A few months ago, I published How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers which highlights a few highly successful independent authors who are using “rapid release” publishing (among other tactics) to sell thousands of books online. Many of them are earning six-figure incomes. One of the early pioneers earned seven figures in her first year. I’ve since come across an article from 2016, titled “James Patterson Has a Big Plan for Small Books,” discussing how one of the world’s most famous trade-published authors is using some of the same tactics to sell more books to an extended audience:
…Mr. Patterson is after an even bigger audience. He wants to sell books to people who have abandoned reading for television, video games, movies and social media.
So how do you sell books to somebody who doesn’t normally read?
Mr. Patterson’s plan: make them shorter, cheaper, more plot-driven and more widely available.
In June, Mr. Patterson will test that idea with BookShots, a new line of short and propulsive novels that cost less than $5 and can be read in a single sitting. Mr. Patterson will write some of the books himself, write some with others, and hand pick the rest. He aims to release two to four books a month through Little, Brown, his publisher. All of the titles will be shorter than 150 pages, the length of a novella.
This article states that Patterson created the idea of BookShots to try to capture the growing number of people who just don’t have/make the time read traditional 300- to 400-page novels anymore; but, considering he’s offering these novellas in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats, I’m willing to bet Patterson also sees how BookShots can help him to monopolize on today’s digital selling trends. The fact is, the best way to sell a book online is to publish another book. When done on a consistent basis, as the above-mentioned independent authors do, it can successfully ping both Amazon’s and Google’s algorithms to place an author higher and higher up in the rankings. The higher your rank, the more books you will sell. Online selling has more to do with indifferent computerized processes than publicity or popularity.
I also see Patterson’s BookShots concept as a form of truce between Hachette Book Group (which publishes his books in the USA through its Little, Brown imprint) and Amazon after their epic battle a few years ago. To refresh your memory, Amazon believed that all ebooks should be priced low all the time. The Amazon Books Team went so far as to send out a mass email to all its ebook publishers seeking support of its stance. Below is an excerpt from that email which was also published by Dave Smith for BusinessInsider.com in August of 2014:
Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year. With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores.…
…Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book.
Skip ahead a couple of years, and James Patterson announced his plan to publish cheaper BookShots novellas to reach the same audience Amazon was talking about. In the 2016 article, it states:
In some ways, Mr. Patterson’s effort is a throwback to the dime novels and pulp fiction magazines that were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, when commercial fiction was widely available in drugstores.
There’s the truce. In November of 2014, Hachette was victorious in negotiating a deal that allowed trade publishers the continued right to dictate their own retail prices for the books they produce (as it should be, in my opinion). But Amazon got through in some ways, didn’t it? The company planted a seed with the traditional publishers that obviously grew. And now James Patterson and his team write BookShots.
The independent authors mentioned earlier may not be as famous as James Patterson. Just his name alone commands an automatic audience to sell all the BookShots he publishes each year with ease. But, as mentioned earlier, many are now selling thousands of books online each year using the exact tactics that are detailed inside How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers. I now do the same and have seen my personal blog users increase from 1,000 to over 5,000 in one year. I’ve also watched my personal monthly book downloads increase from under 5 books per month to 300+ books per month on average. Now you know what I mean when I say it’s unecessary to add a bunch of extra “fluff” into a book to get it to a certain word- or page-count to make it more saleable. That’s irrelevant in this day and age. You can sell just as many—if not more—books by writing and publishing BookShots like James Patterson does, whether you write fiction or non-fiction.
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