Publishing Leprosy Cured

Honeymoon-for-One-E-book Mid-list novelist Beth Orsoff talks on her blog about how she turned a disappointing (and all too familiar) experience at a big six publisher into success as a self-published author:

My first book, “Romantically Challenged” was published in April 2006, approximately six months after the chick lit markettanked.  I had a small print run, no publisher support, and, not surprisingly, my book was not a huge success (massive understatement)[…]While I was waiting for “Romantically Challenged” to be published I wrote another book, also chick lit.  NAL elected not to option it and my agent started sending it to other publishers.  

When that book, and a couple of others, failed to sell, she got the rights back to "Romantically Challenged" and put it,along with several of her unsold manuscripts, on the Kindle and the Nook. 

Thanksgiving weekend I uploaded all three books to B&N via their PubIt program.  I sold 9 books at B&N in November.  In December I sold 500 books at B&N.  In January 2011 I sold almost 7000 books at B&N.  Between Amazon and B&N, I sold over 13,000 books in January.  Will I continue to sell books at that rate?  I don’t know.  But I’ve already had much more success as a self-published author than I ever did as a traditionally published author, plus I get to write the books I want to write, choose my own covers, and publish on my schedule, not someone else’s.

I am hearing stories like hers every day…especially in the wake of my first "Midlist to E-List" post… and its inspiring. It used to be that when a midlist author was dropped, it was a living hell getting published again because your lukewarm sales figures would follow you wherever you went. Reinventing yourself with a new novel and a new voice was also a steep, uphill climb.

But now, for the first time ever, midlist authors not only have an alternative, but one that could actually be more lucrative and perhaps more creatively fullfilling, than sticking with their publishers. For the first time, a midlist author doesn't have to take a crappy deal just to stay in print…or feel like a literary leper when they have been dropped.

These are exciting times.

6 thoughts on “Publishing Leprosy Cured”

  1. A really inspiring story! A there’s-hope-for-us-all kind of story!
    What this story proves for me is that the print book market got skewed. That’s why her books will sell in the ebook market but not the print bookstore. As print book prices kept rising, only a certain group of persons could afford books, and this group did not buy her books. That didn’t mean her books weren’t really good, only that she could not connect with her market due to the high prices. Along comes ebooks, and the prices fall. Now the persons who will like her books can afford to buy them. The lower prices expand the range of the market.
    And the cool thing is, she didn’t need a prior platform to reach her natural audience. The quality of her stories is what shone through. I’m guessing, but I bet her stories offer more than just a well-written plot. I bet she has a number of insights into the situations of her readers to offer as well. One aspect of high-quality writing, I would argue, is the intelligence and insight behind it. And these type of stories will sell. And it will seem like a miracle to the writer involved.

  2. Except for a couple of short stories, I haven’t been published in paper. No ebook either. I wonder how people found her book. There are so many books on there, how does an author stand out? Aren’t we talking hundreds of thousands of books? Your work can be very good and never surface. Am I right?

  3. “It used to be that when a midlist author was dropped, it was a living hell getting published again because your lukewarm sales figures would follow you wherever you went.”
    Now you’re talking my language, that’s my story. It’s inspiring to hear about these writers who have managed to still find a readership for their books. Something to consider, for sure.
    I wonder if it’s any different for difficult to categorize books that aren’t clearly in a particular genre?

  4. I love reading these stories of midlist success. I agree with you that it is a great boon for midlist writer. I still belive though that traditional publishing is the best bet for new writers. Right now, the only thing as good as being a bestseller is being a debut author.

  5. J.D., I think you are underestimating, and even not believing in, the power of the impression that good work has upon the audience.
    I hear the argument a lot: how can an unknown writer publish an ebook and sell a lot of copies when there’s a gazillion ebooks out there? The answer is the same as hearing songs on the radio. We listen to a lot of blah, blah, blah songs–and then one comes on and is really good. And then we want to hear more from that particular artist. Same with stories. The audience wants to hear songs, and read stories. There is a tremendous demand for them. Huge. Unbelievable. Because LIFE is so hard, and we all need refreshment. Lots of it. So when you or I write a really good story, then don’t worry, the word will spread about it in a hurry. It seems impossible. How can your story get known when there are so many others? But believe me, it will! That’s the way a level-playing field like Amazon works. The cream rises to the top.
    So when you say, “your work can be very good and never surface,”–no, that’s not possible. I’ve got my MA in English Literature, and it has almost never happened that good work was not recognized in its time. So do really, really high-quality work, and reap the reward. Don’t worry, you will.
    Gosh, I’m such a cheerleader, huh? But it’s all truth.


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