Turning Up the Volume on eBook Profitability

Yesterday, at the Digital Book World conference among the various sessions I sat in on was “Doing It on Their Own: Self-Publishing Authors Find Success.” Three of the speakers were Bella Andre , Elle Lothlorien and Bob Mayer, all of whom have had enviable success in ePublishing. In fact, Bella earned seven figures last year. Yes, you read that correctly. She earned over a million dollars from self-publishing her e-Book romance novels. Yikes!

After the eye-opening session, in which I learned a great deal about what I would love to be able to achieve, I went up to each of the authors and asked one question: “What makes you different from the thousands of other authors who are really good writers and decent marketers, but don’t make the kind of money you do with ePublishing. What mistakes are the most common?”

Each of them said essentially the same thing: You need to keep getting material out there; content is the key. In other words, if you don’t have a nice backlist of books to ePublish, you need to be a quick writer who can deliver new polished, entertaining, desirable books on a regular basis. In fact, Bella expects to write and publish eight books this year.

Their point is that sales is a tag game, with one book selling the next and the next. It’s a cumulative effect.

Then, I asked, what about those authors who aren’t fast writers? What about those who dream of creating something beautiful and rich, perhaps aiming for “the Great American novel,” or some close facsimile of it? It takes time to write, rewrite, craft something meaningful.

Bob’s response was the most pithy, “Those kinds of writers are going to have to be very lucky and hit a home run.”

I came home both inspired and dejected. On the one hand, I am not a fast writer. In fact, I love the process of find just the right combination of words to capture a moment, convey a sense of place and people. Each character’s voice is unique in my mind’s ear, and I need to be true to their tone, their personalities, to listen to them carefully and allow the story flow from them to me. While I have dozens of novels within me, I will never be able to write eight of them in one year – not if I want to be proud of the quality and true to the people who inhabit the worlds I’ve dreamed. Not that Elle, Bella and Bob aren’t careful when they write, they just have the ability to crank it out in a way I can never hope to emulate.

Similarly, I will never be the kind of photographer who can churn out hundreds of pictures every week. As much as I admire event photographers and others who do that kind of work, I can’t imagine how they achieve it.

I long ago realized I’m never going to be a millionaire from my stories or from my photography. To do so would require that I increase the volume of my output considerably, and I believe the joy and pride I have in my work would suffer from that kind of pressure. The fact that I’ve been privileged to be able to earn a decent living from both over the years, while being constantly challenged creatively, is good enough for me.

So I’ll just have to be a bit quieter than the big guys. Volume has never been my style.

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