Most people seem to agree that e-books sales are growing, and almost everyone agrees that Amazon (and its Kindle product line) is the leader in the e-book market. But that's everything else - pricing, length, marketing - it's all still evolving.

In some ways, this situation is exciting. Book length used to be rigidly proscribed by a few large publishers; now there's much greater flexibility in word count. Selling a book used to require an agent and a publisher and a lengthy process of editing and printing and shipping. Authors got paid a tiny percent of the profits, months after a book was published. Nowadays, an author like me can write and publish a novella in about 2 weeks, and can be guaranteed 35-70% of the profits.

I've experimented with self-publishing three times, now, with mixed results.

My first novel was published in 2011. It was an urban fantasy/romance and it sold surprisingly well. In part, I attribute the book's success to the fact that 2011 was essentially the Wild West of e-publishing. Few established authors were publishing e-book versions of their work, so indie authors had the market cornered. With early Kindle adopters eager to buy books, it was much easier for unknown authors to succeed.

However, I also believe the book's success is due to its genre. Nearly four years later, it still sells a few copies a month, regardless of whether it's priced at $0.99 or $2.99. There are a lot more options available to Kindle readers these days, including many popular authors who have begun publishing e-books. Scarcity of available reading material can't account for the book's continued sales. I think genre does.

Romance (and its stepsister, erotica) is far and away the best-selling genre. Not only are romance readers voracious readers, they are also willing, even eager, to read cross-genre books (paranormal romances, romantic mysteries, urban fantasy romances, etc) which explains why romance writers often write multiple genres, sometimes under different names.

My second foray into self-publishing took place in late 2013. It was a science fiction anthology, published collaboratively with a group of friends. It was much less successful. The book sold only a handful of copies, mainly to friends and family. Eventually, after months of no sales at all, we tried a free promotion. Fewer than 500 copies were downloaded (in contrast, 20,000 people downloaded my first novel during my first free promotion).

I decided to test my genre theory by publishing another romance. This time, I wrote a novella, a contemporary holiday romance. Unfortunately, my timing was lousy; the book wasn't published until December 31, which probably explains its lackluster sales.

Who knows? Maybe next year my little Christmas romance will sell a few more copies.

In the meantime, I'm still trying to figure out this whole e-book thing. Maybe the magic of 2011 can't be recaptured or recreated. Maybe holiday romances only sell when they're published prior to the holiday. Maybe a novella won't sell for $2.99 and I need to lower my prices. It's all a big guessing game. But I will continue guessing - and writing - and see where it goes!