May 17, 2011

Guest Post, Continued: Rob Walker

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 6:47 am

Titanic 2012

Welcome back for Part II of Rob’s guest post on eBooks and Becoming an Indie Author/Publisher; Part I was on the blog yesterday.

Today, to prove Rob’s point about the ease of acquisition of e books, I’m trying a special giveaway. For every 20 new followers, I will select one to win a Kindle gift cert–any book $5 and under–and there are an awful lot to choose from! Happy reading, everyone, and thanks for stopping by!
Rob Walker

The really disheartening thing that drops an author’s hopes and heart like a stone is a thing called “Returns” – and a writer does not earn out his advance and start receiving royalties until “returns” are “returned” from the booksellers. This is an old and out of date business element in book publishing and bookselling.  It is the only business wherein the product can be returned for full or close to full price if the buyer cannot sell the product. Until all “returns” are in, the author is kept in the dark about sales numbers, and even if he or she can get the sales numbers, there is always the warning that this is “before” returns. After returns then you can “believe” your royalty statement. That and AFTER everyone else—like the distributor of said units—gets their cut. Then the agent takes his or her cut. Pretty soon what trickles down as leftover change makes its way to the author.

In e-books, a disappointed reader returns a book, not the bookseller; will never “return” a book to you, the author/publisher. Essentially, there are no returns to speak of, a handful as opposed to boxes full. Perhaps eleven in a year, maybe twelve, but it is all done electronically as in credit to the account. No physical book, no such thing as pulping the books.

Now then, once the traditional publisher is DONE with a book or a series and declares they will buy no more titles in a series or they will discontinue selling a title, what happens to the book or series? They go out of print; they become Ops which can only be found in used book stores or via Amazon cooperative used book stores. Out of print pretty much means the book is dead and it was believed, up till now, dead forever—except in used book stores or on “remainder” tables.

In the world of e-books, guess what. There is no out of prints until which time the author decides to deep six or kill a book (once again the author decides). No author I know wants a beloved title to be out of print. No one wants his or her book to be “Remaindered” either. This is when a book is overstocked in a warehouse when THEY decide to sell it off at ten or five cents on the dollar to rid it from the warehouse, so it winds up at Costco or Wal-Mart with a big discount slapped on it while Costco pays ten cents a book and charges the reader five or seven bucks, and the author gets zero on such sales. In the e-book world, there is no such animal as a “remainderd” e-book. Next to no returns, no “stripped” covers, and no remainders, and no warehousing, and no need of a lot of the flotsam of traditional “dead tree” publishing.

We need a Beatles song for e-book publishing; something along the lines of a…Imagine a world without rancor between author and publisher as he is the same person! The sense of control and freedom comes with “If the book fails, I have only myself to blame.” Whereas in traditional publishing, “If the book fails, we have no one to blame but the author (as we put up the advance funds, the costs of printing, costs of salaries to committees, cost of distribution, cost of mailings, costs of returns, and eating the remainders—so it must be that the reading public just does not like this author, so in the end it must be his fault we did not sell enough units, and 50,000 units is not enough!).

So how can you get started in becoming an Indie Author/Publisher? Take a close look at and give it a shot; put up an article like my RN wife, Miranda Phillips Walker did on Kicking the Migraine Monkey off Your Back. She placed it up on Smashwords and then onto Kindle. The process for each is similar, and working with a short document is a good way to get a feel for the protocol of becoming your own publisher. It may at first be frustrating, but go at it a second time, and try to do it when you are not tired. Go to as this is where the real action is and most readers! Finally, if you are having too many problems and the confusions and frustrations are too many, go to your son, daughter, nephew, niece or neighborhood computer geek for a spot of help. There are also folks online popping up daily who will help you for a price.

As for cover art, this too can become a problem if you are not proficient with images and placing lettering over images. I am not, so I get my son onto this project, and he is a genius with creating cover art (see any one of my titles for example: Killer Instinct, Disembodied, Children of Salem). Stephen’s found at but there are many others online who do this for a price as well.  In the event you want a POD paper book option as well as an e-book, you might want to work with for a print on demand paperback version, and there I found creating a cover using their template relatively easy once I got the hang of it. If you approach all of it as “practice run” with the expectation that it may take you at least two runs at this, you will not become so overly upset with yourself as to quit on it before you are successful.

Oh my…I just earned $100 more in the last twenty-four hours from my ebooks! Wow…imagine, an author making money on his efforts! Shhhh…tell no one! OMG and enough of that, Mister!

This about covers it. If you have any questions, please leave a comment!

Robert W. Walker has taught writing in all its permutations (“All writing is creative writing but not all writing sings,”) from composition and development to a study of the literary masters to advanced creative writing. His first novel was one only an arrogant youth could have conceived — a sequel to Huckleberry Finn (now published as Daniel & The Wrongway Railway, Royal Fireworks Press, NY), but his first suspense-techno-thriller-sf-mystery came in 1979, after college, a novel that won no awards entitled SUB-ZERO.


  1. Very interesting article. Thanks. Donna

    Comment by My Life. One Story at a Time. — May 17, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  2. Such a great post. I plan to pass the link along to others who I know will find it useful. Thanks a lot.

    Comment by C. Lee McKenzie — May 17, 2011 @ 11:53 am

  3. I wonder whether Kindles et al kind of do away with the bad-books-selling, good-books-being-ignored paradigm?

    Comment by Savvy — May 17, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  4. Rob-
    You left out one of the horror stories I’ve been hearing repeatedly recently about traditional publishing. That is, your book has its three months in print, doesn’t sell out, the books are returned to the publisher who now has little interest in the author. They pulp the books but then tell you your book isn’t out of print because they are still offering an ebook–at $9.99. So you can’t get your rights back and you’re stuck with a disinterested publisher and an uncompetitive ebook price. It’s a real no-win scenario for everyone involved.

    Comment by ted krever — May 17, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

  5. Spot on, Ted.

    But–everyone–just because traditional publishing is a bad deal for writers doesn’t mean e-publishing is a good deal. What about the many self e-pubbed writers who are not making $100/day or even $1/day? What is the difference between an e-book success and e-book flop? Does it work for literary fiction or only commercial genres?
    And where will the competitive pricing go in the future? At any point, distributors can claim more than 30% or demand the price go lower still. I’m not arguing, just questioning . . .

    Comment by Sara — May 17, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

  6. I know several authors who are investigating indie publishing because publishers have dropped their series. I expect that as more traditionally published authors try it for their out-of-print books and new books in series publishers have dropped, they’ll get a taste for it and consider publishing even new work that might sell to a traditional publisher.

    Comment by Kris Bock — May 17, 2011 @ 8:56 pm

  7. TED – I know precisely what you are talking about; I have 3 titles in similar limbo. For a year now I have tried to get them to reduce the prices at least to make them competitive. They priced them the same as the original books! This is a Big Six pulisher and frankly, they are just now, a year later, after not listening to me, beginning to…and saying they will experiment with one of the titles, drop the price, see what happens. Meanwhile, I JUST WANT MY RIGHTS BACK. Big mistake to fall into this situaiton if you can avoid it everyone. If they want your book nowadays, they also want your ebook rights. I just signed a deal with a West Coast agent-type-guy to rep my 11-bk. instinct series out there (been screwed on the east coast, so why not on the west?) but I made him put into the contract that I retain the ebook rights and the right to create new books with the ensemble of characters I created originally. I did not want what happened to David Morrell and his Rambo character happening to me and my Dr. Jessica Coran. I got my demands on this. Meanwhile, the last several Rambo film scripts were penned by Sylvester Stallone!

    So Ted…if they continue to NOT sell, your job is to continue to bug them every month for your rights back. Write me directly and I can post you some details on precise language you might want to use in gaining a reversion of rights.

    I am working on my last 4 Reversion of rights and it can be a bane of the writer’s existence but far worse to lose all control of your rights.

    Now what SARA brings up…much stickier issues even more so! Not sure I can answer them without some think time.


    Comment by Robert W. Walker — May 17, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

  8. OK…think I have it, SARA = I am no Pollyana but I have infinite patience, determination, stamina, and hope, and I hope some talent as a novelist. That said, first off, I did not even with my record of success begin out the gate selling well on Kindle. These new readers do not know me from Adam or Amanda Hocking. However, I watched and I learned each step that makes my book more visible….what puts it into better places to be seen. For instance, purchasing on Amazon connects your book with whomever…whoever you buy, you are seen on his/her page. Tagging is avaliable on Amazon. These things are not avail on other platforms to my knowledge. I published my last five titles with Amazon without further bothering with brick and mortar publishers for good reason, the same reason that Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath went, like me, completely Kindle. But it took me a year and a half to achieve the sales I am seeing now (1000 plus books per month) as I began with sixty, eighty, 100 a month and very nearly became discouraged.

    The difference between a success and a failure on Kindle is largely the passion and drive of an author who can find imaginative ways to “market and act as PR person” for his/her babies. Not everyone is of a nature to tackle this job, but I have a huge lot of wild and crazy ideas, and others have added their own to my recently engorged thread on KDP — Kindle Community Forums (this single thread is now a recommended Kindle 101 class and has had 39,500 views since I put it up first of FEB., 1100 comments/replies, spanning 75 pages. This is how hungry people are for advice on selling their ebooks/kindle books.

    Amazigly, in all those 75 pgs., NO RANCOR, no fighting or flamming has happened, which has amazed me. Just everyone helping everyone. They have created spinnoff threads like listmania chains and tagging chains. These are at the same forum listings.

    If you need directions, just go to your REPORTS and click Community beside the word reports. Scroll down to Voice of the Author and click on it….this takes you to me and me friends there. Seek out the thread entitled (with moves misspelled) “What Mioves Kindles off the Shelf”

    Trust me,

    Comment by Robert W. Walker — May 17, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

  9. Rob, once again, you underscore that writers need some control over their work and epublishing makes it possible. Roll on, bro.

    Comment by Earl Staggs — May 18, 2011 @ 6:07 am

  10. Thanks my buddy, Earl!

    Comment by Robert W. Walker — May 18, 2011 @ 9:56 am

  11. Thanks for all you do to shed light on the world of publishing, Rob!

    Comment by Kaye George — May 18, 2011 @ 10:09 am

  12. Interesting post on a topic that just keeps ticking. We are all in a learning phase – finding out what works best for us as authors. I keep returning the simple concept that what we are doing is providing content we hope people will like enough to buy. And not only do we provide content, we now design the packaging and we set the price. Now we are marketeers.

    Still, I love the control we have over our work. If we handle this badly, well our fault. Nothing worse than handing over a good work to a publisher who drops the ball. And from what I’m seeing, Kindle rules.

    Comment by Janet Benrey — May 18, 2011 @ 10:35 am

  13. Thanks to everyone for making this two part series of Rob’s such a success (with thanks of course to the author)! I think what Rob’s wisdom, and the replies, show is that nothing is certain on this new frontier–which is just how frontiers are supposed to be.

    I left a comment for author Sunny Frazier’s wonderful post at Lelia Taylor’s equally wonderful blog, and it speaks to this, so I thought I’d copy and paste it here.

    I hope Suspense Your Disbelief readers will continue to stop in and discuss this brave new world.

    “My own one and a half cents is that…nothing’s changed. Everything’s changed, of course, so I’ll elaborate. The means have changed. The routes to entry have changed. You can publish your book in ways that hadn’t been invented a few months ago, practically. It doesn’t even have to be a book anymore.

    Yet still, fewer than 200 fiction writers made their living solely from their craft back in the day, and I suspect that number will level out right around there once the e-volution settles down. It might just be that the magic combination of GREAT book + career longevity + author personality needed to produce stars is rare–200 or so.

    Plenty of other authors will earn money at it, and plenty of readers will enjoy their work.

    The e-volution may bring back the small press and the midlist.

    Nothing’s changed.”

    Take good care,

    Comment by jenny — May 18, 2011 @ 11:06 am

  14. @Sara – I’d like to add one more thought to Rob’s response. E-publishing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Most books will bump along the bottom, selling in very modest numbers, the money trickling in in small increments. What makes it exciting is that each time you put up a new title, your sales get a bump, and the trickle increases. Keep writing great stories, keep publishing them, and the small trickle will turn into a stream – and all at sales numbers that traditional publishing won’t even talk to you about.

    This is a long-term endeavor. And if you look at it, most of the writers who are out there “making the big bucks” have several titles up – and keep putting more up so that their fans have something to come back to. Right now, I have two titles out, and am working on a third. My sales are modest (I sell something virtually every day). I’m pretty happy about that, because I know that the more I write, the more readers will find my work.

    So don’t give up or get discouraged if you’re not selling 1000 copies a day right out of the gate. This is a great time to be a writer!

    Conflict of Interest
    a crime novel by Lauryn Christopher

    Comment by Lauryn Christopher — May 18, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

  15. OOPS!!
    I forgot to thank JENNY for hosting this great conversation!
    Kudos to you, Jenny!


    Comment by Lauryn Christopher — May 18, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

  16. Lauryn, those are *great* points about the multiple titles and the trickle becoming a stream. I feel like the criteria for e success are 1) willingness to spend time (at least 1 hr/day, esp at first) marketing 2) having more than one book ready to go 3) keeping the quality control super high, in terms of both ms and production values. But the great thing about this frontier is that even if you don’t meet all 3, you can still get a book at and see what happens…

    Thanks to all of you, again, for such a great give & take!

    Comment by jenny — May 19, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress