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I am a self published author from Brooklyn, New York. I have been publishing my work since 2004 and currently have four titles on the market in print and ebook format. I write horror and fantasy fiction as well as books for young adult. I am also a playwright with stage productions in and around New York City. Visit my website at www.hobbcatpublishing.com

Monday, February 28, 2011

EBooks: The Self Published Authors Perspective

Recently, I have been getting messages and articles sent to me informing me about the new trend; Ebooks. Much of this information is given to me to convince me that ebooks are now the way to go and why I should let go of print publishing. Yes, I still print books and I will not stop printing books until printing goes the way of the 8 Track and Laserdisk. I am a firm believer that printing will not actually die out but it will take a backseat to ebooks. I mean, let’s face it, you can read the newspaper online for free but people still like to buy it, grab the free copies and even have it delivered. Book Fairs are still very popular and people flood them to get their hands on famous and local favorite books. So printing's not down and out just yet.

With that said, I have been intrigued by the ebook. Many people swear by them and love he convenience of them. No more paperback or hardcover books to carry around. Now it’s all about ereaders and tablets. You can even buy books to read on your phone. They have certainly come a long way from reading them on your computer. I certainly see the appeal and I will be the first to admit that I own one and, from time to time, downloaded a book or two. Yes, even an old print lover like me finds the ebook and ereader a great tool to enjoy.

The steady appeal I have been noticing isn’t so much the idea of books disappearing, but the advent that now anyone or everyone can now publish their works to sell to consumers nearly worldwide. Writers no longer need to go to traditional publishing houses to try and get signed to book deals. Pretty soon authors will forgo setup sites like Xlibris and IUniverse for the opportunity to call their own shots in pricing and sales distribution.

This is especially the case with Kindle and their Self-publish with us program which offers writers up to 70% of their profit of sales. No writer today could ask for a better deal than that. The deal sounds even sweeter when reports pop up of authors making close to millions of dollars in ebook sales alone. But as I always say, the Hollywood side of the story always sounds better.

I call it the Hollywood side because the end result always sounds so glamorous. The over night sensation who is outselling established authors or that writer who appeared from nowhere and is now a phenom in sales and fans. It does happen but this is not the norm for many writers. One rule still applies, whether print or ebook, anyone deciding to go forward as a self published author has to work very hard at it. Understand that the “e” in ebooks doesn’t stand for easy. It’s not an easy way out from conventional publishing, just a different way to publish. Hard work is still necessary.

As a self published author with my own label, I have thought a lot about the effects of ebooks. True printing isn’t down and out, and it may never be, but one thing history has taught us is that you have to move with the times. So I decided to look at how self publishing benefits from the ebook. It has its pros and cons, as you will read what I have written below. But understand, though, my points come from the inside looking out, not vice-versa. But both sides are important to look at.

AFFORDABILITY: If you have ever self published a book, you know that a great deal of money is spent in the process. Everything from editors to cover artists to layout; it can get pretty pricey. Ebooks cut out a small portion of this. You no longer need to hire someone to lay out the book as files are transferred onto a digital platform. HTML coding does the rest. If you are cover savvy, you can design and upload your own cover rather than hire someone to do it. Also, in most cases, you don’t need an ISBN number to assign to your book. I noticed this with Kindle and anyone who has had to buy those blocks of numbers know, that’s a major cost you save on as well as bar codes.

PRINT NO MORE: Ereaders make it so you no longer have to print and store copies of books at home. There was a time where if you printed your book with a conventional printer you had to order thousands of copies of books for the printer to do business with you. That was a requirement. Then along came Print on Demand which meant that you could print only the amount you needed or wanted at a time. You only need 50 books, that’s all you had to print. Of course shipping charges and applicable taxes were added in, but it was better than bulk purchasing. Now, with Ebooks, you don’t need to print at all. A considerable price that is lifted off your shoulders.

REACHING THE MASSES: The biggest concern of a self published author is getting your book into the bookstores and on the shelf. Whether it is the big chain stores or your local mom and pop, getting your book out there for all to see has been the number one priority. With Ebooks, there is no worry of getting on the shelf. With Kindle, your book is posted right on Amazon for millions of readers to see. The same goes for Nook as you will be posted to Barnes and Noble.

INSTANT CONSUMER GRATIFICATION: Ereaders now allow readers to get their ebooks instantly anytime and anywhere. Instead of making trips to the store, they can by from home, at the office or any wifi hotspot.

A GREAT TOOL: Now just because Ebooks have become popular, doesn’t mean you should immediately stop offering your print books to the masses. Ereaders are a hot item but there are still many who still prefer to buy print books. Also, print books are a great selling and marketing tool at conventions and fairs. Readers like to browse, thumb through the pages and get a sense of how much reading they will get out of your book. An Ebook can be your added bonus for the consumer that may not be 100% sure they want to take a chance on buying your paperbacks. Ebooks are a great alternative.

MARKETING EBOOKS NOT EASY: If you read about the million dollar sellers, many of them have sold so many Ebooks because they have a heavy blog or weblit fan base. You must understand that or you will be gravely disappointed with your sales. Ebooks, like print books, do not sell themselves and just because you made the book affordable doesn’t mean the world will come flocking. You have to market yourself. As I said before, they are a great tool. That being said, they are not the easiest things to market at conventions or fairs. I have yet to see a person pull out a Kindle at a book fair and say “Here is my book.” Build author pages on Amazon, keep an active website going offering the ebook versions for sale on them. But above all, build a fan base online. Those are the people who surf to learn more about you and your work and will buy. Build Facebook fan pages, link them to Twitter and keep people coming back to want your work.

PRICING: While I like the fact that you can make 70% from ebooks (an yes, three of my titles are available on ebooks) consumers are not going to pay full price for your book. What does that mean? Along with the ease of acquiring titles and the ability to carry many titles in an ereader, the consumer likes a bargain. They do not expect to pay the same price for your book on an ereader as they do in the store. And here is where many believe publishing companies are going to get hit hardest the most. Most readers rather not pay more than $5 for an ebook (average price for paperback goes from $9.99 - $15.00 Hardcovers are always more).

The fact is, many of the titles that sell really well fall into the $.99 - $3.00 range for ebooks. Since printing costs are non existent, setting a high price for an ebook makes it less appealing. So does this mean that setting a low price for your book compromises your integrity as a self published author? That is a question only you can answer. Even at fairs, I never charged cover price for my books because I knew the consumer liked a good deal. Keep that in mind when you look to price your ebooks. Will you make money with such low prices? Go back and see what I said about marketing. How you market yourself will determine if you will sell well or not. Remember, if you want to see those hefty returns they write about in some articles you have to sell a lot of ebooks.

PHYSICAL PRODUCT NOT AVAILABLE: If there is one con I have with ebooks, it’s that they are not physical books. Now one would say simply; that’s the whole point. And to that I say, “You have to be an author to understand.” One of the best and most self gratifying things for many self published authors is to be able to sign their work for a fan. I’m not talking some digital signature, I mean your own. You cannot do that with an ebook. The only real setback I see in the ereader/ebook world.

In all, I feel that ebook is staking its claim well in the literary market. Much like audio books have, and still do. It is a new tool on the block that will advance in its own way and its own time. While I will flow with the tides of time, I still like to crack open a paperback too.

Happy reading everyone.

Marc L Abbott

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