And we are back, my fearless Indie authors (and soon-to-be fearless Indie authors). Ebooks are simply the best. Thank you, Amazon! Thank you, Nook! Thank you, Smashwords! Thank you, India! This is the cheapest option, and the best way to get our voices heard to all those who love to read your stuff.
Alright, so next question; on what sites do you upload your ebook?
CHRISTINE BRYANT: KINDLE has a FREE application that can be downloaded on any PC, several brands of smartphones, among other devices, to read their ebooks on. (CLICK HERE to upload to AMAZON). You can also load your ebook on B&N for free for the NOOK. (CLICK HERE to upload to Barnes and Noble). A lot of INDIE authors use Smashwords to publish their ebooks as well, it has almost all formats of ebook (CLICK HERE to upload to SMASHWORDS). They are all free to upload your ebook.
JEWEL ADAMS: Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Offthebookshelf.com
JOLENE PERRY: [*same as above]. I sell between four and ten times more on amazon.
CINDY HOGAN: Now, check out e-publishing services. A good one to look at is Smashwords.com and it’s free to set up. It takes your manuscript and cover and creates all the different forms e-readers use, including formats for the Nook. It also distributes your ebook for you. Smashwords takes a cut, 15%, and the site it goes to takes a cut, and you still end up with at least 60%. It is pretty easy to publish for the Kindle without Smashwords by going to kdp.amazon.com (And if you price your book for between $2.99-9.99, you keep 70%.) It’s also easy to publish to the Nook, but Smashwords will do it for you if you wish. You also want your book available on sites like Kobo, Sony, Diesel and Apple. With Smashwords, they will distribute it to them all. Just remember, Smashwords can’t convert your manuscript into all the different formats without you first formatting it in the way they tell you to. I know that sounds confusing, but they actually have a free e-book with directions that walk you through the process. It’s called the Smashwords Style Guide and is available at Smashwords.com. I read through the guide and started to put a copy of my “print” manuscript into the form they wanted. Then I found out Smashwords keeps a list of people who take your book or manuscript and format it for you for super cheap. You just request the list from Smashwords and then pick the person that floats your boat. If you have the time, submit to the Nook on your own. If you own a Mac and have the time, submit to Apple, too. For the rest, let Smashwords do it for you. You have to submit to KDP(Kindle) on your own. Happy Publishing!
ME: So, here are the very simple directions; go to the links above to get on the sites mentioned by our contributors, and upload your formatted digital copy of your book (*no worries; formatting is our next topic). Also, something really cool about Smashwords—they send your book EVERYWHERE (but Amazon). I uploaded my book to B&N too, but apparently Smashwords gives it to them too (shrug) – but I want more of the cut, so I uploaded it directly to them.
Now for the question that makes grown men cry. Are you ready?
FORMATTING YOUR EBOOK
How? What software do you use? Are there any websites that are helpful for that? Any books that tell you how to format your ebook?
Did you use a service instead? Who or where? How much does it cost?
CHRISTINE BRYANT: Formatting and typesetting wasn’t that difficult. I used the guide provided by Smashwords for my digital.
HEATHER JUSTESEN: As for formatting software, CreateSpace, Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords are all set up so you can do the formatting in Word. There’s a tutorial on how in CreateSpace and Smashwords, which will make your book available for sale through Apple, Sony, Kobo (and Nook if you want, but I just sell direct through them for a bigger cut). The others have specific conversion software. I recommend doing all of your final edits, then for the ebook format Smashwords first, then make minor tweaks for Amazon and Nook. Smashwords has a free ebook on formatting for them which is available in pretty much any format you want (pdf, .doc, or various ebook styles if you have access to an e-reader). I actually went for the full formatting reset, which took about 2.5 hours—about half of which was searching for all of my italics and putting them back in. It’s the more extreme thing to do, but it meant I had zero formatting problems (and the why’s of it are in the Smashwords guide). Spend a little time on their sites seeing what they have to offer.
I now use calibre (*CLICK HERE to get it; it is free) to convert my formatted file into a .mobi for upload to Kindle. It’s simple and ensures that I have the least number of formatting errors–and it gives me a little more flexibility for formatting, like still indenting the paragraphs. It’s a free program and fairly user friendly. I’m told you can also create epubs through Calibre, but I haven’t played around with that part yet.
If you don’t have access to Calibre or other software to reformat your book, you can load a .doc of your formatted file to Smashwords, Pubit (Nook), or KDP (Kindle) and it’ll be fine. iBookstore requires their software to do the formatting and it’s only useable on a MAC, and Kobo is supposed to be opening their self-pub platform soon to the general public, so I haven’t played with it yet. Luckily Smashwords distributes to both so it’s not necessary to go straight to them if you don’t want to.
CINDY HOGAN: I picked a fabulous formatter who guaranteed her work and it only cost me 25 bucks. Money well spent. If you choose to do it yourself, just plan on spending 8-12 hours the first time and less and less the more you do it. One of my friends does it in about 45 mins. The bottom line? Look at your time and finances. If you have the time to format your book yourself, do it. If you don’t, hire it out for about $25.
JOLENE PERRY: Google Cindy Bennett. She has some GREAT tips. Here are mine: 1st line indent .2 or .3 .6 space between paragraphs, alignment needs to be “justified,” double space for Barnes and Noble, Amazon doesn’t seem to care. Do not put page breaks between chapters unless you don’t mind have a blank page once in a while – because people can change font size… I know a LOT of people do this (*pay others to format their ebook). I’d never pay someone more than 60 bucks to do it. But I’m a do-it-yourself kind of girl, so I’m totally biased.
ME: It is good to figure out how to format your own book because if you want to make small changes here and there (like I did), you can jump to your computer and do it (without constantly calling someone with your nagging phone calls…like I did). Here is a tutorial blog I made to help you format your own book. HERE! BUT if you can’t figure out how to format your own ebook (with my oh-so brilliant directions), you can always ask for help or find a service. I arranged some tradework to get help formatting my more recent released book (I’m not sure if she wants me to ‘out’ her though). And Cindy Hogan used someone from a list on Smashwords that cost her $25. I’ve googled ebook formatting services and at the most they charge $60.
UPLOADING YOUR BOOK ON THE DIFFERENT EBOOK FILES
How did you make sure that your ebook was formatted correctly on the different sites where you uploaded your book?
JEWEL ADAMS: They are pretty user-friendly. Plus, if your formatting is off, readers let you know:-)
JOLENE PERRY: Don’t panic – the lovely part is that if there’s some weird issue, or someone picks up a typo that you or your editor missed (it happens in traditionally published books often) you can CHANGE it. Also, they [Amazon, B&N] all have preview screens, but I bought my book and looked at it on my kindle and on my iPad and changed font size and all that.
ME: Be sure to check out your book to make sure it formatted correctly. I downloaded a mobi copy of my book on smashwords to check it out on my kindle, and then I had a sony reader that I checked it out on too. Pretty much I just asked friends with different ebook readers if they could check out the separate files to make sure they worked. The good news is that you can keep uploading your book until it works, and Smashwords will sometimes stop your upload and tell you that you’re missing something (not sure how their computer detects it, but it does).
And what additional thing do you need for an ebook (that you didn’t already get for your paperback)? Yes, I’m fishing…
Is it true you need a separate ISBN for your ebook, and where do you get it?
JOLENE PERRY: Yes. Different ISBNS. I had mine assigned through Amazon. *Steph’s note: their catalog number is called an ASIN on Amazon–I guess they don’t use an ISBN for ebooks, but an ASIN acts as one.
HEATHER JUSTESEN: Every version of your book has to have a different ISBN: ie hardback, paperback, ebook, audiobook. An ebook doesn’t actually have to have an ISBN for most websites, though I have bought them from Smashwords in the past so they can distribute to all of the other sites. Also, it’s handy if you are hoping to push to the best sellers lists so all sales of your book can be tied together. Barnes & Noble and Amazon track the books using their own tracking number, though, so you don’t have to have an ISBN for an ebook with them.
JEWEL ADAMS: Ebooks are assigned an ASIN number when you are doing Kindle and Nook.
ME: You have to get a separate ISBN number (from your paperback) for your ebook. I put my book through Smashwords and they gave me an ISBN number (super cheap, they subtracted the fee from future sells) and then Amazon gave me the tracking number (the ASIN) and I was able to use that with them (if I remember everything correctly). Same with B&N. It was all free (or virtually free).
So, now riddle me this, do we get anything out of all this hard work?
Well, yeah, we’d better…which of course, brings us to our next anticipated topic:
EBOOK PERCENTAGES/ ROYALTIES:
HEATHER HORROCKS: Basically, Indie publishing is a Little Red Hen-type operation. You do it all yourself, or find and pay others to do some or all of the tasks—and, like the Little Red Hen, you get to keep the majority of the rewards. It’s good to write in a series and to write well and fast. I’m picking up my pace now. Each book you publish bumps up your overall sales. Each of my $17.95 TP [Traditional publishing] novels that sold brought me less than $2; each $9.99 ebook, $2.50. For each Indie published $2.99, I get $2.09. And you can guess which price will sell more books. With traditional publishing houses, you get paid royalties every six months; with Indie you get paid each month (and the royalty statements are more clear). With TP, after your book is approved, it will take another 18-24 months to hit the shelves (smaller publishers can be quicker). You will be told how many books you can put out and how often.
CHRISTINE BRYANT: Let’s see, what else. Oh, I totally got the runaround with agents and publishers. For me it was like being in an abusive relationship. You have absolutely no control over your product. Plus, you’re lucky if you get 12% of retail. With INDIE you have control over the whole process and get 70%. WOOT!!!
ME: Like I said, ebooks is where you will probably make your most money as an Indie writer. Paperbacks are fun because you have physical evidence of your book that you can give to family and friends, BUT most buyers will get your book through ebook (maybe indie authors sell to an entirely different audience than traditionally published authors?). *Although a quick note regarding the comment from Julie Bellon a few posts back when we talked about distribution—yes, there are authors who have found success in distributing their paperbacks, so if you like the idea of your book in bookstores, you don’t have to discount it. But for me, working with paperback distribution would mean more legwork and risk—that’s why I love ebooks!
HOW MUCH DO YOU PRICE YOUR EBOOKS?
JEWEL ADAMS: I price my ebooks no higher than 4.00. Most are 2.95. My paperback prices vary. Since I write a lot of novelettes and novellas, the paperbacks are usually priced at 6.00 or lower, but when I am selling them myself, I discount them.
JOLENE PERRY: So many people put their book up for .99 but you make almost nothing b/c your cut is 30% at that price. I price mine at 2.99, and my next might be 3.99. One random trick on pricing. A LOT of people put a lower price on their book on Barnes and Noble and a higher price on amazon (*Steph’s note: Amazon doesn’t allow you to price your book for free—unless somewhere else has priced it for free. For more information CLICK HERE under E: Matching Competitor’s Prices). Back to Jolene: THEN you report to amazon the lower price, and amazon will price match, making it look like your book is on sale. A little sketchy, but effective.
CHRISTINE BRYANT: BOUND came out in November 2011 and has done pretty well. Nothing to write home about, but it brought in enough to keep my writing business going and to keep me in printer ink and paper. BROKEN was released in June of 2012 and has done phenomenal. In order to better market it, I dropped the price for BOUND and offered the digital version for FREE. It has since had over 120,000 downloads. That has carried over to BROKEN where I’ve had almost 9,000 copies sold. That’s in 2 1/2 months. Not too bad for an INDIE, eh? I plan to release the third book in The Crystor Series, BELOVED, in January 2013 and hope it does as well.
ME: I would suggest looking at the ebook prices on Amazon to determine where to price your book. The Indie books usually sell around $2.99 to 4.99. If you think that’s low, it’s not. A published author gets much less for a book (60 cents or about a dollar if you’re really lucky), and you’re getting 70% of your sales on Amazon. As of today, I just lowered the price of Prank Wars from $7.99 to 4.99 to become more competitive with the ebook market. But I’m experimenting with prices right now. However, I definitely plan on lowering prices for my books meant for a national market. Maybe $3.99 (I think that’s where I’ll keep them, but who knows?). Amazon can distribute to the national market, and they are now opening up to an international market; that means more buyers (with various incomes), so you have to price your book just right to get their attention (not too low so you don’t get anything, and not too high to throw you out of the competition). As for my Twisted Tales trilogy coming out, my first book will be the cheapest if not for free.
And that brings us to tomorrow’s exciting and LAST installment of the Indie guide…is all of this hard work worth it? Well, was it? After everything was said and done, what were our contributor’s experiences with Indie publishing?
That will be decided tomorrow...