Hatrack River
Home   |   About Orson Scott Card   |   News & Reviews   |   OSC Library   |   Forums   |   Contact   |   Links
Research Area   |   Writing Lessons   |   Writers Workshops   |   OSC at SVU   |   Calendar   |   Store
E-mail this page
Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » E-books: outlay versus returns

   
Author Topic: E-books: outlay versus returns
Smaug
Member
Member # 2807

 - posted      Profile for Smaug   Email Smaug         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
So, this question is for those of you who have gone through the steps to e-publish, at Smashwords or elsewhere. Considering the costs involved for some of you (cover art being the main culprit), how long has it taken you to recoup those costs, or have you recouped them?
Posts: 440 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Owasm
Member
Member # 8501

 - posted      Profile for Owasm   Email Owasm         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The answer to this question depends on the success of your e-book. For my first e-book, I priced modestly and earned $150 per month for three months until I got an awful review. (Not that the book is a five-star, but it isn't a one-star!) Then my sales plummeted.

I raised all of my prices at the end of December (4.99 for full novel, 3.99 for MG novel, 2.99 for story collection) and promptly saw e-books sales plummet for all of my books. So I lowered my prices, today, actually.

I did all the work myself, but if you have a reasonably successful book (>$100 per month) you can recoup your expenses more quickly. In my case if I put more money into production, it would go right into editing, since I can do reasonably decent covers myself.

Posts: 1595 | Registered: Feb 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Smaug
Member
Member # 2807

 - posted      Profile for Smaug   Email Smaug         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
So what were your original prices on your books?
Posts: 440 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Owasm
Member
Member # 8501

 - posted      Profile for Owasm   Email Owasm         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Smaug,

That's a good question. Amazon will sell at the lowest prices, so I sold most of my first book at 1.99, but quite a few at 2.99.

I think there's a big drop off in demand for self-published books at 2.99.

Posts: 1595 | Registered: Feb 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Smaug
Member
Member # 2807

 - posted      Profile for Smaug   Email Smaug         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
That's good to know. I'm considering listing my book, but after what I've read from you, I'm thinking a little harder. If one bad review can cause things to drop off that drastically, I'm not sure I want to take the chance. And I'm sure you had some good reviews as well, so that's really perplexing. There's always going to be one person who doesn't like the book. And I'm going to have to pay someone to do the cover because I don't have enough art skills to do it myself.
Posts: 440 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
enigmaticuser
Member
Member # 9398

 - posted      Profile for enigmaticuser   Email enigmaticuser         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It seems this gets into the marketing side of things. It seems (having not done it myself), that if for example we let Amazon be the one/only/primary means of advertising a book then it will be very vulnerable.

For myself I've started a new, more professional blog site (pen-of-jsclark.com) where I keep my non-writing opinions to myself (as best as a person can), my marketing plan is to direct people there with a link to Amazon. If they find my blog first, I have the chance to leave a personal impression that should trump a stranger's bad review (presuming its outnumbered of course).

Next, I use Facebook to enlist my friends as casual marketers. Then, I'm planning to get a magnetic decal with my blog address and something along the lines of "discover an independent writer" or "local author."

The idea being you gotta get out there all over the place. In your other post you were talking about whether posts of forums were a waste, well if you can get your name out there so people look you up it's not. So I think a certain amount of non-writing time is justified just going around and networking, hitting writing sites, book review sites, whatever. Read other people's selfpub books and write well thought out, helpful, positive (in terms of tone, not giving undeserved praise), reviews and the name will start to sink in for other surfers.

Posts: 336 | Registered: Jan 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Not having participated in the review process on Amazon (until just recently when I posted a mini-review of a friend's book), I don't know whether it's possible for an author to respond to a review.

Of course, as with all feedback, the best response, in my (and not just my) opinion is "Thank you." However, when a bad review goes up and has the potential to harm all future sales, would it be possible to respond with something like this?

quote:
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and to post your review here on Amazon. Not everyone likes every story, and since you did not enjoy my story, I feel sorry for having taken your money. If you would like a refund, please let me know. Best wishes.
I would think that such a response couldn't hurt, and it might make others more willing to give your story a try, in spite of the bad review.
Posts: 8029 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jeff Ambrose
Member
Member # 9437

 - posted      Profile for Jeff Ambrose           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
So, this question is for those of you who have gone through the steps to e-publish, at Smashwords or elsewhere. Considering the costs involved for some of you (cover art being the main culprit), how long has it taken you to recoup those costs, or have you recouped them?
I disagree with Owasm. It isn't how successful your ebook is that determines how quickly you recoup your costs, it's how much money you put in in the first place. For my first several ebooks, I spend NOTHING. You get can free royalty-free pictures, and with a little time working with PowerPoint and having an assortment of paperbacks you can look at and study, you can learn to make your own cover art. Not difficult at all.

In fact, I didn't spend a dime on any of my books until the 9th book (though I have changed the cover art of a few early ones).

quote:
If one bad review can cause things to drop off that drastically, I'm not sure I want to take the chance.
I'm sorry, but let me be blunt: What the hell are you doing worrying about reviews? Are you so thin skinned that the POSSIBILITY of a bad review has stopped you in your tracks? If so, you better get out of this business.

Your job as a writer is to write. You write. You finish. You put your stuff on the market. You forget about it and move on to the next project. Simple as that.

Posts: 62 | Registered: Mar 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
redux
Member
Member # 9277

 - posted      Profile for redux   Email redux         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
For self-publishing - don't you still have to spend some money to buy ISBN number? Or does Amazon do that for you when you publish through them?
Posts: 525 | Registered: Sep 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
LDWriter2
Member
Member # 9148

 - posted      Profile for LDWriter2   Email LDWriter2         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Jeff I think he's worried more about how buyers will react to a bad review not how he will react.

But I know I would ignore one or two bad reviews if they were mixed with some good ones. So far I haven't read any reviews first before buying an e-book or story but I could. And if they were all bad I might reject the book but I don't see why people would reject a book just for one bad review. Unless perhaps it was the only one.

Posts: 4891 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Owasm
Member
Member # 8501

 - posted      Profile for Owasm   Email Owasm         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Redux,
Smashwords will give you an ISBN if you publish through them. That gets you on iBook and Sony. You can go direct to Pubit (Barnes & Noble) and Amazon. They don't require ISBN numbers.

So you can publish with zero dollars invested (other than your time) if you do your own cover and editing. ISBNs are pretty pricey if you buy them from Bowker (the only source)

The issue with a bad review is that it costs you financially. The only cure I know for a bad review is to get a bunch of non-bad reviews up. Then the bad review gets diluted. Of course, if your book isn't up-to-snuff, perhaps it's not ready for primetime, then you take it out of circulation (unpublish it)

I agree with James Abrose, even though he thinks he disagrees with me, he doesn't because I recoup my costs with my first sale. I do it all myself. I wish that wasn't the case because I'd love to be able to afford a good editor.

As far as timidity is concerned. I don't think you'll be successful with if you're tentative. If your book doesn't work, then you can pull it out of publication at all of the sites. Unless you go through the rejection route with agents, you can get input (you can even pay for reviews)from readers.

I'm also using a pen name so I can rebrand if necessary. I'll be frank, I'm still a newbie when it comes to writing (3 years since I started at the beginning of 2009) and I'm still on a learning curve.

If you think your work is about ready and you're not in the traditional publishing game, then you've got to be an aggressive writer and get your work out there. All you need is a little formatting savvy as you write and you can even load your manuscript directly to Smashwords, Amazon and Pubit. All for free.

Posts: 1595 | Registered: Feb 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Smaug
Member
Member # 2807

 - posted      Profile for Smaug   Email Smaug         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Jeff Ambrose:
You get can free royalty-free pictures, and with a little time working with PowerPoint and having an assortment of paperbacks you can look at and study, you can learn to make your own cover art. Not difficult at all.

Yeah, but for me, I'd have to purchase PowerPoint.


quote:
I'm sorry, but let me be blunt: What the hell are you doing worrying about reviews? Are you so thin skinned that the POSSIBILITY of a bad review has stopped you in your tracks? If so, you better get out of this business.
Ha ha! I appreciate bluntness. The only reason I'm worrying about bad reviews is I don't want to waste my story's potential for income just by getting one bad review. To me, that seems like a loss that I don't want to take after spending so many months, weeks, and years writing the blasted thing. So, all I'm saying is, if I think it may be more profitable trying something else instead of e-publishing, then I'm going to consider it. I weigh all options before making a choice. Yes, my job is to write, but I need to also consider whether or not it's cost-effective to publish one way, or publish another way, or maybe not be published at all for now. I write because I have to--I'm driven and all of that--but because I have to, I'd like to optimize my results, finance-wise. I know that's hard to take if you're a purist and writing is just for writing's sake.

[ January 08, 2012, 11:45 AM: Message edited by: Smaug ]

Posts: 440 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jeff Ambrose
Member
Member # 9437

 - posted      Profile for Jeff Ambrose           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
@Smaug -

Problem is, you're making decisions NOT TO ACT based on things which are OUT OF YOUR CONTROL.

It's like saying I'm not going to go out today because someone might drive through a red light and broad-side me. Yeah, they might. It's possible. So: Are you going to sit in your house twiddling your thumbs based on what MIGHT happen. I might have a massive heart attack tomorrow and die. Well, why spend the time writing today instead of watching my all-time favorite movie? Why do anything at all even, since I might not make it to the end of the day?

Regarding "cost-effective" publishing -- what options do you have? A) Traditional publishing or B) indie publishing. That's it. There is no other way. So with your novel, why not do both? Why not indie publish your novel AND send it off to editors. Tell them you've self-published it, of course; some will hate it, others won't. But you're still making money off your novel.

Problem with Traditional publishing is your work may not make it past all the people it needs to get past in order to sell it. Problem with indie publishing is you might get some bad reviews, but make some money in the process. Risks both ways, and both are out of your control.

Why WOULND'T you publish it. If it sinks like a stone, so what? The worst thing that's gonna happen is a bruise to your ego. So you write another novel, and put it out there, and if you have to, use another name. What's the problem with that?

The only way you optimize your financial results is by writing more, finishing more, and putting more stuff on the market than not.

And trust me, I'm not a purist. I believe, as Samuel Johnson said: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

[ January 09, 2012, 09:05 AM: Message edited by: Jeff Ambrose ]

Posts: 62 | Registered: Mar 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Smaug
Member
Member # 2807

 - posted      Profile for Smaug   Email Smaug         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks, Jeff. I appreciate your comments. Yeah, I guess there's nothing really stopping me from doing as you suggest. Maybe subconsciously I don't know if my novel is quite the way I'd like it to be. You know, it might be flawed. I guess I need to address that before sending it out again. I think I need someone trustworthy to read it first. As far as ego goes, I've been in a pretty tough crit group before, so I got used to criticism a long time ago. Nothing anyone says can phase me when it comes to bad press--unless they insult my wife, then I'd get testy.
Posts: 440 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jeff Ambrose
Member
Member # 9437

 - posted      Profile for Jeff Ambrose           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
You know, it might be flawed.
Yes, it might. But name a novel that ISN'T flawed. There's no such thing as a "perfect" novel or story. Anyone who thinks there is so in love with a work that they're blind to the imperfections. I know, I think the original DRAGONLANCE chronicles, which I first read as a teenager and still love immensely, are glittered in gold. But they're not. I just choose to look past the imperfections. And so will readers who love your story.

So here's what you need to to.

List the top five things you need to do in order to make your novel better. If you can't list five, then list three. If not three, then two. If not two, then one.

Do you have anything on that list?

Yes? Then get to work.

No? Then send it out/publish it, and get on to the next project.

Don't have anyone else read it. What are they going to do? Tell you what THEY think is wrong. Then you send it to another person, and they say the same thing. Then another person ... and on and on and on. I know this goes against the standard wisdom around here, but there comes a point in time when you have to ask if the standard wisdom is holding up my career.

If it is, do something different.

I had this fear for years. Wanting a perfect story, I never finished or anything, or if I did finish it, I rewrote it until I couldn't see straight. Then I adopted Heinlein's rules to a T.

1. Write.
2. Finish.
3. Don't rewrite expect to editorial order (i.e., someone is going to pay you to make changes).
4. Put it on the market.
5. Keep it on the market.

Following those rules changed everything for me. I have yet to write a perfect story, but since I began following those rules, I've grown as a writer immensely. I've developed an easy while drafting and have gained a sense of story on a deep, working level -- and it's that sense of story that one needs in order to rewrite.

Regarding rewriting, I do it, but minimally. I NEVER look for the flaws. I always look for ways to make the story better. If I can't find any ways to improve the manuscript, I send it to a proof reader to make sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed, put it on the market, and forget about it.

The next project is where I want my focus.

Anyway, best of luck.

Just don't let fear of things you can't control get the best of you.

Posts: 62 | Registered: Mar 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
KayTi
Member
Member # 5137

 - posted      Profile for KayTi           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Smaug, there are free graphic design programs, you don't have to go for powerpoint (you could also use Open Office's Powerpoint-like program, I've forgotten the name.)

Gimp is one - here's a link but there are plenty of others.

You can epublish your own work for free. You can eventually build up to spending money on cover designs or professional editorial help if you need it, but why not just start with some simple short stories and a novel or two and see where it takes you?

I'm up to 3 short stories and one YA novel. My sales are pathetic. So I'm working on epublishing more. My indie publishing friends all universally report that the ONE way they have guaranteed to get a lift on their titles is to publish MORE. Other marketing is hit/miss but putting more titles for sale is one guaranteed way to see greater sales across all titles.

It's also a marathon. Many of my wider distribution network hasn't reported to Smashwords in a month or two, and I won't see the $ from a couple of the sites for another month or two even though I see I've earned $15 here and there.

But I'm happy with the marathon. And if I had more time I'd still submit to traditional publishers, too (but I find the process of researching editors, keeping track of what I sent where, assembling packets to be time I'd rather spend working on my EXISTING work that is completed.)

As for one bad review, honestly this is a problem to solve down the road. At the moment I think I have three reviews TOTAL on all sites. It's harder to get people to review your book than to worry about getting a bad review in there. Sorry that Owasm had to deal with it but it's just one review and eventually the more positive reviews will crowd out the neg one. It happens, but it's not the most common occurrence in indie publishing (much more common is my experience with very few/no reviews.)

Posts: 1911 | Registered: Mar 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
shimiqua
Member
Member # 7760

 - posted      Profile for shimiqua   Email shimiqua         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
This is a post I wrote over at prosers about a readers perspective on ebooks.

http://theprosers.blogspot.com/2012/01/674-reasons-why-i-love-vampire-diaries.html

I love this topic Smaug, by the way. I'm preparing my novel Hatched for self publishing.

Question. Does the ISBN number matter? Is it worth spending 9.99 at createspace for something other than an unassigned ISBN number?

Also, have any of you published through Createspace? Is a paperback self published book something that makes any kind of money? I currently think that only my friends and family will be buying the paperback, have any of you had success with a non-ereader self published book? What do you think is overpricing for a self published paperback?

Would it be bad form to sell your ebook for kindle at 2.99, but through smashwords for 1.99?
Thanks,
~Sheena

Posts: 1193 | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Wonderbus
Member
Member # 9494

 - posted      Profile for Wonderbus   Email Wonderbus         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Just another thought on covers being the main culprit when it comes to cost--I wasn't too keen on spending money publishing Blood of the Land when I was gonna be selling it for a dollar but then I also don't have an artistic bone in my body either. All I did was check out DeviantArt and emailed a guy who's work I liked and I ended up getting this cover for free. I did the same for the sequel which comes out this summer and I got just as nice a cover also for free.

Just another option. Not shelling out any money doesn't always mean labouring over the artwork yourself [Smile]

Posts: 70 | Registered: Apr 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Smaug
Member
Member # 2807

 - posted      Profile for Smaug   Email Smaug         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
That's a good idea, Wonderbus. I actually know a guy who supposedly is an artist. I'm thinking he may do it cheap so he can get his name out there. Of course, if someone did that for me and there was a way to credit him with the artwork, I'd be more than happy to do it.

KayTi, I think I have that program because I have Open Office. I've never used it though. I got OO for the word processor and that's all I've used.

Great comments, everyone.

Posts: 440 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Owasm
Member
Member # 8501

 - posted      Profile for Owasm   Email Owasm         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Shimiqua,

If you want your book reviewed on a site like Goodreads, you need an ISBN. If you want a hardcopy of your novel to accompany your e-book and you are self-publishing, a createspace ISBN is okay.

The ISBN is basically a universal catalog number for your book. That's it. No further mystery. A brick and mortar bookstore and some ebook retailers (iBook, for example) use it. Amazon uses their own numbering system.

If you are a self-publisher that doesn't want to spend any money (like me), publishing on Smashwords with a free ISBN and CreateSpace with one of their free ISBNs is the way to go.

If you want to put a 'publisher' face on your books, then you set up a little publishing group and buy a block of ISBNs. In quantity they aren't very expensive. (See Jeff Ambrose). Perhaps publishing cooperatives might arise in the future, similar to Jeff's press, to make the process work better.

We are currently in the infancy of organized indie publishing.

Posts: 1595 | Registered: Feb 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
KayTi
Member
Member # 5137

 - posted      Profile for KayTi           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
@wonderbus -duuuuuuude. Awesome cover. Does the artist want more free clients? lol I don't generally do fantasy but my friend Renee does covers at www.thecovercounts.com and might be interested in his art, she often finds artists on the various stock art sites.

@Shimiqua - I haven't gotten around to doing my POD version of Convergence, my indie published YA sci-fi novel, but it's on my list. Most of my indie published friends report small but acceptable sales from POD. In percentages, I'd be it's 5-10% of their total sales in dollar volume, but just making a guess based on some conversations I've had.

It's really about just making your product available as widely as possible. I'm shutting myself off from some potential readers by not having a paper version of my book, but then again, the couple people who have pestered me most recently to do a paper version of my book also received or bought for themselves ipads or kindles or nooks for the holidays (or figured out how to read books on their laptops...) and have basically caught up with me. [Wink] But yeah, for completeness, it's a good idea.

I plan to use the free ISBNs from Createspace (and already use Smashwords' free ones. They ran out of them over the late summer as I recall and I had to wait on one of my titles til they got a new batch of ISBNs.) FWIW, as I understand it the price breaks on IBSNs come at large lot sizes, like 100 is one price break, 1000 is a much much larger one. While I can literally write the world, it will take me a while to have 100 or 1000 titles available, so it doesn't yet make any sense for me to buy my own ISBNs.

As for different prices on different markets, be careful. Some of them have price match guarantees and will automatically RESET YOUR PRICE to match the lower price elsewhere. Some authors tweak this to their advantage by offering their ebooks free on smashwords/nook/sony reader and then having their friends "tattle" to Amazon to tell amazon to mark the product at a lower price (free) which is, as I understand it, the only way for an indie to set prices at free on Amazon. I could be wrong, though, Eric James Stone I think has been offering a title for free here and there via Amazon lately and I don't get the sense he's having his buddies go off and tattle to Amazon (and dealing with the imprecision of that -- wherein it might take one or two business days before the free price takes effect, and same on getting the free price to go away when you raise your price back up.)

In short, I think for ebooks having a consistent price across all platforms is sensible. A paper book will always have a different price, particularly for us indie publishers because the cost basis for the product is much higher, but I think reader expectations are different and it's okay.

That said, 1.99 is kind of no-man's-land for ebook pricing because it falls into the 35% royalty category where charging just one dollar more at 2.99 nets you 70% of sales instead of 35%. Make 70c/title or $2.09? I'm setting 4.99 as my basic novel price. 99c is my basic short story price. I'll bundle short stories into collections of 4 for 2.99 (basically one free story) and 6 for 4.99, etc.

Posts: 1911 | Registered: Mar 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jeff Ambrose
Member
Member # 9437

 - posted      Profile for Jeff Ambrose           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
@ KayTi

If you pay $10 for CreateSpace's ISBN, YOU are listed as the publisher, not CreateSpace.

Worth the cost, methinks.

Posts: 62 | Registered: Mar 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
KayTi
Member
Member # 5137

 - posted      Profile for KayTi           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Good point @Jeff. I might do that if ever I get off my duff and do my POD books.

I have a publishing house for my indie published books, so I have something to put there... (Press Here Press.)

Posts: 1911 | Registered: Mar 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Meredith
Member
Member # 8368

 - posted      Profile for Meredith   Email Meredith         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Of course, if you really want to buy cover art or other services and can't afford it, there's always Kickstarter.
Posts: 3936 | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
LDWriter2
Member
Member # 9148

 - posted      Profile for LDWriter2   Email LDWriter2         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Actually I have considered Kickerstarter.

Dean Wesley Smith says he can get one of his e-books ready for $150 to have a person he knows check it over for nitpick, grammar and all that plus if I understood him correctly $10 for a cover pic from one of the online pic sites. He does the rest of the work himself.

But of the three or four editors I checked would cost me a lot more than $150 to go over one of my novels and I'm not sure of my artistic ability to put covers together even if I use one of the sites he does to get a picture I want.


I know two pros who have used them for a novel.

Posts: 4891 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2