By Sam Clapp
Gone are the days when writing a book meant receiving a mountain of rejection letters from publishers. Thanks to the increasing popularity of e-books, it’s easier than ever to get a book out of your head and into the hands of readers. In the last few months, the writers at WilliamsTown Communications have been working to publish the Alzheimer’s Roadmap series, a sequence of no-nonsense reference manuals for Alzheimer’s disease caregivers. We’re learning firsthand the elements of online publishing as we set up our new imprint, Silver Hills Press.
The first step is the most important of all: Write a good book! Readers will not be interested in buying a mediocre text, no matter how beautiful the cover, perfectly calibrated the price, or well curated the illustrations. Make sure that your book measures up to the professional standards of commercially published writing. Triple-check your book for misspellings and grammatical errors and consider hiring a copy editor.
After you’ve perfected your book, make an eye-catching cover. The e-book buyer has only a few pieces of information to rely on when making purchasing decisions—the cover design, the book synopsis, and customer reviews—so it pays to make your title’s cover distinct. In many cases, it’s best to hire a graphic designer to do this work, unless you’re confident in your mastery of Photoshop. One low-cost option is to hire a designer at Fiverr to create a cover for $5. At Fiverr, you can also hire people to promote your book through blog posts and tweets.
Next, set a price that will entice readers to click “Buy.” Smashwords, a popular e-book publisher, found in a 2013 survey that lower-priced books typically perform best, with a few exceptions. Books priced around $3, for instance, earn more than books priced around $2 or even $1. For all the statistics, see the full survey here.
When you’re ready to publish, you’ll have a few different options. It’s possible to upload directly through e-book retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple iBookstore. We use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing because the royalties work out in our favor: we keep 70% for each copy because we sell exclusively through Amazon. One drawback of this technique is that uploading directly to a retailer limits sales of your title to that retailer, and it can be a hassle to repeatedly upload the book to different sites. To gain wider immediate coverage, many authors upload the title to a distributor such as Smashwords or BookBaby.
At this point you might feel like your work is done, but the process of getting people to actually read the book will just be beginning! For many e-books, word of mouth is the key promotional tool, so you should plan on promoting your title through as many channels as possible. First, get friends and family to provide some favorable reviews for your book. Use your blog and social media accounts to promote your book, before and after it is published. If you’re willing to spend some money on promotion, buy a Twitter, Facebook, or Google ad to reach targeted groups of readers. We’ve had success in making our titles free for a few days and promoting heavily around that time. The Author Marketing Club’s Free Book Submission Tool is an amazing online resource that allows you to submit your book for promotion on dozens of e-book blogs at once.
Writing a book and getting it out into the world is no easy task, but knowing the ins and outs of online publishing can take the stress out of the process. If you’re working on a cookbook, a memoir, or the next great American novel, waste no time! Write, publish, and promote, and your book will be in readers’ hands in short order.