It’s a Writer’s Revolution

 The following article was originally published in the Virginia Romance Writers monthly newsletter, Novel Ideas.  I have updated my sales and marketing information since the original publication.

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The e-book buzz has been building for years but now, with e-reader prices coming down, readers are moving to e-books at a faster and faster clip.  

It’s an exciting new world for readers. 

As e-books become a more important part of the market, publishers have to figure out how to shift to accommodate multiple formats, enhanced content, pricing expectations, and timing of digital vs. print releases. 

It’s an expanded and complicated new world for publishers. 

New ways to publish books digitally and directly to distributors means writers have options they never had before.  Backlist books can have new life.  Unmarketable stories (according to agents or editors or marketing departments) can find their niches.  Or traditional publishers can be skipped for the independent route altogether.

It’s a revolutionary new world for writers.

My road to revolution:

In the last quarter of 2010, I became a revolutionary.  About a year and a half ago I started reading A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, Joe Konrath’s blog, and I started to get excited by the possibilities of this new paradigm in publishing. I realized that my backlist, all out of print, though one was still offered electronically, was languishing.  A whisper was beginning among published authors that perhaps, just maybe, we could take these oop books back and give them a new and exciting future.  Maybe, just maybe, we could take back control of our careers and find new ways to be published authors.

I started by getting my rights back from my publisher — a lengthy, but ultimately not difficult process, especially since my agent managed this. Over the summer I found a talented young artist to create new covers for my books, and I began to proof my electronic copies of my books against the edited paperback versions.  Next I used the Smashwords.com formatting guide to get my files ready for publication.  In late September, 2010, I put The Devil of Kilmartin up at Kindle, then Smashwords.  It had been the only one of my backlist available from my publisher electronically. 

In the previous royalty period (six months) it had sold six electronic copies at the paperback price of $5.99 with a 15% royalty.  The first week it was up at Kindle for $2.99 (70% royalty on US and UK sales!) it sold six copies without me doing anything other than adding it to my signature line on my emails. Two of those sales happened before I even told anyone the book was available. 

In one week I’d equaled the previous six months worth of sales.

In late October I republished Charming the Shrew and in mid-November Daring the Highlander.  I joined Backlist eBooks, a marketing cooperative dedicated to authors republishing their traditionally published backlist books, began tweeting more often, and stuck my toe in the water at Kindle Boards.  In November I revamped my website completely.  I joined KindleKlatch, an email loop dedicated to the topic of marketing e-books (backlist and digital originals) for traditionally published authors.  Every time I get a moment to catch up on my email loops, I learn new things about prepping books for the different e-reader formats, new spinoff services for those who don’t want to do the prep work themselves, and new ways to get the word out, not just about my specific books, but about the whole idea of e-books. 

My sales are rising at Amazon from that modest beginning of 6 copies sold in September, 2010, to a total of 7032 copies as of about 8:00 am this morning, 3/9/11.  Amazon is by far my best venue, but I’ve also sold 28 books at Smashwords.  Smashwords has also distributed my books to all the other major e-book retailers though I don’t get timely sales report from those sources.  As of the dates noted this is what I know has sold at other venues: 81 copies at Barnes & Noble (as of 12/25/10), 45 at Sony (2/26/11), 40 at Apple (12/25/10), and 25 at Kobo (1/29/11). The books were also distributed to Diesel, but so far no sales have been reported there. Note that in the case of B&N and Apple the numbers are only through Christmas day and all the velocity in my sales has occurred after that date so as you can imagine, I’m chomping at the bit to see what’s happening sales-wise at those sites.

I haven’t done a lot of marketing. Backlist eBooks has run a couple of sales that I’ve participated in. I’ve done one guest blog at SavvyAuthors.com and I’ve run one banner ad for Charming the Shrew at Kindleboards.com. I’ve tweeted a little and put some things on my Facebook page.  My books were featured at DailyCheapReads.com on Valentine’s Day. 

But something happened on January 31st, which was the day my banner ad ran and just a few days after my Savvy Authors guest blog post, that put Daring the Highlander on Amazon’s 100 Hot New Releases in Historical Romance bestseller list.  I have no idea if my small efforts had anything to do with landing on the list or if it was just coincidental timing, but that was the tipping point and sales began to climb very quickly, so that by the end of February I had beat my January sales 5 fold and all three books landed on other bestseller lists at Amazon during February (and are still there!).

That’s my short story. I have high hopes that it will end up being an epic tale.

Your road to revolution?

What does this new publishing paradigm hold for the not-yet-published writer?  It’s hard to say. There are stories cropping up of those never traditionally published authors who are going the indie route and are being discovered by readers. Amanda Hocking’s name is murmured on the net with shades of awe and envy.  I throw around J.A. Konrath’s name on a regular basis, especially since he’s been a mentor, via his blog, to many of us taking the indie route. 

What I do know is that professional editing, professional covers, a professional looking web site, great book blurbs and as many reviews as possible are all required to show your book, whether previously published or independently published, is a professional product.  It’s a lot of work that traditional publishers have done for authors in the past, but in exchange for doing the work yourself (or hiring professionals to do it for you) you will have more control over your books and your career, and you’ll keep a hefty chunk of the profits.  For some writers the trade off isn’t worth the work and, honestly, the up-front money.  For others, it opens up new vistas. 

Fortunately, both paths to publication are available and both have obstacles and opportunities. Many authors are taking both paths, using the new paradigm for some books and the traditional paradigm for others.

However, the revolution is gaining momentum as more and more authors see the possibilities of this new publishing model.  Readers are also jumping on board with blogs and bulletin boards dedicated to bargain e-books and indie e-books.  Marketers and PR folks are starting to join the revolution as the method of getting the word out changes to match the e-format of the books themselves.  Artists, editors and copyeditors are finding new work as authors begin to seek out professional services themselves, rather than through the traditional publication process.

This new path has allowed me to rediscover the thrill of both publishing and writing after a long disenchanted lull in my career. I’m working on a new Scottish historical now.  I’ll publish it myself.  It’s a lot of work, and there are no guarantees of success, but then, that’s writing. My publishing future will be in my own hands, right where it should be. 

I’m taking the revolutionary route.

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Pricing eBooks: Food for thought

I’ve been having a great ongoing conversation with my two best friends, one yet-to-be-published and one a NYT and USA Today best-selling author, about the shift in the publishing world that is happening.  Yes, I’m talking about the surge not only of ebooks, but of authors re-publishing their backlists themselves via the usual e-outlets, Amazon, B&N, etc., and the choice that is now viable for both traditionally published and not-yet-published authors – Independent e-publishing.

One facet of the conversation, not just between me and my friends, but between everyone involved in publishing and, perhaps more importantly, readers, is the pricing of e-books.  I regularly choose not to buy books I’d like to read because the Kindle price (my e-reader of choice) is equal to, or, amazingly, more than the price of the paper version.  This is not Amazon’s doing. It’s the publisher’s doing.  I regularly tag those books as too expensive because, well, I need to vent my frustration somewhere and that seems a relatively civil way to go about it.

Pamela Palmer, the said best-selling friend, sent me a link today to a great article on the pricing issue.  Now there’s math in this article that, frankly, I might have understood back in grad school when I was taking statistics but find incomprehensible today.  However, there are pretty graphs (I love a good visual aide!) so skim over the math if it bothers you, but do look at what this guy learns from his analysis.   In a nutshell, publishers are kidding themselves if they think they can’t lower e-book prices and still get a damn good return on a per book basis and sell more books.

Evil Genius Chronicles: Ebook Pricing vs Revenue

Seems I’m not the only one that thinks ebooks can be, and should be, priced lower than their dead tree counterparts. 

Your mileage may vary, but here’s my personal experience with this pricing issue:  Only one of my books had ever been released electronically by its NYC publisher.  In the last 6 months it was available from the publisher (roughly the second half of 2009) it sold 6 copies (down from 12 the previous royalty period), priced at $5.99, the same price as the paperback.  When I republished that book electronically, priced at $2.99, it sold 6 copies the first day and has gone on to a respectable 83 copies sold in December at Amazon alone.

Shameless self promotion: My backlist eBooks are all priced at $2.99. It’s working for me.

It’s becoming more and more clear that the traditional publishers are scrambling to keep up with the rapid changes in the book world.  Let’s hope they all figure out the pricing issues soon.  It will be a win-win-win for publishers, their authors, and readers if that happens!

It’s a Writer’s Revolution

The following article was first published in the January, 2011, Virginia Romance Writers newsletter, Novel Ideas:

The e-book buzz has been building for years but now, with e-reader prices coming down, readers are moving to e-books at a faster and faster clip.  

It’s an exciting new world for readers. 

As e-books become a more important part of the market, publishers have to figure out how to shift to accommodate multiple formats, enhanced content, pricing expectations, and timing of digital vs. print releases. 

It’s an expanded and complicated new world for publishers. 

New ways to publish books digitally and directly to distributors means writers have options they never had before.  Backlist books can have new life.  Unmarketable stories (according to agents or editors or marketing departments) can find their niches.  Or traditional publishers can be skipped for the independent route altogether.

It’s a revolutionary new world for writers.

In the last quarter of 2010, I became a revolutionary.  About a year and a half ago I started reading A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, Joe Konrath’s blog, and I started to get excited by the possibilities of this new paradigm in publishing. I realized that my backlist, all out of print, though one was still offered electronically, was languishing.  A whisper was beginning among published authors that perhaps, just maybe, we could take these oop books back and give them a new and exciting future.  Maybe, just maybe, we could take back control of our careers and find new ways to be published authors.

I started by getting my rights back from my publisher — a lengthy, but ultimately not difficult process, especially since my agent managed this. Over the summer I found a talented young artist to create new covers for my books, and I began to proof my electronic copies of my books against the edited paperback versions.  Next I used the Smashwords.com formatting guide to get my files ready for publication.  In late September, 2010, I put The Devil of Kilmartin up at Kindle, then Smashwords.  It had been the only one of my backlist available from my publisher electronically. 

In the previous royalty period (six months) it had sold six electronic copies at the paperback price of $5.99 with a 15% royalty.  The first week it was up at Kindle for $2.99 (70% royalty on US and UK sales!) it sold six copies without me doing anything other than adding it to my signature line on my emails. Two of those sales happened before I even told anyone the book was available. 

In one week I’d equaled the previous six months worth of sales.

In October I republished Charming the Shrew and Daring the Highlander.  I joined Backlist eBooks, a marketing group dedicated to authors republishing their traditionally published backlist books, began tweeting more often, and stuck my toe in the water at Kindle Boards.  In November I revamped my website completely.  I joined KindleKlatch, an email loop dedicated to the topic of marketing e-books (backlist and digital originals) for traditionally published authors.  Every time I get a moment to catch up on my email loops, I learn new things about prepping books for the different e-reader formats, new spinoff services for those who don’t want to do the prep work themselves, and new ways to get the word out, not just about my specific book, but about the whole idea of e-books. 

My sales are steadily rising from that modest beginning of 6 copies sold in September, to a total of 227 copies as of December 15th at Amazon, and 14 at Smashwords.  Smashwords has also distributed my books to all the other major e-book retailers and I’ve just begun to get sales reports from those sources: 13 copies at Barnes & Noble, 1 at Sony, and 2 at Apple. The books were also distributed to Kobo and Diesel, but so far no sales have been reported through those outlets.  I hear of many authors who are doing a lot more sales than I am, but again, I haven’t done much for marketing yet and I only have three books available so far.

What does this new publishing paradigm hold for the not-yet-published writer?  It’s hard to say, but there are stories cropping up of those never traditionally published authors who are going the indie route and are being discovered by readers.  Professional editing, professional covers, a professional looking web site, great book blurbs and as many reviews as possible are all required to show your book, whether previously published or independently published, is a professional product.  It’s a lot of work that traditional publishers have done for authors in the past, but in exchange for doing the work yourself (or hiring professionals to do it for you) you will have more control over your books and your career.  For some writers the trade off isn’t worth the work and, honestly, the up-front money.  For others, it opens up new vistas. 

Fortunately, both paths to publication are available and both have obstacles and opportunities. Many authors are taking both paths, using the new paradigm for some books and the traditional paradigm for others.

However, the revolution is gaining momentum as more and more authors see the possibilities of this new publishing model.  Readers are also jumping on board with blogs and bulletin boards dedicated to bargain e-books and indie e-books.  Marketers and PR folks are starting to join the revolution as the method of getting the word out changes to match the e-format of the books themselves.  Artists, editors and copyeditors are finding new work as authors begin to seek out professional services themselves, rather than through the traditional publication process.

This new path has allowed me to rediscover the thrill of both publishing and writing after a long disenchanted lull in my career. I’m working on a new Scottish historical now.  I’ll publish it myself.  It’s a lot of work, and there are no guarantees of success, but then, that’s writing. My publishing future will be in my own hands. 

I’m taking the revolutionary route.

Please visit Laurin’s book site, LaurinWittig.com , for more info on her latest ebooks.

Adventures in Republishing

Charming the Shrew - The MacLeods Book IIt’s been quite a while since I’ve had a book out so I’m really excited to have, over the last couple of months, republished my backlist electronically.  The Devil of Kilmartin, Charming the Shrew (The MacLeods Book I), and Daring the Highlander (The MacLeods Book II) are all now available through Smashwords.com, Kindle (US and UK stores), and at least Devil has been distributed to most other ebook retailers.  The other two are in the pipeline for those other retailers and will, hopefully, show up there before Christmas day.

I never liked the way the business of publishing treated (most) authors in general, or me, in particular, so this has put the control, and the full responsibility, back in my hands, which is right where I want it.  As a result of this empowering process, I’ve rediscovered the thrill of both publishing (it’s always fun to have books out where readers can find them!) and of writing, after a long lull.  It’s particularly gratifying to be able to check the sales reports at Amazon and Smashwords and see books actually being sold! 

Three dead books now have new life.  What can I say – that makes me happy.

Daring the Highlander - The MacLeods Book IIIt’s been a steep learning curve just to get the books republished, and I’m now embarking on the brave new world of marketing ebooks – another steep learning curve from what I can tell.   If you’re considering taking this path with your backlist, I’m happy to share my experience.  If you have knowledge about marketing ebooks (and I know some of you do!) I’d love to know what’s worked for you, and what hasn’t.  It’s been a few years since I had to play the marketing game and everything has changed just that fast.

If you’ve never been traditionally published, I’m not sure what my advice is on whether to independently e-publish or to stick it out and go for a traditional publisher.  There is still a certain status that is conveyed simply by a traditional publisher taking a chance on you and your book.  At the moment, there really isn’t an equivalent “gate keeper” on the independent publishing side of the business.  I’m not saying there should be, just that we are in a between area right now and the judge of what makes a “professional” writer still falls on the side of traditional publishers.  

But that’s going to change. 

I’m not sure how that change will manifest or exactly when the validity of a well-selling independently published ebook will begin to bestow “professional writer” or “a writer to be taken seriously” status, but it’s going to happen and not that far in the future.

But in the meantime, there is still value to a writer’s career in going the traditional route with a traditional publisher.   You need to assess that value when deciding which roThe Devil of Kilmartinute you want to pursue in publishing.

So as Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, I find I have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is that once more these books that I love have been given a new lease on life, and I’ve been given a renewed sense of optimism about the book publishing industry.  I think that’s a pretty good place to be.

 I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 Laurin

Brainstorming at the Beach: Ninc Conference

Novelists, Inc held their conference on Oct. 6 – 10 at the Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach in Florida this year.  It was my first time at a Ninc conference, but it won’t be my last.   The conference was a phenomenal experience (if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you’ve heard me rave about this conference already and maybe seen some pics from the beach). 

One author I met there was Sasha White.  Sasha did a series of interviews of the attendees and speakers and is putting them up on a couple of blogs she posts on.  Here’s one, and yes, that’s me in the shades at the beginning:

Sasha is posting more video interviews from the Ninc conference at her blog: http://www.sashawhite.net/blog/ 

I have a ton to report from the conference as well, but for now I’ll let Sasha sum it up for me!

Laurin

Republishing: Step One in My Adventure

It’s been awhile coming, but I found out today that my rights to my books published originally by Berkley Publishing have reverted to me.  Which means I can now embark on a path I’ve been hearing about, but hadn’t sallied forth on yet — republishing in electronic format.  One of my books has been available electronically for years, and for years it sold about 12 copies annually.  Last year it sold 24 copies in 6 months — without me, or my publisher doing anything.  I wonder what can happen if I work at selling those books?

I’m looking forward to putting my own edition of that book, The Devil of Kilmartin, up electronically, as well as my other two that have never been released electronically.  I’ll be commenting here on the project as I move through these muddy waters and figure out how to do this.

Fortunately, there’s a guy who has been making waves in this area — Joe Konrath.  He’s been talking about his experiences with republishing electronically, as well as publishing directly to electronic format, over at his blog A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing just in case you want to get the lowdown on his experience.

I know I have to format my manuscripts properly, then get new ISBN’s, new covers, and figure out where to upload the books, what price to sell them for, how to market them… yikes, it’s a whole new kind of publishing to learn.  I’ll be blogging about my journey here so stop back by and see what I learn as I jump down this rabbit hole!

Laurin

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