Independent authors are making progress

By Scott Bury

‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’, Moonbot Studios, William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg, made available to Europeana through Ars Electronica and Kulturpool, CC BY-NC-ND

I don’t know what, specifically, is going on, but my admittedly very slow sales have picked up since mid-January.

My sales numbers are still far from huge, but I’m not complaining. I’m seeing daily sales numbers for The Bones of the Earth, Initiation Rites (which is Part 1 of The Bones of the Earth), and even my short story, Dark Clouds, rise almost each day. Most of this is happening in the UK, but sales are up strongly in the US, too.

Naturally, I’m happy. I might attribute it to the general improvement in the economy, six long years after the “financial crisis.” Maybe it’s Obama’s doing. Or maybe a post-Olympic high.

Seriously, though, I am sensing a surge in mainstream acceptance of the independent author and e-books.

Yes, e-books are mainstream. And independent, self-publishing authors are mainstream, too. The commercial publishing industry just hasn’t figured it out, yet.

I may feel chuffed by a relative, if absolutely tiny, increase in sales over the past six weeks. But then I see something like independent publishing machine, Russell Blake’s

Writing machine Russell Blake

post on Facebook, and I get depressed.

Wow. Just doing the accounting for January and February. Looks like a milestone. 500K books sold! Woohoo! How the hell did that happen?

How indeed?

Russell’s not the only one. Toby Neal, independent author of thrillers, published candid numbers on her blog. She invested $12,000 in the editing, design, production and marketing of her first book, Blood Orchids, and netted over $100,000 over the last three or four years.

Now, thrillers are the second-biggest selling genre, after romance, and far ahead of fantasy in the overall book sales picture. But paranormal author Jami Gold pulled together some analysis by other authors and found that writers who treat publishing as a business and keep putting out good product are more likely to make a living at it. More than half of authors who have written more than 12 books are making over $50,000 a year or more, she found.

Probably the best-selling self-published novelist of all, Hugh Howey, author of Wool, has stirred up a lot of dust by publishing an analysis of sales numbers posted by Amazon and major publishers. When it comes to genre fiction, e-books account for 86 percent of books sold, and independent authors outsell the Big 5 commercial publishers combined.

Writing is an art, but publishing is a business

As I mentioned in my December post on this blog, we independent authors of genre fiction need to approach publishing as a business. And since we individually don’t have the depth of pocket to compete with the Big 5 in marketing, we need to find other ways to reach audiences.

We need to work together in a coordinated way to raise our profiles and promote books. Together, we can provide all the functions and intelligence that a commercial enterprise can bring to bear.

I recommend to anyone who wants to know how to reach a wider audience to read Martin Crosbie’s excellent book, How I Sold 30,000 EBooks on Amazon’s Kindle — An Easy-to-follow self-publishing guidebook. It’s exactly what it promises: a step-by-step guide on establishing relationships with authors and audiences, building goodwill and promoting your book. He also spells out in detail how to use Kindle Select, free promotions and discounts to boost sales, and on what techniques work and what don’t.

Maybe we should prevail on Russell Blake to detail “How I sold half a million books in two months.”

How do we reach wider audiences? The answer is obvious: treat selling your books like a business. Have a strategy that involves cooperating with other independent writers. Cross-promotion, group sales events, using social media effectively.

So what do you say, fellow authors? Who is ready to spend their promotional time more effectively by coming together and working strategically

Based in Ottawa, Canada, Scott Bury is author of Initiation Rites, The Bones of the Earth, Dark Clouds and One Shade of Red.


8 comments on “Independent authors are making progress

  1. I’m not going to worry about my book sales. Because if what’s been transpiring over the past 16 years is of any indication, my target audience doesn’t exist.


    And I’ve gotten to the point where I just don’t care anymore. So my writing, my novels aren’t going to reach anyone in the near future. Which is funny, but isn’t the internet where you can connect with millions of users and build yourself up that way?

    In my case, the internet, the social media experiment has been a mitigated disaster. No matter what I’ve tried to reel people in with, nobody seems to be that interested in what I’m offering.

    Twitter is a lost cause, my blogs are all but dead, and Facebook is a cosmic joke unto itself.

    So there’s not much else I can do. I’ve burned enough bridges to last a lifetime.

    But it hasn’t stopped me from writing.

  2. Thanks for the positive spin on indie books. I just self published my second book (the first was years ago when publishing was a whole different animal and the Internet was barely a blip), and am getting discouraged by the slow numbers.

    I have a facebook page, am a goodreads author with a new blog, I’ve done goodreads giveaways, I annoy everyone I know with my title, entered in 20 different awards, paid for small goodreads and FB ads, dropped cards all over Detroit, asked friends to repost for me, did two book signings, consigned in two books stores…and still I’ve only sold 30 books since October. Three of those were to my mom and husband. LOL

    Short of spending thousands for a TV ad, I guess I just have to keep writing and hope for bigger numbers!

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