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Sunday
Jan092011

Becoming a Bestselling eBook Author

There was once a time when Hollywood wielded so much power that studios had near complete control over an actor's career. Those were the "contract" days, when actors had to be loaned out to rival studios if they caught wind of a juicy script and wanted in. This kind of power was only possible due to one very important thing: lack of competition. Without the ability to approach any studio they chose via an agent, and pick and choose scripts regardless of the lot it was being filmed on (something that is rather routine today) actors were often forced to commit to roles that were completely dissatisfying.

Competition is both healthy and destructive. While it makes for competitive pricing (an essential boon to the consumer) in turn it can sweep through an industry and leave companies in shambles. Take the big publishing companies. For a long time, publishing was considered an elite industry, almost exclusive to the literati; the movers and shakers; and writers who were fixtures in the publishing world via close associations with influential editors, or other famous authors, agents, or what have you. It took some time before a regular Joe or Jane could shoot off a query letter to an agent, along with a few sample chapters, and later land a deal on the strength of a novel that forced the publisher to groom them for stardom.

Today, however, with the gigantic strides being made by the self-publishing model, less than average Joes and Janes are able to get in on the action. So much so that many authors publishing books through Kindle and Nook are earning anywhere from $40,000 to as much as $200,000 a year and more. You can easily Google some of them to see the results for yourself. Brian S. Pratt comes to mind, as does Amanda Hocking. There are plenty of others, but these are among the heavy hitters, as their sales tend to be a bit mind boggling, considering the total lack of any major publicity blitzes or heavy marketing campaigns. These writersand they're far from literary geniusesare selling well solely on the strength of their ability to tell compelling stories. The writing might be simple to some, mundane to others, but their story arcs seem to resonate with a pretty broad set of fan bases.

One of the things I notice about these bestselling Kindle and Nook authors, however, is that they are only writing certain kinds of material. And if you take a quick peek at any of the top 100 bestselling books on either Amazon.com or BN.com, you'll notice one obvious thing: pound for pound, the lists are filled with more fictional offerings than nonfiction ones. What's more, the majority of fiction found on those lists comprise genre fiction. Peel the curtain back a little more, so as to allow for books ranking between 100 and 3,000, and you'll notice that a large amount of the genre fiction titles are written by self-published authors, or authors signed with small and micro presses.

What is genre fiction, you ask? Well, a decent definition from a Wikipedia entry appears below:

Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is a term for fictional works (novels, short stories) written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre. 

Essentially we're talking vampires, dragons, assassins, spacemen, creatures of the night, private eyes, and chivalrous heroes, all navigating YA, fantasy, sci-fi, and fairy tale worlds created by low key authors earning good money. In short, they are actually living on their works, rather than merely supplementing their income with royalties. Another thing you'll notice is that it pays to be prolific. If you want to earn well, you have to offer the reading public a lot of what they want. They have a big appetite for this stuff, so having seven or eight or nine books out in the space of a year or two won't seem like overkill. If you look at Amanda Hocking's release record alone, you'll notice she started earning big within one year of publishing a handful of her works, releasing them back to back at times.

In closing, the main point of this post is this: if you study the trends created by successful people, and you apply what you've gathered from those trends to your own attempts, you are bound to meet with greater success.

If they can become bestselling eBook authors, you can too. Study the trends (and there are plenty of trends out there if you look hard enough) and follow them. You'll be surprised what will happen to your writing career.

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