Sunday, February 12, 2012

Show Me the Money

I've been reading some interesting articles on self-publishing -- in particular, how some writers (John Locke, Amanda Hocking) have sold millions of books. Which generates many, many royalty payments.

However, there is another set of millions to consider. This group contains the writers who would like to emulate Locke and Hocking. (Hocking sells an average of 9,000 books a day.) So they write a book, format it for Kindle and CreateSpace, say a prayer and launch it.

And wait.

I've played that game, too. I feel very lucky if I sell one book a month. Somebody out there bought my book! I can buy a cup of coffee!

Maybe my expectations are low or maybe they are simply realistic. No one knows my name, so they aren't looking me up to see what I've written lately. They have to stumble across me or hear about me from someone else who knows someone who has read my book.

It's the old Catch 22. The book has to be a best-seller before people recognize your name, and it won't beome a best-seller if no one knows who you are.

So the next step is gaining recognition. In other words, become your own publicist. Some people are very good at this. They are someone's guest blogger every day. They write a blog with their book prominently pictured somewhere in the margin (gotta do that!). They have a website (check) and Tweet a dozen times a day. They go on forums and modestly drop their book's title in the conversation.

That's fine, if you have time. I don't. Neither does Locke, who has kept his day job. So how did his book make it?

He writes very good books. That should be step number one.

Secondly, he pays an editor to go over his manuscript. Too many writers think they can catch their own typos and flaws in the plot (hint: they can't) and send out a book riddled with errors.

Think readers will be eager for the next one?

He also hires someone to design his covers. This should be a no-brainer, but too many people rely on a friend or their kid. Or they say, "Hey, this is easy, I can slap together a cover using Google Images." One word: beware of copyrights.

I'm not saying most self-published books are terrible. Quite the contrary; many authors pay close attention to grammar, editing, plot line, etc. They shell out the bucks to get a professional cover. And their stories are darn good.

I got an e-reader just to download books written by people in my writing groups who ae self- or Indie-published. Many of these are as good or better than some best-sellers I've read. So why aren't they raking in the dollars?

That, my friends, is the question. Maybe there are just too many books out there. Maybe it takes time to get recognized. Maybe it is all pure luck of the draw.

Maybe, in the end, word of mouth is the best advertisement.


  1. Great post. It's a huge topic in our local chapter and book bombs seem to help move you up in the rankings, but you're right, you still need to send out quality.

    Thanks for putting the question out there.

  2. I enjoyed the read:)...And, from all I can tell (which is like the blind leading the blind)'s sometimes a composite of all you mentioned.

    I've indie-pubbed several of mine...the rights returned and I thought I'd give it a whirl. So far, so good. I am fortunate, my "cover man" lives with me;) So that cuts down on one cost!:)


  3. Interesting post, Sandy. If you figure out the secret, please let me know!

  4. Self promotion is a time drainer. Time you could be spending writing the next book. However, you have to do something to get yourself known. I agree with Robin. Let us know when you find the perfect balance.

  5. Nice post Sandra. When you find the answer I'd love to hear it!