Sales of eBooks

I haven't published an ebook but I know many, many people have. Since I am old school and prefer reading the old fashioned way, I wondered whether ebooks did actually sell - in any volume that is?

I haven't got the time at the moment to commit to finishing my non-fiction, but I really loathe trying to acquaint myself with the world of self-publishing and all it's little foibles. What everyone describes as easy, at first glance, I found extremely complicated and unbelievably boring. If I've got time to write, I'd rather write!

Also does what do people do about marketing their eBooks, is that successful?

Ah ha! But haven't we got the problem that publishers won't take on a book if it has already been self-published?

If it's already hit the net, then it's out there and they don't want it.

I know a few books (as opposed to writers themselves) have got picked up on after self publishing, or directly because of it, but they are few and far between.

Okay, I'll give you Peter Mayle - but the majority of writers don't come from this category.

I think it's easy to get the marketing and the self-publishing thing a little intertwined - and I'm not saying that all self-published works are bad. I'm saying that it's quite possible many are. I've seen a lot of the stuff that is put up on writer's sites for critique and some of it is truly terrible. Heck, I've gone over my old stuff sometimes (a book from about 2004 springs to mind!) and it was crap. What was I thinking!

I went over it expecting to enjoy reading something which, at the time, I'd thought was good. Oh....

Writers hone their craft. Self publishing can break that cycle.

I'm not saying things are going to change or indeed improve. I'm just saying I don't particularly agree with it.

Saying that the taste for books is changing. I'd rather slash my wrists than attempt ever again to read chick-lit. Yet we have the celebrity culture of writing - they have a following so they sell - which I suppose is the supreme example of what I'm talking about.

Martine McCutcheon - ever read any of her stuff? Laugh. If she didn't make so much money, I probably could!

Karen a few points if I may. Your last point of a 'writer who is a Marketeer' should not seem unusual. Many writers have come from roles as Copywriters in Advertising agencies - Peter Mayle being one of them with his 'Year in Provence'.Copywriters have to be very aware of the selling aspects of what they write - and Marketing remains 'selling' under a different name.

I went to check the 'self-publishing' examples, mainly as I had a suspicion that JK Rowling did indeed start this way, but I couldn't find confirmation. One side and possible benefit is being able to send a 'proper' book to a Publisher rather than a sheaf of papers. Synopsis is very hard work - and I accept that being able to say something in 40 words (?) on Twitter hardly counts towards being an author in any sense of the word.

Historically it was much more interesting and you might find the following list a bit surprising, but apparently they ALL did at least part of their work through Self-Publishing and before the days of computers and Kindle;

Horace Walpole, Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, John Galsworthy, Rudyard Kipling, Beatrix Potter, Lord Byron, Thomas Paine, Mark Twain, Upton Sinclair, W H Davies, Zane Grey, Ezra Pound, D H Lawrence, Alexander Pope, Robbie Burns, James Joyce, Anais Nin, ad Lawrence Stern (source Writers & Artists Yearbook)

Pretty good company? I am sure there are plenty of later additions.

Personally I think we need to look at writing in many way the same as we look at Art. One man's rubbish is another's genius. Writing should be encouraged,as with art, as it exercises other parts of the brain that tend to get lazy.

I love doing both.

To final two lines: yes and to some extent.

I might have been a little misleading in that, well, I have been published, but not in books. So, I'm not a new market entrant, so to speak.

...and I don't want to be a plumber and neither do I particularly want to make a million. It'd be nice, but it's not the driving factor.

I also think there is a big difference between understanding or appreciating there is a market for your book, and you personally (tautology?) marketing it.

You may be a member of x,y and z group and know that a,b, and c, group exists, but it has come to pass that it is the writer's job to market the book to these groups, rather than the publisher. Or to a larger extent...the writer.

I'm not disagreeing that this is necessary to happen since the face of writing and marketing of the books is changing, what I am saying is that it is not necessarily either a good or effective thing for the world of writing.

He who has the largest following on Twitter is not necessarily the best writer...

Are we seeing the 'dumbing down' of writing?

I write academic works. Last year I had a book published by one of the biggest international houses. Apart from my blather here on SFN in my professional world I am well known and established, respected and people always have high expectations. It was well marketed, good reviews generally, bar the usual people who were jealous they did not write it before me. I had my royalties earlier this year, about €285 for one year. The book is about €100 on paper and obvious less in the more recently released e-version.

The publisher is happy with that. I am not making them a fortune but in a catalogue of thousands of scholarly tomes I contribute a few bob. Since last month I have been approaching publishers with another manuscript. Again very specialist but this time a follow up to a book published 25 years ago that was a 'best seller' in its own niche. I went to the original publisher who my then fellow author and I had always promised to go to first. However, they have changed the content of their catalogue and and were suggesting that I rewrite to fit in with that! Idiots! So I went to other publishers who should be interested.

I also tried last year's big international publisher, going directly to the senior editor I had to deal with for nearly a year up until release. He got back to me within two hours. He has passed on the abstract to his boss but says she will send me the formal abstract forms and eventually contract, just bear with them until she catches up after sick leave. He is in contact since to make sure I stay interested in them. It is not the content in fact, but the fact that having worked with me as an author and before that as an editor of a collection they had a great working relationship with me. I am one of the very privileged few. Hundreds of proposals go in for inclusion in their particular list every week. I did not rate my chances highly, However, when the editor told me which list I would be in I saw each of the four newest releases was written, co-written or edited by old friends or colleagues. Again. luck of the draw. But I am still not there. The big boss needs to approve despite encouraging noises so far, then the peer reviewers need to pass my formal abstract, editors will scour my manuscript for every missing comma and if included in the forthcoming publications in the catalogue I will have a great deal of work up until release a year or so on.

Norman and I usually agree on the publishing points. yes, writing is only part of the process. I spent a couple of weeks under a year on this one which is fast. My hourly rate for work so far will bee cents, by the end forget that. I also need to know how to advise them, a big international publisher, on appropriate marketing and where to find reviews. I know what I am up against, not only do I catalogue watch but I rely on publications in on line libraries where I can at least find the extracts I need. So, I have the fortune of my membership of Cambridge as a copyright library where eventually nearly all English language and several others to boot eventually find their way, then all the others like Project Gutenberg, Alex, Open Library, World Public Library and a dozen others. I cannot afford and honestly do not need all of the books and articles I need to look at. I also get a good insight into how much 'competition' there is. So, to Norman's point with that. It takes a lot of time to research whether or not there is a slot for what we are writing.

There are specialist e-publishers but the point is to be read rather than disappear in a grey mass. The big publishing houses specifically start with paper editions of non-fiction for the sakes of copyright collections they give copies to, so no royalties from them but a couple of hundred available for students, researchers and so on to access and eventually choose to buy. As Norman says, if you want easy money become a plumber.

By the way, I am not a passionate writer. I believe in what I write, but it is a hard slog. I am quite happy to have SFN alerted as comments come into jump in and out of for a good distraction. I am a touch typist so what looks like a long time writing is usually far less than it seems, here about seven or eight minutes thus far for instance. I increasingly spend time writing articles and reports, as I have to do as data comes in on my present contract, now that I am restricted with the travel. I would rather be back out on the streets with children, in a war zone or whatever rather than this. I always say no more books. I have said it again. But then somebody throws the bait...

Thanks to both of you.

I've sort of staggered from old school into new. I never did believe in self-publishing or vanity press particularly, because I believed, and still do to a certain extent, that you are going to find a lot of c..p self published because most publishers won't touch it.

That said, because of the ever increasing restrictions placed on writers accessing traditional publication routes, I think good stuff gets missed.

Also, just to show you how wrong I can be, I didn't think e-publishing would take off in the way it has. My preference is for books. Physical books. I hate reading off a computer screen - I presumed most folk were the same.

I did however, once take up an offer to have a book self published (kid's book) but only because it was about £40 and I wanted to give it away to family and friends. Which I did.It wasn't that I expected to see my name in lights and I did absolutely no marketing whatsoever.

I think Norman sort of hits the nail on the head regarding the issue with the statement of the writing only being part of the process - or at least that is what writing seems to have devolved into. Print publishers are of the same mind and particularly when it comes to non-fiction - they want a neatly tied up marketing strategy.

Nobody's fault, but it seems that to get published or, at least to get read these days, you have to spend most of your time sat on your backside surfing the net to build up your audience simply because the world is swamped with writings and it is, apparently, the only way to get your work noticed. Whether it be good or bad.

I can't help but think how much notice the Harry Potter books would have got if JK had gone the self-publishing route and had to build up a following of Twitter followers first. Whether the books would have simply got buried in the 7m on Amazon?

The one contradiction in all this that I would say should affect most writers is that they are busy writing. That is their passion. They don't have time to be networking on .... wherever.... and 'talking' about writing.

I just find the requirements these days to be truly contradictory. A writer who is a marketeer. Hmmm.

Karen, I fear that James is completely correct. We/I produce books in both print and ebook and even download off the website form.

It is a tough trail whichever is chosen. Fact books as ours (art mainly) are very expensive to produce and POD (Print On Demand) means exceptionally high prices - literally over the €100 mark per book, and we are finding that the world today doesn't really spend that sort of money on a book of any sort. To get anything like a 'reasonable price' means printing 1000 copies, and this would cost about €20-30 each - in other words an investment of €20-30,000 per title, and that does not include any marketing costs or return to the publisher or author, these all have to be added.

Retailers expect to get 30-35% or the RETAIL price and do not buy, but put on their shelves if you are luck, on 'Sale or Return'. Such returned books are generally unsaleable as they are just thrown in boxes for pickup. Currently we have 28 titles, so you can do the math.

Kindle does offer opportunities, and as I mention elsewhere if you find the process 'boring' then CreateSpace is for you, as they do all the hard work. But you do have to get your works out there and known, and that is just hammering away at any and all ports of interest - magazines, radio stations, local press, clubs and associations and so on. All of which get harder as you get older.

Kindle also will generally give you in Royalties what you will often end up with via a printed book, so don't knock it. However again as James says - there are literally millions of books on it and elsewhere, so you need to work on it or just enjoy the writing process and get a few printed copies round to friends and relations. You will need samples anyway for other sources.

If you are into 'fact books' or illustrated ones such as ours Pinterest has some value, but unless you are selling directly off your own website pretty hard to quantify.

If you find the process of preparing your book for Print then companies like Blurb and Lulu offer full packages for this at about $US300 (last time I looked).

What many authors forget is that the writing is only part of the process - possibly as low as the 10% Cover price royalty most publishers offer. Kindle suggest low prices sell best, which is no surprise, but low prices to them mean in the 99c - €3.99 range. It takes a lot of sales to make money like this.

If you are looking for easy money in any sense - go be a plumber!


E Book or paperback the issue is the same - discoverability. Take Amazon as the example, there are over 7 million books on there. So once you've (self)published it's down to you to get your book found by your target readers. On-line and Off-line both need to be worked - constantly - which is time consuming at minimum and expensive if you want to sell serious numbers of books. The process of getting your completed manuscript on Amazon as an ebook is quick and cheap apart from the cover if you have a professionally produced one. Thereafter, the long haul begins.

I'm wanting to set your expectations not put you off ...