Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Indie Authors: Past and Present

In the not so distant past, indie authors were all about print books, and in some circles they still are. Back in the day (as in what seems like yesterday) we had to write our book, get it printed and then hand sell that puppy to any chain store or mom and pop outfit that was kind enough to put our books on consignment.

That is so yesterday.

If you are venturing into the wide world of self-publishing, and plan to get your book in stores I would urge you to stop. Please stop. You are wasting valuable energy. The phone calls, the Saturdays wasted on "Self-pubbed" book signings that at most sell a dozen copies must end. You are wasting time, and losing money—lots of money.

Independent authors need to understand something, and this is my opinion based on my experience; print books have made a turn. They, as in your books, only want to see your family, friends, reviewers who have bad eyes, and that occasional peep who can't seem to get over their love for the smell of paper.

Your book wants to be in print, but only for the chosen few, and, so you can hold it in your hand. After that, it doesn't ever want to see you again. It wants to be free. It wants to see the world. It wants to drink tea in the UK and walk under the Eiffel Tower and visit as many German breweries as possible. That's what your book wants.

You are not the Olsen twins or Ozzie or Justin Biber.  You will not be welcomed into the chain stores with fanfare and raving fans (save a few). You are the guy behind the little desk with a stack of books in front of you, instead of in your reader’s hands. ~~~>>>>

Today's book has matured. It has grown up and wants to be free from your clutches.

Surely you remember your youthful desire to get away from your parents and see the world, see new places and meet interesting people? Well that's what your book wants. It's part of a new generation and the idea of sitting on a shelf collecting dust is no longer appealing to his or her kind. It needs the energy and bolt of confidence that comes through the Internet and Amazon's Whispernet technology. Your book wants and deserves readers by the thousands. And what parent would give his child a serpent when she asks for a loaf of bread? What parent would give their daughter poison when she asks for a drink of water?

We are clearly in a new age. My computer experienced the Internet for the first time is 2001, but all of my kids are growing up in a time when the Internet is commonplace. Ebooks are likewise going to become commonplace. Print, in my opinion, will not disappear, but will fade into the shadows.

If you are still working at trying to get your books in stores, I applaud you, but only because I admire your love for the printed book. Seriously, there is something about paper that is alluring to me as well. But from one author to another, I believe your time is better spent writing more and selling online.

If the business of selling ebooks is new to you, let me bring you up to speed. Unknown, independent authors, like myself, are selling thousands and tens of thousands of copies of our digital books. Gone are days when a good book signing churned out ten copies and an order for six more. Things have seriously changed. And I hope you get on board soon. If you do, I can help you get on the ship and start sailing, but I’ll warn you, the sea is rough, dangerous, turbulent and most of all an adventure like no other.
• • •
Less than a year and a half ago I sat in a writer's conference in Indianapolis and listened to a panel of experts in the local writing community go silent on ebooks unless directly asked by a member of the audience. When asked about epublishing, the pros avoided the topic as if knowledge on the subject would stain their careers. They were clueless and many still are. This post may not make you an expert on “indie publishing” but it will keep you from looking like a fool when talking ebook shop.

Do not listen to the traditionalists unless you are dead set on getting published traditionally by a major or small press. I don't have a problem with someone going down that road. We all have a right to choose our own path. But if you desire to go the indie route, know this; you will likely sell one print copy for every thousand ebooks (my personal experience). I'm not talking about the first 200 print copies that are a shoe in from Aunt Bessie and Uncle Vern. No, I'm talking about that reader in Nebraska who hasn't heard of a Kindle or Nook for every thousand who have.

The publishing business has changed. Indie authors need to think differently, faster, and stay on top of technology. We need to write the best stories we can, get them edited and get a great cover and get them out the door formatted for mobi and ePub. We need to consistently churn out great reads and stop wasting time with the traditional methods. That's how we make money. That's how we stay in business. And that's how we get read.

Time is a valuable commodity. Use it well. I recommend joining Amazon Select (at the time of this writing), staying ahead of the curve and welcoming technology with open arms, because the picture I've painted regarding the publishing business is likely to change sooner rather than later. If you don't move with the waves, you will be left on shore... on a very hot, sandy beach that will leave you parched and sun burned.

**All this from an indie author who’s gone from “no name” to “Amazon Best Seller” within nine months of deciding that I would do this on my own instead of listening to people who ONLY want my money. If you truly care about your success as an author and you don't want to wait around for that perfect agent or perfect publisher who want to take all but 8% of YOUR royalties on something YOU created, than take heed, listen to me, write more, go indie, and sell. I'm here to help.

Look for my soon to be released book, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.

Jeff Bennington is the best selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance & Creepy
True Ghost Stories


  1. For the record, I did put my book in print -- after selling it as an ebook only for three months. It cost me $50 to do so and I made half of that back in its first week of publication. It's a nice option to give people who want to read your book but don't have an ereader.
    That said, I agree totally with the sentiment expressed here. The focus should be on the ebook, not the print book. And instead of trying to make the local library host you, you'd be better off writing your next ebook.

  2. I have to disagree slightly. I agree that ebooks are the future and for most in the long run it will be your cash cow, but there is still a market for paperbacks. They are soooo easy to get ready to print and I've sold so many to my network of family and friends that I've more than recouped the Total cost for the books (editing, cover and so on). You can read my article if you want, where I break down some numbers.
    Now, I know about formatting so I didn't have a lot of time invested, so that might be a factor for people. But it's been well worth it for me :)
    Thanks again for your insights.

  3. hey jeff, cool post, too early for me to comment based on my short time in the indie pub. world, right now, i'm sponging up everything i can (including your excellent post) keep it up!
    only 9 mo's to become an amazon bestseller, that speaks volumes (e-volumes, of course) about you and the fact that u kno of what u speaketh!

  4. @Kelly ~Thank you. Come back soon!

    @Rob~ Hi Rob. Thanks for coming back. Thought I'd see ya again. Good for you getting your book in print. It is necessary, but as you said, shouldn't be the focus... not like it used to be anyway.

    @Renee ~ I think you misunderstood me. I definitely believe that it is important to get your book in print and I know that it costs very little with todays technology. No argument here at all. All I'm saying is that selling print should not be your focus. The ROI (return on investment) is not worth the effort compared to the ROI in ebooks. Print is essential in getting reviews, selling to the locals and to the obscure reader who discovers our print books. Go print! Just don't go crazy on print.

    @Andy ~ Thank you. Glad you stopped by. Follow by email so youcan get all of my posts. Looking forward to seeing ya around.

  5. Yes, ebooks are awesome. Also, current Fact: 80% of non fiction books are stills sold in paper.

    Some sell better as ebooks, some as paper. Some both. It all depends on the book.

    But, think of other places to sell books, rather than just book stores. My friend sold over 300,000 paper books in place like Jamba Juice etc.

    There are actually so many more possiblitlites that just ebooks and books stores. Check out yourbookinstores.com if you want more info.


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