Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Magic Formula?

This week I received an interesting e-mail from a reader, asking if I have a sense of how an independent e-book can become a bestseller. I've been writing this blog weekly for 6 months, and this request caused me to look back to see what I've learned so far:
  • A great cover is essential for e-books since the customer cannot pick up the book and flip through it as they can in a store. The cover needs to have impact even at the thumbnail size that's on most e-book stores. A great cover gets more customers to "click".  
  • Great content will get initial customers to come back for more of your books, and it will get them to tell others to buy.
  • You also need to build your platform, somehow getting in touch with the parents or young adults who will buy your e-book. As Seth Godin says, you need to build your tribe.  
  • I highly recommend Red Hot Internet Publicity by Penny C. Sansevieri. The subtitle is The Insider's Guide to Marketing Your Book on the Internet. Sign up for Penny's free newsletter at and she will send you 52 tips on how to promote your book, sending one a week. She has loads of super info for free on her site, and you can get the book there too. My copy is highlighted and tagged and written in -- it's been a super resource.
  • For picture books, I would focus on getting it on the B & N Nook store and the Ipad store first, since they both have color capacity and will be the e-readers of choice for parents downloading picture books. Amazon can do picture books, but they lose something in the translation -- no color (yet), and no two page spread (yet).
  • I love the e-format because it levels the playing field for us authors. But I suggest that authors for children get in fast while the number of e-books for children is relatively low. It's growing quickly, but right now you have a better numbers game in this genre than in many others.
  • Follow the blogs of successful indie e-authors such as Amanda Hocking and Karen McQuestion.  They are both in the Young Adult genre but their experience can help authors for any age group.
In summary, to become a bestseller in the e-format I'd say it takes hard work, writing skill, and the development and maintenance of loyal fans, with a generous pinch of luck and good timing. A magic formula? No, but I'm a firm believer that the harder you work, the luckier you get!

News Flash: One of our Kids' Ebook Bestsellers authors, Sarah Dessen, is on the front cover of the July/August edition of Writer's Digest magazine which arrived in my mail yesterday. This week Sarah's book, What Happened to Goodbye, is #6 on the Barnes and Noble Teens list, and #1 on the Borders Teens list.  Learn more about Sarah at her website.  And don't forget to check this week's bestseller list to see how the rest of your favorite authors are doing in the e-format.