Archive for January, 2011

To Sum It Up

Posted: January 30, 2011 in Self Publishing
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It’s time to delve into the options I might want to use to e-publish.  I’ll start with brief summaries and then dip into them more in depth in individual blogs later.  If anyone wants to suggest something else, let me know in the comments and I’ll check it out.

My three part criteria to help me choose is

  1. the easiest and fastest way,
  2. where and how widely distributed, and
  3. what is my cost and potential profit.

Amazon Kindle
http://kdp.amazon.com

  1. You can upload directly to Kindle Direct Publishing without having to go through a third party “aggregator” which would charge for their services.  (I still haven’t quite understood what an aggregator does, but will research more in depth later.)  You create your own cover and use free formatting software like Mobipocket eBook Creator to turn your Word document into the Kindle format before uploading.
  2. Distribution only includes the Kindle format and library, but since the Amazon eBook store is one of the largest markets for ebooks right now, that is one of the biggest markets for my book.
  3. The author gets a 70% royalty on books sold, although there are rules that I have to explore in depth to find out what exceptions there might be.  There is no charge to format or upload the book.

Barnes & Noble’s Pub-It (Nook)
http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/pubit_app

  1. Pub-it has a similarly direct to eBookstore publishing setup as Amazon, but also includes a free conversion tool that converts a Word, text or html file to an ePub file which is a more generic format and can be read than more devices than just the Nook.  So it does the formatting without having to use other software.
  2. Downloading books from the Barnes and Noble website is easy and almost as popular as Amazon.  Also, since Pub-it creates an ePub file, there may be a way to use that file to publish on other sites/devices or directly from a web page.  Something I need to research in detail.
  3. B&N has a kind of a complicated royalty system.  The author gets a 65% royalty if the book is priced from $2.99 through $9.99, with anything below or above that range only paying 40%.  The lowest you can price your book is .99 and the highest is $199.99.  Once again, there is no charge to format or upload the book.

Apple iBookstore
(Apple seems to be more secretive about their publishing.  Neither a quick intranet search nor scanning through several articles on how to publish iBooks provided a link to paste here.)

  1. The difficulty of finding a link to publishing on Apple’s site seems to indicate it will not be as easy to access as the two above. It does take the ePub format and I would have to use a free software program like Calibre to format my Word document before uploading.  One article said I would have to use something like Smashwords or Lulu to get into their store.  Are they considered aggregates, I wonder?  (More on Smashwords below).  One more caveat–you need a Mac do do this.   Luckily, I have a Macbook, but if I didn’t have one, I certainly wouldn’t go out and get one just to publish my book.
  2. The iBookstore does not seem to be as popular as the Amazon eStore, but with iPads and iPhones all the rage, it will get bigger and possibly better.  On the other hand, you can download Kindle, Nook, and Kobo apps onto your iPad so even if you don’t publish in the Apple iBoostore, people can still buy and read your books on their iPads/iPods.
  3. Smashwords and Lulu have costs associated with using them (see below) so if there is not way to direct publish to the iBookstore that is an added expense.  After that expense, though, you do get a 70% royalty like you do at Amazon.

These are the three biggies, besides Border’s Kobo, but I haven’t seen anything yet that says you can publish direct to Kobo.  I suspect this is what an aggregator does once you have your book in the proper format, allowing you to publish to stores like Kobo, but also taking a portion of your royalty to do so.

Next time Smashwords and Lulu and a couple more obscure options.  Man, this is a lot of work.  I’d rather write another book than to all this research!

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Good Points

Posted: January 16, 2011 in Self Publishing
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There’s a lot of advice out there on the dos and dont’s.  A lot of them repeat the same things, most of which can be summarized in some bullet points I found on the two sites below.

How to Self Publish an Ebook http://reviews.cnet.com/how-to-self-publish-an-e-book

Points out some common sense things to start with:

  • Write a good book.  It won’t sell if it sucks.
    • Me:  Well, duh!
  • Design an eye-catching cover that will look good in small avatar format.
    • I think I’ve got a good cover–what do you guys think?  See below.
  • Price the book at less than $4.99.  He mentions that Amazon offers a higher royalty for books under $9.99.
    • I wonder where he’s selling his ebooks?  So far on Kindle and Kobo the books I’ve seen are 7.99 and more.  I’ve seen ebooks over $20.  I don’t even like paying $20 for a hardcover book but will wait till it comes out in paperback.
  • Don’t use a service that won’t let you set the price.
    • So far every service I’m considering does exactly that.
  • Market your book–however you’re going to do it, social networking, ads, whatever works for you, but something to call it to people’s attention.
    • This might be where I run into trouble.  When I tried to start my own writing business years ago, the main reason it didn’t make it is because I didn’t try hard enough.

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What is E-Publishing?http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-e-publishing.htm

Advantages:

  • Costs less money to publish
  • Takes less time to get your book out there
  • Writer has more say in the end product
  • Updates can be added to the published book easily and quickly
  • Will stay on the “shelves” for a much longer period of time (Hard cover books get pulled from a bookstores if/when they are not bringing in enough sales.)
  • Electronic books have an ISBN number which supposedly, according to this site, means you can walk into a bookstore and order an electronic version of your book.  This sounds like it needs more research on my part.
  • Writers get a higher percentage of royalties.
  • Writers normally maintain all other rights to the book, such as the option to publish print books later.

Disadvantages:

  • Ebooks sell fewer copies since a lot of people aren’t aware of e-publishing or prefer to read a printed book.  500 copies could be considered a successful ebook.
    • Counter argument from me: On the other hand, even only selling 20 copies is more than I will sell if my book doesn’t get published at all in any form.
  • The author is responsible for their own marketing.  No big marketing department or budge to set up ads, reviews or tv interviews.
    • See  myconcern above.  Marketing in NOT going to be my strong suite.  On the other hand, it’s not like I’m dying to have a tv interview.
  • Ebooks don’t currently get the same respect as printed books.  There are no high standards being set and met.
    • This is very true, but there is hope that this could change as more epublishing happens.
  • Writers don’t get an advance.
    • Since they get better returns, maybe this is a wash.
  • An ebook is easier to pirate than a printed book.
    • I should be lucky enough to write a book good enough for someone to think it’s worth pirating!

KISS (Keep it Simple, Silly)

Posted: January 9, 2011 in Self Publishing
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So much of what I’ve found online about self publishing involves producing actual books, which makes me wonder if maybe my e-dream is unrealistic.  On the other hand, many of those book publishing opportunities also sound like they could be scams, or if not scams, like they’re trying to “sell” me on something, which I don’t like.  Kind of like buying a car for me.  Try to sell me on a car and you’re going to turn me off.  Offer me the kind of car I want for less money than anyone else, and I’ll take it.

I did come across a few sites that had helpful e-publishing advice and information and was actually easy to navigate also.  Ever notice how some sites are so full of “stuff” you go into info overload and can’t even figure out what their purpose is?

Here’s the first one I found that made sense,..

Forner Books.com – http://www.fonerbooks.com/selfpublishing/

It didn’t take much time on this site for me to come across Morris Rosenthal’s very simple recommendation:  publish with Amazon,  Barnes and Noble, and directly to the reader.

The reasons, he says, are:

  1. Amazon makes it simple for authors to publish their own Kindle ebooks and is the largest seller and marketing platform for ebooks.  The more ebooks you sell on Amazon, the more visible you become.  He says Amazon has a majority market share large enough to get your work noticed. When (if) there is a clamor for more formats to become available, then you can expand your options.
  1. Barnes&Noble works directly with authors for their PubIt Services.  PubIt looks like a really easy upload on their site which transforms your work into an ebook and offers it for sale in  ePub format which is the most commonly used format for ebooks (at least today, who knows which format will shake out as dominant once the dust settles.)
  1. Selling ebooks direct is as simple a paying $5/month to a download service like eJunkie. Then you can sell ebooks directly from your own website using a third party payment system like PayPal.

Expanding beyond these three options can be counterproductive, Rosenthal says.  Give your ebook several months on Kindle and Nook and see if it gets noticed.  If no interest is generated, then there’s not much point wasting your energy elsewhere.  Spend your time coming up with a better book instead.

These three options are definitely going on my “Options to Explore” list.  Plan on seeing blog postings exploring details about how each of these work.  When I’m finally ready to get into indepth research, that is.

As Rosenthal mentions, self publishing options have moved from paying for bound books sold by direct mail order, to using desktop publishing to produce offset printed books and selling them directly to Amazon, to selling print-on-demand (POD) books and ebooks through Ingram distribution and Amazon, to ebooks sold through directly through your own website and on Amazon Kindle.  This statement alone makes me optimistic about my potential plan to produce ebooks only.

Am I reinventing the wheel?

Posted: January 1, 2011 in Self Publishing
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I started my research by searching for blogs that are attempting to do the same thing I am here.  A Google query produced a whole slew of results, most of which didn’t answer my question, and many of which were just totally confusing.  I did look long enough, however, to decide only a small majority of the results share my goal of documenting my research into the pros and cons of self publishing.  I’ll share two of them here:

Journey to Self Publishing http://www.journeytoselfpublishing.com

At first glance, this seemed identical to what I was attempting.  It even has a sub heading of “a candid account of my experience as I learn the ins and outs of publishing my own book.”  But the blog also serves to document Natalie Wickham’s journey of writing the non-fiction book she intends to market.  Also, in the beginning at least (June 2008), she means self-publishing a printed book including printing, marketing, and shipping, which is not my intent.

She did eventually self publish hard copies of her book, and in November of 2010, did also publish electronically with Kindle.  Interestingly enough, she also published an mp3 CD of an interview entitled: “Journey to Self Publishing – 12 steps to successfully publishing.”  As a promotional strategy, she started a second blog named for her book: http://www.pajamaschool.com. Something I may choose to do when/if I actually make this move.

I can see that there are subjects in her blog that I might find useful, like her comment about how Print-On-Demand (POD) is a better option for short-run jobs, but web offset printing is better for print runs of 500 or more books.  But there’s also a lot written that doesn’t apply to e-publishing, my main focus, so isn’t much help in making my decision about whether I want to self publish or not.

 

Self-Publishing Adventurehttp://selfpublishingadventure.com

This site mirrors my intent much more closely.  For one thing, Sarah Ettritch writes fiction:  lesbian spec fic it’s true, but that genre has much more in common with my mystery/suspense novel than a non-fiction book about home schooling.  She has published electronically for Kindle and in ePub form, which makes her work available on a variety of eBook readers, including the iPad.  The main difference seems to be that her research is based upon publishing in Canada, although she states that much of what she found out applies in the US as well.

My main problem with the blog is that it’s not as easy to find the oldest entry and then read forward chronologically.  It’s a WordPress site, like this one, but her sidebar does not let you search archives by month or year.  The only way I see to do that is to continually click on the “Older Posts” link at the bottom of each page and since I have no idea when she started writing the blog (she mentions thinking about self publishing in 2008, so it may got back that far!) I could be clicking for a long time.

She does have a link on her site to another blog I also found helpful and will write more about next time, www.fornerbooks.com. So this affirms my feeling that her process of research is similar to mine.  Because of that, I believe I am going to find this site very interesting to read.  Her latest posts concentrate on promotion, but by clicking on various category links, I’ve found information relevant to where I’m at right now.  For instance, she mentions how Smashwords has distribution agreements with Amazon, Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo and goes on to explain how to use them to convert your Word document into the various formats these online venues require.

Next Time

Next time, I’m going to review a few other blogs I’ve found.  There are so many of them, I’m sure I could post for a year or more just doing reviews of self publishing blogs.  But that’s not going to get Painted Black onto anyone’s eReader, now is it?  My next step after that will be researching the ePublishing options that are most recommended and summarizing what each one involves.  That will help me focus on what’s most important in each option, and provide you with information to help you vote on my survey of whether I should…Self Publish or Not Self Publish.