Author and book marketing wizard, D’vorah Lansky recently interviewed me on the subject of How Authors Can Benefit by Publishing Their eBooks on Multiple Platforms. It’s an hour video packed with info on this topic including questions on publishing with Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple iPad, Smashwords, selling pdf files from your own sites, teaching a Udemy video course and more. If you don’t have an hour, read the cliff notes below. You can also learn about D’vorah and her work at both http://www.bookmarketingmadeeasy.com/ and http://DigitalPublishingVirtualSummit.com.
Jason, how did you get involved in the digital publishing / eBook world? In 1992 I wrote a screenplay and eventually signed with a film agent. Then I watched a decade pass with no deals. I finally rewrote the screenplay as a novel and also wrote a sequel, but both of those tasks took seven more years. By that time I had little patience for agents or publishers, so after a few rejections I decided to self-publish. I remember the exact moment it occurred in 2009, watching a college football game with a player named “Kindle” and the proverbial light-bulb turned on in my head. I knew then that my novels must be made available for Amazon Kindle owners and began the investigation of how to do that.
Why do you feel it is important for authors to publish their book digitally? Whether the author is traditionally published, or a newbie Indie or something in between, she/he must make those stories available digitally because ebooks are growing exponentially while print publishing is a flat industry. It’s also been shown that people who read ebooks are far more active readers and buyers. Ebooks enable an enormous portable library for people to read anywhere, even from their cell phones (you’d be surprised how many do).
In addition to Amazon, what are the top publishing options authors should consider, and why? This is currently the big question, and the answer isn’t the same for every author. In my experience Amazon is the king—Amazon is all that matters to me since they sell about 90% of my ebooks. Amazon even has a program called KDP Select, which requires a 90 day exclusive clause that the ebook is only available at Amazon and literally nowhere else including an author’s website. KDP Select offers special promotions and can really help spread an author’s name within the e-reading circles. Surprisingly, I’ve opted not to do KDP Select to keep my ebooks available everywhere possible. Because I teach these methods, my books must be available at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Smashwords, Kobo, Sony, directly through my own websites and even as paperbacks via CreateSpace. Incredibly, all of these things are possible to do at no cost. For other authors, Amazon might be all they need although I would recommend having print copies available at CreateSpace, Lightning Source or Lulu. Print copies do not violate the terms for KDP Select.
If an author has published to Amazon, what benefits are there to also publishing to Barnes and Noble’s Nook? I know some authors who have great sales at Barnes & Noble. A small number sell more there than at Amazon and some sell with reasonable amounts like 25% of what they sell at Amazon. My ratio used to be about 15%, but lately it’s plummeted to 3% for Barnes & Noble sales compared to Amazon. However, that could change at any time so it makes sense for me to keep my books on their shelves. It’s really difficult to pull books from a retailer when they have sold well in the past. Anything could happen in the months ahead.
I know you have a video series in progress where you talk about how you take great care to publish and harness the marketing tools for both Kindle and Nook but your Kindle sales still overtake your Nook sales at a rate of 39:1. What can you share with us about your findings? Some of that is my venting to Barnes & Noble, meaning I wish they were doing the same business for me as Amazon. I find the entire platform at B & N less reader/author friendly including how their search engines operate, a lack of categories, lack of tags and how they recommend books to readers based on demonstrated preferences. Part of it is also this—I believe B & N got into the e-reading game reluctantly and a bit too late. They resisted the initial digital surge until finally realizing the brick and mortar design alone could not stand afloat, and so they introduced the Nook in Oct. 2009, well after the Kindle was established in Nov. 2007. It’s a great product and B & N was a great store, but why did it take them so long to get on board digitally? In the past week Microsoft invested heavily in Barnes & Noble with a pledge of $600 million to help the company compete with Amazon and Apple. Okay, we knew Microsoft didn’t like Apple, but it doesn’t take much now to see Microsoft and Amazon aren’t in bed either. Personally, I think Bill Gates may have just dumped over half a billion dollars. I wonder if Barnes & Noble is a doomed company still relying heavily on brick and mortar sales. If that’s true, it’s a good thing for Mr. Gates that he can easily afford the $600 million.
Are you familiar with publishing aggregates such as Lulu.com and Smashwords.com and what can you share with us about these companies? I’m a huge fan of Smashwords, a company that’s done more for ebooks and Indie authors than anything outside of Amazon. I met the CEO, Mark Coker, at the 2010 San Francisco Writers Conference and got his autograph (first one he’s signed). Smashwords helps new authors in more ways than I can list here. It does a dual publishing job of converting documents into multiple formats to be read on many devices while also distributing ebooks to companies like Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, Kobo and Diesel for sales. Smashwords does a tremendous amount of work while taking a smidgeon of profits (around 5%). Lulu, in my opinion, used to make more sense than it does now. For publishing ebooks, just upload directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple (if you’re a Mac user) and Smashwords for distribution to the rest. For paper versions, I recommend CreateSpace or Lightning Source over Lulu, but Lulu is not a bad platform either. CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, which makes the integration of ebook and print versions on their site seamless.
Jason, what else would you like to share with our community of authors, coaches, and speakers, regarding publishing their eBooks? This question could be answered in an entire book, or several–believe me because I’ve written them. If I could only impress one idea to a new author getting a book released, it would be this; experiencing success as an Indie author is most likely to happen if you do three things well. First, your book must be fantastic. It must be well-edited and make people want to read it entirely then share it with others who might benefit. Second, you must do everything possible to get the word out about your book, and this is probably wiser with free methods like blogging, participating in forums and using social media. Third, you must have thick skin for the nay-sayers while also having devout persistence when the weeks turn into months and the months turn into years. These things typically don’t happen overnight. There are a million Indie authors releasing ebooks, but only a tiny fraction will succeed. To be successful, you must have those three attributes to rise above the masses.
What one thing would you have our listeners do, in the next 24-hours, to take action on what you shared with us today?
Build an Internet Platform or Internet Presence list and identify your strong areas and those that need work. Think of it like a checklist or an outline or even a marketing plan, whatever works best for you. Items on the checklist don’t need to be worked on in a specific order, all can be done simultaneously in bits and pieces. These should include:
- Writing the book
- Editing the book (and this can be done in a several ways)
- Cover design
- Formatting the ebooks for Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and your own sites
- Formatting for print versions (CreateSpace, Lightning Source, Lulu)
- Building social media presence (Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube)
- Building a blog and/or website
- Identifying the best forums for your subjects and participating at least occasionally.
Once you have the list (checklist, outline or marketing plan), refer to it monthly to identify which elements need the most work and stick with it.
Succeeding as an author today is perhaps equally as difficult whether one attempts to get published traditionally or enter the world of self-publishing. In both cases, the author will be required to market her/his books. The main benefit in choosing the self-publishing route is bypassing the waiting game; getting a book out there in little time and working on sales is a rewarding momentum boost for many Indies.
If that sounds like you then I recommend my book, How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for Free. It’s a guide for learning everything it takes to make and sell books in a digital world on a budget everyone can afford. There is also advice for those who’d like to spend money wisely.
Home page of How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks.
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