Ebooks: To Create or Not Create

A lot of WordServe authors have asked me about ebooks lately. In fact, with the digital age continuing to progress with new technologies, many who don’t have an agent or a publisher or a book wonder whether they should take that leap. While you (and your agent if you have one) ultimately get to decide whether or not to self-publish, I thought I would offer a few tips that might help you during your decision-making process.

  1. Spend Money on the Cover. If you have decided to publish an ebook, congratulations! Now, make sure that you do it right. Don’t try to design the cover yourself if you have limited or no experience in graphic design. Go on Craigslist or post a flyer on your local college’s graphic design program bulletin board. A starving student would love to design the cover of your book for probably half to a third of the cost that you would spend on a traditional graphic artist. Of course, if you have the money and decide to spend it, then hire a professional. Either way, make sure that the cover of your ebook looks as well-designed as a traditionally published book.
  2. You’re Hired! When you create an ebook, you may not just sit back and watch your rankings grow every day. Instead, you just became your own boss at your new sales company. You need to call several people a day to ask if they will review and like your book. Chances are about half (or less) of the people that you reach out to will actually follow through with their commitment, so the more people with whom you connect, the better. Your contact list should also include local celebrities, well-known bloggers, local radio hosts—anyone you can think of who has a strong sphere of influence (sorry, your Mom and Grandma don’t cut it). Those people can reach out to even more people without you even trying.
  3. Invest in InDesign. Numerous software programs create ebooks. However, most people recognize the high quality of InDesign. It does take a bit of a learning curve, though, so if you have the gumption, watch as many tutorial videos as you need and start learning yourself. I did this, and I moved along pretty quickly once I understood the basic premise of ebook creating in InDesign. If you need a more hands-on learning approach, then check into classes at your local library (usually free!). Or, again, you can always stop by your local community college and ask for directions to the graphic design school. For only a couple hundred bucks, you will receive a nice tutorial in InDesign, and your starving college student will receive more than a few nights of entertainment at Buffalo Wild Wings.
  4. Don’t Do Anything Stupid. Often writers get so excited about the prospect of self-publishing that they sell their soul to the self-publishing devil. You have all heard about “publishing” companies that offer to publish your book for a fee. At the completely awful soul-sucking companies, you get a worse cover design than if you would have created it yourself. However, legitimate self-publishing companies do exist. You still have to pay, but they offer valid services. One of my favorite, Dog Ear Publishing, offers several great self-publishing options. They also offer editorial services with comparable prices. Of course, you still have to do your research before you invest in any self-publishing company to make sure it fits well with you and your book.
  5. Read the Well-Fed Self-Publisher by Peter Bowerman. It has a ton of great resources. Seriously, even if you completely ignore all of my advice above, please go read Peter’s book. You will not be disappointed.

Whatever you decide, enjoy the publishing process. Become involved in marketing. Continue blogging. Work on enhancing your Facebook fan page. Write for magazines. Book speaking engagements. Oh, that sounds a lot like traditional publishing? Well, yeah. Whether you traditionally publish or self-publish, you need to make sure that you market yourself.

So, are you looking into the possibility of self-publishing a book or a promotional device for your book? What steps have you taken in that direction? What fears hold you back from moving forward with self-publishing?

6 Replies to “Ebooks: To Create or Not Create”

  1. Contrary to popular opinion there is nothing easy about self-publishing. Writers still have to polish the ‘ole manuscript, market, etc.

    Thanks for this post, Sarah. I’m still learning.

  2. While I’m working hard to market my fiction through the traditional route (as you know, Sarah), I’m preparing to self-publish my bible-study material. This was a tough decision. My dream was to churn out novels exclusively; however, we need to eat. (It’s actually not quite that dire.) But bills need to be paid. For the past six years I’ve been producing the bible-study material for my church, and the church publishes it online. I spend about twenty-five hours a week on it. Every year I’ve improved and adjusted it based on input from the users of the material, attempting to make it more user friendly. I now have a product that people are using in other churches and countries. I have a financial backer, and I have my pastor’s help and support to market the material. Sounds great, right?

    But first, I had to overcome a mental roadblock. Could I sell the work I’d done for God and his church? And could/should I sell it myself? I’m glad He said that the laborer was worthy of their wages. 🙂 I had to pray about whether that meant me. After I had peace that I could sell all of this work I’d already done, I began to move forward. Marketing it myself seemed the best solution. It gave me freedom to adjust the material, if I desired, even after publication. I also have control of all the steps involved in production, and the profit is all mine. Of course, the downside is that I have to do much of the work myself.

    I’ll be selling it online from my own business site. I’ve purchased the domain name, and I’m working on the copy. I’ll use the site to promote everything I do. I’m reading all the marketing material, working with a career mentor, jumping through copyright hoops, investigating delivery methods, etc. All the while, I continue to work on those novels. By diversifying, I know it will help with novel sales when that day arrives. And, there are those bills….

  3. Thanks for the post, Sarah! Now I know a good resource I can recommend to writer friends who want to self-publish. I’ll tell them about Peter’s book. : )

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