Guest Post: Scott Nicholson on Building a Book Audience

Who Can Build A Book Audience?

By Scott Nicholson

There’s a common belief among writers that the route through New York and then to America’s bookshelves is the best way to build an audience. Certainly, there are plenty of advantages to letting someone else worry about all that paperwork, especially when they are earning most of the money.

But I don’t think we can automatically assume that being on store shelves is going to grow your audience better than self-publishing. In fact, I believe the exact opposite. I believe anyone wrapped up under contract for the next two or three years is going to miss a historic opportunity. You might very well be losing readers because major-press books will be used to benefit the corporate strategy, not the writer’s well-being, and you lose every competitive advantage besides the dubious marketing power of the publisher, who often expects writers to do most of the marketing anyway.

Getting paper books out there in a year will mean (a) you miss probably the peak year of e-book sales growth (that’s growth, not total sales) and (b) you totally miss the audience you will need in the years ahead because you will be priced out of the market and moved aside–and I think this is going to happen to a lot of NY authors as new stars are being minted and readers exploit their incredible and newfound choice and purchasing power. Getting published by Big Six is increasingly meaning little to readers besides higher prices to avoid–in fact, most never even noticed publishers until the silly battle over $9.99 ebooks.

Current print buyers are the late adopters, and if you cultivate that audience, I don’t think they will convert with the same enthusiasm and prolific degree that the first and second wave of adopters did. When the tipping point arrives and bookstores vanish with a vengeance, those writers will be scrambling to re-establish themselves when they should be enjoying the fruits of a long career instead. In other words, this 8-million Kindle owner pool is the core audience for much of the immediate future. If you are lucky enough to board the next wave, it will be smaller and you will be fighting a million authors for eyeballs.

However, I am already looking at the fourth wave (or fifth or so) when publishers may come back into advantage–when books are sponsored and given away free, they will have advantage of scale to offer advertisers (or will use their own affiliate corporations). I imagine the pay scale will really slide at that point, and only the driven or the insane will undertake the occupation of writing. Maybe the future is closer than we think.


Scott Nicholson is author of 12 novels, including the thrillers Disintegration, As I Die Lying, Drummer Boy, Forever Never Ends, The Skull Ring, Burial to Follow, and They Hunger. His revised novels for the U.K. Kindle are Creative Spirit, Troubled, and Solom. He’s also written four comic series, six screenplays, and more than 60 short stories. His story collections include Ashes, The First, Murdermouth: Zombie Bits, and Flowers. Follow “hauntedcomputer” on Twitter or Facebook, or visit Haunted Computer for news, articles, and prizes.

Check out his newest release:


A novella by Scott Nicholson

Crime doesn’t pay…but neither does journalism.

When John Moretz takes a job as a reporter in the Appalachian town of Sycamore Shade, a crime wave erupts that boosts circulation and leaves people uneasy. Then a murder victim is discovered, and Moretz is first on the scene.

As more bodies are discovered, Moretz comes under police suspicion, but the newspaper’s sales are booming due to his coverage of sensational crime. His editor is torn between calling off his newshound and cashing in on the attention, plus the editor is romancing the big-city reporter assigned to cover the suspected serial killer.

And Moretz seems to be one step ahead of the other reporters, the police, and even the killer himself.

CRIME BEAT is a 21,000-word novella, the equivalent of about 80 book pages. Also contains the bonus story “Do You Know Me Yet?” from HEAD CASES. DRM-free and 99 cents for a limited time.