Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Making it in E-books

After a year selling my novels as e-books on Amazon and elsewhere, I’ve been doing some thinking on what it takes to really make it big in this endeavor. Actually, it didn’t take a whole lot of thinking, just a bit of observation. All one has to do is take a look at the writers who have thrived in this market and the pattern becomes clear enough.

Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath, John Locke… They all write genre fiction of one type or another, and they are all very prolific, with numerous titles feeding off of each other. Locke has at least twelve novels out. Konrath ten or more. Hocking has around twelve as well. Both Hocking and Locke have sold more than a million copies of their books, and counting.

I could also compile a long list of lesser-known writers who are making a living with e-books and who also have these traits in common. A writer on the Kindle Boards forum posted just the other day that since she started putting her novels out six months ago, she’s already had 50,000 sales. She writes genre romance and has 15 titles up so far (including shorts).

Talking about sales figures at all is a little antithetical to the creative spirit of a writer, I have to admit, but it does deserve some consideration since I’m actually trying to make a living at it. What these trends I’ve mentioned tell me are that for me it is going to be quite difficult. Not impossible, but difficult.

Why? Because I’m just not the type or writer who can pound out the titles like the authors I’ve mentioned above. I take my time. I agonize over word choice. I go back and forth over paragraphs time and again, and when I am finished with a complete draft, I start from the beginning, over and over. Even now, I know that if I went over the books I already have out, I’d have plenty of changes to make.

I don’t have any qualms about my writing process. Sure, I wish I could motivate myself to work a little harder sometimes, but the truth is that I need to take my time. I can’t rush things. When I have problems sorting out a character, or a plotline, I often have to step aside and let my subconscious work it out. That’s just the way it is.

So no, I’ll probably never get rich selling e-books. I did manage to support myself with my writing this year for the first time in my life, but only by spending a good portion of the year in Budapest, where my expenses were less than $1,000 per month. With a third book due out in a few months and a fourth sometime later in 2012, hopefully I can keep it up, but after that I’m afraid my output is likely to slow. I’m running out of previously written works to revise and post.

This all leads me to the conclusion that perhaps the traditional publishing model might be the better option for me. Being involved in this e-book revolution has been a great experience for me in a lot of ways, but last week I went ahead and contacted editors at all of the “Big Six” publishers. Three of them wrote back right away requesting Sweet Ophelia.

Fingers crossed they’ll show some interest, but if not, I still won’t give up on writing as a career. I know it is possible for me to survive selling e-books, but perhaps I’ll have to learn to crank them out a little faster!


  1. I'm with you on not being able to 'crank them out' Kenneth. If it were at all possible for me to produce two books a year, I know for sure that either the quality of the writing or quality of my life would have to suffer. It's best to be true to ourselves and write at our own pace. I wish you success!

  2. Yeah, I have a step-uncle who is a mystery writer and he cranks out a book in a month, then takes five months off, and then does it again. Two months of writing per year and he puts out two books per year, year after year. I'm just not wired that way. BTW, congrats on "Reaching." I'm enjoying it so far!