Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Self-Published E-Books On the Rise

There's been a lot of buzz lately about self-published e-books making their way up the bestseller lists. It's not necessarily a new fad; a number of books that are now published traditionally have hit Kindle lists as self-pubs. But two books in particular that came out of Amazon self-pubs have been brought to my attention in the past month: The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver P√∂tzsch and Lee Chadeayne, and Switched by Amanda Hocking.

Both of these titles, released in December and November respectively, were on the same 10-ten list on January 4th. How, I thought, how on earth did both of these books hit the list with names like Steig Larsson, Elin Hilderbrand, John Grisham, and James Patterson?

After some extensive research, I came back with little. There were no real book campaigns for either of these titles, there wasn't much to explain their success, except for word-of-mouth. Word of Hocking, in particular, has been spreading like wildfire.

And this morning, the Hocking fire that was being casually stoked seems to be exploding as if someone has upended a girnormous bucket of gasoline on it. It seems this ambitious self-pubbed author is about to hit the USA Today list, according to Carol Memmott, a reporter for the paper:

You may not know her name, but Amanda Hocking and others like her are riding the comet of digital publishing.

Fed up with attempts to find a traditional publisher for her young-adult paranormal novels, Hocking self-published last March and began selling her novels on online bookstores like Amazon and

By May she was selling hundreds; by June, thousands. She sold 164,000 books in 2010. Most were low-priced (99 cents to $2.99) digital downloads.

More astounding: This January she sold more than 450,000 copies of her nine titles. More than 99% were e-books.

"I can't really say that I would have been more successful if I'd gone with a traditional publisher," says Hocking, 26, who lives in Austin, Minn. "But I know this is working really well for me."

In fact, Hocking is selling so well that on Thursday, the three titles in her Trylle Trilogy (Switched, Torn and Ascend, the latest) will make their debuts in the top 50 of USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list.

A recent survey shows 20 million people read e-books last year, and more self-published authors are taking advantage of the trend.

(Self-publishing is done without the involvement or vetting of an established publisher and uses a publishing system such as Lulu, Smashwords, Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing or Barnes & Noble's PubIt! Many traditional media outlets do not review self-published books.)

"It's possible for any author to make their book available with little or no upfront cost and reach a global audience," Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle Content for Amazon, says of Hocking's success. Digital publishing, he says, "gives a chance to a great book that otherwise might have been overlooked."

In the past, it has been rare for a self-published hardcover or paperback to enjoy such spectacular sales.

Hocking credits her success to aggressive self-promotion on her blog, Facebook and Twitter, word of mouth and writing in a popular genre — her books star trolls, vampires and zombies.

And she's making money.

"To me, that was a price point that made sense for what I would be willing to spend on an e-book," says Hocking, who sets her own prices. "I use iTunes a lot, and it's 99 cents and $1.29 a song."

For every $2.99 book she sells, she keeps 70%, with the rest going to the online bookseller. For every 99-cent book she sells, she keeps 30%.

H.P. Mallory, another self-published paranormal e-novelist, has sold 70,000 copies of her e-books since July. Her success caught the attention of traditional publisher Random House, with whom she just signed a three-book contract. "Selling e-books on Kindle and basically changed my life," Mallory says. "I never would have gotten where I am today if I hadn't."

Others are profiting, too:

The No. 4-selling Kindle book (it has been as high as No. 1) is The Hangman's Daughter by German novelist Oliver Potzsch. It's part of AmazonCrossing, a program offering translations of foreign-language titles. More than 100,000 copies have been sold.

• Novelist J.A. Konrath, who has sold more than 100,000 self-published e-books, gets more than 1 million hits a year on his blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing ( His novel, Shaken, hit No. 9 on the Kindle list last year.

Lorraine Shanley of Market Partners International, a publishing consulting firm, recently enjoyed Deed to Death by D.B. Henson, a self-published e-book she downloaded to her iPad.

The 99-cent price made her try it.

"Often books published by traditional publishers are excellent, but I don't think it prohibits self-publishers from doing a good job," she says.

See the article HERE

Clearly, the concept of self-publishing is becoming something much more valuable than many industry execs expected. I'm interested to see what comes next...

1 comment:

  1. I stand by what I've always said about's great if you have a book that is more appropriate for a niche market or if you already have an established market for your books (i.e. self-help gurus and inspirational speakers). After that, while you might step in shit once in a blue moon, I find that self-publishing is mostly an outlet for authors who don't want to bother improving their craft or who don't have the patience to go through the submission process and would rather pay for the status of being published than prove themselves in the "real" market.

    Amanda Hocking for example---I haven't read her books, so maybe I'm speaking too soon, but a friend of mine bought the first one because she loves YA Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance and it was only $.99. She said it was mediocre, sub-par, and nowhere near the caliber of something like the House of Night series or the Vampire Academy series (or god help me for even saying this, the Twilight Saga). I think Hocking is doing so well because it's worth it to fans of the above books to throw away $1 in the hopes that you might find another series like those.

    Unfortunately, you get what you pay for...yet another mediocre piece of work that probably didn't deserve to be published, but was published because the writer had the financial means (and the spirit of an early American Idol contestant) to do so.

    Honestly, good for her, but there are a million more writers out there like her who are fooling themselves into believing that they are just as good self-published as their professionally published counterparts...which just isn't true. And sadly, the ebook revolution is making it easier for these people to "trick" their customers and make a profit because half the time they don't have to worry about impressing people with fancy covers or shelling out nearly as much as someone who self-published in print. I foresee an inundation of crap in the market and a clear division in the future of what is pro-pubbed and what is self-pubbed, for the sake of the buyer/ease of use.