Bob Mayer posted a very thought-provoking blog post today and I have to say I agree with many of his conclusions on the changed state of this business of book writing/selling. One of the observations he made was that readers today want shorter works – works they can finish in one sitting – but that being part of a series is now the way to build a following. Many successful authors are publishing short works that are part of a series and they publish often – every couple months!
When I first started out as an independent publisher I published a collection of short stories in one volume (My Last Romance and other passions), and two novels (The Old Mermaid's Tale and Each Angel Burns). They did okay but it wasn't until I published a couple shorts that I saw a big upswing in sales. The Crazy Old Lady in the Attic was published in July 2011 and by December 2011, it sold 15,000 copies. I was flabbergasted. That increased to close to 40k over the next year and it still sells hundreds of copies every month. I followed it with Ghosts of a BeachTown in Winter, another short, and that one did amazingly well, too.
The funny thing was I got a LOT of reviews complaining about the length of both books (too short.) Both of them sell for .99 and both of them list the exact word count in the Product Description but there was still a fair number of reviews complaining they were too short. But they sold like hotcakes. I learned my lesson.
When I decided to write The WhiskeyBottle in the Wall, I decided to experiment with the idea of making the stories a series. I released the 11 stories in three volumes and I got a LOT of positive feedback on that. Currently those stories are available in the three individual volume, as a boxed set (at a substantial savings), and in paperback. What has happened? Volume 1 still sells as much as all the others combined. It has received very good reviews so this tells me that people like the idea of being able to “test the waters”, so to speak, before committing themselves to the entire set. And that is fine.
Next week I'll be publishing the sequel to The Crazy Old Lady and I've started work on a third book in the series. The Crazy Old Lady's Revenge is 39,000 words – over 2 1/2 times as long as the original. It remains to be seen how it will be received.
In his post, Bob Mayer also says there is no such thing as “self-publishing” any more – at least there shouldn't be. Successful indie authors are most often part of a team. And this is another thing I agree on. I am a good cover designer. I was designing book covers for 20 years before I ever published a thing. Therefore I barter my design services for editing, proof-reading, content editing, etc. And have been lucky to align myself with some outstanding writers, several of them with impressive backgrounds. They read my manuscripts and I design covers and promotional material for them. I've learned so much from a couple of these writers that it has made me a better writer in the process.
I suppose will always want to write longer novels with complex characters and worlds of my own creation, but I also love these smaller, quicker works with characters and settings that I look forward to revisiting. I don't know if I'll ever go back to selling books at the rate I was a year ago but I do know one thing, I'm going to keep writing.
Thanks for reading.