So you want to venture into the digital world and can’t wait to get your feet wet. Alright hotshot, just make sure you do your research first. I am going to impart a few tips that I have found in my own research regarding how best to approach your venture into the digital unknown. Hopefully you are going to take some of these to heart and will benefit from them.
1 – Stay Uncomplicated
That doesn’t mean your topics or words can’t get complicated. It means you have to be wary of over-formatting and poor choices in how you handle your text. The more specific the formatting, the less likely it is to look right across all platforms. Unless it is absolutely vital to the nature of your writing that you include unusual formatting, stick with plain text. If your writing absolutely must have specific formatting to work, perhaps reconsider how you are presenting it and find a way to make it work in a plain text manner.
2 – Forget Pages
Page one, page two. These are things we consider obvious when reading books. In physical print, they are. When you move into the digital world, things get a little more vague. If I read something on my computer, the number of words per page will be dramatically different than they are on my phone. Some e-readers will shift similarly if you turn them upright verses sideways. The reader may be able to adjust the spacing, the font or any number of other things that alter the exact number of words per page. Don’t add page numbers outside of PDF formats, but realize most people dislike PDF for e-reading. Not everyone, but at least enough that you can expect a lower sale number if that is the only format you offer.
3 – DRM doesn’t work.
You will get plagiarized. If you say anything worth even the most passing of glances, someone out there will decide they can turn a personal profit from it and steal at least some of it. Don’t accept them doing it, but do accept that nothing you do is going to stop it from happening and it will indeed happen to you. No amount of Digital Rights Management protection can stop it from happening. What DRM does do is treat your readers as if all of them are criminals and cause frustration and upset in the people who are paying to keep you fed. The only people not hampered by DRM are the ones who are going to pirate your work. They have the means to bypass it without much frustration. All you do when you add it is to upset your readers and lower your sales.
4 – Write Differently
Habits are hard to break. While writing, everything formats perfectly into your files because you have them all set up the way you want. You go to the printer and what is on your screen is going to appear exactly the same way on paper. This is not true once you get into the digital world. Everyone has different settings on their computers and readers. Different margins, fonts, tab spacings, etc. Start working on new habits that will transition better into an e-format. Instead of tabs and spaces, use the indent slider. Don’t use extra returns to form page breaks. When you do this, you manage to create entirely blank pages in the middle of your work for some e-readers. Don’t change the styles of your text through the work. Stick with one text format as the body style to keep from having a disjointed look.
5 – Quality Editing and Art
Paying an editor is going to do a lot for your work. Yes, it sucks to pay extra on something that hasn’t seen a dime yet, but in the end it is going to offer you a much more solid work. Remember that every book you put out is going to stick around until you decide to remove it. The quality of both the writing and the editing will play a factor in having return customers. In the end, that is more important than one time sales. The more people you can interest in your work enough that they seek out more by you, the more you will earn overall.
This also holds true of the cover art. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover? Sorry, but if you put a stick figure on the front of your work, people are going to think you didn’t put an effort in. There is a reason that cover art of quality costs so much and why the traditional publishers are willing to pay that for it. It drives sales. A good picture can draw out your imagination and pull you into the story before you ever open the page. I am not saying you have to go spend thousands on your cover art, but do consider taking the time and effort to produce something that is in keeping with the quality of your writing.
6 – Value Yourself
99 cents has its place. That place isn’t on your 100,000 word epic novel. What is the value of your work? Short stories and minor works of fiction, poetry or such might be fine at that price. Say 10,000 words or less. After that, the price starts going up. Novelettes, Novellas, and then the numerous sizes of novel each have a place and it isn’t in the bargain bin. Maybe you can convince yourself that spending hundreds of hours on a work and then giving it away is going to be the path to success, but who values your work? Let’s do some math. Let us say you worked 200 hours exactly on your latest work. If you manage to get a minimum wage job and put in that much work, you would need to sell 1516 copies to break even if you got every single penny of that 99 cents.
More likely, you can at best hope for 25 to 30 cents. Certainly better than you would get from traditional publishing, but that still means you need to sell around 6000 copies to break even. Not even ahead, just even with minimum wage. If this is your first work, give up on that number now. You might just well be jumping for joy over a meager 500 sales in some cases. Many authors of e-books struggle to average around one sale a day when starting out regardless of price point. People don’t value what isn’t shown as valuable. I could go on, but there are thousands of articles out there on this same thing. Trust me, value yourself and your work when you price your e-book.
7 – Expect Changes
Court cases and general shifts are still common. Overnight, rules can change and what was perfectly fine is now an absolute no-no. Pay scales and cross platforming are also up for grabs if you sign into special programs. There have been writers who had half of their library of work suddenly become invisible unless you do a specific search for that exact title when a rule shift took place. Others have found that because they didn’t read closely enough, their best work is only available on a single platform without any real benefit to them. The list goes on of course. Just remember that things haven’t settled into a pattern yet and to be watchful. Read the fine print and be ready to adapt as the business shifts.
8 – Multi-Media
Cross platforms whenever you can. No matter what Amazon or whoever else may want to tell you, going exclusive doesn’t up your sales. As many venues as you can manage, do. .Epub, .txt, pdf, html, .mobi, and anything else that might crop up are all of value in their own ways. Try to aim for as many versions as you feel comfortable with. When you pay for services, often they will convert into the varied styles for you. When doing it alone, you will have to learn as best you can how to convert into the proper versions. The more places you book, stories and other works exist, the more chances you have to make a sale and gain a following for future releases.