2011: The Self-Publishing Year In Review

This has been a year of massive changes. Some of the older hands say that the business has always been this way.

However, I don’t think we are simply seeing another year of flux. Instead, we are witnessing a process unfold which will revolutionize publishing forever (or at the very least, the foreseeable future).

But hey, I could be wrong, and we might all be back querying – and fawning in the comments of agents’ blogs – by March.


The year opened with a booming e-book market as millions of Americans went on a binge buying spree to fill up their new e-readers – most of which were Kindles. That led to a handful of self-publishers posting truly eye-catching numbers, some of whom were beginning to be approached by agents and publishers, and being offered foreign deals. Success, however, was not just limited to these few and, from the middle of the month especially, most self-publishers saw a dramatic increase in business.

I had my own avalanche to deal with. After spending Christmas in Ireland, I flew back to Sweden. A four hour delay meant it was past 3 a.m. when I got home, only to be faced with four feet of snow outside my front door, which had to be dug out. I was happy though, my long agent search had come to an end, with an up-and-coming New York agent keen to sign me. I was watching the developments in self-publishing and e-books with interest, but felt that best results would be achieved after publishing a few books the traditional way.


To the surprise of everyone, the post-Christmas e-book boom continued through February, with self-publishers grabbing an ever-increasing share of the genre bestseller lists. When the AAP figures for this month were released two months later, they revealed a historic milestone: e-books became the dominant format for the first time, outselling both paperback and hardcover, capturing 29.5% of the market. In less happy news, storm clouds were gathering at Borders, and the signs weren’t good.

It was a bleak month for me. The agent’s interest evaporated and he never had the courtesy to explain why. I still expected him to get in touch at this point; it would be another full month before I realized he had simply changed his mind about my book, and wouldn’t even bother to tell me. It was a depressing time. A short of mine, The Reset Button, was collecting nothing but form rejections, I couldn’t summon the strength to keep querying, and my second novel had hit a wall. I began to doubt whether I had the requisite ability or tenacity.


While John Locke was posting record numbers and dominating the bestseller lists, two other writers caught the headlines. Amanda Hocking leveraged her phenomenal self-publishing success into a $2m deal while Barry Eisler shocked the publishing world by walking away from half a million dollars to self-publish.

I had reached rock bottom, and considered walking away from writing altogether. The Hocking and Eisler deals made me consider self-publishing anew. While both moved in opposite directions, I saw both developments as a validation of self-publishing. I started hanging around Kindle Boards and realized that success was far deeper and wider than the handful of names making the news. I spent the last week of the month wrestling with a decision on whether to self-publish A Storm Hits Valparaíso. The arguments of Joe Konrath et al made sense, but I was also being swayed by the fearmongering of the defenders of the status quo. I just couldn’t decide.


John Locke’s staggering success (understandably) spawned an army of imitators. Everyone started freaking out about 99c books, ignoring the millions of free books that had been around for years and hadn’t brought the industry to its knees or put all writers in the poorhouse. At the same time, bookstores were in serious trouble across the world. The biggest chain in Australia collapsed, and the main chain in the UK announced the closure of hundreds of stores.

I broke my impasse by deciding to self-publish some shorts. I figured I could see if I enjoyed the experience without “risking” my novel (or the increased costs to publish it). Besides, that was still with three top agents, and I wanted to at least hear what they had to say. My aim was to get something uploaded before the end of the month (which I managed by a couple of hours), and document my experiences on this blog. I think my first post had four views.


It became clear that the e-book revolution would be no respecter of national borders when the frenzy spread to the UK. Amazon announced they were now selling more e-books than all print formats combined. And literary agents began attracting negative headlines as they attempting to figure out a way to make money in this new world. The old order was fragmenting, and something messy and chaotic (and beautiful) was emerging in its stead.

My first e-book If You Go Into The Woods went live, quickly followed by another short, Transfection. I sold more than 150 copies in my first month and was enjoying the process so much that I pulled my novel from the last three agents considering it. I was going all in. And to celebrate, I wrote a haiku.


In a slow news month, a major US agency (kind of) moved into publishing, JK Rowling moved into self-publishing, and John Locke announced the sale of his millionth Kindle book – and that was just the last week in the month. Earlier in June, two indie authors made history in the UK, the malevolent hawkers of 99c books were accused of destroying minds, publishers were charged with systematically under-reporting e-book sales (and underpaying their authors), and VS Naipul was outed as a prize mysogynist.

My plan to release A Storm Hits Valparaíso hit the skids when I got an editorial report which sent me running in the wrong direction for most of the month. My current editor saved me from making a complete hash of it, but I decided to park the project towards the end of June and began work on Let’s Get Digital instead while I considered her suggestions.


Borders inched closer to liquidation, print continued its death spiral, being pounded into submission by the relentless march of e-books, and Amazon began signing successful self-publishers to their new imprint mystery and thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer, adding J Carson Black to their existing roster of Joe Konrath, Blake Crouch, and Barry Eisler.

I released Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should which quickly became my top-seller and almost cracked the Top 1000. I made the PDF version free here which was so popular it crashed WordPress.


Amazon continued to add successful indies to their roster, signing Michael Wallace and Scott Nicholson. John Locke signed a highly unusual print distribution deal with Simon & Schuster, which not only allowed him to retain e-rights, but all his rights – essentially hiring the publisher as his printer and distributor and paying them royalties. The arch-defenders of trade publishing were dancing in the aisles when the comprehensive BISG report was released appearing to show the industry in rude health. However, all was not as it seemed. Finally, a class action suit was launched against Apple and five major publishers, alleging e-book price-fixing.

Let’s Get Digital made a big splash picking up some key endorsements, some big book blog reviews, and some tasty blurb quotes. The resultant sales meant I recouped the $1,000 publication costs in just over a month. I started working on the “final pass” of A Storm Hits Valparaíso, but soon realized that it needed wholesale changes.


I was on holidays for the first two weeks of the month and have zero idea what happened in the publishing industry (btw, if Stephen King decided to self-publish or anything like that, someone should really fill me in). In the second half of the month, Amazon opened their Spanish site, Scott Nicholson shared a radical solution to translation costs, and four new Kindles were launched.

I had a huge slump in sales, and started to think outside the box about how to turn it around. I wasn’t too concerned though as I hadn’t released a new title in some time, and my primary aim was to get my novel out, once it was at the required standard. I thought that would take another week or two. The best laid plans of mice and men…


Amazon kicked off the month by opening the French Kindle Store and signing yet another indie. Kobo responded by signing two key partnerships in both France and the UK which could revolutionize their fortunes in both markets. Finally, I looked at what was driving growth in European markets, and what was slowing it.

It was another slow sales month for me, but exciting things were starting to happen. I signed deals to translate Let’s Get Digital into French and Spanish, and launched a crowdfunding exercise to cover the costs of publishing my next novel.


The month opened with some (more) bad news for large publishers: AAP figures showed that new e-book revenue wasn’t quite replacing the fall off in print. Kobo were purchased in a deal which could have huge implications for the international e-book market. Penguin launched a vanity-esque self-publishing imprint, which attracted widespread criticism. And a best-selling self-published novel inexplicably disappeared from Amazon UK.

My sales finally turned around, November besting September and October combined. Let’s Get Digital got it’s 50th five star review, and I celebrated by raising the price to $3.99. I was interested to see if sales would remain the same, or dip. They rose, giving me my second best month in terms of income, and by far the best outside the time of a new release. My crowdfunding exercise was oversubscribed, generating $2,300 in pre-orders for A Storm Hits Valparaíso – which blew me away. It also had the happy side effect of putting in place a strict deadline for completing and releasing the book.


Amazon owned December in news terms: they opened Kindle Stores in Spain and Italy, shocked veteran writers by paying royalties in time for Christmas, announced they were selling (well) over a million Kindles a week, and, just when we thought we had the self-publishing game figured out, tearing up the rule-book with KDP Select.

As for me, well, let me see… I’m sure something happened this month… oh yeah, I published A Storm Hits Valparaíso. It only took me five-and-half-years.


I was going to do a big post on New Year’s resolutions, but I’m keeping it simple this year: write great stories and lots of them.

Happy New Year everyone! Thank you for all your support this year. My professional career has really turned around in 2011 – selling around 1,800 books in my first seven months, hitting 5,000 free downloads, and pulling in well over $5,000 – and that’s all down to you guys.

I’m not making enough to live off, but for the first time in my writing career I can see a path to that point – and that’s a beautiful thing. I’m getting checks from Amazon each month which are paying my rent and lots of bills, and they are getting bigger all the time.

The market feels like it has doubled since December 25th. Probably because there are millions of new readers out there filling up their devices right now.

Go get ’em!

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

188 Replies to “2011: The Self-Publishing Year In Review”

  1. When you lay it out like that it was a crazy year for publishing. Decades from now we might look back on this year as the year of no-return for the transformation of publishing.

    1. It IS incredible to have lived through “the year” that transformed it all, isn’t it? And it is awe-inspiring to read posts like this when you’re part of the self-publishing industry (or in my case, tip-toeing toward it with my first ebook coming soon).

      I’m grateful to David and his readers for putting it all in perspective! 🙂

  2. I loved this summary – which I shall tell friends about. I had a tremendous year too – shall never forget 2011, the year my second novel was released, and my third accepted, by my publishers, and I independently published eight story collections, a poetry book and half a dozen shorts. Most of the work I put out myself was my out-of-print back list whose rights had reverted to me. Now it’s all up for sale, and doing it! Yes – December is probably the best month I’ve had so far, David. Thanks for this!

  3. Well, except the little December snafu on Amazon that reverted some of us back to “checks” so we haven’t been paid yet. But other than that… 😉 This has been quite the wild ride. Can’t wait for 2012!

  4. David, I loved 2011 and love that the symmetry of huge changes in publishing mirrors huge changes in the lives of writers. My transformation from ‘wait-for-acceptance’ to ‘control-my-destiny’ occurred through 2011. I published and promoted my anthology according to your advice in Let’s Get Digital. I’m publishing two novels in 2012 and love having a hand in all facets of a process that would be out of my hands completely if I had a traditional publishing deal. Here’s to a revolutionary 2012: Cheers!

  5. Happy New Year, David, and here’s to a 2012 that will be even better than 2011, without those first 3 months of doubt and depression. But after every down, there’s an upswing, as proved by your experience! Congrats for an excellent post detailing how the overall picture of digital change impacted your decisions!

  6. Excellent post! Congratulations on your success this year, and here’s to a wildly successful 2012 for you and all your readers!

  7. I, too, saw a turnaround in late 2011. I moved my website over to Word Press and everyone who sees it love it. Then I decided to give a freebie copy of the 1st novel in The Preston Andrews Mysteries series. So far, all sources have created over 19,000 downloads of my freebie and hundreds of my complete mystery series just before the holidays. There will be lots of dancing going on in Raleigh in January when the royalties come out! Instead of cancelling the freebie after New Years, I have decided to let’r run! Got the 6th (just before Christmas) and 7th (12/29) in the series released and am looking forward to a great 2012.

    Good luck with the new book! I look forward to hearing about its journey.

  8. Congratulations, David. So proud and appreciative for you to share not only your own author journey but the larger ebook-publishing as well. I, too, have had an amazing year and dipped toes into self-publishing with great success. You’re definitely one of the gurus I follow, in addition to Dean Wesley Smith, and it’s a pleasure to follow your blog. I like your resolution a lot – write great stories and lots of them. Keep going and inspiring us each week! 🙂 ~ Meg

  9. Reading your excellent log of this momentous year for you and the publishing industry makes me wish I’d kept better track of my own journey (perhaps that was a self-protective mechanism 🙂 ). It’s got many similarities to your own, including the agent who flaked off, leaving me wondering if I was up to writing any more gag-making queries, etc. Self-publishing has been liberating and who knows, may eventually even pay off. Now I need to read Let’s Get Digital from beginning to end instead of in bits and pieces. Great body of work you’re building up, David–thank you and all the best for your new book in 2012!

  10. A year in a few minutes…and what a year! It’s been an amazing journey for so many of us, and you’ve been there with us throughout, sharing information and ideas. Thanks, David.

  11. Cheers *toast*

    And sure it looked like it took you 5.5 years to get “A Storm Hits Valparaíso” (which is on the top of my to be read list right now), but if you took out all the time spent not working on it in those years, I bet it’s not that bad. :}

    1. Heh. How did you guess. There was a lot of time not working on it, and I don’t mean spending too much time on Twitter… I walked away from it several times – once for around a year. But if kept pulling me back in…

  12. It’s been an insane year to be sure…I just joined this crazy revolution back in September with my poetry book, She Wasn’t Allowed to Giggle. That was to tread into the waters and test it- LOVED it! Withdrew my dark fantasy novel, Spellbound by Fire from the publisher I was rather unhappy with and self published that last month. I doubt I’ll ever go through a traditional publisher again. I released Spellbound in three weeks…it took my publisher over 6 months just to get around to editing it.

  13. Thank you for a brief history retrospective. I began self publishing in earnest in September, and put out two novels in three months (published, they took 2 years to write), The Spirit Box and NorthWest that are getting rave reviews. Previous to that I was counting the rejection letters and wondering just how stupid I was to follow a dream of being a writer.

    Now there are all kinds of new questions, not as how to, but what’s next? It should be an interesting year indeed!

  14. Fantastic run-down, thank you!
    I’m brand new to self-publishing and I feel I’ve been given a speedy and relevant synopsis of where we currently stand.
    Good luck for 2012 and I’d love to hear more on your thoughts about where we’re heading from here…

  15. Fantastic summary – thanks for posting. There’s no doubt the writing and publshing industries are in a time of change. That Australasian book chain collapse in April took out around a third of the retail book outlets in New Zealand. They kept trading – but stopped buying. And that had knock-on effects with the publishers. Very difficult year. Looks like the light is finally appearing at the end of that particular tunnel, but general change continues, all of it threatening to the trad structures, and it’s going to be interesting to see where things go, both locally in NZ, where I live, and worldwide. Thanks again for a great mashup & run-down.

    Matthew Wright

  16. All the best for the new year. I would suggest the ball is in the publishers hands now but if authors band together and start their own publishing companies anything could happen.

  17. Great summary.

    Have sales really doubled since December 25th? That would be about my estimate based on estimated Kindle sales.

    I’m going to be very curious how many books the Kindle Fire seems to sell. My estimate is far fewer than e-ink Kindles (per device and in total), but a non-insignificant ‘hook’ into bringing in new readers.


    1. My sales haven’t 🙂 The market has certainly expanded dramatically – sales simply don’t get you the same rankings they used to, and the difference is to great to be just done to the lending library borrows being counted as sales for ranking purposes.

  18. Excellent review David, succinctly put as always. I’ll be looking out for new stuff, though from you. I was probably the first to download Storm from Smashwords after your long slog, and have just started it. The formatting works well on my Kobo, unlike some offerings.
    All the best for 2012.
    Edwin Tipple,
    author in the making!

    1. Thanks Edwin – good to hear the Meatgrinder didn’t make a mess of things. I test everything pretty rigorously, but I don’t own a Kobo reader, so it’s good to hear it looks good on that.

  19. Thanks for the recap, David. It’s pretty amazing to look back and see how much has changed this year. Let’s hope next year continues to bring great things for indie writers. 🙂


  20. Spectacular and informative post as usual, David! It’s hard to believe that all of that happened so quickly. I think I began reading blogs on the indie biz in May or June, and published my one-and-only novel on the 4th of July… seems like eons ago, so much has occurred for me and for the industry! And it’s started to feel like a real community — tough to imagine I didn’t even “know” you and this whole writing gang mere months ago.

    I’ve had an incredible ride this Christmas, going from barely any sales to a free day with 8500 downloads, and a subsequent surge. My ratio of earnings in the July – Dec. 23 period versus Dec. 23 to now is… about a 5500% increase!

    Thanks for giving back as much as you do. You deserve every success you have achieved.

  21. Wonderful recap and post, David. It was inspiring to read and congrats on your respective successes in the past year. I’m still an aspiring writer who has yet to make a major release, but I’m hoping 2012 brings great opportunities for me as well as other writers who may be just getting their feet wet with the changes in the industry.

    All the best!

  22. Awesome analysis David, as always. I decided to begin publishing in earnest in March 2011, I did one reprint/save of a non fiction book I wrote 15 years ago ‘Barry Brickell – A head of Steam’. I own the digital rights to three erotic novels which Penguin still has in trade paperback in the Antipodes – I published two versions of those – with and without illustrations for fun and added value.
    I met AJ Burton; edited and published his novel Demon’s Coven and several short stories. I learned how to make ebook covers and write better blurbs and diversify blogs for marketing books. I realise I still have a long way to go in professionalism for marketing for my books but your blog and others you mention are superb in the advice offered. I gratefully inhale it all and work on implementing it.
    Sales aren’t great as yet but I am gradually mastering the networking process of blogs and Twitter, FB and – I need to match Joe Konrath’s comments/blogging on 100 blogs!
    Also in 2011 I have co-written a Steampunk Adventure Romance and a paranormal comedy is on the way in the writing pipeline.
    Penguin have belatedly asked for another erotic novel from me – I will write one but will carefully inspect the contract and ask to change it if I am not satisfied with the meaning of the clauses. I cannot imagine assigning them more than print rights in the Antipodes. Only IF there is some way of my checking their sales data independently.
    I have other authors lining up offering me work to publish and the year ahead for a small indie publisher looks good. My publishing contract is carefully written to be fair and offers 50/50.
    Now to make time to finish my own novels and non-fiction books!
    This has been a great year of learning and I hope that 2012 will be a great year for earning!
    Thanks for your excellent blog, David. Happy New Year

  23. Wonderful summary of the past year, David! And, wow, what a whirlwind of change it has been for the publishing world! Congratulations on all your success, and may 2012 bring you even greater success!

    In the past three days, I’ve had my own very first experience with KDP Select free promotions leading to increased sales. I offered all three novels in a trilogy for free on Kindle, one book per day. On Amazon.com, the first book in the trilogy had around 1,300 free downloads, the second book had around 228 free downloads, and the third book had around 411 free downloads. The free promotion on the third book ended two hours ago. Since the free promotion on the first book ended two days ago, I’ve sold 79 copies of it. This is my first experience with these kinds of numbers, and I must say I find it rather exhilarating. 🙂

  24. Generous as always David. You are becoming the role model for the undecided and apprehensive. I just can’t work out the writing/marketing balance yet. Feel the product has to take precedence to provide the confidence for the second. Your analysis makes obvious how it has to go. Congratulations on everything and Happy New Year.

  25. Great recap, Dave. It’s been exciting following your trials and tribulations, and 2012 will certainly become even more interesting.
    Happy New Year!

    1. I’ll have a guest post soon from someone who had down really great out of Kindle Select (using the free days wisely) and I’ll probably intro it with links to other people who are using free in different ways and making it work for them.

  26. Happy New Year, Dave. I enjoyed Let’s Get Digital and really love this blog.

    I totally relate to your journey. Why some agents go from star-struck school girl to missing in action is so incredibly frustrating and inexplicable.

    Here’s to 2012. This time next year we’ll be looking back with smiles!

  27. Congratulations again! Your story and reports about what’s happening in the publishing industry are a big part of why I decided going indie. When I get discouraged, you remind me to keep going.

    have a very happy new year!

  28. David:

    I loved LET’S GET DIGITAL so much that I put your blog on my must-read list. This post is marvelous for those of us who just got into the epublishing game. You so clearly detail what happened this year—both in the epublishing world at large and your own writing life—that I feel as if I’ve been a part of it all along. I especially related to your hitting rock-bottom this year, since that was my exact experience this year, too. It must have been something going around—perhaps a virus created by the mainstream publishers?

    Recently I published my mystery novel, A REAL PIECE OF WORK, on Kindle and was left afterwards with an overwhelming feeling of “What next?” As a 20-year veteran writer, I was stuck between the old and new publishing paradigms. I gave the issue a lot of thought, and for anyone—especially fellow writers—interested in what it means for writers now to be their own publishers, I invite them to give my blog piece a look: “A Shattered Paradigm.”


    Thank you for writing such a great all-around book on epublishing with LET’S GET DIGITAL.

  29. Great post, and a useful overview of 2011 for those of us who came a bit late to catch the kickoff 🙂

    Looking forward to more interesting developments in the new year, and here’s to all writers out there- happy new year to you all!

  30. Wow! I had no idea all that happened this year in self-publishing! True, I came to the party later in the year so I missed a lot, apparently! Thank you so much for posting this!

  31. It’s funny how in the last year and a half, so many self-pubbed authors came to do it by finding Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath’s blogs and taking the leap into it. The first quarter of your year is almost identical to mine. I found one, then the other and finally decided to do it all myself after being rejected. This year will see me publish a third and hopefully, fingers x’d a fourth.

    And as for the Aussie book publisher. Angus and Robertson. Although I don’t think they had actually published in years. It was my local bookshop and finally closed in Aug/Sep along with the rest of the country and all of the Borders as well.

    1. Yes – A & R are now only online, and their prices are ridiculous if you compare them to The Book Depository, who mail globally for free. My titles are ‘available’ on the A & R site, but the prices are risible. Would you pay $48 plus postage for According to Luke if you can get it at the Book Depository for $23?

      In addition – the publishing scene in Australia, up to October 2010, was a closed box. No one could get in or out unless they were a Masterchef or Biggest Loser celebrity. Or the brother of some Prime Minister or something. We have only a handful of agents, and most are booked out. Resorting to overseas small publishers and releasing one’s own titles were the last remaining resorts, and no one regrets taking them less than me. I have had a bumper year.

  32. On a slightly unrelated note, has anyone noticed a price change on Amazon? My book is now £3.57 instead of £3.99 on the UK site, which equals the 15% tax difference, though it states that VAT is included. I’ve noticed A Storm Over Valparaiso is now £3.57 also, and I’m wondering if this is a site-wide change – maybe they’re now including tax with the original price at which you set your book? Or have the new ebook tax laws gone ahead? I’m a bit out of the loop, after a hectic holiday schedule 🙂

    1. Hi Matt,

      I heard that Luxembourg were reducing the VAT rate on e-books from 15% to 3% on January 1st. As Amazon sell all e-books in the EU through their Luxembourg office, and as the applicable VAT is decided by the country of the seller, not the buyer, this meant that the applicable VAT rate for all EU Amazon book purchases also dropped to 3% from January 1st.

      There seems to be a few weird prices knocking about. It might be the system digesting all the changes. The prices for me seem to have gone up.


      1. Thanks for the reply, David.

        Now I look at it, not including the 15% vat would make the price 3.47, not 3.57 – whereas 3% of 3.47 is 0.10, so you’re right in that it’s changed to 3% vat. Good news of course, though it does create some ugly-looking prices! I’m not sure yet whether to set it back to £3.99, or perhaps settle for £3.49. I’ll probably wait a few days at any rate, in case the prices change again.

        Oh, and it’s worth noting not all EU stores seem to be affected – whereas on the German site my book has also changed to 3.47 from 3.99 (Euros), the French, Italian, and Spanish still list it as 3.99.

  33. David,

    Just catching up on my email and finally read your post. Thanks for doing such a thorough review of what all went on for publishing (self and otherwise) in 2011. Wow. Thanks for the recap! Nicely done!

    I don’t think you’re wrong about anything you predict in these amazing times of self-publishing. And, I will “never” fawn over agents in the comments of their blogs again. Whew! That, alone, makes it all worthwhile. : )

    Thanks! Happy New Year!!!

    1. It has been an amazing year, personally, and for self-publishing in general. Writing all that down had quite an effect on me. Things happen so fast that you never really stop and take stock. It’s nice to do that once in a while.

  34. Bravo! I’m very happy for you.

    I’m a self-pubbed author, too. My first book did extremely well, but that was in 2007 and 2008. Deciding to write another story, I didn’t have time to promote the first book, and unfortunately, sales diminished. Kindle wasn’t a hot commodity and ebooks were still on the fence.

    Now, after everything you’ve written, which I have read about all on my own through different sources, I am self pubbing another novel through Create Space. Can I ask you how or who you self pubbed with?

    Great blog and hooray for your success. More inspiration for me.


    1. Hey Val,

      All my releases have been e-book only so far. I mainly publish through KDP (Amazon) and Smashwords (which gets me into Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Barnes * Noble – who don’t allow international self-publishers). I will be doing my first print books this month – Createspace to start with.


  35. Yes, thanks for the post! Like Lakia I’m also about to publish my first novel, and have found blogging to be a great motivator, along with the friends I’ve made. The future is unknown, but it looks exciting… I don’t mean to seem to ‘advertise’ myself but I started a blog to celebrate this unity with fellow self-publishers. Check it out- I just started it two days ago. http://www.prefacme.com

    1. I published them as “singles” i.e. single short stories for 99c on Amazon and Smashwords (and thru them, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Barnes & Noble). You can see the covers on the side there – the black and white one with the bird, and the blue one with the eyes.

  36. As a non-writer who has no ambition to self-publish or be published, but instead as a reader hoping to read rather than write “the great American novel” where does my future lie? A novel needs be written, published and read. Can one person do any two of these things well concurrently? I think the final industry model has quite a bit of tweeking left in it to do. See you in September after the ink dries again.

    1. Yes, they can. I’ll let you in on a little secret. The publishing part is easy. Marketing is hard. Writing a great book is harder again. But, the publishing part? A doddle compared to the other two. My last novel took me years. The publishing part took a couple of weeks. It’s a tiny fraction of the time. In this new era, writers need to be vigilant about protecting their writing time with all these new distractions, but I think most writers are pretty good at that. On top of that, I find self-publishing incredibly motivating. I can write and publish whatever I like – it doesn’t need to go to a committee of 15 people who may kill anything original. That is truly liberating, and it means writers are experimenting with all sorts of things: short stories are undergoing a renaissance, the novella is back from the dead, and things like serialized fiction are making a reappearance. All of this is incredibly exciting to me. And I think that without the commercial shackles of a publisher, writers will produce a lot of crap, yes, but also a lot more daring, experimental work. I think there is a greater change of “the great American novel” appearing now than there ever was.

      Speaking as a reader, I find all of this very exciting too. It was getting harder and harder to find something interesting in bookstores. Piles of identikit books exploring the same themes, wheeling out the same tropes. I had to order most of what I liked. Now, with a Kindle, it’s much easier to find the kind of stuff I like. And being able to sample everything first means I miss way more duds than before.

  37. Timely – I was just looking at Amazon’s self-publishing company, CreateSpace – did you happen to use their editing services? Was wondering if the $199 price tag is worth it… (Buy the book, right?)

    1. My book only covers digital self-publishing. I don’t talk about Createspace much. I’m thinking of updating it soon and adding a chapter, as I will be using them myself this month. I get separate editing, and I don’t remember their editing services being recommended (I can’t remember anything either way, to be honest).

  38. Fantastic! Congrats on your book! Thank you for sharing. This is the dream for many of us. Thanks for letting us in on your journey!

  39. Congratulations, David! Your post is inspiring. Self-publishing looks more accessible now than ever before. I hope 2012 continues to move you towards your goal of making a full living out of what you are already loving and doing so well.

  40. Great post David, I am so glad a saw your blog on self-publishing as this is something that I have been thinking about for awhile. I am looking forward to digging into your site I am sure you have a lot of information that will be able to help me.


  41. David – I appreciate both your solid content as well as all the links. I’m feeling pretty vulnerable while trying to learn the self-publishing/publishing biz, write the book on wisdom and leadership that’s been putting pressure on me for 8 years now (a solid 1st draft is almost done!) and keep myself fully employed as a consultant, plus be a mom, daughter, and good friend. whew. Constant learning curve. Thanks for your help!

  42. No kidding, David. The traditional publishing houses have started to sit up and take notice. Gone are the days of struggling writers sitting around in dark, roach infested apartments lining their mattresses with rejection notices. I self published my first book through Outskirts (big mistake) and now have gone to Amazon. I published my latest book “Notes From the NICU: Overcoming Catastrophic Trial” through them and am very satisfied with the results. I also published to Kindle and all of my books are now KDP. No telling what the future holds for the brick and mortar book store. Most of them are branching out by adding coffee houses and selling blu-ray. We live in fascinating times, my friend.

  43. I just got the pdf. I can’t wait to read your book. I am so eager to publish my own I have written some time ago. I just starting blogging with some of my short stories. I am always glad to see some work hard to what they want out of life. Hopefully I will get on you level on day. Good luck with 2012….

  44. Congratulations on publishing your novel! And congrats on the success you’ve seen from your e-books and the blog. It sounds like you’ve had quite a big year. You’re providing a great service by telling us about the trends of the publishing industry — and sharing your own experiences. It makes for an interesting read to see what’s going on in publishing. I’ve read this with interest, as my own want to publish stories took a years-long break. But with learning about self-publishing e-books, I’m planning on dusting off old short stories and seeing what I can do with them. Keep up the great work in your writing and reporting on the industry — I’m pulling for you!

  45. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My blog site is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my visitors would definitely benefit from some of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Thanks a lot!

  46. First of all congrats. You deserve it. And secondly, thanks. I needed this. I was thinking about going electronic too. This is just the encouragement I need. I don’t want to be a superstar, but I would like to be paid.

  47. Hi …. I’m not sure that this open forum is the correct place to be having this discussion but nevertheless I am going to be doing just that. I too am a self published author (however not on kindle) on Amazon and when I decided to write a book I swore to myself that I was not going to die a poor sod as had most writers of the past. Now your post is a lengthy one and I am in no mood to read about the travails of others … but what I stopped by to write here is …CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO ME WHY YOUR BOOKS ARE SELLING AT 2 AND 3 DOLLARS ? It boggles my mind that you put such a low price tag to your work and if you don’t think your work is worth more than that …how in hades are you going to convince me to buy your book. I am amazed …. is it because the content is re-cycled or not original. Even that probability confuses me for most knowledge already exists in some form somewhere and sometimes we are inspired to put it across better and so a book gets written.
    You better check out the price of my book and up your price if you don’t want to be poor for the rest of your life. We authors must band together and expect to get rich from our work. That way you are a contributing member to society. And I don’t plan on offering an apology for this post.

    1. I note that the book mentioned above is priced at $99. I do agree that if an author can sell books at that price, she will be doing very well for herself. Wishing you luck!

      1. It does make it difficult to get word of mouth started. Is it better to sell 1000 books at $4.99 or 500 books at $9.99 or 50 books at $99.99? Aside from the pennies in variance, I would take the 1000 books at $4.99 any day. That’s 1000 people to tell their friends how much they liked the book. Which is far more likely to get the ball rolling than 50 people, no matter how passionate they are about your work (and they better be at that price).

    2. I think an open forum is a great place to have this discussion.

      First of all, my books are priced between $0.99 and $4.99. The 99c titles are short stories – approximately 5,000 words or 20 pages. I have a how to which is around 60,000 words, or 240 pages, and that’s $3.99 (previously $2.99, but I have raised the price). My only novel, 100,000 words or 400 pages, is $4.99.

      That aside, I see nothing wrong with selling books for $2 or $3. I make a distinction between “price” and “value”. I value my work very highly. I price it at the level that will maximize my profit. If I felt $8.99 would maximize my profit (without alienating existing readers), that would be my price. If I felt 99c would maximize my profit, I would probably price at that too.

      I have expanded on these thoughts previously here: https://davidgaughran.com/pricing/

      But, I’m not going to fob you off with a link, as I think this is an important discussion.

      I think each author needs to decide their own pricing best on their goals with that title. Depending on what your goals are (and your genre, and the demographics of your readership), $9.99, $4.99, $2.99, 99c, or even free, could be the best price.

      For example, if your sole aim is to build an audience, free could be the best approach (at least, for a limited time). Many authors have used this approach successfully for the lead book in a series. Other authors price the first book at 99c, and subsequent books at $2.99, $4.99, or even higher.

      If your goal is to maximize profits, then free or 99c is probably not the best approach, and $2.99, $3.99, or $4.99 might bring best results. If you have a significant and impassioned readership, or if you right niche non-fiction books, higher prices can certainly work.

      I know some authors pricing quite high, and making it work for them. Personally, I think the best approach to pricing is flexibility. Your price is not set in stone. You can change it whenever you like. In my experience, the authors who have had the greatest success (in terms of maximizing profit), are those that experimented with a variety of prices before finding their sweet spot (the perfect intersection of sales and royalties). I would also argue that the sweet spot will vary from genre to genre, author to author, and book to book.

    1. If everyone thought they were going to sell a million e-books after Amanda Hocking did, then I don’t know what to say…

      Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t wonder why someone else has something you don’t. Find your own path. What Amanda Hocking did is unrepeatable. And so is what John Locke did. And what Joe Konrath did. And what Stephen King did. All of these guys found their own path. You must find yours. And it doesn’t even have to go to the same place. I don’t need to sell thousands of books a day. If I could sell 100 books a day, I would be happier than I could imagine.

  48. Great info and well organized format. I am very interested in the whole publishing field, though I have time to look into it, seeing that my first manuscript is only 3/4 complete. Kudos to you for paying some bills! I guess I should cut myself some slack between raising three boys under age 4, blogging everyday and writing a novel!

    1. I don’t know how you find the time, but I guess when you have the bug, you *make* the time. Good luck with the novel. The hardest part is getting over the finish line that first time. Once you do that, you have done something that nobody can ever take away from you, something that most people dream of and never achieve: you will have finished a book. The hard work doesn’t end there, though. You must stick it away in a drawer for a month or 6 weeks. Then read it again with fresh eyes. All sorts of problems will appear. You may begin to doubt yourself, as the book may not seem as good as you thought it was. Don’t panic. It’s all fixable. It just needs a little massaging here and there. Get someone (objective) to read it and give you pointers. The story is in there, you just have to dig it out.

  49. I have to say that I like the old-fashioned book in some ways – mainly that I can write in it and highlight stuff. My daughter is an avid reader and had a house full of books. She bought a Nook, and now she’s getting rid of her books – and I got her great bookshelves. I do love that I can book shop in the middle of the night with my Kindle.

    1. I love books. I love bookstores. I also have a record player and about 500 records. No-one will be taking away your books. I promise. It might just get harder to get new books in print form in the future. There will still be bookstores (indies, my guess, rather than chains), but not as many as before. But you will probably have to order most of what you want from Amazon (if the publisher has released it in print form – I see many going digital-first with “riskier” stuff).

      I got my first Kindle this Christmas. I was a little skeptical, but have been won over very quickly. But I still love books.

  50. A few years ago I started a Crime Novel. I talked myself out of finishing it, thinking I would never catch a break in getting it published. Recently, with the blossoming world of e-books and self-publishing, I have began working on it again. I started a blog to chart my progress, and your summary was the first post that caught my eye, further encouraging me. And for that, kind sir, I thank you for it almost seems like fate now. Cheers to you on your success and I hope to follow in your footsteps this year.

    1. That’s lovely to hear. I must say that self-publishing rescued me from a very dark place (in terms of writing). It has been such a positive experience. The joy is back in my writing.

  51. Great Insight and information about this new way of publishing. I work with writers every day and so many get discouraged because this is become such a digital age. For many writers, they stop dead in their tracks and wave goodbye to becoming a published author because they feel whats the use, publishers are more selective now then ever so what chance do I have of getting my foot in the door. But there is a solution for every problem. You have done a great thing here by writing about this and sharing it. Thank you!

  52. Great overview! It’s nice to see everything in a concise format, because even if you’re there when stuff happens it’s hard to see it in context at the time, you know?
    I’m a … hmm, an associate … of Saffina Desforges – I guest on Mark’s blog and I’m writing a book with them. A co-writer, if you like. Pleased to see them mentioned, ha ha!

      1. That wasn’t my intention, I just couldn’t think of the word at that moment 🙂 As I write my comments as I would say them in real life, it included all the pauses and everything.
        I’ll admit, I did just have to look up what ‘nefarious’ meant, ha ha.
        You read my post? Fame indeed! O.o

  53. Good read. I first read an article on the BBC last year about self-publishing and it seems like ebooks and e-readers are allowing authors to publish their work in the same way YouTube and social networks allowed unsigned performers and bands to build up a reputation without having to go through the conventional channels. You’ve definitely inspired me to have another look at some of the ideas I’ve had and immediately discarded due to a lack of confidence. Self-publishing looks like it could be a great way for an untried writer to put something out there; if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t – nothing ventured, nothing gained! Thanks.

  54. David thanks for this info. Great for new writers and certainly seems the way to go is self publish to start. Some great talent abound and often lost due to the difficulty in getting that foot in the door.
    On 29 December I read a news item that left me so outraged that I started writing about it and before I knew it I had written 243 pages in a 32hour period.
    I am quite pleased to have written this when i was so fired up, I had asked a friend to proof read my “book” (she does this professionally) and she was astounded at the whole premise and asked what happens next. So I am encouraged to get this in print and published – the point i think is that you need to keep going and just do it. Who knows when one’s work might just be a timely issue and before you know it, movie rights and royalties are being discussed! LOL

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  56. I’m impressed.
    Effort and perseverance are rewarded. (It helps to have skill as well)
    You got it!
    I have an interesting concept, and deduction, but poor delivery. I’m working on it.
    You are an inspiration.
    Thank you!

  57. I think this is a post one would consider an inspiration. I’m not looking into a career in writing, but it is one of my favorite hobbies. To see that even a struggling writer can have success (no matter how small) with new options and pathways that are constantly being released is a heart-warmer at the very least.

    Thanks for sharing and keep up with the self-publishing news. It’s a niche I have a vested interest in and I’d love to have a reliable news source. Good luck with your writing!

  58. Wow! Super interesting post. You’ve been through a lot, more than I could imagine I’m sure, but look how great things turned out. 🙂 Good luck this year! I’ll be sure to check out your novel.

  59. Thanks for the article. When I first began writing I thought self-publishing was for someone who couldn’t get an agent or a publisher. Wow, how times have changed. Congratulations and good luck.

  60. Just read your blog for the first time today.
    A great background on the state of play for someone like me who is just starting on the self-publishing road.
    Also, its great to see that there are others out there who are as new to this as me …. it’s encouraging.

  61. I hope to self publish my novel in this fine year. I am already slightly anxious about it but your blog stopped of those doubts. Thanks.

  62. Way to go, David! I too have self-published, twice: a book about passive-aggressive leadership in the workplace, and a book of my poetry, using CreateSpace and selling on Amazon (paperback and Kindle)–which in its infinite wisdom and marketing savvy also allows for distribution (via CreateSpace) to other online bookstores for a nominal fee, which is close to nothing. I am very pleased with the sales so far and with the feedback from readers. And I’m writing and will continue to do so and will continue to self-publish. A revolution is taking place and I for one am proud to be a part of it. Happy writing in 2012! Paula De Angelis

  63. Really interesting post David – thanks for sharing your self-publishing/writing journey. Very honest of you and I’m sure your story will inspire other writers.

  64. I love this post and find it very interesting when I look at my home town. I live in a small country town which has almost totally adopted envionmenatilism as a way of life. We don’t have carrier bags in any of the shops and everything is recycled right down to different food types. What confuses me is that we also have 4 separate book shops (out of about 30 shops in total) and no matter where you go you’re bound to find someone reading a book. It seems that enviornmentalism and book reading are 2 things that go happily side by side. So why is it that these book readers are so averse to the new e-book technology?? Kindle saves trees – I’m pretty sure that’s a valid statement and I for one feel that I’m doing my bit for the environment by owning one and reading all my books and news on it, Anyone else finding this strange paradox?

  65. Thanks for this informative and inspirational post, David. I`m off to purchase my own copy of Let`s Get Digital. My iPad and I thank you! Congrats on such a successful year, and all the best for 2012. 🙂

  66. David- I just came across you blog in Freshly Pressed and I really appreciate it. I downloaded Let’s Get Digital and look forward to reading it. You’ve given me the motivation and confidence to do what I have wanted to do for years. I have read a little about self-publishing and have seen more and more self-published book in the marketplace and you’ve confirmed my suspicions. Though one of my very favorite places in the world is being surrounded by books, life changes and you make your own happiness. Thanks again!

  67. Just found your blog through ‘Freshly Pressed’ Is interesting reading about how you go about self publicizing. As an art photographer I’m going through a similar process but obviously in a different way. Finding the best way to get noticed really takes as much work as producing your work in the first place.

  68. Thank you David!

    the numbers about the rise of digital publishing are really impressive. They are so exponential that, in a way, pose a question. Is the skyrocketing growth of digital publishing going to backfire? Every fast growing phenomenon, if history teaches us something, is governed by chaos and can thus be unpredictable. I haven’t a crystal ball to look into the future of books but forgive me for making a personal guess. I bought a kindle two months ago and I packed it with 30 fresh titles. I was so happy of my new device I couldn’t wait to go on holidays to carry it along. Truth is I left the Kindle home and picked up a couple of books. It was not a sentimental choice, not even a snobbish attitute. I simply find paper books easier to handle and read. There is a spatiality in paper pages that goes beyond the easy to flip-browse-go back-underline-and-eardog that Kindle can perform as much as a book. The digital book is frozen into a single screen, and its fixed form looks to me archaic and undeveloped, probably because it reminds me of a cuneiform clay tablet. I personally think paper books will have a revamp (the way vinyl lp are having today). The pleasure of weight, smell, space and slow yellowing of paper will always find a shelf on our heart.

  69. Thank you, David, very useful. But in addition to novels I’ve been working on my musical for over two decades; when will Amazon start doing something for musical theater? 😉 Cheers from Bangkok.

  70. Hi, David,
    2011 was a special year and your great post fabulously describes it. It’s good to write and analyze it, because it was a truly exceptional time for self-publishing, and publishing industry in general.
    I’ve been collecting data all year on top self-published books in Kindle Store and prepared a report http://bit.ly/selfpub2011 which shows a downward trend in both the number of self-published books in Top 100 and the average price.
    The Hocking-Locke success stories are not going to excite any longer, 2011 was the year of “bulk-publishing” of previously written books, there is a growing price competition (publishers, Kindle Daily Deal, Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, etc.).
    I wonder how self-publishing will evolve in 2012 and years to come. My opinion is that there will be less self-published books, they will be more expensive, and “self-publishing” as a term may dissolve as not relevant any longer.
    Cheers from Warsaw!

    1. Hi Piotr,

      I was hoping you would pull all that data together – you have done a great job on tracking it all year.

      I would agree with your last two conclusions (the term “self-publishing” being less relevant, and self-published work becoming more expensive), but I would hold off on the first until we have more data. We don’t know if – for example – the number of spots self-publishers capture in the Top 100 has a seasonal aspect. This is possible. Large publishers schedule the biggest releases from their biggest authors for the run-up to Christmas – Evanovich, King, Patterson, Connolly, Grisham etc. So it’s entirely possible that the “dip” you saw is something that will happen each year, and “normal” service could be resumed this month, or (more likely) next month. We shall see.


      1. You’re right, Dave, it’s too early to claim anything. The coming months will be particularly interesting as there are not solid clues whether the trend will continue or reverse.

        However, what we won’t see this year, at least to this extent:
        – self-published success stories – media won’t publish articles about Hocking-like authors (first, because they get boring, second, because publishers will offer contracts before the self-pub’d book becomes a bestseller)
        – the $0.99 shock – it went together with “self-publishing”. But now $0.99 books are offered by big publishers, plus we have Kindle Daily Deal, and free books from Kindle Owners’ Lending Library – to name Kindle Store only. $0.99 becomes a part of the landscape.

        What is also very important – the stunning sales figures from 2011. First, they were generated from selling multiple books AND by unknown authors. Secondly, general audience was not aware that a single author can actually sell millions of ebooks – so this came together with discovering the scale of ebook business.

        I can imagine well-known authors who decide to self-publish their books in a digital format. But a well-known, bestselling author selling millions of Kindle ebooks is not as exciting as the one about a 26-old who was rejected times.

  71. David, thank you so much for posting this ‘year in review’. This is useful information and certainly puts things in perspective. I’ll be forwarding the link to my writing group. I hope you’ll do one for 2012 as well so we can compare the developments over the years. Please make this your annual gift to other writers : )

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