If the big six (now big five) publishers had been paying attention at the turn of the millennium, things might be different for them and their big name authors. But like many old companies steeped in tradition and believing they “owned” the system, they didn’t pay attention. Even as they watched as CDs made way for MP3s and Apple completely changed the way we listen to music, they didn’t consider similar changes might be in store for books.
Today most publishing companies offer ebooks and many have digital-only imprints; however, it’s been a struggle for them to fit traditional bookselling concepts into the new world of digital media. This recently played out with Amazon’s and Hachette’s dispute over ebook pricing.
Along with the emergence of digital books into the mainstream, Amazon made it easier for self-published authors to have their ebooks showcased alongside traditionally published authors. Now writers don’t have to be accepted by a publisher or spend a fortune on vanity publishing. The success of many self-published authors suggests that readers don’t care who publishes the book as long as they get a good story. In fact, Publishing Technology reports that 39 percent of ebooks in genre fiction sold at Amazon are written by indie authors, versus 34 percent by the big five publishers. When you consider that 86 percent of the top 2500 Amazon genre bestsellers are sold in Kindle format, versus 7 percent in paperback and 4 percent hardcover, that’s a lot of ebooks.
The reality is that the big five no longer control what readers read, and despite what you might read online, that is a good thing for everyone who wants to write and share their work with the world.
I created my first ebook sometime around 2001. At that time, ebooks were mostly PDF documents sold through personal or business websites. Amazon started offering ebooks in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Stephan King sold an e-novella through Amazon in 2000 and was quoted as saying that he thoughte books would become 50% of the market “probably by 2013 and maybe by 2012.” He was off a little bit. Currently, ebook sales make up about 22 percent of all book sales, but that’s still a lot of ebooks.
While ebook sales have tapered off a bit recently, they’re not likely to go away. Many people still prefer print books, or like me, buy a combination of print and ebooks. But if the book market is going to be anything like the music market, ebooks are here to stay. Kids these days do everything on a single phone or tablet, and as more and more kids grow up with digital devices, the more likely they’ll include reading along with everything else they do on their gadgets. In fact, my son considered buying e-textbooks when he went to college.
Need more proof? In 2013, there were:
So now that you’re convinced that e-reading is here to stay, the next question is:
Do You Have an eReader?
The first time I taught a course on digital publishing at the local community college in 2013, I asked members of the class to raise their hand if they had an eReader or ever read an ebook. I was shocked when less than 10 percent raised their hand. How could they create a digital book without experiencing digital reading? There is a difference. That difference is probably why many of them hadn’t read an ebook. “I prefer to hold a book in my hand,” is what I commonly hear.
If you’re going to become a digital publisher, you need to read a digital book. However, you don’t have to order a Kindle or Nook. You can read a Kindle book on your computer, tablet, or smartphone just by downloading the free Kindle app from your device’s app store. Barnes and Noble has a free app for its Nook books as well. If you haven’t already, install one of the apps for your device and get a book (there are tons of free books if you don’t want to buy one). As you read, take note of the experience. What is it like to make the words bigger or smaller? How is the formatting (many authors and even bigtime publishers mess this up)? Having the experience of reading an ebook will help you create a quality book for your readers.
I once asked a traditionally published mystery writer friend of mine why some books took off and others didn’t. At the time, Twilight was the hot book, but it wasn’t the first teen book about vampires. So what made Twilight do what other books in its category hadn’t? He said, “Stardust.”
You can’t control “stardust,” but you can control the content and the marketing, which is really the root of successful authorship. Success in epublishing starts with writing a quality book. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction; your book must provide your reader with a great story or information. There are many make-money-with Kindle programs on the Internet that tell you to find a profitable niche, throw something together, and publish with the right keywords to get rich. While this may work for some, one of the reasons indie authors continue to struggle for recognition is that many writers are slapping together books without regard to providing value to the reader. As more and more getrich- seekers do this, good indie authors will continue to be hurt by it. This book isn’t about curating content to make money. It’s about being a writer who wants to publish a book. So as you write your book, focus on giving the readers your best work.
I don’t ever get writer’s block. I always have something to say in whatever book I happen to be working on. But I do get writer’s resistance. For any number of reasons, I don’t write when I should. My reasoning sounds good to me at the time, but in reality, they are excuses and ultimately they keep me from producing and therefore limit the money I can make. A good example is this post, which I’d hoped to have finished four months ago.
To be a writer, you need to write. To be an author, you need to finish what you write and publish it. You may be thinking, “I already have something written, Leslie. I just need to know how to publish it and make money.” We’ll get to that. But first, you need to understand that you cannot make a career from one book. As you work through this book to prepare your manuscript, publish, and sell it, you need to get ready to start your next book. Most successful authors I talk to say that they didn’t really hit the 4-figure monthly income until they had a couple of books published. Of course, you may be the exception and find success with one book. Even so, the more books you have, the more you can make. And since readers like to buy more from the authors they like, you’ll have a readymade stream of buyers for subsequent books.
To become an author that regularly publishes, you need the time, place, and tools to write. I’m going to give you some tips, some of which I have already covered. However, book writing is much different than writing blogs or articles and often requires different tricks to motivate you. While I’ll provide you with some ideas, what works to motivate you to write is personal, so develop your own schedule and tricks to get your butt in the chair and your fingers tapping the keyboard.
Time To Write
The biggest barrier to writing is usually time. If you’re working a regular job, raising a family, volunteering, or doing any of the many other things that fill up a life, finding time to write a book is hard. If you’ve read books on writing, you’ll have heard about authors who write during their commute or who get up at or stay up to 4 a.m. to write. These strategies may not work for you. They didn’t work for me. I work from home, so I don’t commute and I like to sleep. I write much of my nonfiction books during my work time, since I feel I can justify it as part of my job. My fiction work is done a few evenings a week and on the weekends. My fiction work is starting to earn more, so I’ll be able to justify writing fiction during regular work hours soon. Being able to make writing your full-time gig is great goal, but if you’re like most unpublished writers, you need to write around your already busy life.
If writing during your commute or before and/or after hours doesn’t work for you, write during lunch time, your kid’s soccer game, or while you’re waiting at the doctor’s office. My suggestion is to determine your peak writing times and schedule your writing at that time. But if you can’t write during your peak time, then you have to schedule it during a non-peak time. No matter your situation or time constraints, schedule writing time because the act of scheduling it gives your writing importance.
Energy to Write
For me, writing resistance isn’t because of time, it’s because I lack the energy. I suspect it’s the same for many other people. If you watch TV or engage in hobbies, you have time for writing. The problem may be that when you have the time to write, you don’t feel like writing. It’s the end of a long day. The kids are making noise. The laundry needs to be done. When you’re low on energy, it’s hard to write.
My solution is to force myself to start even if it’s just to jot down ideas. Once I get a few sentences down, momentum picks up. For example, at 8 p.m. last night, I wasn’t interested in writing. But I told myself I should at least finish my thoughts for the next chapter of my new book.
You can improve your energy by making sure you eat right and get regular exercise and adequate sleep. The healthier you are, the more energy you have.
Place To Write
Writing goes so much easier when you’re comfortable and have what you need. I work at home and spend most of my time at a computer. As a result, I often don’t want to write in the evening. Going back to my computer feels too much like going back to work, even if I’m writing a murder mystery. My trick is to have a different place to write nonwork related stuff. I have a laptop and a comfy chair with a leg rest in a cozy corner of my house. When I write there, it doesn’t feel like work. I’ve also written murders and love scenes in the library, coffee joints, and bookstores.
You have to find the place that inspires you. But, because you’re sitting and writing, it should be comfortable and well-lit.
There are essentially three ways to write; plotting (or outlining), by the seat of your pants (pantster) or a combination of both (a plotting pantster?). Some writers feel that plotting and outlining ruins creativity and makes writing boring, while others like knowing their direction and destination. Pantsters like a good adventure, but it’s easy to run off course.
I’m a plotter (outliner) when I write nonfiction (like this book), but I wrote 22 fiction books (4 of which are published) completely by the seat of my pants. Nevertheless, they took me longer to write because in many spots I had no clue where to go next. So I’m moving towards a combination plotter/pantster in my next fiction work, hoping that it will result in completing a book faster with less strife.
The question is: what works for you? Only you can decide that. It might help to try a little of each to see which results in your best work. For example, the pantster in me first writes all the scenes rattling around in my head. That means I might write the last chapter first. Once I get my ideas down on the page, I go back to figure out how I’m going to get from the start to the end in an orderly fashion. But I don’t put in too much detail, because I never know what’s going to happen until I start writing.
Once you know how you want to write, you need to set goals. Again, this is up to you based on the time and energy you have available to write. Some authors set time limits. Rumor is that Nora Roberts writes eight hours a day, every day, even while on vacation (it’s why she has at least four new books published every year). That’s too much writing for most people. I just saw a documentary that reported Ian Fleming wrote Bond stories for three hours in the morning and another hour in the evening.
Some writers prefer to set word or page counts, such as 1500 words or 5 pages a day. I recently read that romance author Susan Mallery writes 15 to 20 pages a day, which is a lot. If you can’t write every day, you can set goals for the week, such as 5000 words or 20 pages a week. A final option is to write by chapters, such as writing one chapter a day.
It doesn’t hurt to set completion goals and work backwards. For example, you can set a date to finish your book in three months. You can even set your publishing year goals. For example, for 2015, I hope to complete two novels and a novella from scratch.
You might want to try writing a book in 30 days. In 2004, Chris Baty and a group of friends decided to write 50,000 words in November (30 days). Ten years later, National Novel Writing Month (known as NaNoWriMo) has millions of writers frantically pounding the keyboard every November. But you don’t have to wait until November to challenge yourself. Writing 50,000 words a month comes to about 1,667 words a day, a feat that can be achieved in less than two hours if you know what you’re going to write. This type of writing requires that you turn off the inner critic and don’t worry about errors. It’s all about getting thoughts and ideas down into a rough draft that you can spend the next 30 to 60 days fleshing out and cleaning up.
Success as an epublishing author is having work to sell. That only happens when you write. So find the time, generate the energy, create the perfect space, and develop a writing system.
If you are interested in more information regarding publishing ebooks i suggest reading how to actually make money online with ebooks.
That is it for today. I hope you learned a lot.