I speak with many authors who are interested in turning their book (or a segment of it) into an eBook that can easily be purchased and downloaded. I also get lots of questions from authors about eBooks and how to create them — most of which I don’t have the expertise to answer.
With that in mind, I turned to David Wogahn, an Internet veteran and media entrepreneur. Over the past twenty years, David’s ventures have published on a range of subjects including sports, education, nutrition and business data utilizing a variety of digital media delivery methods including CD-ROM, websites, syndication and Kindle. David has also published five annual business directories in print.
In 2002, David founded Sellbox.com, which provides digital media authoring, conversion services and digital marketing support to authors and publishers of eBooks and mobile apps.
Here are David’s answers to some of the most common questions I get from authors about eBooks. If you have any further questions, post them in the “comments” box at the end of this blog post and we will do our best to get them answered.
Q: How important is the ebook cover when attracting an audience? Do you have any specific recommendations for ebook covers?
A: As everyone knows, covers are very important. However, I’m beginning to think that they are less important online than they are in a physical store. People browse a store shelf by looking at spines and the occasional cover. But you never see an online cover without some amount of descriptive text. That said, you still need a cover that grabs people even when the image is a thumbnail (Amazon’s thumbnail is 160 pixels x 160 pixels). So make it legible and look professional.
One more observation: right now ebook covers mimic print book cover dimensions even though the shape is irrelevant to the contents. I wonder if we’ll start seeing more ebooks designed to fill those 160 x 160 spaces, in other words square.
Q: How can I ensure that no one can copy my ebook and share it with friends?
A: The first question I ask authors is “why did you write this book”? If it’s to support their consulting practice, I ask them if it would be a bad thing if lots more people were exposed to their writing. Clearly this doesn’t apply to all writers but it’s worth thinking about.
Another point I make is that the music you download from Amazon or Apple is not copy protected. The reason is that copy restrictions unfairly hinder legitimate use of the content. There is vocal book-buying constituency that says these protections do more harm than good.
I try to educate my clients about the pros and cons and let them decide. It falls into my Big Three Decisions bucket: price, copy protection (called DRM or digital rights management) and covers. All subjective choices for the author.
Q: What if I want to sell my ebook through my website? What kind of technology would I need to have?
A: The easiest thing to do is link to your book in the online stores at Amazon and B&N, to name just two. While it is possible to sell downloads direct—J.K. Rowling is doing that with Pottermore—you have to think about the return on your investment to set it up.
Q: How would I get my ebook listed on Amazon/B&N?
Q: How does the cost of an ebook compare to the cost of a hardcover?
A: Again, pricing is one of my Big Three Decisions. Here are a few things for your readers to think about:
- Your royalty rate depends on your price. For example, Amazon pays 70% if you price between $2.99 and $9.99. Otherwise it’s 35%.
- Don’t offer the ebook at a significant discount from your print book, if you have one.
- Start at 99 cents so you can give it as a “gift” to your friends, family and potential reviewers. You can always increase it later.
- Some prices tend to track according to book size.
- Bonus thought: books are becoming an impulse buy so price accordingly.
There are other considerations and this topic continues to evolve.
Q: What’s the difference between an ebook and a PDF?
A: A PDF is essentially an image on a Kindle or Nook. Imagine not being able to do all those things that e-readers are really great at: font sizing, dictionary lookup, bookmarking, underlining, social sharing, etc. You can’t do that with a PDF.
I remember getting my first Kindle and trying to read a PDF. It was the first and last time I tried doing that!
Q: Can an author just use InDesign to create an eBook? What are the benefits and drawbacks of doing that?
A: Yes, sort of… Once the book is done there are tools that help the designer/user convert the file into a format for selling in the stores. Amazon announced an InDesign plug-in for Kindle but I haven’t used it. You can also save the file in other formats (like RTF) that can be converted. But whatever you do, don’t export a PDF and try to convert it to an ebook format. They tend to be riddled with formatting problems.
In closing, this is a great time to be an author and there really isn’t any downside to publishing in the ebook format.