Rx for Writers

Transcripts

"Ebooks and Other Options”

with Chris Eboch

October 2011

Chris Eboch Chris Eboch has 12 traditionally-published books and two self-published books, with one more of each on the way. Her novels for ages nine and up include the indie-published title The Eyes of Pharaoh, an ancient Egyptian mystery, and the traditionally-published novels The Well of Sacrifice and the Haunted series: The Ghost on the Stairs, The Riverboat Phantom, and The Knight in the Shadows. Read samples or learn more about Chris at http://www.chriseboch.com/ . Chris also writes for adults as Kris Bock. Rattled launches her new romantic suspense series featuring treasure hunting adventures in the Southwest. Read the first three chapters at www.krisbock.com.

 

Jan Fields is Web Editor of the ICL Web Site. Green shows names or usernames of people and the questions they asked of our speaker.


Workshops are held once a month in the Writer's Retreat discussion board.


Jan Fields: Welcome to "Ebooks and Other Options" with the brilliant Chris Eboch. Chris has been researching publishing options and even dipping her toe in a few of them. Now she's ready to share the results of all that work with us. We're grateful and eager and delighted to have her here at the Writer's Retreat.

Cat: I just wanted to say hello and welcome, and thanks so much for coming over to share with us your expertise on the (for me) baffling market of e-publishing. Can't wait to hear all the goodies!

Ella: Yes, welcome! I'm subscribed to your blog and I've learned quite a bit from you and your epublishing journey already! This is just an awesome bonus.

Chris Eboch: Thank you both! If anyone else is interested in checking out my blog, where I have a lot of tips on the craft of writing, it's at http://chriseboch.blogspot.com/

Jan Fields:Can you tell us what got you interested in ebooks? And the story of how your own ebook has come about?

Chris Eboch:Thanks for inviting me to share my story, Jan. First of all, let me say that I don't consider myself an "expert" in e-books or Indie publishing -- I'm not sure there is such a thing in this rapidly changing market. I've learned a lot through trial and error and reading other people's advice, and I'm happy to share. I'm not especially technical, so I don't have that advantage, but I do have years of experience in the publishing industry.

Chris Eboch:I have 12 traditionally published books. The first came out in 1999; The Well of Sacrifice is an adventure set in ninth-century Mayan times. It's still in print in hardcover and has been used in many schools.

Chris Eboch:I then did a number of work for hire titles, including nonfiction, two inspirational fictionalized biographies for Simon & Schuster's Childhood of Famous Americans series (Jesse Owens: Young Record Breaker and Milton Hershey: Young Chocolatier, written as M.M. Eboch), and a Nancy Drew mystery.

Chris Eboch:In 2008, I sold an original paperback series to Aladdin. The Haunted series for ages 8-12 follows a brother and sister who travel with their parents’ ghost hunter TV show. They try to help the ghosts, while keeping their activities secret from meddling grownups. The series includes The Ghost on the Stairs, The Riverboat Phantom and The Knight in the Shadows.

Chris Eboch:Then, as so often happens in the publishing field, I suffered a setback. Aladdin fired my editor and stopped supporting the series. The economy took a downturn, and I found it harder than ever to sell new work. I originally got interested in self-publishing because I had a fourth Haunted book nearly ready to go, and figured that would be the only way to release it. However, when I mentioned the situation on a discussion board, an editor from a small Texas press asked me if I would be interested in publishing it with them instead. Their advance was much smaller than Aladdin's, but I wouldn't have the upfront costs for cover design, etc., and I'd have the advantage of their distribution network. (We are still in discussions.)

Chris Eboch:I'd learned enough about independent publishing, though, that I decided to self publish a novel I'd written several years ago, a mystery set in ancient Egypt. I got good feedback on the manuscript, and a lot of interest from teachers, but publishers were saying historical fiction wasn't selling well or they already had an Egypt book. I traded for proofreading, hired a cover artist, and released The Eyes of Pharaoh last spring.

Chris Eboch:I'd also started writing for adults, romantic suspense under the name Kris Bock. I had an agent interested in representing my first adult novel, but I was hearing about so many advantages to self-publishing that I thought it would be worth releasing it on my own, and my agent agreed. I was able to get Rattled out last spring as well, in time for a mystery convention I was attending.

Chris Eboch:I'll save the details of the process for a different post. Self-publishing is not easy, but it was educational. I decided to release a third book, Advanced Plotting. I put together a lot of my previously published writing articles and turned some workshop notes/handouts into additional articles. I also invited other published authors to submit essays. This book was the cheapest and easiest to publish, because I didn't need an artistic cover, and I was more experienced with the process.

Chris Eboch:So that's what I've done to date! I'm going to answer some of the other questions, and eventually I'm sure we'll get into things like expenses/income and the publishing process.

Chris Eboch:If you want to learn more about any of my books, you can visit my websites: Children's books as Chris Eboch -- http://www.chriseboch.com and Romantic suspense as Kris Bock -- www.krisbock.com -- or my Amazon page -- www.amazon.com/Chris-Eboch/e/B001JS25VE/

chippy: Yes welcome Chris. I've got your Advanced Plotting book, and I'm finding many useful tips in it. I look forward to seeing what you have to say here.

Cat: Do you think e-publishing will eventually take over print publishing, or do you think it will be like CD's, where there will be those people who love downloading MP3's and iTunes onto their iPods and MP3 players and also people (like me) who still love getting the whole glorious package of a CD, complete with booklet? Or do you think e-publishing will take over the world, like a zombie bunny?

Chris Eboch: I think we will have a combination of print and electronic books for some years to come. In the future (and I'm not sure whether we are talking about 10 years or 20, but definitely within 25, I think), I imagine most people will read most books in electronic format. Special print books will be available as collectors items. I also suspect that over the next five years, most successful authors will have a combination of traditional and independent (self-published) titles, until finally the publishing industry shakes out into a different format, but I'm not sure what that will be. Those are just opinions, but that's my take on the trends.

ColoradoKate: Thanks for coming! Could you go over for us, please, what the different options are for having our writing published as ebooks? The terminology is confusing--for instance, some people say "self-publish" when really they're paying someone else to publish something for them, and now some people who go through Lulu or Amazon are calling what they're doing "indie publishing." And small ebook publishers call themselves all sorts of things! Could you possibly break it down into categories or types of publishing? Thanks!

Cat: Also, What is the essential, basic difference between these two forms of publishing (ebook and traditional), other than that one is electronic? I guess I get hung up on the difference between e-books and regular print books, because I much prefer plain printed books rather than something read on a kindle, nook, or e-reader. But publishing wise, what is the difference between these two publishing forms?

Chris Eboch:Chris Eboch: The terminology does get confusing, so let’s look at some terms:

Self-publishing – The author chooses when and how to bring his or her book to press and controls the process. This can involve e-books, print on demand, or hiring a printer to do a print run of a few thousand books. It may cost anywhere from nothing to thousands of dollars. Any money involved is provided by the author. The work is either done by the author or by someone hired by the author. If you publish through Lulu or Amazon or hire a printer, this is still self-publishing, and it doesn’t matter whether you are releasing the book in print or electronic formats. Self-publishing does not mean you have to do all the work yourself, just that you are controlling the process and hiring people.

Independent publishing – this term was previously used more often to refer to small presses outside of the “big New York publishing industry.” Now many self publishers are claiming the title. It’s an attempt to avoid some of the stigma associated with self-publishing. It doesn’t really mean anything, except an attitude change. Cynics would say it’s an attempt to pretend to be something you’re not. Proponents would say that a self publisher is just a small business, and you shouldn’t look down on us for starting our own small businesses and investing our own money, any more than you look down on someone who opens a shop or restaurant in your town.

Traditional publishing means selling your book to a publisher who will typically pay you an advance and royalties. We are seeing some variation now, as some traditional publishers do not offer an advance, but just royalties, and some publishers have always paid a flat fee. But the author should never be asked to put up money for editing, cover art, or any aspect of the publishing process. Some self publishers are calling this “legacy publishing” as an insult, suggesting that the process is outdated and ineffective.

Print on demand (POD) allows authors to have printed books available online. Some companies charge an upfront fee; others charge only for specific services such as cover design and proofreading, and then a charge per copy of the book ordered. Print on demand is a great alternative to spending thousands of dollars upfront to hire a printer, and then having boxes of books to store in your home. As one example, you can use Amazon’s CreateSpace to release a POD book. All my self published books are available POD. I can set the prices at anything I want, so long as it’s higher than the basic printing cost. Currently The Eyes of Pharaoh, Rattled, and Advanced Plotting are all in the $8-$10 range.

E-books are electronic versions of books which can be read on electronic devices such as computers, e-readers, smart phones, and iPods. E-books have not taken over the market, but sales are growing. Adult genre novels have been especially successful. Crossover young adult titles have also created success stories, such as Amanda Hocking. The market is smaller for middle grade novels, but growing, especially as parents upgrade their e-readers and give the old ones to the kids. The Kids and Family Reading Report national survey found that 57% of nine-to-17-year-olds said they were interested in reading an e-book, and a third said they would read more books for fun if they had access to digital titles on electronic devices. Some schools are going electronic, getting laptops or e-readers for all students, so I expect we will see this market grow in the next five years.

E-books may be published by a large publisher, a small publisher, or an independent (self-publishing) author. E-books provide special opportunities to self-published authors, because you can set a low price to lure new readers and still make money. Because the author keeps more of the list price, some authors are doing much better with self-published e-books than with traditional publishing deals. Amazon’s minimum price for e-books is typically $.99. At that price, you make a 33 percent royalty. If you price your book at $2.99 or higher, you make a 70 percent royalty. In other words, you can make two dollars on a three dollar book, which is still cheap enough to attract more readers.

Apps – applications are not books, but rather computer programs. This means they can have additional features, such as animation, inserted video clips, and interactive elements. For example, one company is doing guidebook apps, so people can have their guidebook on their e-reader or phone. They can see where they are on a map and see what sites or restaurants are nearby. These tend to be expensive to produce ($5000-$40,000) but new programs are making it easier for individuals to design their own. In children’s books, these tend to be appropriate for picture books, where you want to add interactive elements.

One thing in particular to note – there is the book format, and there is the person/group doing the publishing. Those are two separate issues, and any group/person has the option of doing any format. “E-book” does not mean self-publishing or vice versa.

Ella: I've been wondering a lot lately about the crop of publishers that mostly deal with ebooks. Vanity presses aside, it looks like there's a lot of variation in the crowd. Some have well-done websites and put out books with beautiful covers; others have cheesy covers and amateur sites. I have no idea about the amount of editting and marketing they do, but I imagine there's quite a bit of variation there, too. My (vague and not fully formed) question has to do with when it is worth trying to pursue a royalty-paying ebook publisher (with the understanding that they are going to be taking their own cut, have limited or no brand recognition, and do limited or no marketing of individual books) versus when it's better to publish on your own? It seems like with a good ebook publisher, they save you money up front (by providing a nice cover, editting, and some access to reviewers and markets), and in return you get paid less. With self-publishing, you bear all the financial risks, and get all (whatever "all" may be!) of the financial benefits. Have you or anyone you know explored ebook publishers? What are the pros and cons of self-publishing an ebook versus going through a publisher?

Chris Eboch:As you suggested, the answer is “it varies” and “it depends.” Writers always have to watch out for scams – for example, companies that insist they’re not vanity presses, when they really are. And you’ll see a lot of difference in the “e-book first” or “e-book only” presses. Even large publishers such as Harlequin are doing some books like this. For example, they might start a new author out in e-book only, and if the book does well enough, then go to print.

Chris Eboch:One of the biggest problems for independent authors is getting attention for their books. For a new author, it might be worth going with a publisher that pays poorly if they have good distribution and publicity, in order to get your name out there. Once you have fans, you could publish independently. However, if the press doesn’t do anything for you, what’s the point?

Chris Eboch:I think you have to judge on a case-by-case basis (and sorry, but I can’t recommend specific presses). If you’ve never heard of the publisher, they don’t seem to do any advertising beside their website, and they have ugly covers, don’t use them. If they put out professional quality books, offer a reasonable royalty rate, and their authors seem happy, it might be worth a try.

Mikki: Is it really realistic to think, in today's economy, that parents are going to spend the money for an ebook for an 8, 9, 10 year old? Or even, for kids up to 12 or 13? Is it realistic to think we should be publishing ebooks for anyone under the age of at least 14? Picture books I can see, because parents who already have ereaders for themselves will buy them to read to their young children. Yet, as a parent, if there had been Kindles and ebooks when my kids were those ages, I would never have given them one. They had books with different sounds of animals, books with different pieces of fabric to teach them about cotton and wool and silk, books with unique feels to them that a Kindle will never replicate, and I wonder what the toddlers of today are missing. For all the hype about ebooks, should writers of middle grade and younger be considering that kind of publishing?

Chris Eboch: I don't know about toddlers or early elementary, but middle grade kids are starting to get e-readers. And some schools are also starting to use laptops or electronic readers, which means that market may expand to middle grade e-books with curriculum connections. (My novel The Well of Sacrifice is used in many schools when they teach about the Maya, and it's a $16 hardcover. If a school wants to use my Egyptian mystery, The Eyes of Pharaoh, they could get the electronic version for $2.99.)

Chris Eboch:One thing to keep in mind is that e-books can be cheaper than print books, and thus more appealing to buy. Many traditional publishers are still pricing their books higher, while self publishers and some small presses are looking at much lower costs ($.99 to $2.99). Imagine being able to give your child a $20 gift certificate, and he or she can pick up 7 to 20 books! Libraries are also doing more e-book lending.

SevenAcreSky: I definitely think that ebooks are coming, even for middle and primary school kids. I've just purchased my granddaughters' second set of LeapFrog books that accompany a little electronic "reader" that scans pages and reads. The school district I work for just purchased two mobile labs with classroom sets of I-pads. These will be used at middle school (grade 5-8) levels for literacy. There's just so much beyond the normal that is possible...research links, sounds and noises, etc. that can be integrated into ebooks. I'm excited about submitting to the MeeGenius website contest--Meegenius publishes books online for kids to read online. Ebooks aren't limited to Kindles and hand-held readers. I can see my story from my first ICL assignment as a short online illustrated ebook for kids. And maybe as a parent years ago I wouldn't buy ebooks for my girls (now adults) but this Poppi would buy my granddaughter electronic literacy all day long!

Chris Eboch:If someone is really interested in kids and e-book usage, you might want to check this out -- but there is a fee, starting at $70 for LJ or SLJ Subscribers. (I haven't read the report; I just saw this notice in the School Library Journal e-newsletter.) Last year, school libraries were experimenting with an array of ebook models for teachers and students. This year's report presents the latest data on how K-12 libraries are adopting ebooks, the factors affecting expanding offerings and collections, as well as trends and projections based on the comparisons between our 2010 and 2011 surveys. Purchase your 2011 Ebook Penetration report today! For more information visit www.libraryjournal.com/ebookreport.

Katie: I saw in an online conference a couple weeks ago that the most popular ebooks tend to be the shorter ones. Do you find this to be true? Can you tell us of any other writing standards that might be different when writing with an ebook in mind? (or deciding if something already written might work out as an ebook)

Chris Eboch:I haven’t heard this, and I’d want to know a lot more about that study before coming to a conclusion. But a couple of thoughts –

More experienced writers tend to write tight, leading to shorter books, while writers who refuse to edit or don’t know how to edit well are often wordy, leading to long books. So if shorter books are more popular, it could be simply a reflection of the quality.

Professional writers who are turning to self-publishing probably recognize that it’s important to have a lot of books for sale (if readers like one, they may buy all your others). It’s often faster to write a shorter book. My romantic suspense novel Rattled is 85,000 words, which would be over 300 pages in paperback. I targeted that length because I was planning to submit it traditionally, and that’s within the standard range for a standalone, non-“category” romance. But my current work in progress is about 60,000 words, because if I’m planning to release it as an e-book as well, the length doesn’t matter as much and I can finish it sooner. In other words, professional writers may be writing shorter books for time/financial reasons.

Readers may also respond favorably to shorter books because they finish quickly, making the book seem like a page turner. This might be especially true with children’s novels. I’ve heard that some reluctant readers like e-books because they don’t have to see how fat the book is. If the book is truly short and they get through it quickly, they may like it better and recommend it more.

In contrast, I have heard that readers can get angry if they think they bought a full-length novel, and it turns out to be a novella or short story. This anger can lead to poor reviews which hurt sales. So regardless of length, it’s important to clearly let readers know what they’re getting.

I’m going to give a few suggestions on who should and shouldn’t self publish, which may help answer your last question.

Self-publishing may be a good option for:

* Traditionally published authors who want to make out-of-print titles available again.
* Published authors who wish to release books in a series that a publisher has dropped.
* Professionals with a book that doesn’t suit the current market, but may still find a niche audience.
* People who have a marketing platform for distributing their books, e.g. they do a lot of speaking on a professional topic and can sell books at their talks (best for nonfiction).
* Amateur writers who want to make a title available in print form for their family, such as memoirs or family genealogy, or a child’s favorite story.
* First-time authors who have studied writing for several years and gotten professional feedback on their manuscript, who also:
* want complete control of the publishing process
* prefer the work of self-publishing to the work of researching and querying publishers
* enjoy marketing and have experience with it
* and/or feel they don’t have time to wait on the traditional publishing industry

I would hesitate to recommend self-publishing to most unpublished writers, because most writers are not as far along on their craft as they think they are. I’ve done well over 1000 manuscript critiques, between teaching through the ICL, offering critiques at conferences, and working privately with writers. Perhaps 20 percent of those had a chance of reaching publishable quality with one or two more solid revisions and some polishing. No more than one percent were ready to send out when I saw them. Some writers realized this; many didn’t. (This is true of some published writers as well – after I sold my first novel, The Well of Sacrifice, I wrote 10 novels that didn’t sell. A few of those were well written but didn’t suit the market, but some were just bad. It’s hard to judge your own writing).

But if a writer is willing to pay for a professional critique—possibly several, after each revision—and hire other experts as needed, plus spend lots of time marketing, they may be able to make it work. Most self-published books will sell fewer than 100 copies, so it’s definitely not an easy way to get rich quick.

mmmgood: Thank you for this excellent synopsis! One point that caught me by surprise (but makes sense) is "... prefer the work of self-publishing to the work of researching and querying publishers." Interesting.

Chris Eboch:Yes, both are a lot of work. If you have design skills and enjoy putting a book together, or if you love to market, you might find self-publishing more rewarding than the tedium of researching publishing houses and waiting months for a response. The thing I liked best about trying self-publishing was the feeling of control -- I could decide when and how I did things, which was refreshing after so many years of waiting on agents and editors. But if you hate computers and social networking, don't know anything about typesetting, can't afford to hire experts, and "just want to write," you're better off going the traditional submission route, even if it takes years.

Beth: Thank you for sharing some thoughts. I find it interesting that most writers don't realize where they are in terms of development.

Chris Eboch:One theory suggest that there are four stages to become experts: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence. So we start out not knowing how little we know, and are unrealistically optimistic. As we learn more, we see how much we have yet to learn. With "conscious competence," we have figured out how to do things, but it's not yet natural. In the final stage, quality should be natural (though some would argue this never really happens with writers -- each book is full of its own struggles).

Chris Eboch:The first and third stages are the danger zones. Beginning writers often assume it's easy to write a book, and because they and their family enjoyed the story, everyone else should. Result -- rejections from traditional publishers, or a failure to find an audience with self-publishing.

Chris Eboch:Once writers start to recognize their own flaws, and how much they have to learn, they are perhaps less likely to submit their work for publication. But in the third stage, we start to feel like we are getting it! And we are, but we are perhaps 75 to 80 percent of the way there. This is the "good rejection" stage, where we start to get positive feedback on our work, but not yet sales. And here it's tempting to look for alternatives like self-publishing, but the work may still lack the final polish needed to compete in a tough market.

Chris Eboch:Even many professional authors with multiple published books say they have trouble judging their own work. They'll often still have a critique group, and get feedback from an editor. Scholastic/Arthur Levine editor Cheryl Klein has a book (which she self published by the way) called Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults. In one of the essays, she talks about working with Lisa Yee on one of her manuscripts. It's fascinating to see how much feedback that successful author got, and how many changes were made while working with the editors!

Cat: I've heard that self-publishing would not be recommended for those of us who have a hard time selling our own product. See, I could probably take a book NOT written by me, and market it quite cheerfully and firmly in different stores about town. However, I could NOT market my OWN book. Call it shyness, call it cowardice. To me, it feels so... I dunno, NEEDY or something to go somewhere and say, "Hey, I wrote this book and I was wondering if you'd be willing to let me set up a book sale here and sell some of these books, maybe do an author signing..." and so on and so forth. Would you agree that those who have the ability to market, and design, and PUSH themselves out there would be more likely candidates for self-publishing than those who are too timorous?

Chris Eboch:Unfortunately, writers are expected to publicize themselves no matter how they are published these days. Debut authors in particular face a lot of pressure to make their first book a success. Some publishers, especially smaller presses, will even consider an author's promotional abilities before they agree to sign a book. The days where you could sit back and let the publisher do all the publicity are largely over.

Chris Eboch:The good news is, you don't have to be an aggressive, pushy person -- in fact, those people are often least successful, because they're so annoying. You also don't have to do everything -- blog, Facebook, tweet, GoodReads, book signings, etc. But you will be expected to do some promotion, of a type that most comfortable for you. I don't do many book signings (it's not convenient in my area, and I think they're largely a waste of time, though I will do some group signings). I have been setting up a lot of guest blog posts, though, and I teach workshops around the country.

Chris Eboch:You also need to avoid a hard sell anyway -- if your every Facebook post is "buy my book," you'll quickly be blocked by all your "Friends." It's better to be on Facebook and share your excitement about a new book coming out, a good review, or whatever, and also mix in posts on other aspects of your life. In other words, be yourself and let your excitement about your writing shine through.

Jan Fields: As you researched ebook publishing and then slipped into those waters...have you discovered unexpected things? Has any of your viewpoints on ebooks changed? Has anything happened that you wouldn't have predicted?

Chris Eboch:The big surprise to me was how quickly the market is getting flooded. Two years ago, I think your book could stand out from the crowd if you had a professional looking cover, a catchy and error-free book description, and a good book getting good reviews. Now even poorly written books have good covers and descriptions, making it harder to stand out. Self publishers started to recognize the importance of having those marketing tools. I'm not sure the quality of books has risen overall, as many people rush to publish their books without proper editing, but we are also starting to see more well written and edited books. This is partly because more traditionally published authors are publishing their backlist as e-books, and partly because there's more information out there for debut authors. People are getting a better understanding of what it takes to make a good book. It's also extremely hard to get a book in front of readers -- even harder than I expected.

Okami: Ebook covers: do they have to cost thousands of dollars to be non-generic? Some tell me neither of these things matter, but others are just as adamant about being as professional looking as possible to avoid the stigma/wrong impressions people make in the digital market.

Chris Eboch:You should be able to get a professional quality cover for $200-$500, depending on what you need. If you can get by with a photograph, common with young adult contemporary work, it's cheaper -- you can find lots of stock photography online, or hire a book designer who will find an appropriate image and add the title and other text. For an illustrated cover, typically the cost is higher. However, I only paid $200 for the cover on The Eyes of Pharaoh, because the illustrator was just breaking in and wanted to have some samples. You can see the cover art here.

Chris Eboch:Some illustrators charge much more, of course, but you can find bargains if you are willing to work with newcomers -- just be sure they really are professional quality. Your local SCBWI chapter should be a good place to find people. In addition, make sure you understand exactly what you are getting. My illustrator is also a graphic artist, so she was able to do the complete cover design, including the spine and back for the print on demand version. If you are only buying the illustration from the illustrator, you may have to hire a separate book designer. Be careful also about contracting with friends -- you may get a better deal, but you might find it harder to ask for multiple ideas or insist on changes. You are better off paying a fair price and working with a contract, even if it's a brief written e-mail agreement.

Chris Eboch:As for editors, they can be quite expensive, but they can also guarantee a professional product. You also need to be sure of what you are getting -- content editing, copyediting, or proofreading? For example, I charge $1.50 per page for content editing, offering an editorial letter and comments on the manuscript, but not line editing. This is good for a work in progress, where you are trying to make sure the quality of the writing is good enough for publication. Several former children's book publishers now offer editorial services in the $400 range. This is general feedback though, not polishing your book to a final draft.

Chris Eboch:Copy editors typically don't make suggestions for major changes to the plot, character development, and so forth, but they will look for continuity errors and other mistakes. Proofreaders typically just look for typographical errors. (Some people do both.) Professionals often charge per word, but it can be around $500 for a middle grade novel, $1000 for a full length adult novel.

Chris Eboch:Chances are your work will benefit from a content editor, and you also need a proofreader or copy editor. So yes, you could spend a couple of thousand dollars just on the various editorial services. But having a sloppy, unedited book is the number one thing that will get you bad reviews.

Chris Eboch:In some cases, you may be able to trade for services. I have a friend who is a professional proofreader, and I traded a manuscript critique on her novel for proofreading of mine. But of course that depends on you having something to trade.

Chris Eboch:This is one of the reasons I don't encourage people to rush into self-publishing. It can be expensive to do right. If you are determined to do it, and must cut costs, you might see if a local English teacher or copy editor at the newspaper will give you a discount rate. (Though I've had English teachers as students, and they're not always good at catching every error.)

Cat: By the way, the cover of your self-published Eyes of Pharaoh book is really coolio. I love the Egyptian-like iconic style, as though it imitates the Egyptian drawings you'd find in tombs on walls. Thank you for providing the links.

Chris Eboch: Thanks, Cat -- I'm glad you like the cover for The Eyes of Pharaoh. The design was a collaboration between the illustrator, Lois Bradley, and me. I went to art school to study photography, so although I can't draw well enough to do my own covers, I do have a sense of design. It was fun to have a say in the cover art, something that doesn't happen with traditional publishing. We went back and forth through several versions and even posted variations on Facebook for public commentary.

Chris Eboch:For my adult romantic suspense, Rattled, we are currently tweaking the cover, and when it's finished, I'll upload the new version to Amazon and other sites. But you can see the old cover here, by the same artist. It's a wrap-around with scenery on the back as well, which you can't see from the listing, but it looks pretty cool in the print version. http://tinyurl.com/3hvdxyy

Okami: I think for many people, including me, the biggest thing luring them to make the plunge to starting indie presses and going ebook only, other than control of the final product, or playing the waiting game with traditional outlets/years of just not connecting with anyone beyond the query stage, (Inferior queries not withstanding) is it's financially less of a barrier. I was personally sick beating myself up over things I can't control in the traditional market. This would take that frustration away, hard as it may be.

Chris Eboch:I actually think that if you are only getting form letters, that's a sign you're not ready to publish. I'm not picking on you; this is something I've said to other groups and intended to bring up here at some point. One way to track your skill level is to see what kind of responses you are getting from traditional publishers or agents (agents are especially good, since many take e-mail queries and respond quickly).

--if you are getting form rejections on a query letter, either your idea doesn't sound interesting and original enough, or your query is poorly written. This may indicate a marketing challenge, though you can rewrite the query and keep trying for more feedback.

-- if you are getting requests for partial manuscripts, but then they don't ask to see more, that may indicate that your idea is good but your writing style needs work. I worked with one critique client who had this problem, and sure enough, she had a lot of stylistic weaknesses, such as telling rather than showing and clumsy dialogue attributions. She did a GREAT job on her revisions so I'd say she's now ready to submit her work again, or consider self-publishing.

-- If they request the entire manuscript, and then reject it, they're probably giving you some idea of why. If it's just "didn't love it enough" or concerns about the size of the market, that may be a sign that self-publishing would be a good choice for you, if you think you can exploit the market there is. And of course, if they're giving more detailed feedback, you want to consider that.

Chris Eboch:This does not mean that you should take it too seriously if you've gotten a handful of form rejections. You may not be targeting the right publishers/agents, or it may be a mismatch of taste, or bad timing, or you may just need to work on your query. But honestly, if you've gotten 20 or more form rejections, it's probably time to get a professional second opinion -- not friends and family, not your critique group (unless they're all traditionally published authors), and not online forums (unless, again, they include many traditionally published authors). You also can't count on enthusiasm just for your idea or a sample chapter, as that might fade over the course of an entire novel.

Chris Eboch:The other point I wanted to address: Print on demand really has only one cost that's greater than doing an e-book version -- you need a complete cover, with back and spine. And that shouldn't be much more expensive, if at all, than just doing an e-book version. (The illustrator I've used does both for me for a flat fee.) You also need interior layout, but this is something you can do yourself, if you are reasonably good on the computer and take the time to study the style guide.

Chris Eboch:E-books can cost the buyer less, so they may have higher sales, but I really don't see why anyone would only self publish an e-book, when it's so easy to also have a print on demand version. The major costs -- editing, proofreading, and cover art -- are the same. In particular for children's books, e-books don't make a huge part of the market segment yet, so you might as well have a print version as well. In case it's not clear, you do not have to pay a print on demand publisher such as Amazon's CreateSpace any upfront costs, unless you are using their additional services such as editing and cover art. You can upload your book and cover for free, and have it listed on Amazon for free.

Chris Eboch:Marketing/publicizing your work is pretty much the same for print or e-book as well. Most marketing is social networking, regardless of whether the buyer chooses to buy the electronic or print version.

Chris Eboch:Now as for frustration, self-publishing does avoid some of the frustrations of the traditional publishing business -- and those frustrations are enormous, especially these days! However, you will have additional frustrations, such as having to learn all this stuff, and probably very low sales initially. (Last month, I finally made over $100 in sales on e-books and print on demand combined, between my three titles. And I have at least a slight platform, as a previously published author and respected teacher/workshop leader!)

Chris Eboch:I'm not telling anyone what they should or shouldn't do. Self-publishing can be a fun experiment, and it's wonderful to see your work in book form and make it available to interested people. But it's not a shortcut to fame and fortune, so I'm trying to help set realistic expectations.

Okami: Well, my goal now is more to build a readership, and I can't do that keeping my work all to myself, now can I? My original idea was just make some books availible for free on my website, and keep scuffling away until something clicked for someone other than me....but just to be fair to me, that my hard work is worth paying for, no matter what the number.

Chris Eboch:Yes, I agree. Or at least, a quality product is worth paying for. And one way to test the market and your work is to put your work out and see if people are, indeed, willing to pay. I have tried some new authors because their books were free, but I'm also willing to pay a few dollars if the book looks good and has gotten good reviews. Many new Kindle users rushed to get all the free or $.99 books they could, and then found most of them to be such poor quality that some readers now dismiss free/super-cheap books as garbage and will only look at higher-priced books. Many people are willing to pay for quality, but they won't read garbage at any price, so you might as well set a reasonable price on your books. People can always download a free sample to test it out, and I also have the opening chapters posted on my website. I've also heard that people are often more critical of cheap books! Maybe it's because they're more likely to try something outside of their normal tastes if it's free or very cheap, and then when they don't like it, they give a bad review.

Katie: I was hired by a company to do a nonfiction pb app. I really enjoyed doing it, and look forward to it being released. My question is can I use this credit in cover letters/queries? Or do traditional publishers not care one way or the other about a credit like this?

Chris Eboch:Since you were hired (and presumably paid), I would say this is a good credit. It probably won't help if you are submitting a novel, but if you are submitting a picture book (or artwork, if you are the illustrator), it counts. Of course, your submissions will always be judged on their own merits, not on your previous credits, but it can help to show that you're a working professional!

Chris Eboch:For those interested in learning more about apps, here's an article that explains one version quite different from the picture book type. A quote: "At Wattpad, we recently launched a new transmedia eReading project with beActive Entertainment that invites readers to become gamers, creators and observers in a 360-degree story experience hosted on an eReading environment. In other words, rather than interactive elements that enhance the original narrative, the story itself is designed to be told across multiple interconnected formats.

Chris Eboch:"Readers will find the YA novel Aisling’s Diary on the same screen as the story’s webseries adaptation. Each chapter of the novel and corresponding video will be syndicated weekly, similar to how a traditional cable television program would be aired." http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/transmedia-novel-experience-and-the-mobile-market/

Katie: I have been working on adult novels for the ebook market (at least, that is where I intend to market them), and at the same time kids' books for the traditional market. Will that hurt me in any way? I guess I mean going through a small ebook press? And would I mention that at all in a cover letter, if any of these adult novels actually get published

Chris Eboch:If you wind up self-publishing your adult work first, I wouldn’t mention it in your children’s book submissions. If you wind up selling your adult books first (to whatever kind of press, large or small, print or e-books), you could certainly say in a cover/query letter that you are published in the adult market. That could be a help – even though it doesn’t show you can write for kids, it does show you’re a professional writer.

Chris Eboch:Once you have an offer from a traditional children’s book publisher, you might want to explain the situation to them in more detail. One question would be whether or not you are going to use different names. (I chose to publish my romantic suspense novels as Kris Bock, to separate them from my children’s books. They’re not filled with sex, but they’re not necessarily appropriate for kids.) Some editors and agents get twitchy about self published books, but is it better to be honest up front, so they don’t find out some other way. Just make it clear that you are very happy to be publishing traditionally with them and hope to have a long career with them, so they don’t think you’ll jump ship at the first opportunity. And I think this conversation can wait until after you have a contract offer.

Katie: I was definitely referring to a small ebook press, not self-publishing, as I just feel (presently) that this would be way more than I could take on!

Chris Eboch:Good plan, Katie. Sometimes people use e-book/self-publishing interchangeably, so I tried to answer the question both ways. Targeting a small publisher that does e-book first or e-book only can be a nice option. They may take more work, because they don't have to make such an investment in it, and it's a way to start establishing yourself without putting all the money up front yourself.

leigh: I would like to know how you see the world of e-publishing for children within the next 5 years. I have two specific questions here: (1) What affect do you think e-publishing will have on printed books? and (2) What advantages of e-publishing will be important in the children's literature market?

Chris Eboch:I think the number one thing needed to make e-books more successful in children's literature is simply getting more electronic readers into the hands of children. This is happening (kids getting e-readers as gifts, or getting their parent's hand-me-downs) but will happen especially when schools shift to using electronic books in the classroom. It will also help as e-readers get cheaper and cheaper, so they're more accessible to poor kids.

Chris Eboch:Interactive elements and links can be fun, and may draw in some kids who are not big readers but who like video games. But I think we'll continue to see a lot of normal narrative books do well in electronic format.

Chris Eboch:I have heard that many kids prefer print books because it's a social experience -- others can see what you are reading. But I think electronic books will start to fill that niche, as they're doing by allowing readers to share commentary and highlighted quotes in their books. It may be that an e-reader for kids will do well if it has a screen that shows their current book's cover while in sleep mode.

Chris Eboch:To answer your first question second, as our society changes so that more people have electronic readers, and it's easier to borrow electronic books from the library or sign up for a subscription service, I think electronic books will become the dominant format. This will probably be especially true with children, who are more adaptable and don't necessarily have the emotional connection to the printed page.

ColoradoKate: I worry about this a lot, having taught kids who wouldn't be able to afford them, and in schools that in no way could afford to buy them for kids. Then there are third world countries, where electricity for recharging is iffy... I don't want being able to read books to become an activity mainly for the elite, the way it originally was. I also worry about permanence. There are books around from hundreds of years ago, but e-readers can't last that long.... Well, but I guess the actual words of the books can, stored on servers to be sold and transferred to reading devices. It's a new way of thinking, isn't it? That a book isn't a tangible thing but rather a collection of words in any format, whether solid or ephemeral.... everything could still be there, in the "cloud" (or, rather, in one of many "clouds").

Chris Eboch:The day will come -- and not too far in the future -- where poor kids in developing countries can get free solar powered laptops or e-readers. Here's an explanation of one program in progress: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Laptop_per_Child

Chris Eboch:As for permanence, the electronic format provides more permanence -- though a particular device may fail, the electronic format allows for easier saving and distribution. A book never has to go out of print or be available only for hundreds of dollars. And with print on demand, you can always get a printed copy too.

Chris Eboch:It really is a matter of redefining what we mean by "book." Some have even suggested that we should consider ourselves content creators rather than authors, to emphasize that we are providing the content in a variety of formats -- but I don't see that it really matters.

Fancy: I was wondering if you could say a word or two about copyrights. How do you make sure your work stays your own online?

Chris Eboch:Legally, your work is automatically copyrighted when you write it. You can register it for extra protection, for a fee, if you choose. I don't want to get into the details of copyright law, but it's really not something I worry about.

Chris Eboch:If you are talking about piracy, that's another matter. Opinions vary, but I think publishers can learn a lot from the music industry.
-- Protections don't work, and just annoy the consumer, who may want to use their purchase on different devices (for example, with electronic books, some people have a Kindle, a laptop, and an iPad, and want to be able to read their purchased book on either one)
-- Most people will pay for work if it's reasonably priced and easy to access
-- There can be advantages to having people pirate your work, as it expands your fan base (I'm not saying that piracy is okay, but some people do feel that they've gained new fans, who may pay for the next book)

Chris Eboch:If you put out your book through Amazon on the Kindle, you have the option of choosing to use digital rights management or not. I did initially, but now wish I hadn't because I've heard the arguments against it (mainly that some people like to translate their purchase into different formats for use on multiple devices).

ColoradoKate: I'm one of those who, not many years ago, turned up her nose at books that weren't published by the major traditional publishers or by smaller ones that had been around awhile and had earned stellar reputations. Self-publishing and publishing by the small, new upstarts (who often published in ebook form) seemed to be the fallback of those whose writing wasn't really good enough to be out there. And, at that point, I had reason to believe that--I read excerpts and visited authors' websites, and almost invariably thought, "Oh... dear...." Do you think the stigma has disappeared? Still, since anyone can easily self-publish an ebook or a POD book, isn't there still a lot of dreck out there? How do good writers make sure their work rises above that and doesn't vanish into the ocean of ebooks being sold?

Chris Eboch:Yes, there are a lot of bad self-published books (and some would argue a lot of bad traditionally published books), and there is still a stigma. Many readers don't know the difference, but people in publishing certainly do. That's why it's so hard to get reviews of self published books on professional sites, and why many professional organizations won't count SP books toward professional membership levels. I've heard editors and agents in particular speak dismissively of self published books (though perhaps they're biased).

Chris Eboch:Amazon and many sales sites let readers download a sample of the book before buying it, and that's one way readers can start to judge. Also, the star ratings -- I'll only consider books that have 10 or more reviews (because a smaller number could mean they're all the author's friends and family). I look for a four or five star average rating, and also look at a few of the reviews to see what people liked or disliked. As consumers get more educated about these kinds of things, they'll be able to pick out better books, and by adding their own reviews, help promote the best ones.

Chris Eboch:The main thing you can do to make your work stand above the rest is to write a fabulous book, get professional editing, make sure the cover and description are good (you can experiment with different versions to see what works best), and do appropriate marketing. And then be patient and hope for some luck!

Chris Eboch:By the way, for those of you who are interested in the electronic book trend in general, here's an interesting article from the point of view of a bookseller.

Chris Eboch:Quotes: Scheier points out, “Books that do very well in print also do very well in digital. Readers are less concerned about the format of the book they want than about simply being able to get their hands on it.” This means the effort to create great content and excellent promotion for print books can also pay off in digital sales.

Chris Eboch:And, she says, genres do very well in digital because “these are very engaged readers who are always searching for more, diving deeper into the catalog, looking for more books.” Other categories, such as teen, YA, and erotica, do well in digital, each for its own reasons.

Chris Eboch:[Later:] "This is exciting because e-books are not just a bestseller-driven business—they’re bringing new life (and continuing life) to many books. Readers can take more chances and fall in love with more authors— which is great news for everyone.”"

Chris Eboch:This blog, Digital Book World, seems quite interesting and informative, so you might scroll through other posts. Here's the general link:

Cat: What is the essential, basic difference between these two forms of publishing, other than that one is electronic? I guess I get hung up on the difference between e-books and regular print books, because I much prefer plain printed books rather than something read on a kindle, nook, or e-reader. But publishing wise, what is the difference between these two publishing forms?

Chris Eboch:Some things I've mentioned already, but I wanted to add that e-books can include some special options because of the format. For example, in my book Advanced Plotting, I have internal links so people should be able to click on an item in the index and jump to that spot, or click on a guest authors' website to open up their webpage (if their device permits it).

Chris Eboch:This is more valuable in some books than others. In Advanced Plotting, I have an exercise that helps you analyze your manuscript, by asking a series of questions. After most questions, I have links to articles within the book that further help you fix problems, so you can jump directly to the appropriate article. Since it's more difficult to flip through an e-book, I think this will be an advantage to readers. But I don't have any of these kinds of internal links in my fiction books.

Chris Eboch:One other difference -- for a printed book, the book designer chooses the font, font size, margin size, and other elements of interior design. For an e-book, the user sets their preferences on their device, so the main thing the designer has to do is take out all that fancy formatting, so it won't mess up the way the book is displayed. This is an advantage to people who, for example, need larger print, because any book can become a large print format. But it means you lose a lot of design elements, which could be a disadvantage for something like verse novels that depend on how the poem is displayed on the page.

Katie: Chris, I wondered if you could offer any insight as to the kind of sales one can expect going the ebook route. I'm not talking about getting rich, of course, or even being able to pay all of my bills off of sales! You mentioned that you had just now made $100 in a month from all of your titles combined. It this typical/good/poor? Would sales be higher going through a small ebook publisher than if one was to do it on their own?

Chris Eboch:It's impossible to give any "average" numbers for self-publishing. I have heard that most self published books sell fewer than 100 copies, but many self published books are either poorly written, poorly marketed, or both. Plus, some people may not ever intend to sell many copies, but rather be trying to publish something for themselves and their family. So how successful your self published books are will depend on how good they are, how well you market them, and luck. It is also generally believed to help a lot if you have multiple books available -- fans of one are more likely to buy the others. Plus, of course, you have more to sell.

Chris Eboch:I haven't heard any numbers for small e-book publishers either. There is currently a "class" on digital publishing in the Romance Writers of America forum, led by an editor from Samhain. It wouldn't be fair for me to share everything she's said, but here's a brief quote:

Chris Eboch:*What kind of sales should I expect? [from digital first or digital only publishing with a small press] *

Chris Eboch:"Again, this can vary widely, based on author, book, genre, cover and packaging, promotion, venue, and so many other factors that it’s difficult to hazard a guess. Some books sell tens of thousands of copies, some sell less than a hundred. Most will fall somewhere in between."

Chris Eboch:So you're not necessarily talking about big numbers there either. It's going to depend a lot on the publisher -- how well-established they are, whether they do a professional job with editing and covers, how much marketing they do -- and on your work and how much marketing you do, and on market trends and luck.

Chris Eboch:We get no guarantees, unfortunately! Whichever path you choose, some patience and dedication is required. I have had self published books out for 3 to 6 months, and I can't tell yet whether it was a good decision or not. Maybe one or more of them will take off and sell well... maybe each will sell in small numbers but consistently for many years... maybe one will never sell much (but maybe it wouldn't have sold at all traditionally anyway).

Chris Eboch:Writing is my full-time business, but I'm making my money mainly from teaching, critiquing, and writing articles, not yet from writing books (this was true even with traditional publishing, except for one year). But I do know several authors who've said that with self-publishing they are making a living for the first time ever -- these were mainly mid-list adult genre writers (mystery, science fiction) who had published traditionally but weren't making enough to quit their day job. They were able to publish a backlist of professionally edited books, and with 10 or more books available digitally, and a reputation behind them, they started making more money than by selling one or two new books to a traditional publisher each year.

Chris Eboch:The most important thing is to compare options carefully and read the fine print. E-book publishers can vary a lot in the royalty rates they pay, what rights they try to take, and how well they produce and market books. Get in with a good one, and you may jumpstart your career. Sign on with a bad one, and you could be worse off than going it alone. Ditto with self-publishing options -- some companies are much better than others. Avoid Publish America and iUniverse.

Ev: I've been toying with an idea for several years of starting a small online publishing company which would sell primarily educational activity books and puzzles books. Content-wise, this is my specialty area, and I've had over 40 such books published with traditional publishers. Before all the ebook avalanche arrived I'd assumed I would produce the books for my publishing company (if it ever happens) as pdfs and sell them as downloads that way.

Ev: Can you please tell me the distinctions between doing what I'd originally planned and producing the books as ebooks instead? Can puzzle books even be produced as ebooks? I think somewhere in all your information here, you said something about ebooks have to be formatted so that there aren't specific page breaks, and obviously, puzzle pages would have to have page breaks. I'd also want customers to be able to print off hard copies of the puzzle pages if they wanted to. I assume that wouldn't be possible with ebooks--is that right?

Ev: If puzzle books can be produced as ebooks (maybe in a few years, if not now), would there be advantages to publishing the books that way instead of as pdfs?

Chris Eboch:Wow, interesting questions, though out of my area of expertise. I think it would be possible but challenging to publish puzzles as e-books now, because of the formatting restraints. But it might work if the puzzles were small enough that they didn't spill onto multiple e-book pages.

Chris Eboch:Here's an experiment you can try if you like -- put together a few of your puzzles into book form, and try uploading them at Smashwords. I think you have to start in Microsoft Word format, but you should be able to copy puzzles into Word. If Smashwords can handle the file, it then translates it into all other digital file types -- plain text, PDF, .mobi (the Kindle format) and ePub (Nook format). You will be able to download all of them to your computer or preview them, so you can get an idea of how things look. (It's a little more complicated than what I've just said, but Smashwords has instructions to lead you through the process.)

Chris Eboch:The main advantage to getting your puzzles into regular e-book format is that you can sell them through Amazon and other channels, and people can use them on any kind of reader. I do expect that you'll have more options in a few years. You may be able to design your own apps, or hire someone less expensively, and sell the puzzles that way.

Chris Eboch:As for printing, people may be able to load the file onto their computer and print from there, though with certain formats they may need a special program.

Chris Eboch:here's part of my handout from my talk on self-publishing. This doesn't include every little step, but gives you a good overview of what you'd be getting into if you decide to go this route.

Chris Eboch:Steps to Self-Publishing:
* Write and edit a book. Edit it some more. Get professional critiques and edit again.
* Write any front/back matter: title page, illustrated by, summary, dedication, acknowledgments, "other books by," authors note, bio, etc. (You can follow the format in other books).
* Hire a professional copy editor and approve/reject their suggestions.
* Hire an illustrator. Make sure you understand whether you are getting only cover art, or complete cover design with title and (for print on demand) spine and back of book. What rights are you buying?

Chris Eboch:E-books: These take minimal formatting -- you do not choose the font or size because people have their own preferred settings on their readers. Include section breaks between chapters, but no page breaks within chapters because the text will flow differently on different devices. When you're done, find an online program such as this one to convert the document to an ePub file. http://www.2epub.com/, or hire someone to do the conversion. Check to make sure it properly formatted italics, bold and so on.
You can now set up accounts and upload your document on Amazon's Kindle site, Barnes & Nobles’ PubIt! site for the Nook, and/or other sites. Some sites such as Smashwords publish your book in multiple e-book formats, including Kindle and Nook. You will need to upload your cover art, but you only need a front cover. The various sites will ask you for information such as a description of the book, author, illustrator, age group, genre, tag words and so forth. Keep this info in a document so you can cut and paste.
Preview your file and make changes as needed. Once you hit publish, the electronic version should go live in a couple of days. You can make changes to the document at any time in the future, though it may be pulled offline for a few days.

Chris Eboch:Print on Demand: The formatting is more challenging with POD. You choose every aspect of how it looks. This is easier with a design program, but possible with Microsoft Word. Amazon’s CreateSpace offers Manuscript Layout starting at $299, and you can find other options. If you want to do your own interior PDF for free, CreateSpace has detailed info, templates, and a link to a free download of a 98-page Build Your Book instruction guide, which covers basic book design, typography, scanning and shooting art, and more. You can include interior art using the Insert button. Your cover must be a single PDF that includes the back cover, spine, and front cover as one image, with at least .125" bleed.
Review for any widows, orphans, rivers, etc. Be sure all your formatting is consistent. Save a copy as a PDF in "standard" format. Double check that all your formatting came through, such as italics and spacing. Now you are ready to upload your document. CreateSpace leads you through the process step-by-step, asking for information such as title, subtitle, and description to be used on the webpage. CreateSpace will assign a free ISBN, which works with all distribution channels and lists CreateSpace as the publisher. You can also supply your own ISBN or pay $10 to use their ISBN and list your own "imprint" name. Once an ISBN is assigned, it cannot be changed.
Order a proof copy. Once you approve it your book will go live on Amazon in a few days. You can make changes after that, but you will have to pull the book off the site for a week or so.
Sign up for direct deposit to avoid hefty monthly fees on payments.

Chris Eboch:Publicity: Claim your book on your Amazon Author Page. Sign up for CreateSpace preview. Sign up for Amazon’s Search Inside the Book program. Create an Amazon Listmania list with your book and other similar titles. Add tag words to your Amazon page and ask friends and family to agree with those tags. Ask people to post their reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, and social networking sites.
Add the book to GoodReads, Library Thing, Shelfari, and Jacket Flap. Create a Facebook author/book page. Build a web site. For kids books, post lesson plans on your web site for teachers to use the book in the classroom. Some people claim the Kindle Boards are good for publicity.
If you offer your book through Smashwords.com (which offers all e-formats), you can download a discount code for 100 % off your story and distribute that to readers in exchange for a review. Contact appropriate blogs and ask to do a guest post or interview, or offer a free copy of the book for review.
Success is not guaranteed, no matter how good your book and how hard you work. Luck counts.

Chris Eboch:As you may have figured out from my other posts, I want to discourage people from rushing into self-publishing. You hear a lot of hype, but it's not nearly as easy as some people pretend. However, that doesn't mean it's the wrong choice, either. Here’s a breakdown of some advantages and disadvantages.

Chris Eboch:Advantages:
You can earn more per copy sold. You retain all subsidiary rights to your work (foreign rights, movie/TV/games, etc.).
You get to make decisions about cover art, pricing, content—basically everything.
If the book does extremely well, you may interest a traditional publisher.
You get to see your book in print in a few months, instead of several years if ever.

Chris Eboch:Disadvantages:
You get no advance. You may sell few copies and make hardly any money—ever.
You have to make all the decisions about cover art, pricing, content—basically everything.
A poorly written/edited/designed book can hurt your reputation as an author.
To produce a professional-quality book, you will have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time. You have no marketing support from a publisher.
Your book will not be available in bookstores (except perhaps by special order). Self published books don’t count toward membership in most professional organizations. Many conferences won’t let you sell them in the bookstore. (For example, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators does not count self published books toward the top tier of membership, so you can’t sell them at local events and won’t be considered for awards.)

Chris Eboch:If you are still interested, I recommend you take six months simply to investigate the process. Compare different publishing options, study the debates on pricing, search for reasonably priced services for cover design and copy editing, study some of the self-publishing guides out there, maybe get involved in appropriate discussion boards through GoodReads, LinkedIn, or the Kindle boards, follow some of the blogs that review indie books (BigAl's Books and Pals is one -- booksandpals.blogspot.com/) and so forth. Keep careful, organized lists of resources, review blogs and other publicity outlets, and so forth.

Chris Eboch:Then plan to take another six months to get your book ready for release. This allows you to take the time to do things right, and also to set some publicity in motion. For example, it may take months before you can get a slot as the Kindle Board Book of the Day or get a review from one of the blogs. You can also ask some people to read the book in advance and have reviews ready to go as soon as it’s up on Amazon, so it doesn’t sit there for several months with no reviews.

Chris Eboch:One nice thing about self-publishing is that you don’t need to sell big right at first; you can take time to build traction, but your Kindle ranking will be better, and you’ll show up more often in the recommended books, if you have a cluster of sales. You may even want to plan a “launch” date and blog book tour.

Chris Eboch:Let me give you some more resources to get you started.

Chris Eboch:"The problem with self-publishing is that you become the publisher. That's easier if you are in a niche area, but not easy. More on what you would have to do: http://www.underdown.org/publisher-expertise.htm

Chris Eboch:links to resources here

A comparison of pricing/income from Create Space Vs Lightning Source (the two main POD contenders).

Kids books apps: This article details two case studies on developing an app and getting it accepted by Apple.

"eBook Publishing in Ten Steps"

Indie-curious? Self-publishing made easy

understanding Amazon: Gaining traction in the Amazon marketplace
Best Sales Practices
Dynamic Pricing

CreateSpaceWhat is CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution Channel? (short answer -- the Expanded Distribution Channel does allow distribution through Ingram, B&N, and Baker & Taylor for bookstores, schools and libraries, but at a poor discount so they probably won’t carry it except at a customer’s request.)

The Self Publishing Coach is a complete guide to self-publishing a book.

The Book Designer explains elements of self-publishing and posts about things like marketing.

Chris Eboch:Some additional online sources are: The Savvy Book Marketer, The Publicity Hound's Blog, Build Book Buzz, Market Your Book blog, The Book Publicity Blog, ebook Chatter, BookMarket, and A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.

Chris Eboch:(Notes that things can change quickly with digital publishing, so make sure sites have been updated recently. Also, as is the nature of the world, opinions vary.)

Chris Eboch:And of course the most important thing is to have a great book! Keep taking classes, participating in a critique group, and reading advice on writing. My book Advanced Plotting is $9.99 paperback or $4.99 as an e-book, and it will help you analyze your novel for problems and figure out how to fix them. My blog also covers the craft of writing.

Beth: Thank you for spending some time with us and sharing your knowledge, wisdom, and experience!

mmmgood: Here, here!

Chris Eboch:You are welcome, everyone! I have had many emotional ups and downs, even after publication. Sometimes it's hard to hang onto the hope. But I know I'm happier when writing, so I try to hold onto that for its own sake, even when it seems like the rest of the world is against me. (There's a great blog post on hope here)

Chris Eboch:Also, if you'd like to stay connected and get more advice on the craft of writing, please visit/follow my blog: http://chriseboch.blogspot.com/. Scroll down and study the topic list on the right, for links to posts on specific writing tips. (There are a few on self-publishing as well, though I don't talk about it much anymore.)

To avoid missing a single article, transcript, or important news announcement, sign up for the Institute’s free weekly e-mail updates. Simply go to this link, type your e-mail address, press SUBMIT, and you’ll be subscribed! http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/rx/email_updates.shtml.

Return to Transcripts

93 Long Ridge Road, West Redding, CT 06896
Phone: (203) 792-8600 (800) 243-9645
Fax: (203) 792-8406
E-Mail:
WebEditor@institutechildrenslit.com

Home | Writing Course | Short Story  | Full Story | Aptitude Test 
 
Send Me Info | EnrollOur Instructors | Our Credentials | Sample Lesson
College Credits |
Tax Deductibility | From Overseas | Writer's Bookstore 
Newsletter | Writing Contests | Write for Adults | Free Writer's News
 
Rx for Writers | Writing Tips  | Transcripts  | Writer's Retreat
Writer's Support  | Student  Center |  Privacy Policy | Web Editor

Copyright © The Institute, Inc., 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
No part of the electronic transmission to which this notice is appended may be reproduced or redistributed in any form or manner without the express written permission of The Institute, Inc.