Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Secret to E-Publishing Success

            It’s been almost a year since I published my first ebook, and I can say that I finally figured out the secret to success in e-publishing.  The secret is…  (insert drum roll) … you have to publish the right book.

I currently have ten ebooks available, not counting a box set of my series. Six of them are ebook versions of backlist titles and four are new. Many of them I sell only a handful a month, while two of them sell a couple hundred.  What’s the difference? Genre. My Regency romances are the ones that sell. My two Viking books do OK, while sales of my dark age romances and my Roman Britain historical fantasy are pretty pathetic.

If your ebook is in a less than popular genre, you may have trouble even giving them away. Indeed, I did three free promotions this last year. My dark age romance had over 500 downloads, my Viking book, 1100 and my Regency 11,000! 

Since I’ve been e-publishing, a lot of writers have been interested in my experiences. They’re wondering if they should take the leap. My advice would be, if you have a book in a genre that’s popular, then you could do very well. If the book has been rejected by editors of agents because it’s a tough sell, then you may not experience much success epublishing it. The gatekeeping process has changed, but it’s still functioning.

There are over half a million ebook fiction titles on Amazon. The only way readers are going to find your book is to search for it. And unless your name is Nora Roberts or Stephen King, they’re probably going to search for it by genre or sub-genre. But even that doesn’t help much. For example, there are almost 14,000 historical romance ebooks on Amazon. I still face pretty stiff competition. Next readers are going to search using key words.  I’ve tried to use keywords that might spark interest, but there’s a limit to how creative you can be and remain true to what the book is about.

Which brings me to a related reality:  Sex sells.

My Regencies are fairly sexy, and my next best-selling book is a Viking romance that opens with the heroine trying to seduce the hero. It sells much better than my Viking book where it takes a lot longer for the hero and heroine to get “down and dirty”.

Of course, if you’re writing mysteries or urban fantasy, or action adventure novels, sex might not be such a big factor. But the overall popularity of your genre or sub-genre is still going to be a huge predictor of how well your ebook does.

Independent e-publishing has been hailed by many frustrated writers as a wonderful, empowering opportunity. And it is. It’s a chance to get your “baby” to readers, get the story-of-your-heart out there. But you have to be realistic. Most e-published writers don’t sell thousands of ebooks. The ones that do are writing something that lots of people want to read.

But not every writer can or should write to the masses (at least not all the time). My Regency romances, while fun to write, were definitely not “books of the heart”. The books that mean the most to me, that I put my heart and soul into, are experiencing underwhelming sales. But that’s not to say I regret writing them. These are books I am very proud of, that I gave me great emotional and creative satisfaction.  They are my literary legacy. And in the grand scheme of things, that’s more important than money.


  1. Great information, Mary! I really appreciate knowing what you've learned about this. I'm going to share because I know other folks who will be interested in this.

  2. Thanks for sharing! I really love and appreciate the wisdom of the last paragraph...we'd all like to make a living and earn money for our writing, but there are things more important than money.

  3. This was a great blog. Very informative. Thanks.

  4. Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad to share what I've learned. And thanks, Mario and Cindy, for sharing on Facebook.

  5. Two excellent posts here on e-publishing and on promotion, Mary...I share your feelings about marketing ourselves and our work. It was actually painful until I did it enough to get used to it. I found it helped my learning curve and my peace of mind to also promote other authors and their books. Makes me feel better about my own BSP efforts.

  6. Hi Mary
    I've been saying for some time now it is a numbers game. But you've gone a step further. I agree, sex sells. I guess I won't make millions.

  7. I hope my comments didn't come off as too discouraging or negative. I'm just trying to provide some perspective on e-publishing. The more we know the better we can plan and make informed decisions about our writing and our writing goals.