Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Publishing an eBook? Three Questions to Consider (Part 1 of 2)

Click image for this ebook’s Amazon page
E is for Book is happy to welcome Janet Wong as a guest blogger. Janet is the author of more than twenty published books for children and has recently released two Kindle books. She has generously agreed to share her experience.

Question #1: Why an eBook?

There are so many wonderful books being put out of print each year—or, worse, put into the purgatory of OSI (Out of Stock Indefinitely). Are we making this situation worse by creating eBooks? 
I feel that eBooks and conventional print books have been pitted against each other unfairly. Each serves a different need. No eBook could possibly replace a gorgeous fully-illustrated picture book and the experience of flipping through its glossy pages. But eBooks are unique in their transportability and affordability; this is why has had such success in putting e-readers into the hands of children in Ghana and Kenya, places where it costs a fortune to construct conventional libraries.
The burden on us as eBook creators is to keep our standards high. Encourage your fellow eBook creators to revise, revise, and revise. Form critique groups. Be brutal with each other. Download any ten self-published eBooks, and half of them look amateurish. They might have great content, but the way the content is presented looks unprofessional. But: look at any ten eBooks published by big publishers, particularly illustrated eBooks for children, and chances are that they don’t look any better than the best self-published eBooks. In fact, eBooks designed expressly for Kindles, Nooks, and iPads will often look better than the picture books that publishers scan in.
The most compelling reason to make eBooks is that they will change the way millions of kids view books. Reluctant readers who like gadgets will love eBooks. The kid who is obsessed with hermit crabs but hasn’t found the “right book” yet is going to have a better chance of finding it once the obstacles to publication are removed for more writers. It costs nothing to put a book in the Kindle store, which means that wacky Uncle Bob, the hermit crab hobbyist, can put a little book in the Kindle store, illustrated with his hermit crab doodles (that great quirky book that he sent around to publishers 5 years ago and gave up on after a dozen rejection letters). The mailman who loves to talk in rhymes might sit down one weekend and become the next Dr. Seuss. You might be the next J.K. Rowling. Why not?

Question #2: Money or Volume?
Six months ago children’s literature professor Sylvia Vardell* and I set a goal: to create a groundbreaking children’s poetry eBook, one that would make poetry an affordable “impulse buy” and bring poetry to people who never had bought it before. The problem with poetry books is that they aren’t reaching enough people. Poetry rarely goes into paperback, and an $18 hardcover collection is too pricey for the average reader.
*Sylvia’s Poetry for Children blog
$2.99 or 99 cents?
I had read that eBooks priced at 99 cents sell dramatically better than books priced at $2.99, so I decided that 99 cents should be the price for PoetryTagTime. It never occurred to me to wonder why the comparison was being made between .99 and $2.99; I discovered only later that you cannot sell your Kindle book for less than $2.99 if you want a 70% royalty (books priced under $2.99 receive only a 35% royalty). Once I discovered this huge royalty difference, I tried to persuade Sylvia to change the price to $2.99, but she felt strongly that 99 cents needed to be our initial price if the book were truly to be an impulse buy. Which makes sense: people love shopping at the “Dollar Store.” There’s a reason they’re not called “$3 Stores”!
You Can Change Your Price Later
After 4 days of sales, our eBook sold 115 copies. I’m guessing (with our core group of fans and friends) that we would’ve sold at least 50 copies even if the book had been priced at $2.99. We would’ve made the same amount of money, or more, if the book had been priced higher and sold fewer copies. But, because putting poetry books into the hands of children, parents, teachers, and librarians is our goal, we’ll keep the price at 99 cents for now. Later, if we want to raise money for teachers’ poetry grants—another of our goals—we might change the book price to $2.99. As one of our wise friends said, “The price can always go up, but never go down.”

Question #3: How to Create Your eBook? will be in tomorrow’s post.

Janet Wong ( is the author of 21 books for children and teens published by some of the finest publishers (Simon & Schuster, Farrar Straus Giroux, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Candlewick, Charlesbridge, and Richard C. Owen), but her two latest books are eBooks which she chose to publish herself.

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