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Successful Authors Move Online

Successful Authors Move Online:  Interviews and Progress Reports

We will be interviewing authors
who have recently started selling their books on-line.  The idea is to gain
a realistic view of  what can be achieved through this medium  - so don’t
expect too many  "I made $10,000/week by selling my book online"- type

In this, the first of the series, we interview authors with already
well-established (offline) reputations.  These authors have already
published their books in print, and they are now finding ways to extend, and
profit from, their existing reputations via their online presence.

As non-fiction and fiction authors have different needs, we interview both
types of author here.


GENE ROYER (Non-Fiction)
Gene Royer is a consultant to governing boards of nonprofit and public
organizations.  He is currently using his web-site to sell his non-fiction
book, "School Board Leadership 2000, The Things Staff Didn't Tell You At

Gene uses his book primarily as a ‘sales tool’ for  his consultancy
services.  In his words,  "I don't make my living from selling books. I make
my living as a consultant--for which the book is a sales tool.  For that
reason, I don't need to sell 10,000 books a year.  1000-1200 a-year serves
me well."

Steve Miller and Sharon Lee are science fiction and fantasy authors, who
work as a husband and wife authoring partnership.  They have sold a number
of  their own titles via the web and have also used their web- site to
support the efforts of a publisher who is selling reprints of their novels.


WRITERFIND: Could you please describe the books you are selling on-line?

GENE ROYER: I sell only one book, "School Board Leadership 2000 The Things
Staff Didn't Tell You At Orientation."  It describes the governance model   I
teach to nonprofit and public governing boards.

The book has been in publication for almost three years, and it's in its
second printing (soon to be third); but we have only begun to market it
online in the last eight weeks.  Sales thus far have been encouraging
because we have been able to target our market; and we expect to sell many
copies from this very measured but specific online exposure.

STEVE MILLER:  Sure. We started by  selling Two Tales of Korval, a two story
chapbook. Since then we've been selling fiction chapbooks of between  48 and
64 pages,  based on the Liaden Universe stories, or on other  fantasy and
science fiction written by my wife and myself.

Our original Liaden Universe chapbook was published in November … Since then
we've added another Liaden Universe chapbook, several individual collections
of short stories, and a collection of our previously published Kinzel
fantasy series…

Additionally, we've acted as an additional advertising spot (and optional
address for orders) for "Plan B", our novel published in  hardback and
tradepaper by Meisha Merlin.


WRITERFIND:  How many books (approx) do you sell per month?

GENE ROYER:  Approximately 50 copies each month at $23.95 each delivered.

STEVE MILLER: This varies considerably.  When a new chapbook comes out we
sell  between  200  and 300 by advance order (usually over a 45 day to 60
day period) and then the books continue to sell as people discover us  on
the  net or see the mentions of the chapbooks in "Plan B".


WRITERFIND:  When selling any kind of information on the internet, it is
usual to provide a preview or  "free sample" of some kind to create interest
and convince potential buyers of your authority and 'credibility' as an
author.  What  is your equivalent of a 'free sample' (if any)?

GENE ROYER: I display excerpts from the book online and extend a money-back
guarantee.  I don't offer free samples of my book online.  I do so in
private communication with prospective clients, but it is not a matter of my
online distribution policy.

STEVE MILLER: We don't do much of this "proving ourselves" stuff, I'm
afraid.  We already have credibility with many of our readers: they've been
reading our Liaden Universe novels since 1988 and many of them are on our
Internet mailing list which has had over 100 members for several years now.
Our novel "Plan B" is on sale at, our chapbooks are also carried
by a number of the science fiction specialty shops in North America.


WRITERFIND: What did you do to publicise your books on-line?  What was most
effective? What was least effective?

GENE ROYER:  Search engines which are drawn to the meta tags of the website
(keywords as well as my own name and the subject of the book) are one way.
Since I know my market and can find it on the WWW, I search out send e-mail
directly to the parties who would become my buyers/clients.  It is hard to
say at this point which is the most effective because we've only been doing
it since January 11, 1999.  It appears to be about half-and-half.  This
means that the author has to be involved in selling the book.

STEVE MILLER: We depend a lot on our mailing list (actually there are two
now!) and our web site. I've tried mentions in "rec.arts.sf.announce" [a
newsgroup] but that  hasn't worked too well. A fairly useful advertising
tool is the .sig  file that both Sharon and I tune as we go about on the
Usenet. Being an active member of Usenet groups works as advertising much
better  than trying to drop a message into a group where you aren't known.


WRITERFIND: Any other comments or advice for other  authors would be

GENE ROYER: Before you put your book online with a bonafide bookseller, try
to sell it yourself through your own website as I do.  You will make more
profit from the book.   In my case, since I don't make my living selling
books, I can afford to let a third party handle the distribution (shipping
and handling) and pay them a percentage of the book’s selling price.


Nicole Bishop is the publisher of "Writerfind News", an ezine for professional writers and publishers which focuses on the internet. Subscribe at