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Self-Publishing: A Tale of Two Cities

31 October 2011

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Self-publishing these days is increasingly a tale of two cities.

There are established authors, like Nyree Belleville, who says she’s earned half a million dollars in the past 18 months selling direct rather than through a publisher..

Then there are new authors, like Eve Yohalem. More than a month after self-publishing, she has grossed about $100 in sales— after incurring costs of $3,400. She said she’s in no rush, though.

. . . .

Self-published women’s fiction writer Darcie Chan has seen her new work, “The Mill River Recluse,” hit No. 5 on The Wall Street Journal’s list of digital fiction bestsellers for the week ended Oct. 23. Ms. Chan priced her novel about a secretive widow living in Vermont at 99 cents, and says she has sold “hundreds of thousands” of copies since it went on sale on Amazon in May. The book, also carried by Barnes & Noble Inc. and other e-retailers, was previously rejected by major publishing houses.

. . . .

“My original intention was to gradually get my name out there as a writer, because when it was rejected one of the things I heard was that nobody knew me,” says Ms. Chan. “I never expected this.”

Ms. Chan says the book was featured on several Kindle-related sites that recommend e-books to readers. In August it broke into the top 10 on the Kindle store, where it ranked No. 6 Friday. She paid a site to review her book, which she thinks may have given her book a boost. And she also did some “inexpensive Web-based advertising” which also got the word moving among readers. Ms. Chan, a lawyer by training, said the novel is now being resubmitted to major publishers.

Then there are writers like Erik Kjerland. He has self-published four novels and one book about self-publishing in the past year under the pseudonym Derek J. Canyon. His profit of about $5,000 on sales of roughly $10,000 is better than he’d hoped but not enough for him to quit his day job as a technical writer.

. . . .

“One of the big differences between e-books and print is the sales cycle,” says Ms. Yohalem. “It’s almost inverted. A chain store buyer makes a decision as much as six months before the book is published, and then it has no more than six months on the shelf. At that point your sales cycle is over. But with e-books, it’s completely the opposite. It’s often six to nine months before your book takes off, and you never take it down.”

She says she began to think seriously about self-publishing after her second book—a collection of short stories aimed at readers 6-10—was rejected and she realized there wouldn’t be enough of a market to lure a big publisher. She also wanted to experiment with self-publishing. Her first middle-grade novel, “Escape Under the Forever Sky,” had been issued by Chronicle Books in 2009 to good reviews but only modest sales. Chronicle told her that story collections targeted to that audience don’t sell. A separate young-adult novel didn’t find a buyer either.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire after a few days)

Bestsellers, Self-Publishing Startups, Self-Publishing Strategies

2 Comments to “Self-Publishing: A Tale of Two Cities”

  1. The self-publishing decision revolves mostly on the eBook publishing. Paper publishing is still dominated by Big Publishing Houses and bookstores. eBooks however, levels the playing field, allowing both known and unknown authors the same access and distribution of their books. If you are an unknown author self-publishing is an excellent way to release your book to the reading public, inexpensively too. If you are a known author, self-publishing may make you more money than publishing through an established publishing company, although it will entail more work. The good thing about eBooks is that more authors can publish their books. I chose self-publishing for my YA Fantasy book “Arboregal, the Lorn Tree” and I’m glad I did.

  2. Self-publishers like myself who are in the second category and find their sales slow to begin with end up putting in a lot of time creating an online presence to spread the word. It’s a lot of work and very time-consuming but it’s also very enjoyable because there are online worlds out there you have no idea existed until you stumble across them!

    The Overnight Bestseller

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