IT’S LONELY OUT HERE
If you read my post earlier this week, you know that my book IN THE ST. NICK OF TIME, which was published in print form in 2008, is now available as an e-book. That alone was a big new step in my slow, but steady, progression through the world of self or indie-publishing. (Some people define “self” and “indie” differently; I tend to use the terms interchangeably.) However, I found the expansion from existing only in the print marketplace to existing in both print and e-book stores less stressful than I might have thought. This was thanks largely to the surprisingly easy to use Pressbooks and Amazon’s also surprisingly user-friendly Kindle Direct Publishing.
It also helps that because this book was out in print already, I already had a well-designed cover that, thankfully, transferred well when formatted from an image to be used in print to one that gets ground up by an e-book formatter. The production side, therefore, was not hard at all.
So I got the book formatted and uploaded to Amazon pretty quickly once I got started on it. Then came the selling side. That’s always the sucky side, right? No less true in e-world than in print world.
First, I had to decide on a price. Production costs are less on an e-book, of course. But the seller (at the moment just Amazon) gets a big cut (35% or 70% depending on the KDP program you go with). And there’s my time and other incidental costs (Pressbooks and KDP are FREE to use, but I paid for the software to write the book, paid a designer to help with the cover, ink to print out drafts, etc.) Still, for me, production costs are relatively low for the e-version (not so much for the print version, sadly) and in the current e-book marketplace, that does seem to drive the cost down. Even on books that really do cost more to produce, readers just expect that an e-book is cheaper to make, so authors and publishers are often compelled to lower prices.
Besides, if most e-books are selling for $10 or $5 or even 99 cents, and they are as far as I can tell, I’d be stupid to slap a $25 price tag on my e-b00k. I’m not going to sell many books that way.
But still…99 cents? Who is gonna take a 99 cent book seriously? Or $2.99 or $5.99 for that matter? I think all of you with Kindles and Nooks and tablets and whatever will. Because you’ve read these “cheap” books. You know there are stories just as good out there as anything else in publishing, that just happen to be lower priced. The market expects e-books to be cheaper, so they are. The lower price reflects market forces, not book quality.
There is another consideration with pricing IN THE ST. NICK OF TIME that I might not have with my next, new book, which I hope will be coming sometime in 2013. ST. NICK is not a new book. The print version came out in 2008. I think I was out just ahead of the whole e-book tidal wave so I didn’t get in at that time. I’m excited to be in e-format now, but even though that’s new, the book isn’t. In that situation, 99 cents feels okay.
So now the book is formatted. It’s got a price. It’s got a page on Amazon (and eventually other places where the print version already is). Now what? I can hear the Internet crickets chirping already. The Internet is a big place with a lot of books on it. It’s lonely out here in cyberspace. Do people still call it that? “Cyberspace”? Anyway…
The thing is, marketing a print book, a physical thing that exists on a shelf in a bookstore is, in some ways, relatively easy. You can set up a table at a bookstore and a stack of books and sign them for anyone who wants a copy. You can carry it around and wave it in people’s faces. Set it out on your coffee table. Set it out on your neighbor’s coffee table until the cops confiscate it for evidence on the trespassing charge.
An e-book, though, is just a file on a computer. When you walk by the “New Releases” table at your favorite indie bookshop, a snazzy cover might catch your eye and make you stop (whoever said you can’t judge a book by its cover never worked in marketing), but if that same book is on a computer screen and you have to scroll down to find the snazz, well, the effect just isn’t the same. A lot of the same marketing approaches don’t work here. No book signings. No breaking and entering. Initially, it can be hard to know what to do.
But there are things to be done. Many things.
Free book promotions, like what I did with IN THE ST. NICK OF TIME on September 23 (and maybe again in the future…?). Blogs like this one. Twitter. Facebook. Author pages. Direct PDF sales (one advantage of e-books is they are a hell of a lot cheaper to ship) Interviews. Book reviews. And a host of other things I’m still figuring out.
Wish me luck, Internet, as I do all of you with your own e-books. AND GO BUY MY BOOK! (Sorry, I seem to be stuck in self-promo mode this week. It’s like an intestinal virus. Not pretty, but it passes.)