adventures in eBooks

Or How I Stopped Worrying, and Learned To Love The Byte.

When I first made the decision to become an Independent, I knew I’d be posting my novels on the web, for people to read for free, and I knew I’d be making them available to purchase as a paperback – but I hadn’t yet fallen in love with the notion of the eBook. People talk about reading books on their PDA’s and their cell phones, I’ve never known anyone who owns a Kindle, but I kept thinking “Good lord, who in their right mind would read a NOVEL on their cellphone?”

But they do. Apparently quite a few of them do, it’s just ME who can’t see text that small.

So while building a paperback at Lulu, I realized the option for also building the eBook version is easy – no more complicated than checking a box and setting a price. So I did, and the print and eBook versions became available side by side.

And much to my surprise, it’s the eBooks I sell the most of.

Now, on Lulu, the eBook is a pdf, and while I’m not exactly tech ignorant, I’m not completely up on all the tricks, so I wasn’t sure if the pdf could be read on readers and phones. As I believe I’ve learned, it depends on the device. But still, in the interests of making the books more widely available, I started to look around. I found an article about a writer who’d put his novel on the Kindle, priced at $1.00 as an experiment, and it had sold in droves because of the small price tag. Who’s going to flip out over trying a new author for a mere buck, right?

So I looked in to the Kindle. I’d had no idea previously that Indies like me could publish to the Kindle store, and as it turns out, we can. Only there’s a catch that I wasn’t willing to wrap my mind around. You might feel differently, but in order to publish your novel to the Kindle, you’ll have to sign Amazon’s digital rights contract.

It’s not too bad, until you hit the line where they require, in no uncertain terms, full access into your US bank account. Oh, and they’ll take your SS# while you’re at it.

They refuse to pay you to your Paypal account, you MUST give them access into your checking account, and your Social Security Number, to boot.

Well that was it for me. I refused, and decided publishing to the Kindle, along with Godzillazon, wasn’t for me. That’s when a commenter mentioned Mobipocket and I started researching. It took a little doing, reading the contract and fully understanding it, but what it boiled down to was something a little easier to swallow.

All you need to do is download their free publishing program, very easy to use, and sign their contract which gives them some money making rights, but YOU keep all copy rights, digital rights and full ownership of your work. And you can terminate the contract at any time, for no reason at all, and your book will vanish from their site, no hard feelings. They’re not demanding access to your checking account, either. They’ll happily pay you using your Paypal account, or a credit card that accepts payments, or they’ll send you a check or wire transfer you money. You format your eBook using their program, you can even test run it on your computer or your smartphone or PDA to make sure it all looks the way you want it, then upload it to their server (after signing up with them) and suddenly your eBook is available for sale in the Mobipocket store, and loads of others.

Keep in mind, if you’ve decided you don’t like Amazon’s digital rights agreement like I did, you’ll have to remove them from the list of Mobipocket’s available retailers. Otherwise, like me, you’ll get an email from Amazon telling you they need your SS# and access to your bank account and while you’re at it, they’d like your first born and then give you a proctology exam. Then, like me, you’ll burst a blood vessel before realizing you can remove them from your approved list.

Now, there’s a slight hitch that may or may not get in your way.

Mobipocket, French company that it is, won’t pay YOU until you’ve made $150.00. If you cancel, you’ll be paid what they owe you. But if you’re in this for the long haul, you won’t mind – and if you’re good, and lucky, it won’t take long to earn that. If that seriously pisses you off, then don’t do it.

As for earnings – yeah, they keep a cut, and for some of you it might be too big a cut, but in the book business it’s pretty average. Only you can decide if this is okay with you or not, but in a nutshell YOU set the price of your book, and you earn 35% of net, regardless of retailer markup.

Example: Set the price of your novel at $1.00, and for every novel Mobipocket sells for you, you earn .35 cents. If a retailer sells your eBook for $12.00, you still earn only that .35 cents. If a retailer sells your book for .50 cents, you earn that .35 cents. If you have a webpage, and use an Affiliate link to your book, any time someone clicks that link and purchases you book, you earn another .10 cents. Be honest with yourself – who’s gonna buy your eBook for $12.00 ?

Sound pathetic? Kindle’s agreement is the same. Such is the life of a writer, which is why even traditionally published writers, 98% of them anyway, keep their day jobs.

I haven’t actually figured out the percentage that Lulu pays the author, mostly because math makes my brain go fuzzy, but at Lulu you do set your own price. When you’re building your novel, you’ll reach a point where they tell you the base cost of printing/creating and you’ll add your cut, then they’ll show you the final cost to the public. You can mess with this as much or as little as you like, and change it at any time – allowing for “sales” and the like. It’s best to keep your profit pretty damn low, so as to make your purchase price really attractive.

Mobipocket works much the same. You set the price, and at any time you can change it. Just keep in mind, you’re not going to make a fortune writing – and people aren’t going to pay you $14.95 for an eBook, or even $9.99. If you want readers, and you want to make serious sales numbers, you’ll keep pricing in mind. Folks will risk a new author for $1.00 or $2.00, not much more.

My fantasy novel Ether has been up in the mobipocket store for 4 days now, and it’s selling for $2.00. I’m earning .35 cents for every sale, unless the buyer followed a link from my web page, which then earns me .45 cents per book. I used Ether as my test-run because it’s been for sale for a while now, and I wasn’t ready to risk my latest novel by debuting it in a format I didn’t have at least a little experience with.

Which brings us to a topic I’ll talk about Wednesday – buying your own block of ISBN’s. The pros and cons of being your own Publisher.

Power to the People!

Make Love, not War!

These pretzels are making me thirsty.

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