How Saturday Went – and My Apology to Real Books

I was super nervous about my presentation at The Good Room on Saturday, not because I don’t like public speaking (because I do; who wouldn’t like having people forced to listen to what you say?!) but because of the whole twenty slides/twenty seconds fiasco. But it went really well. Who knows? Maybe a bit of nerves is a good thing! The best part of the day for me though was listening to everyone else’s presentations (much more relaxing!), and having a fantastic book chat afterwards with some writerly Twitterati.

A picture of all the Pecha Kucha presenters which I robbed from Irish Publishing News’s Facebook page. L-R: Alex, Zoe, moi, Eoin and David. (And kudos to Vanessa, the photographer!)

I also had a little moment in the City Hall (the main Dublin Book Festival venue) just beforehand when I walked into the Rotunda and – squeal! – there was Paul Howard, author of my beloved Ross O’Carroll-Kelly books and sadly no relation, right there. He was just finishing up and I only had a few minutes so, alas, I couldn’t have a giggling-like-a-tween-at-a-Bieber-concert meeting the famous author moment. Probably for the best.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can upload my Pecha Kucha presentation here as a movie, with me narrating. (Oh, iMovie. Let me count the ways I love thee…) It’s called Dear Books… An Apology and it’s about my crushing guilt at being a successful e-book self-publisher and therefore contributing, in however a miniscule way, to the demise of the physical book, which I love. I should also point out that with regards to the narration, this video is what I was supposed to say. What I said on Saturday I have no idea, because I actually don’t remember. I know I left stuff out though!

One other thing: in the presentation, I mention Amanda Hocking. If you don’t know who she is, she’s probably the world’s best-selling e-book author at the moment and might make a million dollars from it this year. She’s also never been traditionally published and she’s only 26. (Twenty-six! Not that I’m jealous…) What I love about Amanda is that she is so sensible about the whole thing, frequently acknowledging that e-book success is as much down to luck as anything else, and she refuses to slam traditional publishing (which is what turns me off Konrath, who does it all the time). I love this blog post of hers. If you think e-books are a get rich quick scheme, or that anyone can just upload a book and expect it to sell, then I suggest you go read it.

Click here to visit And thanks to Irish Publishing News for the invite!

9 thoughts on “How Saturday Went – and My Apology to Real Books

  1. Andrea "The American Roommate" says:

    It went really well because you’re awesome! I really enjoyed the presentation. Maybe because I can relate to sometimes feeling like that little girl?

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Thank you!!! Yes, the little girl went down a storm. It’s so funny actually because I came THIS […] close to using a picture of a grown woman crying, and then at the last second went with that instead because she looks so cute! And it was certainly a crowd pleaser. So my tip to anyone who has to do it: use a picture of a cute, crying child!

  2. Marcus says:

    Hi Catherine,

    I really liked the presentation. It said everything in a nutshell without any slack.

    I’ve been following your self-publishing adventures for about one year now and I’m impressed how your dedication has finally paid off. I guess this officially makes you self-supporting by means of your own writing?

    Question: Do you know the cause of the rise in ebook sales around November 2010, and more importantly why sales figures held up well after the initial surge?
    Did you have a marketing brainwave, or was it a change in the winds, resulting in fairy dust landing on your house? Either way congratulations.


    • catherineryanhoward says:

      I think it was LUCK, pure and simple! 🙂

      Books always have a surge around Christmas – some crazy percentage like 40% of all books sold during the year are sold in December. So there’s that crossing over into e-books, which are helped by the fact that Christmas is a popular time to get an e-book reader, or a newer one. The interesting thing is that UK Kindle e-book sales were higher in December and January than US Kindle e-book sales (for me) which supports my theory that it was new Kindle owners shopping, as more people in the UK would have got e-readers for the first time than in the US, where people were probably getting newer ones. It’s reverted now to US > UK. Also, every time someone buys a book on Amazon, that book becomes more visible – higher up in search results, etc. Therefore sales lead to more sales, which is why the peak held up for a while. I also think there’s something about an e-book or any self-published book after a year – that’s when it starts to do well, if it’s going to. This month (March) e-book sales seem to be returning to December levels, but getting nowhere near what they were prior to that. In numbers, it looks like I’ll hold at about 500-600 e-books worst case scenario a month, whereas prior to November I was selling 150.

      I’m going to write a detailed post about when I have some more data, maybe in April. But as with all success, there was definitely some luck involved!

      • Marcus says:

        I think you mentioned the “one year” growing period for self-published books quite a time ago, or am I thinking of somebody else? It sounded very feasible to me at the time. Self-published books don’t have the initial marketing campaign a traditional publisher might invest to get the ball rolling. Self-publishing is all word-of-mouth and networking, right?

        That leads to a bigger question. What exactly are *today* the benefits of a traditional publishing house for an unknown, or little known, author?
        Today, with POD, and big online retailers stocking your printed and electronic editions, isn’t marketing all that a traditional house can offer you?
        And, as a new author, they don’t invest much in marketing. You are expected to do that yourself. So what’s left?

        I mean the question without any provocation or hidden agenda. I’m not a self-publishing ideologist. I’m just an unpublished writer with little experience in any publishing field. And I’m beginning to wonder what a traditional publisher could offer me, even if I were to find one. I’d be really interested to hear any thoughts on that. I wonder whether it’s worth submitting to agents.


        • catherineryanhoward says:

          I am still trying to get my novel traditionally published because I want:

          – the validation
          – that’s what my dream looks like
          – presence in physical book stores (where most sales still occur)
          – emphasis on print books (still 80% of the market)
          – marketing department has contacts, more experience, more money (even if it’s not a lot), etc. can get you reviewed in newspapers, etc.
          – money up front.

          • Marcus says:

            Upfront money is definitely a good reason which I’d totally forgotten about 🙂

            The other advantages may decrease for publishers over the next few years though, unless they learn from how badly the music industry dealt with the change in technology. I hope there are some decision-makers in the publishing industry who understand what is currently happening around them.

            However, knowing exactly what your dream is, what you want from writing is maybe the most important factor of all. I’m still working on that question for myself. You put that across very well in your presentation btw.


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