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E-books: A carnival of opportunities

Forty percent of books now sold in America are ebooks. Readers sit at home and order them up to read on their Kindle or Nook or hand-held devices. It’s an easy way to get acquainted with a best seller or special interest book in your own armchair. I just finished the new Steven King Noir mystery Mr. Mercedes on my Kindle. It was great.

For readers it is hog heaven, as we say in Indiana. The new subscription service Kindle Unlimited, for example, gives you a year’s choice of unlimited ebook titles for $120 a year.

For authors, the path is both easy and difficult. Because writing a book and having it offered as a quick-to-get e-book is so easy, authors are flooding the distribution sources with their literary gems. But first to be able to choose from so many sources, and then to experience success, is the challenge. If you are an author from a traditional publisher like Hawthorne, the company will produce your ebook and get it represented and sold. I’m concentrating on self published authors in this blog. They now represent 46 percent of books sold in America and I lecture and conduct workshops on this subject for the Indiana Writers Center.

The “so many sources to get your e-book published and out there” is the crux of the matter. It is so easy now for companies with e-pub technology to invite an author to submit a manuscript to be turned into an ebook that it can be done within hours: they advertise two-days posting on their websites. It requires that an author gets the manuscript into formatting form, Word or e-pub. Then—voila, the publishing group offers your title to the public for sale at a price which varies from scholarly books selling for $50 or so (a few) to everybody else’s books at $9 or less, now considerably less. The distributor keeps a portion and sends a small royalty for each book sold.

Of course those offering to create and put into the market an e-book aren’t doing it without getting something back. Money. This is a huge, stupendous business opportunity for savvy sharpies and they are sopping it up. The ebook sites get money from selling the ebooks and extra publishing services to the author. Or through paid subscriptions. Small risk to authors and a small return per ebook sold. So let capitalism and ingenuity prevail!

Self published authors can choose from companies which put out both print books published on demand and now ebooks. Author Solutions will do this; caveat emptor as they hire and fire young staff and aren’t concerned much about ethics. Smashwords is used by eighty thousand ebook authors. They claim to take your Word file or e-pub and turn it into an ebook which they make available to all outlets like Barnes and Noble, direct Sales, and libraries. Not Amazon.

The greatest sources by far for ebooks are Amazon’s Kindle Direct and Kindle Unlimited and they don’t have agreements with the other outsources. That way they control the market.

But for an author this is like a carnival, walking down the midway for your choices of putting our your book in electronic form, an e-book. Not only are there all these services which take your book file and make it into an ebook and offer it for sale but there are subsidiary type services with huge author customer bases which try to promote these ebooks.

That’s because the problem is getting publicity for your book, knowledge that the book is out there so people can order it. There must be knowledge that the author’s book is there and available. A friend of ours used Kindle Direct and saw only 25 sales in a one year period, most of them his friends and relatives. You must have publicity, reviews, notifications. Next blog will be on these “publicizing your ebook for readers” sites which are advertising their wares on the midway of e-book marketing.

Check out the wide assortment of Hawthorne ebooks and order from an excellent potpourri of Indiana history!

Nancy Baxter, Senior Editor