Nine years ago I started writing knowing absolutely nothing about the craft or the industry. Even though I had been an avid reader since grade school, I was totally oblivious as to how my favorite authors created the tales that kept me mesmerized for endless hours.
Thanks to a job layoff in 2002, it didn’t take long for writing to become an obsession. I wrote eight to ten hours a day. In the ensuing months and years, I read everything I could get my hands on about the craft and trolled the Internet for up-to-date information on the publishing industry.
My first steps into publishing began, like most aspiring authors, by going the traditional route and submitting my work on my own to editors and agents on my own with dismal results. To condense an excruciatingly long story, my submission journey spanned an eight-year period during which I completed eight novel-length manuscripts and signed with two agents. Both agents considered my work good enough to take me on as a client and send it out to the major houses. Unfortunately, neither of them was able to sell for me.
Around 2007 I became a devoted reader of author Joe (J.A.) Konrath’s wonderful blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, and was fascinated by his experience with Amazon Kindle, which began in 2009 as an experiment. His daily missives had me hooked, and I couldn’t get enough of the details of his bold step into foreign territory.
After many close calls, and rejections ad infinitum, by 2010 I was tired, angry and frustrated. And considering the fact that I wasn’t a dewy-eyed twenty-year-old looking forward to a forty-year career in the business, I had to step up the process.
Joe’s blog had lit a fire inside me that I just couldn’t quench. I figured if he, as a mid-list author, had such phenomenal success with electronic publishing, I could at least make enough money to support my book buying habit. Upon the wise advice of my author mentors, I relegated my first three manuscripts to their grave “under the mattress” and turned my attention to my later stories.
The prospect of getting my books into the hands of readers thrilled me. Following Joe’s advice, I worked tirelessly in order to get everything online that was languishing on my hard drive. In July 2010 I released Have You Seen Her, the fifth of the eight manuscripts I’d written, as a direct-to-Kindle novel. My second book, Hot Fun in the Summertime, released in November 2010. Hollywood Swinging, the sequel to Hot Fun, debuted in April 2011. In August my first faith-based romance, I Can’t Get Next to You, made it into the e-publishing world.
There are those in the industry who scoff at people like me, calling us “Konrath groupies” and other much less flattering names. There is a prevailing attitude among some people in the business that, “Without the ability to stand in front of thousands of potential readers, you’re probably just doing this to make yourself feel important. I don’t know how to tell you this, but if every publisher has looked at your manuscript and told you it isn’t salable… well, they could be right. Sorry.”*
This statement simply isn’t true, and there are hundreds of independent authors out there who can attest to this fact. Many of them have been very vocal about their success on Joe’s blog and on various for indie e-book discussion boards. Statements like the one above come from agents who fear their jobs going the way of the milkman. They refuse to acknowledge the success of the indie e-book authors whose sales are increasing exponentially every month. In a very short period of time, some authors have become Kindle millionaires, and surely there will be many more to come.
For the past fifty plus years, the publishing industry has operated basically the same way. The big houses made the rules with literary agents acting as middlemen between authors and publishers. The agents took fifteen percent of the author’s book deal, the authors got somewhere between six and seventeen percent of the cover price of their book and the publishing house took the rest. In addition to all this, authors were increasingly expected to do most of the promotion and marketing themselves with minimal assistance from their publisher.
This top-heavy system has remained in place for generations. Enter the Amazon Kindle e-reader (and its subsequent clones) and the publishing world was turned on its ear. The amazing thing about direct e-publishing is there’s no cost to the author other than paying to have your book edited, getting someone to do your cover, and advertising costs, if you choose to do paid advertising. Suddenly writers like myself, who spent years submitting directly to editors and prostrating ourselves at the feet of agents, have the opportunity to sell our work directly to readers and keep anywhere from 70-85% of the profits.
Thankfully, the negative attitudes within the industry are slowly changing. Agents have taken to trolling the Amazon ranks looking for the bestsellers and offering representation to the authors. Never in history has this happened. Some independent authors are going for the deals, but others are turning them down and remaining indie.
This is the most exciting time in recent history for authors. The doors are wide open for those authors who are willing to change their mindset and adapt. No one is standing on the threshold separating us from our readers.
I’m not making Joe Konrath/Amanda Hocking/John Locke money (yet), but I love every minute of being an e-book author!
Her next book, Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing is scheduled for a late December release.
*Agent Chip MacGregor, Jan. 2011