Do you really need to publish your book as an eBook? Won't that hurt your "real" book sales? Isn't there something perverse about writing a book and then publishing it as something that is not really a book? Over on one of the discussion lists I follow, there's a debate going on right now about publishing in both hardback and paperback editions at the same time. That's dangerous enough. Why complicate matters by putting your hard work out there in some electronic form that people can't even pick up? I've heard all these questions, and I understand the unwillingness to jump into a new-fangled technology. But please pay attention. You NEED to do this!
I understand how satisfying it is to pick up a beautiful book and be able to say, "Hey! I wrote this. This is mine." The thrill of finding your book in a bookstore -- maybe on a table at the very front of the store -- is worth all the effort you put into it. But what do you really want? You write because you want others to read. If you want to keep your words secret, get a diary and hide it under your mattress. If you want living, breathing readers who will engage in your ideas, you have to go out and find them where they are. And the truth is that more and more readers are turning to e-books as their reading choice.
I'm not going to go into all the reasons WHY people like e-books. Let's just accept the fact that readers are turning more and more often to their electronic gadgets instead of lugging around a book. And when they are looking for a good read, they have lots of choices. According to one set of figures I saw recently, there are more than 900,000 books for sale in the Kindle Store. With an e-reader, you can also have access to 1.8 million out-of-copyright books published prior to 1923. And they are FREE. With all those choices, who (except your mother) would pay $25.00 for your real book?
As the diagram shows, the question is not whether to publish an e-book, but in what format. Should you go with Kindle, or Apple's iBook, or the Nook, or the Sony reader, or . . . . ? The answer is YES. Until the industry settles down and creates a single standard, you need to put your material out there in every available format. That sounds daunting. If you're a complete technological klutz, you can hire someone to do the formatting for you, but it's really not all that tough.
Start with Kindle. Kindle editions show up as format choices on Amazon.com, right along with your print edition, and a large share of the reading audience will find your e-book there. Kindle offers complete instructions on how to submit your manuscript in acceptable format. They accept Word files (.DOC) or .PDF, or .TXT among others. Just follow the instructions here, and your e-book will appeal like magic.
Then turn to Smashwords. These folks take your .DOC file and convert your work into all the different formats needed for second-tier readers. They also handle the distribution of your files to the ordering websites of all of those different readers. There is no charge for that service, and they stand behind their work. Apple's iBook store recently tightened their standards for e-book coding and notified me that my version of Beyond All Price had coding errors. I simply forwarded the message to Smashwords, and they fixed the problem within hours. They make their own money by featuring your book as a page in their own catalog and taking a small amount of the sales from that catalog as their profit. You get about 60% to 85% of the sale, without doing anything except letting them put your work out there.
There it is: No difficult formatting. No inventory to clutter you dining room. No sales pitches to deliver. No advertising to pay for. No sales to handle. No shipping to worry about. Just money coming in, steadily and reliably every month.
Why wouldn't you do this?