Saturday, February 28, 2009

Expanding my ebook presence online at Smashwords

For some time I've understood the potential of marketing my fantasy novels to readers of ebooks if they could be included in the catalog of an online ebook retailer. Until now I have been shy about this course because many barriers are in place at most ebook retailers.

One barrier is the outright exclusion of self published work. Similar to this is the requirement that an ebook be given an ISBN to be listed. As a publisher I have ISBN numbers but I have only been assigning them to print products. I can't quite imagine why I would need an ISBN for an ebook because it is not like some retailer somewhere is scanning a barcode at checkout time for an ebook. Also, if I were to assign an ISBN to an ebook, I would have to do it for each format, which would get expensive very quickly. ISBNs cost money, you know.

Another typical barrier is a listing fee. Because I am religiously cheap and reserve my marketing dollars for getting people to my websites, I have not taken this route. And finally, some retailers just give terrible terms. Listing my titles at the Amazon Kindle store will only get me a 35 percent share of the retail price. Insulting -- especially because Amazon already gives me 45 percent on my paperbacks.

These various barriers have directed me to an emerging ebook publishing and retail site called Smashwords.

Smashwords, founded by Mark Coker, appears to be positioning itself to benefit writers, publishers, and readers. What a concept. Writers can publish their work as ebooks and connect with a print on demand service. According to a recent interview with Coker at Teleread, Smashwords will soon be supporting publishers who produce multiple authors. Smashwords is so great for self publishing writers and publishers because it gives an 85 percent share of sales minus payment processing fees. Now, that is something worth looking at as a business person. Now how is Smashwords reaching out to ebook readers? It does this by encouraging publishers to offer free samples, producing ebooks in numerous formats, and skipping all the digital rights management (DRM) encryption nonsense that often confuses or annoys customers.

Smashwords is a relatively new service, and right now it is building its catalog and is only entering the phase of improving its merchandising. A big barrier to its success is the fact that anyone can publish here. So, its catalog is filled with a bunch of unknowns. The problem with aggregated self published works is that some might be good and some might be junk. But I suppose that describes the entire publishing industry and all bookstores. Just because something was self published does not mean that it is bad. Just because a publisher selected a book for production does not mean that it is any good. Still, it is difficult to get any marketing traction without any big names, but with the Smashwords system being opened up to actual publishing companies, the system could fill up with titles that have some name recognition. Smashwords certainly presents a fantastic system for a publisher looking for an ebook distribution system at an affordable price.

Another aspect of Smashwords that got me to sign up was the integration of its catalog with the Stanza ebook application that is popular with iPhone users. Apparently ebooks are getting read on smart phones, so joining Smashwords gives me extra visibility to this potential audience.

I look forward to seeing the development of Smashwords. I have added Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I to Smashwords. I am listing it as a free ebook just like at my website. Over the next days I will be adding the rest of The Rys Chronicles novels to Smashwords.

Check out Smashwords and read my free fantasy novel.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Read Chapter 1 - In the Service of the Empire from fantasy book

At Brave Luck Books (TM) I just added an excerpt from my fantasy book Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I. It is Chapter 1 - In the Service of the Empire. I have set it up as a webpage prepared for easy printing. I realize that many people are not interested in reading anything longer than a page or two on a computer screen, so now visitors can print out the chapter and read it comfortably.

It occured to me that I should add the printable chapter because my ebook sales do considerably better than my print book sales. I had always attributed this to the fact that I give away the first book in my fantasy series for free as an ebook. Therefore, people who like ebooks can discover my writing for free, and if they like my work, come back and buy the rest of the series.

I tried to adapt this marketing to my print books by offering the first book for $1 plus shipping, which is a low barrier to entry, but still not free. However, the costs associated with manufacturing and shipping require that I charge something for sending out a physical book. But this approach was not matching the marketing results for the ebooks. I'm hoping to alleviate this disparity by providing a printable excerpt for people who like to read from paper.

I know that some fantasy readers are happy to consume the whole series once they can decide if they like my writing. This system works effectively with the ebook audience, but print readers are harder to reach. They need to be reassured about the quality of the product before making a purchase. Initially, I assumed that the free ebook version would accomplish this necessary accessibility, but if a person is not interested in ebooks, then he or she might not take the step of downloading the ebook version even for the purpose of sampling a portion of it. So, perhaps the option to easily print a chapter without any downloading necessary will help book readers give my fantasy fiction a chance.

Go to Chapter 1 - In the Service of the Empire.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Take a look at the new Kindle 2

The launch of the 2.0 version of the Kindle ebook reader from Amazon continues to arouse the attention of readers. This new version of the Kindle cures many of the "ugliness issues" that stuck to the old Kindle like old gum on a nice shoe. The new Kindle 2 is sleek and vastly more appealing. I personally reviewed the original version of the Kindle and found it to be a decent device. Reading on it is completely comfortable, but I did find its menus and navigation confusing. Because I have not had a chance to hold and see the new Kindle yet, I don't know if any of the user interface clumsiness that I perceived in the first model have been alleviated.

The real strength of the Kindle compared to other ebook readers is its wireless access to the largest content selection of books, newspapers, magazines, audio books, and blogs. Some people really like that wireless connectivity, and the ability to subscribe to some major newspapers in the Kindle grants a weak light of hope to the dying newspaper industry.

To help anyone interested in getting a look at the new Kindle 2, I nabbed this video on YouTube from Cnet that also includes a quick little interview with Stephen King. I very much agree with his comments about books and ebooks. Some people like to stir up a books versus ebooks battle, but King sums up my outlook when he says that it is the story or content that counts and the way of accessing it is secondary.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Recommended sources of royalty free stock music and photos



I know that when I put together some book trailers for The Rys Chronicles a year ago, I had to shop around for a decent and affordable source of stock music for the video soundtrack. Prices really vary, but the company I ended up buying from was Shockwave-Sound.com. This place has a tremendous selection of music tracks and sound effects. I also found their categories very helpful. They had a whole category specifically for fantasy and science fiction style epic soundtracks.

What royalty free means is that you pay one price for use of the music or sound in your video productions but you do not have to pay any ongoing royalties as you distribute your video that contains the music. This is a perfect arrangement for promotional videos and advertisements that generate revenue indirectly.

Now I know some people would just use any music they wanted to make a video and not give a thought to licensing. I suppose this is harmless if you are just making something for fun as a hobbyist, but any legitimate business person with commercial goals should do the right thing and properly license and attribute the copyrighted works used in producing promotional material. It could possibly save you a big legal headache. Because so many people need to promote themselves with multimedia there are many sources of affordable media. As I said, for quality and selection, I recommend Shockwave-Sound.com for music and sound effects. And my favorite place for still photographs is Fotolia.com. This place is hands down the most affordable source of stock photos. It is even going to be adding stock video soon, so I can't wait for that to get going.

When I made the book trailers for my fantasy series, I learned many of the skills from reading articles online. That's why I am making this post about affordable stock music and photos to help other interested researchers surfing for information.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My decision against selling ebooks at the Amazon Kindle store

Today I had the honor of having an article published at Teleread on the subject of why I do NOT sell my ebooks through Amazon. Teleread is a blog that promotes digital reading and follows ebook technology and the publishing industry. I was quite thrilled to have my article accepted.

The specifics of why I've decided against entering my titles in the Amazon ebook system are covered at the Teleread article Why I haven't added my ebooks to the Kindle Store. In brief, the sales terms offered by Amazon were woefully inadequate. It's just not in my nature to give someone a 65 percent cut.

However, I think that Amazon is a good company and I've been satisfied by it as a customer and as a paper book vendor, but Amazon is failing to tempt me into their ebook marketplace. This does not mean that my ebooks are not available to Kindle users. The Kindle is a decent ebook reading device and it can display ebooks in an unencrypted Mobipocket format. All but one of my titles are available in the Mobipocket format.

Perhaps as the Amazon ebook venue evolves, I might choose to participate some day if the terms cease to be predatory, but until then I'll just have to market myself one precious visitor at a time to Falbe Publishing or Brave Luck Books (TM).

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