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 www.amarketingexpert.com 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.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Industry Changes Blur the Lines of Traditional Publishing

As we all know, these are challenging times for the big publishing houses. I blogged two weeks ago about the meeting in February where publishers concluded they need to move more into digital.

Earlier this month Publishers Weekly reported that Simon and Schuster, Hatchette and Penguin are joining together to launch an online book site called Bookish.com. By Labor Day they expect to have the site operating to “sell books in print and digital format” and “stock complete frontlist and backlist titles from all publishers.” Yes, they said ALL publishers. They also hope to link to and support retail bookstores, including indies. No mention of what they will or will not do with self published works.

An article at Geek.com explains the Bookish concept more thoroughly. It says, “The creators of the site are hoping this will be the go-to site for everything book-related, much as IMDB.com is for movies.” Carolyn Reidy, president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster, told the New York Times that the current discovery of books in the “physical environment” needs to be recreated so that it can happen online, something which Reidy said isn’t currently happening. So it sounds to me like they are trying to reproduce a brick-and-mortar browsing/shopping experience to the online customer.

In the meantime, Publishers Weekly reported that Amazon, the obvious leader in online book sales, is also assessing what they have to offer in the current environment. They have taken a step deeper into publishing with the launch of their own publishing imprint for romance authors, called Montlake Romance. Amazon has also “acknowledged its intention to publish in other genres.” Again, no mention of self publishing which they already accept through their CreatSpace and Kindle channels. Will Montlake Romance follow the traditional methods of only accepting agent-represented work or using the query and slush pile model?

So we have the most popular e-tailer, Amazon, looking to branch into more traditional publishering, while we have traditional publishers looking to branch into want the giant Amazon has already conquered. Who will be the winners in the end? I hope it’s the authors and readers!

Speaking of authors winning, check out this week's kids' ebook bestseller list. It's updated every Saturday morning.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Visit with Author Maria V. Snyder

Every week since February 19th, Maria V. Snyder has had at least one of her books on my Kids' Ebook Bestsellers list. Inside Out  made the list five times since then. Poison Study and Magic Study made the list ten times and are back again this week. I asked Maria specifically about those two.

Maria, give us a synopsis of your books.

Poison Study: Escaping the noose to become the new food taster, Yelena’s troubles have just begun. Poisoned and pursued by revenge, she develops wild magic as rebels plot. Her life’s at stake again and she must learn to trust others and herself or her next meal could be her last.
Magic Study: Continues Yelena’s adventures as she escapes to Sitia, the land of her birth. She must begin her magical apprenticeship and travels to the Magician’s Keep. But nothing in Sitia is familiar. Not the family to whom she is a stranger. Not the unsettling new facets of her magic. Not the brother who resents her return. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her rare powers, a rogue magician emerges, and Yelena catches his eye.
  
What is your target audience, and how do you believe the e-format works for that audience?

My target audience is anyone age 14 and older.  I’ve had readers as young as 9 email me and as old as 92! However the majority of my readers are 16 to 40 and  I think that age group is drawn to the new e-readers and are comfortable with the technology.  Having all my books available as e-books is great for them.

I see your books were published in print format in 2005 and 2006. Was your initial path to publication traditional or independent?

It was traditional.  I tried to find an agent for my first book, Poison Study, but when 40 of them rejected it, I queried publishers.  After 17 rejections, LUNA Books, an imprint of Harlequin bought it and Magic Study.  They published Poison Study as a hardcover in October 2005.

What were your initial thoughts about  e-publishing?  Have those initial thoughts changed now that you’ve done it?

I didn’t think e-books would become as popular as they are today.  The new e-readers have come a long way and are the reason why e-books have become more popular.  As a reader, I like my print books, but as an author, I’m glad my books are available as e-books.  My publisher bought the rights to publish my books as e-books and audible books so they didn’t really ask me.  The only thing I worry about with e-publishing is overwhelming readers with too many choices.  

How are people finding out about your book? Tell us about your marketing and use of social media.

My readers are finding my books from word of mouth, blog reviews, booksellers who hand sell them, and the “if you like this, then you’ll like these” feature of online bookstores.  Before a book’s release, I send out ARCs [advance reading copy] to a list of reviewers I know (the publisher sends to their own list). When the book is released, I send out an email to newsletter subscribers (about 10,000), I’ll post a notice on Facebook, blog about it on my own blog, do guest blogs and Q&As on a number of sites (sometimes I’ll do a full out blog tour), and update my website.  I also send out bookmarks and signed book labels to about 20 bookstores in the US, UK and Canada. 

Do you believe the e-format helps or hurts you as an author? How?

The e-format helps me because it makes my books available to more readers.  I want people to read my book and by offering readers a choice in the format is a great way to gain more readers.
 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

E-Books Thrive as Print Books Dive AND Children’s Choice Award Winners Announced

"Ebook Sales Explode in February As Other Segments Sink." That was the striking headline to a Publisher's Weekly article from April 14th which says while February e-book sales increased 202.3% over January, adult hardcover sales and mass market paperback sales both dropped by over 40%. Check out the comments after the article – one person says he was told by a publisher that e-books are a “niche product” and “a dying technology.”

And while e-sales were exploding in February, what were the publishers doing? Eighty executives from book publishers Simon & Schuster, Random House, W.W. Norton & Company and others were meeting "to strategize how to transform their stagnating print empires into thriving business by 2020." Their conclusion? Invest in digital. Ummm...shouldn't they have figured that out sooner than February?  Read about the meeting and their conclusions.

For another take on the future of publishing, listen to a recent interview with Seth Godin. If publishers are trying to turn things around by 2020, they may be out of luck. Seth believes that the publishing industry as we know it will only last another five years. (The interview is 25 minutes long, but worth the time.)

In the meantime, Barnes and Noble sent me an e-mail advertising the Color Nook as “The #1 Gift This Mother’s Day” and Amazon’s Kindle is featured on the Gifts.com "Mothers Day Picks -- Top Gifts" list. 

Onward to talk about bestselling e-books and their authors. Two weeks ago I told you about the Children’s Choice Awards. The winners were announce this week and Rick Riordan won author of the year! He also won “Fifth to Sixth Grade Book of the Year” for The Red Pyramid. Rick has been on my e-book bestseller list  every week since I started it. Congratulations, Rick!

In correlation with the Children’s Choice Awards, AStoryBeforeBed.com featured some of the nominees reading their books.  P.C. Cast has been a regular on my list, and you can see her read  from Burned, a book she co-authored with her daughter, Kristen.

Personally, I fell in love with Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott. Even though it’s not an e-book, I have to give it a plug. The story is delightful and it stayed with me for days. 

Lots of news, lots of links, lots to read to keep up with the ever-changing world of kids' books. Enjoy!