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.


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 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 and I’ve run one banner ad for Charming the Shrew at I’ve tweeted a little and put some things on my Facebook page.  My books were featured at 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.


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, 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!


Kindle – The Future of Publishing?

Kindle 2

Kindle 2

I’ve been thinking for a while now that e-publishing is about to really take off.  The Kindle, with Oprah’s help via endorsement on her show, has proven that people are willing to read this way.  Heck, I’ve gotten to where I prefer to read this way. 


A friend lent me a book last week.  It’s big. It’s hardback size, but paper back.  It’s hard to read in bed, or to carry around.  I read enough to know that I’m interested in reading the whole thing, but then turned to a book waiting for me on my Kindle.  I returned the big honkin’ book to my friend and downloaded the free sample of it from Amazon.

Now, here’s the thing about the free samples… 

I’ve already read enough of the book to know I want to read more, but I use the free samples as a virtual TBR pile (that’s a To Be Read pile for those of you that aren’t book horders).  I’m in the midst of another book at the moment but I don’t want to forget to read the loaned book.  If I go ahead and buy the ebook it may get moved off my front page and I’ll forget if I’ve read it or not.  Really, I will.  I’m bad with titles.  But if it’s a sample, then I know that 1. I haven’t read it yet and 2. I was interested in it enough to put it in my Kindle.

When I get done with my current read, I’ll look through the four or five e-books in my virtual TBR pile (samples) and decide which one I’m ready to read.  I can choose to download it right from the last page of the sample and voila, another book has moved off the TBR pile and is getting read.

That’s why I, Laurin-the-reader, love my Kindle 2. 

But I’m also Laurin-the-writer and I’m really intrigued by the idea of publishing through Amazon/Kindle.  Author Joe Konrath shares his experience (meaning royalty statement info!!) with Kindle publishing as compared to traditional NYC paper publishing on his blog: Kindle Numbers: Traditional Publishing Vs. Self Publishing.

Now, compared to Mr. Konrath, my books are unknowns to most people, so I know that my numbers would be smaller. To date my publisher has only published one of my books in electronic format and it has typically sold a handful of copies per year for the last four or five years.  My last royalty statement shows 24 copies sold in the previous 6 months.  That would, theoretically at least, equate to 50 ebooks sold this year.  Wow.  It’s an old, mostly forgotten book, but it’s e-sales are rising without me doing any promotion.  And while I make a generous 15% on these e-sales, I could set my own price and reap a 35% royalty from self-publishing through Kindle/Amazon. 

Unfortunately I don’t have my rights to my books back yet, but when I get them (soon I’m hoping) I will definitely be experimenting with this new way form of publishing.


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