06 May 2015 by Published in: Uncategorized 9 comments

Apparently the death of the ebook is greatly exaggerated. Perhaps not for the big publishers, whose market share of ebooks is indeed shrinking. But for indie authors, whose share is growing by leaps and bounds, it’s the best of all possible times.

Hugh Howey and the Data Guy just published their latest report on the state of publishing at Author Earnings. What it shows is in stark contrast to what mainstream sources that ignore indie titles are declaring. Contrary to the hype, it would appear that the reason those pundits are claiming a decline in ebook sales is because indie authors are taking significant market share from traditional publishers.

The reasons, I believe, are twofold: 1) Price. Readers could give two shits who publishes a book. What they care about is the quality of the content, and it would seem that indies are delivering as good or better quality as their trad pubbed brethren, at a lower cost. 2) Visibility. Indie authors market. Many are quite good at it. They maximize resources like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc., because it’s their money at stake, not some mega-corporation’s.  This savvy marketing results in more readers seeing their wares.

To the second point, trad publishers release tens of thousands of new titles each year. It’s impossible for them to market them all, or even a significant percentage, but their model’s fine with that. They just wait to see what catches fire, and then push whatever does. The rest are left to sink.

Forget about marketing backlist titles. That’s a dream. There are an endless stream of new titles to push.

Whereas indies are aggressive at promoting not just their new releases, but also their brand, and their backlists.

Take a trad pubbed author for whom I have enormous respect: James Lee Burke. The price of his backlist is quite reasonable – it fluctuates between $5.99 and $6.99, and is totally worth it.

But he shifts less ebooks than I do at the same price. Why? Because the publisher isn’t screaming about his backlist on every available channel. It’s crickets, so the only ones buying those values are those who stumble across them, likely after buying his latest work.

I’ll take a novel that’s coming up on four years old as an example of what I mean. The Delphi Chronicle is a modest seller for me, and yet it’s shifted over 20K copies since I released it December, 2011. I price it at $4.99. It was languishing for the last few quarters, so I did a promo for it that moved almost 4000 units. Sales post-special price are respectable, and the title’s earned a nice return that’s several multiples of the marketing cost, and continues to do well.

As it will for many years, if I keep marketing it periodically. Because it’s new to 99% of readers on Amazon, regardless of how long it’s been released. That’s an important point – every day there are hundreds of thousands, or millions, of new readers who have never heard of my work. Every day I can be discovered. But I have to help myself, or get lost in the rising tide.

If you look at your backlist as an investment portfolio of IP, it’s a good model. Even if I stopped writing tomorrow, with almost 40 novels out, I could market my existing work, change covers occasionally, and likely make a nice living in perpetuity. But if I were trad pubbed, those books would go unloved and unread as the marketing folks push the latest shiny, and I’d be back working at Burger Barn before I knew it, or eating dog food, or both.

Needless to say, that gives me a significant advantage over a trad pubbed author with similar ranking. I’ll earn around 5X what he will for the same books sold, and I control my destiny. I like that. A lot. So should you.

In other news, I listed the first 10 chapters of Ramsey’s Gold, which releases end of this month, on Amazon for .99. I tried to make it free, but it didn’t work. If you’re interested in checking it out, be my guest, and feel free to return it for a refund once you’re done. Hopefully that will motivate you to purchase the full novel. I think it’s some of my best work, and recommend it highly. Then again, I’m biased. But you should still buy it. Really. I’m serious. Here’s a link.



  1. Wed 06th May 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Excellent post, Russell, but, hey, I’m not surprised. 🙂

  2. Wed 06th May 2015 at 9:13 pm

    I like the investment portfolio concept. And good for you that Delphi is kicking butt. It’s a great book.

    I’d like my agent to sell one of my novels to trad-publishing, just to see what they can do with it compared to what I can do, marketing-wise. If it’s not what it’s cracked up to be, I don’t have to go trad-pubbed the next time. I’m thinking it might help my Indie books sell more copies if one of my books was trad-pubbed, but who knows.

  3. Wed 06th May 2015 at 11:37 pm

    Well Russel apparently then Dear Tequila FB past last week has peroformed so sort of double hat trick as this is a fine post. Informative, to the point, and well written.

    all thee best, all the time.

  4. Thu 07th May 2015 at 4:46 pm

    I find it so bizarre that simple economics apparently escapes the Big 5

  5. Fitch Williams
    Fri 08th May 2015 at 6:50 am

    I’m a case in point. I saw JET on BookBub (?) for free or $0.99 (forget which). That was a week and half ago. Since then I’ve purchased and read all the JET books and pre-ordered volume 9.

    Until then, honestly, I’d never heard of you and I’ve been an avid reader for over 6 decades.

    JET appeals to a guy that liked Alias, Castle, and Covert Affairs. It’s a bit over the top, but if you watched that gal on American Ninja, it’s possible without magic.

    I’ll give some of your other books a look.

    PS: I like the prequels as much or better than the 8/9 volume JET series. The series is turning into a grind, help JET and die, but the prequels are a fresh episode, a new adventure with new stakes beyond just survival, in every book. The concept of the ‘greater good’ gives the prequels a vibrance the main series didn’t have.


    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 08th May 2015 at 5:44 pm

      Well, Fitch, I appreciate that. Also, of course, I’ve written a lot of words between the first JET book and the first Ops Files books, so I’d hope that they have improved over time, or I’m not doing my job. I think you’ll find that JET 9 – Escape, is as good or better than any of ’em.

  6. Fri 08th May 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Right on. I view my three novels (so far) and one short story as my inventory. Inventory that can’t spoil or get shop-worn or gather dust. Every sale gives a reader a chance to discover the other books, just like I discovered your book “Fatal Exchange.” You really know how to write and you really know how to manage your business. I always enjoy your blog.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 08th May 2015 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. And inventory is an excellent way to look at it. Sort of like dental floss. Never gets old and there’s always some demand.


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