Creating an EBook is becoming more and more popular amongst small businesses—and for good reason. According to researchers, EBook sales grew 177 percent last year. This number is only expected to rise and our technology continues to improve, and even some of the old hardcopy book-lovers are realizing that’s it incredibly easy to have an electronic library where you can store and even checkout new reads from a library.
Many of you have been working online for quite some time, but I am sure that we also have a good number of readers who are only starting to wade in the freelance waters. Whichever group you belong to, I think that you will benefit a lot from reading Kathleen Krueger’s recently released e-book, “The Fast Track to Freelance Success Online”.
Kathleen is one of our readers, and I was made aware of her book when she left a comment a week or so ago, and guess what? She has generously agreed to give away two copies!
The title gives you a pretty good idea what the book has to offer, but let me tell you this: it is a pretty good handbook for anyone who wants to launch a freelance career and be successful without waiting ages.
The book is divided into seven chapters, starting with identifying your goals, moving on to how to begin, and ending with an update on Kathleen’s professional status.
What I really like about the book is that it does not give you a generic formula to success. While the title is very upbeat and might give you an impression that you are about to have a “guaranteed success” read, it really is not all about that. (Aside: I don’t know about you, but in general, I am wary when I am given such guarantees in an uncertain world.)
What Kathleen does, instead, is to share the lessons and nuggets of wisdom she has learned in her own journey to freelancing success. And, I have to say that this book should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants to succeed in this field.
Here is some more information about Kathleen that you might want to know.
Kathleen is a full time freelance writer from Minnesota with a creative, casual style. Currently she contributes articles to several local and national lifestyle magazines; is a writer of informational online articles regarding a wide range of topics; ghost writer for several company blogs and website content in a wide range of industries.
Now, would you like to read the ebook that can help you with your freelancing career?
As I said earlier, we’re giving away TWO copies. Here’s what you need to do to get a chance to win.
Step 1: Copy & paste the following, and then tweet it:
I want a copy of The Fast Track to Freelance Success Online from @FreelanceWJ and @kacky222! Enter here: http://spla.us/RIwpJO #contests
Step 2: Leave us a comment on this page to let us know you tweeted, and paste the link to your tweet in your comment. (Note that our comments are moderated, so your comment may not show up immediately after you click the “Post Comment” button.)
The winners will be selected at random from the commenters on or around 11:00 pm EST on Wednesday, September 26. The winners will be notified via Twitter, after which we’ll get your details. Don’t forget to thank @kacky222 if you win!
Important: You can enter the contest once per day between now and the 26th.
In case you don’t win, you can still get The Fast Track to Freelance Success Online for only $4.50. In the meantime, remember to tweet and leave your comments till Wednesday!
Here’s an infographic writers will want to take a look at: The Trend of E-Reading, an infographic design by Infographic Labs, illustrates just how e-reading has taken America by storm. Did you know that people who use e-readers read more than those that stick to traditional books? And that they’re more likely to spend money on books?
Since ebooks went mainstream (thank you, Kindle), book authors are now finding themselves in the same awkward spot that musicians have been in for over a decade. Readers can bypass bookstores, Kindle, and everything else, and own your book without paying a dime to you or anyone else. You’re being ripped off! What do you do? How are you supposed to react when that huge project you labored over and poured your soul into and sacrificed other parts of your life for, is made available to the whole world for free?
The standard reaction of most writers is outrage and frustration. Even litigation if they can afford it (most of us can’t).
I was pretty surprised the first time one of my books started appearing on illegal “file sharing” websites. It happened very suddenly, a few months ago. I got a Google Alert (an invaluable tool — you can register so that any time a search term of your choice is indexed by Google from a new webpage, you get sent an email with a link to that page; I have an alert set for my name) in my inbox pointing to one of the many, many file sharing websites where my last novel, Nightmare, was available as a free ebook download.
It wasn’t hard to figure out how this happened. Somebody bought the ebook from Barnes & Noble or Amazon or some other ebook seller, and decided to “share” it with the world. And in the following days, I watched as Nightmare quickly made its way to virtually every file sharing website there is. It wasn’t long before some of my other books followed suit.
At first, there was that sense of having been stolen from. What gave somebody the right to take something I made and just give it away to anyone who wanted it? But then another thought occurred to me: suddenly, my work was listed alongside others’ books on some of the most highly-trafficked websites in the world.
I saw some comments from celebrated scifi/fantasy author Neil Gaiman about this very issue the other day. He says that he was just as outraged as the next guy when his stuff first started being pirated. But then he noticed an unexpected phenomenon. In countries where his stuff wasn’t readily available, like Russia, suddenly sales of his books had spiked. He watched this happen again and again in ways he never could have predicted, as his books benefited from this new, very broad mode of distribution, and was forced to make the only logical conclusion:
Instead of hurting his sales or keeping income out of his pocket, piracy was actually helping him sell more books.
Gaiman argues that when you consider the person that most of us count as our favorite author, nine times out of ten, we were introduced to that writer’s work via lending. A friend lent you a book and told you to read it, they said you’ll love it, guaranteed! And what do you know — you did.
Electronic piracy is a relatively new phenomenon in the literary world. But historically speaking, the idea of reading a book you don’t own has been with us since the beginning. Libraries are an obvious example of this. What is a library, if not a place where you go to get your hands on books you never have to pay for? Authors have always embraced libraries because they’re fantastic tools for introducing new readers to your work. But aside from the few copies of your book purchased as stock for library shelves, authors see no immediate monetary turnover from libraries. Yet the return-on-investment can be huge, because libraries are one of the best ways in the world for people to be introduced to your work.
Do you see the disconnect? Yes, piracy is illegal. And in a perfect world, it wouldn’t exist. But it’s here and it’s here to stay, so why not let it work for you?
Now I’m not going so far as to say that “illegal ebook downloads are the new library.” But I will say that the majority of people out there discovering your work through file sharing have far less malicious intent than the news headlines would have you believe.
Turns out, most of them are just looking for something good to read.
I’ve had five novels published professionally, through an internationally-distributed publishing house. I’m contracted for one more, which will be hitting stores next Summer. And like all good authors, knowing that there’s an end in sight to my current contract, I’m on the hunt for a new one.
After my first three books, getting a second contract for three more was easy. My books weren’t bestsellers, but they sold enough to turn a profit for my publisher, so getting a new contract was a no-brainer. Yet now, suddenly, after almost six published books under my belt, landing a new contract is proving far more difficult.
Why is it so much harder to get a contract after six published books, when it was so easy to get one after just three? Shouldn’t cumulative publishing experience count for something?
My fan base is growing slowly but surely, so my sales numbers are small but respectable. So why is this happening now? What’s the difference?
We all know the answer to this question by now, and it’s a problem that a surprising number of established writers are dealing with. I just heard from my agent today, and she confirmed the ugly truth we all know. And I quote: “publishers are continuing to publish fewer titles a year.”
The problem, it turns out, isn’t so much on my end. Sure, my sales history could be stronger. Who’s couldn’t? And I always seek to better myself as a writer. But these things actually have surprisingly little to do with getting a contract.
The issue is rooted in the industry itself. The tanking economy and the advent of ebooks have led to a floundering publishing industry. The firm foundation that this industry has been standing on for its entire existence has turned to shifting sand. And thus, everyone is in survival mode. Everyone’s looking for ways to cut costs, so employees like editors and marketing staff are being laid off. Publishers aren’t taking as many risks on new talent, and they’re scaling back their production numbers with existing writers.
So what’s a writer to do? Published or unpublished — unless you’re among the elite few with huge sales and name recognition, your current status just doesn’t matter all that much. It’s an even playing field in some respects, and I’ve used a lot of words in this column describing the options available to writers, from self-publishing to e-publishing and everything in between.
But there’s no substitute for a contract with a publisher. Even if we’re talking about web publishing or ebook publishing or book apps or some other form of new media… writers need publishers. And if you don’t believe me — if you genuinely think that self-published writers can do just as well as published writers, thanks to “a little hard work and some ingenuity” — here’s a brilliant and sobering article from one publisher who explains just exactly why the writer/publisher relationship is crucial to bookselling success. An excerpt:
It takes a long time to build… trust with a large reader base and that’s the real strength of the publishing company and what an author really gives up by going alone. Publishing companies are businesses designed to make connections with readers both directly and with intermediaries (book reviewers, bookstores, etc) for the purpose of selling stories. Publishers keep the connection open with the reader even when the writer is on a break from writing. By going alone you only maintain that connection with your readers for as long as you are producing content.
More importantly, publishers pull resources that individuals do not have access to on their own.
…no one can reach a large enough audience alone. Cross promotion is an obvious and necessary next step that will benefit everyone, but it can’t be done without capital (read: $$) and that can’t be done without agreements that make it clear who’s putting up the capital and what they’re getting in return, that requires publishing houses.
That says it all. You can come up with the coolest new publishing ideas ever, the most “wow” concept of a story, and write some of the best prose this world has ever seen. But if you don’t have the infrastructure in place that a publishing house provides — to publish and promote it to the mass audience of readers — you’re never going to have anything more than just another self-published title with a small, niche readership.
Self-publishing is great, and I’m not knocking it. I’ve expounded on its virtues before. But if you hope to make at least a portion of your living from book writing — even in this wildly changing landscape — a publishing house is all but required.
So here’s the rub: how do you land a publisher in this increasingly uncertain publishing climate? On the one hand, there are lots of different types of publishers, and the digital publishing realm is bringing about even more of them. Even ebooks and web-books are seeing publishers or special arms of established publishing houses dedicated just to that form of publishing. But that doesn’t solve the core issue.
It’s hard enough to merely define the new landscape of publishing, much less navigate it. In the future, I’ll talk more about attracting the attention of publishers of all kinds.
In the meantime, let’s open a dialogue between authors, editors, publishers, marketers, and everyone else in the industry. How have things changed for you, what does the future hold for us, and how can we all get there successfully?
Google Editions is coming, and you best be ready for it.
Google is about to go head-to-head against Amazon over the ebook marketplace. This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky speculation. It’s fact. Originally planned to launch this summer, Google Editions has been met with endless delays. But the Wall Street Journal seems to think it’s almost here, so it’s time for a primer.
Until now, ebooks have been a closed system. The ebook marketplace is heavily dominated by Amazon and its Kindle device, which boasts about two-thirds of all ebook sales. Everyone else — Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iBooks, Borders’ Kobo, etc. — is left to pick up the crumbs from Amazon’s dinner table. But the one thing all of these ebooksellers have in common is that they all want you to use their software and hardware to read your ebooks. Amazon sells the Kindle device, but also has free downloadable Kindle software for every mobile platform imaginable. Most of the other ebook retailers offer the same, but the model remains the same: “Come to our ebook store, download or buy our reading system, and read your ebooks here and nowhere else.”
Google Editions offers a whole new model that’s not tied to any one device or software. Think of Google Editions as the “open source” option, because it can be read on any hardware and software. Google supplies the books, you supply the means of reading it. This is because unlike all other ebooksellers, Google is going to sell its ebooks via “the cloud.” That’s a term used by the tech industry to describe media that’s stored on an Internet server instead of on a user’s personal hard drive.
A lot of modern computing is moving to cloud-based models, because it gives users the benefit of not having to store their content locally on a piece of hardware that could crash and be lost forever. Cloud-based media also allows you to access your content anywhere, from any device. (See where this is going?)
With Google Editions, you’ll buy ebooks the same as always, but you won’t download them. Instead, they’ll be stored on a Google server, where your purchase allows you to access them anytime you want, from anywhere with a web browser and an Internet connection. Some are speculating that Google Editions could spell the end of ereader devices like Kindle and Nook. If Google wins the ebook war, tablets used exclusively for reading ebooks could become obsolete in favor of laptops and multimedia/Internet tablets like the iPad.
Independent booksellers are reportedly signing on with Google Editions in droves, because it gives them the chance to get in on ebook sales, which until now has been the exclusive playground of chain stores like B&N and Borders. Anyone can become an affiliate of Google Editions — not just indie stores — so authors like myself could sign up with GE and sell my ebooks directly from my own website, instead of referring ebook consumers elsewhere. And I’ll get a larger piece of the profits as well.
Google hasn’t yet revealed any details about self-publishing options, but you can bet it’s something they’re hard at work on. Amazon and Barnes & Noble both offer ebook self-publishing for writers, via upload-and-sell models where they keep a portion of the revenue in exchange for listing and selling your wares. Google would be idiotic not to offer a similar self-publishing solution, and they know it.
Google Editions is now expected to launch before the end of the year (which is not far away — seriously, where did 2010 go?). I’ll have more details for you about it once the service goes live.
Far be it from me to harp on a single issue every week. There’s a whole lot more to publishing in the 21st Century than just ebooks. But ebooks are the hot topic in publishing right now, and it’s proving an impossible subject to avoid when I settle down to write my FWJ column each week.
This week saw some surprising news and predictions about the future of the ebook marketplace, and these details are far too juicy not to share and contemplate. For starters, did you hear that that the New York Times is planning to compile and publish some additions to its famed “Bestseller” lists? These new categories will be entirely devoted to ebooks. The “New York Times Bestseller” is arguably the most prestigious designation for any published book in the American literary world, so if they’re taking ebooks seriously, that should tell you something. Now ebooks will take their rightful place alongside their printed-page brothers, and be worthy of bearing the very same label.
If you ask me, the addition of ebooks to the New York Times Bestseller Lists is long overdue, so frankly I see this news more as the Times playing catch-up than breaking new ground.
Elsewhere, there’s a new study that predicts that by the end of this year (2010), ebook sales will top the one billion dollar mark. And that’s just in the United States. That’s a lot of coin. For perspective, only seven movies in history have ever managed to top the one billion dollar mark.
Last but not least, a French study on the growth of the ebook marketplace has deduced that by 2015, ebooks will comprise about 25% of the publishing industry. Since ebooks are only taking up about 5% of the industry at the moment, that’s a sharp climb for this fledgling industry over just five years’ time. And traditional print publishers have to be concerned that their longstanding business model is being encroached on to the point that 20% of their standard business is going to fall away in the next half-decade.
How long will it be until that margin increases to 50% of the publishing industry? Or even more?
What more is required to convince traditional publishers that we’re living in a brave new world? Writers are jumping into this wide-open new playing field in droves. Publishers will either do the same, or be left behind.
A few weeks ago, Amazon announced another new service they’ll be offering through their ebook store called Kindle Singles, which is meant to appeal to writers who want to publish something in that magical “in between” word count that comes between standard magazine article length and standard book length. The target size for Kindle Singles is 10,000-30,000 words, but Amazon will accept up to 50,000.
With this one simple idea, Amazon has demonstrated why they’re still king of the ebook marketplace — despite the likes of Barnes & Noble and Apple nipping at their heels. The reason why is simple: Amazon is always looking for those niches in publishing that haven’t been filled, and filling them. eBooks on the whole were nothing but a curiosity until Amazon started pushing them with their own proprietary hardware device and made it super-easy to buy and download ebooks straight to said device.
Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple, and everyone else has just been playing catch-up to Amazon, and the fact is, they still are. When the Nook was launched, Barnes & Noble came up with two minor new innovations that Amazon didn’t have: ebook lending between devices, and free, full ebook reading while inside B&N’s brick-and-mortar locations. Amazon can’t match the latter, but they’re already planning a Kindle update that will allow 15-day lending.
Barnes & Noble has also just launched its highly-publicized “NookColor,” a dedicated ebook reader that features a color display. Amazon has been rumored to be working on a colorized Kindle, but the reports suggest that Amazon wants to develop a color e-ink display. E-ink, which is used in all of Amazon’s Kindle devices, is easier on battery life than other screen types, and most readers find it a lot easier on the eyes, with stronger contrast ratios between light and dark. In essence, e-ink is supposedly better for your eyes than other screens. NookColor, on the other hand, is an LCD display, just like the iPad and other tablet devices. You could say that Barnes & Noble took the quick-and-easy route just so they could beat Amazon to the color punch.
Amazon is doing their ebook business smart by always thinking ahead. They have a smart, affordable device of their own, and they’ve put their Kindle software on every other electronic device known to man. Their ereading format is entirely proprietary, but if consumers have no problem with Apple’s iTunes store and its inability to play nice with others, then why should Amazon following the same playbook be an issue?
The only stumbling block in Amazon’s way is its Digital Text Platform, the online app that writers and publishers use to submit their books to the Kindle store. Using DTP’s multi-step, often confusing process, is akin to submitting a product for sale to eBay. Barnes & Noble has a more streamlined process, in the recently-announced PubIt app.
But the simple fact of the matter is that no one has yet created epublishing’s killer app. Amazon’s system is by far the most popular, but it’s not inviting to would-be ebook publishers, requiring a steep learning curve. If someone were to come along with a web app that makes epublishing point-and-click easy, that could easily penetrate both online stores and brick-and-mortars… when that day comes, ebooks may just kill the printed page.
Amazon has done things so smartly up to this point, aside from one thing: the DTP publishing process. If Amazon were to be the one to come up with a super-simple, universally-accessible submission process and ebook format, they could just find themselves with a sudden monopoly on the ebook market. In the meantime, Amazon’s stranglehold on ebooks isn’t going anywhere soon, because they got there first, and they never stop looking for new ways of using ebooks to meet consumers’ needs.
You may have heard this week that Barnes & Noble has upped its game when it comes to the fight against Amazon’s Kindle. Amazon has its Digital Text Platform to help writers self-publish their work both in ebook form, and now Barnes & Noble has Pubit, which does the same thing, but claims to be far easier and offer more advantages for writers.
Is Pubit all that and a box of chips? Depends on how you use it. Let’s look at the details.
The pricing for Pubit structure is set to a graduating percentage of revenue that authors keep, which is clearly structured to encourage writers to price their books under $10. If your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99, you’ll get 65% of royalties. If your book is less than $2.99 or more than $9.99, you’ll get just 40%. Amazon’s royalty share is split at the exact same price points, but instead of 65/40, Amazon offers 70/35. It’s a marginal difference at the end of the day, and both publishers have their maximum book price set to $200. Neither service allows you to sell your ebook for free (for obvious reasons — these juggernauts need to make a profit).
Amazon promises that ebooks published via DTP are available for sale on Amazon.com within 48 hours after you complete the publishing process. Pubit takes “24-72 hours.”
Advantage: a slight edge goes to Amazon.
Digital Text Platform claims to support .DOC, .PDF, .TXT and .EPUB files, but admits to having the best luck with .EPUB and files formatted using HTML. I myself have witnessed many instances of .DOC and .PDF files that were transformed into Kindle ebooks that were frankly, with major spacing issues and an overall ugly layout. DTP just doesn’t handle stuff like Word and Adobe formatting all that well, so taking the time to create your own .EPUB file that’s properly formatted is the best way to go.
Pubit, on the other hand, has an online converter that (from what I’ve seen and heard so far) appears to work very well for .DOC, .RTF, .TXT, and .HTML files. Pubit offers a Nook emulator as part of the upload/conversion process, so you can preview what your finished ebook will look like.
Amazon’s Kindle format may be all the rage, but it doesn’t play nice with other ereaders. On the other hand, virtually every device now has Kindle software available to download and use for free — be it your smartphone, laptop, or iPad — so you don’t have to own the actual Kindle ereader device to buy ebooks from Amazon. Barnes & Noble’s model is very similar, placing your ebook among their online catalog of books, which can be accessed via the Nook device or their free Nook software for all devices. But what B&N has that Amazon doesn’t is brick-and-mortar stores. Take your portable device into a Barnes & Noble store, and you can peruse any ebook in their online catalog in full for free, for up to an hour, and there’s no limit to the number of ebooks you can do this with. Nook also offers lending technology, that lets you share a purchased ebook from your library with a friend for up to 14 days.
With DTP, your book is automatically added to Amazon’s vast catalog of products; it’s good to be findable on such a humongous database as Amazon’s, yet this advantage can be an equal disadvantage, causing you to easily get lost among listings for not just books, but every product known to man. B&N, on the other hand, is know for exactly one thing: books. Sure, they sell some other products like DVDs and CDs, but you think of Barnes & Noble, and you’re thinking of books. There’s a book-centric identity there that Amazon is far too diversified to match. And you don’t have to worry about your ebook showing up in search results next to hiking boots, printer ink cartridges, or kitty litter.
I have to give Barnes & Noble’s Pubit an overall usefulness score that’s higher than Amazon’s. It’s not drastically higher, but it does offer a number of benefits that Amazon doesn’t.
But the reality of it all is that if you’re serious about ebook self-publishing, you’re going to want to sell from Amazon and Barnes & Noble both. Fortunately, selling from the latter just got a whole lot easier.
Writers have always been faced with the question of how to reach readers with their work.
21st Century writers who want to be successful must also find ways to involve readers in what they do. Make them a part of the process of writing or promoting your book, and they’ll be invested in you and your work.
One writer who’s particularly good at this is Robin Sloan, a scifi fiction writer who’s particularly adept at 21st Century marketing. He’s come up with some of the most creative ideas I’ve ever seen, where marketing, writing, and social media interaction with his fans is all part of a single process. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a brilliantly inventive, creative genius of a writer.)
One of Sloan’s most successful ideas was to write and publish a novella after raising a certain amount of money using a fundraising website called Kickstarter. He promised to give the novella away to everyone as a free PDF if his goal was met. His goal was to raise $3,500, and he used various “pledge levels” to give people lots of options. These levels of support would give you varying degrees of access to the finished product (e-copies, printed copies), as well as early looks at the book in progress. He far exceeded his goal by achieving almost $14,000. And as promised, the novella Annabel Scheme is now available to download for free.
Sloan often uses the barter system for making his stories available. He once put up a short story called “The Writer & The Witch” for sale for $.99 on Kindle and then promised that after one hundred purchases, he would make it free for everyone. It happened in record time. Perhaps his most radical idea was to write a short story called “Last Beautiful” and then hand it over to his Twitter followers to edit.
Sloan’s use of social media reminds me of another recent ebook I heard about with a unique marketing campaign. The writers decided to give their book away for free, but with a twist: you have to “pay” for the book by tweeting (or posting) about it on Twitter. They found that this idea was so ingenious that they opened paywithatweet.com up to the general public, where now anyone can use it to give something away (like an ebook) for a little positive word-of-mouth on Twitter. Oh, and the book they were promoting? It’s about Internet marketing, of course.
This barely scratches the surface. There are countless tales like these of writers who are bypassing traditional publishing models by mixing new media, social networking, and self-marketing in wild and wonderful ways. Do you have a favorite writer who’s done anything similar? Please share it with us!