Monday, July 15, 2013

Guest Post: Confessions of an Indie, or: It's Like Making Sausages -- Brian Drake

Before we start, I must once again thank James for allowing me to hijack this space.

It’s not easy to write a book. It’s even harder to self-publish it, even with Amazon KDP. If you’re thinking about doing it yourself, or you’re following the “indie scene”, let me describe my experience so you can avoid my mistakes.

When I started self-publishing in 2010, there was always a nagging doubt about my work in the back of my mind. Reviews were kind, sales were okay, but I couldn’t help but notice that repeat business was slow. I released four books between 2010 and 2012. With each book, I sold less and less. A smart businessman looks at this situation and says, “What’s wrong with my product? Where is it lacking?”

I yanked those four books and set them aside. For all I know they’re perfectly fine but I still have those nagging doubts that somewhere in the manuscript, there’s a problem that kept readers from coming back for more. Perhaps I’ll release them again later; maybe I won’t.

I yanked the books instead of improving them because I had a hot new idea for a series and I wanted this to be where my attention went. I wrote The Rogue Gentleman and set aside $1000 for production costs. I spent a total of $800 on two editors, one for content and the other for copy, and a cover artist. I released the new book, and…nothing.

Hmmmm. Well, I’m stubborn. Books 2 and 3 in the series are in progress and I have just released the first book in the series as a trade paperback. To coincide with the paperback release, the ebook version of The Rogue Gentleman is free starting Tuesday the 16th and ending Friday the 19th.

There is no nagging doubt about this new book in my head because it has been edited, re-edited, and edited again by myself and the professionals I hired. The cover is top-notch. If you're going to go the KDP route to release your material, spend the time and money to do it right. With those first four books, I was a do-it-yourselfer. I'm that way by nature. I work on my own cars, the house, etc., but this is one area where DIY need not apply. There's too much for one person to handle.

Here’s the story's description:

"International adventurer Steve Dane never should have set foot in Italy. Witnessing a young woman’s kidnapping, he is drawn into the decades-old vendetta behind the crime.

Hired by the girl's father, racing against time as her life hangs in the balance, Dane battles the mafia who want him dead and the police and international agents who want him out of the way. With the help of his lover, Nina Talikova, Dane plunges along a path that leads him past a mere kidnapping and into an ever-more complex world of high stakes, ruled by a powerful and mysterious woman known only as The Duchess.

Life, it seems, is getting cheaper than Dane could ever imagine and The Duchess has put a price on the ultimate weapon that will make it worthless. Only he and Nina have the power to stop a clock that is ticking away the life of both the girl and the world."

If you download the free copy, all I ask is that you leave a review on Amazon, even a bad review, if you dislike the story. I don’t think you will, though, unless action/adventure isn’t your thing. It’s action mixed with comedy and reviews have been very good so I think you’ll enjoy it indeed.


Rick said...

f you meant the e-book to be free on Amazon, You might want to talk to someone because the price is $2.99.

James Reasoner said...

I think the free promo starts tomorrow. I have this one but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

Rick said...

My mistake. Please excuse it.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Brian, I hope your investment pays off. It's a bold move and one I wouldn't have the courage (or the financial wherewithal) to make myself. As far as the editing goes, I'm fairly confident in my own skills and the many, many years' experience acquired in editorial roles during a working life that covered books, magazines, comics, and newspapers. (The last traditional publisher for my fiction told me very early on in our association that editing was a "formality" and he could send my work straight to the typesetter.) Primarily, I feel that your and everyone's problem in the new, indie world lies in marketing.

Amazon alone seems to publish thousands of Kindle titles a month. It becomes virtually impossible by any means other than luck, celebrity status, or unseemly notoriety in the news media, for your book(s) to stand out in the crowd. Submissions to various review sites do not help either. They, too, are overwhelmed by the quantity of requests they receive and you are unlikely to get even an acknowledgement. If you are fortunate enough to secure a review, it quickly becomes buried under the never-ending torrent of later reviews. You might sell a handful of books for a few days, then nothing.

I have now also heard that sales of ebooks have plateaued and in some quarters are forecast to decline. This I can believe. Perhaps too many readers have been disappointed in indie books that should never have been published, the novelty of e-reader gadgets has worn off, and a "once bitten, twice shy" mentality is emerging. I currently have available the digital rights to 14 of my backlist western novels. Frankly, re-formatting them for ebook publication, providing new covers, etc., will not be worth the effort or expense given the sales levels of the books I have already made available in Kindle editions.

Brian Drake said...

Thanks again, James.

Chap, Marketing is indeed tough and with the static to cut through it is an uphill battle. Sisyphus had it easier. You're right about some of the problems, but we've seen this before. A glut will be followed by a drought and then, eventually, things will settle down and those who produce quality and hang in there will make out OK. Plenty of indies who thought they could get rich quick but produced garbage will crawl back into their caves in defeat, and leave the playing field open for those who worked hard and earned their place.

Readers being burned by indies is indeed a concern (of mine) and part of the reason I pulled my older books until I could insure their quality. If nothing else, I have the same odds as a traditionally published author, and if all else fails....well, I still remember how to write query letters. I'll succeed at this one way or another.