Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tortoises, Hares, and Independent Writers

Hugh Howey, the very successful author of the popular Wool series, asked independent authors on a forum I participate in to share their “mid-list” success stories and it has been inspiring. We are always dazzled by the super-stars, Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath, E.L. James, who sky-rocket into the indie publishing stratosphere with astonishing sales, get picked up by major publishers, and get movie deals. Those folks are amazing but also few and far between. What about the authors with mid-list sales? The folks you never hear about. There are LOTS of us.

In 2010, the first year I published e-books, I cleared $192.35 for the entire year in e-book sales. I thought that was rather cool and, because I had a small handful of titles available, sort of amazing. So in 2011 I put a few more of my backlist, print titles in e-format and published 3 novellas in e-format, Arthur's Story: A Love Story, The Crazy Old Lady in theAttic, and Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter. Also, in December I published the e-book of The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood. The year had started out slow with about $200 a month in sales but even at that I was earning more a month than I had in all of 2010. Then September came and things picked up.

By the end of 2011, thanks to a great fourth quarter, my sales were 50x what they were in 2010 and nobody was more stunned than I was. So this year I released another novel, Depraved Heart, another novella, Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn, and the 3 volume The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall series which is also available as a boxed set in e-format or in a single volume in paperback. I also released my 3 full-length novels in a boxed set. So far I am well over doubling last year's sales and I have 2 months to go. At the moment I am a solid mid-lister, as are dozens of other people according to Hugh's findings. What does this mean?

It means that there are a lot of people who are writing in the evenings while they work during the day, or writing at home while the kids take a nap, or work part-time (me) while they write as much as they can, and are reaping the rewards. We are not famous or household names or ready to move to the Riviera but we are happily paying bills – lots of bills – with money we make as writers. And we're thrilled about it. Can anyone do it? That depends.

I'm a firm believer that everyone has a story to tell and I always encourage people to tell their stories if they can. But they process of editing, refining, prepping manuscripts, getting artwork and then the endless process of marketing is not for the feint of heart. In various writers forums I've seen writers rant about the fact that the spent months (I've spent years) writing a book and once they uploaded it sales did not come pouring in. It just doesn't work that way. The ease of independent publishing has created an environment in which almost anyone can publish and a lot of them do. Amazon has been releasing 50,000 new books a month in 2012! This means that, yes, you can publish but be prepared for the fact that you are a very small fish in a very, very large ocean. Writing is a breeze compared to marketing! When a book is written that's it but marketing never ends. But that should not be a deterrent.

One of the boons created by e-publishing is an explosion in certain markets. Fantasy, romance, zombie, vampire, and post-apocalyptic books have sky-rocketed. They appeal to young people who are used to reading on screens and gobble up these books like M&Ms. Erotica has also exploded, especially the to-me-incomprehensible genre of billionaire discipline. I don't get it but millions appear to love that. Basically it is eroticized fairy tales substituting billionaires for handsome princes and shy, virginal young women who find being tied up and spanked to be “fascinating.” If you're into that there's tons to choose from.

And then there are those of us who write other things, mysteries, ghost stories, love stories that may or may not have HEAs. My best sellers have been psychological horror but I have learned that readers exist on a quantum scale of what constitutes horror. I've had reviewers say everything from “the climax made me sick to my stomach” to “there was nothing much to it” about the very same scene. But none of that matters. What matters is that there are readers out there for everything and if you can give them what they want and help them to find your books, you can succeed.

This has been a wonderful year for me. It has been a wonderful year because I got to spend a huge chunk of it writing and not worrying about paying the bills. I have a long way to go to be a prosperous writer but I am a successful one and that is nice.

Thanks for reading.


  1. I am so proud of your success! Every time I read one of your posts about great reviews and sales I just wish I was in the same room so we could dance around cheering, and possibly drinking a little celebratory champagne!

  2. Thank you, Carla. Yes, dancing and drinking champagne would definitely be in order!!!


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