One More Reason for Authors to Like E-Books

I said a few weeks ago that there were 7 reasons to like e-books if you’re an author. Then I mentioned the other day that there was an 8th reason. Now I have found reason #9. (Maybe I’ll work my way up to 10 next month.)

I’ve been reading The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (free download at Smashwords) as I continue to study marketing ahead of the launch of my debut novel, Acceptance. A lot of the stuff he says I already know from previous research, but I did learn something quite interesting.

Print books are sent to brick-and-mortar stores, where they sit on a shelf for 2-4 weeks. If they don’t have decent sales, they are sent back to the publisher for a refund. They are either then destroyed, or sold to book discounters like those you see in outlet malls, or they wind up at Dollar General or The Dollar Tree. And there ends your book’s career (and all chance you have of making money from it).

E-books (and print-on-demand), however, are almost never removed from virtual/online shelves. They can sit there for months and slowly build up sales and reviews until–if you’re lucky–you hit the tipping point (aka breaking out). And, as Mark Coker points out, if you’re not getting the sales you want, you can experiment with your cover design, your blurb (aka book description), your price point, edit/update the text, do promotional events, etc. If something doesn’t work, try something else; you have the rest of your life to figure it out.

I’ve also been reading The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated, in which Catherine talks about how she became a self-supporting self-published author. She confirms some of the stats that Mark Coker references, which is that it takes, on average, a year for a debut novel to start generating decent sales (and by decent, I mean enough to live on if you’re lower middle class). If you don’t do a lot of marketing and promotion (which Catherine did), your growth will be slower, and you might be looking at closer to 2 years.

Each subsequent novel, however, takes less time to reach its boiling point (i.e. that amount of sales which is consistent from month to month), because once you build a fan base, most of them will buy your subsequent novels fairly soon after you release them.

Selling Short Stories

I’m getting ready to put my first short story on Amazon (if I’ll just make myself buckle down and do the last edits!), and I’m starting to gear up to write more short stories to sell.

The original purpose of publishing some short stories–and the reason why I started writing Bloodsuckers and publishing here for free–was to get some name recognition and develop a following. I wanted to market myself in order to pique the interest of a publisher and/or agent.

But this blog post is making me think that there might actually be some money to be made in selling short stories on Amazon. When I say there’s money to be made, I don’t mean a fortune; I’m talking about an extra $20-$35 a month in income per story. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but our finances are such that I wouldn’t sneeze at an extra $20 – $35 a month. (That at least allows me to buy some books for myself). And, of course, the more you put up for sale, the more that income increases until you can eventually see your way towards writing full-time.

At $20-$35 per month in income from each story, I would need 45-80 short stories or novellas published in order to replace my current salary. That sounds like a hell of a lot of writing–if I did one story a week, it would take me a year to get what I needed built up–but it’s not an impossible goal.

When I look at writing one novel per year, I can’t see it making enough money every year to support me. And, in all honesty, most novelists do not live by novels alone; they write for magazines or do other freelance writing. But, if I were to write short stories full-time, I could conceivably live on that while still publishing a novel or two every year (after all, all of the writing I’ve done so far has been done while working a regular 9-to-5 job with commute). That would make the money from my novels an icing on the cake. We could afford to travel again, I could put money into my retirement, etc. I might even work up to owning that vacation cottage on the west coast of Ireland.

Time to start putting daydreams on paper and sell them!