Tuesday, August 2, 2011

5 Reasons Why Indie Authors Are Succeeding

Welcome to The Writing Bomb.

I've been consulting with two publishers recently and I've discovered five golden nuggets of information. One of these two publishers is a high end, high-quality vanity press; the other is an up and coming, recently restructured, shared-publishing press. They are digitally behind the times and still operating as if digital publishing is irrelevant to their authors.

They have a bitter sweet taste in their mouths because, I think, they have been taken off guard. It was only two or three years ago that vanity presses were booming and desperate authors were dishing out thousands to get their words in print.

I've talked directly with the editors of these publishing houses, listened to their questions and vision, and I've been introduced to their processes. In doing so, I've discovered something quite interesting: Indie authors know the state of publishing and without a shadow of doubt have a leg up on the latest ebook and publishing trends.

Does that surprise you?

Indie authors are gaining ground not only in popularity and credibility, but we are the force behind the changes in this exciting new industry. From what I've seen, some publishers are beginning to need us more than we need them. Here are five reasons why Indie authors are succeeding!

5 Reasons Why Indie Authors are Succeeding
  • Indie authors are in the trenches. We are battle hardened warriors who have had to endure the scars of rejection, ascending the depths of failure over and over again, fighting our way to publication tooth and dirt-filled nail. As a result, we've read every book on style, marketing, html, advanced blogging and "how-to" on social media. We've paid to self-publish, discovered the faults of vanity presses and have mastered the art of publishing ebooks and print with the business finesse of Jack Welch. We are starting our own publishing companies and living our dream without the help of the big six (Examples: HauntedComputer.com and Imajinbooks.com). 
  • Indies are technically savvy. In general, a growing number of Indie authors know how to effectively publish our books to every major online retailer for next to nothing. We know how to format our ebooks properly. We know how to make effective covers ourselves. We know how to add links to our ebooks and get blurbs. We've had to learn these skills because the very act of keeping us out of the publishing arena has driven us underground where we have mastered the latest technologies.
  • We know how to promote our work for next to nothing. Indie authors talk. We tweet. We email. We share information and the latest trends at a rate that would leave Google's mainframe in the dust. We've been building online relationships in our underground world and lo and behold, we've developed our platforms and relationships with book bloggers and reviewers. We've created a community that supports and publicizes each other's work...for FREE! In the process, we've gained readers on our own, not by might, but through our determination and the quality of our work.
  • Indie authors have zero overhead. We work out of our garages and bedrooms and home offices.  Our greatest expense is our computer, a cheap tool that we already own. We list our books for .99¢ and grow our readership by offering great deals, without imposing ridiculous prices on the very people who support our efforts. John Locke is the obvious example of how Indies can flourish with rock bottom price points. 
  • Indie authors are strategically positioned for succeess in the ebook market. After taking a brutal beating from indie haters, and amazon discussion forums we've learned (or at least most of us have learned) to focus on quality (editing, cover, layout). For the most part, we've matched our quality with traditional publishers and we are improving exponentially. Indie authors are winning awards, getting rave reviews (see The Kindle Book Review), selling by the tens of thousands and making a serious dent into the digital market share. Just look at the Amazon bestseller list; you'd be shocked at how many are independent authors. From a business stand point, we are in a prime position. We have a lean business model. We are the experts in our filed. And we are highly motivated!
Disclaimer: I don't mean to knock traditionally published authors. They have earned their success with equal effort and in many cases, greater skill. Kudos.
    If you're an indie author, I commend you for your efforts, self-discipline and perseverance. You came to the publishing party with your pen and paper and desire to share your stories. Little did you know that you'd stumbled into a world of digital publishing that is actually working in your favor. Throw your shackles off, write free little birdies and publish your own destiny! 

    If you're a reader, I hope you join the revolution. In the end, you are the ultimate beneficiary because when you buy a .99¢ - $2.99 ebook, you save as much as $13 per book where the author is only making 35¢ or maybe a couple of bucks at most. 

    But just so you know, each 35¢ tastes as sweet as a drop of honey.

    Jeff Bennington
    Author of Reunion, Killing the Giants & The Rumblin

    Be sure to follow by email at the top right!


    1. There's one exception I'd make to Hocking and Konrath and the 99c sales model - they use it as a loss leader, the rest of their titles are relatively at fair market value for e-books. I've also heard scattered complaints about Miss Hocking's books are full of typo's and bad grammar, but that's hearsay from me. :p Konrath also has a very extensive backlist of previous published work and an established fan base. Not to mention, Hocking accepted a contract with one of the big boys. And I disagree that "we" know more in that sense that, a great deal of what I have read recently -would still need, story wise - a good edit. - especially in character viewpoint, pacing and use of passive voice.

    2. Your point about the 35c honey drop is true. My only gripe as an indie, is that Amazon are profiteering handsomely by having their 2 stage pricing policy. As all self-published writers with Kindle (KDP) know, at 99c Amazon profit far more than the author. Then the jump to $2.99 for a reasonable 70% royalty takes away any real opportunity to price ebooks in between.

      This I think is unfair on both authors and ebook buyers. This is why there are next to no ebooks available for say $1.49, $1.99 or $2.49.

      I have to temper this by saying that it was Amazon whose technology and foresight started this revolution, so I shouldn't be too harsh on them. However, I do think it is time they revised their pricing structures to allow more scope for ebook pricing.

    3. So much is going on in my head at the moment.
      1) Writing a good book, editing, revising, GRAMMAR, voice, character development, all the necessary elements are the same no matter who publishes the book. The problem is that everyone (including myself, of course) thinks their book is amazing, and unfortunately, it's not always true. I remember the day I finished my first novel and thought it was my gift to humanity. I look at that version now and want to become an ostrich.
      2) I agree with the pricing at Amazon, but also am grateful for what they have done for me as an author. I am able to build my platform for next to no cost, a cost that is recouped easily with more book sales.
      3) I don't think anyone should be looked down on for working any system to get their book to as many readers as possible.

    4. Good points, Jeff, but you wholly left out the element of luck and timing. I've come to believe it has a much bigger role in success than we like to give it credit for, because it's good for the ego to say "i sold xxxxxx billions by myself." In truth, it was Amazon algorithms that fed John Locke and Amanda Hocking. For all the talk about marketing savvy, I'd have to ask, how come these Kindle bestsellers don't simultaneously erupt in EVERY market at the same time if it was their guerilla marketing alone?

      And don't worry about the Amazon royalty structure. I'd bet it will change in a year or two. In fact, I'll bet everything about this era will keep changing dramatically, and that's the only bet I will make.

    5. Fantastic, excellent points all. I've made a whoping $1.34 so far on my short story and let me tell you, it's the most exciting pocketful of change I've ever had :)

    6. Pavarti,

      I loved your comment. I do some stock photography and get excited with every sale, which usually nets me 30 cents to a few dollars. I just launched my 1st Novel and the 4 or 5 sales per day are really exciting.

      I am pretty new to all of this stuff, but it is fun. The opportunity for someone to do it themselves, it what has changed the game. Good post.

    7. Hey,
      I'm a newcomer to the party, but I agree with the quality part of things. There's no point in Indie Publishing if it's all going to be slush pile crap. Fortunately, some of what I've read from Indie's has been really good, and some of the trad pubbed books have been egads, not worth the effort.

    8. My family started its own publishing label and I have a self-published book under it. We've done it for very cheap (some business paperwork fees and paying a cover model) and we've already started seeing reviews and sales in less than a month. Of course we come from a background of artists and graphic designers and writers, so we're not total amateurs leaping in, but I think our business savvy will take us further.

      We know what is happening to publishing and we feel that anger when the Kindle version of a major book is the same price (within 99c) of the paperback on Amazon. We know how to network and we know that quality and cooperation are the key.

      I've bought a book at a brick and mortar book store that was FULL of mistakes but I'm also reading an excellent Indie right now. We just have to fight the stigma by editing the crap out of our work and then the industry is ours for the taking.

    9. Wonderful, Jeff! I believe you just wrote our manifesto! You not only spell out what we've accomplished, but what we need to keep doing.

      We're taking out stories directly to the public, and bypassing the gatekeepers.


      Writing as A. R. Silverberry
      Award-Winning Author of Wyndano's Cloak

      Discover the Magic of Wyndano's Cloak!

    10. RL,
      Thank you for your comments. You are so right. I actually tweaked a few of my comments after considering your thoughts. Sometimes I have a bad habit of over generalizing. Looking forward to your beta!

      Derek, Hey dude. I so appreciate your comments. I totally agree. I'd rather see a 50/50 for the lower priced books. That seems much more reasonable.

      Hi and thanks for visiting. You are correct. I too have had first time author ostrich syndrom. Great points.

      Scott, Hello my friend. So glad you took time to visit, read and comment. And yes, you are right, luck has A LOT to do with publishing success on many levels (timing, trends, economy, seasons, etc, etc). I probably could've made 7 or ten points, but you know how it is; sometimes 5 just sounds better!

    11. Hi Pavarti,
      I hear you and I too feel your pain. Some of our stuff will sell and some won't, but there does seem to be atleast one stable law that indies can cling to and that is, the more books we have on our shelf, the greater chance we have for success.

      I don't think I'd do this if I didn't love it. I decided a couple years ago that I would continue writing/publishing not for profit, but because I truly enjoy every aspect of it (writing/marketing/design/social media/etc). Sometimes I feel like publishing was created just for me, so that I can feel fullfilled outside of my life with my family.

      Welcome to the Bomb! Agreed. Sometimes I think indies are rushing to get published in hopes of "cashing in". There should be a gate for indies to pass through that fully equips them with realistic expectations and a code of ethics/quality before they get their publishing license. Alas, that will never happen. Thus the need for indies to encourage quality among ourselves. Great point.

      Thanks for commenting. Your skills and talents are exactly what gives indies the edge. Glad your part of the team. You have made all of us look better by bringing your professionalism to the game.

    12. Overhead is definitely the area where self-publishers trump traditional publishers.

      As for the areas, those are true--as far as successful ebook publishers are concerned. But it takes a lot of time and hard work to get to that level of expertise, and the large majority of self-publishers aren't putting in that work. Then there are others that put in the work and stumble because of the tiniest things, like a boring cover or less than tempting title, the wrong price, or editing mistakes.

      Still, for writers who are willing to work hard at it, there's more opportunity than ever before.

    13. I agree with everything you said in spirit, except for the price point.

      Writers of any quality and experience should not be devaluing their own work or the profession of writing in general for .99 cents or 2.99. Prices like that do absolutely nothing to promote "good" indie writers -- in general and owing to rare exceptions like Hocking, they make a laughingstock out of self-published authors.

      I spent a year of full-time days writing my book. I then sweat over every word to edit and proofread. I refuse to give away my work for next to free and so should every indie writer whose writing is worth a higher price.

    14. Hi Shevi,
      Thanks for dropping by. The time, hard work and perseverence required to not only write a good book, but an exceptional one cannot be undervalued. What can be overlooked, however, is an author who is not allowed into the publishing clubs, not because of talent, but because of reasons that are not really good enough to keep an author from being read.

      Hi Anonymous,
      Glad you stopped by as well. I do, however, believe that .99¢ and $2.99 ebooks do not undervalue an authors work.

      Here's why.

      John Locke made $350,000 on 99¢ ebooks so far. He couldn't get a book deal and he couldn't sell his books until he dropped his price. So the question is, which is devalued, a book that sits on a shelf (or locked inside a computer) earning nothing, gaining zero audience for the author, or a 99¢ ebook that gets an author an audience, some change in his pocket and readers ready to buy the next release?

      If a book actually sucks it wont sell and the truth about the worth of the author's skill is revealed. If it's a great book, and getting great reviews, both reader and author come out ahead. John's fans don't seem to think his work is less valuable because of the price. Neither do mine.

      In the case of elevated pricing. I don't see any evidence that proving that a book's price has anything to do with quality, or that is of greater value to the writing community.

      If pricing equated value than wouldn't every writer think his book to be priceless? The ones who get hurt by over priced ebooks are the publishers who refuses to lower their ebook prices, readers who pay those prices, and authors trapped in bad contracts who watch their $9.99 ebook, great as it may be, traditionally published and all, make zero money.

      I've seen both of these scenarios play out on Amazon and I believe that for an indie author who decides to go it alone, the 99¢ and $2.99 price points make perfect sence. He or she must find a way to get his work noticed and low pricing is the most intelligent mechanism in my opinion. In fact, I think you would have a difficult time finding an indie author in the top 100 with $5.99 pricing or higher, because readers don't want to risk the money on someone they have never heard of. But for 99¢ or $2.99, now the reader can take a chance...and they are...and if you checked out The Kindle Book Review Blog, you'd see that there a lot of 99¢ ebooks written by indie authors with great reviews...in fact more reviews, and some better than traditionally published authors. Are these authors laughing stocks? No. They are selling books, and having fun writing and enjoying positive feedback. I don't see anything devaluing about that.

      Of course, there is always the exception, but as in anything, weighs in equally on both sides.

      Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. Very thought provoking.

    15. It is all really making my head spin!

    16. This is an interesting conversation. I have 2 YA novels out as ebooks and so far I am seeing next to nothing in sales. I would love some marketing tips from others of you in the trenches. The post references some of the "underground" networking and getting blubs--I'd love to know how to get in on that. I love to write, but I have to admit that the business end isn't my forte. I'm on twitter (@runswithletters) and I'll also check back at this thread to see if any of my fellow indie authors can point me in the right direction. Thanks!

    17. HI Cynthia,

      I'll answer that question as brief as I can and then hopefully if anyone else has anything to add, they'll reply as well. I've only learned this stuff by asking around and immitating other authors, but still, nothing is guaranteed.

      Here are just a few suggestions.

      #1. Get reviews. This is time consuming because you have to find and email book bloggers who read your genre. (but YA, shouldn't be a problem). Then ask then to post reviews on Amazon.

      #2. Schedule a blog tour. Read My Post on Building a Blog Tour Here: http://www.gerarddemarigny.com/1/post/2011/6/building-a-blog-tour.html? This may do more for publicity than sales but if you are in this for the long haul, name recognition is an important aspect to future sales.

      #3. Work your blog. I've put more emphasis on writing top notch posts in the last 3 weeks and if you look at the bottom left of this page you'll see my traffic chart. I've had 2000 hits since I posted this post alone. The last post got me my first 1000 hits in a week. Just something to consider. Read John Locke's book on how to use your blog and twitter to get traffic and sales.

      #4. Buy an ad at http://kindlenationdaily.com. I've doubled my money every time I've used them. No guarantees though.

      #5. Request to be featured at http://digitalbooktoday.com They will feature your book for FREE (for now). I sold over 200 ebooks the week they featured REUNION...a definite #mustread! hint. hint.

      #6. Do a giveaway and run an ad on http://Goodreads.com You'll need an author account to do this.

      #7. Finally, Read my post, 6 Effective ways to Promote Your Book, at my good friend Chazz Chute's blog:http://chazzwrites.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/6-effective-ways-to-promote-your-book/

      I hope that helps. And remember, it's always more work to sell your book than to write it. Ask anyone.


    18. PS. I probably spend AT LEAST 10-14 hours a week building my online platform, including writing here at the bomb, working http://thekindlebookreview.blogspot.com, twitter and facebook.

    19. Thanks, Jeff. I really appreciate the time you took to write such an informative reply. This gives me a lot to work with. Thanks for following on twitter--I look forward to reading more of your blog and checking out your book, too!

    20. Another excellent post Jeff! I've been debating about self publishing versus traditional (when I get to that point) so I'm reading all of the pros and cons from some of my favorite writers. Thanks!

    21. Nice list! If I may be so presumptuous, I'd like to suggest a 6th: real time sales stats.

      Traditionally published authors have to play guessy-loo based on their sales ranking. At Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords, indies can log in hourly and see what sold that very hour. Not only does this help to motivate you, but it lets you tell what promotional strategies are working (and which aren't).

      Maybe that book blog tour didn't sell any extra books. Maybe those ads you're running on Goodreads did. While Amazon won't tell us where sales come from, we can make some good guesses thanks to the real time sales stats.

      Ebook Endeavors

    22. Hi Lyndsay,
      That's a great point! I really appreciate the input.

    23. Love this post! As an indie myself, I truly believe we have basically started a movement of sorts. It's obvious you feel the same way.

      I just wanted to add as well, not only does that .35cents taste as sweet as a drop of honey, I just love knowing that people are reading my work! That is an amazing feeling! :)

      Author of TIES THAT BIND, available on Amazon and Smashwords.

    24. I'm about to join the erevolution. So, am reading up your article and everyone's comments. :)

    25. Excellent blogpost and I have to say I agree with Scott Nicholson - the trends/signs are all there for some sweeping changes. Even so I'm glad I'm an Indie author. I do have a foot in both camps (1 pub novel with a 'real' publisher)who does NOTHING to promote my book I do it all! lol

    26. Hi Carolyn, M Pax and Faith....I appreciate you folks stopping by and commenting! Faith, you probably have the right idea. My dad always taught me to never burn bridges.

    27. Awesome points. :D Much better than mine :D

      "1)We're nice 2) We love what we do regardless of payment 3) We help each other 4) We respect one another's work 5)see #1"

    28. Many thanks for a great list. Very affirming. Have reposted on FB page.

    29. Hi, Michelle. Thanks for the added points...all true.

      Publishing Info, Thanks for posting. Please come back anytime!

    30. Hi Jeff, your article assumes that all indie authors are previously unpublished by the big six. I'm actually making the switch from Penguin to author-published .... and so far loving it. Here are some of the reasons why: http://www.mslexia.co.uk/blog/2011/11/going-indie/. Nice blog and thanks for the work.

    31. The indie community is certainly very supportive! I've met I huge number of great people (and discovered some excellent books) since I first joined it earlier this year when I published my romance 'The Royal Sheikh'. I think it will only continue to grow and get stronger.

    32. As a new author, I personally have not found the Indie group so supportive. It may very well be that I do not know where to reach out for help.

      All tips are appreciated.

    33. My biggest complaint with the Big Six is that they can't think on their feet. Even if they pick up your book and run with it, its like 2 or 3 years before it hits bookshelves? Screw that.

      That's ridiculous, inefficient, and unappealing.

      I can get a book from first draft to bookshelves in less than 90 days. I'd love a big fat money contract from the Big 6 boys, but other than that one fact, I have no desire to function with them at all. Esp when they dog out good work and publish crap.


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