Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Best Seller That Publishers Wouldn't Touch

After countless form letters, hair pulling, and fear of mass rejection, I was told by agents and publishers alike, "Thanks but no thanks."

Well I have news for them, REUNION would've been a good buy.

After several months of diligent blogging, tweeting, and review peddling, my breakthrough novel had sold over 6,000 copies without their help. I did everything a publisher could've done on my behalf; the editing (Jacque Penn/Neal Hock), the cover art (me), the ebook formatting (Ted Risk) etc. I didn't think I'd have to work as hard as I did. I spent hundreds of hours promoting and guest blogging. I built a platform through The Writing Bomb and The Kindle Book Review because I had started at ground zero.

Before I go any further, I have to thank the dozens of readers and writerly friends I've met on Twitter and facebook. Indie authors will never succeed without the underlying support of others.

Perhaps my lack of "Platform" was the only reason Reunion was rejected, but I doubt it. Maybe they thought the story was too risky. Or maybe they thought the masses wouldn't be interested in a supernatural thriller about the struggling survivors of a school shooting?

Whatever the reason, they passed. It wasn't good enough for them. And honestly, I DO NOT feel any bitterness toward the publishing system. They had their reasons, and a business plan, and I didn't fit.

No worries. No skin off my back.

But you know what? I'm really glad I didn't let the old-publishing system discourage me, or make me reconsider whether Reunion could succeed. I guess I just don't like to hear "No". I never have. So I wasn't about to let their decision stop me from moving forward.

Being the industrious person that I am, like so many indie authors, I put my nose to the diamond-grit grindstone and started to figure out how I could get this book out to readers without a publisher. It took many hours of study, and blog reading, and online research, but it was so worth it. I discovered that "pay to publish" is just wrong. I discovered that the steps required to get a good product is much easier than I was led to believe. And I discovered that I didn't need a publisher to sell the story I needed to tell.

I believed that the life of a school-shooting survivor would be difficult. I believed that these teenagers lives would be dramatically altered. In my heart of hearts I felt a deep concern for the pain and hurt and scars that they must have endured. And I knew they would carry the pain with them, affecting every aspect of their adult lives.

My research proved that I was correct. Did you know that when young people go through school shootings, the effects (as in level of post-traumatic stress) are often far more severe than those of trained soldiers who experience military combat? It's true. The reason is because adolescent and teenage frontal lobes aren't always fully developed, among other reasons, so the impact of the experience is magnified, causing severe cases of ptsd. In fact, I communicated with one of the survivors of the Columbine shooting before I published and he told me that it took him 10 years before he began feeling "normal".

Interesting isn't it? Imagine the variety of experiences. Imagine the countless twists of fate?

As a writer my mind took my concerns and went wild. The result was Reunion, a supernatural thriller that has since become an Amazon best seller as of yesterday (December 24, 2011), a day I will never forget.

That day has changed my life, but not for the reasons that you might think. Yesterday is so special because it proved that I'm worthy of respect as a writer no matter what the publishers say. AND because it proves that YOU are too...if you are diligent.

Every time an independent author makes the best seller list, it proves that the old system is broken. Best selling indies are clear evidence that publishing houses don't always have the best eye for what will sell. Making the Amazon Best Seller List also proves that publishers do not know how to weigh the value of an author's level of determination, and commitment.

I think I have a great story, and I know I have determination. Had they only but asked, I could've communicated why I was going to be a best seller with or without them.

But Amazon Select did it? Never mind Amazon Select. I made the decision to join while others didn't . I made the decision to go on a 45-day blog tour. I made the decision to price my book at 99¢ until the time was right to change. There are many great books and Amazon and an agent will never never help fate choose who wins. Publishing success is more complicated that one simple program. It's my beief that prayer and God's good graces have more power than any online program. And I know there was plenty of that over the course of the last several months.

All to say, I feel like I won the wager between me and the publishing industry. I don't care if Reunion falls out of the Top 100 before I finish this post. I still won. Indies everywhere won in 2011 and 2012 is looking even better.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

~ Jeff Bennington is the (Best Selling) author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance & Creepy.
4.4 Stars
5 Stars
5 Stars


  1. What a great post! We see more indie authors, musicians, workers, business people nowadays - for more than one reason. In your case it was to publish a work of art.

    I wish your book fit my blog unfortunately I review children's books. It probably would of fit my other blog tho - GivingNSharing except I don't review eBooks (it's to hard on my eyes).

    I'm very happy for you that you have succeeded. Hopefully it will continue to get high marks for you. Congratulations!

    Tina 'The Book Lady'

  2. Congrats! May all your books hit #1 (and mine too lol). Persistence COMBINED with a great edited piece is the key. Thanks for the post.
    Renee Pawlish

  3. I'm happy to hear of your success, Jeff. Have a Merry Christmas and enjoy that new Kindle Fire. My dad got one also and LOVES it!

  4. Ha, well done, Jeff! I do believe most of this is luck--especially with the KDP Select roulette wheel--but you did the writing, you built the community, you met your friends and readers, you timed things well, and there you go!

    I have to say, though, that getting published in trad pub is just a different kind of luck. The important thing is, as you said, sticking to what you believe the story should be! Enjoy the ride.

  5. Congrats Jeff!! That is fabulous. :D

  6. @Tina ~ Thank you. Glad you came by to visit.

    @Renee. Thanks. I wish the same same for you as well.

    @Rob. Thanks for the well wishes.

    @Scott ~ Thank you so much for all of your support and info and blurbs etc, etc. So glad you took pity on this father of 4.

    @Shannon ~ Thank you.

  7. Nice work! I'm very happy your hard work has paid off in the success of your book, and I'm also enjoying the like-mindedness we share on the subject! (My novel, "Momnesia" will be released this spring). I think you'll enjoy this blog post I recently wrote about changes in the publishing industry:

    Keep up the good work!

  8. Bravo Jeff!

    I feel your pain and your success. I had an identical experience with my forthcoming book, LiNK: The Fascinating Ways Our Minds Connect. I had a public speaking platform, a book with numerous backers from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and countless others. The agents read my proposal and sample chapters. They loved it! book deal because quote, "you're not well known enough." They discount social media—to their peril.

    So...when LiNK is released next month, I'm taking it to the road—literally. I will speak all across the U.S. and Canada via places my social media connections live. Leveraging connections in journalism and the mainstream media (over 150 presentations will be given). The traditional publishers are not taking on new authors (in general) and they stick to a business model that is sadly outdated. Within five years the Big Six will be replaced by the Big Three, Apple, Google, and Amazon.

    Hence, I wish you great success with your book and I'll promote it via my social network as well.


  9. CONGRATULATIONS Jeff! I also believe in prayer and hard work and it is thrilling to watch you accomplish your dreams. I had to laugh in agreement when you said "if Reunion falls out of the top 100 before I finish this post" because a few people have asked me for "marketing tips" (because I broke a category) and every single time I started that ridiculous "marketing" blog, my sales came to a halt. I know nothing about marketing. I do know about prayer, hard work, and the gracious support of fellow authors and readers. A couple of writing conference speakers once said that 8% of the traditionally published books carry the other 92%, which means their predictions about what will sell must be wrong 92% of the time. I'm always happy to see givers like you succeed. Thank you for sharing with us, Jeff! Here's to great Blessings for 2012!

  10. Great Jeff! I have to say it was encouraging to see this post, my book Blood Orchids shoulda-coulda-woulda got a pub deal five years ago and now I'm going Indie and not looking back. I will take a look at yours, and hope you find time to sample mine, mutual support is where its at in this brave new publishing world.
    Much aloha from your triberr mate, Toby

  11. Great Jeff! I have to say it was encouraging to see this post, my book Blood Orchids shoulda-coulda-woulda got a pub deal five years ago and now I'm going Indie and not looking back. I will take a look at yours, and hope you find time to sample mine, mutual support is where its at in this brave new publishing world.
    Much aloha from your triberr mate, Toby

  12. Very inspiring! And congratulations on becoming a best seller - what a great Christmas present for you :-)

  13. Jeff- I am in tears! You have said what most of us feel. I was going to start writing after retirement, but I have been out of work for years in a quasi forced retirement. A friend of mine said to keep sane I should start now. I should go to my desk like I am going to work and just write. I did. I didn't think I would get anywhere, but I finished my first book
    "2012 Armageddon: Unholy Alliance". I self published. I am an indie writer. I don't have your success yet and each day that I feel that rejection, I renew my determination to get the word out the best that I can with no marketing budget. I hope I can reach that milestone someday too. Congratulations

  14. "Indie Writer" is not a dirty word. It doesn't mean a lower quality of writing and it doesn't mean you aren't a "Real Writer." It is the way of the future and it allows you to have creative control over your work. It allows you to make available the product you envisioned instead of a bastardized version made to fit the status quo. We all want to hold that hard cover copy of our book, but Traditional Publishing is becoming obscolete. Besides, had you sold 6000 copies the traditional way, much less of the profits would be in your pocket. Be proud!

  15. Followed you over from a friend on twitter, and I'm so glad I did. Your blog post is very inspiring, and it's definitely good to know that with the right amount of research, work and perseverance an individual can still hit the bestseller list. Thanks for that! :D

  16. Two thumbs up Jeff. Stories like yours always encourage the rest of us who are still slogging away in the trenches.

  17. Congratulations!!
    *virtual hugs*
    This is what every indie self publishing author wants to hear.:D
    Since starting to look into the self-published ebook phenomenon in July,and joing Twitter in August, Ive been impressed by the way authors help and support each other. Its lovely. I'm on the sidelines here,cheering you on, and gearing up to do my first venture. And yes, YOU WON!
    Merry Christmas, and a happy 2012

  18. You're absolutely right about the system being broken, mostly by the lack of enterprise and courage on the part of the publishing industry.

  19. @Lori ~ Thank you. I wish you the best of luck with MOMNESIA.

    @John ~ Way to stick it to the man. Your platform sounds very much worthy of a deal.

    @Brenda ~ Just so you know, I've been watching your book stats and I'm very impressed with how quickly you rose through the ranks. Looks to me like the IBC/99centnetwork may have contributed to that. What do you think? Or are you doing other promotions? And thank you so much for ALL your support. You've been there from th every beginning, blog tour, no reviews, etc. You've been a great support and encouragement to me as well.

    @Toby ~ Glad I could be an encouragement to you. Keep on keepin' on.

    @Charity ~ Thank you. I appreciate that.

    @PK ~ Thank you. Didn't mean to make you cry, but if it motivates you, so be it. I hope your book does well. My number one recommendation to authors seeking to publicize their work with zero budget is to join Amazon Select..hands down.

    @Jessica ~ Thank you for the encouragement. I'm very proud that I'm indie. I don't think I could stand someone having control over pricing, cover and content. Yuck! Come back again. Your thoughts are always appreciated.

    @Jasmine ~ Thank you. Glad I could inspire.

    @Rejean ~ Keep Slogging. If you have a great book and have done everything write, you have a greater chance at success. Good luck!

    @Marsha ~ Thanks for the hug. I know this is what every indie wants to hear. I just hope they want to hear the other posts about being professional, getting properly edited, etc. etc. Many do, but some persist in putting out over-priced junk, trying to cash in on the movement. And that is sad. Hurts us all. Best of luck to you.

  20. @Written Word. ~ Thanks for reading. Unfortunately, we all have the propensity to get comfortable, making us resistant to change. But seeing John Locke and Amanda Hocking is an indication that the pubs are watching and learning.

  21. Congratulations! It gives hope to us little guys to know success happens. May you sell even more.

  22. Jeff,
    I'm thrilled with your success and noticed that Reunion was at the top of the Ghost chart (where my novel bounces around as well).

    Can I ask: how did you use KDP Select to your advantage? I'd love to hear the nuts and bolts of what you did (so I can, uh, totally copy it).

    Again, congrats. Always is inspiring to see another indie succeed.

  23. @Wendy~ Thank you. Come back and visit.

    @Rob~ Thank you. I appreciate that. As far as nuts and bolts, I'm writing a guest blog for The Creative Penn about my first month with KDP Select. All I can tell you is watch for it because it could transform your career.

  24. Congratulations and thanks for sharing your success with us here! It helps keep me working towards my goal when I hear that others are already doing it!

  25. Hey, Jeff, my only promotional strategy (along with prayer) is the whole copycat strategy already mentioned, lol. I have copycatted off Scott Nicholson and you a lot and I'm grateful that there are kind authors out there like you who are generous enough to share what works for them. People like you help make this whole journey fun! And, wow, it was more special to watch this happen with you from the beginning. Thank you, too.

  26. @Leslie (Moonduster) ~Sorry to blow your cover. My pleasure. It's easy to share that I got lucky. Your cross promotion and indie author support you provide will come back to you too.

    @Brenda~Looking back on the time when I started that blog an unknown, previusly poorly-reviewed shmuck, it IS exciting to know that there a few peeps out there who can verify that I was truly all of the above. It proves that through hard work and diligence, anyone who can write a good book can also succeed in this brave new world.


Any comment not directly related to this article will be deleted and marked as SPAM. Authors... this is posted because of all the CRAZY porn spammers that have hit me lately. If you are an author, writer, reader, please leave a reply.