A few years ago I discovered the internet presence of a guy named J.A. Konrath, and specifically his “A Newbie’s Guide To Publishing”, both a blog and a book. Konrath is a thriller writer in Chicago, but he’s always had some very wise things to say about the business, and is very generous with what he’s learned over the years. In the past few years Konrath has become one of the most prominent figures in the campaign for independent e-publishing by authors.
Konrath did have a traditional publishing career, but then made the transition into indie e-publishing and now sells upwards of 10,000 copies of his books per month in e-format (Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords primarily). That’s pretty impressive sales, and although e-books are priced much lower than hard copy books, the author’s share of the revenue (when sold through Amazon’s Kindle store, for example) can be 70%, compared to 10%-30% in traditional publishing.
The current superstar of e-publishing is a 26-year-old woman who writes paranormal romance fiction named Amanda Hocking. You can also read about her here. According to Amanda’s blog, she’s written 19 books, but published 8 novels and one novella, beginning with two e-books in April 2010. Since then, she has sold more than 900,000 copies of her work, mostly since October. Most have been e-books, but after their success she began making paperback versions available, and has sold thousands of them, too. Sure, some of the books are sold for 99 cents each. But even at a 35% royalty rate for those, that’s still one spectacular amount of money (not to mention that one of her trilogies has been optioned for a movie). She has never had a traditional publishing career.
Tempted yet? Well, before you completely abandon the traditional route, you should know a few things. For one thing, as Amanda says herself, she is definitely still the exception rather than the rule. Also, print publishing still accounts for 80% of the book market, e-publishing only 20%. That number will grow, no doubt, but you’d still be giving up a huge market if you give up on print. Another thing: success in e-publishing is heavily tied to genre (check out the pie charts at Derek J. Canyon’s blog with romance and paranormal in the lead, followed by mystery and thriller fiction. And by far the biggest sales figures are for authors who have three or more titles available. Sales really don’t seem to take off until you have at least that many books available, and preferably six or more, especially if they’re in the same series. So unless you’re a genre writer who writes series books, and a lot of them, you probably won’t see spectacular sales like these.
Any way you look at it, the e-publishing arena can no longer be ignored. If you’re interested, I suggest you keep a faithful eye on J.A. Konrath’s blog. He’s sure to have his finger on the pulse of the industry. The man is a writing machine.