Monday, September 30, 2013

Adventures in the ePublishing Trade

As you can see by the ads hawking books to the right of my blog posts, I have entered the eBook business. My first title, THE JOKE'S ON YOU: HOW TO WRITE COMEDY, is producing about $500 a month in mailbox money. Three new books are in the works on comedy history and the first will be done before the end of this year.

Here are some things I've learned along the way:

1. Copyright your work. The online copyright service is only $35 and there are numerous advantages to registering your book (stipulated damages if copyright is violated, proof of authorship, etc.). It's simple to do (though the copyright's office website is about 20 years out of date) and cheap.

2. Kindle. Kindle uses 'mobi' formatting and is the best route to go for your ebook. The split is 70/30 in favor of the author with the book minimum pricing of $2.99. Amazon pays timely, makes it easy to update your books, and allows you to track sales and modify pricing as needed.

The formatting was a bit difficult for me, so I used a formatting service who took the Word file and added hyperlinks for chapters and did a proper book layout for $165.

Kindle updates the book for previous purchasers so they can keep track with the latest edition.

3. CreateSpace. Within the last couple of months I decided to update THE JOKES ON YOU with photographs and additional material in the appendix. A graphic designer friend (Cat Stewart) assisted me in getting clearance rights for photographs. Some of these were difficult to obtain and we used substitute photos. The book then had to be laid out as a 6x9 paperback.

I was so pleased with the results, we went back and updated the Kindle edition as well.

I priced my paperback at $11.95 and the hard cost to print the book is approximately $3.50. Surprisingly adding the paperback DOUBLED my sales. Apparently there are many folks who don't like eBooks and want the paperback version. Writers are leaving a lot of money on the table by not adding a paperback option for their prospective audience.

4. ISBNs. A separate ISBN is required for both the print and eBook edition of the same book. So that's two per title. I suggest buying them in bulk to save money - at least ten. CreateSpace offers ISBNs to customers but they aren't 'portable' - meaning if ten years from now you want to take your ISBN with you somewhere else, you can't. It'll pop up as an 'out of print' title. It's a somewhat controversial issue, but I decided to spend the $250 for ten to maintain full control over my book.

Buy them here:

5. You might already have a book written. I went back and found a book I'd co-written in college on a chess variant (Bughouse Chess) and published that. I found a number of sketches, short stories, and other humorous items to compile into yet another book (The Comedyphiles). I don't expect either of these titles to be huge sellers, but every bit helps and having a number of titles published helps establish you as an 'author.'

Right now I'm working with cartoonist Jonathan Brown (verrrrry talented guy) to add another twenty pages of cartoons and chapter/cover illustrations to THE COMEDYPHILES before going to a paperback edition.

6. Editors. One of the few advantages of the traditional press is the use of editors to give you feedback, corrections, and guidance in improving your book. I'm fortunate to have some talented writer friends who gave me feedback along the way and did hire an experienced editor to go through the book for errors. Far too many typos and grammatical errors pop up in self-published books. Spend the money and make your work look professional.

7. Marketing. BookBub is an excellent resource for novelists who have a series of books featuring the same lead character. I likely will be trying Kirkus Reviews soon for more exposure. My marketing efforts included this blog, my facebook page, Twitter, and simply the Amazon search features. Comedy writing is a niche topic and I now pop up #1 on that search, so that helps.

My goal is to have a dozen titles posted and to have them on related topics (comedy, film history, television comedy, an interview book with screenwriters and TV writers). Getting to the 'bills paid this month' level income from eBook and paperback sales each month would be a home run. I don't expect to ever do some of the crazy numbers some fiction writers have had in terms of sales, but $2,000-3,000 a month is a realistic goal.

Post if you have any questions, comments, or additional information and best of luck!

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