E-books and indy/self publishing

‘The world is changing, Grasshopper, and we’re all scrambling to make sense of it.’

The buzz is all about authors who have a following making copies of their out of print books available through Smashwords (or some other avenue) as e-books. Anna Jacobs, a top selling romance writer, also wrote a fantasy series and a stand alone SF book as Shannah Jay. These have been out of print for a while, so she put these books up on Smashwords. She’s also released the prequel to the fantasy series.

Anna says her fantasy books sell better in Australia, than they do in the UK, and her romance sell better in the UK where she is known for them. The fantasy sales have not been very exciting, but …

‘I have 5 historical romances and one modern novel up at Amazon under my own steam, two regency romances up there (and at all sorts of other places) via Regency Reads – I only ever wrote two regency romances. The rest of my books are put up by my saga publisher.

Tracking is fiddly but numbers are worthwhile financially on the books we put up ourselves. For example, my historical romances have recently had between 2 and 5 books in the top 100 ebook historical romance sellers in the UK (out of 7 books published as ebooks) and my sagas have had similar numbers in the top 100 sagas.

These numbers go down while the UK sleeps and up again when the UK wakes up. It’s very pleasing. Yesterday I had 5 historical romances in the top 100 at about 5pm and 6 sagas in the other top 100 list. Today I had one historical romance in the list at 2.10 pm Aussie time today, and 3 sagas in the other list. The lists change every hour.

For most of these sales I get 70% of selling price if sold to someone in the UK or USA, 30% if sold to elsewhere in the world. It’s not in the league of my print book sales, but makes a nice addition to my income. For those from my publisher I get only 25 % of sales, standard royalty rate for ebooks at the moment.’

Over at the Mad Genius Club- Writers’ Division, Several of the writers have formed Naked Reader Press (Meaning naked as in e-books). Submission details for NRP. They say:

‘Naked Reader came about when a group of us, all writers, editors and others in the publishing field as well as a few with legal or accounting backgrounds, got together and started talking about what we would like to see in a publishing house. That conversation quickly turned to the number of authors who were taking advantage of e-publishing through their own sites, through “cooperatives” and the like. A few more conversations down the road and we came to the conclusion that we wanted to offer more than just our own books and stories for sale. We wanted to offer the opportunity for authors with backlists to release those books in a digital format at terms that were fair to them; terms that would keep cost to the reader down while giving the author more money per book than they would get through a traditional route. Later, after more talk and a lot of research, we decided that we could pool all our talents and Naked Reader was born.’

And there’s  The Book View Cafe.

‘Book View Café came together in March of 2008 around a group of authors (click here to see our complete author list) with a simple aim: to use the Internet to bring their work directly to their readers. It was already clear that a revolution was coming to the publishing industry and these authors wanted to help shape its course.

Working with a shoe-string budget and volunteer labor, but drawing on a collective century’s worth of experience in the publishing industry, they created the Book View Café website. Rather than just another clearing house for books online, they created a space where readers could browse and discover new authors and titles alongside current favorites. Aware that the Internet demands variety, the authors made sure that fresh fiction appeared on their front page every day, a feat made possible by the extensive list of material available to over twenty professional authors.’

But how successful are these ventures and can you achieve sales if you are a ‘newbie’ author?

Here is a guest post by Robin Sullivan, wife of writer Michael J Sullivan about his e-books self publishing. She says:

‘Many say that Joe’s success is a direct result of his traditional publishing foundation and that new authors can’t hope to do the same. Since we don’t have a time machine so that Joe can remake his career, perhaps looking at someone who started with nothing, and is currently selling similarly, can be used as an example for what is possible.’  She goes on to talk about the new fantasy series that they have self published and the sales it is making.

And then here’s Amanda Hocking.

Here’s a Huffington Post article about fantasy writer, Amanda Hocking’ who has written 17 novels (she’s only 26 – Obsessive moi?). She’s self published and, since April 2010, she’s sold 185,000 copies.  She says:

‘I decided to self-publish, and I thought it would be better than them sitting on my computer. Worst case scenario, nobody would read them, and that’s what was happening anyway.’

LOL, good on you Amanda.

Here’s an article by Derek J Canyon on self publishing in e-book format with information on sales.

All of this is really interesting. I’m really happy with my publisher so I won’t be rushing out to self publish. I like to know that several other professionals have read my books and edited them rigorously before I send them out into the world.

But, like everyone else, I’m watching e-books and what’s happening in the real-world market with interest. Have you bought self published e-books? What’s the quality been like?

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14 Responses to E-books and indy/self publishing

  1. At least these days the internet offers a way to promote a self published book as well as a cheap way to actually do the publishing. I couldn’t imagine self publishing dead tree books 15 years ago and trying to spread the word.

    I haven’t done anything yet but hopefully within the next month I’m going to be offering my book for free on the net (with an option to donate if anyone wants to read book 2). I’m just waiting on a cover and for me to get around to finishing the site.

    • Hi Scott, no time no see, or in this case, no hear!

      Are you planning on using the give-away as a draw card to bring people back to your site to buy your next book?

      • Scott says:


        Yes, the plan is for everyone who reads it (probably all ten of them) to want to read book 2. And if they do then hopefully they will be willing to pay a couple of dollars. The second book is close to being done (just cleaning up where I cut 60k words from book one and added it in plus the polishing). I have another unrelated novel (I’m about 1/2 – 2/3 of the way through)which, if I get a good enough response, I will make available as well. And another one which should be close to the top of the Baen slush pile by now.

    • Good luck with the manuscript in with Baen!

    • Why not offer your book at 1.99 through Smashwords. Target some reviewers and send the free copies get them to post the reviews to Amazon, Goodreads etc. Better in the long run when you release your other books IMHO.

      Also depending on how you offer it on your site – you could get some stats on downloads by having it on smashwords.

  2. Jess says:

    I have read a few that have self published in ebooks but they also publish at some other larger ebook publishers – people would read one of her books at publisher and then look her up only to find a heap of books that are self published (really well self-edited etc) If I was to self publish ebooks I would do this as a form of advertisement to.

    I have also noticed http://www.samhainpublishing.com publish ebooks of a few of my fave paperback authors, Ilona Andrews did one called Silent Blade. One of her reasons was that it takes so long to get a book released in paperback that its something nice for the fans.

    She releases 2 paperbacks a year (and usually 1 short story in anthology) so as a fan it was lovely to read something of hers while waiting for her other books to release :)

    • Ilona has a following and you know you are getting quality.

      Eventually I will get an e-book reader. (had to cull my book shelves last year, it was just getting too much). This way, I can try lots of different authors.

  3. Rowena, thanks for the shout out. I do want to clarify one thing. While a several of the authors who are part of the Mad Genius Club have published with Naked Reader Press, they are onboard only as authors — and I do appreciate the fact they’ve jumped on board with the company and have “seeded” us with some wonderful work.


  4. I like the idea of self publishing especially as an aspiring writer (that’s if I can get my ass into gear) but having reviewed a couple of highly rated self published ebooks out there I have been burned by poor quality i.e. anything from character names changing,repeated phrases, to unrefined writing and poor formatting (to be fair this last one occurs with large publishing houses a they sort out ebook formats).

    I am hoping that as the ebook market gets better we will find better ways of sorting the wheat from the chaff. At the moment I feel a lot of good writers works are being obscured by waves of mediocre fiction.

  5. I downloaded a sample of one of Hocking’s books, it was a little rough, unrefined. The wrong tense was used in one instance. But people love her work and I won’t begrudge an author earning money.

    • Hi Sean,

      I haven’t done that. I’m just so busy, I can’t spare a minute for something that I’m not sure is 100% on the ball. I know that sounds awful, but between, gym, renovating, working and trying to get my next trilogy finished (not to mention 5 kids at home with their partners coming and going!), I don’t have time to catch my breath.

      I agree. I certainly don’t begrudge an author the opportunity to make money from their writing.

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