I’m gearing up for possibly my favorite teaching gig, a week-long workshop at the West Texas A&M Writers Academy. It’s the only actual writing workshop I do all year, because it’s so well-run and the conditions are so perfect for real work to get done. There are only fifteen students allowed in the class, for one thing, and I can do anything I want, always a plus. The first day I do my regular Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshop on story structure, and then each day we work through ALL the students’ stories, all the elements of each act, one act per day. It works like a charm, no matter where the students are in their writing process. I’m very excited about launching into it again. I may even get some work done myself, on Book 3 of the Huntress Moon series.
This year the organizers have also asked me to teach an e publishing workshop, which means I can cover a lot of bases at once by doing some writing about it here, since I promised to do that for you all anyway. (I love it when work lines up like that!)
And the question I get most often about e publishing 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 a few people got lucky by just throwing a book up on KDP simply because there was so little competition out there, that was a whole maybe two years ago, and 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.
There are other resources I'll be posting for you, but 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!).
But there’s something even more 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. 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 way 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, Blood 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 or two 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?”
Huntress Moon, $3.99
A driven FBI agent is on the hunt for that most rare of all killers:
a female serial.
Blood Moon, on sale now: 99 cents