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Fifty Shades of Backlist Fiction

Judith SummersThis is a guest post from author Judith Summers, who is currently storming the Kindle charts with her book Dear Sister.

I’ve been a No.5  bestseller in the past, I’ve  been a No.4 bestseller – but it’s taken thirty years of being an author, ten published books and the advent of Kindle  for me to hit  the No.1  spot . Now I’ve finally scored – and with my  first published novel.

Last week Dear Sister, a pacey saga of sibling rivalry set in Russia, London and New York, became the bestselling title in the UK Kindle Historical Fiction chart.   And as I write this it’s  currently No.14 in all UK Kindle downloads.
The novel  was originally published in hardback  in 1985 when the internet was still in nappies and  Amazon meant a South American river snaking through the tangled rainforest.

In those days the publishing world seemed just as impenetrable to an aspiring author, and finding  a literary agent to represent you  could be as tortuous as finding a publisher.  As for self-publishing, it was a shady, exploitative business  nicknamed ‘vanity’ publishing aimed at those with more money than  talent, and  I wouldn’t have dreamed of  going there. I wanted the stamp of approval  that only  a bona fide publishing house would give me.   After five years of  rejection, I eventually got it from the now-defunct  Muller Blond and White in the UK, then from St Martin’s Press in the USA.

How this world has changed! Self-publishing online is  not only  respectable nowadays, it’s a liberation for authors who can now  cut out the critical and profits-driven middleman gatekeeper  and sell their work straight to potential readers. And as I’m finding out, it’s the perfect way for authors to market their backlists.

Inspired –  okay, eaten up with envy  –  by the phenomenal success of  E.L. James’s  self-published Fifty Shades, I ventured online  for the first time last year, only to discover that simply posting books on Amazon isn’t enough. Without proper marketing, eBooks simply disappear into the electronic ether. You might as well thrown the bytes down the drain.

Then I enlisted the help of Acorn Independent Press, one of a new breed of online publishers who have set up in business expressly to help dinosaurs  like me who can’t cope with the techie and marketing side of the business.

They  secured Dear Sister a place in one of Amazon’s monthly promotions, and it shot up the chart.  I’ve now probably sold more downloads of my first novel than I ever did hard copies.

The  only problem is that I’m now addicted to  the Kindle bestsellers charts. They’re up-dated on an hourly basis,  so you can watch your book climb up a notch  – or, horror, tumble down.

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