Posts Tagged ‘ gatekeepers ’

Secret Lives of 2 Genre-Jumpers – NYT Best-Selling Author Ruth Harris Embraces Self-Publishing.

New Renaissance

When we think about indie publishing and the New Renaissance we think mostly about new writers, frustrated by the old system of begging & groveling to the gatekeepers, who take matters into their own hands.

And once they’ve enjoyed the freedoms indie publishing brings they suddenly aren’t in such a rush to chase the old dream of the agent-publisher route. If you’re one of the few that still is living in the fantasy world that agent-publisher is the only, or indeed the best, route to success I suggest you check out my post over at WG2E (appearing some time today).

Here at MWi I’ve been saying for a long time that for new writers wanting to get a foot in the door the window of opportunity will not be open forever. Traditionally-published authors who have already established a loyal fan base will be watching the rise of the indie, doing the math, and realizing the future is digital.

Of course they can still stick with their traditional publishers and be digitally published too. But that means they’ll still have to play agents’ and publishers’ games, follow the agent-publisher snail’s pace timetable (typically at least eighteen months from completion of book to the book actually being available) and then giving the agent their fee and watching the publisher pocket the bulk of the sales money.

But if you’re a million-selling traditionally published author there’s no argument. Trad-pub is still the best, surely? Million-selling authors don’t need to go indie. That would be backward step.

I’ve argued many times here on MWi that actually they do, they will, and more importantly they are.

You see, traditional publishers live in a time-warp world where, even as they embrace digital technology, they are quite unable to embrace the digital mentality that makes indies the success they are. They cannot think outside the box.

Trad-publishers think all they have to do is convert a paper script to digital format, stick it on Amazon, and everything continues as usual. The same old rules apply about marketing, about pricing, about genres and about what will sell. You write sci-fi and your next book is lit-fic? Say goodbye to your contract. You write crime thrillers and your next book is fantasy? Forget it. Write what we want you to write or say goodbye to your contract. And then we’ll price it to suit us, market it in the only way we know how, and blame you for being a crap writer if it flops.

Thankfully those days are nearly over.

As I said over at David Gaughran’s  a few days ago,

The digital revolution is more than just about how we reach our readers, important though that is. It’s also about what new things we offer them to read.

One of the key points of that post over at David’s was to discuss collaboration. Writers teaming up to co-author books, just as we have done.

Enter NYT Best-Selling author Ruth Harris. For the second time in a month I’ve managed to tempt Ruth away from the comfort of Anne R. Allen’s blog to share her unique perspectives with MWi readers.

Ruth isn’t just a million-selling author. Ruth has worked within the Big Six industry and knows first-hand their dirty secrets. Ruth knows how they work, she knows all the benefits they can bring, and she has the status to knock on the right doors.

She’s also married to a best-selling non-fiction author, Michael Harris. So when they decided to collaborate on a book together it goes without saying this dream partnership would take full advantage of their best-seller status and get their next book out in glossy hardback with a Big Six publisher. After all, indie publishing is just for us losers who couldn’t get past the gatekeepers, right?

Here’s Ruth:

I’m known for my bestselling women’s fiction. My DH, Michael, is known for his bestselling non-fiction. So, of course, we decided to do the next logical thing and write a thriller—a form both of us love whether in book or movie form.


We wanted the challenge of trying something new and thought since we are both pros, we would know pretty soon if our thriller, HOOKED, was working or not. Michael is an excellent editor with special strengths in organizing and outlining. I shine when it comes to manuscript editing, revising and rewriting. Depending on who felt more strongly about which scene, we both wrote first draft.


One of my first publishing jobs was at Bantam where I started out as a copywriter. At that time, Bantam published a full menu of paperbacks. They ranged from classics, to mainstream bestsellers, to romance-mystery-thriller-sci-fi-western genres, some original, others reprints of hard cover editions. Thus it was that in the course of a week, I wrote blurbs for a new nurse romance, Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy, a collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a top bestseller and a series mystery. Without knowing it, I was learning to write in a wide variety of styles in order to appeal to different audiences. Looking back, I realize that this experience helped give me the confidence to try something way out of my usual genre.


For Michael, who wrote about his experiences as a human guinea pig during the seventeen US H-bomb tests in the 1950’s, a fictional thriller was far more appealing than the real thriller he endured at the Pacific Proving Ground. His memoir about his eleven years working in television for the Ed Sullivan show where his duties included meeting the Beatles at the airport on their first trip to the US and writing as many press releases as I did blurbs. A thriller about the rich and famous was a way to use his showbiz background as a setting for fiction.


The prospect of creating larger-than-life characters (although, God knows, there were plenty of those in the US military and TV showbiz not to mention NYC publishing) and coming up with shocking plot twists and turns had irresistible appeal for both of us.


Last of all, the need to offer the reader a satisfying quantity of sex and violence appealed to us both.  I ask you: What writer could resist?


We’ve always worked closely together, whether on my books or Michael’s, so the actual process was smooth. Michael is good at adding a bit more explanation when I skim over an important point too quickly. I’m good at coming up with far-out plot twists we both think can’t work but eventually do.


The result is HOOKED, an international geopolitical-medical thriller about a brilliant and charismatic celebrity doctor whose miracle treatments make every fantasy come true—at a price.


Sexy, exciting, diabolical—that’s what we were aiming for. Readers will now get the chance to see if we succeeded.

So, all sounds good, but now we’ve got to wait a year until the book is actually published, right? And then take out a mortgage to be able to buy the hardback, or pay a fortune for the over-priced ebook because the Big Six publisher needs to pay their shareholders.

Well no, actually. I predicted way back in April here on MWi that it was just a matter of time before mega-sellers started self-publishing at indie prices.

That time has come. When Ruth Harris goes indie, she goes indie! Pop along to amazon.com and you can download Hooked right now for just $1.41 or on amazon.co.uk for a mere 86p.

Is it any good? Ruth sent me an ARC.

Now that alone is worth becoming an indie author for. Living in a mud hut in West Africa and being sent ARCs by million-selling authors like Ruth Harris? You couldn’t make it up!

Here’s what I said about it:

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the operating theatre… NYT best-selling author Ruth Harris and Michael Harris take on the medical-political thriller. Sleepless nights ahead for Daniel Silva and Tess Gerritsen as their crowns are threatened.

I just hope Ruth and Michael don’t decide to do crime thrillers next!

I concluded on David Gaughran’s blog,

Far from a tsunami of crap, the future holds a tsunami of excellence as writers experiment and innovate, unfettered by the shackles of the old corporate publishing box.

Hooked, by Ruth Harris & Michael Harris, is a fine example of the tsunami of excellence threatening to drown us all.

What a way to go!

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Blog Round-Up August 25th

Contrary to popular opinion it was pure coincidence I happened to return to the UK just as civil unrest peaked once again. A timely reminder of the tensions that simmer below the surface of even outwardly wealthy and stable societies like Britain.

But yes, I survived the mindless violence of the UK riots, the exorbitant prices of the UK coffee bars and the dreadful UK summer weather that drove me out several weeks early. I even survived (with some mental scarring, admittedly) meeting co-author Saffi for the third time. And now I’m back in beautiful West Africa where, if I never leave again, it will be too soon.

Today, a quick pick of recent blogs elsewhere that have caught my attention as I play catch-up.

John Locke

The BIG story of the past week has of course been John Locke’s deal with Simon & Schuster, whereby they get to publish his books in print and he gets to keep his e-rights. Or something like that. Details remain sketchy, but if the initial indications live up to expectations then this is major new development in publishing.

Of course Locke is in the enviable position of being a million-seller indie writer. Will the same option be open to lesser mortals? That remains to be seen.

Kris Rusch

For Kris Rusch this is yet another example of the survival instinct of the traditional publishers kicking in. Kris argues the trad’ pub’ industry still has plenty of life in it and will remain “the gold standard” in the same way the big TV channels remain the gold standard for broadcasting. Kris is a long-established writer who built her empire the only way possible at the time, but now enthusiastically embraces the new world while keeping the best of the old. Of those either / or types, she says:

Some are still stuck in traditional-think, including an influential blogger whom everyone says is brilliant and who simply pisses me off because he can’t seem to look beyond his traditional publishing training. On the other side of the equation are the all-indie-all-the-time folks who ignore (or perhaps don’t understand) that traditional publishing will never leave us. Traditional publishing will remain the gold standard, partly because they have so much gold.

Interesting stuff. Be sure to check out Kris’s post in full.

Joe Konrath

Of course one of the biggest proponents of indie-publishing is the ever-lovable Joe Konrath, who sees the Locke deal as another nail in the coffin of traditional publishing:

Publishers will start folding. It’s inevitable.

What S&S did with Locke was a ballsy move, but also a desperate one. It’s desperate, because they are hastening their own demise, and are just trying to make a few more bucks before it all falls apart. Not to get all Godwin’s Law here, but there is a Vichy French analogy to be had. S&S is going to try to make a few bucks from Locke, whose business model is ultimately going to put them out of business.

My thoughts are that while paper is unquestionably in demise and the future of publishing is unquestionably digital, many of the traditional publishers will survive the Transition and simply shift their emphasis to digital, emerging smaller, leaner, but still able to deliver a service that will suit readers and writers alike. I’ll be blogging more on this third way option in the near future.

David Gaughran

Another big discussion recently has been what, exactly, sells books. And the consensus seems to be: word of mouth.

David Gaughran ran a post on this –  – which sums up the reality of book-selling:

Unless you have already had a bestseller on your hands (and your next book will essentially market itself), word-of-mouth is your only chance of breaking out.

We have all seen it in action. A friend presses a book into your hand – with a fevered look in their eye – and says you have to read this. Or someone gifts you a book on Amazon because they are so determined for you to read it, they don’t want to take the chance that you won’t act on their tip. I remember a friend refusing to talk to me until I read a particular book. It was that important to him.

When you get someone that passionate, they will recommend it to everyone they know. A book really takes off when all those people then become equally passionate and recommend it to everyone they know. Then word spreads exponentially.

Anne R Allen

Of course getting the book noticed in the first place is key, or people won’t spread the word in the first place. Anne R Allen’s latest post is on the demise of the book tour and how blogging does a far better job anyway.

That’s because it’s not just the ebook that’s killing the book tour. Social networking has affected it even more—simply because social networking has turned out to be a better way to sell books than traditional advertising.

Kristen Lamb

Kristen Lamb meanwhile makes the point that blogging for fellow writers, while a great way of increasing exposure, is only reaching a small fraction of the reading market.

As Kristen says,

We MUST reach out to fresh blood and bring new readers into the family. If we don’t our platform becomes almost inbred, then starts playing the banjo and firing a shotgun in the air and it’s all downhill from there.

A pretty sobering thought! Kristen concludes,

Next week we will talk more about some ways to break out of the comfort zone and start tapping into larger networks that can become readers. Go after new blood.

So, not only hitting home with her main point, but also guaranteeing we’ll be back next week to see what solutions will be revealed. Not for nothing is Kristen Lamb’s column a must-read for anyone hoping to make social media work for them.

One last selection from the industry bloggers.

Meghan Ward debates the thorny issue of copyright, plagiarism and cryptomnesia.

No, cryptomnesia isn’t some dreadful fungal infection of the nether regions, but the technical term for remembering something long forgotten and regurgitating it as something new and original.

Meghan says,

Okay, first let’s take a poll. How many of you recite The Lord’s Prayer while having sex? Can I see a show of hands?

Please don’t answer that in the comments section! Pop across to Meghan’s site to see the relevance. No blasphemy or graphic sex scenes there, despite the quote above. But an important debate on plagiarism, what constitutes it, and why cryptomnesia is a reasonable defence in law before you waste money trying to sue someone.

On other blogs, Lindsay Buroker has a great piece on why you should have a news-letter if you’re a writer. Compelling stuff. So compelling that I’ll be having one here at MWi just as soon as I’ve worked out the behind-the-scenes widget stuff to make it happen.

BTW the image, left, probably isn’t Lindsay, but seems the real Lindsay, like me, prefers not to see themselves staring back from the screen.

Prue Batten

Over at Mesmered, meanwhile, Prue continues her Big Red Chair interviews with Shea MacLeod in the hot seat.

Shea MacLeod

Prue has her own unique approach to interviewing writers that reveals much more about the author than just their latest book.

Mesmered: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

Shea: I love old school sci-fi B-movies.  You know, those horribly cheesy black and white movies where some kind of bomb irradiates the world except for one house in a valley somewhere.  Then the survivors are attacked by mutant bugs.  Awesome!

If I didn’t already have Shea’s book on my Kindle that’s the kind of interview that would have me hitting the buy button.

Megg Jensen

Meanwhile Megg Jensen just knocked up her first one thousand sales for her wonderful historic-dystopian coming-of-age books. Megg has been embarrassed by me before for lauding her wonderful debut novel, Anathema, so I shan’t mention it here.

I remember when we first reached that 1000 sales milestone, so can share Megg’s elation as described on her blog:

Over the first month, a number appeared in my head: 1,000. I wanted to sell 1,000 books. That, I decided, would be my goal.

Well, earlier this week I surpassed 1,000 sales. It took me nearly seven months, but who cares? I DID IT! 1,000 paid sales of my books. It’s unreal.

Now that I’m on the other side of 1,000, things don’t look too awfully different. There’s no BMWs, no champagne and caviar parties, no afternoons lounging by the pool while I watch the pool boy from the corner of my eye.

Yep, at the end of the day it’sa number. But a pretty cool number. And the great thing is, 1000 sales is just the beginning. Who knows how many books Megg will sell in the next seven months. Safe to say it will be substantial.

So many more blogs I’d love to mention (and lots more still to catch up on), but time and space are against me. Megg’s thousand sales seems a great place to stop.

Western travelling is one great time suck nowadays. Great for reading. Not so great for being on-line and keeping up with things. And much as I’d like to read all the back-posts I’ve missed, I’ve also got to get on with the next books. With three co-authors now screaming at me simultaneously there’s even less time to browse.

So, any other juicy must-read blogs I’ve missed this past few weeks? Any news or industry gossip I’m missing out on?

Let me know!

Harry Potter and the New Renaissance

No, it’s not an exclusive on the latest book from Ms Rowling. Sadly it looks like Harry Potter has finally outgrown his own series

And anyway no-one in their right mind would write a story about a boarding school. That went out with Anthony Buckeridge, Enid Blyton, Angela Brazil and Elinor Brent-Dyer, right?

Jolly Hockey Sticks, and all that. Just so last century!

Or so the gatekeepers would have us believe. And fourteen years after Ms Rowling proved that a boarding school setting for a book can scrape up the odd sale or two after all, the gatekeepers are still firmly dictating what will and will not sell.

Usually by the simple expedient of making sure it’s not available to buy.

But the digital revolution in publishing means the gatekeepers no longer have the monopoly on what readers will be allowed to read. And that means writers are at last free to write what they want to write, to target their own audiences, to find their own markets, and to prove their own worth.

A month or so back we were contacted by one of the biggest New York agents, keen to represent Sugar & Spice. Not that she’d read it, you understand, but the numbers excited her. Which pretty much summed up the reason why we had to send out the rejection letter. Call us old-fashioned, but we kinda think an agent could at least have read the book they are pretending to be excited about.

But even if they had, what really hit home was her statement (not a suggestion) that we could not write in any other genre “for at least three years.” We had written a crime thriller, therefore we were crime thriller writers. In fact, when we showed Ms New York Hot Shot Agent our WIP list, with everything from YA to dark fantasy to historic lit fic’ to chick-lit she pretty much told us to sit on the naughty step and not even think of writing another word of anything without her permission.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Had it been written at the time I would have referred said agent to Anne R Allen’s great post on the way the publishing industry has changed since 2009. As Anne shows, in the time it takes for a typical book to get from agency acceptance to the bookstore the publishing world has been turned on its head.

Quite simply it is a New Renaissance, where writers can write what they think readers will read and then let the readers decide.

Over the next few weeks here at MWi we’ll be exploring just some of the many ways writers are not just writing differently, but also marketing, helping one another, and engaging with their readers in ways the gatekeepers are still struggling to come to terms with.

The old tick-box genres the gatekeepers so loved have been among the first to fall. But in the new paradigm nothing is off limits. And many of you are pushing back the boundaries day by day, taking full advantage of the new freedoms digital publishing brings to prove the old gatekeeper rules have no place in the new world.

Leading the way is J.K. Rowling herself, who has turned the tables on the very gatekeepers who made her the biggest writing name on the planet. Ironically she does so just as her Harry Potter novel series comes to an end.

That’s the Harry Potter series about a bunch of boarding school kids and magic potions and wizard’s hats. You know, the sort of thing the gatekeepers said was unsellable.

Here’s teen author and MWi regular Charley R., lamenting the end of an era.

It All Ends Here… Or Does It?

Last night marked the end of my childhood. Sitting in a squishy chair, with a pair of funny black glasses balanced on the end of my nose, an over-priced Pick ‘n’ Mix in my lap and with my stomach doing backflips in my belly, I watched as the story that has captivated thousands like me finally came to an end.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two.

The story has spanned seven books, eight films, fourteen years, and more money than I could hope to count in a lifetime. It’s made household names of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint, and allowed me to convince every small child I babysit that, because I go to boarding school, I can – and will – turn them into frogs if they don’t go to bed on time.

But it meant more than that to me. I grew up with these books, and one of my earliest memories is of sitting outside on a chilly evening in Germany, listening to my dad read to me about the odious Dursley family, and whispering the street name to myself. Number Four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.

To me, Harry, Ron and Hermione’s world was more than just an entertaining story. Hogwarts, like Narnia, Middle Earth and countless other fantastic worlds, became my second home through a childhood that was not always as pleasant as one would like. Whenever I was sad, I would retreat inside the story, and comfort myself that, at least, I wasn’t expected to keep my dignity when faced with Moaning Myrtle in a bubble bath.

But now, if the media hype is to be believed, it is all over. The last book is out, the last movie finished, and the actors and actresses who brought Rowling’s marvelous creations to life are all moving on to bigger things in the outside world.

Harry Potter is over.

Or is it?

Can a story, really, end? Is one telling enough to exhaust it? Is it just a fad, like suspenders and mullet haircuts, that, having lived out its glory days, will fade away until nobody remembers it? Will I one day walk into a bookstore and have someone say to me “Harry who?”

I don’t think so. Stories aren’t that easy to get rid of. Stories aren’t one-use goods, seen once and gone with a miserable puff of black smoke, vanishing faster than a house elf. Stories can come back time and time again and, whether it’s the first, or the hundred-thousandth time you’ve heard it, the ones you love will always kindle that little spark inside your soul. They’ll always be there, like an old friend or treasured toy from childhood, waiting to welcome you back into the world you have come to love so much, and take you on the travels with the characters who first enchanted you all that time ago, ready to vanish into adventures beyond your wildest dreams.

The last film be over, but, like every true classic – and yes, I think this is a true classic of children’s literature – it will never, really, be gone. I, at least, will certainly make a point of reading the story of the green-eyed bespectacled teenage wizard to whatever children, god-children or any other form of young friend or relative I may come to know in future, and I know I’m not alone. That’s what stories are for; for sharing and passing on the magic, for bringing people together in the shared love of a tale, whatever it may be.

The franchise has ended.
The story never will.

Thanks, Charley. Check out her latest post on her own blog, which is a rather stunning poem. Yes, this gal is multi-talented!

And yes, you did read right. “Because I go to boarding school,” not “when I went…” Charley is just sixteen, and one of  two exciting teen writers I’ve recently recruited to the MWi hall of infamy.

Charley says, “That’s what stories are for; for sharing and passing on the magic, for bringing people together in the shared love of a tale, whatever it may be.”

Which is why I love collaborative writing. Because what Charley says applies to writers just as much as readers.

Regulars will know I’ve been co-writing with the one and only Saffina Desforges for a whole year now, with tolerable results. You’ll also know I predicted a time soon when books would join TV as multi-authored, bringing together a number of writers to work on a series, book by book. A sixty-thousand word novel between four writers suddenly becomes just 15,000 words each. With four minds contributing ideas, and four sets of eyes editing one another’s work.

That time has come. Saffi and I have teamed up with the above mentioned Charley and fellow teen writer Miriam, on the first of a new series of YA fiction set in – don’t tell Ms New York Agent! – a boarding school.

NOT St. Mallory's!

St. Mallory’s Forever! is the first of the series, currently underway. No release date in mind just yet – Saffi and I have other projects also under way not least Rose Red Book 2: Rapunzel and the first of our chicklit mystery series China Town, and the girls themselves have a small matter of exams to fit in – but it’s progressing well.

The new paradigm is a new renaissance precisely because we as writers can do something like this, which the gatekeepers would never in a million years approve.

So far the feedback has been really positive. Everyone seems to love the idea of a new boarding school series, and the involvement of two teen writers, one living that very life, will bring authenticity and insight we could never manage on our own. And as you can see from Charley’s post above, both these gals know how to write!

So how about you? Are you taking full advantage of the new opportunities available?

Are you discovering other writers who are experimenting, or experimenting yourself?  

Tell us about is in the comments section. Or even better, come and do a guest post and give us the full version.

Don’t Believe The Hype – David Gaughran Separates Myth And Reality About Indie-Publishing

They say tomorrow never comes, so when I said, last post, that David Gaughran would be my guest here “tomorrow” I was sort of right.

Okay, I was wrong. Events overtook my plans, as far too often recently, but (fingers crossed) MWi resumes normal service from today. Honest!

So, David is finally here as promised, fresh and  forthright as usual, and taking no prisoners!

For those unfamiliar, David has, in the space of a few short months, gone from the proverbial “nowhere” in literary circles, to one of the foremost indie bloggers on the publishing industry circuit, and probably the most significant commentator this side of the pond.

His Let’s Get Digital blog is  a must-read for its up-to-date common sense news and analysis of the latest in publishing, and his latest book, also titled Let’s Get Digital, is a must-read for anyone still on the fence about the future of e-publishing, or anyone about to embark on the journey.

Because of my connection problems back home in monsoon-ridden West Africa the intended post here on MWi to help launch David’s new book never saw the light of day. So before we move to David’s guest post for today here’s MWi regular and indie-publishing success Sibel Hodge on Let’s get Digital:

If you want to self-pub, you absolutely have to read this book. When I started out, I didn’t have a clue about all the things that an Indie author has to get involved in. It’s not just a question of writing a fab book – that’s the easy part! The hard bit is what comes next…

I didn’t have a clue where to find covers, good editors, how to market effectively and gain lovely readers and fans. PRC, MOBI, Epub sounded more like a scratchy disease than anything to do with e-pubbing. I had to learn it bit by bit and very slowly, but in LET’S GET DIGITAL you get you all the information you need in one place. David’s done all the hard work for you!

And the authors who contributed their stories to this book will show you that it really is possible to be a success as an Indie self-pubbing. Their experiences are uplifting and truly inspirational.

So do you want your manuscript sitting in a dusty drawer somewhere, or do you want to live your dream? If so, you need to get a copy of this book!

Let’s get Digital is in the top ten in its genre on amazon.co.uk with five star reviews across the board. It’s also in the top ten in three categories on amazon.com, with similar rave reviews.

Without further ado, here’s David:

Don’t Believe The Hype

Big Publishing likes to characterize self-publishing as an annoyance, a gadfly, an inconsequential nuisance that it would smote if it weren’t too busy counting its gold doubloons and polishing its Fabergé eggs.

Self-publishing is a side-show. The Digital Revolution will be tamed and assimilated. And if any indie writer does actually manage to slither out of the primordial soup, they will be co-opted.

Indie advocates are branded nefarious prophets, Pied Pipers leading clueless writers off the wharf to perish in the endless self-publishing sea.

Why the hysteria? Well, fear is a powerful tool. It can cow entire populations. What chance does a new writer have? All their hopes and dreams are wrapped up in one manuscript, and they are being forced to make a choice.

They know the publishing business is in trouble. They know that e-books are becoming a lot more popular. And they keep hearing indie success stories – new names all the time too.

But when they look at the map they were given, one path clearly leads to being published, once they get past the Gatekeeper, and the other just leads to a dark forest, and all the legend says is “Here Be Wolves.”

I prefer to deal in facts.

  1. You can earn 70% royalties from self-publishing. Big Publishing will pay you 14.9% once your agent gets their cut.
  2. If you self-publish, you will get to decide who edits your book, and who designs your cover. Your book will look exactly like you want it to. With Big Publishing, you have no choice. They may say you will have “approval” over the cover, but in practice you will be railroaded into taking whatever the designer comes up with.
  3. If you self-publish, you will decide the price. Big Publishing won’t care what you think.
  4. If you self-publish, you will decide when the book is released. With Big Publishing you will be locked into a schedule of their choosing, meaning a minimum of twelve months before it hits the bookshelves, often eighteen months, and sometimes even longer.
  5. If you self-publish, you will be paid every month. With Big Publishing, you get paid every six months, if they send the royalties out on time, if your agent processes it quickly, and if the statements are accurate.
  6. If you self-publish, you will have access to up-to-date sales figures. With Big Publishing, you never know how your book is selling until well after the fact.

Those are just some of the clear, irrefutable advantages of self-publishing. If any defender of Big Publishing would like to argue with any of the above, without resorting to nonsense arguments based on fear, I am all ears.

Big Publishing has its advantages too, and the two biggest are you the advance, and access to the print distribution network they have monopolized.

Let’s break that down. The average advance for a new writer is $5,000. If you are lucky, and you bag a contract with one of the major publishers, that might rise to $10,000. Maybe.

That cheque will be split into three payments. A third on signing the publishing contract, a third on acceptance of the manuscript (i.e. when you have made all requested edits), and a third on publication.

The overwhelming likelihood is that you will never see another red cent for that book, so their meagre royalty rate won’t even come into play. That’s all your getting. Forever.

How does that compare with self-publishing? Let’s say you price your book at $2.99, meaning over $2 per book royalties for you. To beat the publishing deal with its $5,000 advance, assuming costs of $1,500 to publish, you need to sell around 3,250 books.

That might sound like a lot to a new writer, but you have forever to hit that number. Well, not quite forever, that’s just shorthand for the length of your life plus 70 years. In other words, your grandkids will still be getting paid by Amazon, long after you are gone. Hey, it’s one way to be remembered.

Forever is hard to think about, and tastes change. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the book will sell for ten years, and then it will be badly dated and no-one will really want to read it. That means you need to sell 325 books a year to beat the average publishing deal. That’s less than one a day.

Therefore, if you think your book is good enough to sell one a day or more, then, on average, you will lose money by going with Big Publishing.

Maybe you think your book is good enough to bag that contract with a major publisher, and step up to that $10,000 advance level. As a self-publisher, you just need to sell two a day and you have that well beat too.

That should show the much-touted advance in a different light. To me, the only real advantage in going with Big Publishing is their ability to get your book into lots of bookstores. That’s near impossible for a self-publisher. So let’s examine that a little closer.

I’m sorry to break this to you but, on a $5,000 advance or even a $10,000 advance, your book is not going to be in every bookstore across the country. It’s not going to be in the window display. It’s not going to be in that prime spot behind the cashier. And it’s not going to be on that table that everyone sees when they walk into the store.

It’s probably not even going to be “face out”. All that bookstore real estate is bought and paid for by the publishers. They only purchase those spots for the books they have made significant investment in, i.e. not a $5,000 or $10,000 advance.

Bookstores are dying. That might sound callous, but it’s a fact. People are moving online, either because of reduced prices and greater selection, or because the recent spate of bookstore closures and chain collapses have left them without a physical place they can buy books other than the box-stores like Wal-Mart or Tesco which only stock the bestsellers anyway.

Amazon is on its way to controlling 50% of the overall US book market in 2012. Each week that one clear advantage of going with a large publisher is worth less and less, and at the kind of advance most writers will get, you won’t even get to exploit it.

These are the facts. But Big Publishing doesn’t want to engage in that argument. Instead, these self-appointed Guardians of Literature do battle with straw men, delighting in these Pyrrhic victories, cheering as straw heads are placed on their crumbling parapets.

Look over there: an awful cover by a self-publisher! Look at this atrocity: prose riddled with dangling modifiers! Look at this poor misguided soul: he only sold five copies!

They can’t defend the status quo with reasoned debate. They must resort to fear-mongering and myth-spreading. You will never make any money. You will never be taken seriously. No agent or publisher will ever touch you. No reader will ever be able to find you.

Amanda Hocking

All of these claims are false and have been debunked again and again, but my favourite is a new one doing the rounds. Apparently, the fact that Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Blake Crouch, Amanda Hocking, Michael Wallace, J Carson Black, Scott Nicholson, Mark Edwards, and Louise Voss have all signed deals with large publishers is proof that self-publishing is some kind of dead-end, that the smart ones are getting out, and that Big Publishing can co-opt the successful anomalies and assimilate them.

J Carson Black

This ignores one very important fact. The power relationship has been inverted. All of these writers were able to get the deal they wanted on the terms they wanted on the back of their self-publishing success.

All bar three of those writers have signed with Amazon and their royalty rates will be far, far in excess of 14.9%, and they will get an unparalleled marketing push. The other three have received eye-popping advances, which will also force their publishers to throw the entire weight of their marketing machine behind them.

Because they self-published. Fact.

David Gaughran, thank you.

Of course, you’ll be thinking “All very well, but these named writers have all been break-out successes selling in numbers most of us can only dream about.  What about the rest?”

Well, Marion G Harmon had a post recently on his progress as a newly self-pubbed writer who hasn’t yet broken-out. Marion will be joining us later in the month to tell us more, but I’ve stolen the following from his blog as a fine example of what David is describing.

Marion is author of a simply brilliant superhero novel called Wearing The Cape. He’ll be back on MWi later this month to tell us about a bold new experiment he’s trying. But for now, the numbers.

Marion started off at 99c to get some traction, as an unknown name with a unknown book, and has now upped to $2.99. Here’s what he reported on his blog last week:

After spending nearly a year seeking an agent, I self-published on April 25th, three months ago. Assuming that I had found an agent, who then immediately found me a publisher (an insanely optimistic assumption, since agented writers often go for years before closing a book deal), I would likely have earned a $7,000 advance–the industry standard for newbie writers–then had to wait for at least a year for the publishing company to actually publish my book. They might have printed 7,000-15,000 copies, not all of which would have sold, and I would probably have never seen more than my initial advance.

So. After spending a year writing Wearing the Cape and another year finding an agent/publisher for it, I would likely have made no more than $7,000. But what is happening now?

This month I sold nearly 300 copies of WtC, more than 200 at the new price, and cleared $400. Assuming growth in sales remains steady, adding around $100 more a month, in half a year I’ll be getting $1,000/month from my first book (and assuming sales of 500/month is not being wildly optimistic). Taking that out to one year, I will have made more than what would have been my author’s advance on a book doing no more than moderately well by self-publishing standards!

Let’s just here that last bit again:

Taking that out to one year, I will have made more than what would have been my author’s advance on a book doing no more than moderately well by self-publishing standards!

And of course had he signed with a paper publisher his book would not even be available in that time!

Nor is Marion a lone voice.

DD Scott - WG2E

The chicklit-and-chocolate girls at WG2E are also not just balancing the books but beating the odds with their great range of novels.

Tonya Kappes -WG2E

They’ll all be joining us here on MWi shortly to tell us more.

And in a bizarre twist of fate I’ll be doing a regular feature over at WG2E from September. Well, as regular as I can manage.

LA Lopez - WG2E

So how about you guys? David shows you don’t have to be a phenomenal success to beat the big publishers at their own game. Remember, most paper published books sell less than a thousand copies. Most new authors never get a second book accepted.

I know not everyone likes to talk exact figures, but speaking generally, how are you doing? Are you close to exceeding, or have you already beaten, the likely return from an “average” trad-published deal?

Naked Vestal Virgins On A Ghost Plane – Suzanne Tyrpak Takes The Stage

Day Fourteen

The middle of July and still the June Girls Just Wanna Have Fun blogfest continues.  The wonderful Suzanne Typrak is in the spotlight today, and if you think my headline was just a cheap attempt to ride the search engines, then read on. It gets worse!

Topless dancer doing yoga

Go-go dancers. Naked art models. Wild youth. Girls dancing topless. Strange letters from various men. All of that taken from the guest post! Running google images for those could take my hard-drive to whole new worlds!

~

First a reminder why the June blogfest is still going in mid-July. I’m on GMT here.

By which I don’t just refer to Greenwich Mean Time, though this part of West Africa is on that too. I refer to Gambian Maybe Time.

Imagine a world where even agents and publishers look fast. Yeah, you’re right. That’s asking the impossible.

Okay, imagine Greece or Portugal at their most laid back, mid-summer. Or the southern states, for those of you across the pond. Now slow that down ten-fold and you’ll begin to understand the pace of life here. When power or net access fails it seems there’s no great rush to fix either.

It’s a great life for a writer (providing the lap-top is powered up). And it brings me to the subject of the New Renaissance that is taking place as the e-publishing revolution unfolds.

I spoke about this back in May, but back then (a whole two months ago!) the debate about the e-publishing Reformation was that it would liberate writers financially.

Hocking and Locke were leading the way making money when the Big Six didn’t want to know, and Konrath and Eisler were showing they as paper-published authors could make more money as self-publishers than by sticking with the Big Six. Good luck to them all.

But the common theme here is money.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. We all have a living to earn, families to support, nests to feather, whatever. If we can make enough money writing maybe we can forget the day job and write full time like these guys. Every writers’ dream, right?

But now the debate is changing. Broadening out. Money is no longer the only factor in the equation.

Money is still, and will always be, an important part of the debate. But now writers are finding that not only can they make as much money, or even more, than they could before. But that they can do it writing for their readers.

Kris Rusch has a great post over at The Business Rusch exploring her new-found freedom. Apparently there’s a video about popcorn kittens (my African net server isn’t up to playing videos) but the post is about a new problem caused by the Reformation in publishing. It’s a big problem, and one we all face.

No, don’t turn away. I know you guys come here for inspiration, not to hear the downside of  the writing life. But Kris has this problem and as we all know a problem shared is… well, it’s still the same problem. It’s just great to know a long-standing and highly regarded author like Kris is having to deal with it. It’s not just us upstart wannabes.

What is this almighty problem? Here’s Kris:

It’s a great problem to have, and one that’s caused by a freedom I’ve never had as a published author:  I can write what I want, and it’ll be published guaranteed.  In the past, I could also do what I wanted, but I risked working for months on a project that never sold. As you can see from my mention of unpublished inventory above (sorry, MWi visitors will have to hit the link and read it for themselves) it happened to me often—especially in the last several years.

Granted, what I write and publish might not sell well by New York standards.  Or hell, I don’t know, it might all take off.  But I do know that I have thousands of fans per series who have been clamoring for the next book.  Those fans, at least, will be happy when the next book arrives.

I also get to stretch my wings and continue projects that I started for the love of them, but couldn’t continue because no publisher wanted to take a risk on them.  And I’m seriously considering side projects on existing works—things I know are not marketable in traditional publishing, but would be fun as hell to write.

And, and, and—

(Breathes deeply as she tries to control the popcorn kittens, suddenly springing up inside her brain—Squirrel!)

I’m not the only writer experiencing popcorn kittens.  Most writers who understand what kind of freedom this new publishing world gives us are also experiencing their own version of popcorn kittens.  Established writers are joyful and overwhelmed.  New writers are frightened, overwhelmed, and relieved that they no longer have to play games to get their novels read—and they’re worried about rising above the noise. (See my post on promotion to answer that problem. )

Be sure to check out Kris’s post in full.

Next month here on MWi I’ll be looking at the ramifications of the New Renaissance in more detail. For now, just to remind ourselves that we no longer have to write books that conveniently fall between 60,000 and 80,000 words and tick the gatekeeper’s genre boxes.

Contrary to popular belief there isn’t some reader mindset that says they will be left short-changed with a story of 50,000 words or will die of exhaustion with 100,000. Curiously Sugar & Spice is 120,000 words long. Agents and publishers tell us that’s unacceptable for a crime thriller. No-one seems to have told our readers…

Nor is there any reader mindset that says a romance author can’t write thrillers or sci fi. In fact Kris Rusch writes all those, and more.

The fact is, these conventions about what is and isn’t acceptable are to do with one thing. The publisher’s profit margin. In the New Model such considerations are becoming obsolete. During the Transition they still play a role, because paper is still significant, but that’s changing fast. In the New Model what counts is satisfying your reader, not the shareholders of the Big Six.

Which brings us to our guest in the green room, Suzanne Tyrpak. No, Suzanne isn’t a shareholder in the Big Six. At least, not that I know of. But she does have shares in the New Model, in the form of self-published books making money. Suzanne is another fine example of what we come to MWi to read about: inspirational success stories.

What’s more, Suzanne is doing what the big boys say can’t be done. Making money from short stories. Which is just outrageous. Hasn’t she read the rule book?

Apparently not.

Konrath Blow-Up Doll

According to the gatekeepers short story anthologies don’t sell. It doesn’t seem to have occured to them that perhaps that’s because they aren’t giving readers the option. When a writer does, as Suzanne has done, the readers suddenly remember they do like short story anthologies after all. It’s a funny old world…

So I dragged Suzanne across from her own blog, where she hangs out with big names I can only dream of attracting here. Once here I tied her to a chair and threatened her with a life-size blow-up doll of Joe Konrath unless she revealed all.

When I realised she was actually enjoying that (this is someone who knows all about fetishes!) I bribed her instead, and finally got the answer to the all-important question. Did anyone actually buy that crazy book you wrote called Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction)?

As Suzanne says,

I’m on the verge of selling enough books to support myself.What could be more fun than that?

And what better way to lead into the latest Girls Just Wana Have Fun guest post. Here’s Suzanne:

So…Mark asked me to write about my background, and although I’m not quite as ancient as the times-frames of my historical novels (ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt), I’m old enough to have fairly lucid recollections of the 1970’s. Okay, maybe more psychedelic than lucid, but that’s when I began my research as a writer. Not the research for historical settings—my major in college was Greek theater and ancient religions—but the emotional and psychological insanity I prefer to write about. In other words: I had a wild youth in New York City.

I spent my twenties pursuing an acting career, while supporting myself as an art model (yes, that means naked) and a go-go dancer—mostly in New Jersey, where they still got excited about girls dancing topless, and tipped well. This, as you might imagine, gave me lots of fodder for stories. My new collection of short stories, Ghost Plane and other disturbing tales (just released) includes a story called Pink inspired by my go-go dancing days. The first novel I wrote, Rosey Dreams, was also inspired by that period of my life. I plan to revisit the book and bring it out next year.

Funny how life supplies us with what we need. When I was writing Rosey, years after I’d moved to Colorado from New York, I stumbled across a manila envelope full of notes about my go-go dancing days. Many of the notes were scribbled on cocktail napkins during my breaks. And I had some strange letters I received from various men. The notes and letters brought everything back. So, back then, when I was dancing, I already knew I’d be writing a book about my experience.

Writers are like that. We’re always taking notes—at least mental notes. That’s why we can’t be trusted. We’re spies, and live outside of society.

My background as an actor, also feeds my stories. I love to write, because I’m the producer, the director and I play all the parts. My acting career included stints with Theater for the New City, Riverside Church, and the legendary Charles Ludlam Ridiculous Theatrical Company. I met a lot of interesting people, played a lot of interesting roles and attended some incredible parties. You can bet I drew on some of those wild days when I was writing Vestal Virgin–suspense in ancient Rome.

Aside from about ten years, when I was in my thirties and trying to be “normal,” my life has had a fairytale quality. I’ve had a number of interesting jobs: actor, dancer, tarot reader, radio, airlines, science museum, writer. I seem to fall into interesting situations. My experience with publishing continues that magical trend.

For years I pursued traditional publishing. I’ve studied with a lot of wonderful writers including Terry Brooks, Tess Gerittsen, Elizabeth Engstrom, John Saul, Dorothy Allison, and Karen Joy Fowler. They gave me great encouragement and accelerated my writing. I’ve also had two agents, but my books don’t fall into neat categories and my novels didn’t sell. Several years ago, Blake Crouch was introduced to me by a mutual friend when I was working at my job for an airline. We connected immediately, and I invited Blake to join our local writing group.

Last summer Blake convinced me to epublish, and it’s changed my life. I’m on the verge of selling enough books to support myself.

What could be more fun than that?

Okay…some things might be more fun. But not much!

Blake Crouch

So now we know. Blake Crouch is to blame.

And in case you’re wondering, Suzanne loved the blow up Joe doll so much because Joe described her book Dating My Vibrator as “Pure comedic brilliance.”

Scott Nicholson

Suzanne also got high accolade from Scott Nicholson, who said of Ghost Plane: “Enter this circus and let Suzanne show you why horror is the greatest show on earth.”

So what about you guys reading this? Before you rush off and buy Suzanne’s books, stick around long enough to tell us. Are short stories your thing? Are you planning on taking advantage of the New Renaissance and writing for your readers, and maybe experimenting with something different? Or will you be sticking with what’s tried and tested?

I leave you with this from Suzanne’s website about Dating My Vibrator:

Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction) is a collection of nine true and almost true short stories all based (unfortunately) on my own experience: dating, divorce, desperation—all that good stuff. After nineteen years of marriage I was thrust into a brave new world of dating: online, offline, standing in line, listening to lines. And I have survived to tell these tales. CAUTION: if you’re contemplating divorce, these stories may convince you to consider marriage counseling. If you’re out there dating, chances are you will relate. OMG! Here’s a scary thought: maybe you’ve met some of these guys. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Adult Fiction Print Sales Collapse: Down 25.7% In First Half of 2011 – David Gaughran

For adult fiction, at least, the downward spiral in paper is accelerating faster than anyone predicted. David Gaughran has a great post on this. Click on the main link below.

What does it mean for us as writers not locked into the Old Model?

I highlight this from David in his comments section:

I think a lot of writers are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for things to “settle down” to some kind of order. While these seismic changes won’t continue forever, and some kind of order will emerge from the chaos, it will be a far more complex set of relationships then the old linear publishing chain of writer to agent, to publisher, to distributor, to retailer, to reader. Those that dive in now will be able to stake out some ground. Those that wait gain nothing.

I’ll be running some in-depth posts next month on why you should e-publish now and forget the query process.

David has succinctly spelt out one of the most compelling reasons. Those that wait gain nothing.

Way back in April here on MWi we were asking,

are you missing out on the opportunity of a life-time by chasing the paper dream?

If your book is “ready” then the answer is an unequivocal yes. Even if you still really, really want a paper deal then proving yourself by e-sales is a sure-fire way to have the gatekeepers querying you. And you can negotiate from a position of strength. The six-figure, four-book deal with Harper Collins  picked up by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards is not the first and won’t be the last.

And earlier the same month we said:

For anyone still on the fence about e-publishing, now is most definitely the time to take the plunge.

In a year’s time it may be too late.

Three months on and that message is even clearer.

“Those that wait gain nothing,” says David Gaughran. Here’s David’s post.

Adult Fiction Print Sales Collapse: Down 25.7% In First Half of 2011.

Swimming The Atlantic Naked – Barbara Silkstone Investigates.

Day Fourteen

“Two is the beginning of the end.”

For anyone unfamiliar, it’s the iconic opening to Peter Pan. One of the great opening lines of children’s literature. And Wendy, of course, is one of the great female leads of twentieth century children’s fiction.

“Two is the beginning of the end” is also the opening line to a non-fiction WIP I occasionally get a chance to nudge along, called “Childhood: the Highest Stage of Evolution.”

I mention it for two reasons. First to remind MWi visitors that this blog is about all books, not just fiction books, and I’ll be hosting some guest non-fiction writers over the summer to explain how their craft differs from that of writing fiction.

Secondly because, as regulars will have realized, childhood and the world’s children are a passion of mine every bit as much as my passion for books and writing. And there’s nothing I like more than to combine them.

But curiously this post isn’t about children and childhood in literature. It’s about crossing the pond. The great Atlantic divide.

Regulars will know that while I’m classed as part of the “UK indie” scene I actually live in beautiful West Africa, in a mudstone hut with a rusting corrugated iron roof. No running water, no flushing toilet, and intermittent electricity. And when I’m not working on the next novel or writing this blog I’m to be found in local schools and clinics, because children and babies are my passion.

What’s this got to do with the trans-Atlantic divide and Peter Pan?

Very simply, the more books I sell, the more I can do for the children here. But despite successful UK sales we have been unable to “cross the pond.”

When I first asked our green room guest Barbara Silkstone to come and join us for the penultimate Girls Just Wanna Have Fun blogfest (which was supposed to run through June, but now seems to want to carry on through July) I was going to use Barbara as an excuse to devote an entire blog to the most famous fictional girl of all.

No, not Hermione Granger. Someone even more famous than Hermione: the one and only Alice.

The Alice, of Wonderland and Looking Glass fame. That’s the “real” Alice, Alice Liddell, on the right. nothing like the dizzy blonde Disney version. Just another example of the gatekeepers altering our precious stories to suit their own needs.

I had a lovely idea of a blog exploring surrealism in literature and how it led to the surrealist movement in art, and how art and literature have benefited one another through the ages. But that’s for another time.

Salvador Dali's Alice

What’s Barbara Silkstone got to do with Alice?

Just that Barbara wrote a great take on the classic Alice theme in her book, The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters, which managed an impressive four and three quarters review rating (out of five) from the highly estemeed reviewer Red Adept. No mean feat. And it sells great in the US, but has barely been noticed in the UK. Barbara’s other book, the Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman has been similarly successful one one side of the Atlantic but not the other.

Why? Why don’t e-books cross the pond easily? Paper seems to manage. You can’t move in the average UK book store for American mega-sellers. Or perhaps that’s the point? It’s only the mega-sellers with their Big Six mega-hype machines behind them that manage it.

If so, why? It’s not a one way process. We can’t seem to sell well there, and they don’t do so well here.

Yet in theory we speak and write the same language. So what’s going on?

Barbara and I discussed the matter at some length over virtual coffee and cookies / tea and biscuits, and after many hours of exhaustive deliberation came to a unanimous conclusion. We haven’t a clue.

So, given Barbara had written her autobiography (disguised as a  novel to protect innocent third parties) about naked investigators and is obviously obsessed with all things nude / naked / naturist (what’s the betting if I tag those words my visitor numbers will go sky high?!) I offered to take all my clothes off if she would launch an investigation into the trans-Atlantic divide.

Barbara Silkstone

Needless to say she ran a mile. Obviously she had heard about the luminous birth mark on my dic – dichotomy. Now there’s a great alternative word for divide!  The trans-Atlantic dichotomy.

So eventually we compromised. I agreed to keep my clothes on if Barbara investigated.  The report was meant to go live to coincide with July 4, but as is usual here at MWi, the best laid plans…

Here’s Barbara.

Celebrating our US Independence Day or Please Take Us Back…

A British friend of mine was fond of saying that Yanks fought so hard to get away from the Brits only to turn around and pursue all things British. “You can’t get back to us fast enough!” he laughed.

 It’s true. As a Kindle author and terminal Anglophile I couldn’t wait to offer my eBooks in the UK. Now as I sit back and watch my sales I wonder if we aren’t two countries separated by one online shopping system. We almost all agree that it’s much harder to sell your books across the pond… no matter what shore you’re sitting on.

I follow the discussions from both continents and note with surprise the differences in sales for “visiting” authors. Top Sellers here in the US have a tough time getting noticed in the UK. And the flip-side is just as befuddling. Take Catch Your Death by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards. It’s the #1 Thriller in the UK and doesn’t make the Thriller list in the US. It can’t be a matter of taste or genre as John Locke seems to be able to straddle the pond with ease. He’s a best-selling author around the globe. So it must be how we approach marketing. John is big proponent of making fan/friends via Twitter.

Newbie British Kindle author JA Clement and I shared a chat. She’s learning the ropes as her novel, On Dark Shores: The Lady   was released on Kindle in March.

JA:  Why should it be that sales are better locally? There are gaps in our use of language which may irritate or confuse the reader, perhaps – and larger gaps in the two cultures. For instance, using the hard-sell marketing tactics which seem to be acceptable in the US will vex UK readers, the flipside of which is that I’d guess UK marketing must seem a bit half-hearted and diffident to US readers.


I suppose it depends what the reader’s buying criteria are. If it’s word of mouth, maybe it’s logical that it will be more prevalent on the author’s home ground because the normal buying “hooks” ie local author, place the book is set in, shared experience etc will be more powerful when local, and there will be more stuff the reader just doesn’t know about in books set in another country. Having recently visited America for the first time I have just realised what a huge gap of knowledge there is between us; I went to a restaurant and had to ask what grits were, and how breakfast potatoes were cooked, and what a cornpone was (and am still not convinced that that isn’t a rude word. It sounds like it’s a rude word to me!). I discovered that I was just as lost in an American menu as I am in a Lebanese or Moroccan or Polish or Cuban one, which was unexpected. In the UK we have so many American TV programs that you assume that it’s all pretty much the same, but that’s FAR from true! And your MacDonalds kick the ass of ours!

Thank you JA!  Yes… grits are one of the truly confusing American dishes. But spotted dick is not easily understood, either.

I questioned Ali Cooper whose Girl on the Swing  has been a consistent winner in both stores.

Ali: Two weeks ago, I’d have given you a completely different answer. For the first time in thousands of sales in the US someone has criticised my book for spelling and grammar. I suspect the commercial end of literary/general fiction sells well in its away market because it has less colloquialisms to form a language barrier. My second novel, Cave, contains more local slang and I’m finding it much harder to market in US than in UK. I think spending time on the forums in the different markets makes a big difference. Finally, if you factor in the number of Brit readers who have ereaders compared to the number of US readers who do that may account for some of the sales difference.

UK people are completely seduced by a) a bargain and b) a ‘properly published’ author. So if someone who has already been trad published sells their books for under £1 then most times over here they’ll do very well. And I think this is another point that keeps getting overlooked in the blogs: Several of the people heralded as indie leaders have already been trad published. They’re not showing what an indie can do, they’re showing what a previously trad author can do. Their books have already been ‘approved’ and that’s why they started getting good sales in the first place.

Thank you, Ali
Time to make a stop at the Princess of Upbeat: DeeDee Scott author of so many fun books….and the incredibly helpful blog ~   The Writers Guide to ePublishing 

DeeDee:   I think what is just way beyond superfab exciting is that, for the first time, thanks to Amazon’s US and UK presence, Indie Epubbed Authors from both sides of the pond are having these A-mazing conversations & learning how to build bridges & join our reader & fan bases!

I luuuvvv that thanks to fantabulous blogs & grogs like Mark’s blog and my grog The WG2E – The Writer’s Guide to Epublishing – http://thewritersguidetoepublishing.com we are discussing our target audiences & how to build those audiences on an international scale.

Sibel Hodge

And not only are we talking, we’re then taking action! For example, UK Kindle Superstar Author Sibel Hodge & I are now placing excerpts of each other’s books in our own books to target each other’s fan bases which we know are very similar.  How super savvy is that?! And fun too!!! Plus, a great way to pay it forward!!!

Thank you DeeDee for that fantastic idea!

Here’s Karen Cantwell, a best-selling author in the US.

I’ll never forget when I sold my first book in the UK.  I got so excited, I posted it on Facebook and Twitter, and I sent out a huge email to friends and family.  Sales were slow there after that first one.  They trickled in – one here, one (a few days later) there.  These days, I average 5 sales a day for my first Barbara Marr book, Take the Monkeys and Run and  two sales a day for my newest release, Citizen Insane.  

I’m  not on any bestsellers lists, but I’m happy for the sales since I do absolutely NO marketing of my books in the UK AT ALL.  I’ve been told it’s frowned upon, so I’ve stayed away from it, and work to keep my US sales up.  Would I love to be selling Barbara Marr Mysteries by the truckload to our friends across the pond?  You bet!  Like you, Barbara, I’m a huge Anglophile, and I dream of one day traveling there and bumping into some person who will ask with abundant enthusiasm, “Are you THE Karen Cantwell?  The one who write those HILARIOUS books?  I nearly peed my pants I laughed so hard!”  Okay.  I said it was a dream.

So I guess to boil things down, I would say that I treasure every UK sale and I treasure every UK review even more, but I don’t actively promote and that I’m open to any new ideas for finding new readers there that wouldn’t offend.

Thank you Karen!

Goodness, this has been fun. It reminds me of the early days of trying to establish my Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman. I sent the men out from our virtual US shores and had them swim the Atlantic to make a grand entrance on the other side of the virtual pond. I am still waiting for them to return. Ladies of the UK… you’ve had my naked men long enough.

Thanks for that, Barbara.

Worth briefly mentioning our experience with Sugar & Spice. Although Louise and Mark (see previous post) are fast threatening our crown we are still, just, the biggest selling indie e-book authors on Kindle UK, with over 75,000 sales behind us. Yet almost none are from the US.

We’ve been to #2 in the Kindle UK charts on no less than three occasions. After nine months we’re still in the Kindle UK top 50, out of three quarter million titles. Yet our position in the Kindle US charts is too embarrassing to mention. As for B&N… I haven’t dared look, but guessing we’re still in single figures.

So what’s the experience of you guys? Have any of you found a magic formula to cross the pond? Or any thoughts on why indie books are struggling while paper appears not to?

I leave you with this wonderful cover from Barbara’s next book, Wendy And The Lost Boys, to link the Peter Pan quote at the beginning. (I know how important it is to some of you that collars and cuffs match!) Check out Barbara Silkstone’s site for more details on this. It’s not due for release until August, but the cover alone is worth making a date for.

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