Scott Marlowe
Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher

I'm stepping into the way-back machine today to highlight a series I wrote back in 2009 about selling your eBook without a publisher.

Back then I was just getting started with self-publishing. A lot of people were. I used the series of posts primarily as a way to familiarize myself with the various retailers, services, and how to actually produce an eBook. I've learned a lot since then. Still learning, in fact. But I think this series is still relevant. In fact, I think I could expand on it. For example, Kobo and CreateSpace are missing as retailers and service providers, respectively. Both are used by yours truly.

But, for now, here is the 8 part series in its original form broken down by post.

  1. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 1: Introduction
  2. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 2: E-book Formatting
  3. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 3: Book Covers
  4. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 4: Amazon.com
  5. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 5: Smashwords
  6. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 6: Scribd
  7. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 7: Lulu
  8. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 8: Selling Strategy

Advertise Your Book on BubbleCow for free

Online site BubbleCow provides writing advice, tips, and professional copyediting services. As an end-of-year thank you to their readers, they're offering free advertising on their site for any book, indie or otherwise.

The ad is strictly text, so there's not much work for anyone who wants to take advantage of this. Just add the text you want displayed along with a web address where people can learn more about your book, and you're done.

The ad itself is a single-line dropdown at the top of their site which will appear on each page visited for 1 day. They're taking as many books as people want to list and will run the ads until no more books remain.

You can follow BubbleCow on Twitter.

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Manuscript Formatting

This is a reference post providing some links to resources that discuss manuscript formatting with a few notes of my own at the end. I'll update as needed.

If you have any resources of your own, feel free to post a comment below. I'd love to make this a more comprehensive resource.

Here are the links:

And some notes:

  • Robert J. Sawyer and Holly Lisle both recommend using 12 point Dark Courier as the manuscript font.

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Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 8: Selling Strategy

This is the final post in a multi-part series about self-publishing your eBook. Posts include:

1. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 1: Introduction
2. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 2: E-book Formatting
3. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 3: Book Covers
4. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 4: Amazon.com
5. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 5: Smashwords
6. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 6: Scribd
7. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 7: Lulu
8. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 8: Selling Strategy (this post)

This post is about selling strategy. What I mean by this, or rather what I don't mean, is marketing or self-promotion. Both of those topics are important, and in fact this topic probably crosses over into those, but what I'd like to talk about here is this: I've listed one eBook on Amazon, Smashwords, Scribd, and Lulu, but with another novel soon to be complete, what's next? Where do I go from here?

As I see it, here are my options:

1.) Go the traditional publishing route

This may smack of heresy after I just posted seven (eight, including this one) posts all geared towards circumventing the traditional process, but hear me out. There's no doubt we're entering into a new world as far as publishing is concerned, but just because we can sell our work direct to readers does not instantly make the agents, copyeditors, publishers, and other personnel in the publishing industry obsolete. In fact, for those who truly want to embrace writing as a full-time occupation, I still think they're necessary. They bring expertise, leverage, and make distribution into real, physical bookstores a reality. They have access to the channels where most people still get their books from. This is to our benefit as writers.

2.) Give my eBooks (or short fiction) away for free

It's no secret that the most successful eBooks selling on Amazon are given away for free. Some think we're heading towards $0 eBooks, anyway. But free doesn't pay the bills; for full-time writers this obviously isn't an option. But for a new writer who can sustain him/herself in other ways, it might be a viable option for gaining readers. The idea might be to give away one book hoping to sell copies of another. Giving away short fiction fits into this as well. By no means does this mean giving away content for free forever. It might just be for a limited time, to perk up interest.

3.) Serialize my novel here

John Scalzi serialized his first novel, Old Man's War, on his blog before selling it to Tor. J.C. Hutchins serialized in audio format his first novel, 7th Son. The end result for both authors was a publishing contract. In Scalzi's case, he was already getting 1,000 hits/day on his blog (I get 100 on a good day; Scalzi probably gets 100/hour now). Serializing a novel for free no doubt brought in even more readers and attracted the attention of Tor. Hutchins, an unknown when he started, marketed his novel like a madman, gaining a huge following and an eventual contract as well. In these two cases, serialization worked. In general, giving away anything for free is going to work, to a point. Also, keep in mind that just because you're giving away something for free does not mean everyone is going to come to your site to read/download it. Some people still like going to bookstores and buying a "real" copy of a book. Serialization is just another way of getting your work in front of more people. Given the choice between "more" and "less", I'll take the former.

4.) Sell my eBooks here on my blog

Many authors do this, especially as rights revert back from a publisher. It's a great way to get some more life (and revenue) out of a title that has otherwise been remaindered. It's also a nice way to get your novel out to people while you're seeking a contract, which can take a very long time if it happens at all. The biggest plus of selling from your own site is you get to keep 100% (or near to that) of the revenue.

5.) Sell my eBooks through the various eRetailers I covered in this blog series

There are a lot of people who visit, say, Amazon, who probably will never come to my web site. It is therefore important to also sell through other channels, even if you are giving up a larger piece of the pie by doing so. Keep in mind, too, that eBooks that sell well via online retailers sometimes are picked up for publication.

In closing this post…

I don't think any one method is the sole way to go in today's world. Rather, I'm considering a hybrid approach of some of the above once my second novel is complete. I still want to go the traditional route because I think it's the best option for success. On the other hand, I don't want my novel languishing in a drawer while I wait for the luck of the draw to deem my work worthy of being published.

Concluding this series

In conclusion of this series let me just say that I hope I've shed some light on the different options for publishing online. The publishing world is changing; it's best to remain aware of the new possibilities.

[ Amazon Featured Short: The Hope of Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson ]

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Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 7: Lulu

This is the next post in a multi-part series about self-publishing your eBook. Posts include:

1. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 1: Introduction
2. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 2: E-book Formatting
3. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 3: Book Covers
4. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 4: Amazon.com
5. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 5: Smashwords
6. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 6: Scribd 
7. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 7: Lulu (this post)
8. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 8: Selling Strategy

The next ePublisher I want to look at in this series is Lulu.

Home page of Lulu.com

What is Lulu?

Lulu is a bit different from the other ePublishers I have featured so far because in addition to offering traditional eRetailer services, Lulu also sells traditional books by using the magic of POD.

POD, or Print on Demand, is a service where a paper book isn't actually printed until someone orders it. Once someone places an order for a traditional paper book through Lulu, Lulu's machinery kicks into high gear, prints the book, and next thing you know you've got a printed, bound book waiting on your doorstep. The advantages of this model is cost (from the publisher's perspective) because no inventory exists until it is needed. This differs from a traditional vanity press in that there is no upfront cost associated with the POD service. Lulu doesn't "make" anything until someone buys one of your books.

Besides for POD, Lulu also sells straight eBooks. That will be my primary focus here.

You can follow Lulu on Twitter or subscribe to the Lulu blog.

How much does Lulu charge?

From their FAQ:

Lulu takes a small commission when your content is purchased. Lulu's commission is 20% of the profit from a purchased item.

Sounds great at first glance. Dig a little deeper and you'll find that Lulu also charges a "base price" which is built into the price of your eBook which, of course, ultimately increases your asking price. The standard base price for eBooks is $1.49, which goes to cover "file hosting, bandwidth, and credit card transaction costs".

Previous analysis showed the following charges for the other eRetailers I've covered: Scribd charges 45%; Amazon, 65%; and Smashwords, 42%.

So, let's say you're charging $5 for your eBook. How much are you really making on each sale with Lulu? The breakdown is this:

$5.00 (asking price) - $1.49 (base price) = $3.51

20% commission of the seller's profit: $3.51 * 0.2 = $0.70

So, $3.51 - $0.70 = $2.81

You'll see later on that Lulu provides a calculator to make this process a little easier. Using it, I found that I have to charge readers twice as much as I what I might charge on Amazon, for example, just to make the same amount of money for myself. Here's a quick screenshot to illustrate:

Lulu price breakdown

That's a whopping 84% commission Lulu charges to sell eBooks on their site at the $2 sale price. Put the price at $5/eBook and it comes out to 44% (56% in your pocket). The base price obviously skews things very badly at lower price points. Unfortunately, lower price points are where eBooks want to be.

What file formats does Lulu support?

Lulu sells eBooks in ePUB and PDF format:

Lulu eBook formats

For both, you have the option of selling with or without DRM.

See my post for more info on E-book File Formats.

The Lulu Storefront

Lulu sells a variety of items, including books, eBooks, calendars, photo books, DVD's, etc. Since I'm principally concerned with eBooks, I'll take a look at that storefront.

The Lulu.com eBooks storefront

Lulu does a very nice job of breaking down their available eBooks into the many genres and categories. Clicking on "Science Fiction & Fantasy" brings up what you might expect. By twiddling with the interface a little you can search just the section you want, but only by Title and/or Creator:

Lulu's Science Fiction & Fantasy section

I like the Lulu interface, especially that they're upfront and center with price and the format available for purchase.

Publishing with Lulu

Lulu publishing can be accomplished in three easy steps:

3 easy steps to publishing with Lulu

I'm going to go through those publishing steps here and now, as I write this post, so I'll see firsthand just how easy the process is. ;-)

Here are the steps:

1. Start a New Project

The first step is creating what Lulu calls a "project". I'll use the title of my book as the "Working Title", my name was already filled in since I'm logged in, and I'll select "Make it public to sell in the Lulu Marketplace" since that's the reason I'm here.

Starting a new project with Lulu

2. Add Files

Next step is uploading files.

Upload files to Lulu

Lulu says you can upload in a variety of formats:

Lulu supported file formats

It's nice that they added support for EPUB. Because my eBook is already in PDF format, though, I'll upload that version and make a mental note that I still need to convert my eBook to EPUB format as I would like potential buyers to have that option.

Choosing my PDF and pressing upload flashes some activity…

Uploading your eBook status

…and in no time my file is uploaded:

Your file has been uploaded

3. Design Your Cover

For those following along in this series, you know why book covers are important. Lulu has a nice feature in that you can create a generic cover using their templates:

Creating a book cover using Lulu

Besides for generic templates and background colors, you can select your own image or browse the Lulu Gallery. While the gallery had some nice images, I've already created my own. Uploading it went smoothly though I did have to tweak the image size to fit Lulu's minimum size requirement of 621 x 810 pixels.

I went, of course, with my stock image for my eBook:Upload image success4. Describe Your Project   

You'll notice Lulu said we could do this in three steps. Yet here we are on step four…

In any case, now we get to add some descriptive detail to our eBook, including keywords and copyright information:

My Lulu project described

5. Digital Rights Management

Now this is kind of interesting. I have the option of adding DRM to my eBook, but at a cost:

DRM, but at a cost

Of course, I won't be paying the extra $0.99; my readers will. I don't like DRM to begin with, and certainly don't want to make people pay more just to have to deal with it's hassles. I'll choose the DRM-free option.

6. Set Your Project Price

Note that we are now at twice the number of steps Lulu said we'd have to go through. Just saying…

This is where we'll set our eBook price.

Set your eBook price

Focusing in on the right-hand side:

Lulu's cost calculator

Because of the pricing discussion above I'm going to leave the price of my eBook at $5… for now.

7. Review Your Project

This is the last step. A quick review of what we've already entered, click the confirmation button, and we're done.

The Hall of the Wood, published on Lulu

You can now purchase The Hall of the Wood from Lulu.

Conclusion

Lulu is another viable option for selling your eBook, though I found their pricing structure not as competitive as the other eRetailers I featured in this series. Still, it's another outlet in which to gain some eyeballs.

Reference


[ Amazon Featured Short: The Inheritance by Robin Hobb ]

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