What do Top Authors Have in Common?
This week I talk to Beverley Kendall about a survey she completed late last year and publishing in January 2014, which look at what top authors (who self published) were earning, and what these top authors were doing in common. We also talk about her journey from being a traditionally published author to going self published, and why she is so glad that she did!
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2013 Self Publishing Survey – what the latter half of the episode is about. It looks at the financial situation of over 800 self-published authors.
Avon Fan Lit – a competition run by HaperCollins to win money and something produced.
The Season – News and reviews by Beverley, was a promotional route she started when her first book was coming out. A place for her to put new authors in front of readers.
That scathing Huff Post article by Steven Zacharius that spurred Beverley to do the 2013 Self Publishing Survey
Starting off by trying to find an agent for her first piece of work after doing the Avon Fan Lit competition. Got an agent and got a contract with Kensington Publishing, it was the first thing that she ever wrote and finished, although she had written a bunch of unwritten works previously.
Her books are set in the late 19th Century, this requires a great deal of research.
She has a stack of research books and she takes an enourmous amount of effort to get everything perfect, Beverley describes it as “painstaking” – down to the number of layers of clothing they wear, or how long would it take to travel from Berkshire to Paddington by horse. Google Books, The Victorian Dictionary, and other sites are enormously useful. When she finds something out it goes in a research document so she doesn’t have to go back and do the research again. This doesn’t always work perfectly.
Being sloppy with your research and readers will call you out on it, especially for more significant historical events.
Beverley says how great it is to be able to write new adult books
Journey into Self Publishing
“It wasn’t a journey I wanted to make to be honest with you.”
A friend of hers wanted to do self-publishing after hearing that some friends were making good money at it. Beverley assumed they must be lying as the money was just too good to be true. At this point she was on her option book with her publisher and she was looking around for a better offer on the third book. Kensington didn’t get back to her so she had to find somewhere else to put the book. Several publishers showed interest but eventually nothing came up, she asked, “Man, what am I going to do?”
She wrote another book and that also didn’t go anywhere with publishers, and that is when Amanda Hocking came on her radar and her views changed on indie publishing and “that was it for her.” Kensington then released the first two books as ebooks and they started selling tens of thousands of copies and suddenly they wanted the third book, she said no and put it out herself.
Again? Beverley can’t see a contract that traditional publishing could offer her that would work for her.
Learned From Traditional Publishing
Interesting it was the lack of marketing that traditional publishing gave her that was the real advantage. She already knew that ebook marketing was going to be hard and she was ready for it. However the exposure that they got her at the start was great and helped her establish herself.
2013 Self Publishing Survey
A survey of 822 authors about self-publishing. This was spurred after the CEO of her former publisher wrote a scathing Huffington Post article about making money self publishing and how it wasn’t possible, even for top authors. Beverley knew that it wasn’t just her making money so she put together a survey to ask people how they were doing financially (as well as other data), she also wanted to know why top authors were making money – what is working for people in the top tier.
The 2013 Self Publishing Survey wanted to know what the top authors who self published were doing in common to have so much financial success.
As for the data, it would be best for you to check out the survey. The episode talks about some of the key data that was found.
What was interesting is that the survey was not filled out by people who are dabbling in self publishing. This survey was particularly targeted at those who were making a serious effort to make it work financially. If you were to include everyone who just threw up a short book on Amazon, then of course they are not going to be making much money. A lot of the surveys that already exist look at everyone and that isn’t much use for people who are actually willing to put in the work, and those people tend to end up as the top authors.
The survey showed that there is no question that being prolific is a major advantage. Something else of interest was that if you have a backlist from a traditional publisher and you can put those out at the start you are going to have a major advantage. It pays to put book out at the same time, especially if one of them is free – you are all over the board. If you can save up books and put them out at once that will give you a major advantage.
“Once you have eight self-published books in your backlist you are gold”
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