Sunday, September 25, 2011

Great Article In The Daily Mail

There's a great article in the Daily Mail about ePublshing, quoting me at length. YOU CAN READ IT HERE

The article was written by journalist Andrew Wilson, who has just published his own book on the Kindle.

Andrew sent me a whole list of questions for his article, here they are in full:

How easy is the process of self publishing?

Self-publishing is now very, very easy and inexpensive. Amazon have totally transformed the market with their Kindle Direct Publishing platform. It takes a few minutes to open an account, and a few minutes to download a book and its cover. Then within hours your book is on sale and available to millions of Kindle-owners around the world. You can reach all the other eReaders by going through an on-line company called Smashwords, which is just as easy to use.

What’s the best way to start?

First, write a good book. The big problem with the explosion in ePublishing is that the vast majority of books that are being self-published are just plain awful. Badly written, badly-edited, badly formatted. Most of the so-called “Indie” writers (who previously would have been described as ‘unpublished’) rush to get their work on-line and frankly most of them are wasting their time. A badly written book isn’t going to sell, no matter how cheap it is.
I think of writing a book as being akin to running a marathon. Anyone who finishes a marathon deserves kudos. It’s a long haul. It’s hard work. But just because you’ve run a marathon doesn’t mean you should be running at the Olympics.

Writing for the most part is a craft. A skill that has to be learned. Very few writers published the traditional way see their first book in print. It’s often their fifth or sixth that is good enough to be published. Jack Higgins famously wasn’t published until after he’d written more than a dozen novels and he didn’t achieve any real success until his 36th – The Eagle Has Landed.

EPublishing has removed that learning curve. Now any book can be published, no matter how awful. And I think that’s bad for writers.

Assuming though that you have written a good book, the second stage is to open accounts with Kindle Digital Publishing and with Smashwords. It requires a little work to get the books formatted, but you can someone to do that for at little as £25. And you need a good cover. Again most ‘Indie’ writers Photoshop their own and generally they look awful. I pay a professional designer £350 a time for my covers. You don’t have to pay that much, but you need your cover to look professional. Then you’re good to go. You download your book and cover and wait for the royalty cheques to arrive.

What kind of books sell best? Why do thrillers sell so well on Kindle?

A look at the various eBook bestseller lists shows that books that sell well as paperbacks also sell well as eBooks. A good book sells no matter what the format. But at the cheaper end of the market there does seem to be a lot of interest in crime, thrillers and in paranormal romance. It might be because fans of those genres do tend to read more than the average reader.

What mistakes did you make if any? What have you learned?

Generally I got it pretty much right. I would say that my first books were downloaded with too many typos but I was lucky in that very quickly a few readers came back to me pointing out mistakes they had spotted. The beauty of ePublishing is that you can make any necessary changes almost immediately. With hindsight I should have paid for a professional proofreader to go through the books before I started selling them.

What advice can you give about pricing?

The cheaper the book, the more it will sell, obviously. Amazon allows you to sell for as little as 99 cents in the US and 75p in the UK. For s first-time writer self-publishing on the Kindle, that’s probably the best price. Certainly it’s hard for a first time Indie writer to sell a book for more than £1.

What advice would you give about cover design?

You get what you pay for. Doing it yourself, unless you are a talented designer, marks you out as an amateur. In the world of ePublishing people most definitely do judge a book by its cover.

How long should a book be? I know The Basement is 40,000 words – what’s the ideal length for Kindle?

The beauty of eBooks is that the buyer is more concerned about quality than length. That’s different to paperback books where publishers go out of their way to make it look as if the buyer is getting value for money – they seem to feel that the more pages, the better. I think 40,000 words is a great length for an eBook as it can be comfortably read in one sitting. I have also started selling short stories on the Kindle. I think the eReader is going to revitalise the short story market. Someone who is about to get onto a bus or train for an hour might not want to start a new book but would happily read a short story. I also think that we might see more serials being sold, with writers putting up a new chapter every week or month. But generally a novel should be around 100,000 to 120,000 words.

How do you get the book noticed? And noticed – and noticed??

I think writers should concentrate on improving their craft rather than worrying about promoting their book. Every “Indie” writer now has a blog, they have a Facebook presence which they use to constantly push their work, (a quarter of my Facebook “friends” are writers who do nothing other than post about their books) and they spend hours on the various eBook forums. It’s all about the marketing. They ask for other writers to tag their books, they get friends and family to post favourable reviews (it’s amazing how many self-published eBooks start off with half a dozen five-star reviews on Amazon, mostly from readers who have only ever reviewed the one book) and they share Tweets with other writers. Every “Indie” writer is following the same formula. Sell, sell, sell. Does it work? In the early days of ePublishing it probably did because it was a new phenomenon but these days there are just too many writers out there promoting that you really can’t see the wood for the trees.

The way to get your book onto the bestseller list is to write a book that people want to read. Word of mouth will do the rest. Too many Indie writers seem to think that you can create a buzz by just pushing your book down people’s throats. That doesn’t work. Word of mouth happens because people read a book that they have enjoyed and they tell their friends. You can’t create that, it’s down to the quality of the book.

What are the best websites/blogs to use to try and publicize one’s book?

You need your own blog. That’s a given. And you should guest blog on as many other blogs as you can. The various Kindle forums run by Amazon are good, and there are lots of other good sites around including and New sites are springing up every day. The trick is to go onto the various forums and make them aware of your books without overstaying your welcome.

How many e-books have you sold?

Since I started self-publishing last November, I’ve sold close to 400,000 eBooks and my publisher has sold more than 100,000, mainly of my Spider Shepherd series, so in total about half a million.

Can you say how much you’ve earned from e-books?

(Honestly I’d rather not say – it’s quite complex to work out because there are so many different prices and royalty rates)

Is it possible – as some claim – to make a million from Kindle?

Providing you have good work that sells, of course. It has always been possible to become rich by writing. But the simple fact is that the vast majority of writers don’t earn enough to support themselves by writing. And that’s not going to change. All ePublishing has done is to change the way that books are delivered to customers. That doesn’t mean that a customer is more likely to buy your work. Can you make a million from the Kindle? Sure. Price your book at 75p and sell four million copies! Amazon will give you a third of the money they make – and that’s a cool million.

How do you see publishing in 5/10/20 years?

As time goes on more people will have eReaders and I think that within five years there will be more eBooks sold than paperbacks. But I don’t think paperbacks will die out for a long time yet. Most people do seem to prefer to hold a real book in their hands – I certainly do. Publishers will have to adapt, and most are starting to change. Agents too will find their work much harder. In the past it was agents and publishers who decided which books were published and sold. But ePublishing has changed that, now anyone can publish their book and it is the readers who decide what sells. That is a major shift in power that I think people in the industry are only just coming to terms with. But there is definitely a role for publishers in ePublishing. I would say that ninety per cent of the eBooks that are self-published are awful. And I would say that ninety per cent of the books published by traditional publishers are excellent. So who are buyers more likely to trust when it comes to buying a book? That’s why we’ll always need publishers, because they more than anyone understand the importance of maintaining quality.

1 comment:

  1. I've read on other forums and blogs that for a 40,000 word count ebook you should price it at $2.99. I just published my first book at $3.99 and then dropped it to $2.99 because I wasn't generating any sales. Of course I only dropped this price two days ago and haven't seen any sales still.

    So I'm not sure which advice to take. I guess I will keep experimenting and see which price get me the most sales.