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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

To "e" or Not to "e": Before You Opt for an ebook

I've posted before about why I decided to use POD for my book on ghostwriting, Goodbye Byline. I opted to have it available as a Kindle edition, too, and more than 25 percent of my sales so far (the book came out in October, 2010), have been ebooks.

So what's next? For me, it will be a stand-alone ebook. after hearing Mark Coker (founder of Smashwords) speak at ASJA this year, I've realized it's time to sample the Kool-ade, so to speak. My next book(s) (as opposed to those I ghost/cowrite for clients) will be ebooks. First up are my two novels that sold decently but have since gone out of print. I can resurrect them as ebooks (I still get email from readers who loved them!) and continue to build readers for my current novel in progress.

I'm also going to publish an ebook or two on writing-related subjects to see how they do. It will be an experiment (as was my first POD book) but it's worth it to me, in part because it makes me more valuable to ghosting clients who want my advice on the different options.

But here's the thing. Just like many authors went POD without considering potential drawbacks, I already see "authors" (i.e. not professionals, just people who want to get their books out) rushing to take advantage of the new format--without having written, you know, a decent book. There is already a glut of poorly-written (and I'm being kind) POD books and now ebooks will experience the same thing.

One of my biggest concerns with going POD with Goodbye Byline was that I didn't want a book that looked like a POD book. The cover, interior layout, and the actual content of the book looks--and reads--like a book by a traditional publisher. I wrote the book, I edited it, and I hired a proofreader to catch typos (and she caught a lot!). The book is clean. That's important to me not only as its author, but as a fulltime freelancer/ghostwriter as well.

My sales on Goodbye Byline haven't been stellar. It's a niche book aimed at a niche audience, after all. But they're steady and will continue to be, I hope. I also heard a quote from a publishing expert who said that it takes three years for a POD book to build an audience/take off And with the "long tail" theory of marketing, I'm hopeful that I'll continue to sell the book without a lot of specific marketing on my part. (As a freelancer, I'm always marketing myself, but I'm talking about the time I take to promote Goodbye in particular.)

My point? Ebooks may be the latest thing, but that doesn't mean you should publish an ebook just because everyone else is doing it. Consider the pros and cons for you, and know what you want to accomplish before you invest your time in the new platform.


  1. I've published two e-books ( as an offshoot of my blog for newcomers to New York City. It bolstered the value of my brand, and as a seven-year veteran of the newpaper and magazine industry (now a professional writer and editor), I was allergic to the idea of waiting for someone in a suit to tell me I could share what I'd learned en masse. Like Kelly, I too hired an editor (on Craigslist) and it was well worth it.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Sarah! Good point about using your ebooks to boost the value of your brand. That should be a consideration of anyone considering one, IMO. :)

  3. I've published several e-books, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as out of print fiction and new fiction. The OOP fiction sells best, perhaps not surprisingly. Sales are a bit unpredictable, but it's a good idea to take advantage of as many platforms as possible - Kindle, Nook, Smashwords - and it's hard to discount the value of a professional-looking cover and professional layout. I have my layout done by Natasha Fondren of the eBook Artisans, and she really goes out of her way to do a good job. If you just rely on the e-book publishers automatic formatting, the product often looks like garbage.

  4. Good point, Mark, and thanks for weighing in. I agree about the importance of the cover and the layout.

  5. You bring up some good points. And it's frustrating that so many are quick to publish without making sure their work is actually ready.

    Looking forward to all of your future books, Kelly!