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Books Businesses DRM The Almighty Buck

The Ease of Publishing an Ebook 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the decreasing-the-tree-bodycount dept.
ISoldat53 writes "This article describes how easy it is to publish an ebook. The author details the costs to the writer for a major publishing house to publish a book and the savings to the writer by self-publishing. He looks to make the same profit selling the book at $2.99 on Amazon as he would going though a traditional publishing process. The book is formatted only for the Kindle right now, but the author explains how it can be converted for other readers, since there's no DRM."
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The Ease of Publishing an Ebook

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  • Re:Quality control (Score:4, Insightful)

    by julesh (229690) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @04:46PM (#33919810)

    Indeed. And while J A Konrath is actually a reasonably well-known writer who writes (I'm led to believe) fairly good books, the *vast* majority of e-book self-publishers aren't in his league, so his experiences don't really translate to other people trying to get into the business. Konrath had a run of good-selling traditionally-published books before he started self-publishing, thus managed to build a fan base off the back of the marketing the publishers did for him. This doesn't apply to most of the people who read his articles and decide that maybe self publishing a novel is the way forward for them. It isn't, except in unusual circumstances. Konrath exemplifies one of those; there are others (e.g. you're famous for some reason other than your writing, you have a ready-made large network of people you'll be able to sell to, etc.).

  • by ed (79221) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @04:49PM (#33919824) Homepage

    I notice he talks about controlling the book forever, so he would also like a copyright term of infinity?

  • Slashdot effect (Score:4, Insightful)

    by burisch_research (1095299) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @04:51PM (#33919836)

    Seems that getting news of your new book onto the front page of Slashdot will help enormously with sales.

  • 2.99? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by neumayr (819083) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @04:54PM (#33919850)
    Not that I've read all of the article, but 2.99 seems too cheap. I mean, there is a correlation between price and perceived value, and selling a novel this cheap at release doesn't seem like a good idea.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 16, 2010 @04:54PM (#33919852)

    The fact that he can publish on more than 1 device doesn't have much to do with DRM. DRM is about keeping it on a device once someone purchases it.

    Things like this will always help small writers due to the cost differential, but for large authors piracy would probably be rampant -- I know I would read more if I didn't have to pay for the content.

  • Re:Missing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by julesh (229690) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @04:58PM (#33919862)

    Now you can become famous on YouTube and next thing you know be vaulted to levels unseen by many mainstream bands who were on the radio with one song.

    Yeah. And you could win the lottery, too.

    (Seriously: how many people post videos of themselves performing on youtube? How many become megastars because of it? I can think of maybe 3 examples...)

  • by dcollins (135727) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @05:11PM (#33919930) Homepage

    FTA: "Publishers also do promotion and marketing, though I haven't seen much of this for ebooks. Drawing on our fan bases, we sent out 260 advance reading copies of 'Draculas'..."

    The undercurrent to all these "internet for the win" stories is the same. This guy's primary advantage is that he's succeeded with major book publishers in the past. This gave him marketing, promotion, name recognition, fan base, contacts with Amazon and Huffington post to get the promotions for this project. Once you have the major-industry name recognition, then it's relatively easy to spin off and use the price advantages of the Internet to do your own thing.

    However, the vast majority of EBook self-publishers will not have this advantage, and will not have any chance of leveraging the same success or payoff for the last two month of this guy's labor (which is the entirety it took him to co-write and market this book). In addition, it's quite likely that there's a limited window of opportunity for this -- as book publishers become aware of the "spin-off" effect, it's quite likely that they'll start demanding more restrictive career-long contracts from new up-and-coming authors (same as how the music industry now wants "360 deal" chunks of a performer's outside concert, merchandise sales, etc.)

  • Re:2.99? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PatPending (953482) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @05:37PM (#33920074)

    Didn't some trade organization advocate the same argument about $0.99 music downloads?

    Anyway if you do take the time to read TFA you will discover something interesting about their net profit. (It would appear they chose the price based on what their net profit would have been had they used the traditional paradigm, then factored out the costs of the third party.)

    This is genuinely fair pricing to my way of thinking.

    Of course if you want to pay more, you are free to send it to the authors.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 16, 2010 @05:53PM (#33920144)

    They charge what they think you're willing to pay?

  • Re:2.99? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @06:38PM (#33920452)
    Indeed, and what's brilliant about it is that while he's making the same amount per book that he would've previously, it's almost certain that he'll end up selling quite a few more than previously.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @06:38PM (#33920454) Homepage Journal

    Traditional publishers act as brokers, bringing the written word to those who want to read.

    They sift through the junk so I don't have to.

    Self-publishing works well for:
    * Authors with an established reputation in that genre
    * The rare person who can act as his own editor. Hint - if you think that's you, it isn't.
    * Anyone who isn't motivated by finances and who doesn't need the marketing services of a reputable publisher.

    The first group we already know.

    I don't know anyone in the 2nd group.

    The 3rd group includes people who traditionally self-publish, such as universities and religious organizations, the traditional novelty press market, and niche publications which are one step above the novelty press market in quality but where the author won't mind if nobody buys or reads his material.

    I would put most bloggers and others who publish non-tolled Internet content in the third group.

  • Movies (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @07:01PM (#33920580)
    YouTube became the way for ordinary people to create their own movies, videos, etc and have an outlet for other people to view them. The Kindle and other platforms do much of the same thing but for reading material. Some YouTubers have lucked out big time while others simply enjoy having an outlet to distribute their media. I think people are being harsh on the author of this article. I think the article simply was designed to give people an idea of how to publish when they want to do so. The author makes no promises of riches.
  • Re:Missing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mopower70 (250015) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @07:26PM (#33920702) Homepage

    Hrmm...

    1) Editing: Have you read any recent books? Between word usage, entire sentences cut off, and flat basic gammar errors many newer novels don't appear to have anything beyond the basic spell check run, if that. Add that to the mistakes added on purpose to "detect illicit copies" and it's painful to read some books. Not just small publishers either - larger houses such as Tor have this problem.

    The fact that you don't know the difference between editing and copy-editing speaks volumes about what you don't know about publishing. Editing is a valuable contribution to the publishing process and can make the difference between a mid-shelf and blockbuster book. I don't know what books you've been reading, but aside from "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", I can't remember the last time I read the kinds of errors you describe. Outside of a self-published book, that is.

    2) Marketing: In this case it'll be handled, for free, but your readership. Get some decent reviews on Amazon, end up on their "You might also like" list, and things go from there. Classic word of mouth only with a much larger potential base. If you get mentioned on a blog with a decent reader base things will move even quicker.

    No. No it won't. Marketing is anything but free and can even fail disastrously for a well-written, well-edited book. Most people who read books and pass it on word of mouth don't do so through the comments on Amazon or any blog. There are obvious exceptions: technical books or certain areas of non-fiction, but in general, people who read don't care what Joe Dirt has to say about an author.

    3) Cover/format: Format can be handled by any modern word processor with templates (search online - free ones abound, for everything from novels to screenplays), and cover can be done for a small fee to a decent artist or (if you have them) friends with talent. Why pay the publisher rate?

    For the same reason you can tell when your local car dealership's daughter is the model for his commercial and his cousin is behind the camera. If your expertise is writing - which it obviously is or you wouldn't be trying to publish a book, right? Right? - what makes you think you're also an expert marketer/artist/graphic design/layout artist?

    4) Connections: See 2. This, again, is obviated by skipping the industry entirely.

    Much like the music business, it's much easier for amateur writers to get their stuff in front of the public. If you're decent, get yourself on even one decently read blog and you'll get yourself started. Yes, there's a lot of "if" coming off this plan but it's just as bad with an agent/publishing house, only you're less likely to get screwed with a bad contract.

    Again, no. No, no, no. Music is disposable. It takes two minutes to listen to a song, and probably even less to decide if you like it. Or, you may follow the critic's advice and listen to it at least seven times before deciding. Total investment: 15 minutes. Reading takes time. It takes an investment. It takes a commitment from the reader. Most people, especially voracious readers aren't going to waste their time on something that hasn't been vetted by someone who knows what they're talking about: a trusted friend or a publishing house. Publishers are the front-line against the sea of crap that people like you think requires nothing but exposure to make successful.

    One final note: if you self-publish, good luck ever getting a reputable publishing company to look twice at you. Yes, it can happen. I was able to find seven cases in the history of publishing where it happened, though I personally know of three cases where the author was rejected explicitly for it.

  • by Alaren (682568) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @08:16PM (#33920914)

    No, this is exactly wrong. He's not giving credit in those points--he's dismissing the publishers' past contributions to his present ability to profitably self-publish. He's saying, point by point, "we don't need no stinkin' publisher," but the only reason he's in a position to make those claims is because he had a publisher in the first place.

    Furthermore, I'm skeptical of a bunch of authors getting together to edit their own work. Writing and editing are different skills. I know a couple of big-time authors who got into the editing business most of them are, by most accounts, lousy editors.

    That's not to say you can't have both skills, or make the transition smoothly from one role to the other, but to take both roles for a single work strikes me as a bad idea.

  • Re:Quality control (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 16, 2010 @09:19PM (#33921152)

    Indeed. And while J A Konrath is actually a reasonably well-known writer who writes (I'm led to believe) fairly good books, the *vast* majority of e-book self-publishers aren't in his league, so his experiences don't really translate to other people trying to get into the business. Konrath had a run of good-selling traditionally-published books before he started self-publishing, thus managed to build a fan base off the back of the marketing the publishers did for him. This doesn't apply to most of the people who read his articles and decide that maybe self publishing a novel is the way forward for them. It isn't, except in unusual circumstances. Konrath exemplifies one of those; there are others (e.g. you're famous for some reason other than your writing, you have a ready-made large network of people you'll be able to sell to, etc.).

    Totally agreed. This is somewhat similar to Radiohead's pay-what-you-want model from a few years ago. Immediately afterwards, people were going "See! They made a million dollars off of that, so anybody can," while totally ignoring that they had built a reputation on the backs of the very industry that was being claimed was totally unnecessary now. Sure, there's some merit to what's being done in both cases, but to claim that anyone can make it big because established artists can go-it-alone later in their careers is disingenuous at best.

  • by Garwulf (708651) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @10:29AM (#33923784) Homepage

    Um, no - ONLINE sales are a large part of the future. But even your claim of bookstores closing every day doesn't take a couple of things into account:

    1. The North American economy has not yet recovered from the recession, so sales are down across the board. Five years from now, it will be a different story (I hope).

    2. In over a decade, the e-book has barely managed to carve out 5% of the total book market, and it only manages that on months where book sales are low.

    E-books will have a place in the future of the book, but they are not going to replace the printed book. Now, you can legitimately ask me why I say this, and I do, in fact, have an answer.

    Way back when, the VHS won the format war with BETA, and dominated the home video market. A new, better optical format that had superior video and sound, and even special features, was developed. And for 15 years, the laserdisk struggled to make some impact on the home video market, and failed. Around ten years ago, a new, better optical format that, like the laserdisk, had superior video and sound, and even special features, was developed. And within 5 years of the DVD hitting the market, the VHS became an endangered species.

    So, why was this? Why did the DVD succeed, while the laserdisk failed? Both were better technology than VHS.

    But, there was a difference between the laserdisk and the DVD. The laserdisk was about 30 cm in diameter, and could only hold around 45 minutes of video per side. So, it was better on a technology level, but when it came to convenience, a VHS was smaller, and you didn't have to interrupt the movie you were watching to flip it over. The DVD was both better AND more convenient - it was smaller than a VHS, and it could hold the entire movie on a single side.

    Now, apply the lesson to the printed book and the e-book: the e-book is more technologically advanced than a printed book - no disputing that. But, it's not more convenient. With an e-book, you will always need a reader, and to deal with file formats, and a shorter shelf life. A printed book is about as simple an object as you can get - unlike the e-book, the printed book has NO technological requirements for the consumer. So, if market domination is based on creating a product with more convenience to the consumer, the e-book just does not have what it takes to supplant the printed book.

    Now, if something did come along that was more convenient than the printed book, you'd see the DVD vs. VHS situation repeat itself, and the printed book would become an endangered species within five years. But, in the comparison, the e-book is the laserdisk, not the DVD.

  • Re:Missing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @12:16PM (#33924374)

    These are big-budget books; failure to catch errors that are obvious on (at least my) first reading seems a significant disservice to those paying the bills.

    I'm afraid these are not big-budget. They are published by a small-time science fiction publisher, not known for their quality control, they are in no sense big-budget. I've read most of the Baen books, and frankly they're at the pulp end of Science Fiction, and are probably produced on a shoe-string. This shows in the cover graphics (very low budget), internal design, the editing (or lack thereof), and even the quality of writing they accept from their authors. The quality of the editing matches the quality of the writing for the most part.

    Absolutely fine for what they are, but they certainly aren't a large publishing house or a representative example of what a good publisher/editor can do for an author.

  • by Garwulf (708651) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @12:19PM (#33924388) Homepage

    It isn't - it really isn't.

    The problem is that most of the vanity press industry is very much a scam. They tell writers that they will be professionally edited and published, for a nice low fee of $5000, or something like that. Then, if they even do an editing pass, it's a very limited and cursory one. They're already thousands of dollars in the black for the book, so there isn't any real need to make it more successful.

    So, the author - who even though s/he was told there would be a professional editor involved, probably didn't have any real editing help at all - gets his/her book, and it appears on Amazon, where it usually sells less than ten copies. The authors who manage to sell more than that are the ones who have busted their hindquarters marketing and moving the book. But, when people generally talk about "self published" authors, vanity press authors are what the term has referred to for years.

    There is a very large difference between that and an author who has learned the business and decided to go it alone. Those people get business licenses, found their own publishing house, get the help of a good editor, and deal with the printer directly. But, they are in the smallest minority compared to the thousands of would-be writers who get sucked into vanity publishing.

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