(Links Alert – clicking on the links given in this article will take you to Amazon.com – to find the books in your local Amazon outlet, delete the “.com” and substitute your country code, e.g. for UK that is “.co.uk”) – TSRA)
I’m earning a full-time living from writing. Yes. You heard right. How remarkable is that? After all these years (nineteen years since first published) and all these books (eighteen traditionally published), it’s finally happened.
I know. I couldn’t believe it, either.
Want to know how I did it? By going indie, of course. That’s the new path to profit for a series writer, particularly one with a large backlist. I was lucky and managed to get the rights back to nearly all of my books. And now I’m in profit. Yippee!
And if you keep up with the Ape and the other big writing blogs, you’ll be aware that a lot of us are now earning a living from our writing and finding those readers that were so elusive during our traditional publishing days. Amazon’s kindle really has been a lifesaver for many writers’ careers. Not to mention their sanity and their emotional even-keel.
But the indie life is insecure, right? Yes, of course it is. But then so is being taken on by traditional publishers, who will drop you quicker than you can say ‘writing career’, if your books fail to sell. And fail to sell is what most books do. Let’s face it, most authors are midlist and receive little or no marketing, which means no one learns about their books. Consequently, they don’t sell. Not unless the author kills themselves putting the word out.
But why do that when the publisher gets the bulk of the profits? Talking of profits, you might be interested in one of my publisher’s royalty statements. This particular item refers to the ebook of Deadly Reunion, #14 in my Rafferty & Llewellyn procedural series, a book to which my ex-publishers own the rights. Not a best-seller, which may or may not have something to do with the high price the publisher has set for the ebook. My publisher had receipts of $1,820 for the half-year from the US market for this book, which my currency converter tells me is £1,133, of which I received the grand sum of £288. Compare with Amazon’s Kindle, where I mostly receive 70% of the sale price. So if these sales had been made with me as the publisher via Amazon, I would have received £793 for the half-year for this book (hope my arithmetic’s correct! Not my strong suit!). Still not a huge amount, admittedly. But a great improvement on what I actually received. Over a largish number of books, there’s no contest. Not when most authors have to do their own marketing however they’re published.
I’ve been writing for more than half my life, but, like most writers, I took a while to get my act together and actually finish a novel. It took hitting one of those age milestones for me to stop prevaricating and actually type those blissful words: ‘The End’.
But that ‘The End’ is really only a beginning. Usually, for most of us, the beginning of the long, winding, rejection road.
Once I put my ‘I’m serious about this’ head on, it took me six years and six books to get published. I’d been aiming at the Mills & Boon (Harlequin) romance market, but my aim was apparently wide of the mark. ‘Too much plot and not enough romance’, was what I was told. I should have taken the hint then and switched to crime writing. But I persevered with the romances and sent the next one to Robert Hale for their Rainbow Romance series. They accepted and Land of Dreams was published in 1991.
But then the Wheel of Fortune took a downward turn and Hale rejected my next romantic offering. Ho hum. What’s a girl to do? Kill someone? Yes, I thought! I was just in the mood for a little murder.
So I switched to writing crime novels, which is something a quiet little voice inside had been saying I should do for some time. And lo, my very first one, Dead Before Morning, the first in my now 15-strong Rafferty & Llewellyn procedural series was plucked from Macmillan’s slush pile, published and sold on to St Martin’s Press and Worldwide in the States. The latest in the series, Kith and Kill, is one of my self-published works.
At last, I was on my way, I thought. But no, I wasn’t, not really. Not if a writing career languishing unloved on the midlist qualifies. Which explains why, after eighteen traditionally published novels, I was becoming bitter and twisted, losing my love of words and feeling thoroughly disheartened. Publishers don’t hold your hand. It’s up to you to decide your own fate. I decided mine when, towards the end of 2010, I rejected my publisher’s latest contract, and turned indie. That decision has made me a much happier bunny.
I would class my Rafferty & Llewellyn series novels as cozy procedurals, with my London-born and Essex-based DI Joseph Aloysius Rafferty hailing from a working-class Irish Catholic family who — with their little more than passing acquaintance with the letter of the law — are the bane of his life. Being a policeman in the Rafferty family is not a happy experience. And while they might give me, as the author and, hopefully, the readers, a lot of fun, they cause Rafferty plenty of angst, angst compounded by me partnering him with DS Dafyd Llewellyn, a more moral than the Pope intellectual Welshman.
Alongside the murder investigations, I’ve generally got family-caused mayhem going on in the sub-plot, which gives Rafferty plenty of ‘How the hell do I get out of this?’, moments.
But, after the first four novels in the Rafferty series, I still wasn’t earning much. I was still stranded on the midlist. With nowhere to go, but down and out. And out I went when Macmillan was taken over by a firm of German publishers and they dropped about a third of their list, me included.
It was another six years before I managed to get published again. But even then, and after another ten years and another ten crime novels, I was still marooned on the midlist, with no marketing budget, no publisher-paid-for book tours, no nothing. It really was a dead-end job with no hopes of promotion. Worse, it was a very poorly-paid dead end job which had to be fitted in around my real dead-end job.
No wonder, when the world of Amazon’s Kindle opened up, it sparked considerable interest amongst midlisters like myself. I started regularly reading the — mostly American — writers’ blogs of those intrepid souls who’d already taken the indie path. I admit, I found it hard to believe what they said at first.
But as more and more indie writers started to reveal their sales numbers and their incomes, I began to believe. People like Joe Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith, Kathryn Kristine Rusch and others, were generous enough to give us a blow-by-blow account of how they were doing since turning indie. And it was like: Wow!
I want some of that, I thought. So, when my publisher’s latest contract demanded the erights to my backlist, I demurred. Given the longevity of ebooks, I was aware I would be signing away my rights forever. And forever’s a long time.
Given the royalty percentages on offer for the erights in my books, it would mean I’d have to carry on juggling the day job with my writing. Carry on with the seven-day working week to keep a crust on my plate. Frankly, I’d had more than enough of that. I imagine most of you have, too.
Although I still hardly dared to believe I could succeed on my own, I turned down my publishers’ latest contract — not a difficult decision in the event. I wasn’t prepared to sign over the erights in my backlist. They weren’t prepared to publish my latest unless I signed.
Hey, I know my education wasn’t of the best, but I’m bright enough to recognise a dud deal when I see one, especially after having learned at the hands of that ebook evangelist, Joe Konrath.
I had nothing to lose but my chains. And everything to gain. And so it has proved.
I now earn more in a month than I used to earn in an entire year publishing the traditional route. I was able to give up the day job, and I’m now the proud indie author of twenty-two books. Most are from my backlist; two, (Kith and Kill #15 Rafferty and The Egg Factory, a standalone medical suspense), are original to Kindle, as are A Mix of Six (a collection of six short-short stories), and one short non-fiction guide to kindle formatting (How to eFormat Your Novel For Amazon’s Kindle: A Short But Comprehensive A-Z Guide), palmistry guides: Palmistry Pointers For Writers and Palmistry Pointers For Lovers (both written under the pen name of Gennifer Dooley-Hart), So You Want to Get a Partner?, a little spoof relationship counselling guide (penned under the name Professor, I M Osolohmio), which I wrote as a Konrath Challenge to write, edit, format and create a cover for an ebook in eight hours. The skin of my teeth had a pretty hard time of it, but I got there.
I’ve just epublished Death Dues #11 Rafferty series, the latest from my backlist.
So what’s next on the Evans’ agenda? I should really get on with my so-called work in progress (Asking For It #16 Rafferty series), but I’m getting the itch to write a second historical – my first, Reluctant Queen, about infamous English king, Henry VIII’s little sister, Mary Rose Tudor, is my best seller on Amazon UK. I really have a fancy to start the lengthy research required for that second historical novel.
I also want to pen some more of my Palmistry Pointers series. I’ve long had an interest in the subject and have had several palmistry articles published in magazines. It’s a nice little side-line and provides a welcome break when the plotting of the latest novel has gone awry and I can’t face the work involved in putting it right!
Turning indie has enabled me to rediscover my love of words. My life has changed for the better and I’m happier in my writing life than I’ve been for a very long time. Okay, I still work seven-day weeks, but that’s my own fault, as I spend too much time on social media and my email inbox is a nightmare (I have an unfortunate habit of signing up for things).
But I have a new lease of life, new readers and a new, much improved, source of income. And it’s great! The indie life? I can thoroughly recommend it.
Author of the Rafferty & Llewellyn and Casey & Catt procedurals