Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Support Page: E-books (Revised)

This article explores the fascinating topic of e-book publication, focusing on how readers and writers benefit.

As a writer myself, wishing to circulate, promote and distribute original books to new readerships, e-book publishing represents a tantalising, low-cost and convenient solution.

Initially, I wondered if viable e-fiction markets exist online. Do readers really purchase e-book fiction? My researches reveal readers do. . . To a degree. A prudent e-publisher may wish to adopt a multi-distribution method which benefits both readers and sales.

Multi-Distribution For Readers:

With this approach, an e-publisher gives readers more options. A book is offered in a variety of accessible formats: ebook (LIT & PDF versions), cdrom copy, bound copy (hardback or softback) and signed hardbound or paperback copy (Suitable for first editions that can become highly valuable for readers/book collectors).

Update: Here's my quickview guide of established e-publishers who provide showcasing for many established and newer authors in a variety of genres.

Ebook Showcasing:

Electronic publishing experts conclude ebook showcasing is a beneficial way to promote reader interest and enhance reader loyalty (by offering ebook samplers). I favour this approach due to being an avid reader myself. In other words, ebook samplers allow an audience to get to know an author's stories. There's also the fascinating opportunity to create hi-fidelity ebook samplers to impress new readerships.

E-book "Reader" Software. (File Viewers)

The two leading software e-book viewers are
Adobe Reader and Microsoft Reader. Both these readers are free to download and use. Microsoft have an "activate" process. This requires a computer user to be in receipt of a free "hotmail passport" (also known as Windows Live ID) and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 or later version of their browser.

E-book Familiarity:

In my case, my Internet Provider bundled Adobe Reader with a "Startup CD" when I first requested broadband service. Since many companies provide manuals and guides in the e-book format to support customers, I was familiar with them. (Although I thought of these helpful guides as PDF files, rather than 'ebooks'. However, the terms appear to be interchangable).

PDF stands for Portable Document Format released by Adobe® Systems in 1993. Microsoft's competing file format is known as LIT (a simple abbreviation of literature). From an e-book production and sales point of view, the evidence suggests giving customers the option to download either PDF e-books, or LIT e-books is a wise decision.

Producing Quality E-books & Samplers:

Since I cannot see the point of producing throwaway publications, I researched ebook production methods indepth. Optimization and ebook layout incorporating high-resolution graphics, animations and sound are key to attracting online audiences. In some ways, I believe many e-publishers are missing an opportunity to fully harness the powerful applications and processing capabilities of modern PCs that exist today. These resources are all available online and off, but they need to be brought together, tested and steamlined. I'll be publishing an ebook on this topic shortly.

Marketing & Retailing E-books - Avoiding The Hype!

There are a plethora of websites online that make bold claims about e-books. Fortunes can be made, selling e-books is easy, profit-margins are high. More thoughtful commentators suggest e-book publication is a niche market. (In the factual "how-to" and technical solutions sectors). There is strong evidence to support this suggestion, although after further research there are encouraging signs e-fiction markets are growing and sustainable.

Example Of Fiction E-book Sales Success:

The Plant By Stephen King - Released in two parts as e-books.
Part 1 - The Plant : Sales 172,000 people paid $1.00 each
Part 2 - The Plant : Sales 74,000 people paid $1.00 each

Source: 'USA Today' & 'Your Guide To Ebook Publishing Success' by James Dillehay (2001)

There is also a trend towards
consumers moving towards less text-based multimedia formats. From my point of view, visual preferences of modern audiences are not new phenomena. In fact, I believe modern writers supply new material to multimedia companies. (I will include film companies as "multimedia" since most of these bring together state-of-the-art graphics and visual effects, especially in sci-fi and fantasy genres).

Self-evidently, there are still viable (even loyal) audiences for book series, as the recent "Harry Potter" and "Golden Compass" successes prove. Without these books having devoted readers, its unlikely entertainment companies would have bought the film rights from the authors.

The third fly in the e-book ointment is that the ubiquitous PDF file is seen as a low-value commodity. Although this is a valid point, like everything in the commercial sphere, familiarity with a product can also be an advantage. (The technology is proven and easily accessable. There is also a ready-made audience of millions of computer owners across the world who will be familiar with the PDF ebook).

In light of these findings, e-books represent a genuine publishing opportunity for new writers to showcase and sell their work. Crucially for writers, one e-book commentator mentions high online sales for e-books can lead to traditional publisher interest. This makes perfect business sense. A demand for a writer's e-book and proven sales record is self-evident and demonstrable to traditional book publishers and agents. Hence, a publishing contract (or deal) is more easily secured. A strong reason to consider e-book production and showcasing.

All commercial products must be got right before being brought to market. If you are like me, you might wonder if you have the sales or marketing experience to do this? I think this issue can be less daunting when one realises you are likely to have two major advantages:

1. It's likely you wrote your manuscripts on a wordprocessor (so converting documents into ebooks is a process of understanding/using what's available). I cover many of the leading free and commercial software technologies here for your review.

2. You have a readymade showcase in the form of the Internet itself.

Since I prefer a quality approach four key factors emerge requiring further investigation:-

1. Quality ebooks are what readers want and deserve - Solutions Page
2. A secure sales process with fair and workable refunds policy - Solutions Page (pending)
3. Protection against unauthorised copy distribution - Solutions Page (pending)
4. Sensible pricing for full e-books - Solutions Page (pending)

(I'm posting solutions pages here for readers as further research, development and collation of findings becomes available).

Keywords for searches: e-book, ebooks, eBooks.