Guest Author Geraldine Evans

(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)

Geraldine Evans Small Picture

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.

Geraldine Evans Books 2

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

Geraldine Evans

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32 thoughts on “Guest Author Geraldine Evans

  1. My writer friends and I are so curious about your success. Forgive me for all the hand holding I’m asking for here but do you have a step-by-step guide you’ve ever put together by chance for the publishing part of it? Do you work your internet connections every day for the marketing part of it? Are you constantly tweeting and posting? Do you think an author without a deep back list could make a living this way? I’ve had no luck with the traditional publish avenues but now I’ve a humor blog which at least gets readers through facebook and the mass emails I send. I love this article because it gives so much hope. Thank you.

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    • Hi Michelle,

      Funny you should ask, but yes, I DO have a publish to Kindle guide. It takes you from start to finish through formatting your novel for Kindle, how to acquire a book cover, how to upload your book, how to check your sales and who will publish your book as a paper POD. Here’s the link: http://geraldineevansbooks.wordpress.com/eformatting.

      Work my internet and social media connections every day? God, no. For one thing, I don’t have the time. And for another, how would YOU feel about some author pestering you, day after day, about their book? You’d pretty soon unfriend them. I know I would. There’s nothing more unattractive for a writer to do.

      It sounds as if, with your humor blog you’re engaging with potential readers, which is good. In writing an entertaining blog, you are more likely to make them curious at least about your other writing.

      It’s impossible to predict who could make a living in this business. You might strike lucky with one book, or you might, like me, earn a living because you have a lot of books on kindle, rather than from the massive sales they make.

      If you write romantic fiction, you perhaps have more of a chance of big success as this is a very popular genre. But again, it’s impossible to predict. And erotica also does well. But I would counsel against writing something to order if your heart wasn’t in it. It would show.

      I don’t know if you ever get on kindleboards.com or the Community section of kdp.amazon.com. If you enter a topic in the search bar you’ll find a mass of information on all sorts of publishing concerns written by authors who have fantastic advice and experience to offer. I’ve learned a lot from both sites, as well as from various blog writers (like jakonrath.blogspot.com, deanwesleysmith.com, kriswrites.com and others). It would be worth your while to read them all on a regular basis.

      I’m sorry not to be able to reassure you as to your earnings potential, but it would be unkind to pretend that all you have to do is publish your book to Kindle and wait for the money to roll in. Like much else in life, your earnings are mostly (unless you get really lucky) going to depend on the amount of effort you put in, when and where you run your promotions, building a fan email list (and putting the sign-up link in the back of your books) and so on, as well as how many books you have available. A large backlist does help; if I had just one book available my earnings would be small indeed.

      Michelle, I hope you and your friends find this helpful. But if there’s anything else you’d like to know, there’s an email link on my website (http://www.geraldineevans.com) top left. Just contact me there and I’ll try to help.
      Best wishes and Happy Christmas.

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  2. Congrats, Geraldine on your success! You are an inspiration to fellow Indy Authors! Thank you. I would love to connect with you. jjspina@myfairpoint.net jemsbooks.com
    Another wonderful blog posted by none other than the fabulous Ape, Chris!!!
    Merry Christmas & a Healthy and Happy New Year to all!

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  3. “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.” Well said, Geraldine.

    Traditional publishers, in general, fail to realize that the days when their unique added value for an author was to ‘get published’ are over. I’ve received two offers to publish my work and they both ended abruptly when the publisher asked for MY marketing plan! “What! I am the one who has to go sell my books?” – “Of course, your books will have our imprint and you’ll bear no more the stigma of being self-published” – “WHAT?” end of story.

    The rules of the game have changed forever, books are printed WHEN they are sold with POD solutions, cheaper and cheaper so that one day even Mom&Pop bookstore could have one and print-on-sale ANY book from ANY author whose work is online. No more distribution costs, no more returns. Every single printed book is printed because it has been bought. Bookstores will have a never ending catalogue and be able to sell any physical book.

    A publisher has to change to a marketing juggernaut otherwise there is little interest in giving them the large share of the royalties. Professionals for cover, proofreading, editing (even with past and current experience with trad-pubs) offer their services for reasonable fees, so, if not for a large marketing machine, what a publisher has to offer, really?

    I also see the end of the query process. Agents will perform like professional sport scouts. They will look proactively for writers online; after all, a promising athlete doesn’t go to every scout’s house and run 40 dashes in his front yard hoping the scout’s lurking. The athletes play their game, and the writers will write their novels. In both cases, the audience is there already, scout or not scout, agent or not agent, and for a writer that is all that counts.

    May I interview you? 🙂
    http://massimomarinoauthor.com/category/interview/

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    • Hi Massimo,

      Thanks, Massimo!

      Yes, ‘Times they are a Changin’, all right! It’s terrific that authors now have so many choices and can keep control of their creations in their own hands. Which is where they should have been all along, in my opinion!

      Yes, I’d be delighted for you to interview me. Here’s my email address: geraldineevans at talktalk dot net (no spaces).
      Happy Christmas.
      Geraldine

      Like

  4. Glad to be of help. So many authors are in your situation, perfectly good, entertaining authors, whom readers would surely love if they were only able to find an audience. Since turning indie I’m starting to find that audience that was so lacking in my trad pubbed days. I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t also develop a widening circle of fans. Maybe, if you’re not finding them with your publisher, it’s time to branch out? Aw, shucks. Blushes. 🙂

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  5. This is VERY inspiring, Geraldine. I think, having considered all you’ve said, I might approach one of my publishers with a view to looking at the e-rights for my next thriller. They have intimated they may NOT accept my manuscript without even looking at it as my sales have not been so good, But everyone I know who has read my books with this particular publisher have said how good they are, so I’m slightly miffed.
    But such good advice here. You’re so brave, so hard working, and it’s a pleasure to have found someone so positive.
    Thanks!

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  6. JR, Thank you. And thanks for taking the trouble to comment. The Ape really does have some lovely subscribers.

    Yes, it’s fab that all the years of hard work are finally bringing me a reward. It’s about bl….y time!

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    • MT, Thank you. I love to be awe-inspiring! 🙂 Quite a novelty.

      But just give it time. There’s so much more competition on kindle compared to when I started; seems every man and his dog are putting books on there.

      Have you tried any kind of advertising? I’m thinking of places like ebookbooster, bookblast, and so on. I’m hoping to get a mention from ebookbargainsuk over Christmas for the same time as I run a kindle Countdown promotion for several books (though I’ve probably left it too late. I’ve been so tied up with trying to get my *!*! year-end accounts done that everything else has had to take a back seat. I hate accounts work!).

      Good luck with your writing. Hope 2014 turns out to be ‘your’ year!

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  7. Well done. I’m in awe.

    It takes me two years to write each book, so I haven’t seriously tried to find a publisher. I sell two or three e-books a month if I’m lucky on Amazon. That said, with books 3 and 4 of a series coming out soon I’m hoping I might get up to the heady heights of selling 10 books a month… but I’m not holding my breath.

    Thanks for sharing, it’s nice to read about someone who is not an ‘overnight success’ but has built a career on a lot of hard work. Gives me a little hope! 😉

    Cheers

    MTM

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  8. Nice story, Geraldine. I have had three books published traditionally — one has even done quite well and is in its 8th reprint. I am now trying the digital indie route with my novel “Hobson’s Choice”.
    I have decided to try a different sales model than Amazon KDP for a number of reasons outlined in my blog post “Allowing the reader to decide what they pay” but mostly because of the payment difficulties and onerous tax the US Government imposes on us down here in the colonies. There simply are too many hoops we have to jump through!
    Blog entry: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/5319580-allowing-the-reader-to-decide-what-they-want-to-pay
    I am using a payments gateway called Gumroad which looks very promising and allows direct sales to readers in 190 countries. More details on my website http://www.hiltonhamann.com
    I wish you every continued success and have bookmarked your blog.

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    • Thanks, Hilton. Glad you enjoyed it.

      8th reprint? Wow! I’d say that’s doing rather better than ‘quite’ well, Hilton!

      I read your goodreads post with interest. I’ll certainly check Gumroad out. Might be worth a punt with one book to see how they do. Off now to read your website.

      And many thanks for your good wishes. Good luck with your latest venture. Don’t forget to post how you get on.

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      • True, Hilton. I’d forgotten that Smashwords.com give you the option of letting the buyer decide what he’ll pay. It’s not something I’ve ever made use of, but then I’ve never sold big on that site so haven’t done much in the way of experimentation.

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  9. A great article, Geraldine. Very inspirational for someone like me who has chased the trad.pub dream, including all those dreaded face-to-face pitches in which you leave on a high never to hear from them again! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  10. Hi Chris

    Thanks for allowing me to vent a little on your blog! I feel SO much better now. :-).

    Apologies for responding to the above comments so late. My internet connection has been playing me up all day (if that d..n router’s been turned off and on again once, I must had done it getting on for ten times). Technology is the bane of my life. Oops. Here I go, having a(nother!) rant. I’ll retire discreetly at this point, in case my self-restraint does a runner.

    Thanks again for your invitation. It’s always good to put down in words what tremendous good the indie life has done for authors. I really do count my blessings every day.

    Very best wishes.
    xxG

    Like

    • Hi Michelle,

      Good. You’re very welcome. We’re all in this together, so if we muck in as a team, with news of our triumphs and failures, we can only help one another to grow. I’m pleased you found my story encouraging. Admittedly, I got started as an indie just before the gold rush years, so struck lucky. And I had a sizeable back-list in a series, which makes it that bit easier to do reasonably well, although I’m not a J K Rowling by any means. Far from it! Still, what would I, a woman who loathes housework, do with one of those musty old castles, anyway?!

      Like

    • Hi P

      Many thanks. I follow Joe Konrath’s example and try my best to share what I learn: that’s what makes the indie world so attractive. Good luck as you set off on your own Indie Road. May it be fruitful and twice as exciting as mine!

      Like

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