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14 hour days, marketing and dealing with snobbery: my life as a self-published bestseller

31 March 2016

From author Rachel Abbott via The Guardian:

Last week I looked at the complex set of spreadsheets I use to track my ebook sales and gave a whoop of delight: I had just sold my two-millionth book, something I would never in my wildest dreams have considered possible just over four years ago, particularly as the vast majority of those sales were achieved through self-publishing. Initially my most ambitious target had been to sell a thousand copies.

It’s been quite a journey, and all the more exciting for being so totally unexpected. There is no point denying that I became self-published because I wasn’t able to interest an agent in my first book. I had originally written Only the Innocent for my own benefit and pleasure, but I was encouraged by family to give publishing a go. I contacted 12 literary agents, and they weren’t all negative. At least two said they enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t the type of story publishers were looking for.

. . . .

In the last four and a half years, there have been some dramatic and brilliant changes in my life, but my initial vision of days spent doing nothing other than plotting and writing were way off the mark. The self-publishing model can look attractive because, depending on the price of the book, the author can take up to 70% of the proceeds of each sale – which is a bigger return that they would get through a traditional publisher. But it takes a lot of work to make those sales: when I started to follow my marketing plan for Only the Innocent, I was working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. For three months, not a word of a novel was written. Even now, with my fifth full-length novel, Kill Me Again, released on Kindle less than a month ago, I am still working similar hours – but I love the variety and the challenge.

I’d like to say that there has been a dramatic change in attitude towards self-publishing since I released my first novel. In some quarters that is definitely the case. But sadly there are still some influential people who believe that, first, self-published authors sell a lot of books because they are cheap (Kill Me Again is currently in the Kindle UK top 20 and only one book in the chart is more expensive) and, second, that if the writing was good, the author would be offered a traditional deal. Despite being placed 14th in the UK Kindle chart of all authors over the past five years – above many of my favourite authors – some festival organisers still believe I don’t have as much to say about writing and selling books as a traditionally published author, regardless of their popularity.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Here’s a link to Rachel Abbott’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Non-US, Self-Publishing

14 Comments to “14 hour days, marketing and dealing with snobbery: my life as a self-published bestseller”

  1. Sounds like any entrepreneur working to build their own business in a free and open market, competitive capitalist, economy.

    Congratulations to this writer/business woman.


  2. Did The Guardian suddenly feel the need to publish something from the indie side? Hmmmmmm.

    I believe this is known as “Saving Face”.

    save face
    phrase of face

    retain respect; avoid humiliation.
    “an outcome that allows them all to save face”

    • Just the opposite in fact. Even the title is telling you that going indie is ‘so much harder’ than going trad-pub.

      I liked the fact that they’re trying to act like for their cut the trad-pub will do ‘any’ advertising for your book (unless you’re a 1%er) is just silly.

      And as J.M. Ney-Grimm said below, why in the Sam Hill do they have one of those agent thingies? Something’s so fishy I’m going to go get the tartar sauce before I open the link!

    • No, it’s a black flag or false empathy operation. We can tell that from the subtitle:

      “I’ve sold 2m copies of my five novels, but I am still not considered a ‘serious’ author because I self-publish”

    • That was my initial thought, too. The Guardian is one of the most biased publications I’ve ever come across. Hmm…

  3. For all of this, I am lucky to have a brilliant agent, Lizzy Kremer, who supports and guides me.


    An agent? For indie publishing?

    What is really going on here?

    So if you think you’re indie published, but your agent does all the work, you are not indie-published. I don’t know what exactly you are, but you don’t have control over your rights or your publishing decisions the way a true indie published author is.

    From Kris Rusch’s latest post.


    • She probably hired an agent for the same reason many top-selling indies (like Hugh Howey) hire agents: to sell subsidiary rights, foreign translation rights, TV and movie rights. Those kinds of deals are nearly impossible to get all by your lonesome, and they can be quite lucrative. Once you hit a certain level of sales, it makes sense to hire an agent to handle that side of your business.

      So hold the tartar sauce. Nothing fishy going on here. Just a smart businesswoman making a smart business decision.

      • That’s what I was thinking, too.

      • Agents are needed to foreign/TV rights is one of those myths Dean and Kris have busted many times.

        Kris went one step ahead and said in one of her posts that her agent was actually killing her foreign deals by not being responsive enough.

        So agree with JM Ney Grimm. Something fishy going on here. Or someone who has swallowed too many myths and think they need to have an agent cause everyone told them to.

    • Yep. If I could have an agent as an indie, I would for foreign rights, movie or TV rights, paperback deals. Etc. There ARE reasons to have an agent as an indie. Nothing wrong with it.

  4. Good job. I just passed 5,400 sales myself.

    • Nice, but you could be doing even better by not writing and playing sales droid 14 hours a day every day!

      So just get yourself an agent and and — and maybe some tartar sauce, because something’s not right here …

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