In response to questions about my writing, I posted a blog titled A Day In The Life a while back describing a typical day in my life as an author. That blog led to other questions about the process that goes into it all, getting a book from concept to finished and available for my readers. So let’s talk about that today.
As I have shared with you before, when I am writing a book, I print out several chapters at a time for my wife, Terry, to edit and proofread, and when she is done, I make her corrections and then send those chapters on to a second proofreader. When I get her suggestions back, I make corrections and then send everything off to yet a third proofreader. This person is blind and listens to the chapters on her computer. It is amazing that she picks up things that we miss, especially punctuation. Once a manuscript is completed, I print it out and Terry reads through the whole thing, and I make any further corrections she suggests. Then I send it back to Roberta, the blind woman I mentioned, and she goes through it again. It always surprises me how much she finds, after myself, her, and two other competent proofreaders have already read it. But all those years in the small town newspaper business taught me that you can never have enough sets of eyes on something, and even then, typos do slip through.
At some point along the way, Elizabeth Mackey creates the book cover. Elizabeth is a very talented graphics artist who is married to a Coastguardsman and lives on Kodiak Island, Alaska. She does covers for many bestselling authors, and I have never worked with someone as gifted as her. I can simply suggest what the theme of a book might be, and more times than not, she immediately sends me back exactly what I had in mind, even if I didn’t know what it was myself.
When a manuscript is finally done, I format the e-book version and upload it to Amazon. Then I wait a few days for sharp-eyed readers to find any typos that slipped through. Unfortunately, that sometimes happens, but I’m able to correct them quickly and re-load the e-book. Once I know it is as good as anybody can make it, I have a person who formats the print book for me, and I upload it and it’s ready to go. I could format the print book myself, but I am not good at it and I find it a tedious process. My time is better spent doing other things.
The next step is promoting, and that is an ongoing effort. As I tell many new authors, writing the book is the easy part, the real work is in the promotion. I actually begin promotion on a new book with the publication of the previous book in the series because, I always include a teaser chapter for the next one at the end of a book when I release it. Then, when I’m working on the book, I occasionally tell blog readers and my followers on social media how things are going with it. This is no different than television shows that give you a preview of what’s coming next, and it works. I’ve only done one or two paid ads in the ten years I have been self-publishing my books. All other promotions are through social media, on my blog, in my free author’s newsletter, and by word of mouth from my many wonderful readers.
While many authors I know are widely distributed through many online venues, I am exclusive with Amazon because all of my books are available in their Kindle Unlimited program. Over 90% of my income is from e-books, and at least 75% of that is from Kindle Unlimited page reads. With that program, subscribers pay something like $10 a month and can read as many books as they want. Authors don’t get paid per book, but we do get paid a certain amount of money for each page read by Kindle Unlimited members. It really adds up.
Other authors ask me what the key to success is, and I believe it is writing books that readers enjoy and creating characters they can relate to. Many readers have told me that they feel like my characters are people they know, and they care about them.
To me, writing a series, as opposed to individual standalone books, is another key to success. I have several series out, including Big Lake, with 20 books so far, the John Lee Quarrels series with ten books so far, the two-book Dog’s Run series, and the Tinder Street series, with three books so far. I also have one standalone mystery, Black Friday, and several nonfiction RV and travel books out. The series books outsell the nonfiction by well over 50 to 1. The great thing about a series is that you create a backlist of books over time. That backlist is like having money in the bank. Once readers get invested in your series characters, they usually read all of the books. It is not uncommon for me to hear from someone who picked up a book in one of my series and enjoyed it and then went back and read every book from the very beginning.
Many authors think they need an agent and a publisher to succeed, and while that was true ten years ago, today nothing could be farther than the truth. There is nothing an agent or publisher can do for me that I can’t do myself or pay someone to do for me, and I have total control of what I am doing and keep all of the profits from my books. When my first novel, Big Lake, hit the New York Times bestseller list, I was contacted by several agents who wanted to represent me.
Over the years, I’ve been approached by agents and by Amazon’s publishing house wanting to handle my books. Every time, I’ve looked at the numbers and laughed at them and said thanks but no thanks. What they offer is so little that I would be a fool to even consider accepting.
For those who think they need an agent and a publishing company behind them if they ever want to go anywhere with their careers as authors, all I can say is that sometime by the end of this year, I will hit $1 million in accumulated royalties for my books on Amazon. I don’t know how you define success, but I believe it’s more than just money. I’m happy with my life, with the way I work, and with what I have accomplished so far, and as long as my readers keep buying and enjoying my books, I’ll keep at it.
Thought For The Day – Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.