In the old pre-e-book days, people often wrote print booklets on topics that interested them or for promotional purposes explaining their service or product and how to use it. These days e-books serve these purposes and certainly allow much easier and less costly distribution. Just in case you are thinking along those lines, what follows is some of what I have learned by doing.
The first booklet I ever made showcased my recently learned calligraphy and my line drawings. I had it printed and bound and learned from experience about color and black and white printing, book marketing and returns, and storage. All of that cost money. I went on to create more booklets but these I typed/word processed and I did the manufacturing myself. I copied them on print quality photocopiers and bound them in selected cover stock stapled down the spine with the special staplers at the copy place. Photo resolution on a copier could be tricky though.
The first e-book I created showcased my first digital photos. It too had been planned as a printed book but that photo resolution was giving me second thoughts. Also, it had to sit for awhile until my digital photo enthusiasm calmed down and my editing could focus on continuity of content.
Meanwhile, I read about Amanda Hocking of Austin, Minnesota and all the money she made self publishing her vampire stories as e-books with Amazon. You can, of course pay someone to produce your e-book but I am a dedicated do-it-yourself person. So although I’m not interested in vampires, I was intrigued by what Amanda had accomplished on her own. When I purchased an audio frequency recording from Lulu I discovered they also had an e-book self publishing platform. So I started researching. Tradebit, from whom I had ordered frequency mp3s, also sold people’s e-books. And Smashwords was yet another such platform.
The different platforms basically function the same way. You create your e-book, format it according to the platform’s specifications and upload it. The platform will convert your manuscript into one or more e-book file formats. Customers choose a format, make payment and download their e-book. Some platforms will also market your e-book. A percentage of the price goes to the platform then you get your share. No hassle with selecting paper, finding a printer, figuring out what print resolution you need for photos. You can hire someone to do your cover art but I have produced my covers from Photoshop using my own photos.
This first e-book with my nature photos was about my nature mysticism. To me, nature is something I love and like to merge with. That merging thing is common to mystics of many spiritual traditions and is often described in erotic terms. Check out the Sufi poet Rumi or the Christian Saint Theresa of Avila. But right there, my content is going to influence the platform I choose. The platform Tradebit which I was considering does not accept erotica. I titled my book A Witch’s Eco-Erotica. My definition of witch is “someone who has escaped having their natural abilities (including eco-eroticism and so-called ESP) sabotaged by their culture”. C’mon, that title definitely has a better ring to it than A Nature Mystic’s Eco-Erotica. I figured it would grab some attention. And it has.
The cover was a little more complicated than just a photo on a background with words. I created the background by piecing together photos of branches damaged by the pine beetle (which has destroyed much lumber in British Columbia). The lines and tunnels left by the pine beetle have always seemed mystic and runic-looking to me. And no, I didn’t need a release for the photo of the dancer imposed on the runic wood. It is an old, old, old photo of me enhanced by Photoshop.
Other platforms I was checking out included Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Lulu.com and Smashwords.com. I decided to go with Lulu mostly for tax reasons. I live in Canada and Amazon and Smashwords will give 30% of your profits to the United States Internal Revenue Service. If you want to spend time filling out forms regarding reciprocal tax treaties you may be able to get around this. But Lulu didn’t take tax information unless the author purchased a marketing package.
Lulu distributes to Barnes and Noble and the ITunes bookstore if the author wants. I did want and I set it up on the Lulu website. But Lulu has no control over the pricing done by these retail partners. The e-book was priced at $1.50 on the Lulu marketplace and the retail partners priced it at $.99. Ironically, the copies sold by the partners give more profit that those sold by Lulu because Lulu charges a $.99 “file storage” fee.
My second e-book is about audio frequencies. A feral (wild) cat living with me had cancer and though I was working with a holistic vet, medication was an issue because a feral cat does not want to be touched. I found medicinal and pain relief audio frequencies on the internet. I played the pain relief frequencies on my mp3 player and the cat relaxed dramatically. The science behind this is that cells communicate via frequencies. If the audio frequency contains the same frequencies as that medicine pill, you don’t need the physical pill. I know, hard to believe but I tested it on my own allergies and have seen audio frequencies work repeatedly for myself and my cats.
I continued to explore frequencies and found many different types that operate on body and mind in different ways. Some producers combine some of the types. This became a fairly technical e-book and I decided to publish this one, A Guide to Audio Frequencies for Healing Rescue Animals, Pets and People exclusively on Amazon in spite of the tax grab. I also put A Witch’s Eco-Erotica on Amazon. To do this, I had to reformat and upload the original manuscript to specifications different than Lulu’s.
A Witch’s Eco-Erotica is not exclusive to Amazon so I only receive 35% of the selling price. The Guide to Audio Frequencies is part of KDP Select which requires that it be exclusive to Amazon and have a selling price of $2.99 or higher. It is also available to readers on a lending library basis. When you agree to all of this, you receive 70% of the selling price, your book is available in more of Amazon’s global market places, and you are able to set up promotions through Amazon. I notified various vets, rescue groups and interested parties and set up a free download day on Valentines Day. People downloaded the book as usual from Amazon except it was free. This is one way to get your book reviewed.
I continue to debate with myself whether the Eco book should go on Smashwords. Smashwords has lots of retail partners but Smashwords simply produces a catalog of acceptable e-books and the partners choose from the catalog. Smashwords gives 85% of net profit to the author of e-books sold in the Smashwords marketplace. Affiliate sales yield 70.5% to the author and retail sales give 60% of the list price.
Smashwords offers tools for promotion but advises that sales result from the author’s hard work of promoting. On the other hand, when googled by title, my e-books frequently showed on the first page listed on Amazon, Lulu, Barnes and Noble and ITunes. Because of that (I think) my blogs advertising the books also ranked on Google’s first page.
My e-book writing is self expressive more than entrepreneurial but, as mentioned above, e-books can be promotional. This is especially true because you can embed your affiliate links in your e-book and when your reader clicks and buys you get your commission in addition to the profit from your e-book. Also note that Amazon and Smashwords allow you to claim affiliate commission from your e-book sale on top of your share of the selling price if the e-book sells through your affiliate link. I should also mention that some entrepreneurs research what topics are popular, then outsource the writing of that topic in e-book form to free lance agencies like Elance or Odesk. The entrepreneur then goes on to sell the e-book as their own.
I hope this information has given any budding authors out there more to think about.
Originally published on IBOsocial 5/26/13