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An Independent Author’s Path to Publishing Success on the Kindle April 10, 2012

Posted by rhoagenda in Rho Agenda Updates.

Since a number of readers have expressed interest in the process of going from self-published to traditionally published, I will post a series of articles on this topic as I progress toward the publication date.

As most of you know, I originally self-published the first two novels of my Rho Agenda trilogy, so I will begin with my experiences there.  A year ago, I gave a talk to the Arizona Authors Association about the daunting path independent authors  face in trying to bring their work to a broad readership and why I believe self publishing for the Amazon kindle offers the first significant break from that catch 22.

When I finished writing The Second Ship, my first Rho Agenda Novel, I encountered the typical obstacles independent authors face.   You can’t get your books in bookstores, other than a few local stores, without a major traditional publisher.  You can’t get a major publisher without an agent with a working relationship with that publisher.  When you try to get an agent, your manuscript is buried in tens of thousands of other submissions to that agency.  You might get lucky in this process and have a great agent read your work and like it, but most likely you’ll never make it past the electronic trash receptacle.

After beating my head against that wall, I decided to try self-publishing on the kindle, publishing The Second Ship and Immune for the eBook reader.  At first, I sold only a few copies per month, but that continued to rise and as it did, something happened that I believe is due to the advantages only publishing for the Amazon Kindle offers authors, a categorization system that helps people find works by new authors.  My books began to break into the top 100 bestsellers in a couple of the sub categories under science fiction, specifically the techno-thriller and high-tech sci-fi categories.   When that happened, a lot more people started finding my novels and they continued to rise in those best seller lists.

As The Second Ship and Wormhole broke into the top ten in those sci-fi subcategories, they also broke into the top one hundred best sellers in the larger Science Fiction category for the kindle, followed by an appearance in the top 100 best sellers in Science Fiction on all of Amazon.  Once again, this brought a lot of new readers, such that in January of 2011 I found myself with the #1 and #2 bestsellers in the broader Science Fiction and Fantasy category on Amazon.com.

With the draft of my third book in The Rho Agenda trilogy complete in February of 2011, I had a difficult decision to make.  Should I continue to utilize the approach that had been so successful or should I try again for an agent with big connections to the publishing industry?  There are costs with making that change: I would have to give up control of the publishing schedule, I would have to take a much smaller percentage of royalties than the 70 percent Amazon pays kindle direct publishers like myself, and I would have to pay a percentage of those royalties to my agent.  On the plus side, the traditional arrangement offered me much broader distribution channels, a world-class editing staff, some of whom had New York Times bestsellers of their own, and a world-class marketing platform.  After weighing my options, I selected the traditional route to have a chance at bringing my novels to a much larger international market and elected to sign on with a well-known literary agency, Janklow & Nesbit, who were now interested in representing me.

Then the waiting game began as my agent pitched the trilogy to multiple publishing houses, reaching agreement in principle with 47 North and then waiting again as the attorneys worked out the fine details of the agreement.  This culminated with me signing with 47 North in March 2012, granting them the rights to publish the entire Rho Agenda trilogy in print, eBook, and audiobook formats in the U.S. and internationally.

This brings me back to the topic I began this article discussing: Is there a successful publishing path an independent author can take, other than relying solely on luck?  I believe there is.  Even though I self-published in multiple eBook formats, publishing for the kindle was by far the most successful.  There are reasons why Amazon’s system works far better for independent authors.

#1 Amazon has a great system for allowing readers to find your eBooks, a system of categories and subcategories plus the biggest eBook marketplace in the world.  You may not be on any Barnes & Noble bookshelves but your work is on the shelf in the biggest bookstore in the world.

#2 It doesn’t cost you anything.  Authors just set up a kindle direct publishing account and enter some bank account information to let Amazon make direct deposits and you get paid two months after the month in which the sales occur.  You can track all your sales through Amazon’s online reports.

#3 It’s easy.  You can follow the online instructions for converting a Word document. Upload it.  Then use the available tools to preview how the book looks as an eBook.  Set your pricing, publish, and a couple of days later it shows up as available.  People worry about making mistakes, but don’t.  If you need to update something or change your pricing, you can do that at any time.  (NOTE: That doesn’t mean you don’t need to use the best editor you can afford before publication.)

#4 Through the free Kindle App, kindle books are available for almost every mobile or computing device.

If you’ve written a work of fiction or non-fiction, I encourage you to take the plunge and publish your work for the Amazon Kindle.

Best of luck to all of you who may be thinking about publishing your own works.


In coming articles, I will discuss the 47 North publication process as I work my way through it.




1. Marlena B. Beal - April 12, 2012

Excellent article and very informative. I found it most helpful as I struggled with the decision to publish on Kindle or keep waiting until I could afford to self-publish or hope one day the hundreds of literary agents not picking up new authors would take me on. Your information suggests there is at least a viable doorway for new authosand I applaude you for your willingness to share this valuable information and hope for those of us who are truly devoted to the written word.

rhoagenda - April 12, 2012

Thank you Marlena. I hope you find publishing for the kindle readers an easy and enjoyable experience.

2. Anna Church (@HugABug) - January 22, 2013

Thank you for writing a very detailed and informative article. It makes me feel better about putting my 3 published children’s books on Kindle.

rhoagenda - January 22, 2013

Very good. I wish you all the success in the world.

3. alexcanton1 - February 3, 2013

Stepping up and doing it! Thanks Richard.

rhoagenda - February 3, 2013

My pleasure.

4. D.A. Miller - May 22, 2013

Very good article! Been looking on internet for several small pieces of information that your article provided. I was sitting on a trilogy I wrote several years ago–I didn’t know what to do with them. When my brother read the article about KDP, I was skeptical. But I researched it, modified my script to kindle format, made some cover art, and uploaded. So, Tears of the Exile by D.A. Miller went live just last week. However, I know that two obstacles still stand in my way: #1: with kindle being free to publish, many “authors” out there who wouldn’t have passed 3rd grade english are publishing their “work”. And #2: I believe sci-fi is probably one of the hardest genres to break into. Sorry, didn’t mean to ramble. But I did have a question for you: any suggestions for successful use of free promotion days? or any suggestions on how to spread the word about free promotion days? I know I have a good trilogy here. I just need to figure out how to effectively spread the word about it. Thanks!

rhoagenda - May 22, 2013

Thank you. I like the cover art. I think you’ll find that making it available through the Kindle Owners Lending Library is a great thing. Kindle Prime members can borrow it for free and you still get paid a nice royalty. I wouldn’t recommend a free promotion. A 99 cent promotion should do the trick and you’ll still make 34 cents a copy. As for how to spread the word, I don’t have a lot of suggestions. Most of the stuff I tried just didn’t work very well. Eventually people started finding my novels and recommending them to friends and they started working their way onto some of the Amazon best seller lists. Then more people found them. It didn’t happen immediately. I’d just say, keep writing and publishing. By the time you hit a million words written, it won’t be an issue.

D.A. Miller - May 22, 2013

Thanks for the fast response, Richard–much appreciated! And thanks for the tips. I’ll try the .99 cent promotion and see if friends and family can spread the word (good pun, huh?) through facebook. As for reaching a million words, I’m halfway there. I wish you the best of luck with your future novels.

(P.S.) Thanks for the comment on the cover art. I had 2 people lined up to make my cover–both fell through, so I had to figure that out myself. Got lots of feedback from friends and family, which really helped. Helps the confidence level for the second book in my trilogy that i’ll be releasing after i copyedit it…probably two months from now.

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