Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why I'm a Dedicated Indie Author

by Marsha Ward

[This article is reprinted from the "Writer in the Pines Blog" of July 26, 2011, and much water has passed under the bridge since then. The world of indie publishing has changed in scope and names of products, so the article needed a light editing. While the author's covers may have changed since the original article came out, her attitude toward Indie Publishing has not.]

Indie Author = an author who publishes his or her work independently of traditional or "legacy" publishers, which work may take the form of either print books, electronic books, or both.

I have several writer friends who have done some variety of independent publishing, and more who are curious about what indie publishing can do for their bottom line. I thought I would share some facts about what a big change a few hours' work made in my life.

Long-time friends know why I started "self-publishing" several years ago, despite the bias against those writers who did so. For those who don't know, I had a serious health crisis, and didn't want to die with manuscripts unpublished. Therefore, over a span of several years, I put out three print books with iUniverse.

Then my books were such a resounding success with you fantastic readers that I couldn't stop to wait for a gatekeeper to accept/schedule/publish my work. Each new book being part of a series about my Owen family, that wasn't likely to happen anyway. Traditional publishers usually don't buy a series book in the middle of the arc. I am currently working on a fourth in the series I now have entitled the Owen Family Saga. [The fourth book was Spinster's Folly. The fifth book, Gone for a Soldier, came out in 2014. Both were not published with iUniverse.]

When the electronic book distributor came to town two years or so ago, I jumped on the ebook bandwagon, and signed up with my first two novels.

I decided to hold off on the third until I finished writing the fourth. A stupid decision, I discovered later, as I educated myself under writers J. A. Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, and other early electronic book authors. Smashwords delivers content to most of the big ebook retailers, including Sony, Kobo Books, and B&N--before they came up with Pub-It.* Smashwords has NOT been successful in getting distribution to Amazon, YET, and the head honcho, Mark Coker, advised us Smashwords authors and publishers to go over to the Amazon Kindle site and do it ourselves. I'd heard the Kindle preparation process was complicated and difficult, so again, I held off.

In the meantime, I had some sales through the Smashwords channels. Royalties in the two figures.

Then I decided I'd put things off long enough, added my third novel to Smashwords in late April-early May, 

and decided to see how hard it really was to format for Kindle. Astonishingly, with the free software Kindle Direct Publishing offered, it was easier than preparing a manuscript for Smashwords!

I uploaded my three novels to Amazon Kindle, and heck, just because more content is better, added several short stories and an anthology, which I also uploaded to Smashwords. I topped it all off with a Sampler of three chapters each of the three published novels, and a chapter from the forthcoming one. My prices ranged from $.99 to $3.99.


Now I had TEN ebooks of various sizes (let's call them units) going through both Smashwords distribution and through Kindle's three* stores: US, UK, and Germany.

Let me just say that I've had no, zero, zip sales through the German (DE) store. I understand a bit more now why that is, but it's irrelevent to this discussion.

After I uploaded my works, I joined a couple of Facebook groups, mentioned the works, and then got busy preparing for a road trip with a girlfriend. This took up most of May.

June. June brought me pretty low. I had emergency major surgery, and thus did no marketing for my books.

July arrived. I was beginning to feel like a human being again, and, curious to see if I'd sold any ebooks on Kindle, I took a look at my sales figures.

I about got my socks knocked off! In May I had sales of 90 UNITS in the US Kindle store ($209.03 royalty), and 5 UNITS in the UK store ($6.35 royalty).

In June I sold 94 units in the US and 3 units in the UK. Royalty figures were not available per month yet, but for the period of June 4 through July 9, the royalties from the US store are $287.09 and 63 pence for the UK.

In July thus far, I've sold 81 units in the US and 11 units in the UK.

Yes, I know, these aren't figures in the tens of thousands of sales or royalties yet, but ebooks have the advantage of the long tail. They never get swept off a bookstore's shelf after a month. They are FOR.EVER!

Remember, I've done little or no advertising that my work is even out there, and these are Western-flavored novels and stories, for the most part, not the more-in-demand romances (per se), mysteries, thrillers, dystopian YA novels, vampire tales, or zombie stories.

So, the big question is: Am I ever likely to send queries, try to get an agent, or nervously stand in line hoping for a gatekeeper to say I'm good enough to publish? I don't know. You be the judge.

*Name or number has changed since the original publication of this article.

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