In the past, publishing a novel meant hiring book agents and writing letters to big publishing houses. But with the rise of Kindles and iPads and Nooks, e-books have leveled the playing field and many people are self-publishing their novels to great creative and financial success. Darcie Chan, author of The Mill River Recluse joined HuffPost Live to share her story.
Chan, a former attorney, had always dreamed of publishing a book. She wrote a novel in 2002, hired an agent and shopped it to various publishing houses, but when no one showed interested, she shelved her plans. "At that point, I really had no other options. I just put it in a drawer and I thought, 'okay, the next time I have a book ready, we'll try again,'" she explained to host Nancy Redd.
"And then I started hearing things years later -- e-books were exploding. I thought maybe that would be a great way to get people who were not related to me to buy it and to give some reviews on it. I never expected anything big to happen, not at all."
To generate interest in her story, Chan initially invested $1,000, half to create a website, and half for posting ads on blogs focused on e-books. "The first month I think I sold about 100 copies and I was like ecstatic. My husband--my son was really small at the time--and we just grabbed him up and we danced in our kitchen and we thought, 'oh, 100 copies!'" she said.
"And then the first of those advertising features that I had lined up hit a couple of weeks later and I sold 600 more in two days. And at that point, something dawned on me. There was a huge potential out there. I started watching the numbers, the sales figures as they came in, and they were climbing on their own at that point. So I thought, you know, something is happening here, and it just snowballed."
Her novel, about a widow living in a small Vermont town, went on to sell more than 700,000 copies as an e-book, and appeared on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists for 28 weeks. Copies retail for between $0.99 and $2.99, but because of the nature of e-book publishing, Chan receives between 35-70% royalties on each sale, much higher than the 5-6% average royalty rate for paperback authors. Since The Mill River Recluse's 2011 release, Chan has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"The thing about self-publishing is that, because you can set a price point so low, it's really no skin off someone's purse to give your book a try."