This blog is about the process of getting a story out of an author's brain and into yours. That's what the subtitle says--"sometimes you don't really want to know how books are made" and we all know that the purpose of a subtitle is to explain what the catchy main title actually means.
Anybody who has been paying attention to the publishing world, even peripherally, is aware that ebooks are coming on strong, print publisher are struggling, and behemoth bookstore chains are having trouble paying their bills. Where is all this headed? Are we moving toward the day when paper books are anachronisms?
Well, yes, we probably are. If you watch an episode of the original Star Trek series from the 1960s, you'll see that paper hasn't fit into our image of the future for more than 40 years. (Except for that one episode where Captain Kirk whips out a piece of paper and reveals that his writers were born during WWII, or before.) But I don't think any of us expected books to go out of style within our lifetimes, and now I'm not so sure.
Watching my own young adult children, I see them socialize on the internet. I see them get their entertainment and news on the internet. And then I see them pick up a paper book to read for pleasure. We may be a generation away from Captain Kirk's paperless world. And I don't think you can read an ebook in the bathtub or during the fifth day of a power outage after a hurricane. (Yes, I live in Florida.) Still, if economic forces bankrupt bookstores and print publishers, we may be forced in that direction quicker than we think.
Since I make my living by shoving words around on the page, I've decided to shift my laserlike focus to the world of electronic publishing, and I'm going to take you people with me. If you know people who'd be interested in this little tour, please tweet the link or Facebook it or whatever, because I'd really like to see some conversation between writers and readers and, hopefully, publishers and agents and other industry professionals.
I'll start this process by revealing some of my own sales information. I self-published five electronic books in April of last year--a thriller called Wounded Earth, a mini-collection of three of my previously published short stories called Offerings, and three individual stories, "A Singularly Unsuitable Word", "Mouse House", and "Starch."
I had a lot on my plate last year, so I did no promotion for the ebooks at all. A handful of them sold each month, generating about enough income to cover my Hershey bar habit. Actually, it probably wasn't even that much money.
Last month, I decided it was time to promote the things and, coincidentally, Offerings was recognized by a prominent book blogger as the best anthology of 2010. I sold more ebooks in January through Amazon than I sold in all of 2010. January numbers aren't in yet for Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony, and Apple. I expect to see some sales, but far fewer than on Amazon. Based on that, I estimate that my ebooks paid the bill for my cable internet in January. Others are reporting that their ebooks are paying their mortgages, and I plan to get to that point (narrating the process to you people as I go), but any day when my writing is paying my bills is a good day. If I wanted to be a starving artist, I'd have been a musician.
This month, I am putting my money where my mouth is. I hired someone to do a professional redesign of the cover and interior of Wounded Earth, and I bought some ads on sites and newsletters that cater to ebook readers. One of them hit on February 2 and I sold more books that day than I sold in all of the month of January. Recall that I sold more in January than I did in all of 2010. This is what one calls a geometric progression. Please pray with me that it continues...
The businesswoman in me says that I should report net income. I spent money on those ads and that redesign, so I will likely go in the hole for February. However, as I read other writers touting their ebook success, it appears to me that they are mostly reporting gross income, so I shall do the same. And the beauty of ebooks is that, once I recoup the cost of that redesign, they cost me nothing to sell and distribute, so any losses are temporary.
With that in mind, I boldly project that I will gross enough this month to pay the bill for my pricey iphone data plan. February's a short month, so we'll see how it goes. And we'll see how long it takes me to get to that coveted status where those ebooks are paying my mortgage.