Sunday, December 26, 2010

How Everything Went the Opposite of What I'd Been Told

I write books, and I always knew that I would someday. Like most of people that aspired to be a writer, I knew that meant that I would need to get an agent in hopes of someday getting a book deal with a major publisher and then see my paperbacks in real brick and mortar stores. (At least that's the ideal). That's what it took to be a real Author and making a living at it.

Along the way, I heard horror stories of authors ripped off by scam "publishers" like Publish America, and how many published authors still worked day jobs to break even, and how many literary agents have more than one job, and how with the recession, they're publishing less and less books. Basically, I heard it was going to impossible to ever make a living at writing books.

But again, this was the only viable option. Because the only choices are writing and querying, or giving up. Or self-publishing, but everybody knows that self-publishing is the kiss of death. Only terrible books that could never sell are self-published. And only the author's family and friends buy self-published books And the books are written like third graders on crack. And they'll never sell more than fifty copies.

That's what we've all heard for years, and in a big way, a lot of that has been true. Historically, self-published books have not sold many copies or made much money.

So even though we all hated it, we all know the system had flaws, the only way to get published, to get your book to sell, was to query, query, query.

In February of 2010, I got my last rejection letter. It was for my novel Switched. I queried at least 50 agents with it over the course of six months, making changes, adjusting the story based on feedback I was getting. But they all said the same thing. They just weren't passionate enough about it, in this climate it's hard to take on new projects, it's all subjective, best of luck.

In March, I read about Joe Konrath and Karen McQuestion. In April, I published my first book to Amazon.

Skip ahead. In August, I got approached by my first foreign publisher. (I think I've been approached by 5 or 6 foreign publishers since then). I got these offers solely because of my self-published sales, and in August, I also landed a good agent, again largely based on my sales.

Skip ahead. October I got approached by a small publisher interested in one of my titles. I declined because I was making more money self-publishing.

Skip ahead. I published my eighth title last week - Letters to Elise. And as of 9:15 PM tonight, I have sold over 106,500 books since April 15, 2010.

Switched - the book that was last rejected in February because there wasn't a market for it - has sold 13,555 copies at Amazon, 9929 copies at Barnes & Noble, and 314 paperbacks in December alone. The sequel Torn is doing quite well also, but I'm too lazy to add up the numbers right now.

Yes, my books are priced at $.99 and $2.99. But I'm actually making more than a lot of traditional publishers are on books that are priced more than my books because of the percentage I'm getting.

You could argue that I would be selling less books if I'd been picked up major publisher because my books would probably be priced at $9.99 for the Kindle. And you'd probably be right. But, if anything, that only makes my point.

Prior to April, I'd never been published anywhere. Not even a short story in a magazine. I have no literary awards. No special connections. I've done little marketing. And yet I've sold over 100,000 books in eight months. And without going in to specifics, I will say this - I am making much, much more writing full time than I did working full time at a day job.

I have a talked a bit before how this happened (in this blog titled "an epic tale of how it all happened") and I even told you what the secret is (in a blog titled "there is no magic hand"), and I explained my thoughts on indie publishing (in this blog).  And I'm directing you to all those things so I don't have to write it all down again.

Is self-publishing the wave of the future? I honestly don't know. But what I do know is the landscape has been change dramatically for years in every way that we receive and share information, and it's finally starting to change publishing.

The best part is that it's a really awesome time to be both a writer and a reader. Never before have authors had the opportunities to reach so many readers, and never before have readers had so many choices.

And don't take something at face value. Just because something has never been done before, or it's only been done by a very few people, doesn't mean it can't be done now, or that it can't be done by you.