peeps: Sam Torode
Sam Torode is the author of The Dirty Parts of the Bible: A Novel, a semifinalist for the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. He is also the author of The Book of Craw (poems related to the novel), and a more serious biblical study, The Song of Songs.
A Nashville, Tennessee, writer, artist and book designer, Sam is no stranger to the publishing arts — it began way back in 1990 when he was only in the 8th grade and drew a comic book, Xeroxed copies, bound with staples and sold to his friends for 25¢ each. By the time he was a senior in college in 98, his publishing adventures became more sophisticated, involving the hiring of a newspaper printer to pump out a paperback-bound collection of his comic strips, still marketed to friends and family, but for a more worldly $10 a pop.
He was on his way! It was time to get serious…
How Sam’s Self-Publishing Enterprise Progressed
With his ex-wife as his business and creative partner at the time, he published his next two books for the religious market. His products were hardcovers, warehoused and sold to bookstores through an independent distributor. Sam wanted full control over the process, “and more than the 10% in royalties publishers offered.” And he would have gotten that… had it not been “a financial disaster in every way.” It culminated in a warehouse fire that destroyed hundreds of his uninsured books.
With that experience likely permanently branded into his psyche, when Sam finished Dirty Parts, he was “eager to sign with a traditional publisher.” Well, it was turned down by around a hundred publishers, despite the best efforts of a respected New York agent.
Sam was close to giving up on the book when he entered it in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards competition, “and then uploaded the Word file and my cover design to this newfangled thing called the Kindle store” soon after. Sales were slow until January 2011, then things started to rapidly turn around! “They began to snowball,” Sam says, “thanks to good reviews, low price (99¢), an association with a popular book set in the same time period (Water for Elephants), and all the new Kindles opened that Christmas.”
Dirty Parts is still going strong today. “It continues to attract new readers and reviews,” Sam reports, “and I still couldn’t be more surprised, given my background in — and love for — printed books. I’m a reluctant convert to ebooks, but they’ve opened up a whole new world of opportunity for me and all self-publishers. Best of all — no more warehouse fires!”
- “Devour the blogs of Joe Konrath and David Gaughran.”
- “Hire a good freelance cover designer and ebook formatter (if you’re not skilled at graphic design).”
- “Don’t be too proud for the 99¢ price tag; increase to $2.99 or more only after you’ve attracted sales and reviews at the lower price.”
- “Consider joining Amazon’s KDP Select program, which despite one major drawback — your book must be exclusive to Kindle — has been more than worth it for me.”
- “Above all, you’ve got to write a good book, one that you’d love to read if someone else had written it. There was a ‘Kindle gold rush’ a couple years ago, where some poorly-written self-published books were selling just because they were 99¢ — but those days are gone.”