Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tornado Siren is now an ebook! (part 1: the why)

So, first, my big news:   my novel, Tornado Siren, is now available as an ebook for Kindle, Nook, and other formats (via Smashwords).

Tornado Siren was originally published by Behler Publications in January 2006.  Behler is a small publisher just in its second year when they picked up Tornado Siren.  I did what I could to promote the book (detailed in a previous blog post here), and we sold a small amount of copies (not nearly as many as we'd hoped).  Last year the book went out of print.  It had stopped selling, wasn't in bookstores, and Behler had not yet put out an ebook version.

I've been interested the idea of ebooks for a while, even though I don't own a Kindle or Nook, and don't know if I will.  The ability to distribute a novel or nonfiction book so easily and cheaply seems like a pretty amazing idea.  And obviously a lot of other people think so, too, because more and more ebooks are purchased all time time, with ebook sales rising fast.  What's especially cool is that you can tweak the marketing of an ebook easily--swapping out covers, descriptions, changing prices--to find the balance the works best.

For unknown writers (like me), ebooks offer a great chance at broader potential distribution and the ability to compete on price.  The complexities of printed book distribution, especially for small (and new) publishers, meant that my book was in almost NO bookstores, even after it was released.  The exceptions were stores that I contacted myself and where I had readings.  It was hard to sell books if they weren't in stores.  Having the book listed on Amazon made sales somewhat easier--hundreds of my friends, family, and contacts (and even people I don't know), bought copies through Amazon.  But even with discounts, the book cost more than $10, and readers had to wait, and they had to know about the book.  And wait.  And pay shipping.  And the price could only go so low, because so many people (publisher, distributor, Amazon, and me) needed to get paid.  On the sale of a printed book on Amazon, even at full price ($14.95), I tended to make about 67 cents per book.

I've been reading a lot about ebook publication, and Joe Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, was certainly the most enthusiastic.  He's has some amazing success with his genre fiction by publishing his own ebooks.  He's always been a good self-promoter of his work and is extremely prolific.  He was also very willing to share the numbers about how many books he was selling and how much he was earning.  (And I like numbers.)  His blog also features many guest posts from writers who are also having significant success selling their books at ebooks.

So why not publish Tornado Siren as an ebook myself?  I could have have waited for Behler to do it, but they didn't seem in any hurry to make that happen.  Plus, if I published it as an ebook myself, I'd earn a lot more on every sale.  For example, Kindle books sold on Amazon, can earn an author as much as 70% of the sales price (if they're priced between $2.99 and $9.99).  So even if I sold the book for $2.99, I'd be earning almost $2/book.

Most importantly, I'd have a chance for readers to start to find me again.  The book could remain continuously accessible (you don't even have to down an ebook device--you can read ebooks on your PC), for a very long time.  Plus, my book could now compete on the basis if price with books from established publishers.  Ebooks from the big houses tend to run around $10 and up.  I could price my book at $2.99 (or less), and cost would not longer such a barrier to a reader trying an author who's not a bestselling writer.

And it wouldn't cost me anything.  That's right, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords will all publish your ebook for free.

Still, I put it off for almost a year.  Which was probably a mistake, because getting in early means you get in when there is much less competition.  Thousands of new titles are being added every week.  The need for a  new cover and the general lack of free time in my life kept it from happening.

But in the end, the decision was easy.  What did I have to lose?  It would take some time, but not much money (maybe some money for a cover).  I could direct viewers of my web site and blogs to buy copies.  I'd continue to have a chance to read more readers.  And I could try new marketing strategies, new summaries, and even pitch the paranormal love story aspect of the book more actively.

I'm not giving up on print publishing.  I have an agent who is pitching two of my newest novels, and I desperately hope she'll find publishers for them and that they end up in bookstores across the country.  But for Tornado Siren, this seemed like the way to go. 

I'm trying to temper my fantasies.  My book isn't going to sell like Joe Konrath's stuff.  But even if I find dozens or hundreds of new readers, I'll come out ahead.  (Maybe I can make enough to buy the kids some pizza.)  And maybe those new readers will come back and read some of new novels, when they're available.

(next: the how)


Sue Roebuck said...

I read your book "Tornado Siren" and adored it. I'll put a review up on Amazon if you like (definitely 5 stars).
I was so in love with Ben Fulgar.

Patrick Gabridge said...

Reader reviews are exactly what it's going to take for the ebook to get any sales (and for other people to fall in love with Ben Fulgar).