When is The Tipping Point for an author to go digital?

An article last week examined whether The Tipping Point has come for the publishing industry.

It suggests that 2009 is the year that the ebook finally changes the publishing industry to a digital model, helped along by the global financial crisis cutting costs and jobs. When the #1 bookseller Amazon.com acquired the #1 iPhone e-reading application Stanza, it brought ebook readership to the forefront of news and blog talk.

PDA - Reading an Ebook Blue ToneThere are many within the book/publishing/writing industry who have already embraced the changes and opportunities digital publishing brings. But there are many more who still talk about “the smell of a new book”, who chase the end of the rainbow for the traditional publishing deal and reject self-publishing as beneath them.

So when does the tipping point come for an individual author to go digital?

For me, it was about a year ago in April 2008. I had written my first book and (briefly) tried to get a publishing deal. It was all too slow and being a first time author, I decided to self-publish anyway.

I was one of the millions of authors who do a self-publishing print run and then look at the boxes for months on end wondering what my mistake was!

Now I know! Within a few months I had learnt all about the other options available to me – the digital options that were free or cheap, that allow me to have a printed book or a digital product online.

  • With Lulu.com (and many of the other self-pub services) I could load a Word document for free and see my book on Amazon.com within a few weeks. I also now sell my books in India with a similar service, Pothi.com.
  • With print-on-demand, I can sell my books in the US and other countries while holding NO stock. I don’t have to pay thousands for up-front printing. I just load my files and when someone orders, they print it and ship to the customer. No stock, no up-front costs. This still produces a printed book so it is brilliant for the author starting with little budget.
  • With ebooks, I can load my book onto a website like Smashwords, for free, and people can download it for a fee or for free. My work is out there and it costs me nothing to distribute it. I can even get paid! If I want to give it away for free, it could go viral like Seth Godin “The Ideavirus” and bring me massive traffic to my website and global readership for my next book. (Incidentally, my first book is available for free at Smashwords => How to enjoy your job)
  • With Kindle DTP, I can have my books in ebook format on the Kindle within about 24 hours. That’s hundreds of thousands of readers who can access my book.
  • With my book as an electronic file with Lightening Source, it will soon be able to be printed from the Espresso Book Machine, (re)launched at the London Book Fair to much excitement. The EBM is already being used in Universities and other places for small, print-on-demand runs.
  • With free audio software like Audacity and free blog software WordPress, I can make an audio version of my book and create a podcast that can reach many more of the book-buying public. I can meet people in multi-media!

I want to share these digital publishing ideas with you because some authors think self-publishing just means a print run of physical books. You can still do that but you do not need to spend the money on this. Far better to spend that budget on: a professional editor, a professional cover designer, PR and marketing (much of which you can also do yourself for little or no money!)

How can I help you with your personal tipping point from purely print-focussed publishing to digital publishing?

I promise you – it is exciting, easy, liberating, free or cheap and it is creative! 2009 is an exciting year for authors so jump aboard!


Author 2.0 sloganComing 1 June 2009: Author 2.0: Using web 2.0 tools to write, publish, sell and promote your book. This online course focusses on digital publishing as well as many other online tools for authors. Read more and pre-register here.


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  1. says

    I had an interesting experience with this. I wrote a book about our experience as a family moving from UK to The Canary Islands, and tried and failed to get it published electronically. Eventually I self published it as an E Book and promoted it through my real estate website. Thanks to you Joanna, I then discovered Lulu and published it there as a paperback. I’ll never be rich on it, but the sales across the two media buy us at least a top class meal out every week.
    My advice? Don’t wait, do it now!

  2. says

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, experience and advice. I’m currently finishing a graduate certificate program at NYU for publishing, and hoping to find a job in Publicity within the industry. Do you think there is a need/potential open space in the self-publishing realm for an outside publicist?

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