-publishing came in December 2010, though I didn't have anything ready at the time. My other books were tied up with traditional and e-pubs and I had one manuscript on submission row. When the last "I love your story, but...," came in, I had had enough and started researching self-publishing.

I have no idea how well I'm doing because I rarely look at the rankings. I suspect I'm down in the weeds somewhere. Either way, it's all good. I’ve targeted several stories to put out this year, which means my editor and cover artist are going to be two *very* busy ladies.

azarimba said...

Congratulations on your success, Selena! May it continue, going forward. And it probably will, considering how carefully you've thought out your plan of attack.

"A goal is something you can attain through hard work. Dreams are things that require crossed fingers." Joe included that statement in his closing remarks. Selena Blake was well on the way to achieving her goals, when her dreams did come true.

Pamela Labud said...

Great Article, Selena! And, great news for your readers, too. Very interesting information. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with the rest of us!

Selena Kitt said...

Funny, I was just looking at one of your books yesterday on BN - I saw my name and did a double take because it wasn't my cover - then I saw, ohhh it's Selena BLAKE ;)

Now there are two Selena's running around on BN hotting up the place. LOL

Congrats on your success - may you write long and prosper!

-The OTHER Selena...

Donna Ball said...

Thanks, Selena, this was some great information! I have been a traditionally published author for all of my career, and have held almost one hundred of my own shiny new print titles in my hands. It's a nice feeling, but does not begin to compensate for the heartbreak, frustration, and disappointment that go hand in hand with surrendering yourself to the corporate giants--especially these days. When I first started uploading my backlist to Kindle I looked at it as a hobby, with my print publishing deals remaining the focus of my "real" career. Now the print deals are the hobby; my future is invested in e-books.

Of course, I'm still waiting for the kinds of numbers I've been reading about here all year... but wait, I haven't checked my sales today!

Sean said...

Thanks for the insight, Selena. It's interesting that the Nook sells so much better for you than the Kindle. I wonder why that is...

Blake Crouch said...

"3. Use Professional Cover Art
The saying goes: never judge a book by its cover. But we all do it anyway. Why would you want to submit a small, fuzzy, hard to read cover to sell your book? You wouldn’t roll in the mud before going into a job interview would you?"

Great advice, especially now that thrilling covers are available for as little as $95.00. www.thrillingcovers.blogspot.com"

Since you're advertising here, I'm just going to give you my $.02....I think it's weird to have a bunch of covers on your website that were drawn up in a vacuum...to me that's a turn-off as a writer. If I hire someone to design my cover, I want them to have a sense of the book and go from there. I would never buy a cover that was designed with the intention for me just to slap my title in. But maybe that's just me.

The Writers Canvas said...

Selena,

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my questions here. I appreciate your insight and now must go find your blogs and your books!

Elaine

Candice.Abraham said...

I'm new to this blog and have tried to read through as much of it as I can but I have one question that's been percolating in my mind and I haven't yet been able to find a straight answer on this blog and others. I apologize now if this has been asked already.

Can you self-publish and send the same books out on submission to agents/legacy publishers at the same time? Why would or wouldn't this be advised?

Thanks for your help! Joe, this blog is so inspiring and I congratulate you on your accomplishments.

Donald Wells said...

Thanks again Joe for another fine guest post. Selena, very inspiring numbers for a newbie like myself, and I wish you continued good fortune. I think the most encouraging aspect about ebooks is that the market is far from mature.
There will likely be twice as many people buying ebooks a year from now and those numbers will continue to rise for years. I think ebooks will change eveything about the way people buy books, even used books. I've bought countless books on Amazon marketplace because the vendors there had lower prices than the publisher, but with ebooks there is no reason(and really, no way) to buy from a third party. That means that all the dollars that are now flowing into used bookstores and places like Ebay and Amazon marketplace will soon flow to the publishers, particularly the indies. Like Joe says, "Ebooks are forever."

Sex Poems For Virgins

Double or Nothing

The Fix-it Man

Anonymous said...

I would never buy a cover that was designed with the intention for me just to slap my title in. But maybe that's just me.

No it isn't just you. It's awful. But it's the way our culture is going. McDonalds, McMansions, now it's McCovers and McEbooks. And you, too, can make a million. Just rip off Twilight or DaVinci Code or some other McBook, slap a McCover on it and you're good to go.

Bella Andre said...

Selena,

So much fun to see you featured on Konrath's blog! Huge congrats to you on your ebook success. And I loved your post - you've broken it all down so well with your ten points.

:) Bella
http://www.BellaAndre.com

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Hi, Sarra

Cheers from Winston-Salem.

Not to pick on you, but you and every other indie author should never post to someone else's blog without including a link to your site or your book.

Joe's blog is one place I look for authors I haven't read before. I clicked on your profile link and then your blog link, but a lot of people won't go to that much trouble. Every time you fail to include a link in one of your posts you're giving up probably the best way for new readers to find you.

J. Noel said...

Fantastic post. Thank you so much Selena and Joe!

Sarra said...

Robert,

Thanks for the tip! I really should be making that a habit for myself.

www.sarracannon.com
http://thesweetiechronicles.blogspot.com/

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Sarra said...

Robert,

Thanks for the tip! I really should be making that a habit for myself.


Yeah, well, I just bought your first book although I'm a 57 year-old male scientist and technical/science writer with zero interest in paranormal/horror stuff. The reviews convinced me I might like it anyway, and at $0.99 there's no real downside. I don't even bother to read the sample for $0.99 titles.

One thing. You should make obvious the order of the books. I finally scrolled down your blog to find out which one was first. If your description included something like "#1 in the series" that would make it easier.

And what's really odd is how Amazon has your book categorized. Only the last one seems to match the book.

# Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #675 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

* #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children's eBooks > People & Places > Explore the World
* #1 in Books > Children's Books > Educational > Explore the World
* #7 in Books > Children's Books > Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror > Spine-Chilling Horror

michellemuto said...

Thanks Joe. I jumped ship - stopped querying my books and just this week put out my very first ebook - a YA UF titled The Book of Lost Souls.

Some friends and family members say I'll only sell a few copies. We'll see.

Souls recently was rejected after a top agency had it for 18 mos. 18 mos and one editorial letter. Why? One of the agent's client came up with a similar idea and that was that.

I had just started querying Souls back when you did your huge blog tour in '09 - you did a great guest post on my blog - Jack Kilborn's Top Eight Bad Self Promotion Tips. It still gets a lot of hits.

I'm working on editing a second book while I figure out how to promote the one that's up. How to get my name out there in the most efficient manner? Maybe you and others will tell the newbies like me. What really works. What doesn't. Where to put my marketing energy so I can have more time to finish my third book.

I've got the grit and the determination. I just need the initial traction.

Your blog is like my morning caffeine, Joe. It keeps me going everyday. Thanks for that.

Kendall Swan said...

Re: ThrillingCovers

I don't agree. Having looked at quite a few different cover artist's sites lately, I'm appreciative of the ones that show samples of their work- which is essentially what he is doing.

I'm sure every cover designer likes to think they can do any cover in any style but that's usually not the case-- the same way most writers (not all) have a particular voice. There usually is a bent in one or two stylistic directions despite conscious efforts to the contrary.

Just m2c.

Kendall Swan
NAKED Vampire

Fran Yoakum Veal said...

It's interesting that some authors sell better on Nook than Kindle.. I think it may be an age demographic. It seems that younger folks are reaching for the Nook. They walk into their local B & N and there it is. I doubt my daughter even knows what a Kindle is!

no-bull-steve said...

Congratulations Selena!!!

You're an inspiration to those of us still earning "a car payment" or so a month. The past couple months, my single title has entered that range. Other than time and (as Joe says) luck, was there anything specific you did as your sales took off?

Stephen Prosapio
=================
Author, Dream War

Heather Hildenbrand said...

great post, selena ... or should i say, the OTHER selena? So excited for your success. I loved the tips you gave and definitely agree with the last one, to keep writing. It's probably the most important one. Especially for those of us just starting out, without a backlist to speak of. Thanks for stopping by.


www.heatherhildenbrand.blogspot.com

Katie Klein said...

*Waves* to Michelle! Her new book is featured on my blog today! :)

(http://katiekleinwrites.blogspot.com/2011/03/ya-indie-spotlight-michelle-muto.html)

Just a few copies? I want her to email me when she proves those friends and family members wrong. :)

@Joe and Selena: thank you for another inspiring interview. Each one you post further confirms that I made the right choice. I'm releasing a new YA novel next week.

Fingers crossed!

J. Viser said...

Another inspiring story, congrats Selena.

Can't wait to get my new cover from Mr. Graves!

Cheers,

James Viser
www.LieMerchants.com
www.JViser.blogspot.com

Rambling Expat said...

Hi there,

What I really like about your post and this blog in general, it's that it is showing that there is still people who enjoy a good book.
Despite all the noise about no ones reading anymore...
And just that makes my day.

Have a good day.

Gretchen Galway said...

Thanks, Joe, for another swig of the hope juice.

I've been reading this blog since last fall in the middle of query-go-rounds. Just last month I published my first title, a novella. Next month I'll publish the full-length novel I submitted in RWA's Golden Heart contest--even if I final. I wasn't sure a few months ago, but now it's a no-brainer.

Selena, your numbers are inspiring. I'm dumbfounded by the success you and others have had on PubIt/BN--I'm selling one for every 10 at Amazon. I think there's a secret and I'm going to dig for it. Something in the keywords? category selection? I'd love to hear the guess from other writers (esp romance).

I'm also going to take Robert Bruce Thompson's advice and post the link directly here, though I feel awkward being so obvious about it. Guess I need to get over that if I'm going to be self-pubbed. :-P

In fact, I'll post the BN version. See what the Konrath-effect does :-) Thanks.

Quick Study at Barnes and Noble

jeroen ten berge said...

No Blake, it is not just you.

With rapidly increasing numbers of authors entering the ebook universe and crowding of shelf space I think branding of authors and their work becomes all the more important. To be noticed you have to stand out in the crowd, wearing something that suits you - and what you stand for, like a glove.

Thankfully there are many authors out there who understand this, and think and act like you, allowing designers such as Carl and myself to strut their stuff.

Tara Maya said...

I do cover art, and to be honest, I've considered offering some pre-designed covers for sale at a reasonable price. I have some designs that would indicate the genre -- romance, mystery or fantasy--even if it wouldn't be specific to the book.

I haven't decided yet.

Tara Maya
http://tara-maya-cover-art.blogspot.com/

Jude Hardin said...

Great post, Joe and Selena.

I agree with Blake and Anon (McCovers--love that!) and Jeroen regarding the "inventory" cover art. Who would pay $95 for a book cover that might end up being the same one a dozen other authors use? Not me.

Does anyone remember the "generic" craze of the early 80s? You could go to the grocery and buy a can of green beans (or whatever) with a plain white label that said GREEN BEANS, and it was cheaper than buying the name brand or the store brand. It was cheaper, but also of lesser quality. Then someone came up with the idea to do that with books, so there were paperbacks with plain white covers that said MYSTERY or ROMANCE or WESTERN or whatever. They were cheaper than regular paperbacks, and of course the quality was poorer.

That's what those "inventory" covers remind me of. Generic books. If your story wears one of those, people are sure to wonder about the quality (and rightfully so). Go the extra mile and get a unique cover from a quality artist like Carl or Jeroen. It will pay in the long run, and you can wear your colors with pride.

Merrill Heath said...

Jude, do you remember the "generic paperbacks" someone published about 25-30 years ago? They all had white covers and the title was the genre: Western...Mystery...Romance...Suspense...etc...with a barcode underneath.

The Western began: "Meanwhile back at the ranch..."

The Mystery began: "It was a dark and stormy night..."

Of course, they were spoofs and full of cliches, but they were pretty funny. I thought it was a cute idea.

Merrill Heath
Consequences

Tara Maya said...

Not all authors can afford a high end artist right off the bat. It's not unreasonable that there be a half-way point between Carl and Jeroen's covers (which, I agree, are fabulous) and the "just slap a Papyrus font title on stock art" school of covers.

(What IS the obsession with Papyrus font, btw? Why do so many badly done book covers use that?)

I don't remember the 80s craze referred to, but I know that I've never been able to afford a uniquely designed website that I didn't do myself. The artists I liked charged about $4000 and I couldn't afford it. So, I buy templates of already designed websites. For a little extra, you can buy it as an exclusive, even if it's already designed, and that's still cheaper than having it made-to-order.

One of these days, when I can afford it, I might invest in a made-to-order website. But meanwhile, I make do....

Tara Maya
http://tara-maya-cover-art.blogspot.com/

Kendall Swan said...

Just so you know, at ThrillingCovers.blogspot.com his $95 cover sale DOES go for Custom covers as well.

Jude Hardin said...

Just so you know, at ThrillingCovers.blogspot.com his $95 cover sale DOES go for Custom covers as well.

Then why would anyone buy one off the rack?

Tara, the guy who did my Pocket-47 cover charges $4K, which I could never afford as an indie. But there are plenty of artists around who do good work at reasonable rates. There's no reason for anyone to buy a McCover. It's a waste of money, IMHO.

jeroen ten berge said...

Jude... you mean 4K as in four thousand dollars? You're kidding - right?

Tara Maya said...

The top artists charge $4K. Lesser artists, such as myself, charge much less ($300-$500) for an individualized cover. Other artists charge less. However, for me it's not really worth it to make an individualized cover for less than that, because it just doesn't make sense in terms of how many hours it takes me. However, I think I could make good looking covers for about $99 that would still be unique to the book (I'd only sell it once, not multiple times) but would be made ahead of time, with only minor adjustments made afterward. I honestly think I could do a better job than many of the covers I've seen...and the client would be able to know ahead of time what they are getting, so it's not like I would be cheating anyone.

However, like I said, I don't know if there's really a market for that. It's just an idea I'm toying with. All the covers I do right now are commission, not pre-designed. And I don't mean to hi-jack the thread or anything, so I hope I'm not annoying anyone by thinking aloud here about this.

There are certainly a lot of good artists out there who do original work and may be willing to do that for the $100 price range or less. But I doubt Joe's cover artist charges that little. If so, he is not charging nearly enough.

Tara Maya
http://tara-maya-cover-art.blogspot.com/

Jude Hardin said...

Jeroen:

Actually $3750. I'd forgotten the exact price.

Foster Covers

Jude Hardin said...

I think I could make good looking covers for about $99 that would still be unique to the book (I'd only sell it once, not multiple times) but would be made ahead of time, with only minor adjustments made afterward.

That sounds decent. I would check into something like that.

Sheri Leigh said...

Jude... you mean 4K as in four thousand dollars? You're kidding - right?

and that's when jeroen ten berge realizes he might need to raise his prices...

:)

jeroen ten berge said...

Tara, Jude - I'm truly amazed. Your information astounds me. Prices are driven by the marketplace and I doubt any independent author would fork out that much for a cover today.

However, even though those high fees are way off the chart compared to currently accepted rates, they do reflect the value one could attribute to a cover, over time.

Joe likes to say ebooks 'are forever', and it's true. Authors can reap rewards for their work until End of Days, and rightly so. And aside from the writing bit, it is relatively easy. They pay someone to design their cover, someone for formatting, and so on, and when everything is sorted and paid for they're off. Until forever.

The same applies to the cover design - it lasts as long as the ebook is available, forever. But in the old days, when a title was successful, it would be reprinted. And possibly again, and again. And each time the cover designer would receive a percentage of the initial design fee for the re-use of the design, their copyright. Which I think was a fair deal, as designing a cover is an artistic achievement, that requires skill, time, and experience, but most importantly - talent. However, with ebooks there is no such thing as re-prints, and thus no opportunity for a cover designer to share in the potential success of a title. Is that fair?

This is something that has been nagging my brain for awhile now. Would love to hear from other designers and writers.

jeroen ten berge said...

@sheri

Hahaha... nope - I'm happy right now.

Tara Maya said...

However, with ebooks there is no such thing as re-prints, and thus no opportunity for a cover designer to share in the potential success of a title. Is that fair?


I would consider sharing royalties with an artist, if it were in lieu of an upfront cost. Share the risks, share the profits.

Tara Maya
http://tara-maya-cover-art.blogspot.com/

Jude Hardin said...

and that's when jeroen ten berge realizes he might need to raise his prices...

I hope not. I'm planning to contact him for some work soon. :)

jack said...

LOL!

Several things to say today. First, Joe has once again brought a great story of success in this changing market to our attention, and I wanted to say thank you. I also would like to wish continued success to Selena, and hope my self Publishing journey will be as fruitful as yours.

Blake, you are awesome

"Since you're advertising here, I'm just going to give you my $.02....I think it's weird to have a bunch of covers on your website that were drawn up in a vacuum...to me that's a turn-off as a writer. If I hire someone to design my cover, I want them to have a sense of the book and go from there. I would never buy a cover that was designed with the intention for me just to slap my title in. But maybe that's just me."

I could not believe that that was in here when I flipped over to check it out. I had the same impression. I would think you would want to put your best face forward when advertising on "THIS" blog, and those cut and paste covers are not it. Any one of us could do better than that in msn paint!

Tara Maya, im not sure if you checked out the stuff on the previously mentioned site? (not yours) But the covers on that blog are just eye sores. That being said, I think that you have several pretty good covers on your blog.

I would like to see some darker samples of covers on your page though. Particularly when it comes to the Fantasy genre. I am shopping for cover art and I am looking more for something in the spirit of the cover for "Nyphron Rising". That is one of the most amazing covers (for my taste)I have ever looked at, and your fantasy covers are just a bit.... Bright for my taste.

I am only giving these tips from my perspective. These are just what "I" am looking for when shopping for covers, and I think you have some decent stuff. So I hope you will not take any of that to heart. It is strictly meant as positive encouragement. I am also curious to see what you could do with something like that. :-)

Jack

Lundeen Literary said...

Tara said:
"I would consider sharing royalties with an artist, if it were in lieu of an upfront cost. Share the risks, share the profits."

You know, I think that's the way it'll end up going eventually. It would certainly hush up a lot of the "I can't afford to get a cover done" complaints from authors.
The problem I have with a royalty is this: I'm not sure who's in it to win it, and has sufficient business acumen to handle payments well and accurately. I have the distinct feeling that I would be pestering people monthly for money because they wouldn't know how to handle the business part properly. You don't have that problem as much with a publisher, even though they do pay late and sometimes go belly-up. And I'd probably have to read every book by everyone who wanted a cover - if it sucks, do I want to waste my time?

And yeah, I've heard tell of pricy covers - I have an artist friend who paints fantasy covers; he was getting $10k+ per cover for the printing rights, was selling the originals for another $15k+, and was selling prints, calendars, and postcards as well. He does all right. ;)

As for the thrilling covers site, as an author, I'd prefer to see actual covers if I'm gonna pay out cash. The title will be a different length on every book, so I'd prefer to see examples of that. And I admit to shuddering at the use of papyrus font… ;) However, this could simply be a way of building a portfolio if this person hasn't done a lot of finished books yet, and it's certainly better than nothing. My first several for-pay covers were done on a "see-if-you-like, then pay" basis because I had no portfolio. There's a portfolio here, and a sense of the work done by a person. That's going to win people over.

The stock McCover approach will be good for some authors - it's what they can afford, and it gets their work out there. There is certainly a markey for this, despite this being a method I would not use for my own business.

Jenna
@lundeenliterary
www.lundeenliterary.com

steve said...

Tara said:
"I would consider sharing royalties with an artist, if it were in lieu of an upfront cost. Share the risks, share the profits."

My first cover was designed with a price set but only half was payable prior to 1,500 sales. The other half was considered due after 1,500 sales. Of course that cover was largely disliked and ineffective. The one that's been much more effective was designed as a "mock up" by an amateur artist in the hopes of showing me what she could do for the design of my next book....and the cover for that one completely blew me, my agent and my publisher away.

Just sharing information here. Certainly there should be some sort of profit sharing since a cover SHOULD be effective in helping the sales of books, and when a cover IS EFFECTIVE, I feel it should share in the success.

Archangel said...

just a two cents worth, re costs of cover art in my personal experience. Worth building a relationship with an artist you love who 'gets' your work, I'd say. I am currently a cover widow as my late fav artist has moved to another profession, so am currently w/o cover, pun intended. ok ok.

Back to topic: digital artists are different than illustrators who draft by hand. Both have value and some do both. Clip art is not a runner. Slap same image on every cover only in different position and different colors is not branding to my sense. Hack art looks like what it is. Art without being artful.

To give an example: have paid anywhere from $200 for hand painted cover by pro artist for all uses to over $1000 for uses defined by contract to a well known painter. Uses are usually for 3x at least: print, audio, ebk. One flat price. Forever. Sometimes also includes ok for sidelines. We have put out two posters and commission the cover/poster art, and then own it as work for hire. Used to also own tcolor seps for covers and posters. Now color seps no longer needed/ digital does fine.

The world is changing as usual, and covers and prices and how it all works is changing and being added to. It's an exciting time and I look forward to finding our ways in all this. For me personally, I need hand holding as I, like many, fear I dont know enough and might make a mistake.

Jeroen whose most recent work truly caught my eye is accurate, I think. Lots of people can do the mechanicals. But the vision. That's actually priceless. It's something we call 'concept' that is way larger than the idea of 'cover' only.

dr.cpe

Erin Fanning said...

Thanks for the advice! I recently discovered this blog and I've found every posting useful and interesting. Keep them coming!

Canyon Girl said...

I'm not an author, just a retired tech writer who loves to write. Still, I'm enjoying your blog and the guest posts. Selena, in addition to being a good writer, has a sharp eye for the practical and business side of writing.--Inger

Amy said...

Just wanted to let you all know about IndieReader.com, the essential guide to indie books and the people who write them.

IR's original content is a mix of Gawker-type commentary and Rolling Stone-type profile stories combined with news, reviews, best-of rankings and more.

IR also features a Library of professionally reviewed books, linked to sales sites for easy purchase. If you're interested, pls check the site for info on submitting your books for FREE REVIEWS.

Sarah McCabe said...

I would like to repeat Candice's question from before (I didn't see any answer)...

Can you self-publish and send the same books out on submission to agents/legacy publishers at the same time? Why would or wouldn't this be advised?

I've been wondering the same thing. I intend to self-publish and I don't want to waste any time getting about it once my first novel is finished. But part of me is also curious to sent out queries just to see if I would have been able to get anywhere that way. Would it be considered acceptable to do both at the same time?

Gisele said...

The upfront costs of publishing a novel can pile up and get expensive, sure. However, I emphatically disagree with the notion of paying royalties for cover artists.

The way I see it, it goes completely against the idea of being an indie author. The essence of being indie is being in charge of your own career. Indies understand the responsibility and accept the heavy load that goes with that choice. As a reward, they have substantially minimized how much of their earnings they share with others.

Consider this:

Indie authors have foregone publishers altogether and now rejoice in the fact that they no longer share their earnings with them. I find it highly unlikely that they'd escape the profit share with a publisher and enter a royalty deal with a cover artist.

S. V. Rowle said...

Great post, Selena! I'm also happy to hear of some anecdotal evidence that targeted advertising does work. LOL.

I have a list of where I'm going to buy low-cost ads to promote my books (hint: not Facebook). If you have any suggestions for the PNR/UF/Dark Fantasy market, maybe you'd be willing to share/trade via email someday?

John Ward said...

Candace and Sarah, I don't believe it would be considered appropriate to self-publish an ebook and then approach agents to ask them to represent you for print rights. I believe, but do not know for sure, that their attitude would be that your book has already been published. They don't mind if you submit to multiple agents at the same time; however, as a rule, I think they expect you to be talking to them before your work has seen print.

That being said, if you self publish an ebook and are very successful, then I believe you can almost expect them to come knocking at your door looking for a piece of the pie in exchange for the other avenues of distribution that they can open up for you.

All of this is based off of submission guidelines that I have read at different agent websites and my attempts to guess what their general attitudes would be on the matter. However, it's just my guess.

Anonymous said...

Can you self-publish and send the same books out on submission to agents/legacy publishers at the same time? Why would or wouldn't this be advised?

If you're just trying to sell print rights without e-rights don't even bother querying. But I'm assuming you'd offer e-rights as well, so here's my take:

Most editors will not care that you've self-published. If your book sounds good, they will ask for the full manuscript, and if they like it they will buy it.

Just make sure you specify two things in your query:

1 - That you have self-published the book
2 - That you will immediately pull it down (i.e. un-publish it) if you sign a contract with them

Editors at traditional publishers have ALWAYS picked up self-published books that they liked. And that was back when the self-publisher stigma was much worse than it is now.

Sure, a few editors will say 'no', but it will be the minority. Most will still take a look at your sample pages, and if they like what they see may even seek out your book online and check out the packaging and customer reviews (so make sure your cover looks good. you can't control reviews of course, but even a few bad reviews are not going to stop an editor if she falls in love with your book).

And if you have a well-designed POD paperback of your book, you may even want to consider simply sending that instead of sample pages. Worst case they toss it. Best base they feel guilty about throwing it away, which means it sits around in a New York Publishing House, and who knows who will pick it up and thumb through it?

- z

ps: take a look at Dean Wesley Smith's blog. He talks about this topic.

Anonymous said...

correction: best case they take the book with them and read it on the train-ride home and get so into it they miss their stop and then they call you in the middle of the night hysterical and crying and ask if they can publish your book in 128 countries in hardback

- z

John Ward said...

Now, that's a much better (and more informed) response than mine from the 'Anonymous Z'.

Moses Siregar III said...

Selena, you awesome, baby.

Joe, I noticed there's an omitted word at the end of this blog:

"That doesn't mean everyone will hit the jackpot. But I'm convinced is better off going solo than trying to work through legacy publishing."

Candice.Abraham said...

This is a little late, but I just wanted to say thanks very much for answering my question, John and 'Anonymous z.'

And thanks for mentioning Dean's blog as well!

Selena Blake said...

Thanks Michael. Yes, we are in the early days. And those days are usually the most chaotic.

>> I believe that in the end, the strong, dedicated, serious writers will have the most success finding a good audience.

I agree.

You're welcome, Lovelyn.

Joshua, this is an area Joe and I disagree on. Not completely mind you. I think you need to be fairly selective. I advertise within my niche but I don't use a service like Google or Buy/SellAds. My top referrer overall is SensualReads.com. They limit the number of ads that display at any given time. I also have an affiliate account there. I advertise on TheRomanceStudio.com from time to time but my click throughs aren't nearly as high there. At any given time they have thirty or more ads running simultaneously. I also won a membership to that site as well.

I've advertised on a few other sites but none that I continued with. My friend Leila Brown and I advertised on SmartBitchesTrashyBooks one year and the stats on that were pretty good, though unfortunately that was during a big story they were running where they got NYT coverage and their server crashed for a while.

I watch for sales. Most sites these days run them. If you watch for them you might be able to get a buy 1 get 2 or even 3 free sale. So you can quickly max out your exposure for the lowest price.

Otherwise I only advertise for a special occasion or a special release. For instance, I'm about to release the third book in my Stormy Series and I'm considering a bigger promotion with something like the Kindle Blog. Any advertising over $10 I have to consider very carefully.

Selena Blake said...

Gregory, very true. Number 10 a hard thing to temper, trust me. In January I was checking my stats multiple times a day. It was like an addiction. I've learned to let go and focus on the next book. Because ultimately, that's all you can control…the quality of your work and your output.

Thanks Sarra! Ally Anderson (http://design.pixelwareinc.com) does my website and indie covers. And right now she's working on my #romancetradingcards.

Congrats on the 2300! That's a fabulous number. I think you'll continue to see increasing sales. That's not to say there won't be high months and low months, but in general, the market is still growing.

Ty, yes, we do rock. Good luck with your upcoming release.

Thanks Ellen. Let's hope it's just an early spring slump. Yes, writing income can fluctuate and that's definitely something to keep in mind when you're figuring out your plan of attack. My career plan isn't super structured but it does give me a guide of what milestones I would like to reach and that includes a number of books each year. One thing authors have always told me is that the best marketing you can do is to write another great book and get it into the hands of your readers.

Selena Blake said...

Marcia, that's the spirit. Write good books. Put them out there. Surround yourself with a good team. You've got all your bases covered.

Thanks azarimba!

Thanks for stopping by, Pam! For those of you looking for bright new authors to follow, let me point out the fabulous Pamela Labud! She writes historical romance in a way I only wish I could.

LOL, Selena. (Is that as weird for you as it is for me?) In fact, I did the exact same thing with one of your books one day. "Wait…that's not my cover!" I'm delighted to be in such fabulous company.

Donna, I can only imagine the heartbreak traditionally published authors are feeling these days. It hurts me just to read about it. And yesterday, I saw a big bin of mass market books at the store, all discounted to $1.99.

As I was saying on my blog the other day (in response to the brilliant Bob Mayer) I don't think of indie publishing as an either/or deal. I think that there's room in the market for indie authors and traditionally published authors and authors who are indie and traditionally published. I think this is a case of "do what works best for you." If that means writing two traditionally published books a year and two indie books, go for it.

I know Joe's probably flipping about that comment, but I want to clarify that I do think that legacy publishers are going to have to change the way they do business in order to stay in business. And I think it's our responsibility as authors to chose to work with publishers who are leading the way in the industry. If you're going to go that route.

I'm glad you've found a "home" with indie publishing. LOL about your stats. I'll have to bop over and check out your books.

Sean, if you figure it out, let me know!

Selena Blake said...

Candice, I'm sure Joe and others here will have fabulous advice but from what I know about the industry publishers love exclusivity. That's why they so often don't want simultaneous submissions. They want to be the only house/agency looking at your work. From what I understand, that makes it potentially cheaper/easier to buy the book should they choose to.

If you've already self published a book there's likely little chance that a publisher is going to want to take that book on. From what I've heard from other authors if a publisher comes to you, they'll likely want to continue the series or have you start a completely new project rather than take on a previously self published product.

This doesn't however apply to previously released books by another publisher. I know many authors who've placed a book that was previously released with a new publisher. I have no idea how/why that is or why it's different.

What I'm really interested in these days is how publishers will work with the successful indie authors. As you may have heard Amanda Hocking and HP Mallory both have deals with the Big 6 now. Obviously their star power in the indie world caught the attention of legacy publishers. The question is, what will the legacy publishers do with these authors and their books.

And as we're all aware… the industry is changing. Fast. So all these old rules may not even apply anymore.

Donald said:  I've bought countless books on Amazon marketplace because the vendors there had lower prices than the publisher, but with ebooks there is no reason(and really, no way) to buy from a third party. 

This. Exactly this. I'm working on a piece for my Adventures in Publishing blog that covers my thoughts on publishers and their relationships with distributors like amazon. I know so many people who shop exclusively through kindle or nook that if your book isn't on the kindle or the nook, you've just lost a sale. That's a hard reality that I think most publishers are going to have to face, sooner rather than later.

Thanks so much Bella! Glad you found the points helpful.

Thanks J.

Fran, I'm planning a series of articles for my blog on "what is a kindle" and how to use the kindle. I'm by no means an expert but I know my way around. I think offering readers they basics is a good way to educate them.

As for your daughter and age groups, I imagine that it likely has to do with the color screen options Nook has available. Plus, I just think the Nook has a sexier, sleeker design. Don't tell my kindle I said that though!

Aww. LOL, Stephen. A car payment is great! And if that's all I earned this month, I'd be a happy camper. I don't know that there's any one thing I did to see a boost in my numbers. I released the Cajun's Captive shortly after Christmas and Bitten In The Bayou a few weeks after that. I think at the point a lot of readers were finally understanding how to use their ereaders and it was time to go shopping.

I'm lucky in that the genres I enjoy reading and writing are what some consider "popular" genres. I'm sure that helps!

Also, I have a fairly loyal fanbase from my previous publishing days. Having fans you can depend on to be excited about your work, buy your work, and tell others about it is invaluable!

Selena Blake said...

LOL, Heather. #10 is really important. That's why I made it #10…the last point to leave you with. It's SO easy to get sucked into checking your stats, tweaking your formatting, promoting, etc. So I think it's worth mentioning over and over to keep writing. I'm by no means the world's greatest author (don't tell my muse I said that!) but I'm always willing to learn something new. And it's really important to me to put that knowledge to good use. And you know what they say, practice makes perfect.

Do I think everything I write is publication worthy? No way! But if I write enough, revise enough, polish enough, I'm bound to come out with something good. *crosses fingers*

Hey Katie, good luck with your upcoming release and thanks for stopping by!

Thanks James!

Gretchen, I honestly don't understand how categories and tags play into sales on amazon or nook. For instance, The Cajun's Captive has been on the Erotica list before but it's not erotica. It's erotic romance. One thing that bugs me about Nook is that nowhere on the page does it list what categories the book is in. So I get the impression that some readers buy my books without realizing they're erotic paranormal romance (etc.) and they're surprised to discover what's inside. So I've started listing the genre, keywords, and length right there in the description. If that makes me lose a sale, so be it, but I don't want a reader's money if they're going to feel deceived into buying my book.

I do know a great many authors (who are more savvy than I am) who firmly believe in positioning a book a certain way within categories and also in tagging their books. If that's true… please feel free to stop by and tag my books. LOL

Stitch said...

Regarding Thrilling Covers...

I am simply amazed that some commenters are sounding almost offended by the idea of low-cost off-the-shelf covers. Relax, people! If you don't want them, nobody's forcing you to buy them. =)

I've had a look, and those covers are not half as bad as some of you are trying to make it sound. In what way is any one of them worse than a lot of the covers on books being sold on Amazon right now? Look at this one, for instance. You really don't think that could be improved by TC for a hundred bucks? Or, for that matter, look at Jude's almost-four-thousand-dollar cover.

By the way, Jude, regarding your cover... That is a waste of money. It's not a bad looking cover, but I'm willing to bet you could have gotten a better looking cover for a quarter of the price. But guess what, your publisher paid almost $4000 for that cover, because they're not spending their money. They're spending your money.

What constantly amazes me is how many published authors seem to believe that all those things that publishers do, they do out of the kindness of their hearts. Editing, covers, etc, they aren't free! You are paying for all of that. You're getting such a low royalty rate because they are spending your money.