I’m not a reader of the Wall Street Journal but my father is. I picked my parents up at the airport this morning and took them home, and I happened to see Dad’s copy of the WSJ. The headline How I Became a Best-Selling Author caught my eye. I’m an indie author, so of course I wanted to know how another indie author became a bestseller.
Indie Authors Know…
What the Wall Street Journal says: Self-publishing is upending the book industry. Hello, where have they been for the last year? Any indie author who spends a bit of time tracking trends and reading blogs knows this. I laughed when the Wall Street Journal quoted stats that 133,036 self-published titles were released last year (this according to Bowker, where ISBN’s are issued). This number doesn’t track what Amazon and Smashwords are doing by issuing authors ISBN numbers, nor does it track books issued without ISBN numbers. Any indie author knows this is way off base. The stats are that about two million books were published last year (I’ve even heard ten million). And many of these were ebooks. And we all know, the ebook revolution is taking over the publishing industry, right? Not so fast.
What Indie Authors Don’t Know
Don’t believe everything JA Konrath is telling you. Ebooks are currently (December 2010) the fastest growing segment of the book market, but what does this really mean? If you believe the Association of American Booksellers, the answer is not that much, because ebook sales are still only about 10 percent of overall trade book sales. And, according to the New York Times, the traditional publishing industry has seen a 5.6 percent increase in book sales over their numbers in 2008. The Association of American Publishers says they also are seeing a resurgence in book sales, both print and digital. Hardback sales grew one percent from 2008 to 2010, although their overall share of the trade market declined.
The Indie Author and Book Marketing
Back to the WSJ article. A new indie author, Darcie Chan, couldn’t get a book deal so she self-published. Agents said that her book was good but they didn’t know how to market it because it crossed genres. I’ve heard the same about my first book Nephilim Genesis of Evil. Nephilim is part mystery, part horror, with bits of supernatural thriller and romance in it. Publishers have no idea how to market a book like this and that’s why they turn down books like this – not because the books aren’t good, but because they have no idea how to sell them. But I digress.
Chan, like many of us, published an ebook on Amazon, played with pricing, got some reviews from bigger ereader sites, and her book started selling..and selling. I scoured the article and tried to find her secret – what worked for her?
Her book got some decent reviews. My books get great reviews (I have a great 5 star review from a top Amazon reviewer). She paid for a review from Kirkus and used it on Amazon and Smashwords. I haven’t done that, but I used the great review from the top Amazon reviewer. Her sales skyrocketed. Mine haven’t. Well, that’s not completely true. This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies is the one the top Amazon reviewer loved. Now, the review is fairly recent, but it hasn’t translated into sales (yet). But Nephilim has just hit #75 on Amazon’s Christian/Books and Literature/Mystery list. With no reviews from anyone special. Go figure. Chan has now sold 400,000 books and counting.
I can’t figure out how, other than some strategically timed great reviews, playing with book pricing, spending some money on book marketing, and a bit of luck, and word of mouth. Wait, did you catch what I slipped in there? Chan spent some money on book marketing. She had a book marketing plan. This is so key, and missed by so many indie authors. I think many who talk about JA Konrath miss this – he is great at book marketing! Konrath has even signed with Amazon’s mystery imprint because of Amazon’s marketing machine. He recognizes that great marketing means great sales.
What Does This Means For The Indie Author?
Obviously it means you need to learn about book marketing. You have to figure out all the channels for selling your books. And this brings me back (again) to Chan. She still hopes for a traditional book deal because she wants to see her books in stores and libraries. But so far she hasn’t received any offers that exceed what she’s making on her own. She says people are asking for hard copies of the books and she sees the traditional book deal doing this. I think she’s missing the boat a bit on this and I’ll tell you why in my next post (guess what – is has to do with one form of book marketing). But basically Chan, and the WSJ, seem to think that the only way an indie author can make money is through ebooks. But there is another book market out there…
What do you think? Is traditional publishing dying? Where do print books fit in the marketplace now?
Thanks to everyone who participated in my contest! Winner information will be posted on www.reneepawlish.com soon! And I will have the winner interviewed here as well!