OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Today we are going beyond the basics of ebooks in my interview with Ali Luke, who is the author of Publishing Ebooks for Dummies as well as a fiction author, well-known blogger and internet entrepreneur.
[For up to date information, click here for Successful Self-Publishing: How to Self-Publish An Ebook, Print Book, and Audiobook]
We talk about what people are still getting wrong, ebook pricing and why Ali went with a publisher instead of self-publishing.
In the intro, I mention how totally manic I am right now! I talk about my (attempted) prep for NaNoWriMo and how I am just finishing the latest Exodus edit before sending to beta readers. I'm also working on ‘Turn Ideas Into Cash' and there's still time to sign up for the free prelaunch video series and webinar if you want to expand your business in multimedia (mainly for non-fiction writers).
Interview with Ali Luke
Ali Luke is the author of Publishing Ebooks for Dummies with Wiley as well as Lycopolis, her indie published novel. Ali is a prolific blogger, featuring on some of the biggest blogs on the internet, like Copyblogger and Problogger as well at at her own site Aliventures.com. Ali has been on the show before, talking about her novel Lycopolis
- ‘Publishing Ebooks for Dummies' is about how to publish your own book without a publisher, but Ali did this with a traditional book deal with Wylie.
Self-publishing is a core part of Ali's business but there is a kudos with a traditional publisher like Wiley which is great for reputation building, for speaking, or even guest posting. To the wider world, there is still cachet and the bookstore distribution is also great, as well as the spread of Ali's own brand. She will reach people who don't know her online. Wiley were great about including examples of her own work as well as links to her blog and twitter. The primary reason was not financial, even though there was an advance, plus Wiley pay on time and the process is swift – excellent compared to some publishers.
What are people still getting wrong with ebooks?
- There are some fairly basic errors crop up over and over again. (1) Use professional cover design. There's no excuse for this when there are so many pro-cover designers online.
- (2) Use pro editing. Ali mentions that she went through 4 drafts of her novel Lycopolis before hiring a pro-editor who suggested cutting around 50,000 words and redesigning the book. This was really difficult but it is so important to get a professional to help you pick up on stuff other readers might have missed. Your sample is critical as an ebook, so the writing needs to be really tight. Life is too short to read a crappy book.
- (3) Write another book. Don't focus all your efforts into one book and promoting that book. The way to be successful is to write multiple books, so keep writing as well as marketing. Ali talks about the sequel to Lycopolis which she is currently writing and hopes to use NaNoWriMo to get that prioritized.
On ebook pricing
- No one really has a clue about pricing, but we discuss it anyway! Don't be too dogmatic about pricing – there are strong arguments either way e.g. 99c is devaluing your work vs/ 99c is important to sell more books. There is no right answer, so be open to using different price points. Ali is using $2.99 for Lycopolis which gets her into the 70% royalties. With the sequel, she will make sure the first book is cheaper than the follow ups. We mention Lindsay Buroker and how she uses free for the first of her fantasy series. Free is definitely a valid pricing model and has its place, but generally when an author has multiple books. You can also package books together.
- As an entrepreneur as well as a writer, Ali also sells Blogger's Guides, PDF non-fiction material for $27. Using the description ‘guide' is more appropriate than the label ‘ebook' these days and this is a common model for online entrepreneurs to sell premium material. The audience for these guides hang out on blogs and twitter etc, and selling from your own site means you can price higher than the expected price on Amazon. Our language needs to be expanded somehow as there is some confusion about the word ‘ebook' these days.
On working with a publisher
- The Wiley For Dummies brand is very established and they have clear ways of working, formatting etc so the process was smooth and went from idea in Nov 2011 to printed book in Oct 2012. This is very fast for traditional publishing.
- On being an entrepreneur and not having the freedom to be in control of the book. Ali likes a lot of control and self-publishing is amazing for this, but Ali enjoyed the support of the Wiley team for things like deciding on the table of contents which helped her plan. Ali said the process was “surprisingly enjoyable” as it took some of the choice away so things could move faster. She also had the confidence that Wiley knew what they were doing so Ali got on with the writing.
Marketing non-fiction vs fiction
- Ali is pretty internet-famous for guest blogging, which is effective for non-fiction but not so much for fiction. It worked well for her blogger's guides at $27 each, so she figured it would work for Lycopolis at $2.99 but people don't seem willing to buy fiction off the back of guest blogging. But for non-fiction it works very well. Ali has been doing a lot of guest posts for this book, but won't do it again for fiction.
- Choose your target blog and read a lot of their posts, then write the post to fit their blog. Make sure the post is your best effort. Plan things in advance as right now this blog is 3 months backlogged. Getting a relationship with the blogger over time is also a great idea.
- Ali talks about using book reviews for Lycopolis, and she basically hand-sells these to people who might enjoy it. This takes time and patience and a long-term approach.
How to become a bestseller
- We mention Amazon Author Rank – a new thing Amazon has introduced
- If you want to sell lots of copies, which isn't everyone's goal, then write in a genre that is popular. But you still have to read and enjoy this genre, don't jump on the bandwagon. Be realistic – experimental literary fiction won't sell as well as gritty crime thrillers which sell well right now.
- Write a high quality book, regardless of what genre it is. Be respectful of your readers.
Publishing Ebooks for Dummies is available now on Amazon.com and other ebook and print stores. You can also find Lycopolis here.
You can find Ali at Aliventures.com and on twitter @aliventures