Time Traveling Through the Past Decade of Publishing

I promised to have a guest post from a writer who is doing well out of KDP Select, to balance out my post explaining why I wouldn’t be participating, and why I was against the program in general.

This is the first of two guest posts on KDP Select from writers that are participating, and doing very well out of it.

And don’t worry, I’m not slacking off while the guest posters are in the house – I have a new column up at Indie Reader called The Sharks Are Circling.

Here’s Marilyn Peake:

The past ten years have seen such sweeping changes in the publishing industry, specific technologies have gone from cutting-edge to old-fashioned in what seems nearly the blink of an eye. Ten years ago, I self-published a novel (The Fisherman’s Son) and two years later, self-published a second novel (The City of the Golden Sun, the second novel in The Fisherman’s Son Trilogy).

I did this through a large self-publishing house that rose to success using two methods that were revolutionary at the time: print-on-demand (POD) production of paper books and an arrangement with a distribution company devoted to warehouse storage and distribution of books from self- and indie publishers.

Back then, it was important for self- and indie publishers to have a distributor willing to store their paper books, so that online booksellers like Amazon would agree to work with them. The self-publishing company I used also offered eBooks, but that was practically just an added extra, not anything an author felt they needed to have in their publishing package.

Two years after I first self-published, both of my books plus a third book in the trilogy (Return of the Golden Age) were picked up by an indie publishing house that was one of the earliest eBook companies on the Internet. At some point, this indie publisher also began offering paperbacks because so many authors needed them for reviewers and book promotions.

Fast-forward one decade later, and I’m experimenting with Amazon’s KDP Select self-publishing program for the same books plus additional titles. It’s been a fascinating journey, and I can tell you that I’m selling significantly more books than ever before through KDP Select. This blog post is an attempt to walk down memory lane, to share with you what has been possible through self-, indie and eBook publishing over the past decade and to talk about Amazon’s new KDP Select program.

When self-publishing first began using print-on-demand technology, it offered writers a chance to succeed as an author; but there was so much disdain toward self-publishing, so much control over the marketplace by the large traditional publishing houses and the prices of POD books were so exorbitant, the chances of financial success were minimal.

I’ll tell you an interesting story that clearly demonstrates how much times have changed. Way back then, I signed up with a company that produces slide-show ads that run before movies in theaters to have an ad created for my first self-published novel and run before every movie in a local theater for a week. The woman who produced my ad was so excited about my children’s novel, The Fisherman’s Son, that she arranged for me to present it to children at a local YMCA.

Feeling confident, I approached the Borders across the street from the theater to do a book signing during the week the ad would run. They were interested until they found out that the book was self-published; then they refused to host a book signing, as it was against corporate policy to allow this for self-published books. Recently, that Borders store closed and all its furnishings, including bookshelves, were offered for sale. How times have changed.

Despite limitations such as difficulty arranging book signings, I was still able to accomplish a great deal, especially after my books were published by an indie company. A huge array of possibilities had opened up for self- and indie-published authors. I signed up for Radio-TV Interview Report (RTIR) and spoke on radio across the United States and in Canada. Piers Anthony actually read the first novel in my trilogy, sent me a great review quote for it and corresponded with me by email for a while.

I had a two-page interview in TBD, a print fanzine associated with Io, the University of Glasgow Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, and they mailed me a copy all the way from Scotland. (I live in the United States.) Excerpts of my writing were included on CDs produced by a Stargate novelist and handed out at a convention to Stargate actors and fans. I heard from several libraries interested in creating bookshelf displays for my novels, one library interested in promoting my children’s novels as books to read for those who enjoyed the Harry Potter series. I received emails from adults telling me about children writing book reports on my children’s novels.

In 2005, I created a newsletter for which I invited other people to write articles, and eventually had enough authors and people fromHollywoodwrite articles to arrange two book deals in which every person who wrote an article was a co-author. These books included information on how to succeed in the worlds of writing and acting. It was a thrill for me when both these books won awards in competition with some very impressive books. The first newsletter book, in fact, received a Silver Award in the 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards, in the Performing Arts/Drama category that also included a book about the behind-the-scenes world of the Hairspray movie.

Those were exhilarating, heady times. Despite the increased number of opportunities for self-published and indie authors, however, actual sales were dismal by today’s standards. Back then, any self-published or indie author who managed to sell 300 copies of their book was considered successful. I did manage to sell that number and even slightly surpass it, but I spent far more money than I made from royalties on book promotion and ordering paperbacks for book promotion and to send to reviewers and book award contests.

Enter Amazon’s brand new KDP Select program at the end of 2011. I was skeptical. I thought, “Oh, here we go again. Another opportunity to self-publish, to sign with another company, to earn next to nothing.”  Only time will tell how most authors will fare with this program, but the initial reports are promising. Established authors like Joe Konrath have already made a jaw-dropping amount of income from this program. Quite a few authors on Kindle Boards are reporting significantly increased sales from the program, especially soon after the special promotion days on which they offered their books for free through KDP Select.

It seemed counterintuitive to me that an author would sell increased numbers of books after offering them for free, until I read that Amazon sold one million Kindles per week during December 2011. That’s a whole lot of Kindles in need of books!  I decided to sign up several of my titles—including my trilogy of children’s novels that had previously been self-published and indie-published, and for which I had arranged to have rights returned to me after sales had declined. During the KDP Select free promotions, thousands of copies of my children’s novels were downloaded. Then, to my utter amazement, I sold hundreds of copies of those books within just a few days following those free promotions.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane for one author. I think, fellow writers, we’re standing on the brink of a whole new era in which the sky may be the limit. Time will tell, but the early signs are promising.

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Thanks to Marilyn for sharing her fascinating journey. Her website is here, and you can follow her on Twitter here.

On Monday, I’ll have another guest post on the joys of KDP Select, and something else from me in the meantime.

Before I go, I want to give a quick thank you to the team over at Unusual Historicals for featuring me and my new book on Sunday, where I, well, interviewed myself. Thanks guys, and happy writing everyone!

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.