Monday, February 23, 2015


I know several people who are attempting to contact agents and publishers to get their novels published. Obviously, I have chosen the self-publishing route for my books. Since I've been asked about it before, I thought I might talk about why I chose to “not get my book published for real", as my mother said.

I wrote my first novel over 10 years ago. By some stroke of luck, I did manage to land an agent for the book. Unfortunately, that’s where my luck ended. I didn't find a publisher, and after a year of looking, the agent dropped me and my book went unpublished. (Probably for the best, because it was sort of a dumb book.)

Several years later, I bypassed the agent route, and found a small publisher willing to handle a new book I had written, and then subsequently published a second one I wrote. While it was nice having my stuff in print, I wasn't really happy with the publisher. Sales for the first book were okay, nothing great, but sales for the second were abysmal. I felt that the reason for it was that the publisher didn't really do enough to advertise the book. In any case, we mutually parted ways.

I heard about publishing books on Amazon, so when I wrote The Devil Wears Scrubs, I decided to go that route. I paid to get the book professionally edited, and I made sure that it looked good. Long story short, I would never consider doing anything besides self-publishing again. Here's what I like about self-publishing:

-- You know exactly how many copies of the book you have sold in real time, which is definitely fun for an author

-- You have complete creative control over your cover, title, and work

-- You don't have to split the profits with your publisher

-- You can run promotions for the book on the Kindle, where you can literally sell 300-400 copies of your book in a single day

-- You can run free promotions on the Kindle, if you just want to find an audience, and have tens of thousands of people download your book

-- There's no point where the publisher "gives up" on your book and stops advertising it. You can continue to promote your own book as long as you want.

-- Chances are, you won't hit it big. But you might. 50 Shades of Gray was self published. And it's not like most traditionally published books sell huge numbers of copies.

There are so many resources out there to help self-published authors. These days, it almost seems stupid to go the traditional route. I have sold about 4000 copies of The Devil Wears Scrubs, and I’m continuing to run promotions on it. A friend of mine published in autobiographical novel the traditional way at the same time and it hasn't done nearly as well.

Bottom line is, I just think self-publishing is a lot more fun.


  1. Very interesting read Fizzy.

    I'm unfortunately a physician who is constantly dreaming up ways to get out. I'm always interested in what other doctors have achieved outside of medicine (though I have no desire to be an author)

    A few questions if you don't mind

    1) What were you doing 10 years ago when you wrote your first novel? You must have still been in school? (I have only been following your blog since you were an attending) This seems like a very cool, precocious and impressive achievement.

    2) I'm not trying to to be rude, but 4000 copies is lower than I'd expect I guess. I see it's ranked ~Top 200,000 on Amazon paperback and ~Top 100,000 eBook.

    How successful would 4000 copies be considered for a self-publishing endeavour like yours? Is it simply a labour of love or could someone actually live humbly off doing something like this?

    1. I am more than happy to answer your questions.

      I know 4000 copies doesn't sound like a lot, but my research has shown that 5000 copies for the first book is enough to guarantee a contract for a second book. So if 5000 in a traditionally published book is considered very successful, I think 4000 isn't too bad.  

      Regarding the ranking, when the book was first released, it was in the top thousand for about a month or so. My best ranking was about 500 for ebooks. The number of reviews a book has gotten is a good indication of how many sales it has made, and over 100 reviews is fairly high for a self published book.  Keep in mind that the book has been out for a year and a half, so at this point, most books are not being promoted and selling minimally. If you want to look at a traditionally published counterpart, check out the sales rank for Michelle Au's book.  

      But what you really want to know is if you can quit your day job. I don't want to quit my day job, so I'm not thinking that way. I think the key to that kind of success in self-publishing is two things: luck and/or quantity.  If you get lucky with the single book, you can sell tons of copies. If you produce tons of books and market them well, that could generate enough sales for some reasonable income.  But I just can't foresee anything coming close to the salary I would make as a physician. I think it's somewhat rare for people to be able to support themselves entirely by writing novels, sort of akin to being an actor.

    2. Sorry, I messed up my reply. Don't have a Google account and deleted my reply twice on accident before getting it to stick.

  2. Thanks for the reply.

    Not planning anything rash and won't fill any more space complaining. Just find things like this give me inspiration to keep planning my Shawshank-style escape from unhappiness in medicine. Or at least to keep fantasizing about it.

    Top 500-1000 of anything, especially something as big as Amazon, is pretty impressive. And I'm happy to hear that you like both of the hats you wear.

    I guess the realist in me just does some back-of-the-napkin math, and says 4000 copies times whatever you actually get to keep per copy minus time and costs definitely seems more like a labour of love no matter how I slice it.

    Now if I could only figure out how to monetize the time I spend playing on my Xbox....

    1. No, self-publishing won't make the average person or even above average person enough to quit their day job. It's nice I've made a few thousand dollars, but I would never have done it if I didn't enjoy doing it. I do it for free. Hell, I'd do it even if I lost money.

    2. Well, that's certainly the definition of something worth doing then. I wish you continued success.

  3. I've been following the blog for a while It's nice to see you write something positive about your life and work (that you like your job enough not to want to quit, I guess)! Not to say that I think you're a negative person, but I guess it can come off that way sometimes, largely I suppose due to the fact that it's much more interesting to complain about something than write about how everything is awesome all the time...

    1. As I've said before, I am really careful not to write about anything involving my current work, because that seems a recipe for disaster. If I am complaining, it's generally about life's little annoyances or things that happened to me years ago.