Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why I'm a Dedicated Indie Author

Indie Author = an author who publishes his or her work independently of traditional or "legacy" publishers, which work may take the form of either print books, electronic books, or both.

I have several writer friends who have done some variety of independent publishing, and more who are curious about what indie publishing can do for their bottom line. I thought I would share some facts about what a big change a few hours' work has made in my life.

Long-time friends know why I started "self-publishing" several years ago, despite the bias against those writers who did so. For those who don't know, I had a serious health crisis, and didn't want to die with manuscripts unpublished. Therefore, I put out three print books with iUniverse.

Then my books were such a resounding success with you fantastic readers that I couldn't stop to wait for a gatekeeper to accept/schedule/publish my work. Each new book being part of a series about my Owen family, that wasn't likely to happen anyway. Traditional publishers usually don't buy a series book in the middle of the arc. I am currently working on a fourth in the series I now have entitled the Owen Family Saga.

When the electronic book distributor Smashwords.com came to town two years or so ago, I jumped on the ebook bandwagon, and signed up with my first two novels.

I decided to hold off on the third until I finished writing the fourth. A stupid decision, I discovered later, as I educated myself under writers J. A. Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, and other early electronic book authors. Smashwords delivers content to most of the big ebook retailers, including Sony, Kobo Books, and B&N--before they came up with Pub-It. Smashwords has NOT been successful in getting distribution to Amazon, YET, and the head honcho, Mark Coker, advised us Smashwords authors and publishers to go over to the Amazon Kindle site and do it ourselves. I'd heard the Kindle preparation process was complicated and difficult, so again, I held off.

In the meantime, I had some sales through the Smashwords channels. Royalties in the two figures.

Then I decided I'd put things off long enough, added my third novel to Smashwords in late April-early May, 

and decided to see how hard it really was to format for Kindle. Astonishingly, with the free software Kindle Direct Publishing offered, it was easier than preparing a manuscript for Smashwords!

I uploaded my three novels to Amazon Kindle, and heck, just because more content is better, added several short stories and an anthology, which I also uploaded to Smashwords. I topped it all off with a Sampler of three chapters each of the three published novels, and a chapter from the forthcoming one. My prices ranged from $.99 to $3.99.


Now I had TEN ebooks of various sizes (let's call them units) going through both Smashwords distribution and through Kindle's three stores: US, UK, and Germany.

Let me just say that I've had no, zero, zip sales through the German (DE) store. I understand a bit more now why that is, but it's irrelevent to this discussion.

After I uploaded my works, I joined a couple of Facebook groups, mentioned the works, and then got busy preparing for a road trip with a girlfriend. This took up most of May.

June. June brought me pretty low. I had emergency major surgery, and thus did no marketing for my books.

July arrived. I was beginning to feel like a human being again, and, curious to see if I'd sold any ebooks on Kindle, I took a look at my sales figures.

I about got my socks knocked off! In May I had sales of 90 UNITS in the US Kindle store ($209.03 royalty), and 5 UNITS in the UK store ($6.35 royalty).

In June I sold 94 units in the US and 3 units in the UK. Royalty figures were not available per month yet, but for the period of June 4 through July 9, the royalties from the US store are $287.09 and 63 pence for the UK.

In July thus far, I've sold 81 units in the US and 11 units in the UK.

Yes, I know, these aren't figures in the tens of thousands of sales or royalties yet, but ebooks have the advantage of the long tail. They never get swept off a bookstore's shelf after a month. They are FOR.EVER!

Remember, I've done little or no advertising that my work is even out there, and these are Western-flavored novels and stories, for the most part, not the more-in-demand romances (per se), mysteries, thrillers, dystopian YA novels, vampire tales, or zombie stories.

So, the big question is: Am I ever likely to send queries, try to get an agent, or nervously stand in line hoping for a gatekeeper to say I'm good enough to publish? I don't know. You be the judge.

Works by Marsha Ward
Print books, novels: The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, Trail of Storms
Ebooks, novels: The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, Trail of Storms
Ebook Collection (prose & poetry): No More Strangers
Recipe Book: Rapid Recipes for Writers...and Other Busy People
Short Stories: Cottonwood Cowboys, War Party, The Usual Game, Thumps & Losers (2 stories)
Sampler: The Owen Family Saga Sampler (Three chapters each from the three novels in the Owen Family Saga, plus a bonus chapter from the forthcoming novel, Spinster's Folly)

My electronic books are available at Smashwords.com in many ebook formats; Amazon Kindle in the US, UK, and Germany; Barnes & Noble; and other online ebook retailers.

My print books are available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com, bn.com, marshaward.com, and other online retailers.


  1. Thanks for sharing. This is great information. And congrats on the sales.

    I'm curious. Do you think your success-despite-marketing was a result of the numbers of items you had for sale, or was it related to being listed in the Kindle store? I assume it is a combination of both, but I'm curious if you see either one as the bigger influence?

  2. Thank you for commenting, John!

    I don't know to what I can attribute the sales. I'm sure the bare fact of being on the Kindle store is significant, but I also think having a variety of pieces from which to choose is valuable. At least, that is what my "teachers" have told me, and I think since they have more experience in that subject, I can trust their word.

    I hope if you have purchased one of my works, that you enjoy it. :-)

  3. This is great, and encouraging, information. Thank you so much for writing this, it gives me a lot to think about.


  4. Marsha - Thanks for this. Great experience to share. I'm just curious - what did you do to make your first book "such a resounding success with [your] fantastic readers?" And how much of your subsequent success in sales do you attribute to that foundation you created?

    I'm enjoying the (mostly) indie approach myself - and even had some recognition w/my book, "What Lies West" a finalist for last year's WILLA. But generating interest beyond my immediate circle has taken a back seat to some more lucrative projects. I'm eager to do more to promote the novel. Thanks again!


  5. Thanks, Marsha. I too self-publish my nonfiction books about RVing. I know I've made a lot more money than I would have under a traditional publisher -if I could have found a publisher.

    A fact of life, whether you are traditionally or self-published, is that you have to do the marketing.

    I am going to look at getting my ebooks at Amazon's Kindle. I have one formatted, working on a second.

    Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

  6. Marsha, this is really good information! I've decided to try self-publishing, too. I have an agent and a publisher under one name, but a few years ago I was with an electronic publisher and had quite a few books released with them. So now that I have all my rights back, I'll be putting those books on Kindle & Pubit under the other pen name. I hope I do as good as you!!


  7. I appreciate your information, Marsha. I'm pretty late getting into this writing thing, and I worry I won't live long enough to publish traditionally.

  8. Marsha, as a staunch supporter of indie publishing as a viable route for authors, particularly authors of blended genre novels or novels outside the romance venue, or novels that break some of the romance "rules", or novels about certain time periods, locales or subject matter that are not "in" with traditional publishers, I can only say thank you for sharing your story and your success. I have long championed the independent route for authors; the same route followed by independent filmmakers (often earning them the title of "auteur"), or renegade, independent recording artists who record on their own labels to great criticial acclaim (and Grammys!) and to the intrepid entrepeneur who puts up a life's savings to start up a new company (you know, like Apple or Facebook?). Why authors were looked upon differently from other arenas where the courage and fortitude it takes to go it alone are considered cutting edge stylemakers, I don't know. But I know that success like yours will drive the argument that it is definitely a solid path to take. Continued good fortune with your tales!

  9. So why do you think Germany's not working out as well for you?

  10. debbi Weitzell12:44 PM

    How nice you should publish this on the very day I am sending in my first indie manuscript! Not an accident, I think. Thanks for the boost, Marsha. And I hope your work continues to grow in sales.

  11. Impressive and inspiring! I'm so glad to hear your health is improving! : )

  12. Marsha, this post made all the difference in my own feelings of insecurity and even despair at the prospect of yet another round of rejection letters. I referenced you in my own blog post for this exact reason last night. I'm still going to query the agents left on my list, but I feel like the chains have fallen off. Having my books out there is now a matter of when, not if.

  13. Anonymous12:55 PM

    Hi Marsha, Good to read your story about moving into E Books. It would have seemed to be the best choice for you. Wish I'd done it sooner, but am working on my backlist to Kindle now as well. I've read some of your work and can see why it is selling so well. Best for future sales. Keep it up.

  14. I found Smashwords, Kindle and Nook were all pretty seamless (once I did the formatting for Smashwords, minor tweaks for the other two from that were super quick). I'm currently weighing my option for self publishing vs going the traditional route for several books I have in the pipeline. I LOVED putting out my third book by myself, the freedom and fun of it. There are pros and cons both ways.

  15. Anonymous2:19 PM

    Congrats on all your sales, Marsha. I haven't found that success as yet, but I'm hoping my book that is free at Smashwords right now will help generate interest. Meanwhile, you're an inspiration and always share good information.

    Carol Crigger

  16. Marsha - I'm glad your indie publishing is going so well. I'm a full convert to it myself and no longer want to go the traditional route. I have four novels available now and since I put them up on Amazon in December, 2010 I've sold over 3000 books!

  17. I'm working right now on getting an inspirational short story out in ebook form. I'm glad I read your success story, here. It gives me hope and makes me anxious to get mine up and going. Thanks!

  18. Dear Marsha,

    I read your post with great interest as I learn more about self-publishing and its benefits. I have been writing for years but am just now getting to the point where I have a viable product. My dream has always been to get a print deal with a major publisher, but I am coming around to the reality that my dream may have to shift and change along with those changes in our industry. Another friend of mine has had tremendous success self-publishing and advocates for it with anyone even mildly considering this option. Stories like yours help further tip the scales for me. Thank you so much for sharing it! Congratulations on the success of your books -- westerns are awesome and they don't get the attention they deserve! I am so happy that self-publishing has given them new life and I hope you have continued success!!

  19. Thank you so much! Very encouraging post. I've recently decided to go the self publishing route, and this helps to confirm that decision. Good luck with your books!

  20. Marsha - great post. I have been sitting on the decision to go the self-pub, both e-book and print myself and you've helped me overcome any of trepidation.

  21. Great blog Marsha, I have a book completed that I am considering ebooking it. Your blog is just what I needed to get me going in that direction. Hope you are doing well!

  22. Great post, Marsha. Sounds like you've found a good fit for you. Thanks for sharing your story.

  23. Thank you all for your comments. I'm so thrilled that I've helped some of you overcome trepidation about going directly to the readers with your books and stories. After all, when you seek traditional publishing, perhaps only one person at the publisher ever reads the entire manuscript, and if their reading bias doesn't align with your story, you're out of luck! The millions of readers world-wide aren't so likely to toss you to the wolves, because someone is going to enjoy your tale, and tell their friends. From there, the word-of-mouth machine kicks in.

    As long as you do your part working the social media; have a web site and/or an updated blog (it doesn't have to be updated daily; weekly will do); compile a list of emails from those who are most likely to buy your next work and send them occasional blog post and/or news emails; you will be able to create a buzz about you and your work.

    In the meantime, write, get sufficiently critiqued and edited, and don't put dreck out there!

  24. Sariah, the German market has several barriers. Despite the fact that many Germans speak English, there is a 2% surcharge from Amazon on ebooks on the Continent. Also, the politicians in Germany and France are up to no good, trying to manipulate and set prices on ebooks. The Kindle and other ereaders are not widely available/economical in Europe yet. These factors make it almost impossible to make a dent in that particular marketplace. I haven't given up, but I have so many irons in the fire that I've placed a push for breaking into the German market on the back burner for now.

  25. Irene Bennett Brown6:19 PM

    Congratulations, Marsha on your impressive e-book success. Among other things, your titles are really good.

  26. Good for you, Marsha! Two months ago I had five traditional publishers, which I'm leaving to publish strictly indie for a varity of reasons, including not receiving my royalty checkks.

  27. Thanks for sharing this information! I found your blog via Donna K. Weaver.

    I just released my first self-pubbed book (I had one traditionally pubbed last year) and it's been quite an experience. (I admit, the Kindle formatting took me the longest out of all the ebooks I had to format--because trying to get the TOC and the NCX files to both work gave me a headache.)

    It's REALLY great to hear from someone who has been going this route for a while. Congratulations on your books!

  28. Thank you for this informative post. Ebooks is still pretty much uncharted territory for me.

  29. Thanks so much for this post, Marsha, and for those of you who have commented with enthusiasm and good experiences. I, too, am in the middle of prepping my to release soon and worried this was "giving in" or worse, "giving up" but I do think that the genre makes a difference!

    Thanks for the inspiration and best of luck to you, and look for my book, Nourish & Strengthen, coming out this fall!

  30. Anonymous8:07 PM

    Hi Marsha! Thanks for posting this. I will want to pick your brain later for more specifics! Bwa ha ha haaaa! Interesting about the German market... I had no idea. It'll be awesome to sneak in there when they finally do open up. Being one of the first ebooks available to ze germans will be a boon.

  31. Thanks, Marsha. Good info. My first novel is currently being reviewed by a publisher and it takes months, as you know. This may end up being the way to go.

  32. Thank you, Irene. I search long and hard for the titles to my novels, so I appreciate your accolade.

    Jean, that's terrible that you haven't been paid your royalties! Good luck with your new indie enterprise.

    I wish you much success with your book, Laura.

    Thanks, Ann. Knowledge is power.

    Maria, we've been brainwashed to think that the only validation for our work is through traditional publishing, and that any other path is inferior and shows that we can't write our way out of a paper bag. That must be the case! No editor approved us! Not so. Readers have the power of validation, not gatekeepers who have trained us to believe that we're giving up or giving in if we seek other means of reaching readers. You go, girl!

    Thanks, Betty. You're welcome to pick my brain anytime.

    Renae, the submission "rules" and length of time agents and editors take to process submissions, let alone get books to market, don't favor any writer, young or old. This is a wonderful time for writers. At last, the shackles are falling off.

  33. Sounds like you've been doing a great job going the independent route. I keep hearing more and more stories like this and it makes sense in so many ways. Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing your experience.

    Tossing It Out


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