BITS, BITS, IT’S ALL IN BITS …
by Sheridan Winn
Here’s the thing. I have a modest body of work – six children’s fantasy titles representing around 325,000 words and several years of my life.
Five of these titles have sold over 200,000 hardbacks in Germany, with paperbacks and e-books now following. Fischer Schatzinsel, I love you. These five titles were first published in the UK (thank you, Piccadilly Press) and sales have been satisfactory. I get a lot of readers borrow my books from the libraries and a decent annual fee from Public Lending Right.
When the Sprite Sister series launched in 2008, the jackets looked like this:-
But this story, The Circle of Power, and the first in the series, has just gone out of print in the UK. Naturally I have asked Piccadilly for the rights back.
As The Circle of Power disappeared off the shelves this Spring, I published the sixth title, The Boy With Hawk-like Eyes, as a print-on-demand paperback and as an e-book. So far, it is the only English-language e-book in the series.
It looks like this:-
Spot the difference? As you can see, I’m moving away from the ‘sparkly tween’ look to ‘adventure’.
Thankfully, I kept the e-book rights to my first five titles and The Circle of Power is en route to Kindle.
At our Authors Electric Great E-Book Giveaway last week, I gave away 621 digital copies of The Boy With Hawk-like Eyes in the US and 106 in the UK: a modest amount, but significant. The readers who enjoyed it will be looking for the other Sprite Sisters stories. As any fantasy reader knows, you want the next in the series and you want it now.
As an e-publishing strategy this is all upside down and back-to-front. You should start with the first title, not the last. Quickly, quickly, I must get the other titles formatted and commission new jacket designs, but until this is complete my series will be all in bits. To get five Sprite titles out as e-books this year will require time, money and focus. To date the return has not come close to the investment.
So, that’s my first problem – that and the fact that I will probably have to wait to get all the UK volume rights back. Or find a large stash of cash.
The second issue is how to price my one e-book title. Should I make it comparable to the German e-books? Four of Fischer’s titles are currently retailing at just over £9 and one at just under £6 on Kindle.
Hm. Tricky one. My business head says drop the price of The Boy With Hawk-like Eyes from £4, which it’s currently selling for, to around £2.50. But would that unsettle Fischer? Advice on this would be welcome.
The third issue is that Lightning Source, which has done a good job on the print-on-demand paperback of The Boy With Hawk-like Eyes, does not supply to Peters Bookselling Services. Peters supplies the libraries, Norfolk among them. My local library, Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library, is the most used library in the UK with over one million visitors a year. A decent number of readers borrow the Sprite books, but how is the library to get hold of my sixth title? Library ordering systems are cumbersome beasts. I have asked Lightning Source if they will consider supplying to Peters, but they say no. How am I to get my title into the libraries?
When you become an indie writer and publisher there is no one behind you. You are alone with your books - free as a bird, in theory. The reality is that you are multi-tasking your socks off as a marketer, publicist, strategist and finance director.
Whilst writing my first five books, I had to balance my freelance journalism to pay the bills. Now I have to balance the journalism, write the next title and be Business Woman of the Year.
My advice is to hang on to your rights. Get them back as soon as a title is out of print. Don’t let them go unless you have a wonderful offer. And work out a strategy – because, boy, you will need it.
And every day pray that your story will wing its way, miraculously, onto the desk of a famous film producer who says, ‘I like this – it would make a great film.’