Guest Author: Ruth Francisco
I want to share my experiences with Kindle, and to let everyone know that epublishing is a viable option to waiting around for a traditional publisher. Not only have unknown writers been “discovered” on Kindle and offered traditional DTB (dead tree book) contracts, but established writers are publishing original material to Kindle. I am wildly enthusiastic by what I see as a revolution in publishing and writing, an event no less important to intellectual discourse than the penny newspapers of the nineteenth century.
In February, after a year of shopping my latest novel “Amsterdam 2012” to New York publishers, and being turned down for being “too controversial,” I decided to upload it to Kindle. I didn’t know anything about epublishing. I actually posted it because I was afraid my aging computer would crash, and I would lose the novel. Or the house would burn down. I figured at least if it were up on Kindle, it would be safe. I set the price at .99 cents. What the hell.
I sold 1,000 copies the first weekend, and soon my book was number 30 on the Kindle best seller list. With a Kindle royalty payment of .35 cents (35% of books under $2.99 and over $9.99; 70% between $2.99 and $9.99), I was not getting rich; but I was getting read. And readers were responding—immediately—in reviews, on forums, and in emails. I had written the book because I wanted people to discuss a difficult topic, and they were; I was having an active and open dialog with my readers unlike I ever had with DTB publishing. I was exhilarated.
After the success of “Amsterdam 2012,” I uploaded two backlist titles, “Good Morning, Darkness,” and “Confessions of a Deathmaiden,” the rights for which my publisher had recently returned to me.
And then three original titles.
Why did I do that rather than submit them to my publisher? For one thing, waiting a year to get published, even if my agent could sell my manuscripts tomorrow, seemed so very antiquated. Who has time for that? If I write about fresh, relevant issues, I want the stories published now. I was also selling more books on Kindle, reaching more people, all over the world, than I had with DTBs. If I set the Kindle price at $2.99, I make $2.04 per book, about the same as I would for a hardback. If I sold it as a $7.99 paperback, I would only earn about .64 cents per book.
While the ebook market is still only 5-7% of the total book market, it is a growing market. The market for DTBs is shrinking. I chose to go with the growing market.
Just as the penny newspaper promoted democracy, social criticism, and fresh ideas from unknown writers, epublishing presents the same kind of liberation for writers. It has come at a critical time in publishing: fine writers are being dropped by their publishers; publishers refuse to take chances; young talent is neglected; the quality of fiction is becoming less interesting; book stores and publishers are going out of business right and left. They blame the reader. “No one wants to read anymore.” That simply isn’t true.
The internet has shown that people DO want to read. They want to exchange ideas. Now anyone can upload a book and share it with the rest of the world. For free.
There is no charge to upload your manuscript to Amazon Kindle (or any of the other ebook platforms, including Smashwords, Kobo, iPad, B&N, Borders, Android, Sony, and Diesel). You do not have to own a Kindle to publish on Kindle. You do not have to own a Kindle to read Kindle books (there is a free download application for your computer on the Amazon website).
There are a handful of simple steps. Prepare your manuscript, then proof and format it to perfection. Prepare your sales pitch, design a cover, decide on a price. Once you have these elements together, it takes only about one hour per venue. You can finish writing a novel on Monday, post it on Tuesday, and start making money on Friday (it takes a few days for Amazon to process it).
Kindling is a marvelous venue for previously published writers to upload their backlist titles, books that otherwise would fade into oblivion. Generally you have to come up with new artwork. Decide on a price, and upload. Many established writers are getting on the wagon: J.A. Konrath (the pioneer), Robert W. Walker, Scott Nicholson, James Swain, Simon Wood, Lee Goldberg, Ellen Fisher, Christine Merrill, Dean Wesley Smith, Kathryn Rusch, Joe Nassise, Gordon Ryan. The list goes on and on.
I believe 95% of all writers have a better chance to make more money in this new market than in the old one. It opens the door to new writers, fresh ideas, and interactive ideas, such as the blog novel. And the market for ebooks is growing like crazy. As lovely as it is to hold a book that you cherish in your hand, it is a far grander thing to hold an entire library.
If anyone wants more information about Kindling, you are more than welcome to email me. Welcome to the future.
Ruth Francisco worked in the film industry for twenty years before selling her first novel Confessions of a Deathmaiden to Warner Books in 2003, followed by Good Morning, Darkness, which was selected by Publishers’ Weekly as one of the best mysteries of the year, and her controversial third novel, The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She now has four new novels, including Amsterdam 2012, up on Kindle. She is a frequent contributor to The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and currently lives in Florida.