Friday, September 9, 2011

Initial Thoughts on Ebook Challenges

Progressive Dinner Deadly CoverOne reason why I think traditionally-published writers are slow to make the leap to being dual-published (traditionally and self-published) is because the learning curve for self-publishing is so very high.

Here are my thoughts, so far, on e-publishing—in the hopes it will help someone else out there. Others, of course, will draw different conclusions from their own experiences…and I’d love to hear them because I’m figuring this out as I go.

Formatting and Conversion

I read and read and read about getting ebooks ready for publication. I even created mobi and epub files of my Word document…and thought they looked pretty good through the Calibre application.

The difference is, though, that I didn’t want pretty good. I’m used to having an interior book designer for my books…for the Memphis books, for example, I’ve got little pigs around the chapter numbers, etc. Just a lot of detail.

I know I posted yesterday on perfectionism and how it holds us back, but I wasn’t happy with my efforts at formatting/book design. Plus, there are only so many hours in a day and only so many things a writer can do well (or even competently). So I handed it over to a book designer and was much happier with the results. I paid for that service, but I know I’m putting an investment into my book for (with any luck), long-term results. In fact, I put in about $400-$450 into the ebook (can’t remember which), which again, I’m thinking will end up paying off in the long run by having a nice looking book.


Covers are important for ebooks, but they’ve always been important in publishing. With ebooks, though, you can even change a cover and see how the results work out. I’m very happy with mine, though (designed by writer and artist Kendel Flaum), so I’m not planning on doing any tinkering. A cover should look good in a thumbnail (such as you’d see on a Kindle or Nook).


If you want a 70% royalty on an ebook (or 65% if you’re looking at Barnes and Noble’s PubIt), you’ll price your book at $2.99 and up. If you want to price your book lower than $2.99, you’ll get a 35% royalty from Amazon (40% from Barnes & Noble’s PubIt).

But you can also run short-term sales on a title. Sales on your ebooks can have other benefits—exposure (see below.) Mine will ordinarily be priced at $2.99, although I’ve run $.99 sales on it.


For ebooks, promo seems to be a lot about getting noticed. There isn’t a physical bookstore, after all. You’re trying to get attention in a sea of books.

What helps a lot is to get into the ebook retailer’s algorithm (“customers who bought this, also bought this”). So, for me, if I’ve got a sale running on my book, it might mean (short-term) more sales. This means that people are buying my book at the same time they’re downloading other cozy mysteries. So the ebook retailer might recommend my book to cozy mystery readers when they’re shopping.

Getting our book noticed by an online retailer like Amazon means trying different things—short-term sales, asking bloggers for reviews (maybe sending them a free copy of the ebook…without requiring a favorable review), tagging books with appropriate tags to help connect readers with our novel, etc. There are also forums where it’s appropriate to post about our books---the Meet our Authors forum on Amazon (don’t post promo anywhere else there) and the Book Bazaar on Kindle Boards.

Thoughts on earning out with ebooks

With traditional publishing, there’s a point where your book earns out the advance you received from the publisher. It’s a very happy time. :) With self-publishing, you’re also looking to earn out in a way….but to recoup the money you put into the book on the front end (cover, editing, book design, etc.)

The best bet, overall, seems to be to write quickly, edit carefully, and publish as many ebooks as possible online. And, I’ll add that I think it’s important still to pursue traditional publishing—you’ll just learn so much and gain a real confidence in what you can do.

Remember, I do have a directory of ebook professionals that I’m adding to on a nearly daily basis. It’s a good starting off place for your search for someone to do a cover, book design, etc. There are a variety of services and a range of prices.

Got any ebook insights? Or ebook questions (although I’m probably not the right person to answer them, since I’m new to this, myself!) ?