WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- If author Tina Folsom let big publishing stand in her way, she never would have become a millionaire.
In 2010, after more than 30 literary agents and publishers rejected Samson's Lovely Mortal, the first in her series about lusty vampires, the San Francisco romance writer decided to self-publish her book on Amazon.com .
Today, Folsom, 46, has made it e-big. She has generated at least $33,000 a month since December 2010 selling her full-length books, novellas and short stories online. In November 2011, when Folsom released Zane's Redemption, the fifth instalment in her vampire series, the book cracked the Top 10 for romance novels on iTunes and Barnesandnoble.com and was ranked No. 135 overall on Amazon.
Folsom, a former accountant and finance manager for the University of California-San Francisco, says she has made $1.1 million selling 450,000 copies of her books for as little as 99 cents each. Is it still her dream to land a major publisher?
"No, not really," she says. "I don't think they can offer me anything I can't do myself, and I hate to give up the control. I don't want them to change my books."
Gone is the stigma associated with self-publishing. Bestseller lists now are jammed with self-published titles, and traditional publishers hunt online for the next E.L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey) or Amanda Hocking (Trylle Trilogy). Therefore, many independent authors are no longer interested in signing with traditional publishers, particularly if they have a fan base and pocket most of their cash. It is an appealing prospect, even if, like the majority of self-published authors, you aren't a breakout success and only sell a few hundred or thousand copies.
Now, writers can digitally format their own books, buy stock photos as covers, and sell them to readers through a variety of online retailers as fast as they can crank them out. The money is pretty good, particularly as a side business. Amazon, for instance, pays 70 per cent on books priced $2.99 to $9.99 and 35 per cent on anything lower. Smashwords.com will publish your book for free and take 10 per cent of the book's price. Bigger online retailers, such as Kobo or Sony, take 30 per cent. But if you sell only through Smashwords' store, you retain the majority at 85 per cent.
Sky Luke Corbelli likes the immediacy of e-publishing. "If I finish the third book in my trilogy tonight, I can have it up on Amazon by tomorrow," says the 27-year-old Hayward, Calif., author of the sci-fi trilogy The Will of the Elements. "There's no publishing delay while I wait for someone to get back to me."
Amazon reviewers liken Corbelli's first two books, Wind-Scarred and Water-Seer, to the works of British fantasy heavy-hitters Terry Pratchett and Piers Anthony -- not bad for a full-time programmer who considers writing a hobby. His wife, a graphic designer, provides the cover art and serves as one of Corbelli's many editors and beta readers. He says he's so content now, a traditional publisher would have to offer him "a really, really good deal," complete with digital rights, to consider giving up control of his work.
"There's a global market out there that I can reach very easily on my own," says Corbelli, who, like many self-published authors, increases the price of his books as he publishes them. The first was free, and readers were hooked. The second cost $3.99. He plans to charge the same for the third, Child of Lightning. However, he says he doesn't care that much about money. "More than anything, I just want people to read the stories."
Indiereader.com founder Amy Edelman says traditional publishing is still very attractive to many independent authors. "It's sort of a validation of their writing," says Edelman, who started the site in 2008 as a consumer guide to self-published books and the people who write them. "If they've never had the experience of what a vanity publisher can offer them and Simon & Schuster comes knocking on their door, many are still willing to go."
-- Contra Costa Times
The following books are either self-published or began as self-published and have been featured recently among the top 30 New York Times bestsellers in fiction.
-- On the Island, by Tracey Garvis Graves
-- Bared to You, by Silvia Day
-- Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
-- Fifty Shades Freed, by E.L. James
-- Point of Retreat, by Colleen Hoover
-- Slammed, by Colleen Hoover
-- Beautiful Disaster, by Jamie McGuire
-- Playing for Keeps, by R.L. Mathewson
-- Training Tessa, by Lyla Sinclair
-- If You Were Mine, by Bella Andre