The first of my books to be published was Escaping Innocence (A Story of Awakening), which was begun as a memoir, way back in 1987, while I was working three jobs. It did not take me long to realize that because mine was not a household name, it was unlikely that anyone would be interested in reading my memoirs. So I did the only thing I could do, which was to morph my true story into a novel. Using a ballpoint pen, I completed the initial manuscript over the course of the next three and a half years, filling six, spiral-bound notebooks in the process. I truly believed that I was writing the definitive coming-of-age novel. I wasn’t.
Over the next twenty years, however, I edited, re-wrote, re-edited, and re-wrote Escaping Innocence at least three times, before I finally self-published it on October 5, 2008 through Lulu.com, a print-on-demand publisher (P.O.D.) that had been recommended to me by a relative. By the time I published the book, I was so sick of examining and re-examining my early life that I was just happy to have finished it. The cost to produce a single copy was ridiculously high, which resulted in an unrealistic cover price of more than twenty dollars. The result was that it sold only about two dozen copies (most of which were bought by friends and relatives).
Somewhere along the line, I began writing my first mystery, As the Twig is Bent (original working title, Penance). And, as I had done with Escaping Innocence, I published “Twig” through Lulu, as well—with the same predictable results: very few sales. I was disappointed, but undaunted. I felt sure that the books were saleable, but I needed to find a way to bring down the cost, so I could entice more readers to give them a chance.
I scoured the Internet, looking for affordable alternatives to Lulu. Along the way, I joined various author groups, networked like crazy, researched other publishing options, and eventually discovered Createspace.com. It, too, was a P.O.D.—but with one major difference: it was owned by the largest online retailer of them all, none other than Amazon.com. Not only were my production costs less than half of what they had been with Lulu, but I also had access to a huge, ready-made market—thanks to the Zon.
I quickly unpublished the books with Lulu, and promptly republished them both through Createspace—with much lower cover prices. Before long, I was selling two-to-three dozen copies per month of each book. I had reached Nirvana! But that was just the beginning. Over the next few months, I immersed myself in the world of self-publishing. I learned how to produce a more professional-looking books, with better cover designs and more creative formatting. Then I discovered KDP (I believe, at the time, it stood for Kindle Digital Platform), the electronic publishing arm of Amazon (it has since been renamed Kindle Direct Publishing). I immediately published electronic (Kindle) editions of both books through KDP, and my world changed forever.
Within a week of releasing As the Twig is Bent electronically on Amazon.com, it rose temporarily to the lofty position of #24 bestseller in the mystery/thriller category in the Kindle book store. It didn’t remain there long, of course, but now, instead of selling a few dozen books per month, I was selling a few hundred copies over the same time span. Even the paperback editions were selling more than they had previously. The royalties were rolling in, and I was a happy camper.
By now, my family was fully behind my publishing adventure, and enjoying my relative success as much as I was. But selling a few hundred books per month was a far cry from making a living as an author. I needed to write more books—but that took years. The question was: What else could I do in the meantime to sell more books? And that’s when my wife’s son-in-law, Brad, told me about sponsored search advertising—pay-per-click, online marketing. Let the learning process begin—again!
Over the next few months, I found out everything I could about this brand new method of advertising. Initially, I started with Google, eventually expanding to using Yahoo. Not only did my advertising budget grow from three dollars a day to thirty dollars a day, but so did my sales—from three hundred books per month, to nearly a thousand! I had hit the big time. So, I did what every writer dreams of doing. I quit my day job—literally! (no pun intended). And I’ve never looked back.
In 2011, As the Twig is Bent was translated into Portuguese as Pau que nasce torto, and “Twig,” originally a stand-alone thriller, has spawned the Matt Davis Mystery Series, which includes four books (paperback and E-book), and a fifth book, Deadly Ransom, currently a work-in-progress. Two books in the series, Opening Day and Broken Promises, have received Indie B.R.A.G. medallions. In 2009, I published A “Real” Man’s Guide to Divorce (First, you bend over and), and released audio book versions of all six of my books. More recently, I formed a publishing consulting firm, Escarpment Press, which has published a half dozen books for other authors. Although a depressed economy has drastically affected book sales (not just for me, but for everybody), I continue to write and to offer publishing services to others through my website at: www.escarpmentpress.weebly.com.
One last thing. About two years ago, I began writing a blog. It’s a collection of thoughts, experiences, and opinions on an eclectic variety of subjects. No politics, no religion, no real controversy. Blogging has provided me the opportunity to expound on all the various things that interest me, and has proven to be a tremendous source of enjoyment and satisfaction. I hope you will go to www.joetheauthor.wordpress.com, and join the more-than-1,200 other followers who read my blog weekly.
It’s been a hell of a ride, and I hope it goes on forever!
Joe Perrone Jr.’s Website Joe Perrone Jr. on Facebook Twitter @authorjoep Blog Escarpment Press