As promised, I am going to give an update on my self-publishing experience with the short story collection, 10 Bits of My Brain.
It’s been about two months and I’ve sold…drum roll, please……….around 40 copies.
Now, whether or not you see that as good or bad has a lot to do with where you are in your publishing career and what your hopes/expectations for indie-publishing are. So, let’s begin with expectations.
Many self-published authors get it in their heads that they are going to be the next Amanda Hocking. After all, everybody is making a killing selling ebooks, right? No. Obviously, not. And, frankly, my numbers are quite above average because I came into this with a small, built-in audience (that would be you guys). See, despite all the massive changes happening in publishing, nothing much has really changed in terms of the odds of getting a bestseller. Amanda Hocking is every bit the outlier that Stephen King is. The percentages of Superstar to mid-list to crap writer are not going to shift (though the number of participants has). But there are big differences in other areas:
Big one — super BIG difference — Window of Opportunity. If I were with a traditional press and sold only 40 copies in two months, the book would have been pulled from the shelves long ago and disappeared from published existence almost as fast. Not only that, but my chances of ever getting published again under my actual name would also have vanished. I’d be crying right now, wallowing in the destruction of my career, and the knowledge that I’m a failure as a writer.
Luckily, for me, I’m not with a traditional press. As a realistic, indie-publishing author, I think 40 copies for a short story collection is a decent result (for a start). More would be even better, but since I’ve done very little marketing and since this was my first venture into these waters, I’m quite pleased. Especially because of those 40 readers, two left reviews on Amazon, one left a review on B&N, and three left ratings on Goodreads — and all were 4-5 stars. So, it’s been a positive response that hopefully will translate into good word-of-mouth. And, since I’m indie-published, that book is not being taken off the shelves. Ever. This is such a crucial difference between these two types of publishing. In today’s market, traditional publishers have to make a big splash within the first six weeks or, chances are, your book is being pulled. Not so for indies. Our books get to grow. What we lack in marketing muscle, we make up in longevity. I can afford to wait for my audience to grow and know that 10 Bits of My Brain will still be there when they find me. So while 40 copies are unfortunate in many ways, it’s actually a nice beginning for somebody with limited name recognition.
Beyond numbers, and on a more personal level, I have to say I’ve enjoyed the whole process. And that’s a key issue, too, that you must consider before you jump into these waters. There’s a lot of work involved. Editing, covers, formatting, accounting, etc. Heck, before I did this, I never even considered social media. Had no strong interest in it. Now, I’ve got a Facebook Fan Page, my own Blog, and I just started up on Twitter (highly addictive). Building an audience requires authors to make closer connections with readers, and if you’re going indie, those connections are essential. I’ve discovered I enjoy doing all this work in addition to writing, so it’s a good fit for me. But I’m also excited to work with small and big presses provided the terms can be made appealing. Having other people out there helping to market my books is a great thing.
So, I’d say my early impressions of indie-publishing are quite positive. It can work for you, but you need to be ready work for it, too. And you need realistic expectations. The other thing that helps is building your backlist, if you don’t have one. I’m fortunate in that I have several novels that have been waiting to go. I can now start pushing them through.
It’s been said all over the blogosphere that a writing career is a marathon not a sprint. Getting 10 Bits of My Brain published was just the first step in a long race to find readers and build a following. Thus, later this month (next week, if all goes well), I’ll be releasing THE WAY OF THE BLACK BEAST, my post-apocalyptic fantasy. Novels still sell better than short story collections, even in the e-world, so hopefully that will prove true here as well.