While I haven’t started a new project yet (and I’m getting itchy to do so, believe me!), I’ve been busy doing some behind-the-scenes work from some of my older books. My goal is to get all this busy work done by the end of the year so I can hit the ground running in 2013 with all-new work.
One thing I’ve been wanting to do for a while was to update the covers to a couple of my books. The ones I had for them were okay, but they didn’t do a good job of 1) catching the reader’s eye and 2) giving potential readers a strong idea of the genre of the book.
So what’s all the fuss about digital books, better known as ebooks? Why should you—as a writer—be interested in making ebooks?
This ebook gets you up and running with the various online distributors, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and more. You get detailed explanations of how to format, upload, and sell your novels and stories as ebooks at over half a dozen sites. Along the way, you’ll find tips and tricks from an experienced ebook creator and author, including some excellent marketing ideas that won’t take up all your time, nor break the bank.
So if you’re still undecided about whether to go digital, this ebook will not only help you make up your mind, but it will show you all the options and help you make all the various decisions along the way.
We could discuss all those awesome formatting tricks you could do with your small library of ebooks to make them even better.
Stuff like highly detailed Tables of Contents (not the simple ToC you may need for an ebook story for Smashwords). Or full-color, graphics-intensive layouts. Crazy fonts. Headers and footers. Drop caps for the first letter of the first word of a new chapter. Fancy stuff!
We could talk about all that stuff, and spend hours and hours updating your ebooks with the bells and whistles.
Beyond those three things, you just have to put your ebook out there for the world to find.
It’s that last bit where things get a bit tricky. How do you let folks know about your work? How can they find your ebooks? And how do you do that without being that annoying voice shouting out in the void of the Internet to “Buy my ebooks!”?
Good questions! Let’s look at some ways you can market your ebooks effectively.
Let’s take a step back from all the formatting, the cover-making, and the description-writing for a second. Let’s make sure you’ve got a good strategy in place for distributing your ebooks.
Places like Amazon’s Kindle Store, the Nookbook Store, and Smashwords aren’t publishers, of course. You are the publisher.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, the Google ebookstore, DriveThruComics, the iBookstore, and all the various other websites out there are the distributors. For a small fee, usually a percentage of each ebook you sell at their site, the distributor hosts your ebook file and gives potential readers access to your ebook.
So what’s the best strategy for using those distributors to help you sell your ebook? Do you use ’em all (and possibly go nuts keeping up with all those versions of your ebooks), or do you just use one? Or do you mix it up?
This is the back cover copy, but much more concise and snappy–it’s marketing material, not creative material. It’s a call to action, and that action is to get the reader of the description to buy your book.
Descriptions are tough. You’ve just written 90,000 words of a novel, so boiling it down to just a couple sentences seems quite impossible. So many characters and plotlines to cover here.
The trick is to find the heart of the story. What’s it really about? This is actually a really great exercise for looking at your novel with a more critical eye — think as a book seller now, and not as an author. How would you describe your book to a potential customer who has maybe 10 seconds of your time?
As a challenge, try to distill your book into one line if you can: “Some family curses are worth passing on.” (I have writer Loren Coleman to thank for that excellent tagline to my werewolf novel Family, Pack.)
Let’s dive deeper into these tricky ebook descriptions.
In all my research into self-publishing (y’know, that word still has a bit of a negative connotation in my brain, I’m sorry to say) and indie publishing (yeah, that’s much cooler-sounding), I’ve read over and over that the following three things are the keys to grabbing readers:
A great novel or story with a strong opening
An eye-catching, compelling cover
A snappy description that quickly tells the reader what the novel, story, or comic is about
Okay, you’re on your own for number 1. 😉
(But seriously, take a good look at your opening chapter, and especially your first few paragraphs, because ebook readers are going to want to sample your book, and that opening has to grab them right away. Do you have conflict up front? Error-free writing? Your best work, up-front? Make sure you do.)
And for item number 3 — snappy descriptions — I’ll cover that in the next blog.
So let’s go with item number 2 today and judge some ebooks by their covers, shall we?
So you’ve got your ebooks up at Smashwords, KDP, and Pub-It, right? And you have your novels set up as PoD books with CreateSpace and its various distributors.
You may have even gotten your ebooks into the Google eBookstore (or at least gotten them to the Processing stage of getting there!).
So… are you done with the uploading?
Almost! But first I’d like to highlight a newer distributor that not a lot of folks have heard of, but I think it’s one you should check out.
And ultimately, you want to have your books in as many possible stores as you can, right? So diversify, and don’t put all your digital and PoD eggs in one basket.
The distributor I want to share with you today is called DriveThruFiction. I first came across them when I was looking for other online sites to sell our digital comic, and we used a sister site called DriveThruComics (also a great site).
Google ebooks are stored in “the cloud,” instead of being downloaded onto your ereader, phone, or computer. They claim to be available on any device, and the ebook will synch up on all your devices. So you can start reading on your computer at work, read a bit on your phone during lunch, and catch up on your Kindle or Nook or other ereader that night, without losing your place.
Many independent bookstores have already integrated the Google ebookstore into their store website. Even my old-school, local independent bookstore here in Raleigh, Quail Ridge Books, has signed on with Google eBooks.
Google ebooks even has their own “fully integrated” ereader, the iriver Story HD. (I know, I haven’t really heard much about it, either.)
Look. This is Google, and Google is huge so I’m paying attention. So let’s see how it all works.
Here’s a thought or two about the future of print book publishing, from a small publisher’s perspective: Why print up 10,000 copies of a book, pay to store it in a warehouse and then pay more to ship it to bookstores, and pay again for returns if the book doesn’t sell?
Why not make it so each book has a press run of only as many books as needed? Even if it’s just one?
That’s print-on-demand (PoD). A customer orders a book, a book gets printed, and then shipped to the customer. No trucks full of boxes of books (except the UPS truck with the customer’s book), no warehouses, no returns. Just a printed book whenever it’s needed.
Pretty cool, huh? Luckily, the quality of PoD presses has gotten so high that you can’t tell them apart from “real” books from traditional publishers unless you know where to look.
And the PoD press I’m going to focus on for novels (not stories, as they’re not worth the effort) is CreateSpace, which is part of the Amazon.com empire.
After you’ve formatted your book for Smashwords, the Kindle, and the Nook, it’s just a few steps more to set up a book as a PoD book. Having a print version of your books makes it that much easier to reach more readers.