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An Independent Author’s Path to Publishing Success on the Kindle January 22, 2013

Posted by rhoagenda in Rho Agenda Updates.

Since a number of readers have asked me about my initial experience publishing for the Kindle as an independent author, I decided to repost an article from April of 2012 where I discuss my experiences prior to signing with 47North.

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 Immune 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.



1. Andre Young - January 29, 2013

Outside of the “jack” prequel, is there a fourth Rho Agenda book planned?

rhoagenda - January 30, 2013

Hi Andre. I plan on doing a couple of post Rho Agenda follow up novels that look in on the surviving characters and the changed world in which they find themselves. I also want to do one set about 20 years in the future that will focus on Robby Gregory. Richard

2. Andrew Nye - February 3, 2013

Just wanted to let you know that I loved your books. Was a great read over the summer break (Australia). They flowed so well, that I came here to find out if you were going to be doing more.

Anyways, Here is one fan that will happily buy more of what you publish 😀

rhoagenda - February 3, 2013

Hi Andrew. Thanks for taking the time to post your comments and question. I’m glad you enjoyed my Rho Agenda trilogy. I’m working on a Jack Gregory prequel titled “Once Dead”. I am working to finish the draft by the end of April. After that the publication process takes a few months. I do plan on doing a couple of individual novels to follow up on some of the surviving characters from the Rho Agenda but am not sure about the schedule on that yet. Thanks again. Best, Richard

3. Elvis Michael - February 16, 2013

Nice blog post, congrats on your entire publishing experience. I have been relying on ebook publishing since 2011 to bring in some of my total income. It’s a real blessing to see my earnings increase a bit more every single month.

Back in December 2012 I co-wrote a compilation of short stories with a friend (packed into one book.) To our surprise, that book is now selling around 2,000 copies per month. I frequently disclose most of those earnings on my blog, in hopes of teaching and motivating other people.

The best advice I can give others is to never give up. It took many “bad books” before I finally started learning the ropes. Also, while it’s good to focus on your passion, sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and explore new (unfamiliar) subjects. Once you learn about these subjects, they will often become your passion later down the road anyway! So learn as much as you can about the ebook marketplace.

rhoagenda - February 16, 2013

Hi Elvis. Glad you had a similar experience. I hope many more can experience the power of the global marketplace … and do it for free.

4. Alessandro Federici - March 2, 2013

Richard, I also really enjoyed your story and I am looking forward to more!
Best regards,

rhoagenda - March 2, 2013

Thanks Alessandro. I appreciate you taking the time to post a comment and thank you for reading my Rho Agenda novels. Best, Richard

5. Cynde Roof - March 5, 2013

Well Congratulations Mr Phillips!!!! Just chanced by your story and glad I did. I am an artist that worked my way up and blazed a path to being in a Santa Fe gallery by just continuing to work smarter and keeping the faith. Good luck- PS – for some reason a novel is playing out in a Word Document on my computer! Honestly don’t know where it’s coming from but I’d be willing to try your path on Kindle. Thanks Again- C Roof

rhoagenda - March 5, 2013

Glad to hear that you’re taking the leap. Best of luck to you.

6. bberntson22 - May 27, 2013

It’s very encouraging to hear. I had some books up on KDP for over a year that didn’t do well, but I was a newbie to all of it. After revamping every tale, new covers, adding newer novels, and approaching marketing differently, I noticed one book did better in a matter of a week than all the others combined over the year. The numbers are still small, but you have to start somewhere, I think. And I have plenty of work behind me that I can still take chances on. Some of those sales occurred before I even marketed or had my free promotion days, which could possibly mean fans subscribing to when I release something new. Thanks for the article. It’s nice to hear. Good luck to you and your trilogy!

rhoagenda - May 27, 2013

Thanks Brandon. I’m glad you found it helpful or at least encouraging.

7. Chris - May 29, 2013

Great books and advice. Just finished the last of the three and looking forward to more.


rhoagenda - May 30, 2013

Thanks Chris. I’m happy that you enjoyed them. I’m just a few days away from finishing the draft for Once Dead, my Jack Gregory prequel. Then my editor gets to take a crack at it. I’ll post an update when that happens.

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