Quirky Ramblings on E-Books, Self-Publishing and the Consumer

USA TODAY had an interesting article on authors who have struck it big with their self-published e-books. The article featured 26-yr old Amanda Hocking of Minnesota who got tired of being rejected by traditional publishers and self-published last year. In 2010, she sold 164,000 books, with most priced between $0.99 and $2.99 per digital download. And in January, 2011 (after many readers got e-readers for Christmas), she sold 450,000 copies of her 9 paranormal titles, with three of her titles making their debut on the USA TODAY’s Bestseller list.

Her percentage of that sales price range comes in at 30-70%, respectively, but she’s making money at it. And she promotes on Facebook, Twitter, and word of mouth—and credits the popularity of the paranormal genre for much of her success.

And another paranormal e-novelist, who sold 70,000 copies since July 2010, got noticed by Random House and just signed a three-book deal.

I bring this up because of a talk I had with a neighbor this week. She got me thinking about digital download books. My neighbor had received a Nook for Christmas and was downloading books online. She was feeling pretty tech savvy, for sure. And she wanted a trip down memory lane when she used to read simple sweet romance novels, easy reads that made her happy.

Instead, she bought erotica by mistake. Now her online booksellers are sending her recommendations for the same steamy stuff she just purchased. (I’m chuckling as I write this. If you knew my neighbor, you would too.) She actually had to call the online bookstore to see if they could stop sending those recommendations to her Nook, but since it was such a new product, they couldn’t help her. But she was willing to download a book that she knew nothing about other than it was a romance and she had virtually no knowledge of the plot. She only knew it was a bargain. And she’s not alone. I’ve heard on blog posts and other places that many readers are willing to try a new author for $0.99-$2.99/book.

Now I’ve resisted buying an e-reader so far. I’m not sure the technology is there yet and I like the feel of a book in my hands. Plus I spend way too much time in front of a computer writing that I think reading off a display might make my quirky eyesight worse. But I can see why a reader might like the option of downloading a book quickly, read it immediately without paying shipping, and maybe get it for a bargain. And I also have a couple of manuscripts “under my bed” that are only playthings for my cats. Maybe it’s time to do something with them and test the new marketplace of e-books.

I’d like to hear from anyone who has an e-reader. How do you like reading off it? Has owning one changed your book buying habits? Do you still buy print books? And is there a price point that might tempt you to try a new author?

And if you’re an author who has sold your e-books online through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble’s Pubit, Lulu, Smashwords, and other locations—how has that worked for you?

57 thoughts on “Quirky Ramblings on E-Books, Self-Publishing and the Consumer

  1. I received a Kindle for Christmas and I love it.

    1. I shied from e-readers for the book feel and eyesight reasons you mentioned. But it is NOT hard on the eyes and it is embarrassing how fast I became hooked on my Kindle (ie. the minute I lifted it out of the shipping carton). 😎

    2. An e-reader makes it possible for me to buy books that I could not before because they came out in expensive hard covers first. For example, George Bush’s “Decision Points” hardcover was something like $25. I can download the e-book for $9.99. I love that, because there is always a humongous waitlist for popular non-fiction at the library.

    3. I buy more books now that I have a Kindle. With finances being so tight, it’s not like I’m enabling authors to buy yachts by my expanded purchasing power (sorry, folks) but I AM able to buy more books then I used to.

    4. I can download a lot of classic books for free. I LOVE this.

    5. The subject of the Hardy Boys came up in a post last week. Fact is, sometimes I like to escape to my childhood and re-read those stories. So now I can contribute to the Hardy Boys franchise all over again by buying the books, this time in e-book format instead of those wonderful old Blue Spines.

    6. I can download fiction titles as e-books, and save my physical shelf space for the books I love to buy for research purposes (historical reference) which are space-hogging tomes usually. This is perfect. Only once in a great great while do I read a novel that’s so good I’ll read it again, so it makes since for me to reserve my shelf space for reference works I’ll be consulting again and again.

    7. As far as price points, I tend toward books that are $5 and under. Only in a few exceptions do I go over (and it’s usually for non-fiction). New fiction titles are often quite high. And I’m torn about this. As an aspiring author, obviously I understand wanting to maximize profit. As a reader on a secretary’s salary (and that viewpoint dominates because…well, I have no choice), I can’t rationalize shelling out $14 for an ebook, any more than I was able to shell out that kind of money for paperback novels.

    8. I’m excited about the potential for public domain non-fiction to be converted and made available in e-format. That’s one of the things I plan on asking about at the Historical Society Museum next time I go.

    9. Last but not least—negatives: 1. I still do my book buying research online before I buy. The book descriptions on the Kindle store are often inadequate. 2. Some books are transferred to e-book format with sloppy mistakes. 3. There’s a tremendous opportunity for books of yesteryear to gain an audience all over again but the process seems slow, and I’m sure there are many reasons. For example, I wish whomever has the rights to James Michener’s books would get those available in e-book format. I’d like to be able to tote those long books around on my teensie little Kindle, instead of going to the used book store to buy a gargantuan hardcover. 4. I miss seeing page numbers. Kindle tells you what percent of the book you’ve read, but I still like page numbers better. And oh yeah, #5: I miss covers of books on the Kindle. I never knew how important book covers were to book experience until I didn’t have them any more with Kindle.

  2. I first purchased a Nook, then a Kindle, to try them out as a reader and as an author seeking publication. I wanted to see how they compared to print, and I wanted to see what the publishing possibilities might be like.I really enjoy the eReaders because they are quick to load, easy on the eyes and the pocketbook (after the initial eReader purchase), and they afford me an opportunity to sample many new authors that I might not otherwise read.

    I am about to launch my own novel as an eBook, followed by a CreateSpace print. After reading people like Joe Konrath, Karen MacQuestion, and Amanda Hocking, I feel as an author I should do my own test marketing. In this current publishing market, I figure I don’t have much to lose.

  3. I began reading ebooks before there was much market for them, using my PDA or laptop. Mostly Gutenberg books back then. I got a Nook in July and have since bought one for my wife and each of my daughters.

    1)How do you like reading off it?

    I like it a lot. I find the e-ink just as comfortable on my eyes as print on paper. One of my daughters has the Nook Color which is an LCD screen and she likes it but I do find the eink more suitable to long reading sessions; my other daughter and my wife specifically asked for the eink nook (classic) because they do not like to read from a computer screen for extended periods.

    2) Has owning one changed your book buying habits?

    Yes – much more likely to impulse-buy when I read a review. Much more likely to try an author at $2.99 or $3.99 if they have something at that price. Finally, I have received several b&n gift cards–more because the givers know I have an ereader.

    3) Do you still buy print books?

    Yes – mostly out-of-print/used that are unavailable on ebook; also I’ll still browse the bargain books when I go to the bookstore to relax and have a cup of coffee. I still buy comics and graphic novels. I have NOT bought a full-price print book for myself or my immediate family in months.

    4) And is there a price point that might tempt you to try a new author?

    I will try a new author at $2.99 or $3.99, but have paid much more if I read a good review. After reading the write-up on Scalzi’s blog for Kameron Hurley’s “God’s War” I bought it for $7.99; I paid $6.99 for “Mallory’s Oracle” by Carol O’Connell after some positive recommendations. BUT! the norm for a new author, especially one with a series (like O’Connell’s) is I’ll try it at $0.99 or $1.99 for the first book of the series and if I like it, buy subsequent books in the series for a higher price. But the majority of new authors’ books I’ve bought in the last 6 months have been purchased under $3.00.

  4. My wife gave me a Kindle for Christmas in 2010 and I love it. I’m reading more today than I ever have!

    As far as my writing is concerned, I uploaded a short story on Smashwords and have had over a thousand down loads in the last couple months and I am virtually a no name, with the exception of a few hundred fans who read my first book. I’ve tried the publishing route with my first novel and with my second, but I’m going all indie from this point forward. Life is too short to wait for one of six large corporations to tell me when my work is good enough.

    I’d rather keep writing, and putting my work out there at a rate of 1 or 2 books a year than wait five or more years before the process begins. The old system doesn’t make any sense to me. I have a professional editor, great cover art and interior, and that seems to be doing the trick. As an indie author, I have a month long blog tour scheduled for my upcoming release. I’m taking my time, shipping ARCs to nearly 30 plus book reviewers with significant followers (small potatoes to you guys I’m sure),who are ready to read my book. I figure if I’d have to work this hard anyway as a published author, I should at least get compensated for it.

    As an ebook buyer, I’ll never pay more than $2.99 for an ebook. I’m too busy supporting other talented indie authors. Besides, I think the $9.95 eThriller will die off very soon…that is, except for the authors of the Kill Zone! Love what you do, guys.
    Jeff Bennington

  5. Jordan, I got a Kindle for Christmas and have bought more books since then than I did all of last year. I am more than willing to try new writers, especially at the lower price points. Reading off the Kindle is very close to reading off the printed page because it is not backlit and must have light shining on it to work. In general, I have lost all motivation to ever buy a printed book.

    The feature I like most is the ability to download a dozen samples of new books and new authors. If I like the sample, I click “buy now” and keep reading the book.

    I guarantee that if you get the new $139 Kindle, you’ll love it, and your printed book purchases will fall off the cliff.

    One more thing. I get requests from other authors to blub their new manuscripts. I request that they send me a Word doc or PDF. Because each Kindle has a unique email address, I simply email the manuscript to my Kindle. It’s converted by Amazon for free and downloaded onto my reader. No more printed manuscripts. I’m reading the book in seconds.

  6. I suppose that probably means my Kindle books are overpriced, but then this could just be another case of looking at the big successes and ignoring the more typical failures. I think we would find that most people who have priced their books at $0.99 aren’t selling nearly that number of books. It is rather like believing we can invest in lotto tickets as a means of reaching our retirement goals.

  7. Hi Joe, I’d love to get a book blurb from you! I tried emailing from your webpage, but for some reason my computer isn’t letting me. I’d be glad to send you, or any of you Kill-Zone authors, a formatted PDF of my book, REUNION – Due May 1st. You can contact me at jeffbennington @ rocketmail . com. I hope that isn’t presumptuos of me. I wouldn’t have asked if you hadn’t brought it up

  8. I have the Kindle that allows me to download a book from anywhere (although so far I’ve only downloaded from home). I hate to admit it, but I prefer the Kindle to a printed book. I have downloaded more books since October than I’ve bought conventionally in the past two years. I tried two books Publishers Weekly sent me an ad for and was disappointed buy both and will ignore their emails from now on.

    No eye strain on the Kindle and I can read in any normal indoor or outdoor light conditions as long as there is light since there’s no back-lighting on the screen, but the type is as easy on the eyes as books. The other day I downloaded a book in the doctor’s waiting room. Plus I downloaded a blackjack game for free.

  9. 1–How do you like reading off it?

    I have a first gen kindle that I bought used when the 2nd gens came out. Reading on an e-ink device mimics the eye-feel of reading a paper book. No strain. I do like the ability to change font size on the fly.

    I still don’t like the lack of page numbers and since you’re only looking at one page at a time (instead of a 2 page spread when you have a physical book) it can feel like your page turning all the time.

    I also find that certain books are more difficult to enjoy on the kindle. You cannot easily flip back to re-read an earlier portion of an e-book unless you either search for a passage or have a passage bookmarked.

    2–Has owning one changed your book buying habits? Do you still buy print books?

    I still prefer the usability and feel of a print book over an ebook. People argue that the story is the same, only the delivery mechanism, the same argument that moved music from LPs to CDs to digital. But I don’t feel that is a valid comparison. The way we interact with a physical text is different than the way we interact with a digital one on a screen.

    I have actually bought e-book versions of some of my favorite print book. That way, I have my ‘comfort reads’ no matter where I am. I would love to see bundles (like they do with DVD/blueray packages) where I could buy the physical book and for a small amount more also have the ebook.

    3–And is there a price point that might tempt you to try a new author? Not really. It’s not a matter of price so much as a matter of not wanting to invest my time in a mediocre book. Free samples are great for me in that regard.

  10. I was an early adapter to the Kindle and had to wait for my first Kindle.I have since bought another and gave the first to my wife. We both prefer to read on our Kindles and I will not read paper books now. This from a person who once owned a used bookstore.

    As for publishing on Kindle. I have self published 2 books now as e-books since the end of June, 2010

    I have never published traditionally so I am a complete unknown. In the past seven months I have sold over 3000 books at $2.99. (I earn about $2.00 per book. Last mont I sold 791 books. I’m not in the same league as Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath, but I’me now earning over a thousand dollars a month from my sales. I am putting out a third book soon and see nothing but increased sales for the future.

    I’ve become a believer and no longer wish to publish with the big guys.

  11. I’ve got the Kindle & the iPad. One of my books is available now as an ebook, the 2nd will be online in a week or so. Sales are pretty decent, which surprised me because I write YA & assumed (incorrectly) that kids were not likely to use ereaders.

    I still buy paper, but being able to read samples, & the convenience of buying a book whenever I want makes the purchase of paper versions less appealing.

    I don’t have a price point, but taking chances on lesser-known authors for 2 or 3 bucks isn’t a hardship or even a crap-shoot. And, again, the ability to read samples makes it easy enough to avoid a mistake purchase.

    As for dragging a manuscript or 2 from under the bed to put an ereader, there are probably many ebooks that should have been left to collect dust, but I’ve had pretty good luck avoiding them.

    In the end, it’s good for readers & authors. Control in the hands of both – & for authors, a chance to make some decent money for decent books.

  12. I have said that I think judges for the Edgars and ITW THRILLER Awards should get their books as eBooks without the author’s name attached for a more fair result. I suggested it two years ago when I judged the 400 or so Edgar submissions. That would also make it so paperback originals were on equal footing with hardcovers in the judge’s mind.

  13. Wow. This has been eye opening for me. I think you’ve pushed me over the brink of indecision. Thanks to everyone who made comments. I loved all the descriptions of how the readers actually work, the good and bad features. And the price points discussions were all good too. Thanks so much.

    And now i can see how my poor neighbor couldnt see the book descriptions and downloaded books she didnt want. Can anyone tell me if you get marketing spam from the bookseller once you download? She seemed unable to control this or unsubscribe.

    And Joe…i had no idea you could get docs sent and converted right to your kindle for free. That would be amazing.

    And John…blackjack downloads? I had no idea you could do that too. I love games.

    Mike…thanks for sharing your sales info. Wow. You should be very proud. And i love the immediate cash flow aspects. With traditional publishers, royalty stmts come every six months. And waiting around for new contracts, preparing proposals, all of these things take time.

    Can anyone who is pubbed online share their experiences with amazon or smashwords or whoever you used for the text upload? Is it tricky to do? And how much proofing is required to avoid errors? Also, i hear a book cover needs to be created. Whats the process on that? Do you hire that done?

    Thanks again to everyone. You’ve made me a believer.

  14. John…you bring up another great point about judging contests. I am judging one now and ereading would be a great solution. On our author loops, we’ve been talking about opting in to ebooks for those who have ereaders. That would be a great option.

    Wow, 400 for the Edgar? I don’t know how you do it. In the RWA contest, we are required to read every entry we get. We receive 8 books and have 2-3 months to read them. And authors who enter the contests are strongly encouraged to judge a category they arent entered, so the 1,000 entries can be spread around and not be such a burden. And as judge, you can elect to read categories outside your own that you might enjoy reading. Makes for a nice judging experience, but its still hard taking time away from writing. You’re a good man.

  15. Add me to the list of bibliophiles whose life has been changed by the eBook–in my case, the Kindle.

    The Washingotn Post is delivered to it every morning at a fraction of the cost of my previous paper subscription.

    The screenwriter who’s adapting SCOTT FREE sent me a copy of his latest draft. I read it from my Kindle, and even made notes.

    I buy and read far more books than I used to, due to the convenience. Just last week, in fact, I bought a self-published book that never would have made it to the local B&N, but gave me an obscure bit of research for my WIP. (At $1.99 I didn’t care if the writing sucks–it doesn’t–I just wanted the information.)

    When reading GW Bush’s DECISION POINTS, it was cool that the photos appeared in the part of the book where they applied. (Truthfully, there’s a case where I wished I had color.)

    As a writer, eBooks have made a tremendously positive impact on my career.

    My advice to fence-sitters is to make a move. Waiting to buy a reader until the technology settles is like waiting to buy a computer until the technology settles. I don’t have the data to prove it (because I haven’t been tracking it), but I’m pretty sure that the $139 purchase price earned out in the first year just through discounted book pricing.

    John Gilstrap

  16. Jax…congratulations on your YA. And you cracked me up when you said you didnt think young readers would latch onto ereaders. They are online all the time. And many have their own blogs and book review sites. My YA publisher uses netgalley.com for free advance readers prior to release, instead of the traditional ARCs that end up on Ebay. And they prescreen reviewers, but most have review sites to stir up buzz. So it makes complete sense to me that ebooks targeted to younger readers are doing well, especially paranormal or urban fantasy type books. Best of luck to you.

  17. I can tell you that I love my Kindle. While it is not like holding an actual book it is very easy to use for reading. I love the portability and the screen is awesome.

    As far as purchasing books goes, I am admittedly cheap and tend to look for free books first, then slowly move up the price scale from there. There are exceptions where I don’t mind paying full price for a book but are few and far between.

    If I were a self published author I would definitely try to stay in the lower price range because I imagine that there are lot of readers like myself that are willing to take a risk on an unfamiliar book/writer as long I don’t experience much financial risk

  18. I absolutely LOVE my Kindle. It’s so easy on the eyes and easy to hold that I find I read more on it. And new books by my favorite authors? I look for them now first on the Kindle.I’m willing to pay whatever they cost since I would have bought the book in whatever format but it’s nice when it costs less than a traditional hardcover. I take it on cruises, airplanes, and to the doctor’s office. At home, because I still have print books overflowing my house, that’s what I still read.

  19. I’ve been on the fence too about buying an e-reader but what John said makes sense about the Kindle for $139.00 I really wanted a Nook because of the color but it’s more expensive. I may have to make the leap.
    Jordon, I read the same article you did. I’m trying to figure out what this all comes down to financially. And how is this all worked out for folks who arent’ traditionally published? My first book comes out in May and I know it will also be available as an e-book.
    Fascinating stuff going on.

  20. I’ve been following Amanda Hocking’s career since last August when I first heard about her. Her trajectory has been phenomenal. When you mention that she is making money, that is a huge understatement. Based on the royalties she’s getting per book, I’d guess she made over half a million dollars–in January. Until this point, only massive bestselling published authors like John Grisham and Stephen King have made that much from one month’s sales.

  21. I’ve become a compulsive “sampler” of books with my Kindle. I browse through lists of books, including new and old releases, and download sample sections like crazy. Many of those reads have led to purchases. My only problem is that I spend so much time doing this, it’s eating into my writing time!

  22. Hey Boyd–Good point. I can’t see why she’d want to even try a traditional house unless she just wants to do it. There are so many differences in cash flow between the two forms of getting pubbed. It’s an amazing story. And at 26 yrs old, she has struck gold early…and without the added fees, retentions, etc that cut into margins or restrict cash flow.

  23. Hey Mark Young–I meant to congratulate you on the launch of your first book. How exciting! And you’ll see results immediately, without having to wait for royalty stmts or sales figures that straggle in.

  24. Hey Timothy–I read somewhere an analysis of the price points and maybe Joe Konrath has more on his blog about this, but I feel your pain. That threshold of $2.99 seems to be a popular point. Maybe a lower price might get someone to try a series with a slightly increased price for other books in that series, but with the higher royalty percentage on each unit and less cuts into margin, an author can afford to keep the cost down.

    My publishers dictate the price points for my ebooks. And so far, they’re not budging on a discount. I wish they’d consider it.

  25. Hey Jillian–Congrats on your first book coming out. Good job. It’s not easy getting the attention of a third party publisher these days.

    But basically my take on this article and others I’ve read is that there are some really eye-catching sales for some self-pubbed authors. Now, like any book, word of mouth is the biggest promo that a book can receive. And the author featured in this story writes a very popular genre that is a big seller. She writes paranormal/fantasy with vampires, trolls, and zombies. And the upsurge in her sales in Jan 2011 comes from all the ereaders that were given as Christmas presents last year. But for her books to keep a steady growth, you know word of mouth is selling her books–and thats a great thing. She must have something that resonates with her readership.

    I still like to know that my books are with traditional houses, but the cash flow and all the waiting around on approvals for proposals has me wondering about this.

    Here’s another interesting point. Traditional houses (editors) look for books that they can shelve easily at physical stores. Unitl now, they’ve been the gatekeepers to what gets bought and made available to readers. Well, with ebooks–the shelving issues is less of a concern. You can “key word” the genre and subgenres and most readers don’t make the same distinctions as publishing industry professionals do. They’re just looking for a good story. So someone like Amanda Hocking can sell her books to a paranormal loving audience who don’t care if she crosses over genres to write her stories. They just like how she tells a story.

    Today’s discussion has really got me thinking.

  26. Having an ereader, be it a Kindle, Nook, iPad or even an Android or iPhone I believe makes a ton of difference for reading habits. So far I’ve only wished for a Kindle but have been too cheap to buy one. But I do have the Kindle App on my Android, and love it. I’m the kind of reader who has at least 4 or 5 books going at any time (one in each restroom/bath, one one the nightstand, one on the coffee table and one in my gym bag as well as an audiobook in the truck). By having the reader on my phone I have my whole book selection with me everywhere I go, which means I finish each book a little faster rather than reading a chapter of whichever of the five happens to be near me. Oh, and I don’t mind reading on my phone since this one has a fairly large screen and the fonts can be resized to comfy.

    On the publishing side, I have three novels and two shorts out there self-published on Kindle/B&N/Smashwords. While I have not gotten Konrath/Hocking/McQuestion/Morrison rich and famous, I have made enough in the past three months to take our first outside vacation with my entire family of five, something that is not cheap when living in AK (as you probably know, Jordan). The amount I’ve already made is a lot more than the highest advance offer my previous agent was able to bring to the table.

    So as I said regardless of the model ereader you have, it has changed the world.

    there is one ereader model I didn’t like though. It was the Ed Reader and came with a free trial, which involved a guy named Ed with a backpack full of your choice of used 10 cent paperback books. He holds the book open and turns the page when you make a ‘bing’ sound. …kinda creepy that one…especially in the bathroom.

  27. I bought a color Nook just before a month long trip to India. Love it. I like that it is back lit as this allows me to read it in bed with the lights out, or on a dark train or plane. I don’t experience inreased eyestrain from the screen; it makes the reading easier for me. I love the interface of the color vs the e-ink as well. The disadvantage: power hungry.

    I don’t think it has changed my purchasing choices (although I’ve only had it just over a month). However, when I’m in shop mode and am browsing through books and something sounds good it’s just too easy to hit that buy button. As for price sensitivity I think I am less sensitive than other posters. I always look at the bargains first, and if something appeals then I buy. Other than that I browse and buy what interests me. I paid $ 12.99 for something the other night because I want to read it. I doubt I’ll be buying many physical books now except for those I pick up at author events.

    On my trip I read 14 books, plus regularly consulted the Lonely Planet India guide (this really fascinated the locals as e-readers are not yet available there). The wieght I saved by having everything on the Nook vs carrying that many books would probably be the cost of a an extra bag these days, not to mention I had the ability to read whatever struck fancy (that I had downloaded) instead of whatever books I brought with me.

  28. Hey Basil–I was hoping you’d weigh in. But I’ll have to scrub my mind of that image of you in the bathroom with Ed. Oy!

    And congratulations on the vaca money. That is really cool. And yes, it’s expensive coming from AK.

    E-readers have indeed changed the reading world. And it makes sense that an author can sell their work in multiple ways to “hedge the risk” of this economy. I had read somewhere that E-readers may only represent 20% of the reading public, but carving a share of that 20% marketshare can mean the world of difference to authors as another source of revenue. For some of my books, that are only partially completed or need editing, it might be worth the time between proposals to focus on them.

    Man, you guys have really opened my eyes–on many fronts. Thanks again.

  29. I joined the e-reader world at Christmas and I’m in love with my Kindle. It’s an amazing device.

    I still buy plenty of dead tree books. The old Gutenberg technology still works fine.

    Price is a huge issue for me. When you can buy Ken Follett’s latest in hardback for less than the Kindle price, I’ll go with paper and ink every time.

    Many of the classics (Dickens, etc.) are available free on the Kindle. That’s great, but many in-copyright books from the pre-Kindle era aren’t available in digital form.

    I’ll try a new author at a cheap price point ($4.99 or less), but not without having an idea this is something reasonably good and I might want to read. There are so many cheap and free new books already available for Kindle that I can’t see wasting my time on a random book just because it’s cheap.

  30. Thanks, Catfriend. I can just see you in India, wowing the locals with your hi-tech toy. And what a great way to bring a resource book on India that doesnt take up much space or weight in your luggage. And on a trip, you never know how many delays you may have, so bringing 14+ books on a trip in one handy small pkg is a really good idea.

  31. About reading on kindle: it is completely different than computer screens because of e-ink technology. Not bad for the eyes, actually very similar to paper books. I love it. And it has the advantage that you can get free e-books on Librarything or Goodreads in exchange of a review.

  32. Here are some other things I learned about e-publishing recently. I will preface this by saying that I have no firsthand knowledge of this. Many of you probably have more experience with online e-book sales, but I thought these points were interesting nuts and bolts kind of discussion items.

    On price, the 70% royalties are only paid on book prices of $2.99 and above. I believe the USA TODAY article on Amanda Hocking said she got 70% on her $2.99 books and 30% on her $.99 ones.

    Many authors who are trying this and have gained experience over a period of time as they watch their sales, they seem to like the price point of $2.99. It provides a good return and readers are still willing to try a new author to them at that price, for the most part.

    There’s something called Agency pricing that affects ebooks, too. If you publish on Kindle, for example, the Kindle price has to match all other sales venues. For example, you can’t offer a coupon on Smashwords for a $1.00 cheaper than your Kindle price. I’m not sure why this is, when I can see different pricing on my MMPB books, but this is what I’ve heard.

    Regarding covers, everything is grayscale on the Kindle, so it seems simpler is better on cover design. (This wouldnt be the same case of the NOOK which has color.) But in grayscale, small details on design may be lost. And if you contract with a graphic artist to do a cover, I’ve heard a cost est. at $300, but you could probably shop this around. Still, it’s a small price to pay and covers are so important online. And what author–and even editors–have not wanted final say on what the publisher’s art depts turn out?

    I’ve heard Smashwords conversion is a pain-the use of tabs can be a problem, for example. It’s suggested you should take all tabs out for Smashwords conversion. And another drawback to using Smashwords is that they only pay once a quarter.

    Anyone know anything about Barnes & Noble’s Pubit? How is the platform to upload into? And do they pay out monthly?

    Kindle’s platform is supposed to be easier to use and Amazon pays monthly. But I’ve also heard that on the 70% royalty rate, that the author can’t opt out of their lending program, but at the 35% rate, an author has the ability to opt out of this program. With all the piracy out there for digital books, lending scares me, but libraries do it. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing. Any thoughts on this?

  33. Hello Meszaros–You should also check out http://www.netgalley.com. Many publishers, including my YA house, are using NetGalley.com to make books available for free in exchange for a review. I’m not sure what parameters they place on downloaders (probably not much diff than goodreads or librarything), but the membership is free. And any restrictions might be determined from publisher to publisher when they vet a reviewer. Plus the netgalley profile of each book is pretty thorough. You just browse what you’re interested in and download, I think.

  34. So, Jordon. Are you thinking about putting something out there? Is there any drawback for doing so that you can think of related to books you have out with a publisher that might object? I don’t even know if they could object but if they want you to write for them and you put out an e-book on your own could that cause a problem? I’m thinking it probably wouldn’t but I don’t have enough experience to know. Great post. I’m learning tons. Thanks!

  35. I can’t afford a Kindle yet, but I have the Kindle for PC app and love it.

    I’m unpublished and just finished the rough draft of my first novel today.
    So after several months of revision, I’ll be ready to seek publishing. This whole e-book revolution sounds great to me.

    My question for those of you who have self published as e-books is this. Do you have the sense of acceptance s a writer? I guess my thinking is that being accepted by a standard publisher means that you have been seen by the “industry” as a writer worth publishing. For me that has always been the standard to seek. I wonder if that same sense of arriving comes with e-publishing, since you are doing that yourself.

    Or are the sales enough to say you’ve arrived?

  36. Jordan, I can vouch for Smashwords being a pain in the formatting process. I’ve had to reformat and upload most of my books 2-3 times before they came out right. (It’s especially a drag because that process can take several hours to complete, and during that time I usually have a few customers grab my book. I feel bad because they got my new book hot off the press and it had weird formatting issues. I’d give them a free copy of the revised version if I could, but no such luck.)

    However, the tutorial they have is very good, and if I’d had my word processor set up correctly from the start, I wouldn’t have had most of those problems. I use MS Word, which tends to be particularly bad about throwing a monkey wrench into the code.

    Amazon’s upload process is very easy, but it does seem to work best if you use 3rd party software to format your novel for kindle before upload. I use Calibre -some people love it, others hate it. It works for me, but there are similar things out there (and free).

  37. Hey Jillian–Once you get some experience behind you, you’ll see there are many ways to put your work out there. My current publishing houses have a contractual option to see my next book in the genre I’ve written for them–suspense and YA, for example. And if they turn down a book proposal, I have the ability to market that whatever way I want. I can either peddle that book to other houses or do this e-book thing. Or I can write genres that arent included in my current house contracts. That’s open to me too.

    In short, I have to abide by my contractual obligations to my publisher, but I have novellas that I wrote prior to selling, I have a completed romantic comedy, and another contemporary romance that is not suspense or YA. Those would give me options to self-pub those. I can also choose to e-book under a pen name, to make sure I don’t step on anyone’s toes who have marketed my name on my behalf.

    But the trickiest part will be with my agent. A publishing house buys project by project, whereas an agent works with you over a career, if you’re lucky. So I’d have to think about my obligation to my agent. For books my agent has been unable to sell for me, I have the ability to do what I want with those, but if I take time from my writing day going forward to completely create a new series solely for online e-books, then in my opinion, it wouldnt be right to do it without my agent. I won’t go behind her back. She’s been great to me and I owe her a lot.

  38. Hey Dave–BIG congratulations on finishing your first manuscript. That puts you in a minority, right there. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they’ve always wanted to write and book and have never done it. Kudos! Big hurdle. And thanks for the thought provoking questions.

    For me, I don’t have experience with self-pubbing my own books online. My house does that. But the way I see it, if 20% of all readers are expected to own an e-reader (from thing I’ve read), then the other 80% are buying books the traditional way. It makes sense to me that if you can get pubbed the old fashioned way, then you may have the best of both worlds if you have the ability to write in a genre outside any contractual obligation you may give to your publisher, as I mentioned in my last reply to Jillian. And of course, you’d have a relationship with any agent you retain, that you should not abuse. So if you’re like me and have projects outside the scope of the agent/editor contractual or personal obligations you have, then by all means, it seems to make sense to try another revenue stream. Writing is creative and fun, but it’s also a business.

  39. Hey Jamie–Thanks for the tidbit on Calibre and the upload process. Nothing like firsthand knowledge. And I would HATE spending hours on an upload, only to have it put into a word meat grinder. Thx for your comment.

  40. @Dave My question for those of you who have self published as e-books is this. Do you have the sense of acceptance s a writer?

    I can’t speak for anyone else,but the feeling of arrival to me seems like one of those smoky mist genie things always just beyond grasp. Perhaps one day, if I get a nice traditional contract or even better a lucrative movie option I will have a different opinion. The self-publishing track for me has proved to be fulfilling in the sense that people actually bought, read and liked my stuff and even took the time to tell others.

    I have a feeling that even if I were to reach a level like King et al I may still never find it any more satisfying than things are down here on the ground level.

    As an old Gunny once told me,”Aspire to greatness Marine, but remember we’re all gonna end up at the same finish line, so make it count.”

  41. Jordan, you have such an enormous advantage out of the gate with an established readership. If you have a good book for which the rights have reverted or if you have one you’ve not sold, then I recommend you invest a bit–not a lot–but a bit. Read JA Konrath’s blog. I believe a good cover artist, an professional convert-to-kindle/epub, and a thoughtful & enticing description will result in a surprising windfall for you.

  42. Thanks for the encouragement, anonymous. I love Joe and his blog. I have visited his site many times but will ck him out again. I am going thru my inventory to find the right project that i can legally and ethically e-sell under my name. And i also want the project under a genre that fits me. Thanks for your comment. And i feel really lucky to have sold when i did. Getting a book deal these days is really tough.

  43. Hi Jordan,
    Just a thought… Perhaps you have a short story that you could throw out into the eReader world just to get your feet wet. It would be easier and less time consuming to edit and format. And you’ll find that there are a lot of readers who want to grab a .99 short story for their eReader at the end of the day or in between novels. That way you wouldn’t have to sacrafice so much time on the learning curve!

    I did that with my short story, The Rumblin’ (Smashwords/Kindle store & B&N) and I have received great feed back and have grown my readership, because the folks who read it and liked it are waiting for my next book…a full length novel.What they didn’t know was, posting it was a practice round for me!

  44. Great suggestion, Jeff. And i was just reading that some authors write novellas in advance to promo the upcoming book and feature characters from the later release. Its a great idea to build readership or create buzz. Thanks for your comments today.

  45. Lots of great info. Thanks for sharing your experiences and thanks to all who commented with theirs. I truly believe E-Books are a force to be reckoned with and as print publishers and agents become more difficult to reach, self-publishing is a no brainer. It’s almost “by referral only” now, anyway. That being said, I don’t think the issues in the future will be E-Books but rather with the compatibility of E-Readers, making a large market accessible to everyone, whether you own a Kindle, Nook or IPad. I blogged about this today http://debsanders.wordpress.com/ plus referenced a great article from PCWorld. I have every intention of self-pubbing this spring but I have one book I’m still holding out for a print publisher. Guess old habits die hard. Great post!

  46. How do you guys have so many books done? U would love to do e-publishing but I’ve been working on the same book for like 2.5 years and still not done. I work hard on it too. Ugh what am I doing wrong?

  47. Hey Taylor–we all have our process. A friend of mine worked on her first novel for ten years. And i have heard of someone writing a book in 7-10 days. The thing is, only you know how much time you can devote to your writing. Motivational speaker zig ziglar said that he had finished his nonfiction book doing it a page a day. That really flipped my switch, so i wrote everyday, and still do. It keeps me connected to the world and the characters im creating. Less catch up time between sessions. Plus i realized that each new book taught me different things, and that instead of reworking an existing project, i went on to another novel. So when i sold, the publisher came for my inventory too. I still submitted proposals and started new books as i had time, but i knew that my best work would always be that next project. I still feel that way.

    If you find yourself working the same book, editing for other peoples comments and second guessing yourself, you might consider starting a new project to breathe life into your process. You can always submit your current book to get feedback from industry professionals. Or as you have read about ebooks online, you could try self publishing, but i would encourage you to try the old fashioned way if you havent already. Writing is the best way to learn. And if you’ve got over two years with a book, you might be too invested in that project to let it go and move on. You dont have to give up on your first baby. Just give birth to a new one.

    I also set a daily word count goal that is attainable and i dont beat myself up if i miss my mark. Those daily goals are there to keep you focused and give you a sense of accomplishment. Above all, hang in there and keep focused on the passion you have for writing. When i asked myself if i would still push my writing everyday as if it was another fulltime job even if i never sold and my answer was HELL YES, then i knew i had the right perspective to truly enjoy the process for its own merits. And when i let go of the stress of not selling, thats when i sold. Hang in there.

  48. Yeah that’s helpful, thanks. I do write daily actually, that’s why it’s vexing. Its just I don’t have a choice in moving on to a new book because my current one just isn’t ready to even try to sell. Ita no like I’m stressing out over little nitpicky edits.

    I could start on something new right now but I’d rather just finish this one. I think I’m like six months out until I can finish it enough to try and sell. Yes I was going to try to sell it and if that didn’t work then ePub it. But its just frustrating when I hear everyone talk about having three finished books in stock. I can’t even relate.

  49. Hey Taylor—i knew before you even wrote back that you’ve kept your book to yourself without submitting anywhere. And you probably havent let many people read it either.

    Please write me on my website contact page at http://www.jordandane.com. I have a contact form there to avoid spammers seeing my email, but i’d like to continue our conversation, if you dont mind. That form email comes directly to me. I think theres more we need to chat about to get you back on track and l’d like to help if i can. Write me.

  50. K I just sent you an email. But I don’t know if it went through. It didn’t give me any kind of notice that it did. Well let me know if you don’t get it plz. napolst@gmail.com


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