Feb 12, 2012

eBooks and FreeBooks

After I finished writing "Monsters" the thing I most wanted to do was make it into an actual physical book. I'd never finished a novel-length story before and this would be the icing on that particular cake. My friend Andrew already had some experience working through the Createspace site (owned by Amazon) and suggested I go that route.

Createspace will print your book on demand and sell it through their own website and then it will be picked up by Amazon. Paying a few more dollars will give you access to the "advanced distrubution network" which promises you the biggest possible audience.

I wanted a couple of copies of my book and I knew friends and family wanted copies but would anyone else? I didn't know, but I figured it would do no harm to pay for the full distrubution and whatever happened would just be a bonus. My book went "live" and over the next few months I sold 14 copies. I could tell you the name of every one of the 14 buyers too. I knew them all. I worked with them, was friends with them or was related to them in some way. This actually made sense since I wasn't advertising. How would anyone know to buy it if they didn't know it was for sale? Another negative was the steep price: $17.99 I had to choose that price so that I could earn a royalty from each book. Any lower and I wouldn't make any money.

So, there it was, the elephant in the room: MONEY.

When I wrote the book I wasn't interested in making money off it. Even once I set the price of the book to allow me a tiny royalty I still really didn't imagine wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. I looked at it as a way to finance another book - since I'd spent about $40 making "Monsters" into a paperback.

It became clear from what I read on the internet that eBooks were gaining a foothold on the market. The number of blogs and websites devoted to self publishing was increasing dramatically and I kept reading about Twitter and how it was helping Indie or self-published authors market their books.

I made a decision to look into it and finally decided to experiment further with "Monsters". I figured it was a decent book, so converting it to eBook formats and selling it for a small price would be something worth doing, if for no other reason than to test the format and see what would be involved. I was serious about writing but unsure which path to take. Getting an Agent is notoriously difficult but doing it yourself is not.

Again the ugly MONEY question reared its head. Many writers were putting books out for FREE. Others had their books priced down at 99c. What should "Monsters" sell for? I didn't think too hard on it, attached a 99c price tag and sat back to see what might happen.

*Tumbleweed*

*Crickets*

Turns out not much happened.

My friends stepped up again. (Most of them now own my book in every format imaginable it seems.) However, with no advertising; without me telling someone about it, I wasn't going sell any. So I started mumble-tweeting, and hoped someone would take pity on me.

I continued reading about the pricing of eBooks and finally came to the conclusion that I should sell my book for FREE or I should sell it for a fair price. There was no in between. By setting the market standard to 99c I felt too many writers were selling themselves short.

It's not easy to write and harder to write well. It takes a long time for many of us and that's usually because we have a whole other life to take care of before we can burn the midnight oil and get a little writing done. I'm not the industry standard, but for reference purposes I can tell you I took two and half years to get my book finished. And really the writing isn't the most time consuming part. Once it's written it has to be edited, checked and rechecked. You are in charge of your own quality control. Put out a badly written book and people will tell you so without hesitation. Worse, they'll tell everyone else through bad word of mouth or reviews. So, you work hard to make the book as good as it can be.

That's a lot of work for 99c. And not even 99c because the usual royalty range for that price level is about 35%. You're looking at only making $35 for every 100 books sold and when you find out what the average sales for an eBook are you know you're never making a lot of money. However, that's not the main point. The point is Amazon/iTunes or whatever company you use to publish through makes twice what you make on every one of your books you sell. I don't have the figures on it but I'm sure they're making a killing since they continually expand their services.

I eventually stuck with Kindle and decided on $3.99 for the price of the book. That pricing level gave me a bigger royalty cut (75%) but still without advertising and word of mouth its hard to create sales. I will continue to look into marketing ideas and feel out an audience for my work.

For two days in January, my book was offered for free and 1300 copies were snapped up between the US and UK sites. So far this has generated a couple of positive reviews on the Amazon site which help promote my book.

After the FREE sale, the book returned tot he $3.99 price range and sales tailed off as expected but I did still manage to sell more books (at $3.99) that month than all previous months put together. I'm not sure why except with decent amounts of my book being snapped up for free, my book rose in the Kindle charts and maybe got some notice. I don't know for sure.

I haven't figured out the sales side of writing and must admit it is something I never realised I'd have to know when I started doing this. I have read a lot of advice but there's no quick and easy solution for this or there'd be far more successful authors out there.

Sales for eBooks are expected to keep increasing over the next couple of years and I hope I can have something figured out by then! 

If you're a reader, how much do you feel is fair to pay for an ebook?

If you're an author, how do you attract readers to your work? Twitter? Facebook? Let me know.



GSY

4 comments:

  1. Oh dear, that's one of the hardest questions for writers. Have you tried connecting with people on goodreads? The site is primarily aimed at readers, and many are interested in reviewing. Also, since you've got a physical book too, you can start a giveaway which might make people more aware of your book. If you can, take a course on marketing. Good advice can be found on Dana Lynn Smith's site: http://savvybookmarketer.com
    I hope this helps. Good luck. And the best advice I found is: keep writing more books. The more you've got, the more your coming fans will have to choose from.

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    1. Hi Cat -

      Thanks for the link and advice. I'm on Goodreads already and I know I'm not getting the full benefit from it yet. I need to spend some time on there and try to figure out a way to connect better with a readership.

      I think a giveaway is a good idea. I will definitely give that some consideration. I've seen it a lot on other blogs and I think it would definitely generate a little interest.

      And the best advice you received is also the best advice I received: keep writing. I am working hard to get a second book out. And I've got the guts of a third waiting for some attention.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Hi Gus.
    First i wan to say i agree with Cat, a give away of a paperbook always get our attention (Readers).
    A contest of three copy of your book may help you because too many readers will come to your blog and see your work.
    Anyway im just me saying.
    Now as for a reader and how much do i want to pay for the book (i consider myself a very good reader because i read in a good year 80-100 books)
    90% of book i buy it it as ebook and the only reason i prefer ebook is much faster for me to get them and offcourse mush cheaper.
    Now the problem is when i really like a book i end up buy it again in paperback, so from the 80 books 20 of them i get it in paperback.
    And everytime i buy a paperback lets talk for example your book is $17.99 i have to pay almost $30 to amazon for shipping to CYPRUS.But when i really like a book i consider it well worth it.
    But the number of my paperbakc books shrinks every year.
    (do the Math).
    So for me cant say i want your book to be $0.99 or $3.99 because i buy them anyway.
    Very good post i learn a lot i always wanna it to know how much a writer gets for a book i buy and now i see is not much.(sorry for that)
    Amazon takes the most of them.
    Staury

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    1. Hi Staury -

      80-100 books is a lot of books and I feel bad for you that shipping is so expensive to Cyprus!

      Ebooks do represent a much easier means for readers like you to access books quickly and easily and I can see why the market has exploded.

      Sadly the big publishing companies were caught with their pants down and fell behind the Amazon bandwagon. So, the Indie/Self-Published writers made a lot of their own rules based on the resources open to them. I'm not sure all of those decisions were in their best interests.

      If I can buy a bottle of coke from a vending machine for $1.25, I don't see the "business sense" of spending years writing and editing a book and then selling it for 99c. At the same time I understand why readers would be wary of buying something that hasn't been through one of the "big publishers".

      Now more than ever, writers rely on feedback from readers to help them figure out their readership, the market, pricing, general attitudes to formats and also heavily as an integral part of their marketing strategy. Reviews, comments on blogs...its all important. :0)

      Thanks for checking in again Staury, I greatly appreciate all your input.

      Gus

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