January 28, 2013
rosemary published this at 8:51 am
By Ovetta Sampson
â€œYes, of course I can do that!â€
The words of affirmation flew out of my mouth faster than the reality that I had no idea how to do it hit my brain. I was close to sealing the deal to write a book for a client. Sheâ€™d provide the brilliance; Iâ€™d wrap it up in lovely words. Weâ€™d sell books. But she also wanted to publish an e-book. I had never done that before. But I said yes anyway. I mean, it couldnâ€™t be that difficult to publish an e-book? I mean you just send your Microsoft Word document to the ether and it comes out whispering on your Kindle right?
Yeah. Not right. It took me longer to find a credible answer on e-book publishing than it did to write the book. I asked on LinkedIn, I asked people I knew in the business, I even asked established publishing houses, everyone had a different answer and no one convinced me they had it down. The reason is they donâ€™t. But you will. Read on.
Myth #1: I Need to Write a Book to Make Money
Do you know how many books youâ€™d have to sell to get on the coveted New York Timesâ€™ Bestseller List? Industry insider estimate 20,000. Think about it. At $26.55, the average price for a hardcover nonfiction book sold in 2011, youâ€™d gross $531,000. But youâ€™d have to give at least a 1/3 of that to your distributor or publisher, take another 15 percent or your agent or publicist, maybe another 10 percent for marketing, and youâ€™re down to less than half your sales at $221,220. Thatâ€™s nothing to sneeze at but nothing to retire on either. No wonder people are self-publishing. But do you really think you can sell 20,000 copies of your book? If you think so here are some sobering facts from Steven Piersanti, president of Berrett-Koehler Publisher:
- The average U.S. nonfiction book sells less than 250 copies per year
- The average U.S. nonfiction book sells less than 3,000 copies over a lifetime
- Competition is increasingâ€”in 2003 the U.S. published 300,000 books. In 2011 that number was THREE MILLION!
So making money should not be your motivation to publish a book. Spreading brand awareness, though, is a good return on your investment.
Myth #2: All You Need is a Word Document
By far this is the No.1 fallacy I heard when investigating e-book publishing. Everyone said, â€œAll you need is a Word document.â€ While itâ€™s true that the publishing world is firmly ensconced in Microsoft Word and e-book distributors such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble accept Word docs to create digital books, a Word doc is by far the beginning step not the end. But why?
To put it simply: a print book is created by imagery. An e-book is created by code. In printing you take an image of your written text as designed and reproduce it. In a digital book, you take your text and use code to manipulate it so that it flows and changes to fit the e-reader. A printed book is static. An e-book is flexible.
Read this if you want to know what exactly what happens during the conversion, but otherwise take my word for it. Publishing an e-book is not even remotely the same as sending your Word doc to a printer and having your book typeset at a printing house.
Myth #3: I Can Do It All Myself
If you want a crappy e-book you can upload a Word doc and be done with it. But if you want an e-book that looks professional and can gain respect, you need to have your text doc converted to a major digital publishing language namely: MOBI, for Amazon or E-PUB for everyone else. You can get all the dirty details of conversion in Guy Kawasakiâ€™s new book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneurâ€”How to Publish Your Book. It is by far one of the most comprehensive books on self-publishing Iâ€™ve ever read. He also gives step-by-step instructions on how he took his book digital as it was designed with InDesign.
But hereâ€™s what you need to know: If you want all the bells and whistles found on e-readers such as navigation, searchable text, clear graphics and tables, hyperlinks, you need special code or formatting, much like HTML for a website. Author service providers can offer you this service. There are several including:
- Smashwords (free but takes a cut of royalties)
- BookBaby, charges an up-front fee but offers you 100% of the royalties
- CreateSpace, owned by Amazon, very aggressive in marketing but print-on-demand is great if you want a real-live book as well as a digital one.
There are tons more. Prices for these companies range from as little as $100 to north of $4,000. For my project I paid $100 for e-book conversion to both MOBI and E-PUB and formatting from the Indian-based SunTec Digital, (Hi Rahul!) and had my client sign up for Amazonâ€™s Kindle Direct Publishing program to distribute the book. The book, It Takes Work to Be Happy, came out fantastic and looks fabulous on my iPad.
Myth #4: I Donâ€™t Need an Editor Iâ€™m a DIYer
While there are plenty of tasks you can complete when you self-publish, I mean it is called self-publishing; editing is not one of them. No matter how great of a writer you are, if you want your book to be taken seriously by your audience, the media, clients and even your mother, you need a good copyeditor. Iâ€™m not just saying that because I am one.
Whatâ€™s the first thing you think about when you get an e-mail with a misspelling? Nigerian fraud right? Ever read a Facebook post with someone using â€œthereâ€ for â€œtheir?â€ Makes you cringe doesnâ€™t it? I was contemplating dating a guy but his Facebook posts were so riddled with misspelling and errors I just stayed away.
Communication replete with incorrect spelling, bad grammar, and faulty sentence structure signals carelessness. Correcting those mistakes is about more than pleasing English teachers. Itâ€™s about putting your best foot forward. And at just $35 an hour (the average copyediting cost) isnâ€™t your first book worth that kind of attention? Hire a copyeditor this is non-negotiable. Then you wonâ€™t be like the losing Mitt Romney whose campaign asked supporters to â€œStand with Mitt,â€ for â€œA Better Amerca!â€
Myth #5: Iâ€™ll Write It Then Market It
Nope! Market it as you create it! Itâ€™s the only way to rise above the din. In the past authors went to big publishing houses for marketing chops. But thanks to social media and the â€˜Net you donâ€™t have to. Still, youâ€™ve got to be Barnum and Bailey to get rich in the Obama era.
Guy in his book APE, notice I keep mentioning it, yeah, you need to read it, gives a crash course on marketing and self-promotion. You can also check out his practical advice reading this Q&A I did with him about marketing for startups. Guy likens publishing an e-book to beginning a startup.
Because even he, an established author, Penguin is one of his publishers, with millions of social media followers, even he spent more than a year promoting his self-published book before it was even written.
When I sat down with business guru and CNBC star Carol Roth and asked how she promoted her New York Times best-selling book The Entrepreneur Equation the answer was simpleâ€”she did a yearlong marketing plan. Thatâ€™s before she wrote a word. Yeah, you can buy her doll here!
Bottom line: When you think of writing a book is when you should create a social media profile for it, tell everyone you know, start soliciting pre-sale e-mails, and bug your local book seller and plant seeds on book-centered websites and groups. Donâ€™t wait until itâ€™s done, besides opening your mouth will give you a reason to actually write it.
Look, publishing is pigeonholed into a paradox. Book sales are dropping just as technology is allowing more people to publish. Itâ€™s not enough to have a good book; you need to have a well-designed, well-edited, well-marketed book to rise above the din. So Write. Revise. Format. Market. and Sell!