The Secrets To Ebook Publishing Success. A Must-Read For Authors.

I’ve been a fan of Mark Coker and Smashwords for years now, and Mark continues to deliver value to authors through his distribution platform but also through sharing his vast knowledge of digital publishing.

Free ebook: The Secrets To Ebook Publishing Success

He has just released a free book ‘The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success” which contains a serious number of tips that will help you make your work better, as well as some amazing insights into successful authors who publish through Smashwords.

I learned heaps from the book. It really is well worth your time whether you are indie or traditionally published. Here are just some of things you will learn about.

  •  A great overview of the changes in the industry
  • Some financials around self-publishing, bootstrapping and resource allocation
  • Tips on ebook covers that work
  • Metadata magic and why it’s important as well as the algorithms that impact our book sales
  • Why writing more books and books over 70,000 words is critical for longer term success
  • How trust and brand loyalty work
  • Why distributing through one site is short-sighted, even if that site is the biggest bookseller in the world. [OK, so I was one of those authors who took my books off Smashwords in order to try Amazon KDP Select which requires exclusivity. However, next week I will be republishing my books on all platforms based on some of Mark’s points in this well-written chapter – as well as how impressed I am with Kobo.]
  • Using strategic pricing as well as free
  • Why patience is important and the sales behavior of different books – the invisible book, the slow boil, slow builder and breakout book.
  • Why you shouldn’t fear piracy
  • On long term platform building and marketing
  • Word of mouth and how books go viral, or not
  • How readers find books and how to optimize your touch points
  • It’s not about book launches anymore, it’s an ongoing marketing approach
  • Think globally about your book and the expansion of ebook markets
  • How to behave as an indie – let’s be generous with each other – this is not a zero sum game

…and much more.

So what are you waiting for? Click here to go and download Mark’s ebook on Ebook Secrets and then spend an hour reading it – and take notes!

Related Resources on Ebook Publishing

* My interview with Mark Coker when we met live in Australia in 2010 – we get enthusiastic about the possibilities for authors

* Interview on Smashwords blog with Brian S Pratt who went from earning $7.82 in a quarter to $25,000 in a quarter, and $200,000 in a year from his books.

* Interview on Smashwords blog with Ruth Ann Nordin, romance writer who went from earning $0 to $75,000 on Smashwords

* Ruth Ann Nordin’s little ebook about marketing available on Smashwords (also free)

* The Smashwords Blog where Mark shares lots of great data


Innovations In Publishing: Technical Aspects of Creating A Nontraditional Ebook

You might get the impression that digital publishing is somehow new and exciting. Actually, it’s been around for a while, but mainstream media seems to have just noticed and we’re all just catching up.

There are some people who have been involved in indie publishing for years now and April Hamilton is one of them. I’ve known April online for nearly four years now and she continues to innovate. Here’s a guest post about her latest project which is fascinating as I am someone who shares a lot online.

In my latest book, Overshare, over the course of a particularly challenging 13 months in his life a young man unwittingly, publicly reveals his increasing stress level and alienation from his wife, family and friends through his posts on social media sites. It was a scenario I’d witnessed in real life, and watching this person’s life unravel before my eyes was a sad and thought-provoking experience. I felt sorry for the obvious stress this person was under, and on the other hand, couldn’t help thinking about the quantity and quality of very personal life circumstances and details that can emerge from the sum total of one user’s social media accounts. I was immediately inspired to write a novel based on these events, but I knew a very large part of what made the story so powerful was the way I’d originally experienced it: as a voyeur, peeking into the social media windows this person had left open to the public. As I’ve written about this elsewhere:

Then it hit me…Why not show the reader my protagonist’s actual social media web pages, containing his status updates and others’ responses to them, as well as his blog posts, but purposely limit the content to only what a member of the general public would see? To make the reader’s experience as realistic as possible, I knew I’d have to mimic the look and content of the most popular social media sites very closely, and the resulting book would have to be presented in full color. To produce such a book in print would be cost prohibitive, but with the advent of color ereader apps and devices, it seemed an ideal fit for a totally new kind of ebook.

This approach would definitely be best for duplicating my original experience, but it posed numerous technical challenges. In order to create the illusion of real social media sites, I’d need photos to represent my protagonist, his friends and family members, and the events he’d be likely to post about. The next obstacle would be creating my own versions of the most popular, real-world social media web pages, to which I’d add character “status updates”, photos and blog posts. Assuming I could accomplish this, I’d still face the considerable hurdle of getting my carefully-constructed layout and graphic design to survive the ebook conversion process.

Preserving Complex Formatting

I’ll address that last issue first, the conversion, because I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking I’ll be providing step-by-step how-tos for preserving complex formatting in an ebook during the conversion step. Even with my background as a software engineer and web developer, I had to outsource the final formatting and conversion tasks to someone very well-versed in working with a type of formatting tool known as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS controls and preserves complex formatting in web pages, and all ebooks are essentially a specialized type of web page.

Once I’d created my graphics to represent the various social media web pages and had collected the photos I’d need to insert in those pages, laying everything out in MS Word was easy enough to accomplish using tables. But I knew from experience, all but the most basic tables, whether created in MS Word or HTML (web code), would not survive the conversion process. And for this particular book, it was absolutely critical that my imitation social media pages look EXACTLY the same in the finished ebook as they did when I created them. Consider the screen shot from the book below, which may look like a screenshot snapped off a website, but is actually a two-column MS Word table with graphic elements and text inserted in its cells:

Anyone who uses social media will immediately recognize this “web page”, and will understand the information it contains. Imagine how much less realistic and recognizable this “web page” would be if this exact layout could not be presented in the finished ebook.

There’s lots of talk lately about how authors need to be moving in the direction of ‘enhanced’ ebooks (e.g., features like interactivity, full-motion video, embedded audio, full color and heavy use of graphics) if they hope to attract and retain a readership going forward, and I don’t disagree. But most such enhancements require a great deal of technical knowledge and expertise to execute, for the vast majority of indie authors it will NOT be a Do-It-Yourself project to create an ebook containing anything other than formatted text and basic, standalone images. Now, back to those first two challenges…

Duplicating the look of real-life social media websites

I began by taking screen shots of the real-life social media websites I hoped to imitate. I carefully matched their color schemes and recreated their layouts via MS Word tables. Because I knew I’d be publishing this book for the Kindle, I set my page size in Word to 4×6″. This kept me cognizant of the size and layout limitations imposed by the Kindle device screen size at all times. I knew the CSS to be applied in the final formatting and conversion steps would allow for the tables and images to resize automatically to fit larger or smaller screen sizes, for those readers who would view the book in the Kindle Reader app on any device other than a Kindle, but I had to ensure the book would look right on the actual Kindle device first.

By carefully sizing the table columns and merging cells or columns as needed, I was able to recreate the same look as the real-life sites. I was also careful to ensure each table would fit on a single page, and in cases where the content would flow across multiple pages, to break it up into multiple tables. This was necessary to ensure no table rows would “break” across pages in the finished book. For example, I didn’t want a faceplace photo to appear on one page, and its description and comments to appear on another.

I created my own versions of the real-life icons used on the sites in a graphics editor program, but I could also have purchased a ready-made set of icons from any of a number of stock art websites. I also searched the web on “free [social media website name] font” to find fonts that would match the real-life sites. I was careful to read the licensing terms of the fonts before downloading them to be sure it was acceptable for me to use them for a commercial (money-making) purpose.

With the colors and table layouts set, I would be able to enter my desired text for “status updates” on each page of my MS Word document. But first, I needed to “meet” my characters.

Sourcing photos to use in the book

Again, as I’ve previously explained about the book:

I’d need avatars, or user pictures, of the protagonist and everyone he’d be interacting with online. I’d need candid family and event photos of the sort people regularly post on Facebook. And because of the story arc, I’d need a series of pictures of a young woman at various stages of pregnancy, a series of pictures of a young man depicting the journey from hale and cheerful to beaten and haggard, and finally, baby pictures depicting a preemie’s path from NICU to healthy newborn at home.

At first this seemed an insurmountable obstacle. I couldn’t afford to hire models to pose for all the pictures I’d need, and didn’t have the time, equipment or skills to act as photographer. Anyway, posed stills would never give me the realism I needed. Then, another stroke of inspiration: Creative Commons –licensed images are easily found online, and plenty of them have been licensed as permissible for commercial and remix use. I soon had a treasure trove of real-life photos of real-life people for which the rights holders had pre-emptively granted permission to anyone to use for commercial purposes (such as in a book to be sold for profit) and remix use (such as cropping and coloring to achieve my desired effects).

Even though the images I decided to use were licensed as permissible for commercial and remix use, I realized the people in them probably never anticipated this type of use. What if some of them objected, changed their images’ licensing terms to prohibit commercial or remix use, and then attempted to bring legal action against me? How could I prove the licensing that was in place at the time I downloaded the images? This is where Webcite comes in.

Webcite is a non-profit service that allows users to store (and download) a permanent, archived copy of a webpage certified by Webcite to be a complete and accurate copy of the web page as it existed on the day the page was archived. I created an archived copy of every page from which I’d downloaded photos, each of which clearly displayed an icon to indicate the type of CC licensing applied to each image.

As an aside, I’ve heard from a few people that my use of these CC-licensed images in my book may be somehow illegal or unethical.

It is most definitely NOT illegal, in that the rights holders who posted the images to image sharing sites chose to apply CC licensing terms. The default type of licensing is “all rights reserved”, so every one of those rights holders had to take extra steps to purposely CC-license their images.

As to the ethical question… my feeling is that the rights holders knew what they were doing when they opted to apply CC licensing to their images and allow any member of the general public to make use of those images. If any of the rights holders object to my specific use, this only serves to underscore the point of Overshare: that actions you take and content you post online can have far-reaching and unanticipated consequences.

Are enhanced ebooks for you?

I’d encourage any indie author to explore the possibility of enhancing his or her ebooks, and really stretching the limits of what an ebook can be and do. However, I’d also caution those authors to go into the project with a full understanding and acceptance that it will probably be necessary to bring in outside, professional help at various stages in the process.

In the case of my book, the presentation was absolutely critical. This book simply would not work as a straight prose novel. Given the book’s design, the reader essentially formulates his own narrative and draws his own conclusions based on what he has chosen to focus on or ignore in each of the “web pages”—just as each of us does when viewing our online acquaintances’ social media.

April Hamilton is the author of Overshare, available now on Kindle.

She is also a blogger, Technorati BlogCritic, speaker and essayist on issues related to self-publishing and indie authorship. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Association of Independent Authors, and is the founder and Editor In Chief of Publetariat: the premier online news hub and community for indie authors and small imprints.

The Flinch, Newsjacking And Digital Publishing

The Flinch is the instinct to draw back and shrink away from pain or what is perceived to be dangerous, difficult or unpleasant.

It’s also the title of the latest mini-book by Julien Smith to come out from The Domino Project. Right now, you can get it for free on and (that’s the book cover shown left). It’s a short, challenging read with one main point.

Embrace the flinch regularly, push yourself out of your comfort zone and get on with doing the important things in life.

Stop avoiding pain, get some scars and achieve something worthwhile. If you need a kick in the pants, go download it and share it with others.

The Flinch is important for you because of the changes in the publishing industry.

I was at the #FutureBook conference earlier this week and although it was filled with positive, forward thinking book-lovers, you could also sense the fear and concern amongst those who still believe print is the only way forward. My article on what authors can learn from the conference will be on the Future of the Book blog soon, but today a few things happened that illustrated the changing times we’re in and I wanted to share them with you.

People buy from those they know, like and trust.

One of the buzzwords of the FutureBook conference was ‘discoverability’, how to help people find books they want to read in the mass of information online.

Well, people buy from people they know, like and trust which funnily enough, I learned from Julien Smith & Chris Brogan in their book Trust Agents. I downloaded The Flinch on the strength of my respect for Seth Godin as well as Chris & Julien. Yes, this book is free but I have also bought 90% of all books from Seth Godin’s Domino Project because I’m in his tribe. He doesn’t have to ‘sell’ me anything, he just has to tell me the books are available and I click to buy.

John Locke in his ‘How to sell 1 million ebooks’ said that authors need to have a list of fans who will buy their next book, in the same manner as Seth has done as well. Locke was the first indie author to reach 1 million Kindle sales so he knows what he’s talking about.

You can do this too.

Start a list on your site so people can sign up and show their interest. I’m doing this on my fiction blog, where people can sign up for my next book, Prophecy. The list is small right now but you have to start somewhere and we are all growing our body of work over time. If you have a list of fans who know, like and trust you, you will never have to worry about whether your books will sell as your buyers will be waiting.

Ebooks can be sampled or bought instantly on hearing about them.

An online friend of mine tweeted me the other day, “I need to fill up my Kindle, what do you recommend?”. I read voraciously so I mentioned some great books I have recently read: A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness, The Whisperer – Donato Carrisi, The Summoner – Layton Green, The Hunger Games trilogy and some others. She then went to her Kindle and got the samples and most likely would have bought one or more of those. Perhaps you will too.

This is the power on online ebook buying.

There’s no barrier between the person wanting to read and the book they can start to read immediately. There’s no time lapse so no chance for them to find something else on the way to the bookstore or get distracted by a new shiny object.

Smashwords did a survey on ebook buying habits which showed 29% buy based on recommendations online from blogs and other media. I probably buy 90% of my books this way.  I know I’m not a market of one but I am a heavy reader and therefore a target for publishing dollars. Perhaps I’m also an early adopter and therefore represent the future of book-buyers? How do you find your books?

You can’t fight the rise of digital.

If you want to stick with print, you will soon end up missing out on even traditionally published books. That has just become reality. Newsjacking, David Meerman Scott‘s latest business book has been released in ebook only format. It’s not self-published either. You might have read “The New Rules of Marketing & PR”. In fact, it was one of the books that persuaded me onto Twitter. David is a thought leader and his example will only be followed.

In terms of discoverability, I bought Newsjacking because of an interview with David on Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation podcast. This backs up the stats from AT Kearney at FutureBook that show an author’s engagement with readers can increase book sales. I wouldn’t have ‘discovered’ Newsjacking on Amazon because actually it seems to be aimed at businesses. I am a micro-business :) but the lessons in it can definitely be applied by those of us who monitor the news and have the speed and agility to provide information in real-time to media hungry for a relevant story.

I hope I don’t have to tell the readers of this blog that they need to be publishing ebooks as well as or even instead of print. I’ve been beating the digital drum for 3 years now! But I am amazed at how resistant and defensive some people are about this inevitable shift.

What do you think? Are you convinced about digital yet?

Join the E-Book Revolution. Create, Publish, Market, and Sell Your Own E-Book

Every day we hear more exciting news about self-publishing and the growth of ebooks.

I monitor the US publishing news and blogs and feel that in the UK we are at least a year behind you guys, but the tidal wave is swelling and it’s a very exciting time! Doug Klostermann, author of The Ebook Handbook, is another writer who is passionate about digital publishing and today he shares a useful overview if you are just starting out.

Why now is the time to join the e-book revolution

Statistics about e-books, e-book publishing, and e-readers are being reported and discussed with increasing frequency and the overall conclusion is clear:  e-book sales are rising at a dramatic pace.  E-book sales in the United States currently exceed those of the other formats, including hardback and paperback sales, and grew 200% from 2010 to 2011.  Electronic books are now outselling printed books on – hardcover and paperback combined – and the Kindle e-reader is the best-selling product on Amazon.  Apple’s iPads are selling by the tens of millions, Android powered tablet sales are increasing, and numerous other companies are developing and selling tablet devices.  There is no better time to join the e-book revolution.

The publishing playing field has never been so level for self-published, independent authors.  Your e-books can be up for sale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple iTunes and iBooks as soon as you complete them, and at no cost to you.  They will be available on these sites along with all the printed and digital books, with the potential to be found and purchased by anyone shopping and searching online.

Formatting and Optimizing Your Text for Various E-Reader Formats

You will likely want to publish your e-book to as many sites as possible in order to reach the widest audience, and this involves offering your text in a variety of formats.  Most publishers will convert your text for you for free, but there are a number of requirements you should follow so that your e-book functions and appears as best as possible in each format.  On your own website and blog you can offer your e-book in PDF format, Amazon will convert it to their proprietary AZW format for the Kindle, and Barnes and Noble will convert it to ePub for the Nook.  Smashwords will convert it and offer it in a variety of formats as well as allow you access to publishing with Apple. [Note from Joanna: This is the best way for non-US citizens to get onto iPad and Nook right now.]

Typically a basic e-book can be written in Microsoft Word DOC (.doc) format.  This format is easily converted to most of the required e-book formats such as PDF and ePub, is the preferred format to be submitted to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, and can be submitted to Barnes and Noble’s PubIt! and to Smashwords for conversion and distribution to Apple iBooks.  Publishers will accept other formats like plain TXT, PDF, or HTML, but unless you have complicated formatting and complex image layouts (neither of which are recommended, especially for your first e-book), then Word’s DOC format is the easiest and best format to use.

When publishers convert your DOC text for their e-readers, some of your formatting may be lost or altered so it is important to understand what you can’t or shouldn’t do when writing and formatting your text.  Most e-reader conversions will accept basic Word formatting in your text such as bold, italic, underline, internal and external hyperlinks, center text, chapter headings, table of contents, and page breaks, and all of this will typically convert properly in the e-book conversion.  However, special fonts, some special characters, headers, footers, and page numbers will not convert, so you should avoid them or plan on removing them for the non-PDF e-reader versions.  Bulleted and numbered lists may or may not properly convert depending on the format.  Proper spacing between paragraphs must be incorporated, which is set using Paragraph Styles and not simply by adding extra returns between paragraphs.  Publishers have different requirements for images, but in general they can be about 600 pixels wide at 96 dpi or higher to look their best. And of course you will want an appealing, professional quality cover.

Each of the publishers provides a formatting guide with their complete requirements.  It is important to read them and incorporate all of their requirements so that your document converts properly and functions and appears as best as possible.

E-Book Formatting Guides:

Amazon Kindle formatting guide
Barnes and Noble PubIt! formatting guide
Smashwords formatting guide

[ Note from Joanna: If you can’t bear doing it yourself, you can get someone to do it for you. ]

Publishing Your E-Book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple

Though there are countless websites to publish and offer your e-book, the majority of your sales will likely come from your own website and blog (if you market well) and through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple iTunes and iBooks, so it is best to focus your effort on these major sites. is where you may reach your largest audience of potential readers, so you should first focus on publishing on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).  Amazon provides step by step instruction for publishing on their help pages, and also in a free e-book publishing guide.  The process is very self-explanatory, but there are a few important tips.  Enter your full title and subtitle since keywords in your title may help searchers locate your e-book.  Carefully choose which categories you want your book listed in, as well as good search keywords, as these are important in assisting readers to locate your e-book.  Be sure to preview the book and download the HTML file provided for a more accurate preview.  Then within two or three days of publishing, your e-book should be live on Amazon.  Once your e-book is available, go through Amazon Author Central to create a nice formatted description and author bio.

The process to publish to Barnes and Noble’s PubIt! is straightforward and very similar to the Amazon KDP process [ Joanna – but only available to US citizens, others must go through Smashwords].  The third important site to publish your e-book is Smashwords, an e-book publisher as well as an aggregator that distributes e-books to other sites like Apple iTunes and iBooks, the Kobo e-book store, and the Sony Reader store.  To upload a completed e-book to Smashwords, first ensure that you have formatted it according to their strict Style Guide.  Their process is straightforward as well, but also involves a review for Premium Status, obtaining an ISBN (free or low-cost through Smashwords), and using their Distribution Channel Manager to specify on which sites your e-book will be available.

Use your Website, Blog, and Social Media to Spread the Word

Publishing your book on Amazon and the other major retailers’ websites offers an amazing selling opportunity because readers can find your book on their own without you having to put forth any marketing effort.  These sites have leveled the publishing playing field for independent book and e-book authors and publishers and now provide possibilities that did not previously exist.  However you can build upon this to increase awareness of your e-books and attract additional customers and readers through your blog, website, and social media.

[ For lots of book marketing techniques, click here ]

Take Advantage of the E-Book Revolution

The ability to create and publish an e-book with nothing but your ideas, your computer, some software and the Internet, and then to instruct or entertain readers through your writing is an immensely satisfying pursuit.  To additionally earn money, perhaps even a sufficient income through this effort certainly adds to the enjoyment.  And to be fortunate to see your e-book become a top-seller is a wonderful reward!

Independent authors are fortunate to be in the midst of the ongoing e-book revolution.  Don’t hesitate to take advantage of the tools and opportunities to present your work to this wide audience of readers that is now available to everyone.

There is obviously much more to learn and many more tips and advice about publishing, marketing, and selling e-books, and my e-book called The E-Book Handbook – A Thoroughly Practical Guide to Formatting, Publishing, Marketing, and Selling Your E-Book goes into much greater detail about each step of the process.


How Readers Become Addicts: The Elasticity of Demand

This is a guest post from Patrick E. McLean, author of the Parsec Award-winning How to Succeed in Evil (which I am currently reading and it rocks!). Ebook pricing is something indie authors debate all the time so this unique perspective is fascinating. Thanks Patrick!

As a writer raised by Economists, I have some perspective that others don’t have, and maybe don’t want. (There’s a reason it’s called the dismal science after all.) But when approaching the question of how to price an e-book, sound economic theory (not that macroeconomic crap that everybody is currently lying their ass off about) can lend some interesting perspective.

Price vs. Cost

A price is only part of what a good or service costs you. Especially a book. In the economic sense, the true cost of something is what you give up to have or consume it. In the case of the book, you spend some money on the book, but the bulk of the cost is in the time you spend reading it. So book price + time cost = the true cost of the book.

So let’s say I buy an e-book for $3 ($2.99) and it takes me 8 hours to read it. Apply some guesstimate for what my time is worth (say $30 an hour) and you get to a true cost of $243 dollars for me to read a book. A little over 1% of which is the actual price of the book.

This is fascinating. And moves me to ask.

Does it matter what the Price of an e-Book is?

If my estimate of the cost is correct, are people really that sensitive to a change in price? Or, more importantly, if I double the price of my ebook (a 1% rise in the true cost of consuming a book) are sales going to change at all?

Economic theory cannot answer this question for us. The only way to know the answer for sure is to try it for a specific book at a specific time. And even that is not a true experiment in the scientific sense because there are too many factors to control. All we can know it what happened with that one book for that one period. So here’s what happened when I raised the price of How to Succeed in Evil from $0.99 to $2.99 —

Sales went up. I was averaging about nine copies a day. Now I’m up to seventeen.

It’s crazy to think that an increase in price causes and increase in sales. I think if I had left the price at 99 cents I would now also be at 14 e-books a day. I don’t think price matters that much. Especially within the accepted range. Economic theory can really say nothing about this particular case, but it can help us understand the forces at work. And before you discount this, please consider, this is really more help than it may first sound. To draw an imperfect analogy, even if you don’t know what the gravitational constant is, it is still very helpful to know that gravity sucks.

The Elasticity of Demand.

The Law of Demand states that the lower the price of a good or service, the more of it any one person will buy. For example, When cars are expensive, a family only has one. When cars are cheap, everybody gets their own car.

The question is, how much does the price of something have to rise or fall to make a difference. That’s the Elasticity of Demand. For example:

Cigarettes have very inelastic demand curve. They are addictive, so when you want them, you want them. Price goes up, still gonna smoke. Kidney Dialysis is inelastic. Unless you get another kidney, dialysis is perfectly inelastic. You get dialysis or you die.

So what about books?

Fans and the Elasticity of Demand.

By definition a fan is somebody who is addicted to an entertainment product. They have a highly inelastic demand curve for whatever that product is. For example, people who are fans of Game of Thrones or Harry Potter. When the next book comes out, they simply HAVE to have it. Fan is just another word for addict.

Creating Inelasticity

First, you’ve got to be able to write well. That’s price of entry. If you can’t do that, no knowledge of economic theory (or any other kind of theory) will make up for lack of talent. But assuming you are a fair hand at pushing a noun against a verb there are a couple of conclusions we can reasonably draw.

Be unique. If there aren’t any other good substitutes for what you put out, then people have no alternative but to buy from you. I think that well-written fiction is a pretty inelastic thing. When somebody wants a Stephen King novel, pretty much only a Stephen King novel will do. Because he’s the only guy who sees the world the way Stephen King does.

Create rich characters. This is pretty obvious. You can put a character in the most interesting suspenseful situation you like, but if the reader doesn’t care what happens to them, why continue? I think this is why mystery is such a popular genre. It lifts a lot of weight off the characters. People can either like the character or need to know how it turns out.

Don’t screw up the plot. There’s an eternal tension between character and plot. And, in the larger sense, story construction is a gigantic, difficult subject. But the fact remains, if you plot well, you suck the reader in. They want to know what happens next. They need to know what happens in the next book. Which leads us to the last point.

Write a series. When a reader is bought in, they want more. They want more of you as a writer and they want more of the characters they have invested so much time in. It is not a coincidence that the best-selling Kindle authors, the ones that are really putting up some numbers have series. As a personal note, this may be kinda hard for me, as the number of ideas I have are always threatening to draw me off into new challenges. I believe that I, you and everybody needs to follow passion — that’s what keeps us working — but, if your bliss allows it, a series is a good way to create that inelasticity which all authors crave.

To sum it up

I can’t pretend that common sense won’t get you to all of these conclusions. But having names for things allows us to think about them more clearly. The elasticity of demand is no exception.

Patrick E. McLean is the author of the Parsec Award-winning How to Succeed in Evil and Unkillable available at and as a free audiobooks at He’s also the creator and producer of the award-winning Seanachai Podcast.

How to Succeed in Evil is the story of Edwin Windsor, Evil Efficiency Consultant. He tries to help supervillains be more villainous. Or at least more profitable and sensible about the business side of Evil.

Along with his very proper and English secretary Agnes and his hench-lawyer Topper, he struggles to make the world of super-powered people make sense. But this is very difficult because, while Edwin’s advice is excellent, all of his clients are too egomaniacal to listen. There is, it must be said, a bit of comedy in this work.

You can learn more about Patrick and his work at

Image top: Flickr CC Slinky from rhinoneil