I met Sarah Porter and Judy Rogers at the February meeting of the Inland Northwest Writers Guild. Last October, these two friends self published their novel Hot Cross Buns. They came to the meeting to share their experiences.
The book took about six years (yes, years) for them to write because they both work full-time and have families. In short, they have lives. Once they felt the book was complete, they queried between 60 to 80 agents and heard either no or nothing. They attended a writing conference in San Francisco, where they heard an experienced editor say, “Agents are a dying breed.” He said with the ease of self publishing and ebooks, authors now can represent themselves.
Judy and Sarah elected to do just that. They started their own company, Penned Press. They hired a professional editor to review the text and a graphics artist to create the cover. Their book, which they own, is available on Kindle or print on demand. They also bought 10 ISBNs, the thumbprint for a book. They used one ISBN for the Kindle copy, one for the paperback version and down the road, they will use another ISBN for the audio recording. Plus, both women agreed that they have more books to write.
The two authors said they have sold about 525 books and have only promoted the book locally. But they are developing a brand name, a following, and that may be the most important part. Only seven percent of all new writers sell more than 1,000 copies of the book. Seven percent! So in these cash-strapped days, publishers won’t invest money in publicity for a new writer. Publishers want authors who are already a brand name, who bring with them a following.
Now, these ladies aren’t quitting their day jobs, and they were courageous enough to answer delicate questions about that most taboo of topics: money. Their book was put together on a shoe string budget, with an initial expense of about $1,000. They priced the novel below $10, so for every Kindle version they sell, their profit is $3.99. For each actual book, they make less than $2. They encouraged us to price our books higher, at least $12.
I think the litmus test of their success was addressed by a particularly astute and intelligent audience member (me!) who asked them if they had it to do it all again, what would they do different? Their answer: nothing.
Hot Cross Buns. Buy it!
Note: when I tried to buy a copy, Auntie’s Bookstore was sold out. Yippee! You go, Sarah and Judy.
Hands and arms inside the cart, please. Next: Self publishing. It’s no longer the red-haired stepchild of the book business.