Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Writers Craft Online: What you need to know about writing E-books by Kristen J. Tsetsi

Today we have a guest, American author Kristen J. Tsetsi whose independently released Homefront paperback and e-book has been featured in publications that include the Huffington Post and the Stars and Stripes, on television, and on (American) National Public Radio.

Thank you so much for inviting me as a guest. I’m happy to discuss the future of e-books and e-publishing, and I think you'll find I have great news for those of you considering digital publishing.

The most important question is whether selling e-books is a viable proposition.

Answer: Yes! People with e-readers are far more likely to buy your e-book than they are to buy your paperback, and the Kindle and other e-reading devices are extraordinarily popular and more than a passing trend. Omar Gallaga, who reports on technology for the Austin, Texas Austin-American Statesman daily newspaper, says in a recent radio interview that he expects more than three million e-book readers to sell this year and that ten million are expected to have been sold by the end of next year.

Westerners are even using their smart phones (iPhone, Blackberry, Droid, etc.) to read books electronically.

In short, independent authors are doing themselves a disservice by not turning their paperback books into e-books. Ten million e-readers may be sold. How many of those people might buy your e-book?

As you begin experimenting with e-publishing, be aware that Kindle is not the only option for you. You may also format your book as a PDF you can sell (or give away) at, and there’s also the digital publisher Smashwords, which – when it receives your prepared document – converts your file into a number of digital formats that work with a variety of e-readers. (This very informative and interesting video at discusses Smashwords, digital publishing, and the future of e-books.)

When you format your book for the Kindle (here is a guide to selling on Kindle), you set the price and receive thirty-five percent of the suggested retail price. It’s advised that if you’re a lesser known author, you sell your book at a lower price if you want people to read it.

I started out selling my critically-acclaimed literary novel, Homefront, and my short story collection, Carol’s Aquarium, for ninety-nine cents each. (Both appeared on the same list of Kindle's Top 100 best-selling independent books.) You want to draw the readers to your work. I'd sold just under 300 copies of Homefront as a paperback in two years before turning it into an e-book.

Within months of releasing the digital version, more than 2,000 people had read, downloaded, or bought it online. Reader satisfaction has never been the problem when it comes to my book sales; reviews have been glowing and passionate. But good reviews, sadly, don't sell the work.

The problem as an independent author is that people don't know you, and you have to work harder to get the readers. That involves offering your work at a lower cost so they're not risking as much. Once they read it, if readers like it, they'll talk. And that's what you want.

The best part of publishing an e-book: minus the percent the publisher takes from sales, it's free to you.

Smashwords and Kindle both offer comprehensive formatting instructions, and a search engine query will link you to a number of free help manuals. (To format my books for the Kindle, I used April Hamilton’s incredibly thorough and easy to understand Indie Author Guide.)

I hope this has been helpful. Thank you again for allowing me to be part of this exciting discussion about the future of e-publishing. I hope I’ve convinced you to participate.

I have just a few words of advice to those seriously considering e-publishing:

1. Covers are visible on the sites where you sell your writing, so put as much energy into your e-book cover as you would the cover of a paperback.

2. Market your work. Create a website, start a blog, and become part of the digital publishing community. Writer/reader forums, such as, provide an opportunity to connect with readers.

3. Enjoy this new venture! After the holidays, many new people will be armed with the e-readers they were given as gifts, and they’ll be looking for books to buy. Make sure one of them is yours.

Kristen is a former reporter, former writing instructor and English professor, former cab driver, and an award-winning fiction writer whose work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a founding member of the independent publishing collective Backword Books and editor of the literary fiction journal American Fiction, due for release in the Fall of 2010. Her website is and she blogs at From a Little Office in a Little House.

If you have questions, you can contact Kristen, or ask them here so that we can all benefit from the answer...


Confucius Cat said...

Very interesting post. Mummy is an author whose book will be published e-book and print in fall of 2010. Purrs.

The Oceanside Animals said...

Great article! Based on Kristen's advice I've recently lowered the price of the Kindle editions of my books. Unfortunately I'm still terrible at marketing myself (Dennis the Vizsla is much more well-known than I am at this point), but maybe someday I'll get better at that ...

Anya said...

Interesant artikel
Ik had vanmorgen gezocht op de radio ik kon het niet vinden :(
Jammer he !!

Groetjes van ons =^.^=