Editor’s Note: we covered the beginning of  this story on December 17 here. PB

Regular readers will remember Simon Smithson and Will Entrekin and their crazy self-publishing ebook experiment. Their goal was to sell a whopping 1.1m copies of their ebook Sparks, at $0.99 in six weeks.

Set tough goals much, fellas?

So, it’s been six weeks. What’s the verdict, you ask?

I’ll let Simon tell you himself.

Guest post by Simon Smithson, co-author of Sparks (with Will Entrekin)

Well… our great experiment is over.

For now.

We tilted at the windmill of Amazon’s Best-Seller Lists, and while we didn’t come unseated, the giants remain, looming proud and dark against the horizon.

Which was not totally unexpected. After all, who sells over a million copies of fiction in six weeks?

Grisham, maybe, or King… probably Rowling or Rice or Larsson, but that would be about it. While it would have been nice to sell a million plus copies of Sparks, the truth is, had that happened, no one would have been more surprised than me.

Also, no one would have started opened offshore bank accounts as quickly.

[The fact that their sales were approaching 1000 copies, although not all that relevant to the discussion below, is worth mentioning, methinks – JD]

However, the knowledge that has come out of the process may well prove to be invaluable. At a very potted glance, here are some of the more important lessons learned.

1. It’s phenomenally easy to publish these days.

Which isn’t to say everyone could – or indeed, everyone should. One of the rising barriers to quality literature even getting noticed in the 21st century is the fact that untutored voices are clamouring increasingly loudly on blogs, social networks, news feeds, online magazines… and there are no editors to hold back the unwashed masses. That may sound elitist, but the sad fact of the matter is that writing is a craft like any other. Some practitioners are better than others, but, unlike, say, medicine, you don’t need to show you’ve trained your skills by earning a medical license.

2. This e-publishing thing is only going to get bigger.

My money (which, as the sub-million figure may indicate, is not that impressive a spokesperson) says that the Kindle is going to be the winner in years to come. Amazon has specialised a device for a market that they themselves control a huge swathe of, and while there will be competitors and niche formats, as more and more of the reading public get behind e-readers (and they will), Amazon will be the guys at the front of the pack.

3. Making publicity connections is the best possible thing you can do.

It’s what I like to think of as the bread argument. People need to eat bread to live (figuratively). It’s a staple. It has that advantage over books seven days a week, 365 days a year. And when you go to the supermarket, the advertising, the labelling, the packaging, even the placement, of bread, indicate the money that has been thrown at this product by the retailers and the producers. Because that’s what it takes these days.

And if it takes that much to sell something people need, like bread… how much effort will you have to put in to sell something they only want, like your book?

4. Once you hit any one of the Amazon best-seller’s lists (as we did), you can officially introduce yourself with ‘Hi, I’m best-selling author [insert name here].

And that’s a hell of a lot of fun.


  1. I think readers are capable of sorting through the chaff and finding quality self-published books. This is one of the things that social media is good for.

    And big publishers provide us with endless reams of trash as it is now. The great publicity machine anoints an author as “famous” and “best-selling” and he or she then proceeds to churn out formulaic best-sellers at the rate of one per nine months for the next thirty years.

    So bring on the world of self-publishing and group-publishing. Let everybody write! It will sort itself out.

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