Thursday, 4 July 2013

eBooks - a Get Rich Quick scheme?

t sounds so simple, doesn't it? Open up word, type in 80,000 or so words. Fiddle with the formatting 'til you have a kindle file then hit upload and wait for the moolah to come rolling in.

It's certainly a meritocratic system, and the barrier to entry is non-existent. If you've got the technology to read this blog, you've got the technology to produce your own eBook.

We've all seen stories in the news of Amanda Hocking, JA Konrath, Rachel Abbott, E L James, Hugh Howey and the other trailblazers (We'll ignore Locke). Six or seven figure income is a possibility, but I'm afraid to say it is a remote one.

Getting an eBook online is easy. Producing an eBook which will sell is not.

What makes a good book in terms of potential income?

  • Write sufficiently well written to be readable. It doesn't need to be fancy prose - Meyer, Hocking, E L James... The thing they have in common is that they all write simply. If what you write communicates the message you wanted to convey, then you've probably ticked the most fundamental check box there is.
  • Keep it interesting. Books that deal with something unusual - Troll romance, vampire teenagers, fiesty female detectives, S&M, a closed world... All pretty unique takes on the genre. Big money comes from striking out, not following the crowd (though writing imitation mummy porn is certainly lucrative).
  • Shoot for a wide audience - The bigger your target market, the greater the sales potential. Realising that potential can be very difficult, as the big markets (Romance, Mysteries and Thrillers, Sci-Fi) tend to be very competitive.
  • Write in a series (i.e. same intellectual property, but complete story arcs within each instalment, not a serial which has one arc per series). Readers follow characters they love, and giving them more of what they want leads to greater sales. Newcomers have a huge backlist to work through (=Profit) while old hands can pore over the changes. This works especially well in world building titles as people become invested in the universe you create (Think Star Wars, Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games).
  • Make sure your work is professionally produced. You wouldn't offer a half done car, legal advice based on wikipedia or tuition in a subject you have no knowledge of. Put the same care and attention into eBooks. Proper proofreading is incredibly important. We thought one round would be fine for DoD - it wasn't. It's been reproofed since (By Melanie Mitchell of Essential Editing) and then again by us. We still get lots of emails about typos - British spellings often get complaints. So does the Oxford comma. Whatever you do, someone will take offence... but that isn't an excuse for getting the basics wrong.
  • Market thoroughly- Think about your niche, and how to get to them. By all means run the adverts with the big boys (BookBub, ENT/ BookGorilla, FKBooksandTips, Frugal eReader, Pixel of Ink, Flurries of Words, Goodreads) but go after book bloggers, reviewers, people with a vague connection to your subject, local press, social media and all the rest.
  • Get lucky. This is still a big part of it. Amazon (and all other eBook retailers) use algorithms to push stuff that's already selling. Get onto the Movers and Shakers list, the Hot New Releases List, subgenre Top 100s, etc and you can go from modestly successful to the stratosphere.
Be patient - This is a long term game. You might make £50 in a month... but think about that long term. That's £600 a year, or £6000 a decade. If you're 30 when you release a book, die at 80 then that's 50 years of income: £30,000. Now add in another four books a year doing the same, or 200 books in 50 years. Even at the very modest sales level of £50/ book per month you'll make £6,000,000, or an average £120,000 a year. If you can ramp that production level even higher, do better with each subsequent book (which you should - especially if these are in a series) and sell licences to subsidiary rights (Foreign translation, first pub, reprint, audio, film, game etc) then the sky is the limit.

It's not an easy road, and you won't make a quick buck without getting very lucky. But a persistent writer who produces prolifically and write what the market wants... Well, you can only ignore them for so long.

For more tips - grab Can't Sell, Won't Sell for free from Smashwords, Apple or Kobo.

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