Bits, bits, it's all in bits ... Sheridan Winn


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.’


Anonymous said…
On ebook prices, I wouldn't worry about what Fischer might think. Your book, your price. Besides, it's in English and theirs are in German, the two aren't directly competing. I doubt they'd pay it any attention.
Jan Needle said…
ow, it made my head hurt thinking about it. hard tho it is, however, remember the end result. you put in all the work, you do it properly, you care for all of it. and once you've got over the hump, and they're all out there, under your loving eye the good times roll. as to pricing, i'm sure simon's right. but you could ask them. in my experience, some publishers respond to such questions without any side. best of luck, in any case.
Lynne Garner said…
Great advice regarding the rights. I have the rights for a few of my books but they are non-fiction and rely on images, so they'll not be eBooks for a while.
Anonymous said…
Thanks, Simon, good point. I appreciate that!
Best, Sheri
Anonymous said…
Thank you, Jan - yes, I will ask them. It's good advice.
It is strange, isn't it, this feeling of nurturing something and then sending it out into the world. Bit like having kids!
Best, Sheri
Anonymous said…
Thank you, Lynne!
I wonder if in another ten years, most authors will be keeping their rights and self-publishing? If you've done it yourself and it's worked, I can't see any reason to hand things over! Best, Sheri
Yes, it's great to get back rights on books that came out years ago and languishing. I just now got back rights to books from Random House and Pocket and will publish them soon. In past year or so I've republished five of my old books-and written and published four new books and most doing quite well. As for pricing debate, I've set mine at about $3.99 Kindle and $11.99 print (but I have no idea best price!) all here:
Anonymous said…
Greg, thank you for this advice. I am definately going to have a rethink on the e-book pricing.
Four new books in one year is really going at it! I wish you luck with the new titles.
Best, Sheri
Anonymous said…
If it were me and I wanted to keep fisher happy, but take a chance with the lower price I would make a deal so to speak. Lower it for two months, market yourself like always and see what happens. Writing a great book is the easy part when compared to trying to find an audience. There is such a huge market and thousands upon thousands of authors out there trying to be noticed. It's your work, do what feels right. You can always change what doesn't work. Good luck and many blessings. Terri Ann Armstrong, author of "How to Plant a Body"

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