Author RJ Silver wanted to write humor.
A thriller novel writing veteran with a computer day job, Silver wanted to give people something quick and fun to read.
An agent had previously told him not to waste time writing shorter stories, but Silver, an early adopter of the e-reader, had a hunch there would be people who needed light and short reading to go with their lunch break or subway commute.
So he started writing romantic humor and e-published two stories in 2010.
I'll make a few people smile and that will be my reward, he thought.
Smile they have, but Silver, 47, did not expect to gain much recognition from his new writing venture.
Boy, was he wrong.
His romantic humor writings took off, especially The Princess And The Penis, a satire about a king who wants to ensure that his daughter remains pure and virginal. The story downloaded 400,000 times within the first eight months.
Another story, The Ballerina, The Gymnast, And The Yoga Master, also took off. The story is about a man with warped ideas of love who recounts his affairs with three very different women.
The stories ended up being highly ranked among various e-book vendors, including Apple and Barnes & Noble.
Silver's success may seem like a fluke, but the writer took several steps prior to publishing that aided his fortune. In an interview with IB Times, the e-publishing success story shared pearls of wisdom for writers who want to take a shot at the e-format.
Starting and Brand Building
Silver mentioned the word brand several times, and with good reason. Every successfully published author -- from Stephen King to Nora Roberts to John Grisham to Meg Cabot -- has a brand, a way of being recognized by devoted readers. It is just as important that e-authors work to build a brand.
Silver's brand is writing upbeat, humorous love stories. Thought provoking, but nothing too heavy. He also incorporates a blue background or blue sky in his cover art. This, along with the optimistic tone to his stories, makes it easier to identify his work.
You need that sort of thing, he said.
There is also the matter of editing. E-authors are the ones who decide what ultimately gets published. They literally have the last word.
That's a blessing and a curse, Silver said.
He noted the importance of having a good editor and paying attention to that editor. If a writer does not have their work edited, the result can be a shoddy piece of writing that will not be purchased or make buyers feel ripped off.
You really need to subject yourself to that process, he said.
Aspiring e-authors need to be willing to shell out about $500 for a professional editor, Silver said. Writers should also expect to pay an artist $25 to $35 for a standard book cover. The Princess and the Penis cost him $575 in total to put online.
There are no other expenses other than just time, he said.
These steps are all part of maintaining a consistent quality that is important to brand building, as an author never knows which book a reader will pick up first.
If you want people to trust you, you've got to have discipline, he said.
Scam Alerts and Other Snafus
Like any other writers in the complicated world of publishing, e-authors need to be careful. Silver noted that people will always be willing to publish the work of others if they are paid to do so. This is a scam, as are some writing courses. Also, no professional agent will charge the writer a fee.
When it comes to finding an editor, every country has associations and sites where editors post their resumes and biographies. Writers can seek editors who have done work similar to theirs. And when an author finds a good editor, they should stick with them.
Silver also advises authors against being copycats, particularly in an age when so many have jumped on the vampire bandwagon. An author needs to be unique and have something new to say if they want to set themselves apart from hundreds of thousands of other writers.
There are also the technical challenges of e-publishing to consider.
Knowing the ins and outs of conversion programs is vital, as retailers can have different formats. Writers can also use distribution Web sites such as Smashwords, which converts stories to the formats required by different retailers.
A perfectionist to the end, Silver also advises authors to buy a copy of their own published work and look it over. Blame it on the attention to detail required of someone who has worked in computer technology, but Silver just cannot rest until he has seen the final product for himself.
Go online and spend $1.99 to download the book so that you can check whether or not it was converted properly, he said.
He also pointed to the power of word of mouth, and how comments from reviewers on different Web sites, such as I liked it so much that I gifted it to several people (an Amazon reviewer) and I absolutely loved this read an[d] suggested it to friends so they could join in the laughter, too! (a Goodreads.com reviewer) were absolutely vital in spreading the word about his own work.
You absolutely have to have strong word of mouth, Silver said. It's your only real weapon.