Monday, February 14, 2011

Authors Making Money Selling Ebooks

I've spoken to three groups in the last two weeks. A strange, parallel buzz arose from members of each group.

"I can always put my stuff in ebooks."

But most of those people thought that's all they have to do. When I advised they needed social media and online marketing, they wrinkled their noses, talked about a lack of time and fuss about an even bigger learning curve.

Amanda Hocking, however, put her work online and dove into online marketing with everything she had. Read this excerpt from USA Today:

Fed up with attempts to find a traditional publisher for her young-adult paranormal novels, Hocking self-published last March and began selling her novels on online bookstores like Amazon and By May she was selling hundreds; by June, thousands. She sold 164,000 books in 2010. Most were low-priced (99 cents to $2.99) digital downloads. More astounding: This January she sold more than 450,000 copies of her nine titles. More than 99% were e-books. "I can't really say that I would have been more successful if I'd gone with a traditional publisher," says Hocking, 26, who lives in Austin, Minn. "But I know this is working really well for me."

What I didn't like hearing from individuals was that they felt ebooks sold faster than paper books. Like many authors used to think about Amazon and B&N, all they had to do was throw them up for people to find, and the product would sell.

No. No. No.

1. You have to market your book, regardless the format. Just because people are excited about electronic reading doesn't mean they are buying anything and everything.

2. You have to write a good book, regardless the format. Don't put all your "stuff" online just because it's easy to upload. If you post anything less than stellar, you eventually disappoint readers, and dampen the sales of your better stories. Eventually you can kill a career.

3. You have to market daily, perpetually, for the long haul. If you listen to press releases and all those infamous "polls", you might wander into a mindset that online means instant gratification. Sales are directly proportional to energy invested until word-of-mouth takes off like a rocket. You have to feed word-of-mouth. It isn't something that spontaneously happens.

4. You have to be hungry for this business. I quit counting the times people said, "I don't have time," when speaking about marketing their book. "I have another job." So do ninety percent of the writers out there. Decide what you want, how badly you want it, and break a sweat getting it.

Yes, you can always put your work in ebook form. That doesn't mean it will sell.


Laura M. Campbell said...

Self publishing and e-books can be a great start for a well-written novel. Brunonia Barry originally self-published her mystery novel The Lace Reader. It was well received. The word-of-mouth landed her a deal with a big time publisher.

I totally agree, half-hearted attempts will lead to dead ends. You want it, be prepared to fight.

Hope Clark said...

Absolutely, Laura. I read The Lace Reader. It was nicely done.

Joe Duncko said...

I am still trying to put a line between marketing and writing. Some days I market too much, others I write too much.

I guess first you need something you market.

widdershins said...

Funny how this pertinent fact seems to slip under the radar for so many 'wannabe's' .. Thanks for fighting the good fight and educating them. Maybe some of them at lest will get it.

Anonymous said...

Great post - I think it only dawned on me last year how much marketing I will have to do myself - even with traditional publishing

Amanda Hocking said...

I agree completely. I think people have the misconception that I slapped together a couple books, through them online, sat back to relax, and VIOLA! over night sensation.

The reality is that I spend over 40 hours a week online. It takes away from my time to write, yes, but it's necessary. I think it is still necessary, even though I've sold as many as I have.

Also, I've written almost 20 books, but I've only published nine. Just because I wrote something doesn't mean its ready to be published, and honestly, some things I wrote will NEVER be ready to be published.

I think epublishing has opened a lot of doors and its really awesome, but that doesn't mean that it's not hard work. It's just a different kind of work.

Hope Clark said...

Thanks for responding, Amanda. I understand the heavy amount of work that must have done into sales numbers like that. It's quite admirable.


Debra Stang said...

I wish I'd had this advice when I published my young adult novel, Visiting Grandma. I was completely unprepared to do any marketing, and as a result, the book tanked. Mind you, I'm not saying it would have been a runaway best-seller even with marketing, but I think I could have reached a few more people as well as generated some extra income. If I ever self-publish again, I'm making my marketing plans FIRST!