ebooks are my future… but where the hell do I start?

I’ve been a trolley boy, a supermarket cashier, a cleaner and a copywriter. I’ve tried out gardening and labouring, I’ve cleared ice and snow for a borough council, and now I’m a proofreader. But my ambition lies outside the 9-5 job. It’s taken me twenty-six years to figure out my goal, but now that I’ve realised it I can’t think of doing anything else with my life. By twenty-eight, I intend to be a full-time author.

Let me clarify from the start — I’m not an authority on epublishing. I’m not selling enough ebooks to quit my day job yet. But you have to start somewhere, and being informed is the best start you can get. If you happen to be starting out in epublishing too, or even if you’re not, I hope you might find something in this article that can help in some small way with your own ambition. Here are just a couple of points, based on a few months’ research into making a living as an author:

1. Don’t waste your time with traditional publishers. I submitted my fiction to a few publishers a while back, and was lucky even to get a letter of rejection. Most didn’t bother to reply. Far from seeing this as an exercise in tenacity and determination, I gave it up as a bad job pretty quickly. I know what it feels like to be banging your head against a brick wall, and this was one of those times. The vast majority of articles I’d read pointed at the suspicion that traditional publishers play it very safe these days, and don’t like taking chances on writers they’ve never heard of. And even if you do win the lottery of getting signed to a traditional publisher, there’s no way they can match the royalties you’d get from self-publishing your books as ebooks.

2. Head for Amazon. Whatever platform you’re on, be it PC, tablet, smartphone or Mac, you can download the Kindle app to read Amazon ebooks. As far as I’m aware, Amazon’s competitors can’t make such a boast. Amazon has the vast majority of the market share in the ebook world — so unless you’re particularly concerned with covering every available online outlet, or giving your books away for free, it seems that Amazon is definitely the way for ebook authors to go.

3. Engage with other people who may be interested in reading your stuff. And I don’t just mean your ebooks either — I mean your blog posts, your social media updates, and any other outlet you prefer to use to make yourself known online. For example, I’m a big fan of columnist and broadcaster Charlie Brooker. I buy his books and watch his programmes because he regularly posts free content online in his Guardian articles. I’m not a devout follower, but on the occasion that I fancy reading a non-fiction book, or reading an online newspaper article, his is the first name I go to because I trust in the quality of his free, regular writing.

Many successful ebook authors I’ve looked up seem to admit to the same mistakes — that they’ve ploughed massive amounts of time and money into promoting their books in paperback form: approaching bookshops, attending signings, investing a lot of money into advertising. But they all seem to have turned up the same formula for success in the end — converting their paperbacks to ebooks, and building up trust and engagement with people who want to read their stuff. They build trust and engagement by keeping a good, quality blog — so that people who subscribe to their mailing lists are curious to read their ebooks too. I might be trying to make it as a writer but I’m a reader too, and this works for me — if someone’s free online content appeals to me, then I’m happy to pay for their writing too because I know I’m going to enjoy it. Crucially, the author’s desire to sell their ebook hasn’t made the sale. It’s the author’s desire to connect with a readership, and vice versa, that has turned a ‘sell’ into a mutually beneficial transaction.

 

Well, I’ll leave it at that for now. I hope some of this was some small help to someone out there, if they’re starting on the same path as me. I’ll keep an eye out for any other trends like this in epublishing, and if I come up with enough stuff to write another article about, be damn sure I’ll put it up here for you to read, in the hope that it’ll help.

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