The Kindle Direct Publishing Newsletter just ran an interview with Colleen Hoover, the author of three wildly successful independently published ebooks. The interview was quite an eye-opener. Hoover explained how her first two books attracted the interest of a Big Literary Agency (because they were selling), which in turn sold her print rights to a Big Publisher (who gave her dinky $7.99 mass market paperbacks), some foreign rights, and two film options.

When it came time to publish her third book, Hoover considered going the traditional publishing route. She certainly had the connections. After graciously demurring that her experience with the Big Publisher had been “good,” she decided to publish the third book as an independent ebook. (Full disclosure: I haven’t read the books; this is not an endorsement.)

What?!! Is not signing with a Big Agency and selling to a Big Publisher every author’s fondest dream come true?

Back in the dark ages (pre-2010 or B.E., Before Ereaders)? Of course.

But now? Perhaps not.

Here’s how the traditional publishing business has worked for perhaps the past century. You need to sign with a literary agent. Your literary agent submits your book to an editor. The editor decides whether your book is marketable and makes an offer for an advance based on that assessment. The literary agent collects the advance from the publisher, takes his 15% commission, and sends the rest to you. What does “marketable” mean? Whether your book fits into a category and how much money the editor believes your book will earn. Which is fair enough. Publishing is a business, not a charity.

The advance may amount to ten percent of what the Publisher hopes to make, and, for that amount of money, you sign over a bundle of rights. Print rights have always been in the bundle and, as of about ten years ago, digital rights have been, too. Ten years ago is still B.E., but Big Publishers were beginning to suspect something could be up about digital rights and began to claim them.

When you accept the advance, you sign over virtually all control over your book, including the cover art, distribution, and marketing. If the publisher believes it won’t make that much money from your book, it will do virtually nothing to promote your book. You’re on your own.

Your royalties on a print book are typically 7 to 10 %. A $10 book will earn 70 cents to a buck per unit. Royalties are amassed by the publisher and debited against the advance paid to you. Any royalties in excess of the advance are paid to the agent, who collects his 15%, and disperses the rest to you every six months. How you survive during that six months is on you.

Your royalties on a digital book are typically 25%, which sounds better than the print royalties. But, wait. The publisher already has the digital file for producing the print edition, plus the cover. An ebook requires no paper or ink, no shipping boxes, no postage, no warehouse personnel. Unlike distributing print books, which involves all sorts of costs, worldwide ebook distribution is virtually free.

I’m guessing Hoover sat down and crunched the publishing numbers when she was considering how to publish her third book.

Big Publishers, just like independent authors, distribute and sell ebooks through retailers like Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Ebook retailers take 30% off the top to support their websites, which is fair. An independent author enjoys a free product page for her book, free secure payment processing, and other promotional perks, just like a Big Publisher.

There the resemblance ends.

Your $10 ebook under the control of a Big Publisher earns $7 ($10 minus the E-tailer’s 30%). Of that $7, the publisher takes 75%, leaving $1.75, which (if the book has earned out the advance) it pays to your literary agent. The agent collects his 15% and disperses to you $1.48.

Suppose, on the other hand, you’ve written a wonderful book on your own time (you’re on your own with a Big Publisher, too), carefully edited it, formatted it as an ebook, and produced cover art. This is not at all to minimize what I’ve just described. Each of those steps, beginning with the book itself, takes a lot of commitment, knowledge, time, and effort. But suppose you’ve invested the time and effort, and you’re ready to publish.

Your $10 ebook will earn $7. That’s it! No one else claims their cut. And the $7 will be paid every month. Actually, there’s a two-month grace period, but once you start selling, the funds are deposited directly into your bank account every month.

Kind of like a real job, instead of a publishing path fraught with peril.

Think about it. $7 versus $1.48. You’d have to sell five books through your Big Publisher and Big Literary Agent to earn the same amount. And you’d have to wait six months to get paid.

This is not to say that ebooks are a get-rich-quick scheme or don’t involve plenty of perils of their own. If you don’t love the written word, if you haven’t read widely when you were a child and don’t read widely today, if you don’t have something to say or an urgent story to tell, please do not publish an ebook thinking you’ll make a fast buck. That’s not what writing is all about.

I consider writing a career, an obsession, a craft, a Calling. I’ve devoted my life to writing.

But no wonder Big Publishing is being turned upside down—and turned down, in Hoover’s case—and independent authors are soaring to new heights of empowerment and success.

About Lisa Mason

I’m the author of eight novels, including SUMMER OF LOVE (published by Bantam, a division of Random House), a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book and Philip K. Dick Award finalist, and THE GOLDEN NINETIES (Bantam, a division of Random House), a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book.

I published my first story, “ARACHNE,” in Omni and have since published short fiction in magazines and anthologies worldwide, including Omni, Full Spectrum, Universe, Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Unique, Transcendental Tales, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Immortal Unicorn, Tales of the Impossible, Desire Burn, Fantastic Alice, The Shimmering Door, Hayakawa Science Fiction Magazine, Unter Die Haut, and others. My stories have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.

Visit me on Amazon, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you like a work, please stop by Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble and “Like” it, add stars, write a review, and spread the word to your friends. Your participation really matters.

Thank you for your readership!

New! Romantic suspense fans! Celestial Girl, Book 1: The Heartland (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is on Nook and Kindle! Also on UK Kindle.

If you love romantic suspense or historical mystery, this is both. Please give Lily Modjeska a try!

Coming soon! Book 2: Jewel of the Golden West, and Book 3: The Celestial Kingdom in affordable installments. The Omnibus Edition will include all three books.

Lily is a typical woman in Toledo, Ohio, 1896: repressed and dependent on her husband. But when Johnny Pentland is found dead at a notorious brothel, Lily discovers her husband is not the man she thought he was.

Pursued by Pentland’s enemies, Lily embarks on a journey that will take her across the country to San Francisco and across the ocean to Imperial China as she unravels a web of murder and corruption reaching from the opium dens of Chinatown to the mansions of Nob Hill.

Her journey becomes one of the heart when she crosses paths with Jackson Tremaine, a debonair, worldly-wise physician. Lily and Jackson begin a conflicted, passionate relationship as they encounter the mysterious Celestial Girl and her dangerous entourage.

Urban fantasy fans! THE GARDEN OF ABRACADABRA, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series is on Nook and Kindle. Also on UK Kindle.

Also available in affordable installments as THE GARDEN OF ABRACADABRA TRILOGY on Kindle, Book 1: Life’s Journey, Book 2: In Dark Woods, and Book 3, The Right Road. Get started on UK Kindle

and on Nook, Book 1, Life’s Journey, Book 2, In Dark Woods, and Book 3, The Right Road.

This just in from Goodreads! Alan writes: “I loved the writing style and am hungry for more:-)”

At her mother’s urgent deathbed plea, Abby Teller enrolls at the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts to learn Real Magic. To support herself through school, she signs on as the superintendent of the Garden of Abracadabra, a mysterious, magical apartment building on campus. She discovers that her tenants are witches, shapeshifters, vampires, and wizards and each apartment is a fairyland or hell. On her first day in Berkeley, she stumbles upon a supernatural multiple murder scene. One of the victims is a man she picked up hitchhiking the day before. Compelled into a dangerous murder investigation and torn between three men, Abby will discover the first secrets of an ancient and ongoing war between Humanity and the Demonic Realms, uncover mysteries of her own troubled past, and learn that the lessons of Real Magic may spell the difference between her own life or death.

“So refreshing. . . .This is Stephanie Plum in the world of Harry Potter.”

Fun and Enjoyable Urban Fantasy January 12, 2012
By D. Pflaster
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
This is a very entertaining novel- sort of a down-to-earth Harry Potter with a modern adult woman in the lead. Even as Abby has to deal with mundane concerns like college and running the apartment complex she works at, she is surrounded by supernatural elements and mysteries that she is more than capable of taking on. Although this book is just the first in a series, it ties up the first “episode” while still leaving some story threads for upcoming books. I’m looking forward to finding out more.

Science fiction and mainstream fans! The Bantam classic is back! SUMMER OF LOVE, A TIME TRAVEL (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) is on Nook and Kindle. Also on UK Kindle.

Nineteen five-star Amazon reviews
“Summer of Love is an important American literary contribution.”
“This book was so true to life that I felt like I was there. I recommend it to anyone.”
“More than a great science-fiction, a great novel as well.”

The year is 1967 and something new is sweeping across America: good vibes, bad vibes, psychedelic music, psychedelic drugs, anti-war protests, racial tension, free love, bikers, dropouts, flower children. An age of innocence, a time of danger. The Summer of Love.

San Francisco is the Summer of Love, where runaway flower children flock to join the hip elite and squares cruise the streets to view the human zoo.

Lost in these strange and wondrous days, teenager Susan Bell, alias Starbright, has run away from the straight suburbs of Cleveland to find her troubled best friend. Her path will cross with Chiron Cat’s Eye in Draco, a strange and beautiful young man who has journeyed farther than she could ever imagine.

With the help of Ruby A. Maverick, a feisty half-black, half-white hip merchant, Susan and Chi discover a love that spans five centuries. But can they save the world from demons threatening to destroy all space and time?

New! Summer of Love Serials are available in seven affordable installments free exclusively on Kindle Prime until March 1, 2013. Get started with Summer of Love, Serial 1: Celebration of the Summer Solstice. Also on UK Kindle

Science fiction and mainstream fans! The Bantam sequel, THE GILDED AGE, A TIME TRAVEL (a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book) is on Nook and Kindle. Also on UK Kindle.

The year is 1895 and immigrants the world over are flocking to California on the transcontinental railroad and on transoceanic steamships. The Zoetrope demonstrates the persistence of vision, patent medicines addict children to morphine, and women are rallying for the vote. In San Francisco, saloons are the booming business, followed by brothels, and the Barbary Coast is a dangerous sink of iniquity. Atop Telegraph Hill bloody jousting tournaments are held and in Chinatown the tongs deal in opium, murder-for-hire, and slave girls.

Zhu Wong, a prisoner in twenty-fifth century China, is given a choice–stand trial for murder or go on a risky time-travel project to the San Francisco of 1895 to rescue a slave girl and take her to safety. Charmed by the city’s opulent glamour, Zhu will discover the city’s darkest secrets. A fervent population control activist in a world of twelve billion people, she will become an indentured servant to the city’s most notorious madam. Fiercely disciplined, she will fall desperately in love with the troubled self-destructive heir to a fading fortune.

And when the careful plans of the Gilded Age Project start unraveling, Zhu will discover that her choices not only affect the future but mean the difference between her own life or death.

“A winning mixture of intelligence and passion.” The New York Times Book Review

Thriller fans! My sexy thriller, SHAKEN, an ebook adaptation of “Deus Ex Machina” published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, republished in Transcendental Tales (Donning Press), and translated and republished in Europe and South America, is on Nook and Kindle. Also on UK Kindle.

Emma J for Joy Pearce is at her editorial offices on the twenty-second floor of Three Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco when the long-dreaded next Great Earthquake devastates the Bay area. Amid horrific destruction, she rescues a man trapped in the rubble. In the heat of survival, she swiftly bonds with him, causing her to question her possible marriage to her long-time boyfriend.

But Jason Gibb is not the charming photojournalist he pretends to be. As Emma discovers his true identity, his mission in the city, and the dark secrets behind the catastrophe, she finds the choices she makes may mean the difference between her own life or death. Dark romantic suspense!

A List of Sources follows this short novel.

The Story That Sold To The Movies. TOMORROW’S CHILD began as a medical documentary, then got published in Omni Magazine as a lead story, and finally sold to Universal Pictures, where the project is in development. On Nook and Kindle. Also on UK Kindle.

A high-powered executive is about to lose his estranged teenage daughter to critical burn wounds and only desperate measures may save her life.

The ebook includes my blog, The Story Behind The Story That Sold To The Movies, describing the twists and turns this story took over the years.

New! HUMMERS was published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, chosen for Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 5th Annual Collection (St. Martin’s Press), and nominated for the Nebula Award. Free exclusively on Kindle Prime until March 1, 2013. Also on UK Kindle.

Laurel, in the terminal stages of cancer, is obsessed with the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Jerry, her homecare nurse whose lover is dying of AIDS, gives her a surprising gift. A hummingbird feeder. As Laurel comes to grips with her own death, she learns powerful and redeeming lessons about Egyptian Magic from the hummingbirds that visit her.

New! Literary fans! THE SIXTY-THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF HYSTERIA, published in the acclaimed anthology, Full Spectrum 5 (Bantam), which also included stories by Neal Stephenson, Karen Joy Fowler, and Jonathan Lethem, is free exclusively on Kindle Prime until March 1, 2013. Also on UK Kindle.

The year is 1941, and Hitler’s armies have swept across Europe. Nora, a budding young Surrealist artist, has fled to Mexico with B.B., a much older and acclaimed Surrealist playwright down on his luck. Hundreds of European artists and writers have formed a colony in Mexico City, and Nora befriends Valencia, a fellow Surrealist artist and refugee. Together the friends explore Jungian psychology and the power of symbols in their Art. But Nora is plagued by an abusive relationship with B.B. She embarks on a harrowing journey deep into her own troubled psyche.

The novelette was inspired by my favorite Surrealist artists, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. An Afterword describing Carrington and Varo’s lives and a List of Sources are included in the ebook.

New! Historical fantasy fans! EVERY MYSTERY UNEXPLAINED, published in David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible (HarperPrism), an anthology that included stories by Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, and Kevin J. Anderson, is free exclusively on Kindle Prime until March 1, 2013. Also on UK Kindle.

The year is 1895, and Danny Flint is a young man living in the shadow of his controlling father, a famous stage magician whose fortunes are fading. Uncle Brady, Professor Flint’s trusted assistant and business manager and Danny’s best friend, cannot stay in the same hotel as them—Uncle Brady is African-American. Danny is grieving over his mother’s recent accidental death, for which he feels he is to blame.

Danny and his father will confront the ethical dilemma between spiritualist séances and faked séances performed by stage magicians like them.

He will learn to reconcile himself with his grief and guilt, learn the secret of Uncle Brady’s identity, and assume his place at center stage as a talented magician in his own right with the help of a mysterious beautiful lady.

New! Historical fantasy fans! DAUGHTER OF THE TAO, published in Peter S. Beagle’s Immortal Unicorn (HarperPrism), that included stories by Charles de Lint, Karen Joy Fowler, Robert Sheckley, and Ellen Kushner, is free exclusively on Kindle Prime until March 1, 2013. Also on UK Kindle.

Sing Lin is a mooie jai, a girl sold into slavery at the age of five to a wealthy merchant in Tangrenbu, the ghetto of her people in the new country across the sea. One lucky day, while she is out shopping by herself, she meets another mooie jai, Kwai Yin, a bossy, beautiful girl two years older. Kwai has a secret. Before she was sold into slavery, she had a Teacher who taught her about Tao Magic.

But Sing watches Kwai succumb to the terrifying fate of all slave girls in Tangrenbu.

Soon Sing is destined to go to the same fate. But will her invocation of Tao Magic save her?

New! Humor fans! Fast, fun, free! U F uh-O, A SCI FI COMEDY, my screenplay for a producer looking for the next “Galaxy Quest” or “Men in Black” that evolved into a novella, is free exclusively on Kindle Prime until March 1, 2013. Also on UK Kindle.

Nikki and Josh really want a child but have infertility issues. Gretchen and Mike have the same problem. When Nikki meets Gretchen at the Happy Daze Family Clinic in Pasadena, they discover that they share a love of music and have asked for a donor with musical talent. Nine months later, they give birth to very unusual babies and, seeking an answer to why the kids are so special, they meet again at a pediatrician’s office. And the search is on: who—and what—is Donor Number 333?

Filmmakers and screenwriters! TESLA, A WORTHY OF HIS TIME, A SCREENPLAY, which was read by the producer of “Aliens” and “The Abyss” and is currently under consideration at another L.A. producer, is on Nook and Kindle. Also on UK Kindle. A List of Sources is included in the ebook.

Genius. Visionary. Madman.

Nikola Tesla (1856–1943) was the pioneering genius who invented the AC electrical system that powers our world to this day, as well as radio, remote control, the automobile speedometer, X-ray photography, the AND logic gate that drives all our computer systems, and countless other devices and precursors to devices such as cell phones, television, and the Internet that we so effortlessly use today.

Strikingly handsome and charismatic, fluent in half a dozen languages, mathematics savant and master machinist, a reed-thin perfectionist who quoted poetry like a Victorian rapper, Tesla became one of the most famous men of his day. Friend of tycoons like John Jacob Astor and Stanford White and celebrities like Mark Twain and Sarah Bernhardt.

Yet Tesla was an intensely driven and lonely man, beset by inner demons, and cursed with a protean inventive imagination a century ahead of his time. He died in obscurity and poverty and, to this day, his name is not widely known. How did that happen?

Blending historical fact with speculative imagination, I explore the secrets of the Inventor’s inner life and his obsession with Goethe’s Faust set against the backdrop of sweeping technological changes at the turn of the twentieth century that have forever changed the world.

New! Erotica fans! For a short, erotic new adult novel, try EON’S KISS by Suzanna Moore, exclusively free on Kindle Prime until March 1, 2013. Also on UK Kindle.

Our sexy paranormal hero is not a vampire or a werewolf! If you’re looking for something sweet and steamy, check it out!

On the eve of what Jenna Coltrane believes will be Brett Becker’s marriage proposal, tragedy strikes her life—not just once, but twice. In the midst of trouble, she encounters Eon, a regal young man unlike anyone she’s ever met before.

With him, she enters the magical world of the Arbor, discovering love, passion, and beauty beyond her wildest dreams.

But Jenna cannot stay in Eon’s magical world for long–she’ll die. And Eon cannot stay in Jenna’s ordinary world—he’s a god. They can only meet through the Gateway Tree.

When Jenna discovers that Becker Construction plans to destroy the Arbor and build an office-condo complex on the site, she becomes the leader of an environmentalist movement to save the Arbor. But Becker Construction will stop at nothing and Jenna is swept up in a struggle in which her love for Eon and her very life are at stake.

Coming soon! Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, a collection of stories published in magazines and anthologies worldwide will be on Nook and Kindle in early 2013. Also forthcoming is The Quester Trilogy, an ebook adaptation of my early cyberpunk classics, Arachne and Cyberweb.

If you like a work, please stop by Barnes and Noble or Amazon and “Like” it, add stars, write a review, and spread the word to your friends. Your response really matters.

Thank you for your readership!