Ebooks a new opportunity to get yourself published

Boyd Morrison was just another frustrated unpublished author — three novels, three piles of rejection letters — when he figured it was time to try something outside the box in the hopes of getting his latest book into the hands of readers.

TORONTO — Boyd Morrison was just another frustrated unpublished author — three novels, three piles of rejection letters — when he figured it was time to try something outside the box in the hopes of getting his latest book into the hands of readers.

So he decided to upload his books to Amazon’s Kindle ebook store at a bargain-basement price to see if it might improve his fortunes and win him a fan or two.

“I talked with my agent and she, like me, thought there was nothing to lose — we already pretty much tried all the publishers — so why not just put it out there and see if I can gain a readership that way?” Morrison said.

“I had no real marketing plan. I just did it to kinda see what would happen … and much to my shock, people saw them and started recommending them to each other on these discussion forums and they started climbing the bestsellers list.”

In three months, he sold 7,500 copies and, soon after, signed the book deal he longed for with Touchstone Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

It used to be that authors without a book deal were relegated to the stigmatized process of vanity publishing and the prospect that no one would ever read their self-printed work.

But ebooks and online distribution may change that, at least for industrious writers who can somehow get their work noticed in the increasingly vast libraries of ebook stores.

While Morrison is happy to be a champion for unpublished writers and the future potential of ebooks, he said his goal was always to get a traditional book deal.

“I was very clear I was doing this to gain a readership so I could eventually be published and I’m still glad I did that,” he said.

“I know there’s a lot of talk that maybe people will just circumvent publishers now and just do ebooks only, but while the ebook market is growing exponentially, it’s still a very small part of the market.

“I think it will continue to grow explosively, but for now it’s still small and so the only way to get my book as a paperback into stores was to have a major publisher.”

Like the Kindle store, which allows authors to self-publish their works into the inventory, Canadian e-tailer Kobo has also opened its online shop to independent writers, and there are success stories, said Michael Tamblyn, vice-president of content.

“We’ve also had a very clear sense that there’s a wealth of writing out there that doesn’t fit into mainstream publishing (and) there are authors looking to bypass mainstream publishing and have a direct relationship with the reader,” Tamblyn said.

“We can certainly see authors that gain traction with an audience either because they’ve hit the sweet spot with a particular category or they found the right combination of audience and price to basically take off.”

He points specifically to American romance writer Ruth Ann Nordin as another example of a successful independent author, and while he did not disclose sales figures, he said she’s a consistent bestseller.

The fact her books are priced at less than a dollar have propelled some to the Top 50 list, including “An Inconvenient Marriage,” which this week was sandwiched in the No. 4 spot between two hot Stieg Larsson titles.

“It’s been sitting in our Top 10 for weeks now … and it sells like crazy,” Tamblyn said.

“It sits at this very affordable price point that allows people to feel like they can give her a chance, without necessarily knowing who she is.”

Morrison said his similar low-priced strategy was key to building hype and he was still making decent money because of favourable online royalty rates.

“I priced my first book at .99 as an introductory offer and my other two books at $1.99, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize the royalty rate from Amazon was 35 per cent. So I was earning 70 cents on a $2 book,” he explained.

“A lot of mainstream contracts are for 10 per cent on a paperback, which is 70 cents. So basically I was making the same as I would on a paperback.”

But he said that tactic will likely become increasingly less effective as more authors slash their prices.

“I would say I was one of the first unpublished authors putting their works up on Amazon and it’s much harder now to get that attention,” he said, noting the amount of low-priced competition has grown rapidly.

Canadian author Peter Nowak, who released the non-fiction book “Sex, Bombs and Burgers” through Penguin Canada earlier this year, has been thinking about experimenting with self-publishing a digital version of the title.

He said it’s a daunting task to promote a book independently and get noticed and yet publishers do much less to publicize books than they used to. So it might be worth a shot.

“The old belief was, ’Oh, I’m going to go on tour across the country and do signings at book stores etc.,’ but my understanding is that’s pretty rare these days, Unless you’re a big name you don’t really get to do that. I certainly didn’t do that,” Nowak said.

“Publishers are supposed to provide the promotion and marketing, but they seem to be doing less and less of that, which begs the question, what are they doing for authors?”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau announces donation to Duke of Edinburgh’s award ahead of funeral

Canada will donate $200,000 to the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as… Continue reading

Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science) Will Amos responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says the fact that a screenshot of him in the nude was leaked to the media sends a troubling message about the corrosive state of politics in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Canada’s naked MP speaks out: leaked photo sends message ‘anything goes’ in politics

OTTAWA — The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot… Continue reading

Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Most Read