Rochester author says e-books are key to self-publishing

By Erik Fox | Dec 29, 2011
Courtesy of: CJ West Rochester author CJ West finds success online more so than in print.

Rochester — CJ West likes to the bend the rules of self-publishing.

The 44-year-old, Rochester-based thriller writer recently released his sixth novel, “Addicted to Love,” and has since 2005 gained quite a following online. In fact, he says that lesser-known authors have a better chance of making money with e-books, as opposed to print.

“E-books are huge for smaller authors right now,” West says. “I sell about 100 books online for every one in print. You’re just offsetting a huge amount of labor going into the actual printing of a book.”

West has always loved writing, but studied business management at Southeastern Massachusetts University (now UMASS Dartmouth) and worked in computer technology for 20 years.

During this period he started writing more and more, often from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m between his job. He transitioned to full-time writing in 2005.

In early 2008 his novel “Sin and Vengeance” was optioned, or written into a screenplay, for a Boston-based production company to become a film. Although the project is currently in limbo, West says it gave him a boost and helped him realize he was truly doing something important.

“All of these people invested all of this time and money, and it was a validation of sorts,” West says. “It shows the story had some merit.”

More evidence West’s storytelling merit came with another novel, “The End of Marking Time.” It was also a big push to become profitable online through sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Google eBooks.

Although he publishes under the 22 West Publishing group, West utilizes the Lightning Source publishing group to print and distribute his novels worldwide.

Last Christmas, West took a gamble and gave away the book for free.

The marketing worked, with nearly 5,000 copies being downloaded.

“It’s funny,” West says. “I gave that book away for free, and now it’s my best seller. I think e-readers and e-books allow readers to scope out new authors, and these authors have the chance to reach a wide audience. It’s cheaper this way, too.”

West says some independent authors have sold more than one million books for Kindle e-readers in a month or have made six-figure paychecks online.

Print is important, sure, but it’s only profitable for the big name authors.

“Print is simply huge for them,” West says. “If someone like me stopped printing, it wouldn’t hurt much. A lot of my early fans get a print copy. You can’t sign e-books.”

But the marketing and money making doesn’t just happen on its own. There has to be a good story in the pages.

West describes himself as a non-formulaic genre writer. Sure, there are “thriller” elements in each story—but there can also be pieces of science fiction, mystery or, as is the case with “Addicted to Love,” romance.

To create the story, West now does all of his storyboarding digitally as well.

“I used to have a room with corkboards, whiteboards and note cards all over the place,” West says. “Now it’s all spreadsheets and character plots typed up. When you’re working with 10 to 15 characters moving independently, it can be hard to keep track.”

West is now working on a five-book series and has the “bare bones” (his words) laid out.

“A lot of people are getting into self-publishing,” West says. “It’s definitely a competitive path, since there are so many authors out there. But e-readers are revolutionizing the book market in ways that book stores just can’t compare. It’s cheaper this way.”

Though he doesn’t exactly keep the same late-night writing hours these days, he still plugs away for the love of writing.

“You simply have to be able to tell a story,” West says. “I love writing stories, and I love writing every day. I’m hooked.”

Visit West's site here or check out his upcoming monthly giveaway, which includes $200 or a Kindle Fire e-reader every month in 2012.


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