Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

The Fussy Librarian

The Fussy Librarian

One of the challenges of selling any product is making consumers aware of it. eBooks are no exception to this. As an author, there are myriad ways to get my books in front of people. One of the best ways is to let someone else do it. Even better if this middleman (or, in this case, middlewoman) 'sells' to people who requested a pitch. In this case, the request takes the form of a reader signing up to receive an email containing information about books to buy.

The key to success here, though, is for the sender of the email to provide a curated, filtered list of eBooks based on reader preference and selection. Enter The Fussy Librarian.

They're a new outfit in town, still growing their list and extending generous advertising terms to authors such as myself, but they're doing everything right so far, which is a pretty good first step.

Not only am I using their service as an author, but I also use it as a reader. When signing up to receive an email from them, I like that I can specify which sub-genre (Steampunk and Epic Fantasy for me, of course) from which to pull books for me to see. They also let you specify what level of language you're comfortable with in your books, as well as violence and sexual content. It's another way to narrow down the books you'll see each day.

I'd like to see The Fussy Librarian do well, both as an author and a reader. We need more services like this. Not ones that will hurl a barrage of titles at you each day, but ones that curate what they're sending so we can avoid some of the you know what.

The other side of this is that without more services like this certain ones (Bookbub) gain a stranglehold on the "good" advertising venues.

So do us all a favor and go check out The Fussy Librarian.

eBooks, eReaders, and Maps

I recently added a map to the front matter of The Hall of the Wood because I think maps are an important part of the fantasy reading experience. One of the first questions my illustrator, Jared Blando, asked me was if I wanted black & white or color images. Because I wanted to use the map on the World of Uhl site and because lots and lots of people now have color eReading devices, of course I said color. If needed, I can easily convert the image to black & white myself.

I anticipated problems. Not with Jared or the maps themselves but with eBooks and the devices we read them on. Sure enough, after adding the map to the Kindle eBook version and viewing it on my Kindle 2, I saw right away that the map was next to useless. It’s simply impossible to read.

Here’s a couple of images which attempt to demonstrate the problem. It’s unfortunately very difficult to take a picture of a Kindle screen. (Try it if you don’t believe me. Maybe if I took in in full sunlight, but it’s too darn cold out right now.)

Anyway, check these out and believe me when I say the map is unreadable.

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However, when I brought the same eBook up on my iPad and viewed the map…

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I guess this image isn’t the best (again, taking a picture of one of these devices ain’t so easy; lots of glare, for ex.) but the map is very viewable in all its glory. One of the best things about viewing it on the iPad? Pinch and zoom. You can zoom in, pan, zoom out, and swipe away. The higher res image really shines here when you get close up.

Which is all fine and dandy if you own an iPad or similar device. But what about those who prefer traditional Kindles or other b/w eReaders?

My solution is to offer a link to the World of Uhl site where the map is viewable full-size. To that end, I put this disclaimer into the eBook:

A friendly note from the author about maps: Maps, eBooks, and eReaders do not always mix well. If you have difficulty viewing this one or simply wish to see a larger version, I encourage you to open your favorite browser and visit the World of Uhl map section (www.worldofuhl.com/maps.html).

In the eBook, it looks something like this:

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While my primary motivation for including this extra option is to make things easier on my readers, I’m also trying to preemptively avoid any 1 or 2 star reviews because someone couldn’t read the map on their Kindle or nook. If you think that someone won’t do that, I have some primo beach front property to sell you here in Dallas.

I think this is an adequate concession and hopefully accommodates everyone.

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

The Structure of an eBook

A book, whether electronic or not, is traditionally divided into three parts:

  1. Front Matter
  2. Body Matter
  3. Back Matter

Front matter typically includes but is not limited to the title page, foreword, an acknowledgments section, dedication, table of contents, and a prologue. Body matter is the content itself. Back matter, like front matter, can vary, but might include a glossary, bibliography, index, or an about the author page.

Of course, the structure of a book depends largely on its type. A history textbook is going to be quite different from a fictional novel which is going to be different from a picture book and so on.

I grabbed a couple of print books off the "to read" shelf here in my study to see how the publisher chose to organize their structure. One of the books is Stephen F. Hickman's The Lemurian Stone (which I read a long time ago but want to re-read because it's been so long I hardly remember it) and Stephen King's It (which I've never read).

The following is an amalgamated list of the two:

  1. Cover
  2. Excerpt/Praise
  3. Other Works/Also By
  4. Title Page
  5. Copyright Page
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. Dedication
  8. Maps
  9. Table of Contents
  10. Content
  11. About the Author

That's a pretty traditional list. Really no surprises.

It's no surprise either when you bring up an eBook on your eReader and find much the same structure. Most eBooks follow the above conventions because that's the traditional way.

But, of course, times have changed and so too should a book's structure. Or at least an eBook's structure.

I'm not suggesting anything drastic. Just because something has been done a certain way for a long time doesn't make it wrong or ripe for drastic change. In fact, I think altering the structure of an eBook from what people are used to might just generate confusion and put off an otherwise interested reader.

Here is the structure I've settled on for my own eBooks with some comments on each part. The biggest change I've embraced is including various links to my online presence and a shout-out to readers (item 10).

1. Cover

Exactly what you might expect.

2. Copyright Page

The usual legal mumbo-jumbo, but also a link to this web site.

3. Table of Contents

This is more than just a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. The table of contents in an eBook should include links to any section the reader might want to easily access. The TOC of my eBooks includes everything from item 4 down to the end.

4. Other Works

This is a complete list of not only my novels but also some short stories which I encourage any one to read for free.

5. Informational (link to World of Uhl site)

The World of Uhl is where I showcase and, quite frankly, personally keep track of many of the aspects of the world in which I set my novels. It's a work-in-progress in the sense that it's constantly growing as I come up with new characters, places, bits and pieces of Uhl's history, and other pieces of information. I include a link on this page to the site in case it's something readers might be interested in.

6. Informational (Maps)

Fantasy books should have maps. I'm currently rolling out the maps for both of my novels and will be doing the reveal for the map to go along with The Hall of the Wood in a couple of days.

7. Informational (Players)

This is a list of all the characters featured in the novel along with a very brief description of their role. This is reference material meant to assist the reader in keeping track of who's who. You can see all the characters featured in my novels under the People tab of the World of Uhl site.

8. Quote

The Five Elements has one of these. It's an excerpt from The Life of Apollonius of Tyana by the Greek sophist, Philostratus. This obviously should have relevance to the story.

9. Content

The story itself.

10. Request for Reviews

This is a gentle push for readers to return to the retailer where they bought the book in order to leave a review.

11. About the Author

In the end, it's all about me. Just kidding. This is your basic informational page about the author.

Conclusion

There's a lot of innovation going on in eBooks. They're becoming more social, interactive, immersive, and dynamic. I've barely scratched the surface with my own. But considering more and more people are reading eBooks on multi-function tablets with sophisticated graphics and fast internet connectivity, it should be interesting to see what new innovations people come up with for redesigning a format that hasn't changed much in a very long time.

Further Reading

ePublishing Predictions for 2013

The past year has been interesting to say the least. A lot has happened in the world of ePublishing and more people are reading electronically than ever before. It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to predict that eBooks and eReading in general will continue to do well in 2013.

I’m no expert in the field, but I've got this crystal ball I rented, and while the images it's showing me are pretty fuzzy, I thought I'd go out on a limb with some predictions. If nothing else it should be fun to re-visit this a year from now just to see how wrong I was.

Here goes…

1. Amazon does away with the 70% royalty rate for authors who do not enroll in KDP Select

KDP Select is Amazon’s opt-in program for authors who wish to have their books enrolled in the Kindle Lending Library. Amazon Prime subscribers can borrow any eBook in the library for free. Amazon then pays the author for each borrow. It was a good deal from the author’s perspective when it came out, but Amazon has gradually reduced the effectiveness of certain aspects of the program while holding steady with the exclusivity clause which requires authors to remove their eBooks from other retailers.

Amazon already requires enrollment in KDP Select for certain international markets if an author wishes to get the highest royalty of 70%. In 2013, I think Amazon is going to require enrollment in KDP Select across the board in order to earn that rate. Otherwise, an author will only earn 35%, which right now is the rate for eBooks selling below $2.99. Amazon is on a mission of world domination. Unfortunately I think a lot of indie authors are going to get run over in the company’s attempt to crush the competition.

2. Publishers begin competing directly with indies at the $2.99 price point

I don't think the big, traditional publishers are ever going to sell new eBook releases for anything lower than around $7.99 (though $9.99 seems to be their new normal). But they have such a large number of back-listed titles that I think once they realize the gold mine they're sitting on they'll start releasing these in increasing numbers and at lower and lower prices. The $0.99 – $4.99 price range has been the bastion of indie writers up until now. In 2013, I think these price points will come under siege as the Big 6 attempt to put the big hurt on indie writers.

3. The indie writing boom comes to an end

This probably won't happen entirely in 2013, but I think the indie boom is going to start declining. Every boom has a bust, so it's inevitable that authors in the bountiful eBook market of 2012 begin to lose enthusiasm. It might be because sales drop off due to increased competition or lowered royalty rates. Some may come to realize just how much time and effort writing requires and decide they've had enough. Still others might find themselves satisfied that they rode this pony for as long as they did and they're done now. With most indie writers earning less than $500 annually, I don't think I'm going out on a limb here.

In 2013 we'll start to see a further separation between the amateurs or hobbyists and the professionals. Editing, quality book covers, and the proliferation of titles will make the difference. The positive here is that those of us who are left standing will have learned and matured a lot. This can only be good for readers.

4. Some eReaders will be sold for free

This seems inevitable to me. If the rumors are true, Amazon and presumably the other guys (with the exception of Apple) make no money on their tablets or even use it as a loss leader because they want buyers to jump into their ecosystem, buying their apps, movies, music, etc. Content is where the real profit is in this market. So why not give away for free the low-end tablets or eReaders? Amazon continues to slash prices year-after-year. I don’t think $0.00 is that far away.

5. Dedicated eReader devices will begin to decline in sales

I predict the proliferation of dedicated eReader devices will decline as people begin to move exclusively towards multi-function tablets. I own both a Kindle 2 and an iPad. Both serve different purposes for me. But if I had to choose between them I'd choose the iPad because it can function as a dedicated eReader and then some. Same goes for the Kindle Fire and many other tablets, of course. In fact, if I didn't own either device and was in the market, with the variety of multi-function tablets available today I doubt I'd even consider a dedicated eReader. In 2013, I expect the market for dedicated eReaders to shrink and the market for multi-function devices to increase.

6. Smashwords revamps its site

Smashwords bills itself as a “distribution platform and not a retailer”. Still, it sells eBooks directly from its site in the most varied types of eBook formats possible. More so than any other retailer, in fact. But the site is so stuck in the 90’s it’s difficult for readers to navigate and painful for everyone to look at. I predict the Smashwords site will undergo a major redesign in 2013. I don’t know if they’ll ever make a push to become a major retailer because then they’d be competing directly with the channels to which they distribute eBooks, but I think they’ll realize that by making their site more searchable, easier to navigate and find titles, and by removing all of the erotica and putting it somewhere else (or greatly improving their erotica filters), they’ll be serving their mission of being the first, best place for readers seeking great new eBooks.

Some other predictions: