Starting An Internet e-Publishing Business Was Not Easy by Jay Dubya

On July 1st, 1999 I had retired from the Hammonton, New Jersey Public School District as a middle school English teacher after thirty-four years of service. I knew there would be an eight hour daily time-void in my life, so I decided to fill it by making my avocation (writing) my vocation. The task of becoming a successful Internet author was much more formidable than I had originally anticipated.

I had written and re-written a dozen book-length manuscripts over the past three decades and knew I could get over a million words in print within several months. My naïve strategy was to blitz the Internet marketplace with my dozen e-books and cause a chemical reaction. People tend to be binge readers, I thought, and if someone were to read one of my books, I figure that person would immediately desire to read another of my works. Right? Wrong!

My first task was to find a workable pen name. Samuel Langhorne Clemens used the pseudonym Mark Twain, William Sydney Porter was O. Henry, H.H. Monroe became Saki and Mary Ann Evans did pretty well using the name George Eliot. After several weeks of serious deliberation, John Wiessner reckoned his pen name would be a corruption of his initials J.W., Jay Dubya.

You could imagine the elation I felt on Monday morning September 16, 2002 when I turned on my computer and first visited Amazon.com to see how my e-books were doing. My Black Leather and Blue Denim, A 50s Novel was Sales Ranked at #70 on Amazon.com out of over three million products in books, videos, toys, games, DVDs, CDs, software, music, electronics and kitchenware.

Then I excitedly visited Amazon.co.uk and found that BL&BD was Sales Ranked #438 in the United Kingdom and after visiting Amazon.co.de (Germany), my Pieces of Eight and Pieces of Eight, Part II were Sales Ranked #67 and #68 in Germany. My young adult fantasy trilogy of Enchanta, Pot of Gold and Space Bugs, Earth Invasion was beginning to move in Japan. On September 16, 2002 some of my books were outselling most Harry Potter novels and most Britney Spears CDs and DVDs at Amazon.com sites around the world. How had all of that come about? Believe me, it wasnt easy.

I had known from preliminary research that e-books were selling well on Amazon.com. The Art of War by Sun Tzu was for months one of the best selling product on Amazon.com, and it was an e-book. E-books by established writers associated with big New York publishers were also highly ranked, and Amazon Press had re-published novels and novellas by famous authors in e-format and those works were also selling big. What I did not understand at the time was that e-books by non-established writers like Jay Dubya were selling zip.

I signed on with three Australian, five American and two Canadian e-publishers. I had my e-books produced in Adobe Reader and Microsoft Reader downloading formats for desktop computers and in Mobipocket Universal Download for all hand-held computers. Expensive artwork for all twelve titles had to be done for Internet display, so already Im out about a thousand dollars an e-book, or twelve thousand bucks without recouping a penny.

I had e-published my books with cyberread.com, ebookmall.com, ebooksonthe.net, electricebookpublishing.com, ebooks-for-sale.com, ebookland.net, ozonebooks.com and ebookstand.com in Adobe Reader downloading format. Ebookstand.com also would produce Print-On-Demand paperback versions of my books. Pretty neat strategy? Well, not really! Sales were still zilch!

I then spent countless hours listing and describing my books in directories such as ebooksandbytes, ebookpalace.com, authorsden.com, Hammonton High School Directory, Bookzone, Bravenet.com, ebookheaven.com, e-book directory and knowbetter.com. Most of these listings were free, so I thought I was developing a good base. Jay Dubya and my book titles soon appeared on Yahoo, Google, AOL Search, MSN Search, Lycos and FAST, Netscape, Hot Bottom, Alta Vista, Ask Jeeves and All-the-Net search engines. I was happy, but then I realized that I still wasnt selling any books.

I published articles on writing at SSF World.com, ebookpalace.com and authorsden.com. This brought me certain recognition, but I still was not selling any books. I was becoming mighty frustrated, but I persisted and persevered. Google and Yahoo featured over 5,000 web pages for “Jay Dubya,” but I still wasnt selling any books. It was as if I was functioning in a foreign reality, in another universe!

I sent out paperback review copies and obtained satisfactory book reviews from dreamwater.com, allreaders.com, storyweaver.com, northwest book review, and my hometown newspapers, but still I wasnt selling any e-books. All in all I sent out over a hundred review copies at an expense of over two thousand dollars, and I was on the edge of insanity when I noticed that no tangible results were occurring from all of my vigorous, enthusiastic promotions. Perhaps I am being a complete fool thinking that I can compete with the powerful traditional book industry! I suspected.

I quickly realized that I needed allies to help me sell my e-books on the Internet. I teamed up with ebookpalace.com, authorsden.com and ebookstand.com to promote my books. In the first six months, those three sites generated over fifty thousand hits for Jay Dubya, but out of fifty thousand hits, I had sold less than a dozen books. What is wrong here? I wondered.

The answer to my quandary was CREDIBILITY. Jay Dubya had none as an author. My big break came in February of 2002 when cyberread.com of Seattle, Washington signed contracts for e-book distribution with Amazon.com, Borders, Barnes and Noble, Bookbooters, Powells Books, e-Novel and finally Books-A-Million. My e-books were now being displayed online in lists alongside famous authors whose books were in hardback, paperback, audiocassette and also e-book formats. A month later in March, of 02 Black Leather and Blue Denim soared to 2,300 on Amazon.com after it was placed ALONGSIDE the works of James Patterson (Violets are Blue) and Ian Rankin (Black and Blue). Amazon.com gave my twelve books parity and instant credibility on various web pages and after that had happened my chemical reaction strategy then started working. I still cant believe that by typing in “Eight” at Amazon Germany will yield my Pieces of Eight and Pieces of Eight, Part II (at this moment) Sales Ranked ahead of Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich, which has been heavily promoted by a huge New York publisher.

E-books are alive and selling, and in some cases they are outselling printed books. They are about one-fourth as expensive as hard bound copies, with my e-books selling from $4.95-$6.95. E-books save trees and are environmentally friendly. An electronic book is conveniently obtained because the product can be downloaded from the Internet in less than fifteen minutes. Also, the print is large and can be adjusted in both Abobe Reader and Microsoft Reader digital encryption versions.

E-books are a definite threat to the standard publishing industry. Up until recently, a hundred big New York publishers and about five hundred agents acted as a giant filter deciding what the general public should or should not read. E-books will eventually change all that and swing power to the reading public, giving the people the right to decide what they want to read and dont want to read.

I want to be a part of this revolution. I dont think it is right that an author should receive only 15% of a retail book price and surrender his subsidiary rights to a print-publisher. I am now a partner with Amazon.com and its U.K., German and Japanese subsidiaries, Mobipocket, Barnes and Noble.com and cyberread.com and make 40-50% of retail e-book sales. And I still retain all rights to my books. But on the downside, my e-books are not presently sold in bookstores or distributed to standard libraries as printed books are.

Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to type in “Black and Blue” at Amazon.co.uk and seeing my Black Leather and Blue Denim novel often Sales Ranked above Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen, a book and author promoted by Oprahs Book Club. I did it mostly on my own without any super-publishers or promoters helping me, and if it werent for the Internet, cyberread.com, Amazon.com and a bit of serendipity, my career as an author would have never blossomed.

So contrary to popular opinion, e-commerce is not dead. E-books in Adobe Reader and Microsoft Reader downloading formats are catching on. I think that within the next several years there will be a resurgence of .com mania and more and more people will be purchasing e-books.

JohnWiessner2001@yahoo.com
Jay Dubya (author)
Hammonton Gazette Column
October 2, 2002

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