What I’ve Learned & Can’t Do Fast Enough {Ebook Advice from The Nester’s Dad}

by Stephanie Bryant

{I’m thrilled to have a little family represented in my Content Expression series. The Nester was passing out megaphones yesterday and sharing inspiring advice about ebooks. I think it must run in the family. She’s learned a lot of her ‘doing things differently’ from her Dad – not for decorating ideas but following her passion.  Gary, The Nester’s Dad, is sharing his knowledge about ebooks and what he’s taught Nester. As Nester says, “He’s a local celebrity: a DJ on the radio and is the information guru of our family.  He’s got six grandchildren, an iphone, so many books that he stacks them on the floor, and treats my mom like a queen and is one of the godliest men you will ever meet.”}

I thought ebooks and Kindles were a fringe thing. Then three things happened this year.

1. I met people who own Kindles. They like them. It affects their reading habits. They buy and read more books. And they don’t want to spend much. It’s like they’ve changed how they think of books.

2. I bought a Kindle for my wife. We noticed the same phenomenon — she immediately wanted to load up on books, but didn’t want to pay much. Ten bucks? No way. She reads a lot and isn’t about to start spending $50 a month on books. We found lots for free.

3. I started reading Joe Konrath’s blog last month and realized ebooks have reached critical mass. There are enough e-readers (and people using them) that some authors are making a living only with ebooks. Not many authors, but enough to get your attention. The part that gets my attention isn’t the money; it’s that there are readers behind the money. An audience. Many human hearts.

Then, I noticed most of the independent authors seemed to be pricing their writing very inexpensively: like $2.99 or $1.99 or even 99-cents. Some are selling lots of books at those prices. I noticed none of the established authors’ books priced anywhere near that low.

Then it hit me. {And if this is true it should start to make you jittery inside, like it has me.}

There’s a wide-open window for new authors to find an audience with ebooks. Right now.

This window will stay wide-open until ebooks by established authors are priced competitively, which doesn’t look like it’s going to be soon (due to all that publishing economics stuff we’re hearing about now).

Most of the indie author success in ebooks now seems to be with genre fiction. What about Christian fiction and non-fiction? Nothing seems proven yet. Why don’t you prove it? Give the hungry Christian ebook reader what they want. Before they can get Max Lucado, Beth Moore, or Karen Kingsbury for 99-cents, they’ll try you, and if they like you they’ll read everything you write. And with ebooks you can write more than with print (you publish when the book is ready, not when the system is ready).

Of course, maybe you’re not the writer that Max, Beth, and Karen are (or maybe you are!). But you’re not priced where they are either. You’re priced one-fifth, or one-tenth of them. But, what if ebook readers don’t expect you to be Max, Beth, or Karen? What if they only expect your talent to be one-fifth, or one-tenth of them? And what if you’re actually one-third, or one-half of them (or equal!)? Now you’re a bargain! I can read five of yours for the same price as one of theirs? For 99-cents, you’re worth a try — that’s an impulse buy. I’ll take it!

So what do you do now? Depends on what success is to you. If success is seeing your book in a bookstore, and third-party affirmation, nothing has changed. If success is holding your book in your hand, you can still do that in combination with ebook publishing (Smashwords, CreateSpace). But, if all you want is an audience, and influence, and to fulfill your urge to reach people, and you don’t care what format — the audience is waiting, now. And they’re holding e-readers.

Here’s what I’m doing:

I’m compiling small things I’ve already written. I’m combining them by theme. The first one is “Feels Like Grace: Small scenes from marriage, living, and the book that won’t die.” I’m going through it and editing and rewriting. I’m submitting it to beta-readers. Then I’m rewriting again and having it edited. I’m doing this because I want to make the most of what I’ve already done and I want to get something on Kindle soon.

Other things I’ve learned that may help you:

●      Just because you have access to readers doesn’t mean they’ll find you, and doesn’t mean they’ll like you. You have to write something good. Do your absolute best.

●      Doing a book proposal can still be a good idea. It sharpens your idea and writing.

●      If you have ideas you’ve been trying to sell, you can, with no middleman. But, they have to be good.

●      It doesn’t have to be 75,000 words. Or 50,000. Or 20. Make it as long as it needs to be to be good; no more, no less. Some ebooks are under 10,000 words.

●      You can hire someone to format the book (you don’t just upload it — formatting can be tricky), and to do a cover. Instead of a publisher getting a percentage for life, you pay once. Formatting might cost $1-300. HERES a list of formatters. Or learn to do it yourself — here are TWO BOOKS that might help.

●      A cover could cost a few hundred dollars. It could look just like an itty-bitty book cover. Some say a good cover is a must. You definitely don’t want it amateur-looking. Play by the cover rules, OR, invent your own rules if you’re only doing digital. HERES a cover of a book that’s finding an audience — she didn’t try to make it look like a cover, so it works just to draw you to the book.

●      Write a good product description. It’s the same as the part of the book proposal that summarizes the book, and tells who it’s for and why they’d want it.

●      Price it low. You keep about 30% on Amazon if it’s below 2.99. Above 2.99 you keep 70%. Encourage impulse buying. You want more readers. A lot of authors do better at 99-cents than at higher prices.

●      The more you write, the more readers you get. When they find one book, it helps them find the others. Give them lots to find. That doesn’t mean your audience will be big. It means you and your audience can find each other.

●      Experiment. With the cover. With the price. With the product description. You can change the book even after it’s written. It’s all yours. Find what works.

●      Be patient. It can take many months for readers to begin to find you.

●      Don’t have a Kindle? Just download the free Kindle app for your PC, Mac, iPad, or smartphone. It’s a great way to read and to learn what the Kindle experience is like.

The window is open. Trust your instincts. Own your own show. And beware of the me-monster.

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  • Tonya

    I think I need to overcome my lack of confidence. I have plenty to say just not sure many will want to hear it, plus having to jump hurdles before an ebook is actually published. Will definitely think on this though, thank you.

  • http://prettysweet4815.blogspot.com/ Kristen@PrettySweet

    I’ve definitely toyed with the idea of writing an e-book…but I’m feeling particularly gung-ho after reading this post. =) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Joe

    I appreciate that you are encourageing those of us with a particular talaent or skill to jumo into “writing a book”. But how many more no-name nonsense books is there room for in the blog/online/interenet universe? Those who have something worthwhile to say should consult with a publisher to determine whether or not their subject is one that would be interesting enough to actually publish. The world is already filled with enough people who feel they have something to say and thier subject matter is mediocre at best. At $4.99 I am tempted to purchase one of these e boks, only to find out it is all fluff and no stuff. $4.99 X a gazillion impulse purchases make for lots of wasted money, but at a measly $4.99, who ever complains? It seems every one has something to say today. Everyone feels they have something to say to bolg about every day. Now write a book? Give me a break! Write a book because you have something to say to someone willing to listen. If you are not sure anyone will want to hear what you might have to say, write the book any way- I did. It was amazingly cathartic and an opportunity to express myself and my creativity with words. A handful of family have read it and think it is wonderful and have enjoyed it immensly- but I do not feel the need to go public to validate my thoughts and possible talent. Just my opinion…

    • Nester

      Oh, oh I want to reply, Gary {my dad replied up there if you didn’t see it}. Joe, I think lots of people have those same thoughts. I agree that people should only write if they have something to say and say it well. What I also hear {which could be wrong} is a cry for a gatekeeper.

      Personally, I don’t think we need gatekeepers. I think there IS room for everyone to try. ANYone can start an esty shop and the people decide if they want to buy the wares or not. Anyone can start a business, and the people decide if it is a success or a failure. Anyone can write an ebook and now the people can decide if they want it or not. The internet doesn’t run out of shelf space. However, the rules of business still apply, if something stinks, no one’s gonna want it even if it’s only 99 cents. Word gets around.

      No one walks in a bookstore and buys every book just because a publisher said it was worth reading. We all still buy based on our needs, recommendations of friends, and experience with the author. Have you ever noticed how many no name no nonsense books there are in thrift stores? That’s what I like about Amazon too. Even a 99 cent ebook will have feedback, and if people say it’s a waste, I’m not buying it. But, if a trusted blogger tells me it’s great, I’d buy.

      I talk to much.

  • Laryssa

    Wow. Thank you for all the great tips and encouragement! I LOVE to read and have thought about writing an e-book. Sounds like the time is now!

  • http://newlife919blog.blogs.com/new_life_919_blog/ Gary

    Joe — LOVE it that you had something to say and said it.

    A publisher may not be interested in an audience of 1-2,000, but an ebook is a perfect way to reach them. And that audience is grateful that an author cared enough about them to do it, without the author insisting on a large audience before writing.

    Tonya — Say it anyway.

    Do it because it’s in you for a reason, and there’s a reason you feel like saying it.

    And you already jump hurdles every day.

  • http://twitter.com/thetinytwig the tiny twig

    so fascinated by all of this. love your family of innovative people. :)

  • Teresa

    Thanks for the encouragement – I have been wanting to write a book for a long time. Starting with an e-book may just be the way to go. You have given very helpful tips that take the guess work out of how to start.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sl-Pierce/100002109829126 S.l. Pierce

    So great to hear support for self publishers like me. Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/FreeBeeMom FreeBeeMom

    That was an amazing article. Thank you so much.

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  • Evelyn

    Thank you SO MUCH!!!  I am one of those people who has things to say, but don’t have the opportunity to say them.  And I LOVE to write.  Thank you for this encouragement.  I have a Kindle, and so I have known about the opportunity, but I guess I needed someone to say all the things you’ve said.  Someone to tell me that I DON’T have to have it all perfect and Beth Moore caliber.  And that I don’t have to have a novel, I can start by combining some of the shorter things I have into collections.  Thank you SO MUCH!!!

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