Friday, January 20, 2012

Notes from The A-B-C's of E-Book Publishing

Here, at long last, are my notes from the January 10 Writing Life talk
The A-B-C's of E-Book Publishing held here at The New York Society Library. Please be aware that what follows are most definitely my notes, and not a word for word transcription of the talk. All errors and grammatical missteps are my own. I hope that some of you who attended will add your comments. Feel free to email me if you have additions or see any errors that need correcting. Our panelists:

John Snyder (JS), author of the new book Hill of Beans: Coming of Age in the Last Days of the Old South

Joshua Tallent (JT), founder and CEO of eBook Architects

Parnell Hall (PH), author of the Stanley Hastings and Puzzle Lady mysteries

Brief Statements from the Panelists:
John Snyder (JS) published his first book with Smith/Kerr Associates, who asked for the e-book rights. A lawyer friend insisted that he should retain the digital rights himself. John's research led him to Josh Tallent and eBook Architects. John wanted both Mobipocket (Amazon Kindle) and epub files (Barnes & Noble, Google, Kobo) in order to get his book listed on Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and Google Books. Due to the over 60 pictures, endnotes and footnotes, Hill of Beans is a more complicated formatting job. John used Bookbaby ($99; $19 for maintenance) to get it listed on Amazon and other sites. To promote his e-book, John hired web designer Chris Eastland to develop his website, and place a 4-minute video on the book on the website and on facebook. He sent out a number of review copies, was able to garner 10 good blurbs from luminaries like Jonathan Galassi and Roy Blount Jr, prevailed on friends to write reviews on Amazon, and paid for Kirkus to review the book {according to John, Kirkus will review your book for a fee, though payment does not guarantee a good review. You can suppress the review if you don't like it}.

Josh Tallent (JT) got started in the business by working with a proprietary format and wrote the book Kindle Formatting. He started eBook Architects, which now has a staff of 10. He notes that ebook sales are up 200% year over year; 17% of total sales are ebooks, which is up from 10% last year and 4% the year before. The two basic formats are ePub, the industry standard for B&N, Google, and Kobo; and Mobipocket for Amazon Kindle. There are 2 other new formats: kf8 for the Kindle Fire and ePub3. There's lots of new functionality available for ebooks which works really well for books like John's that have lots of pictures and other features as well as for Children's books.

Parnell Hall (PH) has 35 books that are out of print, which form his backlist. He got the digital rights back from the print publishers and published initially himself for the Kindle. Essentially, his DIY method was to scan the book, clean it up, and format it for Kindle (using information gleaned from Josh's expertise). Note that he did need new covers - he could not use the publisher's copyrighted material. He also converted 6 of his books that were written under the pseudonym J. P. Hailey . He priced these at $.99 just to get them out there and the remaining titles at $2.99 (which is the lowest price that gets you 70% royalty rate from Amazon). His newest books are being e-published by his traditional print publisher - these days it's often a deal breaker to try and retain the digital rights.

Q: Would a traditional publisher ever pick up a first time author's book if it is first self published as an e-book?
JT: It has happened.If it's well researched, well designed and on a topic that might get some notice.

Q: What are the pros/cons between print and e-books?
JT: If you use a real designer, e-books can compare quite favorably with print. The key is not to do it cheaply so it looks like you self published. The economics of self publishing ebooks are terrific: from Amazon, there's 70% royalty on the price and no returns to deal with.

Q: What is your projection for older folks adopting e-readers?
JT: E-readers are actually perfect for older people, since they are fairly intuitive, it's easy to keep your place in the text, and maybe more importantly, the font size can be enlarged.

Q: I have an out of print book and some (but not all) of the chapters are still useful today. What can I do without having to update the whole book?
JT: You could break up the book, and publish individual pieces as self contained chapters. They could be priced at the $.99 price point.

Q: Kindle returns?
JT: My book was priced at $9.99 and had very few returns
PH: At $2.99 and $.99, I had 2 out of 500 returned

Q: Library sales?
JT: Overdrive is the major player in the library e-book market. Self published e-book authors can go to Overdrive.

Q: What does it cost to publish an eBook?
JT: $150 for fiction for both formats, ePub and Mobipocket. For nonfiction, it depends on the complexity of the content, such as pictures, footnotes, endnotes, iPad, interactivity, but generally it's in the range of $1.75 to $2 per page.
Lynn Mandel Hall: It's worth it to spend some money on a cover that pops. For Parnell's books, we spent $200 on the cover (Elizabeth diPalma, designer).

Q: What's the ideal price point for an e-book?
JT: For nonfiction, it depends on the content. Look at similar books and price accordingly.

Q: Should I use a single website for all my content?
JT: Best to have a separate page for each book under one website. Also definitely place Amazon associate links to your books on the website.

Q: Should I keep the rights myself or use Open Road?
JT: Do you want to become a publisher? You need to ask yourself if you have the desire to do your own publishing or not.

Q: Is there a difference in your creative process when you're writing to publish e-books versus print books?
PH: I'm a bad example. I dictate all my books and then type them up. So it makes no difference to me.
JT: Best to take extra care with self publishing e-books. Make sure it's professionally edited. The quality needs to be high. Often, he gets many edits from authors after they first see their book in e-format.
JS: After Hill of Beans was first formatted as an e-book, he found it took 39 clicks to get to the very first paragraph. So, editing was necessary, moving the preface and other stuff to the back of the e-book.

Q: Any recommendations for marketing e-books?
JT: Recommends Shelton Interactive from Austin, TX. They do social media, and can create and maintain author websites.

Q: How can I find a good editor?
Carolyn: Feel free to call or email me - I have a number of names of member editors who'd love to work with NYSL member writers.

Q: I'm not sure the economics make sense for me if I have to pay out of pocket for a freelance editor, e-book formatting, and publicity
JT: For nonfiction, it's often a matter of selling a service, which is not necessarily a profit motive. By all means, if you have an opportunity and can sell your book to a traditional publisher, do it!

Q: What do you think about DRM (digital rights management)?
JT: Not an advocate of DRM. It makes things harder for readers, for example when you buy content for your Amazon Kindle, then you buy a Nook, you're out of luck and can't read content you already purchased. The argument for DRM is due to piracy, but JT found that his book has been pirated, but to a far less extent than it has sold.
PH: Check out Ereads.

Q: What are your consulting fees?
JT: $150/hour for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Q: I have a publisher and I have been unsuccessful retaining the digital rights to my work. I have found it's a dealbreaker.
PH: It depends upon the publisher, but it can be a dealbreaker. The publisher of all of Parnell's new mysteries retain both the print and digital rights.
JT: Still, the question is whether you want to publish or to write? And if you can get a traditional publishing contract, good for you.

1 comment:

  1. Another informative blog… Thank you for sharing it… Best of luck for further endeavor too.