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The question came from Zina over at My Imaginary Blog. Readers here may remember her as the blogger I borrowed the malapropism post from. (She's got a lot more where that come from.)
When I posted the first chapter of my middle-grade fantasy novel, The Golden Cup of Kardak, she was curious as to why I decided to go straight to the Kindle with it.
Since the answer doesn't fit into a 140-character tweet, and because I'm guessing other readers may have the same question, I felt a blog post coming on. So Zina, here's the answer.
But some history first. I now have four e-book titles. I traditionally published seven novels with Covenant. My first two went out of print years ago, and the rights reverted back to me. And then I sat on them, because self-publishing a hard-copy novel is crazy expensive. If you go inexpensive and do the print-on-demand thing, you're unlikely to sell much, and it wasn't worth doing to me.
But when e-books started taking off, I decided to get those books back into reader hands.
So just over a year ago, I did a spit-polish on Lost Without You and made it an e-book.
Note to readers: I always liked my original version of the final scene, so I changed it back (in case readers of the original are wondering, yes, it's different).
It had slow sales at first, but every month increased significantly from the month before.
Then around the first of this year, I put up At the Water's Edge, and shortly after that, my grammar guide, There, Their, They're, both of which I updated a bit. I priced the novels nice and low at $2.99, and the grammar guide at only 99 cents, since it's a small book.
At the urging of colleagues, I'd originally self-published the grammar guide in softback with print-on-demand technology about two years prior. I never had any plans for it to go really big; it was more a labor of love than anything, something to offer to friends, colleagues, conference attendees, and the like. I'd been told many times that I can explain language stuff in a way that's easy to understand. When e-readers became mainstream, it made sense to put it onto the Kindle too.
A bit of NEWS: All three novels are now also available at Smashwords HERE, which supports virtually all e-book readers. You should be able to find them through Barnes & Noble, too. The grammar book will on Smashwords soon as well. If you're a Kindle person, they're all HERE on Amazon.
When I had multiple books out, sales took off significantly. While I'm not getting rich, it's certainly been worth doing.
So back to the question regarding the fantasy: Why did I go straight to Kindle with The Golden Cup of Kardak?
1) As I said above, I've had pretty good success (by my definition; I'm no Amanda Hocking) selling my books online myself. It made good business sense to put it out there and see how it does.
2) While I have every intention of going the traditional route with other books, this one is sort of like my grammar guide. It's a labor of love, something I really like that I want to get to the world and let my kids (and other kids) read. Now.
3) I feel confident in its quality without going through the industry vetting process. It's been through my critique group. I've had kids in the target age range read it and offer honest feedback. I gave it to my editor at Covenant, and he loved it, but as I mentioned a week ago, the company wasn't publishing fantasy. So I think the book's good, and it's fun. If I say so myself.
4) But it's probably not what's "hot" in agent and editor minds right now. It doesn't follow any current market trend, and it's more like the fantasies I read as a teen. (I have no delusions of being in their league, but for the sake of categorizing, it's more Robin McKinley, less Suzanne Collins, if that makes sense.) So it's not urban fantasy. It's not paranormal or dystopian or post-apocalyptic. There's no romance. Sure, it might sell if I were to pitch it nationally. It might not. It's a softer fantasy, not a The Forest of Hands and Teeth or a Percy Jackson.
5) Because of that, I believe the book's audience may be a niche. But I do believe an audience for it exists. However, niche audiences aren't really what publishers are about. They don't have the luxury of spending the time finding and cultivating a niche. Sales are sink or swim in the first weeks or months after release. But I do have the luxury of time, and I don't have to invest thousands to do it. I can slowly find readers and build my audience. (Here's where the whole short tail/long tail theory comes in.)
Like I said, I have future plans for traditional publishing (both in the LDS and the national markets). For this book, right now, going self e-pubbed simply made sense.
Personally, I think you made an excellent choice. My experience has been much like yours with backlist books. I haven't tried ebooks for an original first publication, but it shows your savvy concerning the market to analyze the best route for a niche book and because of your solid reputation as a writer, I suspect you'll find a larger audience than you expect.
I think that's awesome! There's room to go all kinds of ways in publishing and I love that you're willing to self-publish, nationally publish and go with small press. Each book for a different market. It makes sense to me. That's great!
Robin McKinley is my favorite author, so I think it's better to be more like her than like Suzanne Collins anyway (although I am a fan of hers as well).
I am excited to be able to get The Golden Cup of Kardak on kindle!
Make sense to me! And I love reading books on Kindle and getting a reduced price.
Great insight, Annette. Like you, I have published small press, and have projects under consideration right now with both a medium-sized publisher and a BIG name publisher, yet this summer I published a book on Kindle. I had written Books, Books, and More Books: A Parent and Teacher's Guide to Adolescent Literature in 1999 as part of my Christa McAuliffe Fellowship. I submitted it to several educational publishers, and although they loved it, the book did not fit neatly into the lines they had already established. So the manuscript has waiting in my computer files all these years. Once I heard from you how easy it was to format for Kindle, I decided to give it a go of my own. I sold 3 copies the first day! Whoo Hoo! A companion set of book guides will be released soon, and I'm hoping the two of them together will be useful to parents, teachers, and librarians as they work with adolescent readers, and maybe discover a few books they might not have read before that they will end up learning to love. I know this much, the only way for any of that to happen was for ME to find a way to make the book available, and this seemed like the best way.
Very interesting. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question! It sounds like this is one of the perfect uses for self-publishing. I like the idea that there are things that aren't worth it for a publisher to put out, but that are still worthwhile for an individual author.
I guess I need an electronic reader now. :)
I loved reading your first two books on my Kindle and can't wait to read the next!
I've been following the self-pub trend with a lot of interest since my current ms won't tork in the LDS market. I'll prob still try to get an agent but if not, the DIY approach is increasingly more interresting.
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