Will Anyone Read Your e-Book?

Posted: January 7, 2012 in On Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,
English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de...

Is Your book on Kindle?

This year is supposed to be the advent of self-publishing. More and more people are buying e-readers and the number of e-books read has skyrocketed in the past few years.

Some pundits say now is the time to dust off your old manuscript and e-publish it. I heard a Writer’s Digest author say “even if it only makes $50 a month, that’s $50 a month. Think what would happen if you published several e-books.”

Well, I did think and I even pulled out some humorous short stories I wrote several years ago. My plan is to combine them into a short book–31 typewritten pages– and e-publish them to Amazon and/or Smashwords. The only cost to me, as I see it, is the investment of my time and whatever it will cost to design a cover. That’s right, there is no charge to e-publish these days. But I’ve looked and there are no free e-cover templates without malware.

I don’t expect to make any money, heck I’ll be surprised if I sell 10 books. But I am curious to see if I am wrong. Maybe there is money to be made.

The reason I don’t expect to make any money is the reason all of those other people aren’t making money. I read their comments in various e-publishing forums on Amazon and elsewhere. “If I lower my price, will I sell more books?”  This is one of many questions people ask about how to sell more books.

There are a ton of e-books out there which are poorly written, poorly edited, with ugly covers. On top of that, there are hundreds of thousands of e-books competing for your attention. This is your competition. Spam has joined Kindle and other digital print readers too. People are plagiarizing other web content and publishing it as their own. This scheme is only going to get worse.

As with print books, there is work to be done called marketing. Most e-publishers don’t want to market, they want to put it online and expect the money to come streaming in.

I’ve studied various forms of marketing for print books and think it would work for e-books too. I could do an e-invite to my friends and family, etc. I could ask book bloggers to review (see my earlier post on the subject) my e-book. I could post invites on Facebook and other social sites. If I could find a way to sign their digital copy, then I could do an e-author signing.

My point is, we’ve got to market e-books just as we would if we traditionally published. How is another story.

Smashwords suggests building a backlist of books and giving one of your books away for free. If a reader likes your free offering, they will want to read more and pay for it. Makes sense. It’s how print books work, except the only free copies are at the library. But I don’t have several books. I have two and each is a different series with different characters.

But. . . I could write some short stories with my series character and post one of them for free, with an evite to purchase my e-book.

If you are serious about e-publishing, you must roll up your sleeves and get to work. The same principles apply to self-publishing as are expected in traditional publishing. Write the best book you can. Revise, revise, revise. Check for spelling and typos. Develop a dynamite cover that screams for attention (not easy to do on a jpeg). Lastly, market your product. People aren’t gong to come to you. You have to go after them.

Like anything else, selling books is chiefly done by word of mouth, If your product is sloppy, this is the word which will be passed on via online reviews from people who read your work. The sales stop there.

I have one book I might e-publish. I worked hard on it for five years, revised it, edited it, got some interest from agents, but no sale. I think it’s a good book and I’m still hesitant to e-publish or self-publish a print copy. I probably would do both.

That’s why I’m going to e-publish my short book of humorous stories. Not to make money, but to learn how it works for possible future publications.

I forgot to mention. I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas. There are some drawbacks to it. It’s a bit hard to hold, slippery plastic, you know. A bit heavy and awkward too. I like it and probably will use it, but I’m not ready to give up on print books yet.

My next task will be selecting some books to read. Will one of them be yours? Perhaps, if you make it the best you can!

  1. kelly says:

    well done don

  2. R.E. Donald says:

    Looks like I’m a few months ahead of you, Don. I’ve got two mystery novels available on e-book retail sites, including Amazon and Smashwords. Sales are slow but happening. Even sold one in Australia. I’m not terribly fond of the marketing end of it, but devote a few hours a week to it. Check out my latest blog (just started my blog, actually) for my take on e-publishing at http://redonald.com.

    And if you’re looking for a cheap but well written mystery novel, try one of my trucker mysteries.

  3. oldsalt1942 says:

    I’ve written one novel, edited and rewrote three old books in the public domain to make them read as if they were written in the 21st century not the end of the 19th, and one short story. I published them on Smashwords and, of course they also appear on Amazon, B&N, the Sony store, etc. I can tell you this…I’m NOT getting rich off them but people ARE buying them. I’ve sold the short story more than 130 times. Fifty people have bought the novel and a couple of dozen have bought the edited books. No Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking numbers, to say the least, but my sales HAVE paid for a couple of month’s rent on the house I live in down here in Panama where I retired.

    Right now I’m working on a non-fiction book, the subject of which I’m keeping under my hat until it’s up on Smashwords, and this one MAY BE my breakthrough book.

    • Don Weston says:

      Thanks for sharing your successes. The fact that you have multiple books and short story can only provide a constant stream of money for you. I’ve got a 12,000 word short story I’m waiting to hear back on from Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. I will try two other markets and if it doesn’t sell, I’ll self pub it. I think there may be a real market out there for short stories: quicker read and cheaper to buy. Non fiction should o better than fiction for you.

      • oldsalt1942 says:

        There’s a lot of truth in the adage that you should play to your strength and non-fiction is where my strength lies. In the mid 60s to early 70s, before becoming a licensed boat captain (yachts and small commercial craft), I worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and hospital public relations hack. During that time I published over 50 magazine articles on all kinds of subjects: health care, crime, environmental issues, sports. The horribly sad fact is that magazines are STILL paying the SAME sorry amounts today as they did back then. It wasn’t worth it then when you divided time spent to craft an article into how much you were paid for it, and it’s certainly not worth it today.

        Fortunately with the advent of such outlets as Smashwords, Kindle Direct and others, a writer has a better chance at making some money. My novel was something that had been percolating in my brain for some 30 years before it released itself. It is a fictionalized account of Christopher Columbus’s horrid fourth voyage to the “New World.” Every word of it is true and it reads like an adventure novel. All I really did was invent a character to relate the story. It’s called:


        One thing that’s really cool is that two girls at the Universidad Latina here in David, Panama, who were working on getting their degrees in English, translated my book into Spanish. Unfortunately they and I had to sign an agreement that they would not be financially rewarded for their work which precludes publishing it. However, one of the requirements for their course was they had to give me a bound copy of their work and it sits, very proudly, on my bookshelf.

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