eBook publishing continues to evolve rapidly, and since we began eBook Partnership in 2009, we have seen some fantastic stories of self-publishing success.
One thing is clear – there is no fixed formula that you can follow to ensure instant sales, but there are many ideas, tips and case studies that may provide you with the inspiration to help you succeed with your self-published eBooks and build a flourishing fanbase.
Over the next few months, we will be asking some of the authors, publishers and retailers we work with, to share their thoughts and some top tips.
Kerry Wilkinson is currently selling thousands of eBooks a week, on Amazon alone. At the time of writing, his first book Locked In is at No 1 in the overall Amazon UK Kindle Chart (paid) and the sequel Vigilante is also in the Top 10.
As a first time author, it’s fair to say Kerry was a little surprised by his new found fame. In an interview with the Lancashire Writing Hub in August this year he said, “I keep expecting to wake-up, check the chart, and find I have sunk without a trace. That could still well happen but, to be honest, everything I have somehow managed to achieve so far has vastly exceeded any expectations I could have ever had.”
Kerry began writing after hitting 30, with a challenge to himself. He still works full time, but Book 3 The Woman in Black is due for release this month, and Book 4 Think of the Children follows in 2012.
Here we are in November, you have definitely not sunk without a trace, any plans to give up your day job?
No, I absolutely love my ‘proper’ job and I find time to write in the evenings and on days off, so there’s no real need.
Crime is a very popular genre for eBooks. When you decided to sit down and write, did you think about your target market first, or were you writing about a subject you already had a keen interest in?
The only reason I wrote a crime book is because that was the idea I had. It could have been a science fiction tale or something else if that was what had dropped into my head. I had no target market or anything like that because I didn’t write it to release it – that came later – I wrote it to prove to myself that I could. I never set out to “be an author”. I’m still not sure I actually feel like one.
How would you feel now, if a publisher approached you with a book deal? Do you value your independence, or would you like your writing career to develop further with the help available within a traditional publisher eco system?
I really don’t know. I guess it depends on what they were offering. I have no desperate need to take anything I’m not happy with because I have a successful career away from the writing. If a publisher wanted to offer me something anyway, I would happily listen.
The first two titles from the Jessica Daniels series, Locked In and Vigilante, are selling fantastically well… You said, ”I didn’t do much in the way of publicising, except for telling my friends, etc, on Facebook and Twitter and a couple of forums. But then something strange happened… people started to actually buy it.” Are you developing a more strategic promotional plan for the next two, and if so, what will you do differently?
I don’t have a plan as such … but there is already something of a market waiting on book three.
I get emails from people wanting to know when it’s out and I’ve sold enough copies of book two that people are wanting to follow the story without me having to shove things down their throat.
Book one is always going to be the one people buy not knowing if they will like it or not. Some people do, some people definitely do not. But the fact book two has made the Top 10 (and stayed there) is the biggest indicator of the interest people have in the main character, Jessica. Hopefully that will follow through into future titles.
Any words of advice for authors to save time or money, or increase their chances of success in the eBook publishing process?
I wrote a book I thought I would like to read. From my point of view, it skips along fairly quickly (not everyone agrees but lots do), it has short chapters – which I think is essential because of the way people read on commutes, etc – I try to write towards cliffhangers, and, lastly, I already had the bulk of book two finished before the first one came out. I think readers like to know that, if they enjoy a book, there’s more to come.
The truth is, I don’t think there is a set way to do things. Some people swear by Twitter but, if you start with no followers, you’re just shouting at an empty room. For me, it was all about attrition and the book sold itself. I wasn’t desperate to sell it to all and sundry because I have a proper career. Constantly spamming message boards saying, ‘Look at me’ doesn’t really make you look very good.
After all of that… I’m not sure. An agent told me that my blurbs were as good as anything they’d read. That didn’t mean the book was good and they may well have been just saying that (I’ve had vague offers) – but things like blurbs and your first three chapters count because of the way eReaders let you sample books. If you download the first three chapters of something and are bored with it, then you won’t buy it.
Maybe that creates a wider issue about the pacing of books and so on – but that’s for others to debate. For me, I just get on with my own thing. I started by writing a book I thought I would enjoy and that’s what I still try to do. Because of that, some people will get it, some people won’t. The ones that get it are probably the types of people who read what I read and watch what I watch. We’re all different and people read the same words in different ways.
It’s pretty amazing to have the number one book and something I never thought would happen but, ultimately, before any of that, I created something I was pleased with. Before I start drifting off into talking about my “journey” as if I’m an X Factor contestant with a soft rock tune playing in the background while I make a tearful exit, I think I’ll leave it there.
We recently started working with Kerry to help distribute his eBooks to other retailers, including Waterstone’s and Apple’s iBookstore and iTunes, and look forward to helping him continue his eBook success story.
Kerry’s books are available from Amazon and Waterstone’s and other online retailers.