Em's place

Writing, anxiety-wrangling, tea.

A guest post from one of my heroes!

By Emma on October 7, 2011

Results Not TypicalHello my lovely ones. Whilst I’m hammering out book 1 (you can see I’ve been busy from the word counter over there on the right) I’m delighted to welcome one of my heroes to the blog; Catherine Ryan Howard. She blogs at www.catherineryanhoward.com by the way.

I first came across Catherine on Twitter (many of you know how much of a fan of that place I am) and I warmed to her immediately. I went to her blog, saw what amazing things she was doing and I have to confess, I developed one of those little harmless internet crushes. You know, when you subscribe to new posts and read them as soon as they come out, and get excited when they talk to you on Twitter.

Luckily for me, Catherine is funny, friendly and spectacularly helpful. I heartily recommend her book Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s guide to Self-Publishing which I devoured a few weeks ago.

Catherine’s latest novel “Results Not Typical” is out now, and I am more than delighted to welcome her to my place today to talk about pricing and selling self-published e-books. Then I’ll tell you all about the book (including how you can win a copy of the e-book version). Em x

Over to Catherine!


As a self-publisher, I often wonder who it is who’s keeping me in coffee grounds by buying what I call “The 99c Books” – the low-priced novels that have made e-book self-publishers like Amanda Hocking, John Locke and JA Konrath into household names. It’s a mystery to me because even though they sell millions and millions of books and I know a lot of readers, I don’t know anyone who has read any of their titles.

Of the people I know who own a Kindle or other e-reading device, none regularly read self-published books, be they 99c or $9.99. In most cases the only self-published books readers I know have read is mine, and that’s because they know me. Chances are they wouldn’t have touched a self-published book otherwise, because they’d expect it to be bad.

And in expecting that, they wouldn’t be alone. Last week author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford asked his readers if they’d ever read a self-published book. The poll results were promising (71% had said yes at time of writing) but the comments told a different story. It seemed that once readers had encountered one or two bad self-published books, they were extremely unlikely to give any other self-published books a chance.

Commenters said things like:

— “If I don’t recognize the [publisher’s] name, I google it. If the book is self-published, it’s a major turnoff.”
— “The best of [the self-published books I’ve read] read like a rough draft of something that could eventually, with enough polish and care, become unspectacular mid-list fiction.”
— “I read a self-published novel a few years ago and found myself understanding why a publisher hadn’t picked up.”
— “There’s a reason there are gatekeepers, and it’s not for typos.”

How many self-published novels have I read? Shamefully, just half of one. (If karma was the reason my books sold, I’d be in real trouble…!) I downloaded it because I read an article about the author getting a traditional book deal, and I thought, “Wow. That must be good.” But it wasn’t for me, although I think I made things difficult for myself by setting my brain to Look For Problems Mode on page one. There’s a few self-published novels on my To Read list but, again, it’s only because I know the authors and trust that they’ve written good books.

So how is it that, despite this prejudice against self-published books, self-published books are selling so well for some authors? Well, I suspect that when a self-published book gets a sale, one of the following things has happened:

— Amazon’s algorithms churned up the book’s title (e.g. in “Customers Also Bought” or some similar feature) and the purchaser downloaded and liked the sample, and so decided to buy the book
— As above, but the purchaser was convinced enough by the product description, reviews, etc. to buy the book outright
— As above but with the purchaser thinking, “Well, it’s only 99c so even if it’s total rubbish I don’t lose out…”
— The purchaser has encountered the author elsewhere (their blog, Twitter, another book) and is already a fan
— Someone has recommended the book to the purchaser
— The purchaser genuinely doesn’t care if the book is self or traditionally published
— The purchaser doesn’t realize the book is self-published.

But why does it matter what’s led to a sale? Surely all that matters is that there’s been one? It matters because if you can figure out why a person has bought your book, you can use that data to hopefully convince somebody else to buy it too.

For example if those really are the motivations that lead to the purchase of a self-published book, here’s what you can do to improve your chances of getting that “Buy” button clicked on your listing:

— Make sure the beginning of your book – the sample – is strong enough to persuade all who read it to keep reading (although this really should be the case already or else your book’s not ready!)

— Write a fantastic product description and get editorial reviews from book bloggers, other authors, etc. to make your Amazon listing as persuasive as possible

— Price your book to sell. I firmly believe self-published e-books of standard length should be 99c, $1.99 or $2.99. Remember to look at the big picture: if someone buys your first novel for 99c and likes it, they’ll probably be willing to pay $2.99 or maybe even $4.99 for the next one

— Do everything you can to promote your voice online – blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Note that I didn’t say “promote your book online.” That’s just annoying, and it gets boring real quick. You have a far better chance of selling books if you can get people to like you, i.e. your writing style, your perspective, your humor, etc. Then with very little effort, a gentle push (like a reminder that your book is out now) will ensure they go buy your book

— Write a good book! All the great successes in publishing involve word-of-mouth; people recommending the book to their friends, followers, etc.

— Don’t look self-published. I’m not talking about pretending you’re traditionally published, which is dishonest, stupid and depending on what lengths you go to to pretend, potentially illegal. I mean make your book and everything connected to it look as professional an operation as a traditionally published book would be. Hire a cover designer to make a striking cover – stay away from those god-awful “Cover Creator” programs the self-publishing services have. Write a great blurb that reads like copy a professional copywriter would produce. Refrain from adding things like ‘“Best book ever!”- Author’s Mum’ to your listing; it doesn’t matter if the endorsement is the best thing anyone’s ever said about a book in the history of the world – it’s completely irrelevant if it isn’t from someone important, and including it screams “amateur”.

Self-publishing has a bad name, for sure, but the more self-publishers who pull up their socks and do it right, the faster we can start to get away from it. Not to mention the fact that we’ll sell more books as well – it’s a win-win situation.


Thanks Catherine! Okay, here’s all the info about Results Not Typical.

The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers and chick-lit meets corporate satire in the debut novel from Catherine Ryan Howard, author of the bestselling memoir Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida.

Through their Ultimate Weight Loss Diet Solution Zone System, Slimmit International Global Incorporated claim they’re making the world a more attractive place one fatty at a time. Their slogans “Where You’re Fat and We Know It!” and “Where the Fat IS Your Fault!” are recognised around the globe, the counter in the lobby says five million slimmed and their share price is as high as their energy levels. But today the theft of their latest revolutionary product, Lipid Loser, will threaten to expose the real secret behind Slimmit’s success…

The race is on to retrieve Lipid Loser and save Slimmit from total disaster. If their secrets get out, their competitors will put them out of business. If the government finds out, they’ll all go to jail. And if their clients find out… Well, as Slimmit’s Slimming Specialists know all too well, there’s only one thing worse than a hungry, sugar-crazed, carb addict – and that’s an angry one. Will the secret behind Slimmit’s success survive the day, or will their long-suffering slimmers finally discover the truth? Available now in paperback and e-book editions.

Results Not Typical on Amazon.co.uk

Results Not Typical on Amazon.com

Goodreads Giveaway:

If you are on Goodreads, visit http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/14791-results-not-typical to enter a giveaway to win one of five paperback copies of Results Not Typical. Open for entries from September 30th-October 31st. Open to all countries.

Grand e-book giveaway!

With Catherine’s kind permission, I can offer 3 e-book copies of Results Not Typical (in any e format) as a giveaway. All you need to do is say hello in the comments and I’ll pick 3 winners using a random number doohicky. I’ll enter you twice if you share a slimming horror story and/or a comment about self-publishing. Go!


Tagged as: , ,

{ 6 comments... read them below, or add one }

  1. […] Newman hosted me on her blog, Post-Apocalyptic Publishing. (Best name ever, right?) On this stop I asked the question ”Who is reading the 99c e-books?” and examined what’s actually happened when someone clicks “Buy” on your Amazon […]

  2. Somnath says:

    Personally, I’ve never read a self-published book either. Looks like there could be plenty of hidden gems scattered around the net. Look forward to checking out Results Not Typical later…

  3. […] Results Not Typical blog tour continues. On Friday I was on Emma Newman’s Post Apocalyptic Publishing asking just who is it who’s reading all this 9…, and today I’m on Love and Chocolate, the blog of the lovely Sally Clements,  talking about […]

  4. Interesting blog, thanks, and I bought Catherine’s self-publishing guide because I like her no-nonsense smiling tone.

  5. Mel Dawn says:

    I feel many self-published novels are gems and while some might hold a few flaws, many are better than the drivel on the bestsellers list.

    I’ve made a point of downloading several self-published novels this month.

    I’m also getting a bit fed up with formulaic novels so self-publishers bring it on – YAY!

  6. Kara Benson says:

    Uploaded my first e-book in June. 93 copies were downloaded during the free time, 1 copy after that.
    Changed my kdp royalties from 70 to 35% so I could reduce the price. So far nothing to write home about.

    Does anybody out there have experience with booktango?


Leave a comment

CommentLuv badge