UPDATE: We’re featuring this post during our August 2012 Celebration of Leslie (#CelebrateLeslie), so the comments will be available/open for additional feedback.
In celebration of E-Book Week, we’re very excited to have L. A. Banks with us to share her thoughts on e-books & e-book publishing. Before you leave, be sure to GET A COPY Shadow Walkers via Smashwords for .99 (thru March 12).
To ePub or not ePub… that is the Question
Written by L.A. Banks
Those of you who know me, also know that I’m curious to a flaw and I’m always doing stuff I probably shouldn’t be, LOL! However, this time I think I may have stumbled upon something really cool (even if I’m a little late to the party.) Yeah, yeah, curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought her back J Well, this time, watching the changing landscape of publishing and how it is becoming less and less favorable to authors in general, made me do some research into ways I could do my thing the way I wanted to do it (and get paid properly)… and lo and behold, the Universe messed up and threw me a bone—BIG SMILE! Necessity is always the motherhood of invention.
Once again technology is leveling the playing field in the world of self-publishing. With the advent of eBooks, an author can literally launch their title into cyberspace for under a thousand dollars (ask me how I know)—whereas in the past self-publishing a book was at least a $25,000 endeavor with a whole lot of inventory management involved. You’ve heard about or maybe even remember the nightmare of schlepping cases of books into your garage or basement, to then go into your trunk, to then drag around to all kinds of vending festivals because major bookstores wouldn’t have you… only to then find yourself chasing down small independent bookstores for your money, if you’d left your books there on consignment—right? So when was “the writer” going to write?
The prospect of that gave me the shivers, even though the margins of publishing your own title were always much better than dealing with a major house, advance notwithstanding. But I confess that I didn’t want to deal with the “process” of it all, if I didn’t have to. To me, self-publishing was a daunting feat. So the concept was one I’d always shied away from. You’d have to become sales, UPS Logistics, collections, freight and storage, and sometimes an enforcer (to get your cash.) Crazy. But for many people, that was the only option back in the day, and a lot of folks did it and excelled, finally bootstrapping themselves up into the major houses with phat contracts. Much respect.
However, for many others, the process was so overwhelming and the results so frustrating that, they could never break the glass ceiling. Making the transition had the same odds as trying out for the NBA. Sure, some folks definitely made it… but there were a WHOLE LOT that didn’t. Wisely, the ones that didn’t kept their day jobs, throttled back their enthusiasm, and sadly their dreams died by the side of the road after a few titles went bust.
Those stories were/are heart-rending, and the frustrations are very real. We’re not gonna even talk about the whole issue of having one’s money tied up in account receivables, or jacked up in inventory sitting in the trunk of one’s car. Under that old model, the drama of being an “entrepreneur” left little time to sit and write and develop a solid project, because if you were self published, you had to be “on your grind” to get your danged investment money back; you had to hustle, no two ways about it
Times have changed. Today, with technology leveling the playing field, all one literally has to do is have someone format the MSWORD manuscript into epub format ($200 if you go to Rob Siders – email@example.com), and have cover art developed (my cover for Shadow Walker—which I love–cost $300 through Carl Graves, firstname.lastname@example.org .) Of you need a back cover, spine, and the layout done for POD (print on demand), Cheri Perez will hook you up for about $300 (email@example.com) – conversely, if you have your own hook-up or skills, you can get it done on your own terms for less. [Editing is another issue and a quality control factor you want to employ; for that, prices vary. But you see my point. We are not talking a gazillion dollars of investment.]
So now with Amazon’s Create Space—that allows for actual paper, print on demand books as well as the famed Kindle eBook version, B&N’s Pubit (for the Nook), and Smashwords—that puts your title in Sony Reader, iPad, Kindle, PDF, text, and smart phone formats… the world is your oyster! These cutting edge publishing options also PAY. Yeah, you heard me. They pay a hefty 70% royalty against sales, and they deliver the check to your bank account MONTHLY. Folks, I’ve been in publishing since the mid-nineties and never once was my royalty check delivered with that cut of the deal or that fast!
In addition, these on-line avenues offer full service, publishing business turnkey solutions. You don’t have to come out-of-pocket upfront beyond like a $75 set up fee or less. Unlike going to a traditional print on demand place like Lightening Source, Inc. – which does NOT do third party billing – you do not have to pay for books ordered by bookstores, libraries, and schools up front. Create Space has an app for that, LOL. Seriously. They have a reseller program, a library program, and a school program in their distribution options, and the institutions pay them directly. You just wait a month for your commissions/royalties on what’s been sold. Okaaaay… are you hearing me?
Therefore, if some library orders books by the case, you aren’t going broke and waiting for the state or city library system to cut you a check. Once I compared Create Space to LSI, I was like… really? Are you playin’? I would NEVER go to a place that doesn’t do third party billing to tie up my cash. Create Space will give you your own ISBN#, everything is turnkey, down to the barcode on the back of your book. You upload two files—one JPEG of your cover flat and one of your PDF that has your book contents (formatted for print or eBook or both.) You set your pricing. You push send. They review your title (takes a couple days to make sure your content is cool), and then they ask you to order a proof to review. Once you approve your proof, your title is launched. Five days later you show up on Amazon. Six weeks after that you’re in the Ingram and Baker & Taylor distributor’s catalogs like anyone else. Voila.
The other upside is—NO INVENTORY! You do not have to ship jack, deal with customer service yang, none of that. If somebody wants a refund, it goes back the way it came—through Amazon and debits out of your sales. Period. Clean. No hassle. You are left to your own devices as a writer, which is the manufacturing of a top shelf product—the book. You now don’t have to be all the back office of the business. Sales can be done on-line through social media and your website. But all that running around dragging books in wheelie suitcases is history (unless you just feel you must, smile. Some habits are hard to break.)
However, what you do have to do is become savvy about pricing, and to understand the laws of volume, loss leaders, and doing fire sales. There is a lot of noise on-line, namely a lot of things competing for your readers’ dollars in alternate forms of entertainment. So why would someone pay $9.99 for your eBook title when you don’t have a presence in Barnes and Nobles or Borders, and New York Times Best-sellers are on the racks for $7.99? Be serious. Know the game. You’ll make more money if you drop that title down to $1.99… $2.99… tops $3.99, and if you don’t have a base, a .99/cent title will get you a bunch of new readers exposed to your work, then you can slowly escalate your pricing. But if you stay in the old mentality of the way it was done under yesteryear’s self-publishing models, the authors with name recognition are gonna smoke you when they jump into this game—and they are by leaps and bounds, trust me. Just sayin’.
That’s my two cents for the day about the changing landscape of publishing. Joe Konrath is “the Yoda Master” on this thing. Check out his blog on his website at JoeKonrath.com. He taught me, I’m passing on the knowledge. I call him my hero, because one bad contract taught me to have a back-up plan in place, even with 40+ titles under my belt. That one YA book, Shadow Walker, earned out in the first two weeks and has been climbing with the bullet. On Joe’s last blog that one of my fellow sister authors sent me, he posted a list with people who were selling 2,500 units, 5,000 units, 10,000 units, then 30,000, and ultimately 100,000 units in a single month. If they got just ONE DOLLAR off each of those titles… dayum… you do the math. This is the direction folks are going; this is the direction the industry is going. Don’t sleep this, people. Do not sleep this change in the wind. Just because it’s getting tougher to get into a major house and it seems like that door is closing, keep your eyes peeled for the new door opening on the horizon. Opportunities for success still exist!
Ms. Banks is a New York Times and USA Today Best-selling author and has written over 42 novels and contributed to 23 novellas. As a novelist, she fluidly moves between the genres of YA/Fantasy, Romance, Suspense, and Urban Fantasy, but is also skilled in comic script writing and screenwriting.
Banks is a proud member of The Liars Club of Philadelphia, is a Board of Trustee member for the Philadelphia Free Library and serves on the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy. Banks is a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania Wharton undergraduate program with a Master’s in Fine Arts from Temple University. She is a full-time writer living and working in Philadelphia.