What’s Possible

This month the husband and wife writing team Ilona Andrews self-published a title, Blood Heir, that ties back to one of their incredibly successful trade-published series about Kate Daniels and an Atlanta with waves of magic.

As I write this the ebook is ranked #167 in the Amazon U.S. store selling in ebook at a price of $6.99 and the paperback is ranked #4,403 selling at a price of $14.39. The book is available wide, meaning not just on Amazon, and is doing equally well on the other major retailers.

The book made #5 on the New York Times bestseller list which is almost unheard of for a self-published title. That’s also about as well as a title can perform. And the key is that it was self-published. Being able to hit that level of performance without using a publisher is HUGE.

I’ve been following the Ilona Andrews blog for a while now and it’s clear that they have an incredibly devoted fanbase. As I write this there are already 3,662 ratings on Amazon and the average rating is 4.8. Every time they post on their blog about publishing anything new, self-published or trade-published, a large number of people say, “Please!”, “Yes!”, “I’ll read anything by you.”

This was not the first title or series they’ve self-published. They’ve been hybrid for a while now. But I think this was a turning point and that they may very well focus on self-publishing for the time being. They’ve certainly indicated that’s the case for the next year.

It’ll be interesting to see how this evolves. For me one of the benefits of trade-publishing is on the print side. For example, Ilona Andrews has a series they’re currently wrapping up that’s published by Avon in a mass market paperback size for $7.99. Self-publishing is currently not capable of matching that price point without a print run. (Same with YA print. The price points they can offer books at are well below what I can get from POD printing.)

I know on the trade side they’ve been talking about the demise of mass market paperbacks forever, but for me as a reader that’s how I find a lot of my authors. I’ll happily spend $8 on a first-in-series title. $16? That’s harder to justify. For now it looks like their readers have followed them to the higher price point in print but I wonder if long-term that may slow down.

For Blood Heir they’re doing print on demand through Ingram, but theoretically they could do their own print run on a mass market paperback because unlike most self-published authors they know they have the numbers to justify the up-front cost.

If they go down that road things could get very, very interesting. So something to keep an eye on if you weren’t aware of it already.

(And man do I love those Luisa Pressler covers. I saw her work on Twitter a couple years back and reached out about a possible cover but she was just a little out of my reach at the time and I’m sure is completely out of my reach now. But I love her style so much…)

Author: M.L. Humphrey

M.L. Humphrey is a former securities regulator, registered stockbroker (although only briefly), and consultant on regulatory and risk-related matters for large financial institutions with expertise in the areas of anti-money laundering regulation, mutual funds, and credit rating agencies. Since 2013 M.L. has also been a published author under a variety of pen names and across a variety of subjects and genres. You can contact M.L. at mlhumphreywriter [at] gmail.com.

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