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Kevin Flanagan: 22,000 eBooks sold in two months ... not bad for a paperback writer


The Istanbul Puzzle by Laurence O'Bryan

The Istanbul Puzzle by Laurence O'Bryan

The Istanbul Puzzle by Laurence O'Bryan

LAURENCE O'Bryan was preparing to go down the self-published path when he found his Holy Grail in the form of Harper Collins. The traditional publisher plucked him out of a sea of unsigned authors and gave him a three book deal, but Laurence made his own luck on this journey; he spent five years getting his book up to scratch, including twenty-two drafts of his first novel - The Istanbul Puzzle.

Now Laurence has sold over 22,000 eBooks in two months, moving up the Kindle charts and establishing himself within the industry. His paperbacks are also doing well and translation rights, including for ebooks, have been sold for 8 languages.

“More eBooks have sold than paperbacks so far,” said Laurence. ‘Though I am probably making more money with traditional sales. Once you reach a certain point online, where book buyers know your name, you have broken in – that’s the big challenge for all new authors. It’s what we are doing with The Istanbul Puzzle, establishing my name for the next novel, The Jerusalem Puzzle, coming out January 17, 2013.”

Regardless of how good you are, the biggest problem for new writers is convincing readers to take a gamble on someone they don’t know. Prying readers away from comfort zones created by their favourite authors can prove to be very difficult. Nevertheless, there is one way to attract their attention - sell your book at a lower price.

“For my first book, Harper Collins decided to get as many new readers to try me as possible. My book has been priced at 99p since its launch. This is a strategy that prompts readers to take a gamble on a new writer,” said Laurence. “My book is continuing to sell well, and I think it will go up to £1.99 soon, allowing everyone involved to get a little bit more back.“

A book must pass certain criteria before it can get to the point of deciding a pricing strategy. First and foremost, poor writing skills or grammar must be looked at. They will quickly warrant waves of negative reviews on Amazon if they are not corrected. The old image of vanity publishing has faded and readers are increasingly picky about the quality of writing within eBooks. This is where traditional authors have the advantage, as their publisher’s workforce can sub and edit their work.

If a self-published author is hoping for any literary success, they best make sure their book is up to scratch. For Laurence this took five years, twenty-two drafts and two editors.

“I paid editors to go over it and then I personally went through twenty-two drafts. Basically, it had been edited within an inch of its life, but in the end I knew it was getting better. It took five years to get The Istanbul Puzzle to its current level. And I was learning throughout.”

The effort that Laurence put into his book was worth it when Harper Collins came knocking, and he certainly knows how difficult it is to land a deal. He also knows that traditional publishers are well aware about the significance of ePublishing and are now on the lookout for successful self-published authors too.

“If for instance, you write a book and it does well by selling ten thousand copies - then a traditional publisher will consider you. They will want to know what your next book is about, they may even decide to bring out your first and market it in bookshops.”

Traditional publishers have now put the ball back in the court of self-publishers authors. Aspiring writers have a platform to prove themselves, but to get a publisher’s attention it will take hard work.

So don’t wait for a contract to fall onto your lap, take head of Laurence’s final words of advice:

“You have to be prepared to market yourself, and play the long game. Think about where you want to be five or even ten years from now and work towards your goal every day. If you just sit back and think the world is going to knock on your door, then be prepared for disappointment.”

The Istanbul Puzzle is available on Kindle and Kobo and in all good bookshops.