So he did.
“I started by reading some sample screenplays, I also bought a book and downloaded some shareware screenplay formatting software and got to work. It took about a month to crank out a somewhat decent first draft, but I did it.”
But heck if he knew what he was going to do with it.
So he entered a few screenplay contests. Got a script consultant to help improve his work. Entered even more contests. “With each contest I waited and waited to see the results… I lived and died by those silly little expensive contest results.” Although he didn’t win any of them, he managed to make it to the quarters in a few. He was ready for the next step: querying agents.
No bites. So, he “basically stopped writing.”
How Luke Got Started Self-Publishing
In early 2010, Luke couldn’t help but notice how ebooks and self-publishing were increasingly on the radar. Amazon’s announcement that it was paying a 70% royalty certainly piqued his interest. “I spent a couple months adapting my second screenplay into a novel and set out to learn how to format it correctly and make it available for sale.” Although he says he made a number of mistakes and wasted a decent amount of money, he saw it for the “incredible learning experience” that it was.
“I hired an editor, commissioned a photographer to shoot a picture for the cover, built a website for the book, created a book trailer and finally released my first novel Shrinkage (a comedic look at male enhancement gone horribly wrong)…” That was November 2010. “The book didn’t exactly fly off the shelves. I sold a handful of copies the first couple weeks and experimented with different price points, but nothing worked all that well.” Even after writing an article for Askmen.com — which had 5 million monthly visitors — the book’s sales didn’t take off.
In the summer of 2011, Luke had finished and released the first book in his Friends With… Benefits Series. He also developed an Amazon contact while trying to fix some category issues on his product page. The guy suggested that Luke try a free promotion. This was before KDP Select and its freebie options, and with Luke’s go-ahead, the guy “flipped the switch” to have Shrinkage offered for free for a while. “The book took off like crazy. I’m not sure how, but back then there were so many fewer titles free at any particular time so I suppose it was a little easier to stand out. I’m sure that played a big part in the success of my promotion which drove my title to reach number 2 overall on the free list.”
In three days Shrinkage was downloaded over 20,000 times, and Luke sold 2,000 copies in a month, helping to boost the sales number of his second book too. In a few months, sales started to taper off, but Luke pounded out the second series installment, then the third. By then, Amazon KDP Select had just launched, and encouraged by the great results he got from his first free promotion, Luke put all his four titles into the new program.
And boy did it work. Luke reports that he sold around 33,000 books in 2012, and he’s already equaled that the first six months of this year. “I’ve sold more books than I ever thought I would. I’ve also had a taste of unbelievable success after an astonishingly successful free promotion, a month where my sales doubled and I sold over 10,000 books. Of course, things got back to normal, but it was fun while it lasted and I hope to get back to that level and beyond at some point.”
Self-Publishing Tips and Observations
- “Instead of hiring a photographer I should have found a good reasonably priced designer to put together a cover.”
- “I wish I skipped creating the book trailer — sure, it was fun to put together, but in the end it was a waste of money.”
- “I should have focused less on trying to get online magazines to promote my book and more on book bloggers and social media.”
- “I recommend writing a series — a large group of readers love to read about the same characters.”
- “Offer your books for .99 or free… I recommend two services for getting out the word: Ereader News Today — their Bargain and Free book promotions work very well — and Bookbub also is a great service which isn’t cheap, but in my experience has always more than paid for itself.”
- “If you do offer your books for free, be prepared for those ‘I’m so glad it was free’ awful reviews. I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate those reviews. OK, so you didn’t like the book… great, no book is for everyone — tell us what you didn’t like about it, but don’t minimize the author’s hard work — we don’t care that you got it for free and I’ve got to believe that six hours of anyone’s time is worth more than .99 or 2.99. If you start reading a book and you absolutely hate it, put it down and do something else — read another book, watch some TV, turn to the person next to you and say something, anything… Life’s too short to spend it reading a book you hate. Okay, I got that off my chest.“