It’s official: Readers love e-books. According to a new report, e-book sales more than doubled last year over 2010, and adult fiction e- books outsold hardcover fiction books.
That’s great news for authors! You can publish an e-book for free on many websites, saving anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 on the cost of print publishing. I’ve known too many people who worked and saved for years to pay for printed versions of their books, only to realize afterward they had no money to market or promote them. They ended up with stacks of books filling up their garage.
The most popular e-reader is Amazon.com’s Kindle. The mega-online store invites authors to upload their books to Kindle Direct Publishing for free, and provides step-by-step instructions for doing that. You set the list price and you can earn up to 70 percent in royalties from each sale, if your book is priced from $2.99 to $9.99. Amazon has some terms and conditions regarding content, but you retain the rights to your book.
Smashwords is another good do-it-yourself option. You can sell your book in the Smashwords bookstore, or it will handle distribution to some of the largest e-book retailers, including Barnes & Noble’s eBookstore and Apple’s iBooks (but not Kindle Direct Publishing – not yet, anyway). Authors get 85 percent or more of the net sale price for books sold at Smashwords.com; they get 60 percent of the list price for e-books distributed to retailers.
There are many, many other publishing options. They include Barnes & Noble’s Pubit and Lulu, which has its own bookstore and distributes to Barnes & Noble and iBookstore – both are free and pay royalties. BookBaby charges $99 plus $19 a year, but offers more assistance than the freebies.
If you plan to publish an e-book, here are some pointers.
• Decide which e-publisher you’ll use before you start writing, if possible. Some require the book to be written in a particular program, such as Word, to make conversion to their publishing format possible. At Kindle Direct Publishing, you’ll find tips to ensure you’ve got your Word settings correct to avoid publishing errors. For instance, you need to format your paragraph indent in Word – spaces or tabs won’t translate as indents in Kindle.
• Invest in good quality cover art. Remember, the book’s cover will appear as a small icon in most online bookstores. You’ll want a design that will be eye-catching and professional looking. Many people invest in a professional graphics designer to produce their cover. Again, however, know which e-publisher you plan to use so you’ll know the size, file type and other specifications.
• Price it to sell. Some people list their e-books for 99 cents in order to sell more books. That often works – but it won’t necessarily generate much income for you. Smashwords says books sell best when priced from $2.99 to $5.99. Many sites recommend that you allow a significant portion of the book to be read for free. If readers like it, they’ll tend to buy it to read the rest.
• Plan to promote it. You may have the best e-book out there, but if people don’t know about it, they can’t buy it. Many authors who fail to sell books do so because they don’t promote them enough. With e-books, the money you save on publishing can be directed to marketing, promoting and selling your book. Let’s face it, you’ve already invested a great deal of time and effort in producing a book because you had a message you wanted people to hear. Now, you need to invest energy and money in promoting it so you can achieve that goal.
E-books are a new and rapidly evolving field, so brace for lots of changes in how publishers and distributors operate. In the meantime, enjoy the fact that this day has finally arrived! Not long ago, I read a story about a self-published e-book author, Kerry Wilkinson, who was the No. 1 seller on the United Kingdom’s Amazon for three months. Here in the United States, 27-year-old Amanda Hocking has racked up more than $2.5 million in sales since she started selling her paranormal romances as e-books in 2010.
No, we can’t all be mega-sellers, but that’s OK. At least we can all afford to try now.
Change is good!