A lot of attention has been given to Kindle bestselling authors like Joe Konrath and Karen McQuestion who have struck gold by landing publishing deals. However, there are other routes to success for independent publishers.
Jeremy Robinson, author of The Didymus Contingency, self-published the novel and quickly became Lulu.com’s #1 fiction bestseller and sold thousands of copies on BarnesandNoble.com. The hype landed him a literary agent at Trident Media Group. But his real success came after he decide to podcast episodes of his next novels, Beneath and Kronos. In today’s interview, we talk with Robinson about why he decided to create self-financed audio books, how that lead him to a major deal and why he would do it all over again.
Jeremy, first of all, why did you decide to self-publish initially?
It was a combination of two things. The first was that James Rollins had read the manuscript, enjoyed it and provided a blurb for it. But when we talked about publishers we agreed that the book was most likely too religious for mainstream publishers and too mainstream for religious publishers. I think it was Jim who actually suggested self-publishing. The second reason was that I was ill-informed and thought I would sell thousands of copies, just like most self-publishers. In the first two months I sold about forty copies. It was then I realized I had missed part of the puzzle–marketing. I studied Amazon and BN.com (Barnes & Noble) figured out how to get some exposure and set myself to the task day and night. I was soon selling hundreds of copies every week, became a bn.com bestseller, and attracted the attention of my literary agent.
Why do an audio version?
I produced audio editions of BENEATH and KRONOS primarily to grow my audience. I’d seen it work for guys like Scott Sigler and J.C. Hutchins and thought their audience might enjoy my books as well. The goal was to get them hooked on the audio and hope they would migrate to the print books. This definitely happened as I gained 12,000 listeners for Kronos and in a much shorter time, 10,000 listeners for BENEATH. I’ve heard from a lot of listeners who have bought the print books as well, so mission accomplished.
What did it cost to produce?
Audiobooks aren’t cheap and I hired a pro named Jeff Kafer. I wanted the books to be as good as something you might buy from a bestselling author. That said, Jeff gave me a reduced rate because I was giving the books away instead of reselling them. At .02 per word, each book cost about $1800.
How in the world did you get so many listeners to begin with to know about your podcast and then how did you turn them into buyers?
I think a lot of the listeners came from Scott Sigler, who had spread the word a little bit and had me guest write an episode for one of his podcasts. It also helped that I was known in self-publishing circles because of my success story. What the podcast novelists do isn’t all that different from what self-publishers do. We put the books out in different formats, but the goal is the same: build an audience and attract a publisher. So I think a lot of the audience at podiobooks.com knew who I was. Plus, the books are free, so there is a lot of sampling. Other than that, and spreading the word via social networks, I didn’t do much. Getting 10,000 listeners for a free podcast novel is a lot easier than selling 10,000 hardcover novels at $25 a pop.
Did you have an agent to negotiate your book deal?
Yep. My agent, Scott Miller at Trident Media Group, discovered my first self-published novel and I’ve been with him since. It took a little while to get our first deal, but it all worked out for the best in the end.
Will you continue to independently produce your own future books? Why or why not?
This is an interesting question. Most likely, yes. I like to have projects that belong completely to me. If done right, it can also pay better. But the majority of my projects are still destined for publishers. I have fourteen books in the works including a six book young adult series (the first book is finished), three more Jack Sigler (previous Chess Team) books for Thomas Dunne (this deal hasn’t been made yet, but it’s been proposed), a new three book series and two humor books. Any of these that doesn’t get picked up by a big publisher will most likely get self-published. I’m also publishing an iPhone App containing exclusive content AND am working on an iPhone game based on the Jack Sigler series. So I’m always going to be producing my own content, but it may or may not be in the form of a novel.