Self-Publishing: One Year Later

I realized this morning that it’s been roughly a year since Robert Swartwood talked me into self-publishing some of my works (and thus, the teacher became the student). I thought that maybe I’d share my thoughts, one year in. What follows are some rough observations, typed out before my five-year old wakes up and we start the day.

So far, I’ve self-published three novellas (ALONE, SCRATCH, and THE GIRL ON THE GLIDER) and one full-length short story collection (BLOOD ON THE PAGE: THE COMPLETE SHORT FICTION OF BRIAN KEENE, VOLUME 1). They’ve been made available on the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo platforms. I haven’t yet experimented with self-publishing paperbacks, but will next month with a paperback edition of BLOOD ON THE PAGE.

My up-front costs for each book (design, cover art, etc.) have been about $400. In each case, I recouped that within the first month of sales. While I won’t get into exact dollar amounts, I will say that the vast majority of my sales have come from Kindle, making up fully 85% of my monthly royalties (with Nook and Kobo sales providing the rest). I’ve noticed the same thing with my monthly royalties for the Deadite Press Kindle and Nook editions of my work. Clearly, Kindle is the dominant device.

Kindle is also the easiest to work with on the production side of things. Upload the file, enter the info, and usually within a few hours, the book is on sale. Kobo is also very easy to use. Uploading to Nook, however, can be a maddening and teeth-clenchingly frustrating experience. Error messages, time-outs, files not uploading, delays of up to five days for the book to go on sale — a complete cluster fuck.

But, overall, I’ve been very happy with the experience. Between the monthly royalties I make from self-publishing and the monthly royalties I make from Deadite Press, and the mutual respect I’m shown from Deadite, and the ease of self-publishing, I doubt there’s any way I would ever go back to the Big Five mass market publishers. Oh, they want me to. They keep asking me to. But as it stands, they can’t offer me a better deal than what I can offer myself. And after 15 years in this business, I’m very much enjoying that right now. I like where I am — doing a mix of indie press and self pubbing. For me, it’s perfect. Your mileage may vary.

16 thoughts on “Self-Publishing: One Year Later

  1. Timothy Brown

    What I have like about your self pub work so far is the elements that prob would have been pushed to be changed. Such as the protagonist in Alone, if this story had been mass market I feel the pub house would have wanted you to change the character. On that note I thank you Sir.

    What would be nice is if you were able to self pub a work of short stories by unknowns with your name at the top of the book. It might give them a better chance to be heard.

  2. Jeremy Morgan

    I have a few friends that are working in self publishing, and I think it’s because of the general ease of it, especially since they don’t write full-time. We all drone on the phones doing tech support for Verizon FiOS, so being able to get their stuff out there quickly and efficiently is very important, not to mention as you said it can yield good results.

    I’m working on an anthology as well as a series of novels, and self publishing is the way I’ll go, at first. Honestly I have no idea how to pitch a novel to a publisher.

    This post has just strengthened the idea of “DIY” business and how it can be good, it works with the music industry too. I’m glad you let us know, and I’m glad the venture worked for you as well.

  3. clark

    Its gotta be a better thing when you have so much control over your own property. I own a Nook and it is kinda frustrating when it takes so long to be able to download on it , but eventually I get them.
    Im much more of a handheld book fan anyway….

  4. Kirk Allmond

    I often wonder why the bigger names in the industry don’t self-publish. Stephen King, for example, has absolutely no need of a publishing house. I think the publishing industry has a lot of changing to do lest they stand beside the buggy whip manufacturers in the halls of extinct industry.

    1. kjolly

      Why would Stephen King or other big names want to self-publish? Don’t think that because newbies or less successful authors get treated poorly by publishers, that all writers do. Mr. King no doubt has an army of people devoted to him at a publishing house and he surely commands whatever level or royalties he wishes at this point in his career. He gets to do exactly what he wants with his day which is to just write (and make dump trucks full of money doing it). Why on earth would he have any motivation to cut his writing time in half and have to worry about editing, cover design, marketing, and just running his writing career in general when somebody else is paying for all that now. It’d be a bit like a CEO of a major corporation deciding one day that he wanted to work the assembly line, head up marketing, do the accounting, answer the phones, handle sales, and still run the company because he might be able to earn slightly more by doing so. When you already make millions a year doing what you love, does it really have any appeal to try to do everything yourself on the chance that you might make 1 or 2 more million?

      1. robert

        Actually, Stephen King has been doing some self-publishing in a way. Look at the Kindle edition for BILLY BLOCKADE; its publisher is Storyville, which, I believe, is his agent, despite the fact the paperback was originally published through Scribner. Also, I have a conspiracy theory on why he decided not to release JOYLAND as an ebook right away … it’s to retain the ebook rights for himself, to later release it and take in all the proceeds. I could be wrong, but I will be curious to see who the publisher is once the ebook becomes available.

        1. Scott Nicholson

          Stephen King was one of the very first broad self-publishers (the aborted THE PLANT back in the late 90s). I think his own power scared him, actually–he seemed overhwlemed by the success and how easy it was. (He asked for a dollar donation for each episode).

          Douglas Clegg did an eserial back around thn as well. This isn;t new, it’s just never been this easy and easily accessible.

  5. Neal Wiser

    Congrats on your success. Definitely the way of the future, but I’m curious about how you’re marketing your work to generate those revenues. I see you’ve been around for a while, so you have an audience, but what is your marketing plan to sustain sales?

    FYI; I’m a marketing executive, so these things interest me.

    Looking forward to learning more.

  6. Gef

    Glad to see the self-publishing side of things is proving fruitful for you. Though I wonder if you consider the whole ordeal of B&N worth the time and effort given the percentage of sales compared to the Amazon behemoth.

  7. Brandon Foss

    I’m glad to hear it’s working out well for you. I have all the aforementioned books in Kindle format and I found them to be of consistently higher quality, in both editing and format, than most selfpublished work out there. I think you have just the right mix with the use of professional editing , but otherwise self produced work.

    The only other author I can think of that keeps his self published quality as high is Scott Sigler, and he has a full time production assistant.

    I know Jeremy Robinson does almost all of his work via selfpublishing, and he does almost all the work various aspects of that work, but I think his stuff tends to suffer a little because of this. THough this could be because he’s trying to maintain a frenetic pace publishing two or three full length books a year. Even with coauthors bearing a good amount of the writing responsibilities that’s got to be a hectic schedule.

  8. Travis

    Im a long time fan. I love the easy self publishing and the books themselves. No matter which way you go ill support your cause

  9. robert

    It’s been a year already? Damn, does the time fly. We need to record another podcast where you can expand on these thoughts a bit more.

  10. Sharon Day

    I totally agree. My experience with a publisher was like having my work held hostage for a year by an incompetent child. Self publishing (if you have an eye for editing and cover design and have a handle on promoting) is a dream come true. I do the paperback versions through Createspace and will be doing them on Nook Press too. I’m surprised, but they sell pretty well (even in this era of ebooks). Kindle does corner the market on ebooks. Something self published authors don’t know is that it’s often hard or impossible to get a book signing in a book store if you don’t have a publisher behind you, but there’s no reason not to go to conventions and sign there, you even get a more targeted audience.

  11. Vicki B.

    I think it’s b/c certain conventional publishers, who won’t need to be named here, try to screw writers out of their dues, so self-publishing becomes the only SANE option if you want to make your money.

    John Cusack has his own movie company for that reason.
    My daughter’s dad wanted to have his own music production company for that reason.

    I have a friend who holds a Master’s in Business Administration.
    He said these companies do themselves no financial favors by sending such a large number of clients away that maybe one day the enterprises will go bankrupt from financial losses.


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