Yesterday, I received two pieces of mail, each containing a check, that grabbed my attention. Not because they were checks, but because they conveyed a larger message. That they arrived on the same day adds to the irony.
About three years ago, I got my first (and only) book deal with a small traditional publisher. It was for my novel, The Take. I was, of course, very excited, and signed it right away. Fourteen months later, the book came out and I received my small advance. I was still very happy.
Soon, however, I noticed that very little promotion was taking place, and the cold realization fell over me that if I wanted any of these books sold, I was going to have to do it myself. Naturally, I can only hand-sell so many books, so The Take went nowhere.
Move ahead a little to the beginning of 2011 and the early days of Kindle Direct Publishing. I looked around me. I saw (on blogs) writers who were having great success self-publishing their novels. Joe Konrath came into my sights. So did Amanda Hocking, along with a few other wildly successful writers. Sure, they were the anomalies, the ones who struck gold, but Konrath wrote in great detail on his blog of how he accomplished his success. He had advantages I didn’t have, but nevertheless, his basic concepts can be done by anyone. In encapsulated form, they are:
- Write a great book (the most important of all)
- Give it an attention-grabbing title
- Put it behind a great cover (preferably one designed by a professional)
- Hire a professional book editor (not your friend who was an English major in college)
- Write a compelling description
- Price it appropriately
- Do everything you can to promote it, including giving some copies away for free
Anyway, these are not newly-discovered principles of black magic. Everyone who’s ever self-published a book knows them by heart. I include them here only to show how new and fresh they seemed to me just eighteen short months ago. So, armed with these concepts, I self-published my first book in February of 2011, a short story collection called Bloodstains On The Wall. Well, it wasn’t really my first self-published book. Back in the summer of 2010, I’d self-pubbed an experimental rock & roll novel, Cadillac’s Comin’. I didn’t really know what to do with it, so it sort of languished, as it continues to do today.
But with Bloodstains On The Wall, I employed all the Konrath concepts and actually sold a few hundred copies of that little book during the remainder of the year. In May, I took the leap and self-pubbed my first Key West Nocturnes novel, Setup On Front Street. I knew if I self-published that one, I was turning my back on traditional publishing, possibly forever. That book got off the ground and the other books followed in short order. Last month, I cleared out the last of my unpublished backlog, as the third Key West Nocturnes novel and my ninth self-pubbed title overall, Man-Slaughter, went live on Amazon and CreateSpace.
So that brings up to the checks that came in the mail. The first check represents my royalties from The Take for the period of July-December, 2011 (one year ago). The royalty statement itself is unreadable, but the check tells it all, especially when you know this is the first money I have seen since being paid my advance oh, so long ago.
The second check was my royalty check from Amazon for only one month, specifically, April, 2012.
Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?