Thursday, May 13, 2010

Top Ebook Questions

I'm getting creamed with email lately, mostly from writers asking questions about ebooks. I wish I had time to individually answer all of them, but I'm on deadline and can't. So here are the most common questions I'm getting, and my responses.

Q: Should I publish on Kindle?

A: That depends on your goals. Kindle and ebooks are no more a guaranteed success than any other type of publishing. If you want to be widely read, and have the potential for earning a lot of money, find an agent. If your agent can't sell your book, or if you have out of print books, I highly recommend self-pubbing on Kindle and Smashwords.

Q: I've tried to get an agent. They keep rejecting me.

A: Perhaps your writing isn't strong enough yet. Are you sure you want to release a book that may not be ready?

Q: How do I format for Kindle?

A: Contact Rob Siders at www.52novels.com. He's fast, reasonable, and very good.

Q: Who does your covers?

A: My artist is a friend of mine named Carl Graves. He's at cgdouble2(at)sbcglobal.net. Tell him I sent you. Expect to pay around $300 for a cover, though the price fluctuates depending on your needs.

Q: What do I do to promote my Kindle ebooks?

A: I post at www.kindleboards.com whenever I have a new release. That's pretty much all the promo I do. But I'm lucky to have a popular blog, and lots of folks who talk about me on the net. I also have a print backlist.

Q: Do you need to have a popular blog and a backlist to be successful on Kindle?

A: No. Many others have sold well without the platform I have. But you shouldn't ever compare yourself with other authors, or their sales. Your mileage will vary.

Q: What are the most important things to keep in mind when uploading a book to Kindle?

A: 1. A professional cover and professional formatting. 2. A good product description. 3. A price between 99 cents and $2.99. 4. A good book.

Q: Are ebooks going to take over traditional publishing?

A: Eventually. But print will be around for a while.

Q: I was offered a print deal. But you say I should keep my erights, but my publisher won't let me keep them. What should I do?

A: Right now, I'm selling about 230 ebooks a day. In July (when the royalty rate changes to 70%), I'll be making about $470 a day on Kindle. I won't give up my erights unless a publisher can pay me more than that. But these are my numbers. Your numbers may be different. So you have to set your own goals and follow your own path. But be very wary about signing away erights.

Q: What about iPad, Sony, Kobo, and Nook?

A: Use www.smashwords.com. They'll upload to all of those, including Amazon, and take a small percentage. I have no idea how well I'm doing on these platforms yet, because Smashwords reports quarterly and I haven't gotten my numbers yet. I don't expect them to be anywhere near my Kindle numbers, but it's really early in the game. Who knows what the future holds?

Q: How did you get movie deals on your Kindle books?

A: The folks who bought the rights came to me. Then my agent made the deals. My agent is also currently working on selling foreign rights to my self-pubbed ebooks. Bottom line: get a good agent.

Q: Don't you think the ebook bubble is eventually going to burst?

A: If I maintain my current rate of sales, I'll earn $170,000 a year on ebook sales. That's just on the Kindle, and ebooks currently account for less than 6% of all book sales. What happens when ebooks account for 10%? Or 30%? What about platforms other than Kindle?

Eventually, there will be tens of millions of ereading devices out there, and I'm going to keep publishing new ebooks--many of them per year. I can envision a time in the future where I'm selling 500 or 1000 ebooks per day. If we predict that 40 million people will have ereaders in the year 2015, and I sold 1000 ebooks per day, it would take me over a hundred years to completely saturate that market. I'm not in any danger of maxing out my potential fanbase anytime soon.

Q: You seem to really be down on print publishers lately.

A: I love print publishers. But the traditional publishing industry is flawed, and I don't see any signs it will be fixed anytime soon. It used to be the only game in town. If you wanted to make a living as an author, you had to accept small royalties, no control, and a system dependent on others who may not have your best interests in mind. Not a healthy environment for an artist. While I've been extremely lucky in my career, I've also felt that I was at the mercy of a broken industry.

With ebooks, the majority of the money, and all the control, goes to the writer. That's incredibly liberating. I set my prices. I pick my titles. I choose the cover. I edit according to my taste. I'm not dependent on pre-sales or buy-ins. I'm not at the mercy of coop. I don't worry about returns. I don't have to tour, or advertise, or do all the crazy self-promotion I've done in the past. Distribution is no longer important. Going out of print is no longer a worry. I don't have to wait 12 to 18 months for the book I wrote to get into the hands of readers. I don't have to suffer because of someone else's mistakes. I don't have to try to fit a certain model. Past numbers don't matter. I'm not tied in to any contract. I get paid once a month, not twice a year. And I don't have to answer to anybody.

Ebooks truly are the greatest thing to happen to writers since Gutenberg.