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Thursday 13 October 2011

Books, Blogs and Publishing too - Part Three

So, having uploaded my books onto the Amazon servers, you then have to deal with the thorny issue of what price to put on your work. There are obviously a number of schools of thought regarding price, including giving them away for free, in the hope that people will like the author’s work so much that they’ll be prepared to buy their other chargeable books. Alternatively, authors might charge a minimal price, say around 99 cents, in the hope that so many Kindle owners will buy the bargain book that it will all mount up to a tidy sum, after all, isn’t success sometimes based on the strategy of “little and often”? If a writer can sell 10,000 copies of their book at 99 cents each, then it’s still a tidy profit. The third option for author’, is to try and calculate a fair price for their book based on what other comparable books and similarly unknown writers are selling for. I mention that simply because unless you have a massively undeserved ego, few writers are going to compare themselves to the likes of Stephen King, J K Rowling, etc. who have been there, done that and bought the T-shirt.

Considering the possible options for pricing my own books, there was no way I was going to give them away for free, at least not immediately. Quite apart from the time and effort I’ve put into producing them, only the market can really dictate whether or not they’re worth a single red cent and as such it would be foolish to give something away for free, when someone might actually choose to pay you for it. The same argument can equally apply in making the decision to sell your books for a nominal fee, which is typically around 99 cents. Even though some writers and book marketing experts take the view that such a low price can encourage buyers to purchase books they might normally avoid, it’s worth remembering that you’ll have to sell a significantly more to end up with a decent return. In a relatively straightforward equation you’re selling your book for $1 and a rival author is selling theirs for $5, meaning that you have to sell five times as many just to earn the same financial return. Although we’ve all become accustomed to the idea of a bargain, fundamentally it could still be argued that a low price reflects low quality, so if you’re getting a book for nothing or for $1 then should you expect it to be brilliant in every respect. Likewise, the idea that low prices or freebies actually guarantee large numbers of “sales” doesn’t always apply, as why would someone download a book that they don’t want, don’t need or possibly won’t even read?

For me, it made far more sense to calculate a price based on what other similar books were selling for, as at least that way and assuming you’re not competing against a known author, you’re competing on a fairly level playing field. Having previously had a similar pricing problem with a dog magazine that I used to produce, in an ideal world you should be able to equate the selling price to the level of content. In that particular case I tried to work on the basis of around 10p per printed page, which for a forty or fifty page magazine would work out at about £5 per copy, a price that most readers were more than happy to pay at the time. Clearly, such a pricing mechanism isn’t the same for printed books, or indeed for e-books, but it doesn’t hurt for an author to have a vague idea of how much their work is worth to them personally, thereby allowing them to fix a price and to stick to it. Although my own books are not the cheapest, neither are they the more expensive; and the fact that they entirely fit into the non-fiction history category has undoubtedly played a part in the number of buyers that they have attracted thus far. A couple of my books have had rubbish sales, whilst others have done okay, but then again I never had any real expectations of them becoming best sellers, just so long as they earn me regular money, which seems to be the case up to now. That’s where the numbers part of the process comes in though, a sufficient number of books, each earning a sufficient amount of revenue, equates to a sufficient personal income; and if you hoping to be a full-time writer then that’s what you’re looking for, right?

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Books, Blogs and Publishing too - Part Two

Having made the decision to go down the self-publishing route rather than try and navigate the numerous submission processes of the traditional publishing houses, my first point of call was Lulu, the self publishing website that offers both electronic and hard copy versions of your books, which can be sold through their site, or your own if you have one. Although it took quite a while to figure the uploading process, especially when creating the front cover file for each book, Lulu’s system was relatively easy to use and effortlessly converted my computers MS Word files to PDF, along with the cover files I managed to create in a very basic format. The electronic version of the books looked quite good initially, although largely due to my own fault, when I ordered hard copies of each one and had them delivered to me, they didn’t look quite so hot, although most of the unsightly errors were quickly undone and revised copies ordered from the printer.

To be fair, I was quite happy with the finished result, so much so, that in order to make marketing my books a little bit easier I even decided to purchase a block of ISBN numbers, so that I could get them recorded on the official ISBN listing sheets that the likes of Amazon, Waterstones, etc use to order books from suppliers. However, having worked out the actual costs of ordering printed copies from Lulu and then realised the sorts of discounts demanded by the high street stores, it quickly became apparent that the figures didn’t add up and either the selling price would need to be so extortionate that nobody in their right mind would buy them, or perhaps more seriously I would end up making little or nothing from each sale. As it turned out I made a few sales to local outlets where I was able to dictate the selling and purchase prices for each book, so that the retailers made a decent margin and so did I, but eventually realised that unless I was going to retrain as some sort of super salesman, then this particular route to self publishing was gong to end in complete and utter failure. Since then, although I have continued to utilise Lulu’s online services and created books in both print and electronic versions, I haven’t ordered any more printed copies, preferring instead for any potential customers to buy direct off Lulu and save me the headache of having to stock, transfer and post items to each individual customer. As it’s turned out I still get occasional book sales through Lulu’s website and all without having to worry about cost, discounts or trying to get paid.

With that particular scheme being both troublesome and unprofitable, bearing in mind I want to be writing, not “dicking” about with administration and marketing all day long, I turned my attention to trying to get my books onto Amazon’s Kindle device. However, as with most things on the internet, this wasn’t a straightforward process, as Amazon would only accept certain file types for the Kindle; and I’d never even heard of a PRC file, let alone created one. Fortunately, having posed the question on Google, I was easily able to find a cracking little program called Mobipocket Creator, which convert HTML files into suitable files for the kindle, even though it meant that I had to rearrange my MS Word files into Frontpage HTML files, along with all the relevant image files that my book manuscripts contained. Although it had its limitations in respect to page layout, etc. Mobipocket turned out to be a fantastic little package, which ultimately allowed me to format all six books into Kindle files and put them up for sale throughout the Amazon network. I have to say that I have been more than impressed with the results from this particular exercise; and where sales have been less than brilliany, this is entirely the result of subject matter rather than anything else, after all not everyone is interested in the history of my home city, though I can’t imagine why?