Thursday, December 30, 2010

The world of "No"

So I've been thinking about what a game changer this self-publishing revolution is for writers like myself. To give some idea of what it is like for me and tens of thousands of others like me who were never able to garner the interest of agents or publishers, I've been looking back at lists that I keep of my submissions. For this latest novel, No Cure for the Broken Hearted, I sent queries to 128 agents and 138 editors at publishing houses. I was rejected by them all. I've sent similar numbers of queries for six other books, which brings us to a total of roughly 1,800 rejections. I've also written six screenplays. I sent queries to about 300 agents each for those, which adds another 1,800 rejections. For two of these screenplays I paid $85 each for a query e-mail service that sent messages to roughly 5,000 contacts each time. So over twenty years or so of writing, and querying and revising, and querying again, it has meant roughly 13,600 rejections. Sure, most of those people didn't actually say no, they just ignored me, but you get the idea.

Now suddenly for the first time I don't need to get past these gatekeepers to get my work out there. I'm not the only one. Every day I read in writer's forums of writers who got tired of all of the rejections and decided to try this new outlet. What a relief it is to finally escape the world of "no!" Some of these writers are now selling 10,000 copies of their works a month, after being constantly rejected by the publishing industry.

Of course there is some potential downside looming. What happens when tens of thousands of rejected writers all put their works up and start jockeying for attention? How does a reader muddle through all of those choices, including many that were rejected for good reason? Well, maybe it's better if the market figures this out than some harried agent or editor intent on finding the "next big thing." So far I've had 115 sales in my first month, and I couldn't be more thrilled to be a part of this new game. I'll breathe a sigh or relief knowing that those rejections are all behind me. Now I just have to finish revising some of those other works that are sitting on my hard drive!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Something to shoot for?

Well, so far my book has been up for three weeks and as of today I've had 40 sales, so thanks to everyone who has downloaded a copy! I hope you've enjoyed it. And now, just some food for thought. I read an article in the UK Guardian today about the top ten highest-earning authors. Here is the list, in U.S. dollars for this past year:

1. James Patterson ($70 million)
2. Stephenie Meyer ($40m)
3. Stephen King ($34m)
4. Danielle Steel ($32m)
5. Ken Follett ($20m)
6. Dean Koontz ($18m)
7. Janet Evanovich ($16m)
8. John Grisham ($15m)
9. Nicholas Sparks ($14m)
10. JK Rowling ($10m)

Now that's some serious cash! And JK Rowling didn't even have a new book out this year. Last year, she made $300 million... Anyway, something to think about. As for me, I'm just happy I've made $14 bucks this month and had some people read my work. Thanks again and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Talking about a revolution...

...or why I finally decided to get off the sidelines and jump into the self-publishing game.

Like many struggling writers, I've spent years writing novels, and sending query letters to agents and publishers, with no good result. Personally, with five or six novels completed and an equal number of screenplays, I've probably sent 2,000 query letters (or e-mails) in my career. This usually involves waiting long periods of time only to be rejected or simply ignored. Yes, this is frustrating, but the option of self-publishing has long had a kiss of death associated with it. First of all, it used to be that you had to pay to have your books printed, and then take them around yourself to bookstores trying to hawk them. In other words, desperation time. Then along came POD, or Print on Demand. With this technology, you could upload your files for little or no cost and the books would appear on Amazon, only to be printed when one was ordered. Suddenly self-publishing for paperbacks was at least financially feasible, though sales never seemed to amount to much for most of those who took this option, and there was still a stigma associated with it by the publishing industry.

This has all now suddenly changed. With the development of ebooks, self-published authors are now making money. Some of them, real, serious money. And for someone like myself who has a closet full of material and no takers, there is suddenly no real reason not to put it out there and see what happens. Let the market decide what is worthwhile, not some agent or publisher sitting in an office and trying to figure out what that market might like to read. Suddenly it is those agents and publishers who are starting to sit up and take notice. It seems that most of the mainstream media hasn't really caught on to what is happening here, but let me post some examples of success stories gleaned from author forums. All of these are people who were rejected by the publishing industry and decided to go it on their own:

Just a few days ago, one author reported that he had over 1,200 in sales of his novel on the UK Amazon site in one day.

Another author had over 5,000 sales in November and signed a lucrative publishing contract.

A third author started selling her books this past October and signed with a big agent this week after selling 14,000 copies in just over two months.

And lastly, one author who writes paranormal romance started selling her books this past March. She had about 45 sales her first week. By the end of August she had 10,000. In November she had 20,000 for that month alone. And for the first week of December alone, she sold 10,000 copies. By my very rough estimate, that means she's probably making about $15,000 per week now. Not bad for someone who previously netted that per year in her day job.

So yes, it is a brand new world for self-published authors. I can't suggest that I'll have the same kind of success that some of these people have had, but whatever happens it is nice to finally get my work out there. Better than having it just sit in a drawer or on my hard drive. For previously unpublished authors like myself, these are exciting times.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Changes Done

All right, so I've made a few changes to the paperback formatting and uploaded the new files. Now I have to wait for the proof and then sign off on it before they'll show up for sale on Amazon, maybe in another week.

In the end, after the advice of other authors on the kindleboards forum, I opted for cream paper. And stuck with Garamond font, 11pt., with a light blue back cover. I mention these things only because as a writer you don't usually think about things like this. Writers who sign with an agent and get a publishing deal pretty much only have to write. Self-published authors like myself have to be sort of Jacks (or Jills) of all trades. A writer with a publishing deal has an agent, an editor, a design department, a marketing department, and perhaps a lawyer, all working on different aspects of getting a book out. An "indie" on the other hand must do all of their own editing and revising, format the book for multiple outlets, typeset and choose fonts for the paperback, write their own bio, design their cover and then, when all that is done, try to figure out a way to market it. All is for naught if nobody ever hears about it.

All of this is a definite learning process. Just on formatting alone, the book needed to be set up completely differently for Kindle, paperback, Smashwords, Google, and Barnes and Noble. Ah well, it keeps me busy! :-) I've heard it said that the key to happiness is to set small goals and then achieve them. Well, there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle. New small goals to conquer every day. What more could a writer want?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Paperback proof is here!

After writing this book over two years, editing, revising, formatting, designing a cover, and uploading it all, I've finally received my first paperback proof in the mail. So nice to actually hold it in my hands! And the cover came out surprisingly well.

Very satisfied overall. Now I have to make a few tweaks, upload the new version, and then wait for another proof before I can take this version live on Amazon. Maybe another week or two? First I need to decide, cream-colored paper or white? Garamond font, or is Times New Roman better? How much space for the chapter headings? Back cover blue or gray? Who knew there were so many decisions to be made?

Friday, December 10, 2010

First post

Hello and welcome to my blog! I am a struggling novelist who, after more than 20 years of failing to find either an agent or publisher for my work, has finally decided to embrace the e-book revolution and self publish my work for Kindle and other e-book platforms, as well as paperback editions available through Amazon. I posted my first book, No Cure for the Broken Hearted, one week ago and so far have a total of 13 sales, at .99 cents each (.35 cents each goes to me, woo hooo!!).

I've decided to start this blog as a way to chronicle my journey through what I consider to be an interesting experiment. Were all of those agents and publishers who rejected me correct in their assessment of my work, or is there a market out there that I can find on my own? There's only one way to find out, right? So here goes nothing. We'll see what happens. I plan to release a few more of my novels in the next several months, as I finish final revisions. In the meantime I'll be back here to post updates and perhaps some random observations as this experiment unfolds. Thanks for stopping by!