Ebooks and Self-Publishing

Ebooks and Self-Publishing

Some of us are being carried kicking and screaming into the e-revolution. I wrote this tongue-in-cheek poem, Empty Margins Rekindled, when the Kindle appeared on the market.

I think, or at least I hope, that there will always be print books. But in this world you either go with the flow or get stuck in the mud. Technology is constantly changing and improving and so must we as writers. I have yet to take the plunge to self-publish (other than the few poems I have on my blogs). In my research I came across these answers to my question.

Why are more and more authors self-publishing e-books instead of using traditional publishers and instead of self-publishing in print?

Let’s face it, self-publishing has had a bad reputation in the past—it’s what you do when you can’t get a publisher, which implies that the author isn’t “good enough.” Anyone can be an “author” by publishing themselves, but a “real” author—one worthy of the title—is chosen by a publisher. But now, with the advent of ebooks and the technology to read them, things are changing. Authors don’t have to pay the high cost of print publishing with ebooks, nor do they have to worry that bookstores won’t carry stock. Self-publishing ebooks puts the product directly from the author into the hands of the consumer. New and established writers alike are taking advantage of self-publishing and the e-book revolution.

Popularity of E-Readers

E-technology is so new that we haven’t even decided the proper way to write these “e” words—is it Ebook, eBook, ebook or e-book? It seems these books and readers have become popular overnight… or over Christmas 2010. People must have received millions of iPads, Kindles, and Nooks for Christmas presents. According to USA Today, a week after the holidays is when e-book sales surpassed print. (I, on the other hand, bought my granddaughter the entire hard back series of Harry Potter.)

Economics for Established Authors

There are financial reasons why many previously successful authors are now circumventing  legacy print publishing houses and going on their own to Kindle, iBookstore, Kobo and other e-services. The Telegraph reports that Amazon Kindle e-books are outselling paperbacks.  In a Newbie’s Guide to Publishing’s post Ebooks and Self-Publishing – A Dialog Between Authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath, J.A. Konrath discusses with New York Times best-selling author Barry Eisler the reason he turned down a $500,000 offer. Eisler says, “I think I can do better in the long-term on my own.” Konrath, who has sold over 1000,000 self-published ebooks, was #9 last year on Kindle with his novel Shaken.

In the Freakonomics article Who’s the Biggest Loser in E-Books? Dubner states that, according to a bulletin by Authors Guild, authors actually lose royalty money by publishing ebooks instead of print, while their publishers make more money. The article cites actual examples…another reason to self-publish your e-book.

In The Next Web post, “The Economics of Self-Publishing an Ebook,”  Blake Crouch, a successful mystery novelist, became interested in Amazon’s Kindle store. He self-published his short story collection and was amazed at how many more copies he sold compared to traditional publishing.

Launch of a Career for Unknown Authors

Some unpublished authors self-publish their ebooks to break into the traditional publishing world. USA Today tells how e-book self-published 

author Amanda Hocking sold more than one million copies, earned over $2 million, and landed a  7-figure deal. The article states that she gained global success by using “aggressive self-promotion on her blog, Facebook and Twitter, word of mouth and writing in a popular genre — her books star trolls, vampires and zombies.” Hocking was able to set her own price. She keeps 70% profit from a $2.99 book (the online bookseller takes the remaining 30%), but she only keeps 30% of each 99-cent book sold.

Downside of Self-Publishing

Smashwords, an e-book publishing and distribution platform founded by Mark Coker, offers free samples and 85% or more of profit goes to the publisher/author. (See EBook Publishing: Introduction to Smashwords  for a simplified intro to Smashwords.) One lady testifies that she downloaded her book and the profits just rolled in. But when Coker is asked Will I sell a lot of books on Smashwords?  his reply is an honest “probably not,”  some won’t sell any while some will sell thousands. Strangely enough he states that, “Although ebooks are the fastest growing segment of the book industry, ebooks still only represent about one tenth of overall book market in the US, and less in other countries.” This seems opposite to what I’ve read online. As with any self-publishing venture, the burden is on the author to promote and market their own book. While “Smashwords distributes books to most of the major retailers, including the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store,” and offers promotional tips and author pages, it is ultimately up to the author to publicize and promote their books on social networks, blogs, etc… This point is reiterated in Publish Your Own Ebooks explains the reason why Hocking chose to take the deal instead of continuing to self-publish. It wasn’t that she couldn’t make more money by self-publishing the rest of the series, but because the business end was time-consuming, taking away from her writing time. To summarize, you must have the time and energy to devote to the promotion of your work if you choose to self-publish ebooks or print. Each writer must weigh the pros and cons and decide for him/herself!

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