Can you dream a blog post? I swear I was dreaming about this question when my alarm went off this morning. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately given that I, of course, would like to be one of them. All those idealistic inkslingers who want to live the starving artist existence and not sell out for commercial profit (do those exist anymore?)–yeah, I’m not one of them. Doesn’t lessen what I do any. It just means I’m realistic and honest when I say I want to make a living doing it. Nobody grows up and says “I want to work three jobs to make ends meet when I grow up!” So it is of fundamental interest to me what makes a financially successful indie.
The first example that springs to mind is, of course, J.A. Konrath, who is perhaps the most visible poster boy for the indie movement. It is regularly tossed around that he’ll be making 100k from epublishing on Amazon this year. Many naysayers prefer to attribute this to his already established fanbase from having been a successful midlist author with his Jack Daniels series and his lengthy and impressive list of publicity feats. And maybe this had something to do with it. But he also was able to release a number of titles fairly close together. He’s prolific. As he’s able to write full time, he has the time to be.
Then there’s Karen McQuestion, less well known, no prior following from an established backlist of titles. Yet she’s making comparable money on her assorted titles. From what I’ve gathered, she simultaneously released several things at once (or perhaps really close together). She had a number of pieces just hanging around that she decided to polish up and put out herself. She has six titles out, last I checked.
And now the latest success story, which I was delighted to hear about, is Amanda Hocking, who, with her latest release rocketed all the way up to number 25 in the entire Kindle store. Amanda’s story I find particularly interesting. She didn’t put her first Kindle book out until FEBRUARY THIS YEAR. FEBRUARY! Like 7 months ago! And it’s looking like she’s going to make 9-10k JUST in the month of August. She’s turned in notice at her job. Congratulations, Amanda! She has 5 titles out. It doesn’t appear she just had a lot of already written stuff lying around to release. She really does apparently write that fast.
So what’s the commonality here?
Well, presumably all of them put out well-written, well-edited stuff to begin with. Crap is not going to sell well, at least not for long. All of them have consistently good reviews. So the quality of their work goes without saying as a given.
The other consistent theme here is multiple titles. Particularly multiple titles out in a short span of time. I find this both unsurprising and a little depressing. I’m not surprised because once readers latch on to an author they like, they keep an eye out for the next books out by that author. The faster the author can produce said books, the happier readers are. Indies, not being bound by the constraints of traditional publishing, can satisfy readers in a matter of months instead of a year or more.
It’s a little depressing because, well, I just can’t do that. I’ve got too much on my plate to turn out more than a couple of titles a year. And this year those couple of titles are both short. Novella and novelette (though, if you’ve been following me at all, you know that this is not at all a normal year for me). I have no idea how prolific I might be if I could write full time. I haven’t been in that position since I was in college and still had time for daily afternoon naps (oh how I miss afternoon naps!).
One thing is clear, they key to making decent money at self publishing centers around having multiple, well-written, well-edited titles out–no matter how long it takes you to get there.
Of course there’s still the issue of effective promo, but that’s a topic for another post.
I need to get back to work.