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Author: Varlot One star, 50 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 4867  
Subject: Marketing a Novel as an Ebook - Chapter One Date: 2/22/2012 1:06 PM
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Or (perhaps a more appropriate subject header), "Where I am at now".

Proceeding from an assumption that one of the readers of these posts will be a person with little to no prior knowledge of modern publishing, I will try to include as much basic information as possible. Having said that, please do not consider me an expert on the history and inner workings of publishing, as there are many with better and more extensive credentials, some no doubt monitoring this board.

In the past, would-be writers have been frequently frustrated by the difficulties in marketing their work. I say 'work', because coming up with an idea which you offer to share with a previously-published author and thereafter split the royalties when said author does the grunt work of turning said idea into the next "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" is not work. Ideas are the easiest thing in the world to come up with, I have more in my head than I know what to do with. It's called 'work' when one puts word to paper (or screen, whatever) and finishes with "The End" (or "The End?", one of the biggest cliches of 1950's sci-fi flicks).

In my experience, many unpublished authors are convinced that there is some secret doorway into the world of publication. This can range from the more sensibly sounding (you need an agent to get published) to the more sublime (submitting an entire novel manuscript on colored paper in order to catch an editor's eye and make your work stand out from everything else in the slush pile).

The reality is that the system is inundated by future best sellers, only a tiny percentage of which are sufficiently promising to work with. At the same time, there are a plethora of editors out there who dream about coming across the next Stieg Larsson or Stephenie Meyer, the odds of which are comparable with winning the powerball lottery.

So the barriers are high. And for this reason, good work does get locked out of the public marketplace. Publishing a book is an expensive proposition, and there are no guarantees as to its success once it does make its way out there. And royalties are low for the writer of a published book (after everything, a writer might get 8% of a book's cover price, assuming their advance earns out) because there are so many expenses involved in getting the work out there. In the day (it might be different now), artists who did the cover art for a lot of the sf and fantasy paperbacks could make as much as the author, because unless you were a 'name', the artwork was as likely as anything else to sell the book.

With this sort of inefficiency in mind, the ebook was inevitable. And when publishers realized the ebook's potential, one of the first things they did was rewrite their boilerplate contracts in order to lock in ebook publication rights.

For those few who have been living a sheltered life and who do not know what an ebook is, an ebook is a manuscript in electronic format designed to be read by an electronic device, more typically on a device such as the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple's iPad, etc. One can also read ebooks on a computer, but hand-held devices designed and intended for the consumption of such content are typical.

While there are other ebook readers out there, it was Amazon and the Kindle which reinvented this experience and who are selling the lion's share of the ebooks. That may not necessarily hold true in the future, but that is how the market is now, and anyone with an interest in ebook publication has to consider this market first.

Now, to return to the original subject header as opposed to all of this digression:

Once I completed the first draft (see my previous post if you haven't already), I went back through for revisons. One thing I did while writing my novel, titled "House of Shadows", was that every time I would come across a logical break in the story (this novel does not have 'chapters'), I would create another file for the next section, retaining the previous section as an individual file in addition to appending it to the end of the larger manuscript file. I did this because a primary concern for anyone writing is file corruption. If for some reason the larger manuscript file were to become corrupted, then at least I had the individual files with which I could piece the novel back together.

After revisions, I chose some test readers from my family and friends and sent them copies. I have given them a month to read it and then contact me with any issues (basically anything that sticks out during the reading which throws the reader out of the story). That is where I am at now.

In the interim, I am working on the other necessary adjuncts to marketing one's book in the electronic marketplace. Markets such as Amazon and B&N require a bank account they can link to in order to pay royalties, which for these markets can range from 65-70% of cover price. While there is nothing to say one cannot simply use one's regular bank account, I decided that would be unnecessarily messy and chose to create a business account. I then discovered that my credit union is not apparently allowed to create business accounts (I've previously written rants about legal restrictions placed on credit unions to impair their ability to compete with banks), so in order to create a business account, I had to grit my teeth and use a local bank for this purpose.

As I said earlier, it isn't necessary to have a specific business account for the purpose of recieving royalties, but you might find advantages in doing so. For me, I wanted to keep things separate. When creating an account with either Amazon or B&N, you can either list for tax purposes your social security number or the tax ID of the business you are DBA (Doing Business As). Getting a tax ID number isn't particularly arduous, but I've discovered that it can take a couple of weeks for a tax ID number to be available for these business entities, so I'd recommend doing this earlier rather than later.

For anyone who wants to investigate, these are the URLs for Amazon and B&N for prospective authors looking to publish electronically:

Amazon: https://www.createspace.com/

B&N: http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/pubit_app/bn?t=pi_reg_home

I should also mention that one is not limited to publishing electronically, at least where Amazon is concerned. It is possible (and I plan to do this as well) for Amazon to create a trade paperback version of your work which will be printed on demand. This eliminates one of the problems associated with legacy publishing, the need to invest a considerable amount of funds in pre-printing a given work. One of the reasons certain novels command exceptionally high prices is because if a given book goes over very well, all copies are quickly snatched up by the public, necessitating additional print runs which are noted as such in the book itself.

There are other business-related matters I will be dealing with as well. A book requires an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). Amazon will create one to use on your book, but if you want to market your work outside of that venue you will need ISBNs of your own. What I have seen thus far suggests that Amazon is even willing to provide (for a fee) such numbers one can use outside of their marketplace, but I have gotten no further than becoming aware of that at this point.

Cover art is something else I am exploring. Amazon offers a varied number of services (at varying prices) to create a cover. And since I also intend to make House of Shadows available as a trade paperback, more will be required than a simple front cover image with the title and my name on it. Basically the more of the work you want them to do, the greater the incurred expenses. At this point I have seen a photo I like on the Shutterstock web site which I would like to use, and if I do end up paying for the right to use it, I might be able to keep expenses down to around $149. Here is a link to Shutterstock: http://www.shutterstock.com/

One final thing I will have to do is convert my manuscript, currently in Word 2003 format, into the kind of format readable by the various ebook devices. At this time there are, practically speaking, only two such formats: one for the Amazon Kindle and one for all other devices (Nook, iPad, etc.). I intend to have this done by a third party, who can go through and hand-correct the inevitable typeface errors that these conversion programs have a propensity to allow (and which may have been noticed by anyone who has read many ebooks). This should be the last thing done.

That's where things stand as of now. I have heard back from one test reader, ironically my ex-wife. I was concerned she might have an issue with the darkness of the material, but to my surprise she told me the novel was 'pure gold', and the best thing I had written thus far in my life. So that'll do me till I hear from the others, who may well savage the work, my so-called 'talent', the shortcomings of my intellectually-challenged cat, etc. But I'll bask for now in a (possibly temporary) glow for the time being.
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