Thursday, August 02, 2012

E publishing: Where Do I START?

Lately I have had a LOT of people asking me for advice on e publishing (or, horrors, to teach a workshop on it...) and I’ve been promising to compile a list of e publishing resources here to at least direct people to some solid help while I get my thoughts on the subject together into some kind of useful order.

But lists of resources are most helpful for people who already have some knowledge of the subject matter. That wouldn’t really address the question I keep getting, which is “Where do I START?”

Selling a book in the e publishing world has just as many steps and pitfalls as going the traditional route. Even though in the early days of e pub (like, last year!) a few people got lucky by just throwing a book up on KDP simply because there was so little competition out there, those days are over. The competition is fierce. There’s no question that launching into e publishing without having a clue what you’re doing is not going to get you very far.

On the other hand, there is no way to learn this stuff without being hands-on about it.

This isn’t a great time for me to start a new blog series on e publishing (as evidenced by how far I’ve gotten on my supposed series on series writing, hah!!). I am scrambling on a deadline for my latest paranormal while working on the sequel to Huntress Moon (nothing is more important that), getting ready to sell my house in the fall, and oh, right – I’m going to Australia in two weeks to do a workshop and panels and signings for the the Romance Writers of Australia National Conference.  

I made myself tired just WRITING all of that.

No, not a good time to take on anything else.

But I MIGHT be able to get this rolling for some of you with, dare I say it? – SHORTER and more targeted blog posts.

It’s tempting to just say: Go read Joe Konrath’s  Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog, in reverse order, from 2006 on. And maybe that is the best advice I could possibly give. Then you’d get it all as it actually unfolded from the actual leader of the revolution. I should actually take that advice myself, but, you know, the time thing.

It is a lot to sort through (and for God’s sake, if you do it, don’t get lost in the  Comments!).

And there’s something equally basic that you need to do if you are thinking of e publishing.

Get an e reader. And USE it.

I have to say that because it is astonishing to me when I hear authors talking about e publishing who don’t even read on an e reader.  Reading an e book on your laptop or phone is not going to do it. You will fool yourself that you get it when actually you don’t have a clue. There is NO WAY you are going to understand the incredible sea change that has occurred if you are not using the technology and understanding why and how readers are buying. You can’t. And I think once you’ve experienced the thrill of having an entire library in the palm of your hand, the delicious indulgence of being able to download ANY BOOK YOU WANT, INSTANTLY, you’ll understand why this is the greatest invention since the wheel, and why as an author OF COURSE you want to make your books available this way.

Which e reader? No contest. If you’re an author looking to make a living, you must get and understand a Kindle. I'm sorry if there are people who don't like that answer but that IS the answer. I do not know of one author who is making a living at self-publishing who is not doing it primarily through the Amazon platform. And all the authors I know who are making good money on Nook and Kobo sales launched themselves with Amazon.  (More on this here: To Nook or Not to Nook?).  I’m being basic here and that is as basic as it gets.

An e reader is easy to operate, you’ll see. So once you have one, what you want to do is start buying books. Or sampling them, it doesn’t matter, and sampling is totally free (Sampling: in the Amazon store, you can download several chapters of any book to your Kindle for free. If you do not have an Amazon Store account, you need to set one up. It's easy.).  Sampling is an important thing to learn – among other things it will teach you volumes about your own writing, and what has to go in your FIRST CHAPTERS).  But it’s also a no-cost to learn the device and experience e reading.

You want to sample books that are in your own genre, and you want to sample a lot of self-published books as well as traditionally published books . The 99 cent ones (brace yourself...) the $2.99 ones, the $3.99 ones, and the $9.99 and yike, $12.99 traditionally published ones.  Try authors you haven’t heard of whose books sound interesting. (Don’t forget Huntress Moon, or any of the fine titles you can simply click through to sample if you just look to the right of this blog...).

Take an hour and download and read twenty samples in a row, and take notes. Did you want to keep reading at the end of the sample, or could you not get through it at all?  Is there a difference between 99 cent books, $2.99 ones, $3.99 ones, and the $9.99 or $12.99 ones put out by traditional publishers?  If there is a difference, what IS the difference?  Would you pay $12.99 for an e book? If so, which authors would you pay it for, and which wouldn't you?

Wade into the market and see what’s out there. Get the lay of the land, and ask questions here. 

So there, I’ve given you a couple of practical tasks that will get your feet wet.

You didn’t think you were going to learn this overnight, did you?

I hope not. Get a grip.  E publishing is a full-time job, just like traditional publishing is. But if you don’t start now, a year from now you’ll still be asking, “Where do I start?”

- Alex

Huntress Moon, on sale now:  $3.99

Amazon IT

A driven FBI agent is on the hunt for that most rare of all killers:
a female serial.

Related e publishing and marketing posts:

My e publishing decision 
To Nook or Not to Nook? 
Giving it Away (Kindle Select promotion)
Marketing = Madness
Letting it Ride (Kindle Select promotion)
Bestseller lists and Tag lists
Liking, Sharing and Tagging 


Kameko Murakami said...

While every author would love to see her books printed on ACTUAL PAPER by an ACTUAL PUBLISHER and on a shelf in an ACTUAL BOOKSTORE, I do have to admit that I'm completely in love with E-publishing as well.

As a reader, I am a total fool for my Kindle and the massive library I carry around with me everywhere I go (although I do of course read physical books all the time as well, because books are still books, no matter what format they're in).

As a writer, I love the speed of E-publishing, and as someone whose online catalog consists currently of nothing but short stories, I am awfully glad that it allows a place for these to be published, since the traditional short story marketplace has mostly vanished over the course of time.

I'm anxious to see where this revolution takes us, once we get out of the Wild West of E-publishing that we are in right now, where there is just SO MUCH STUFF out there, and it is so hard to hear the music amongst the noise, so to speak.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go curl under the kitchen table and lovingly stroke my Kindle. We loves our Precious! Yes, we does!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Laughing, Kameko... "My Precious" is right!

Great point about short stories, and stories are actually good practice to learn the platform of e publishing as well as how to write

Sharon Hamilton said...

Great advice, Alex. You are so right. I'm just smiling here, watching your success, and how you are able to share the path. Thank you.

Laura Libricz, Authoress said...

I can't imagine how an actual author or avid reader could possibly turn their nose up at the Kindle! If I'd only had one when I was a kid. I feel the same way about my MP3 player and my (paid-for) Napster account. I'm a few weeks away from e-publishing my first novel, so I've been enjoying your journey here. And Huntress Moon. Had to put it down to sleep last night, but I should finish it this weekend!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thank YOU, Sharon!

Laura, it really is shocking to me how many professional authors I know have not even tried reading on an e reader of any kind. I'm with you - if I'd had one of these as a kid?

(Well, maybe that's a kind of scary thought...)

Please share your e pub experiences! Best of luck. And so glad you're enjoying the book, thanks for reading!

Virginia said...

Thank you Alex, I'll follow your advices, precious as always!
Can I ask you, if I may, how do you handle negative feedback? Maybe you didn't get any, but just in case this could happen how would you react to them?
Thank you.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Paola, I've definitely been the recipient of some dreaded 1-star reviews. Now, remember, I started out as an actress, so my skin is pretty thick!! Still, it ALWAYS hurts.

But I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I've never written a one-star book in my whole life. If there's anything I've learned, it's when to quit when a book or script isn't working.

Now, I understand perfectly that not every book I write is going to be to everyone's taste, and that's fine. Someone who doesn't like The Harrowing might be captivated by Huntress Moon. It's always surprising to me which reader loves which book.

What I don't get is why anyone would KEEP READING a book they personally considered a one-star read. That's such an outrageous waste of time - not to mention PROLONGING that waste of time by writing a scathing Amazon review... I mean, don't these people have anything BETTER to do with that time?

So basically I'm saying that I am confident that a one-star review says more about the person writing it than it will ever say about me and my work.

It hurts, but it really means nothing in the grand scheme of things.