By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey and Jack Steel)
Let’s get the advert out of the way first. The Titanic Secret was published yesterday, with the American version to follow on 27 March in the States. I’m now on Twitter (@JackSteelAuthor) and I recorded a podcast to coincide with publication. This is about conspiracy theories and other stuff, and is available through Simon & Schuster at: http://t.co/Pz6sfnJL
It’s very probably a sign of the times, but my blog entry this week is another one about the darker side of publishing – the seemingly inexorable rise of the electronic book.
In the April edition of Writing Magazine there was an interesting article about e-publishing, and the way that this new method of getting your work into print was undermining the traditional author – agent – publisher route. The article focused on an American housewife and mother of four named Ruth Ann Nordin, a lady whose writing ambitions centred around the production of romantic fiction which incorporated Christian values and a limited amount of tasteful marital sex.
What’s perhaps slightly unusual is that, unlike most budding authors, she didn’t write a book and then try and get an agent or publisher to take her on. Instead, when she’d written her first novel in 2002 she decided to make use of the newly available POD – Print On Demand – technology to produce the book herself, which she then tried to sell to friends, acquaintances and anyone else who expressed an interest in it. She didn’t sell that many copies, but between 2002 and 2008 she wrote and had printed sixteen books, copies of which graced her bookshelves and which she said gave her a tremendous sense of personal satisfaction.
In 2008, Ruth realized that to be taken seriously as a writer she really needed to find a traditional publisher to take her on, and began sending out the usual enquiries. The majority, as any author would anticipate, fell on deaf ears, and no agent was prepared to accept her as a client. She then tried publishers, sending out sample chapters, but again got nowhere. Those who bothered to reply at all insisted on having major changes made to the books, and that didn’t fit in at all with Ruth’s ideas about what she wanted to write.
By this stage, she had some twenty novels completed, which made her by any definition a very experienced – albeit traditionally unpublished – author. And she was clearly a lady who knew her own mind. So she switched her attention to self-publishing her various books on the Internet, as ebooks.
At first, her work made little impact. The first year that her books were available – 2009 – they generated no income at all until December, when she received her first cheque for a fairly modest $1,400. But she was putting in the background work, the marketing, communicating with readers, and anything else she could think of that might help to drum up sales. The following year, she sold some 110,000 copies, which generated an income of almost $19,000. And last year, 2011, she earned more money than her husband, who had been in the American military for twenty years. 2012 now looks pretty rosy from where she’s standing.
If you’re interested in finding out what marketing methods she employed to achieve this success, you can download an ebook – obviously – which she’s written and which is available free on Smashwords.com. The title is: Where’s the money?
This is an interesting, instructive, and actually quite inspiring tale, almost a rags to riches story, showing what can be done if you are prepared to make the effort. And Ruth Ann Nordin certainly makes the effort: this year she intends to publish a further eight books.
And that essentially is the real secret of her success because, despite her Christian beliefs, she’s very fond of two common four-letter words which a lot of people never seem to associate with the process of writing. In her case, these two words are ‘HARD’ and ‘WORK’.
Which reminds me. I’ve got a book to write.
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