Tag: <span>books</span>

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One of the most pungent, entertaining and candid dialogues you may ever read between two indie writers, available in transcript, came in March 2011 between Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler, two science fiction novelists who were traditionally published before moving into self-publishing.

Both felt strongly about going indie.

How strongly?

Eisler confirmed he’d been offered a half-million dollars by a traditional publisher, and rejected it to self-publish instead. “I know it’ll seem crazy to a lot of people,” he told Konrath, “but based on what’s happening in the industry, and based on the kind of experience writers like you are having in self-publishing, I think I can do better in the long term on my own.”

Even Konrath, a long-time advocate for independent publishing, sounded a little stunned at the dollar amount, but not at the point Eisler was making. He said, “My switch to self-publishing isn’t personal. It’s just business. I can make more money on my own.”

For example, he added: “Currently, my novel The List is the #15 bestseller on all of Amazon. I wrote that book 12 years ago, and it was rejected by every major NY publisher. I self-published it on Amazon two years ago, and it has sold over 35,000 copies. … In self-publishing, I’m seeing more and more books take their sweet time finding an audience, then take off.”

Eisler and Konrath are not rare examples among strongly-selling traditionl authors who take the independent route. In my last post, I wrote about mystery writer Lawrence Block’s experiences in self-publishing. And the numbers are growing.

I’ve had no bestseller books, but this week I’m working on both traditionally published and self-published book projects, one in the mornings, the other in the afternoons.

Many such authors combine traditional publishing and independent approaches.

J.K. Rowling, whose wildly popular Harry Potter print books were traditionally published, is now offering those books in digital form herself on the website pottermore.com.

Susan Wittig Albert, traditionally published fiction writer (of the China Bayles and the Darling Dahlias mysteries and many more) went indie when publishers took a pass on a fictionalized story about the origins of the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” books. In the February edition of Writer’s Digest she reported aggressively marketing the book through social media, reviews (highly favorable) and elsewhere, and promptly sold more than 12,000 copies and sold rights to other publishers. “I’d do it all – all over again,” she said.

On the research website Quora, sci-fi novelist Michael J. Sullivan remarked that, “I’m actually moving toward ‘hybrid’ which means I’ll do both traditional and self-publishing. The traditional route has worked out well for me, established creditability and expanded my audience. … But I hate the draconian contracts and the business models of trade. Self offers higher income (per book), complete freedom and a faster time to market.”

In his book On Writing, Stephen King describes writing and making money from his first horror novel – as a self-publisher. That was in high school, the novel was brief and made on a cheap copier, and he had to give back the sales money after the school principal found out he’d been selling copies on campus. But before he was caught, he was making (a little) money on the book.

Later on, of course, King became a traditionally published massively selling author. But as he was an example early on of an author who moved into self-publishing before a big publisher came calling, so has he been among those stepping back into self- and independent publishing. In 2000, he experimented with a serially-released book called “The Plant,” made available through his website. He later released digital-only tales (“Riding the Bullet,” “Ur”) himself, while also continuing releasing his work through traditional publishers.

Many other authors have worked in both worlds. Their approaches have been as widely varied as independent publishing itself.


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A few months ago visiting CreateSpace I took special note of the promotion spot they’d included for a new indie CS author. The promos have been there for a long time, but this one startled me: It highlighted a writer I knew (through his books), one I’d been reading for more than three decades.

The highlighted novel was The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, and the the writer, as you may have guessed, was Lawrence Block, a deeply experienced and solidly-selling author of about 50 mystery and other novels and several nonfiction books, some of them on the subject of fiction writing. (One of those has one of my all-time favorite titles: Telling Lies for Fun and Profit.) The bulk of his books, published over half a century, have been published by houses such as HarperCollins, Macmillan, Dell and Arbor House. Some have been turned into movies. He is a grand master of the Mystery Writers of America, among many other commendations. His books remain popular and continue to sell.

He’s certainly not at CreateSpace because he “couldn’t find a publisher.”

So what’s he doing in this new world of self-publishing?

In an e-mail interview, he recalled “My first venture into self-publishing was thirty years ago, which I’ve blogged about occasionally, was a home seminar for writers called Write For Your Life. I printed 5,000 books and sold them, and that was that.

“When technology allowed me to bring out backlist titles as ebooks, I rushed to take advantage of it. Then, just about four years ago, it occurred to me that I’d written a book’s worth of Matthew Scudder short stories over the years, and that while many of them had been included in my omnibus volume of short fiction, they could make up a book of their own, especially if I wrote one more story for the volume. Now my regular publisher might well have been persuaded to bring out such a book, but I couldn’t delude myself that it would be a hot ticket, likely to fly off the shelves of America’s remaining bookstores. And I saw it as great opportunity to try self-publication. I enlisted Telemachus Press, an excellent work-for-hire company, to handle ebook and POD paperback production, and The Night and the Music has been selling steadily since its debut in the fall of 2011.”

Block has been recovering from publishers the rights to some of his older books, republishing himself through print-on-demand.

“In a sense, things came full circle a year and a half ago with the POD paperback publication of ‘Write For Your Life’,” he said. “HarperCollins issued it in ebook form some years ago, but I could see from reader feedback that it was a book people wanted to be able to thumb through as one can only do with a printed book. So I got it ready for CreateSpace, with a nice new cover, and it’s been selling very nicely with no promotion beyond word-of-mouth.”

He’s also begun to publish new (original) work himself, sometimes using small publishers for the print versions, and keeping (and using) the e-publication rights in his own ways.

This has been ramping upward in recent years. “One thing I always had the urge to do was self-publish an original A-list novel, and I did this on Christmas Day of 2013 with a brand-new Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery, ‘The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons’. I could have published the book with my regular publisher, but I really wanted to do it myself. And I didn’t want to wait a year and a half for it to be on sale. After all, I’ve reached an age where it’s not really advisable for me to buy green bananas. This way, I wrote the book in July of 2013 and five months later it was on sale.”

How well has it worked out overall?

“I think, in the short run, I probably left some money on the table. But in the long run I think I’ll come out ahead. More to the point, I did it the way I wanted to do it and had fun throughout.”

I checked out how several other successful authors – with a solid traditional-publishing background – entered and approached self-publishing. I’ll have more on that in my next post.

See more at BookWorks.