Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, March 05, 2011

I Think I'm a Convert

Not in an LDS sense (born in the church and all), but in the past week, mostly thanks to David Vandagriff, I may be an e-book convert.

As the song says, something's happening here, a sort of e-revolution. I will freely admit that I fell into the snob category when it came to "indie" publishing. I thought that it was for people who couldn't get published any other way. I thought the books done this way were as the name implied - vanity publishing. People who wanted to be in print and this was the only route they had. I heard the stories of those who sold 100 copies of their books, if they were lucky. The online publishers who considered 500 copies of an e-book sold to be a bestseller. Publishing in print was the only medium I had ever considered.

And as I studied the market and the trends, I saw the old Catch-22 - you couldn't get an agent unless you were published, and you couldn't get published unless you had an agent. I decided that the best route for me to take was to try and break in to a smaller independent market. Knowing that there were LDS publishing houses, it seemed like a good fit. I knew I didn't have to have an agent to submit, and I thought I might have a chance. Plus, I had a Book of Mormon story that I really wanted to write. It kept coming to me and I kept writing little scenes here and there until I committed to writing a book and could finally get it all out on my computer. I also liked the idea of having this little way to help build the kingdom.

You probably have already guessed that my gambit was successful - I finished the book and mailed it off to my publisher. They accepted it with very little changes (mostly cosmetic) and it was published.

I had done it!

But, as with most other authors, I didn't want that to be it. The next two books also came along and were quickly accepted and published. But to make it in the industry, at least for me, I needed to be published by one of the Big 6 in New York. They were the ultimate gatekeepers. To be accepted there meant I Had Made It.

Problem was, I had some unexpected (and very longed/prayed for) babies that are a handful and a half (times a million). Everything was put into them and the rest of my family. I suddenly didn't have anything for myself or my writing.

Story ideas continued to come. Many of them I had to dismiss as not being quite right for an LDS audience. No stories with magic, obviously (and I love paranormals!). The hero gets drunk in that story, nope, can't write that one. This YA heroine might use some fraks and frells in her language, can't use those placeholders.

Then the other concern I had while sitting in one of my RWA meetings was the realization that the people who were selling big were the people who had unique hooks (see also: Ally Condie, Rob Wells). A big idea. A blockbuster idea. I realized that I had none of those. I've been waiting several years for one, and it hasn't come.

My ideas are more run-of-the mill, I suppose. But I still want to write them. I'm also aware of the fact that agents have to "fall in love" with your story to want to represent you. What if I sent a manuscript out for her blind date only to be stood up every single time?

I also like genre combining, which works well in some places, but not so much in others. Apparently some publishers' sales departments don't like it when they can't figure out how to sell your book.

I know that there is a ceiling cap on how many books I will sell in LDS publishing, which poor Jeff Savage tried to explain to me before my first book came out - I just didn't believe him. Finding this to be very true, I looked at New York publishing as a way to expand that audience. But as Miss Snark once personally assured me, my numbers in LDS publishing were phenomenal for a first time author. Writers want to be read. We write to write, but we also write for readers. I wanted a lot of readers (as, I would guess, do most other authors).

Then I looked at what I would have to do in my romances. I don't plan on putting in any smut. I've heard from some LDS authors who've had a hard time selling to Christian houses because of their religion (although there are some who do just fine). I also had a writer friend back in Ohio who absolutely did not want to put any love scenes in her books, and her editor basically told her she had no choice. Without wanting to, she did it in order to be published. And her books since then have contained more and more of those types of scenes. I didn't want to compromise on content, either.

So thanks to a link to David Vandagriff's blog, I started reading about the revolution that's happening in e-books. Once the domain of no names and low numbers, now even well-known, bestselling authors are releasing new works solely as e-books and retaining all the electronic rights.

I used to think there was no money in it. Unknown (to me until three days ago) 26-year-old Amanda Hocking sold 900,000 e-books last year. She admits to doing little to no publicity. She somehow found that lightning in a bottle, and her books just took off (even to her own amazement). 900,000 books where you are making .35 cents to $2.04 each...that is A LOT of money, and a lot of readers. Not surprisingly, she has one of the top New York agents now, is looking at a print deal and selling off foreign and movie rights.

JA Konrath is another that you may know of thanks to his excellent blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. He got into e-books when his first publisher dropped him (despite his books selling well) and a growing disenchantment with publishers. Thanks to his savvy, he's now selling 1,500 books A DAY. He is planning on making at least $500,000 this year. Some might argue that his success comes from his previous publishing, but he'll tell you that his pseudonym is outselling his Konrath name. And that there are lots of unknowns that are easily outselling him (see also: Amanda Hocking).

There are unknown, previously unpublished authors who put out books and are suddenly selling 10,000 copies a month. For those keeping score at home, that's $20,000 a month. That might be possible with a New York house, but other than scoring a major deal for an awesome book, there's no way you're making that kind of money. Quite a few of the names on the Kindle bestselling lists are indie authors.

Obviously there are lots of people who will never sell that many. I don't assume that everyone who tries it becomes a bestseller. But I also think that quality will get found, and will rise to the top. Just like the best/most entertaining videos go viral on YouTube or the best bands/musicians are the most downloaded on iTunes, readers will find the books that are well-written.

With e-books only having approximately 8 to 10 percent of the market, obviously there is room for growth. The Kindle on Amazon continues to sell at an amazing pace - it is currently Amazon's #1 bestselling product and has the most five-star reviews. More and more people will get in to this technology. I don't think print books will ever go away completely, but I do think more people will start using e-readers now that there are industry standards like the Kindle or Nook.

So I'm intrigued. I think I want to try it. I want to write some of the books of my heart that I thought would never sell to anyone and see what happens.

Since I've been hovering around the Kindle boards on Amazon lately, I've seen some LDS authors that I know. With that in mind, is anyone else considering this? Has anyone else tried it? How are you doing with it? (Post anonymously if you wish, I'm just sort of obsessed with this whole idea lately and want to know if anyone else is feeling the way that I am.)


At 3/07/2011 12:15 AM, Anonymous David V. said...

Thanks for the mention Sariah and share your experiences going forward.

David V.
The Passive Voice -

At 3/07/2011 3:52 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I definitely will. And thanks for commenting. I was starting to wonder if the microphone was on. ;)

At 3/07/2011 3:58 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

I'm glad you and Jeff are both discussing ebooks. I've also considered doing an ebook for a particular project. I'm holding off for now, but if it doesn't work out with my publisher, I would do it myself. It's exciting that authors have so many options now. I do think it's important that we keep perspective, realizing that, like Jeff said, authors like Hocking and Konrath are the exception. But if we go into e-publishing with our eyes open, it's an exciting option.

I personally love my Kindle and think ebooks will just keep getting bigger and bigger.

At 3/18/2011 12:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a lovely answer of several paragraphs here, but my connection timed out and I lost it. ARGH!

I use my iPod touch as an eReader. I love having so many books available instantly. Print books won't go away, but ebooks are finally here to stay.

Two of my novels and a free recipe ebook are up at, which distributes to every major retailer but Amazon. They are still working out kinks there, but Smashwords' authors are advised to go ahead with their Amazon submissions on their own until the problems are worked out. When I have the time and my ADHD allows, I'll do that.

Google keeps throwing me out, so I'll use Anonymous instead.

Marsha Ward
Writer in the Pines


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