"E-book" is a slightly fugly word which stands for electronic book. Rather than a traditional hard copy of a book, the reader receives a file which they can either print out or read on a computer screen or via a specialist e-book reader.
Because they’re usually read using a computer, e-books can benefit from all kinds of multimedia gubbins – hyperlinks in the text to relevant websites, podcasts etc.
It may sound somewhat futuristic, but mainstream publishers are getting in on the act and you can even buy e-books on Amazon.
So why did I decide to write an e-book? Well, basically, because I could. The process went like this: First I wrote the words in Word. Then my technical department (AKA partner John) packaged it up into e-book format. I believe Adobe Acrobat and some book cover software were involved along the way, and the packaging process took no more than an afternoon. I promote it through my professional networks, website and blog. PayPal takes care of the payment processing.
When someone buys the book, they get directed to a secret squirrel corner of the internet where they can download it straight away. I wake up in the morning, an email tells me that somebody's bought my book, I take the money and spend it on chocolate. Easy, anybody could do it.
Before writing my e-book, I had already spent a lot of time on a book proposal for a book about getting a job in media. I wrote about 10,000 words, bunged in all my best Richard & Judy stories and genuinely thought that no publisher would be able to resist its charm. Well, whilst the proposal did attract some interest from publishers and agents, it never actually secured a publishing deal. As a busy working mother, I live by multi-tasking.
I simply don’t want to waste that kind of time again, writing something that might never see the light of day. I’m not somebody who just writes for the love of writing – I write for the love of people. I hope that people will read my book and find it useful and entertaining.
I hope they can learn from my experience. I hope it makes them smile. But none of this will happen if the dang thing never gets published. At least with e-books, like other forms of self-publishing, whether or not it's going to be published isn't in question.
The author has control over the whole process from start to finish. And you keep 100% of the royalties, as opposed to around 10% as is the standard publishing deal. From a business point of view, it also made sense for me to have a lower priced product. I'm a professional life and career coach, specialising in working with people in the media.
Not everybody wants to, or is able to, spend £200 on coaching, but they might spend £20 on an e-book. Also I am quite selective about the limited number of one to one clients I'll take on to coach.
But there are no limits to the number of people who can buy my e-book, so it spreads the reach of my work much further than I could do as an individual. It provides a taster of what I have to offer as a coach, and some of the people who buy it do later go on to become coaching clients. So it's a marketing device as well as a useful book (hello multi-tasking my old friend). And there are other advantages which are peculiar to electronic books:
* With an e-book delivery is instant and automated.
No more trudging down to the post office because the postie couldn’t fit your Amazon parcel through the letterbox.
* The publishing process is speeded up immensely.
You could write an ebook one week and be selling it the next. And there's no hanging around for royalties either.
* You can set your own cover price
Many ebooks are given away for free, but I have seen them priced at up to £100 for specialist texts. As yet there's no established norm.
* E-books can be updated easily and at any time – no need to sell a load of old stock before you can issue a new edition. In fact there is no physical stock, it’s just a PDF file.
* As a 'virtual' product, there's no issue with storage space and the supply is unlimited. * No trees will have to be sacrificed to print your book, so you get extra greenie points and heightened new millenium smugification. Very useful if you live in Brighton.
* The e-book format means that the number of pages are necessarily shorter (how many pages do you want to read on-screen?), so it's a good format if you want to focus on one particular topic which would not be suited to a longer length book.
* It’s a useful promotional device, so you can easily include a copy when you sell other services.
* It doesn't preclude you publishing a hard copy format - in fact it can promote it as people who buy the e-book may also buy a hard copy.
Look at Blood Sweat and Tea by Tom Reynolds - being available as a free download hasn't stopped it taking residence in the best seller lists.
Or I Have America Surrounded by John Higgs (him again!) - the first quarter of this critically acclaimed biography is available as an ebook, serving as a 'try before you buy' taster.
If you’re thinking of writing an e-book: * Do enlist the help of others. Whilst there’s an attraction in being able to do it all yourself, every book benefits from several pairs of eyes who'll spot things you missed.
* Think about how you will promote and sell your book.
Many e-books are sold using text-heavy, sales letter type one page websites. This seems to work well for the US market, but may not if your book is aimed at the UK.
* Research your audience – are they already buying e-books? My book sells mainly to coaches and personal development professionals, a sector familiar with the ebook format.
If your potential audience finds the idea of a book you can’t hold in your hands too weirdy, you'll have a hard job convincing them to buy yours.
Ultimately, the plan with my ebook was to sell squodoodles, then approach a traditional publisher with evidence of an established market. Haven't quite reached optimum squodoodles level yet, but it keeps ticking over. I'm currently experimenting with publishing selected extracts on my blog, whilst still keeping the full ebook available to buy.
Writing an ebook may not be for everyone, and in all honesty it wouldn't have been my first choice. I can’t pretend that if Hodder & Stoughton had pitched up at my door with sackfuls of moolah, that I would’ve been fending them off and saying ‘ooh no, it’s e-books for me all the way, chucks’. But it's better than writing no book at all, it keeps me off the streets and in chocolate.
What's the harm in that?
Or if you want to deprive Joanne of chocolate (how mean!), you can read bits of it for free here.