Monday, January 10, 2011

Evaluating My Enthusiasm for e-Book Self-Publishing

Back to my internal debate about whether to self-publish my writing, primarily with e-books, rather than continue the quest for a traditional, royalty paying, print-based publisher via an agent.

Okay, I admit it, when I first came upon the new data about e-books last week I got excited. Really excited. Me, who has eschewed the very idea of self-publishing. The sales numbers reported by those who have released a number of books this way are very exciting for an author.

Then, in the comments to an older post on Joe Konrath's blog, I read this:

If you're thinking you have a chance to break through, or start a indie career, or even be able to call yourself a published writer after uploading your manuscript to the kindle, they you're delusional. The opportunity to break into traditional publishing through the kindle has passed. Youre indie career will be limited to moving a few thousand copies of your manuscript at the most.

Well, nothing like throwing cold water on a hot dream. This is just one person's opinion, of course, but the study I'm doing has to be realistic, not just take the successes of others while ignoring the true status of the market. But wait, he said a writer who now decides to e-self-publish "will be limited to moving a few thousand copies of your manuscript at the most."

A few thousand copies? Why, to be able to claim your print novel is a best seller requires sales of only 5,000 copies; 7,500 copies for non-fiction. A few thousand copies? Most self-published books through POD publishers such as LuLu, Publish America, Tate, and others sell less than a hundred copies. So, if the prospect is to sell a only few thousand e-copies, well, that sounds pretty good. Maybe I should keep my growing enthusiasm. Heck, that would be a few thousand copies e-sold, whereas no matter how good my work is the chances of being traditionally published are still next to nil.

But of course, I'm a nobody to the readers of the world, or more specifically, to the e-book buyers of the world. There's still the issue of writing something so good that people will want to pay $3 to $5 dollars for it in Kindle format. There's the issue of publicising your work, developing some kind of buzz so that it gets noticed.

At a minimum this means having a good cover (of the quality of a traditional publisher release), because buyers still make buying decisions based on the book cover. Then, once the cover draws them in, you need a great marketing paragraph to hook them. Then, once they download the first chapter as a free sample, that chapter better be so good they say, "I think I'll spend $2.99 on this one."

The post today on Konrath's blog is about how most of those having success with e-self-publishing were in my exact situation, with no prior publishing history and no name recognition. They are having success despite that, so maybe I could too. I still need to curb my enthusiasm for e-self-publishing, at least until I finish the study (still need to know if I'm tech savvy enough to do the uploads, and there's still the issue of the cover). But all signs seem to be pointing me in that direction.


Mark Asher said...

Formatting the text for an ebook is simple. It really is. Well, unless you have a lot of pics or something odd like that. If it's just text and a cover, however, it's a snap. I'd be happy to tell you how if you're interested.

Covers aren't as hard as you think, though it's true that you're not likely to come up with something as good as a real artist would give you. Still, it's not that hard to come up with something respectable. I can point you in the right direction for that too.

Finally, self-publishing doesn't hurt your chances with a traditional publisher if your book is selling. There have been a few self-pubbed writers who have been approached with contract offers by the NY publishers. Granted, they are seeing the sales and getting interested. Also, Amazon has their Amazon Encore program where they offer some publishing contracts to selected writers. These are usually self-publishing writers who attract Amazon's attention one way or another.

Unless you have a book under consideration by a publisher or have signed a contract with an agent, I don't see what harm it would do to self-publish.

Mark Asher said...

Here's a link to the kindleboards guy who does covers.

I think you'll be surprised at how affordable he is.

David A. Todd said...


Thanks for the posts. If I go the self-publishing route, I will probably cease trying to find a traditional publisher. Should I be successful and a traditional publisher come calling my way with an offer I can't refuse, I wouldn't refuse it.

I think the cover is the main thing bothering me. I appreciate your comments about that, and will check out the link you provided. If I can get a little money ahead, maybe I'll make the jump. If I do, I'd need to quit messing around and do to things: start writing in earnest (been on the shelf for a few months), and get a web site up and running.

I agree with your last statement in the first post, and am certainly moving in that direction.

Robin Sullivan said...

That quote you found on J.A. Konrath's blog is "old" and outdated. This is not how he feels today. (Read some of the more recent posts in particulare the one in late december entitled "You should self-publish". The context has changed greatly in the last few months and while that may have been a valid quote at the time of writing I believe Joe will tell you that it is not currently relevent.

David A. Todd said...

Hi Robin. Thanks for coming by the blog, reading, and taking time to comment.

Apparently I didn't make myself clear in my blog post. I didn't mean to imply it was JAK who wrote that. It wasn't. It was an anonymous commenter to his blog, back in July 2010.

Thanks also for your guest post last Friday to Joe's blog. Most informative. I'm still pretty high on the e-self-publishing route. Just trying to work through all the negatives and making sure it's right for me before taking the plunge.