I Make Money Online: Selling eBooks
You may not know her name, but Amanda Hocking and others like her are riding the comet of digital publishing.
Fed up with attempts to find a traditional publisher for her young-adult paranormal novels, Hocking self-published last March and began selling her novels on online bookstores like Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.
By May she was selling hundreds; by June, thousands. She sold 164,000 books in 2010. Most were low-priced (99 cents to $2.99) digital downloads.
More astounding: This January she sold more than 450,000 copies of her nine titles. More than 99% were e-books.
“I can’t really say that I would have been more successful if I’d gone with a traditional publisher,” says Hocking, 26, who lives in Austin, Minn. “But I know this is working really well for me.”
In fact, Hocking is selling so well that on Thursday, the three titles in her Trylle Trilogy (Switched, Torn and Ascend, the latest) will make their debuts in the top 50 of USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list.
A recent survey shows 20 million people read e-books last year, and more self-published authors are taking advantage of the trend.
(Self-publishing is done without the involvement or vetting of an established publisher and uses a publishing system such as Lulu, Smashwords, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Barnes & Noble’s PubIt! Many traditional media outlets do not review self-published books.)
“It’s possible for any author to make their book available with little or no upfront cost and reach a global audience,” Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle Content for Amazon, says of Hocking’s success. Digital publishing, he says, “gives a chance to a great book that otherwise might have been overlooked.”
In the past, it has been rare for a self-published hardcover or paperback to enjoy such spectacular sales.
Hocking credits her success to aggressive self-promotion on her blog, Facebook and Twitter, word of mouth and writing in a popular genre — her books star trolls, vampires and zombies.
And she’s making money.
“To me, that was a price point that made sense for what I would be willing to spend on an e-book,” says Hocking, who sets her own prices. “I use iTunes a lot, and it’s 99 cents and $1.29 a song.”
For every $2.99 book she sells, she keeps 70%, with the rest going to the online bookseller. For every 99-cent book she sells, she keeps 30%.
H.P. Mallory, another self-published paranormal e-novelist, has sold 70,000 copies of her e-books since July. Her success caught the attention of traditional publisher Random House, with whom she just signed a three-book contract. “Selling e-books on Kindle and Barnesandnoble.com basically changed my life,” Mallory says. “I never would have gotten where I am today if I hadn’t.”
Others are profiting, too:
- The No. 4-selling Kindle book (it has been as high as No. 1) is The Hangman’s Daughter by German novelist Oliver Potzsch. It’s part of AmazonCrossing, a program offering translations of foreign-language titles. More than 100,000 copies have been sold.
- Novelist J.A. Konrath, who has sold more than 100,000 self-published e-books, gets more than 1 million hits a year on his blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing (jakonrath.blogspot.com). His novel, Shaken, hit No. 9 on the Kindle list last year.
Lorraine Shanley of Market Partners International, a publishing consulting firm, recently enjoyed Deed to Death by D.B. Henson, a self-published e-book she downloaded to her iPad.
The 99-cent price made her try it.
“Often books published by traditional publishers are excellent, but I don’t think it prohibits self-publishers from doing a good job,” she says.