Canadian novelist finds success by self-publishing online
Angela Mulholland, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, April 16, 2012 8:55AM EDT
When traditional book publishers refused to publish Canadian author Shadonna Richards' books, she decided to publish them herself on the Web - and found a huge audience and incredible success.
Richards is now Amazon's #1 Kindle Bestselling Author, with 110,000 downloads to her credit. She's doing so well, she's currently earning about $6,000 a month from her writings.
Richards, a part-time nurse, says she's always wanted to be an author.
"Since I was a little girl, I would pen stories," Richards told CTV's Canada AM Monday. "But I seriously pursued it about five years ago when I started submitting my manuscripts to all sorts of publishers and agents."
But those publishers and agents weren't interested. Richards estimates she's probably received about 200 rejection letters over the years. But she says she stayed motivated after hearing that J.K. Rowling, the author of the wildly popular "Harry Potter" series, also faced numerous rejections before she hit success.
Then she read about Amanda Hocking, an American author who also was being rejected but who decided to self-publish her books through Amazon.com's Kindle ebook service. In her first two years of publishing online, Hocking earned more than $2 million.
"So I thought, ‘Well maybe I can give that a try'," Richards said.
At first, Richards offered her motivational books for sale, but they didn't do well. Then she decided to sell the romance novels she had been working on. That's when she struck gold. In the first day alone, she sold seven copies. Word then spread through a few book bloggers.
"They talked about my book, ‘An Unexpected Bride,' and before you know it, 43,000 people in seven months have purchased this book, from all around the world," Richards said.
Self-published authors sell their ebooks for between 99 cents and $2.99 – a pittance compared to the $30 or so charged on paper books at your local bookstore. But authors stand to gain a much greater proportion of the royalties than they'd get from a traditional publisher, Richards explains.
Since her first book last August, Richards has published two more: "The Jilted Bride" and "The Matchmaker Bride." They've done so well that in the last three months, she's made $6000 a month.
"It's amazing. It's actually more than what I made as a nurse. So I'm able to look after my family," says the mother of one son.
The money has come in rather handy, since Richards has been off work for the last year with an on-the-job injury. Self-publishing has been her "saving grace," she says.
"Harlequin and all the other publishers and agents who rejected me, they really did me a favour," says Richards.
There are a few tricks to being successful at self-publishing, Richards says. "It starts with writing a really, really good book," she says.
Then, it's important to hire a professional editor to polish the story. You also need to learn how to promote your book well on the site.
"Have a great cover," Richards advises. "I actually did the covers for all of my books. I guess a lot of people do judge books by their covers.
Having a great blurb to market the book is also important. Richards believes that what sold "An Unexpected Bride"' was the two-line blurb she chose. It reads: "Emma Wiggins is about to marry her heart-stopping, gorgeous boss, CEO Evan Fletcher, in seven days -- too bad he doesn't know it yet!"
Then, staying committed to your writing is also key.
"My passion is writing. It's therapeutic. It's my life and I've been doing it all my life. And I just believed in myself," Richards says.
Though she still loves helping people and will likely return to nursing once she recovers from her injury, Richards she's also hooked on writing.
"I love the opportunity, I love the fan letters, I love everything," she says.