Tuesday, December 27, 2011
One of the toughest things about promoting one's self-published ebooks is that there really are not many choices that aren't expensive. You can of course post frequent reminders on Twitter and Facebook that your books are available, but people generally find repeated pitches highly annoying. Worse, many writers use Twitter and Facebook exclusively for self-promotion and never comment on other people's posts. These wretches are quickly de-friended.
Two veteran writers, Patricia Ryan and Doranna Durgin, came up with a keen new idea last August: Backlist eBooks, a web site devoted entirely to the promotion of ebooks previously published in hardcover (or softcover) by legitimate publishers, not vanity presses. The ebooks featured on Backlist eBooks have all been written by professionals, then acquired and line-edited and copy-edited by professionals. They are not crude amateur offerings.
They run the gamut of popular genres: contemporary romance, fantasy, historical romance, mainstream fiction, mystery & suspense, nonfiction, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, science fiction, women's fiction and young adult fiction.
The site features a dozen ebook versions of Ryan's medieval romances and seven of her mystery novels. Durgin is represented by 18 ebook examples of her fantasies and romances. These clearly are old pros who know the popular fiction business inside and out.
I emailed Ryan and asked what gave her and Durgin the idea for the site.
"I had just published 12 backlist ebooks, and I refused to accept that my professional strategies consisted basically of Facebook and Twitter," she replied. "Back when I lived in New York City, I was promotion manager for a division of Van Nostrand Reinhold Publishing (now defunct) so I've always been interested in self-promotion. Several readers had mentioned in forums and blog comments that they wished there was one central list of authors who were self-publishing their backlists, because these were professionally vetted and edited books for great prices. The light bulb went off. I talked to Doranna about it, and it just took off from there."
At this point Backlist eBooks has a little more than 100 authors, including me, and almost all have promotional pages up on the web site. Here's mine.
Some of the authors are like me, midlist writers cut loose from their original publishers during the economic downturn. Some are staying with their publishers but have talked them into reverting ebook rights. Others, Ryan wrote, have been offered print contracts but are turning them down because they're unwilling to accept the standard 25 per cent royalties for ebooks. "They know they can publish themselves better and make a lot more money."
Is there a way to quantify how well Backlist eBooks has done in increasing sales for its authors? "Not really," Ryan wrote, "partly because our website is pretty new (we had a simpler interim website previously) and partly because only the authors really know how well they're doing. I will say that we get plenty of website hits and click-throughs to the sales venues on the book pages."
It costs $40 to join and $30 a year thereafter to stay on Backlist eBooks—a sum that I think is going to be well spent.