Lately authors have been regaled by success stories of people who have taken a non-traditional approach and published their books on their own. For the first time, through ebook publishing, the barrier to entry for writers to the marketplace is very, very low.
Among the most famous cases are John Locke, the Louisville businessman who has sold over a million downloads of his thrillers on Amazon for 99 cents. And there’s Amanda Hocking, the paranormal romance writer whose spectacular online sales of her ebooks got the attention of St. Martin’s. They gave her a contract for two million dollars for her next four books.
Romance and thrillers work great as ebooks. Readers of genre fiction consume books like they were potato chips. But you might ask, “What about memoirs or serious non-fiction?”
We worked with a non-fiction author who had an idea for a book on a topic he felt very strongly about. He had previously published nine books, all nine split between two large publishing houses. Three of the books had been regional bestsellers which had garnered respectable media coverage and reviews. But neither big house wanted to buy this particular book from him. They felt it was an old story.
This author could have taken the idea to another, smaller press and tried his luck. But he’s an adventurous person and has a good head for business. He decided to self-publish but in a way that no one would ever know that he did. He wanted physical books in bricks and mortar stores and he wanted ebooks. He wanted events at the stores where he’d always done events and he wanted new events with new audiences. He wanted online advertising and a strong social media campaign. And, of course, he wanted a first-class traditional media campaign.
All that for a self-published book? Remember, we’re not talking about a 99 cent ebook on Amazon where the barrier to entry is very low. This was a lot of work. He edited the book himself, hired a copyeditor, jacket designer, and an interior designer. He teamed up with an independent publisher who basically acted as a print broker. He created his own imprint by buying a handful of ISBN numbers from the Library of Congress. He hired a PR and marketing firm (us) and we helped him find an independent sales rep who sold the book into Barnes and Noble, Amazon, the wholesalers Baker and Taylor, Ingram, and into the top 40 independent bookstores.
I’m glad to say, the effort was a spectacular success. The book garnered positive reviews from national outlets like the Associated Press and The New York Times, fantastic reviews in regional papers, a big NPR show had him on and he was even on a morning show. And no one knew it was a self-pub. It was a lot of work and I don’t think this author will self-pub again -at least in the short term. But he can be proud of what he achieved as he is a pioneer in this brave new publishing world.