An article in yesterday's Washington Post described what it called the ebook gold rush, repeating the now well reported stories about the ebook success of Amanda Hocking and Joe Konrath and the decision Barry Eisler made to walk away from a half-million advance from St. Martin's to self-publish. The most important part of the article was not about these success stories. It was the segment titled "Word of Caution When Your ebook Tanks".
The article noted that most self-published authors end up in the same place as most print authors - oblivion. Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords was quoted as saying: “We have less than 50 people who are making more than $50,000 per year. We have a lot who don’t sell a single book...”.
When I first started writing in 1992, I learned the following: Agents reject 95-99% of what unknown, unpublished writers submit to them and publishers reject over 90% of what agents pitch to them. So getting published in those days was like shooting a BB through a lifesaver (pick your flavor). But I was able to do it, even though it took ten years.
And, as I write this post, my publisher plans to release another book of mine - in print - next March and is deciding whether to make an offer on another book I submitted to them. I have no complaints about traditional publishing. It's been good to me. My publisher agreed to publish my books. They didn't promise to make me a star. There are too many vagaries in the marketplace to predict who's going to end up on the NYT Bestseller list.
Self-publishing magnifies the risks and rewards for authors. We give up advances and all the editorial and marketing support our publishers provide in exchange for the opportunity to control our destiny and make more than we otherwise could. We incur upfront costs for covers, formatting, editing, etc. as part of the bargain. And we compete in an electronic marketplace so crowded that it makes standing out in your local Barnes & Noble look like a piece of cake.
So what is someone, like me, who's about to launch 4-5 ebooks this year, four of which have been previously published as original paperbacks, supposed to think. How am I supposed to become what my good friend Lee Goldberg happily calls a Kindle Millionaire?
All I can say is this - when I was practicing law, I never got a client I wanted that wasn't already represented by someone else; I'm a ten-year overnight success as a writer and my wife had a boyfriend when I met her. I'm mindful of the odds but not intimidated or discouraged by them.
I've got one other thing going for me - I write damn good books!