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How 6 Pieces of Self-Publishing Advice Led to Averaging $1,250 a Month in Book Sales

I’ve been at this self-publishing thing for a year and a half just about, and it’s been one of the most expensive, time-consuming, and anxiety-ridden journeys I’ve ever undertaken. I’ve spent anywhere from $6,000-8,000 out of pocket to put my work out there in a form I could feel proud of. I didn’t need to spend that much, but I was a newbie with no idea what I was doing.

Then I started seeing what worked and what didn’t.

I published my first novel, Trainland, last March of 2012 and spent months watching my sales go from 0 to 5, then 0 again, then maybe 5 or 10, and then 1 or 2 again. Those were monthly sales. I think I sold around 50 books in the entire year of 2012. At the time, Trainland and my collection of dark short stories, Peltham Park, were the only two books I had for sale.

Now, three novels later, I’m earning an average of around $1,300 per month. This past August, I sold 619 books. Not a staggering amount, but the two best sellers, Ascendant and Savant, (which account for 85% of sales) are priced at $4.95 with a 70% royalty rate, which means I was able to net $1,600 in August alone. That’s up from around $900 in July, a month after I published the two big ones. (UPDATE: Prices may have been lowered for marketing purposes).

And you know what? The hard part was writing the novels and honing the craft. But publishing them and selling copies? It’s not too difficult when you understand which mistakes to avoid and which guidelines to follow.

Here’s what I hold to be the most important lessons I’ve learned about indie book publishing, and I’m going to be incredibly blunt. No sugar coating. (more…)


Why Reading Outside Your Genre Makes You a Better Writer

The most successful published authors out there tend to stick to one genre.

If you look at people like James Patterson (thrillers), Dean Koontz (supernatural thrillers), Nicholas Sparks (romance), Stephen King (horror) and George R.R Martin (fantasy), you’ll see that the genre in which these writer become successful is the one that continues to define them, and as a result, they rarely stray from the conventions of that genre. There’s a reason for this.

Writing novels for mass consumption is in many ways like turning your business into a franchise. Walk into any McDonald’s or Starbucks and you’ll be treated to the same atmosphere, menu, and aesthetic scheme that you encountered the last time you entered one of these stores. Authors do something similar when they produce novels in the same genre; after a few books, readers know what to expect and they continue to buy the author’s books in hopes of experiencing the same thrill. A good “genre” author gives them that thrill again and again just as a good franchise offers the same quality of taste and experience customers have come to expect regardless of the store’s physical location.

Because they’re a pretty safe bet for readers, genre authors sell thousands, if not millions, more copies of their books than “literary” novelists who choose to structure each novel according to a different theme or method. When a literary writer chooses to structure her latest novel around the exploration of narcissism in daily suburban life, most people won’t know what to expect story-wise and therefore won’t always take the risk or pay the money to find out. But literary authors also enjoy a special level of prestige and acclaim that can make their path worthwhile, regardless of the hit they take financially.

Ultimately, successful authors–whether their success is financial or critical–tend to stick to the field/genre they’ve chosen. And that’s usually a good thing. It lets them grow better over time and lets you, the reader, feel comfortable buying anything they write as long as you’ve already enjoyed their work in the past.

But regardless of whether you write literary or genre fiction, there’s one mistake all authors should avoid: it’s the mistake of only reading books in your genre. (more…)

What a High-Volume Sales Job has Taught Me About Publishing

There’s something every published or publishing writer can learn from salespeople.¬†Whether you’ve signed a contract with a publishing house or you plan on publishing your books yourself, the techniques used by salespeople can benefit you.

A little background: I started a sales job six weeks ago that involves being on the phone pretty much all day (when I’m not interviewing people, which I do for 2-3 hours each day). For 50 hours a week, with no lunch break except the fifteen minutes I spend eating at my desk while reading the news, I cold-call people and companies to find jobs for computer programmers, software engineers, tech support people, and IT managers.

I can honestly say that after six weeks of doing this kind of work (and strangely enough I love every minute of it) I’ve learned a ton about being a self-published writer that I would not have learned otherwise. (more…)

A “Shark Tank” Publishing House for Authors: But Could It Work?

If you’re an author as well as a fan of “Shark Tank,” the TV show in which millionaires compete to invest in unique start-ups, you’ve probably wondered what it would be like to have someone invest in your book without taking control over your career–including the royalties–the way traditional publishing houses do. Could a publishing house exist that would invest money in polishing and marketing your novel without actually owning it?

Part of this idea came to me after reading¬†a conversation among three bestselling authors who have been in the publishing game–both traditional and indie–for decades. These guys–Dean Wesley Smith, JA Konrath and Barry Eisler–know that a lot of authors out there are getting ripped off, and they especially advise against giving up rights to your work forever just to score a book deal with a big publisher when there’s so much you could do yourself while keeping your rights.

Using their advice and warnings, I thought I’d draw up a crude business model for a publishing house that could satisfy their demands and mine. It’s the publishing house of my dreams since it would take a huge financial burden off my shoulders by allowing me, the author, to choose how much the company would invest and how much they would get to keep afterward, without giving up ownership of my book.

But could such a business ever be profitable? (more…)

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