Man Meets Kindle–And Rocks

- by Vonna Harper

Hi there. My name’s J.R. Rain and I write Kindle novels. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of me, but then again, there’s also a small chance you might have seen my books hovering at the top of some of those bestselling Kindle lists. A quick glance right now has my novel Moon Dance show that it’s currently #2 bestselling romantic suspense novel and the #3 bestselling vampire novel, two categories that I often hit #1 in. The novel, which has been out for 12 months now, has been a steady Kindle bestseller for the past four months. Not too shabby for a book I had written seven years ago, and which the NY publishers wanted nothing to do with. In the publisher’s defense, I had very real interest from Kensington and Dorchester, both of whom nearly bought it.

 (Here’s a secret: I’m glad they didn’t buy it. More on this later.)

 But I’m not here to boast of my recent minor success. Trust me, I’m sure there are many of you here who have outsold me many times over. No, I’m simply presenting the above sales stats as evidence to help you understand why I have made the decision to publish exclusively on Amazon Kindle and skip the smaller publishers altogether.

 These are exciting times for independent Kindle publishers. Last month, Kindle started giving indie publishers 70% royalties on books priced above $2.99. Prior to that, the rate was just 35%. So, yes, I am now doubling my income. Like I said, these are exciting times. So exciting that I have no intention of trying to work with NY publishers in the foreseeable futue.

 In fact, just the other day I was contacted by a fairly big New York agent. She had read my novel Moon Dance on Kindle and really liked it. So much so that she wanted to know if I had representation. (And, yeah, I hadn’t realized agents had any free time to read for pleasure, either!) Anyway, back in the day I would have jumped at the chance to be repped by this agent. But I’m not jumping now. In fact, I’m probably going to tell her “no thank you, but I will keep you in mind in the future.”

 Why would I choose to go at this publishing business alone?

 Well, for starters, I make a very comfortable full-time living from Amazon Kindle. Not to mention, I have total control over all my books. And, perhaps most import to me: I get to write whatever I want.

 Total freedom.

 I am completely unhindered. Unshackled. I don’t have to write a certain book just because a publisher has decided to categorize me in a niche. In fact, by this time next year, I will have out a horror novel (co-authored with an established pro), a spiritual fantasy (think The Alchemist), two short story collections (including a Christmas collection), three vampire novels, one screenplay collection (featuring two screenplays and a graphic novel script), and a straight mystery novel.

 And as you can see, I’m getting all my books out there, some new and some old, including nine YA books I wrote back when I was a teenager (which I will be publishing under a pseudonym over the course of the next few years). Additionally, I also publish slasher/horror stories under a completely different name altogether. Stories I had written nearly 20 years ago, stories that had been all but forgotten. And now they make me steady income. Put it this way, those little stories alone help pay for my daily Starbucks addiction.

 I’m getting a kick out of all of this. Writing is fun. Selling is fun. Doing what I want, when I want, and how I want is fun. My suggestion to all of you is that if you have any unpublished novels or stories out there, put them on Kindle asap. Why not? It’s easy. Create a cool cover, write a bitchen’ description, include some fantastic blurbs up on your Kindle page, price the book at least $2.99 or higher (to get that full 70 royalty from Amazon), and have fun with it.

 Yes, fun. For me, writing is fun again.

 Happy writing.

J.R. Rain

www.jrrain.com

P.S. Vonna Harper here. I ran down J.R. and convinced him to write this blog for Ninc. After reading it, I decided to take advantage of his generosity and ask him some questions.

1. Why did you decide to go with Kindle? My guess is it was still in its infancy when you took the plunge.The big New York publishers roundly rejected me. I had already gone the small press route (with Mundania Press) and decided that from here on out I was going to self-publish my books and take total control of my career. Kindle makes it very very easy for self-published authors to quickly get their books published on their site. Kindle is a godsend to self-published authors.

2. You mentioned creating cool covers. Do you do your own and if so do you use something like Photoshop?Both. I designed DARK HORSE and THE MUMMY CASE, but I used a designer for my remaining novels and short story collections. I actually used Microsoft Paint for my covers, but I know my designer uses Adobe Photoshop. My best advice is to hire someone to do it for you, or use someone who is skilled in graphic designs. Anyone who wants to hire my designer can reach her on her Facebook site at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100001101220961&ref=ts, or email her at bren@gotchacoveredbydesign.com

3. Do you have anyone proofread your work?

Yes, I have a few people proofread my stuff, but you would never believe it by some of the comments I get on Amazon.com, where readers like to point out mistakes. Again, if you have the extra cash, have a pro proofread your work.

4. How about promo? What kind and if not, what does your crystal ball say about how you reach readers?

I do very little promo. I have Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and personal website. I sometimes write a blog for my website, and I sometimes send out email announcements for my books. In general, I spend most of my time writing the best books I can. I believe readers will eventually find you if you write honest books from the heart.

5. Kindle gives writers labeling options to help draw readers to various genres. Do you give a lot of attention to targeting? How about being involved in the Kindle discussion groups?

I have been involved in the past on some Kindle discussion groups, but not so much anymore. But, again, I would rather spend my time writing the best books I can. Yes, you always want to make sure your books are in the right categories on Amazon.

6. You’re writing all over the board. Any concern that not focusing on one genre might work against you?

No concern at all. If you write stories you believe in, with characters who are real, readers will respond.

17 comments

  1. Great stuff, J.R.! Congrats on those rankings and zooming past me!

    And I think you’re right, that the majority of the focus has to be on writing and releasing new stuff. I get too bogged down in social networking and other extraneous stuff.

  2. I do a mix or NY print and self-pub on Kindle (and smashwords). I like that there is a home for my niche books that would baffle NY. It is nice to hear that someone else is keeping afloat in the e-ocean :-).

  3. Great post! I’ll be putting a book on Kindle and Smashwords soon. Good to know I don’t have to do a lot of promo. I’ll do some, I’d rather be working on the next book I plan on self-publishing.

  4. I love hearing this!
    I completely understand. It took me forever to get published (and only after I had a contract in hand did agents look at me). I finally sold to Kensington knowing they probably wouldn’t recontract me because they have a reputation for taking on new authors then dropping them. Sure enough, that’s whats happened. Since then I haven’t gotten a new book deal. Frankly I’m sick of the biz. I’m sick of being taken advantage by agents. I’m sick of waiting months, sometimes even over a year to hear back from editors, only to be rejected. And I’m sick of spending more than I make on promoting because publishers don’t help.

    I’m so glad there are ways for authors to publish without wasting their own money and time!

  5. Great post J.R.! And thanks for the interview Vonna!

  6. Very interesting. Thank you

  7. Great piece. It is fascinating to see so many authors enjoying success on Amazon. Equally fascinating is how often they use the word “freedom” in their praise of the Amazon experience. Thanks, JR

  8. It’s great to hear from another author doing well on Kindle. I’ve been following Joe Konrath’s success and it make me excited for the future.

    I am currently finishing an original UF that I haven’t ever shopped to put up on the kindle. And I have probably 3 or 4 more books that I coudl finish and publish myself.

    I write for Harlequin, and will continue to do so, but its fantastic to know that I have a place I could go to get my other work out there on my own.

  9. I love this blog! What an inspiring post, JR. Great follow up questions, Vonna.

    Question to JR–for your early YA novels, how are you going to categorize them on Amazon? Is there a YA category I didn’t see?

  10. Very interesting. I had a little bit of an epiphany about Kindle (and self-pubbed ebooks in general). All these years, decades really, publishers have been the gatekeepers and filters for what gets out there. I’m guessing thousands, maybe tens of thousands or more, of viable, well-written, possibly fantastic books never got published because a publisher didn’t like the concept, didn’t know how to market it, felt it was too similar to something they already did, or “just didn’t love it enough.” That’s not necessarily a dig at publishers–they simply have a limited number of books they can produce in any given year and they’re always behind the curve because they’re buying now based on what sold last year.

    Now that filter has been removed, and while there’s the potential for a lot of badly written and worse edited garbage to come out as ebooks, kind of in the Wild West mode that YouTube is at present for videos, all the good stuff that some publisher wouldn’t buy for whatever reason is out there too. Eventually the cream will rise to the top based on reviews, reader comments, and word of mouth. There’s probably even more opportunity for building a name as a writer because when a reader reads something good on Kindle/Nook/etc., they might choose to buy from that author again rather than take the chance of getting something crummy.

    I don’t think print books will go away, but the balance of power is definitely shifting toward the authors, and, especially with Kindle sales now outpacing paperbacks at Amazon, it won’t be long before the vast majority of books are sold like music is now at iTunes. That’s probably going to result in a lot of print pubs either folding or moving to a place where they have to pay enough to compete with ebook sales. Otherwise, why would an author bother with them?

  11. Thank you, Zoe!

    @Melinda: I would suggest just categorizing your Teen books in whatever genre they fit best (say romance or supernatural). Once done, the Kindle tagging system will probably then place your book in the correct teen category. Case in point: there’s no “vampire” category to choose from on Kindle (during the publishing process), and yet my book found its way to the vampire list based on reader “tags”.

    Sounds like many of you have some great projects ready to roll on Kindle. Yes, get ‘em up as soon as you can!

    Happy publishing!

  12. J.R., what can I say man, as a man that has known you for a very long time, I am glad to see you are having so much success.
    I look forward to catching up on reading some of your recent works.
    Keep up the good work and good fortune will follow.

  13. This is great inspiration, J.R. I love reading your books and screenplays and will always be on the alert for your next release. Best wishes, Eve

  14. Congratulations on your success. I’ve only recently heard bits and pieces about Kindle and had no idea what it was about. I find this whole entry fascinating. So far I’m trying to go the traditional route. Beta-readers have praised my efforts and I’ve gotten encouragement from a couple of agents and former agents. If all else fails, it’s nice to know I have another option.

    With your permission, I’d like to set up a link to your blog and specifically this entry. There are a lot of writers out there who need to hear from someone who’s taken this route to see what other paths to being published are out there.

    Best wishes for your continued success,

    Allan Krummenacker

  15. I even got my own smashwords book purchased online. Its good to see the overview of another source. AT least I have an idea what’s inside.

  16. I would be happy to re-read all of your books and take notes of the typos and send a list to you, if you like. I love your books (especially knighthorse!), specifically your humor. I read all of your available books in the Knighthorse and Vampire for Hire series this past weekend. I did notice an awful lot of typos but it’s not like they were a big deal. Anyway, if you’re interested please contact me at pederslp01@mail.buffalostate.edu .

  17. Hey,

    This article is awesome! Thanks JR and thanks NINC for sharing this.

    I just wanted to congratulate on on your success as an author JR and let you know that your story has inspired me and I’ve shared part of it in my new book Kindle Success Stories.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and advice with other indie authors!
    Tom