I recently mentioned that one good thing about e-books (and print-on-demand) is that you have more time to become successful than in traditional publishing.
Amazon just featured the story of author Creston Mapes, who had this very thing happen to him.
“During the next eight years of doing all that was humanly possible to market my [traditionally-published] books, they sold less than 20,000 copies combined—a sales performance my own publisher would later call ‘dismal.’
Creston was certain that the books deserved a bigger audience. So, he decided to take advantage of Amazon’s independent self-publishing platform, which allows any author to bring their books directly to market. He got the rights back to those three novels, put his own covers on them, and used the self-service platform to put them on Kindle.
After offering his first book for free for a weekend, he went to the top of the Kindle charts and has stayed there.
Mapes had glowing reviews for his books, and obviously he had professionally-designed and edited books, so why didn’t they sell in bookstores? Maybe his publisher didn’t market them correctly. Maybe they were competing against much bigger books during that same time frame. Or–most likely–he just needed some time to build up word-of-mouth referrals (the biggest source of sales). But when you only have 2-4 weeks on shelves, it can be hard to get that going. (Mark Coker referred to that as “the death clock” ticking away.)