Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bella Andre Navigates the Evolving World of Self-Publishing

My friend and former colleague, Nyree Belleville (published under the name Bella Andre) sent me an article this morning from the Washington Post, featuring her experience with self-publishing. I am thrilled that she's have such great success with it so I was eager to read the piece.

And then after I read it, I couldn't sit still. The article goes in-depth into the constantly evolving nature of the self-publishing world and, quite frankly, I find it very exciting. Especially since I'm on the forefront of a new self-publishing endeavor with Book Country. There's so much that can happen in this new frontier and if it's done right, authors can not only make a larger profit for themselves but we can also get higher quality work out there.

Yes, self-publishing certainly opens itself up for some less-than-stellar work to be shared, but with the decreasing stigma and all of the great critiquing/writing communities that have cropped up (yes, shameless Book Country plug :-p), the talent that is out there and just hasn't been discovered yet has a better chance to surface. Not only that, but previously traditionally published authors like Bella Andre--who are extremely talented but just not working well enough in the market for a Big 6 publisher to continue taking on with their bottom lines--can still share their writing with the world and still make money doing it.

Sonoma, Calif. — In the winter of 2010, the cheerfully effervescent romance novelist Nyree Belleville suffered the same fate as many a scribe — she was dropped by her publisher. The most any of her 12 spicy romances, penned under the name Bella Andre, had earned was $21,000.

She was, in her Cali-girl vocabulary, “bummed.” She was 36. She had two young children, a husband and a little house in the hills above this picturesque wine-making region.

A thin, pretty brunette who majored in economics at Stanford, Belleville had been a singer in her 20s, but that career died, and now her writing career was so flat line that one of her old publishers had even given her the rights to her first two novels.

So, out of sorts and feeling blue, she sat down one morning and figured out how to self-publish one of those novels, “Authors in Ecstasy,” on Amazon’s e-reader, the Kindle, just to see what would happen. It was a pain. She had zero graphic-arts skills. She had to create a cover, write her jacket copy, figure out formatting and set a price. She did it and forgot about it.

A few weeks later, she checked her account. She had sold 161 copies. She’d made $281. She was astonished.

She rushed to a lunch with three writer friends, with the numbers scrawled on a sheet of yellow paper, and slapped it down on the table. “That moment is burned in everybody’s mind now,” she says. “It was not a tipping point. It was a turning point.”

She put her other old book online and figured out how to place both on other e-readers — the Nook, the Sony Reader, the iPad, Kobo. The next month, her royalties bumped to $474. Giddy, she self-published a new e-book in July. She made a jaw-dropping $3,539. It was like the best thing ever!

“Every day, as the numbers ticked by, my husband and I were floored,” she says.

She got the rights to two more old novels. She feverishly wrote another e-novel, “Game for Love,” about a bad-boy pro football player and his unexpected marriage. She popped it online Dec. 15.

Earnings for that month? $19,315.

In January and February, she e-published a trilogy of young-adult novels she’d written years earlier. She called the first one “Seattle Girl” and chose a new author name, Lucy Kevin, to distinguish it from the sexually explicit Andre books.

Here’s what her first quarter looked like: 56,008 books sold; income, $116,264.

Perched on the edge of a couch in her tiny writing office, which doubles as a playroom for her kids, Belleville says: “Isn’t this just awesome?!”

Self-publishing frontier

There is no good comparison for what’s happening in the frontier world of self-published e-books, because there has never been anything like it in publishing history.

Since Johannes Gutenberg developed the printing press in the 15th century, publishers have pretty much owned the presses, the means of mass production and, therefore, of distribution. Save for tiny “vanity” printings, for the intervening 500 years or so publishing houses have controlled who was able to publish, how many copies were printed, the price and the percentage of profits paid to writers (in modern America, usually about 10 to 15 percent of the list price.)

But riding the crest of the digital revolution, powered by blogs and tweets and social media, and delivered by the explosive sales of e-readers in the past two years, some authors are sidestepping that business model.

They can write, publish, advertise, create covers, set and change prices — and haul in up to 70 percent of the sale price. It is possible for writers marketing a $4.99 self-published e-book to make more per copy than authors with a $24.95 hardcover.

It’s gold-rush crazy, and it has exploded in the past 12 months, the past six months. It’s happening right now. You hear wild stories about novelists — who are supposed to be enduring lives of artistic gratification but monetary penury — blowing past your tax bracket.

Read the rest of the article HERE

(P.S. it's worth it!)

Bella also just released her newest title, THE LOOK OF LOVE, (it's the first book in a new series) so be sure to check it out!

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