• Unknown Authors Need Help

Unknown Authors Need Help

The toughest part of any writing journey is being brutally honest with one’s own work and possibilities. There is a short list of elite authors with whom most of us battle for any piece of success. The big question for millions of writers is how to achieve the smallest bit of impact without driving our families into bankruptcy and jumping off a mental bridge.

Being an “unknown author,” I have dealt with this challenge for several years. I know there are other writers who have spent even more time trying to just forge a small loyal audience.

I’ve had that Oprah dream too like many authors. You know. The one where she is introducing and crowning your book as the next great celebration of literary lordship. It’s one of the best dreams I’ve ever had. But, let’s be honest, Oprah Winfrey isn’t calling me or you. So how can an unknown author build any audience among the blockbuster writers like Gillian Flynn, James Patterson, and Nicholas Sparks?

Well, first of all, it starts with hard work and the price of the book itself. I’ve realized this after writing the last book of my trilogy, The Greatest Gift. The first book of the series, Necessary Heartbreak, was published by Simon & Schuster back in 2010. The price of the book has always been around $10, far higher than other books by most unknown authors. Necessary Heartbreak has never sold well.

Everybody’s Daughter, book two which was published by The Story Plant, has had moderate success when it was either promoted or the price was around $2.99. Once it was elevated above $5, the rankings tanked.

The results for The Greatest Gift should be known once the book is out there for a few months starting October 14th. I’m hoping the price is competitive.

The reality for me, like millions of other unknown authors, is we can only survive by selling our books at Wal-mart prices. We are slaves to our trade. There are too many aspiring authors willing to peddle their material for the price of a small pack of gum.

We don’t value our work much, do we?

But who can blame any author for keeping their price low to reach a bigger audience?

It is all about supply and demand. I understand this from my economic college courses. But are authors selling themselves short? Most of us work very hard, spend money even for our own editing services, and work tirelessly to perfect our craft. We spend countless hours supporting one another too.

I have been fortunate to have all three books of the trilogy produced by traditional publishers. This has saved me great expenses. But, like all unknown authors, I have had to dedicate hundreds of more hours to marketing and promoting.

How wonderful would it be to just dedicate every hour to writing?

What about self-publishing?

Self-publishing does have its advantages. I finished up my fourth novel, The Second World. I consider it my finest work, an issue-oriented story with a rich and deep plot. Should I consider the self-publishing option? The main reason to go this route is that I can control the price. It’s an intriguing option, one I thought I wouldn’t have considered until recently.

I’m honest with myself and the possibilities. Reality stares me in the face. It won’t silence my pen though. But what I have realized is I can’t compete unless the price of my books is low, in line with the many millions of books written by other unknown authors. These are the cold hard facts for me right now in my career.

What about you? Do you feel the stress of making such decisions?

What is frustrating is I know many of us work hard to make sure the quality of the stories is high. Each project requires tremendous amount of hours.

We writers are certainly underestimating the value of our work.

But I know I’m not James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks or Gillian Flynn. There’s a narrow window for unknown authors to slip through and the chances are slim.

I’m Michael John Sullivan.  And I’m addicted to writing. I’m not ready to put my pen down.

Are you?

I hope not.

Keep dreaming and plotting.

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Just make sure the price is right.


10 thoughts on “Unknown Authors Need Help

    1. Michael john Sullivan Post author

      Thanks Kyrian. I am at a crossroads now with my next novel. I’m not sure what is the best road to take since I can’t control the price. I know my books won’t sell if priced above five dollars. I also understand a traditional publisher needs to have the price at a certain level so it can retrieve the investment it makes.

  1. livelaughloveromance@gmail.com'Laurie Kozlowski

    This post is thought-provoking. I’ve also just read about an author saying she has found many self-pubbed authors are pricing thier books too *low*, free, or putting them on sale too soon, before 6 months of having it published. She wrote full length novels and prices them no lower than $1.99–under that, their is little or now return on investment.

    I do think pricing plays a huge role. Another successful self-pubbed author, Beverly Kindall, writes full length novels and is known for through surveys bc she has built a huge reader following. I read through her fb servey on how much readers would pay for an ebook, and about 60 people commented…most readers, I noticed, will pay no more than a penny a page. Many of them said they would pay more, but no more than $3.99. The conflict was, why should they pay for an ebook, when they could pick up a print copy for around the same price?

    Many traditional published authors also self pub, but it is something to think about…how much do we value our work? Or maybe, is there another genre that may have more promise…where I’m also interested in exploring…that may be better marketable.

    There is no doubt in my mind, the writing and authors voice ‘sells’ itself, ultimately. But whether self-pubbed or tradional pubbed, the marketing will be forever. And enjoying the connections and interactions with readers is a big deal. They trust the writers to have genuine motives and interests outside of the writing process, to connect with them as human beings, on a real level.

    The stress is there, but I think it has directed my desicions and has spurred growth.

    1. Michael john Sullivan Post author

      Thanks for those wonderful examples, Laurie. Certainly each writer has a different journey. I’ve been very fortunate to have the support of traditional publishers. My biggest concern is will I have to continue to have prices low to effectively gain an audience.

  2. susannahgautier@gmail.com'Susannah Gautier

    Great post, Michael.
    I agree, visibility is the biggest obstacle- I realized this after my latest promotion which sold me quite a few books, but then afterwards, everything goes flat. I read the K boards a lot of it is encouraging. Sometimes, it just takes that one book that hits and then it sells your backlist. The pricing thing too has irked me. The free and 99 cent books really hurt Indies and small publishers. The best thing “they” say is to keep on writing more books. I do believe strongly in promo now and would like to try and promo at least one of my books each month. The issue I have run into is the best promo sites want books that are discounted, ie, 99 cents, and that is just not worth the price of the ads. There have been times I felt – why am I doing this? I felt like quitting when sales fell to near zero in August after the inception of KU.. But a writer, a true writer has story telling in their blood. It is as impossible to quit writing as it is to stop breathing. So, we move forward and believe that success is only around the corner. And really, you know, it is just around the corner 🙂

    1. Michael john Sullivan Post author

      I agree about how the backlist is lifted when you do strike a big audience, Susannah. It’s why we all need to continue to write. But as a good friend says, write because you love to write. Keep the passion.

  3. iamatwin77@aol.com'LInda Rahaim

    Mike I bought your book for a little over 10.00 and I dont care if it was 30.00! I still would buy it. That good of a book!! 😀

  4. Sunflower05@comcast.net'B. J. Robinson

    I went from traditionally publishing my books with a small publisher, four with Desert Breeze Publishing, to self publishing, and I love it. I do not regret it one iota, and I am doing better that way, being able to control my price, my covers, etc. I have one indie novel that has done better than all of my other books and another one that has also made the best-sellers list on Amazon on the paid side and continues to do so. I published one novel last December without ever offing it to a publisher, and I’m glad I did since it has been on Amazon’s best-selling list since publication. The second one was published around March, if I recall correctly, and it also has made the best-seller’s paid list, but has not done as well as the first one, It is not only price that determines the success, but subject matter. I have never given away either book or even sold them for 99 cents or reduced their prices. Both have been on the paid at their regular prices since publication, but they are stand-alone books and not a serial. I have found that my stand-alines have done better than serials I’ve tried. I have not had the same success with my serials, though one did do well in the beginning, but it slacked off. I will continue to self publish. I love being able to pick my own cover, set my own price, set my own deadlines, and write my own books. I would never have known I could do it on my own if a big-name traditional publisher had snatched up my best-selling novel. Now, that I realize I can, I no longer submit my work to traditional publishers. I just publish it on my own. I have improved my writing since my first books and plan to go back and revise those one day when I can find the time. I love writing and self publishing and only use Amazon Kindle’s program. I love it and Amazon. I am glad I didn’t give my book away to a traditional publisher because it’s been my best one yet.

    1. Michael john Sullivan Post author

      I have followed your books Barbara. I also see you working very hard promoting and marketing. You have to be one of the hardest working authors I know. Congratulations to your success. Every bit has to do with your talent and hard work.


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