Saturday, August 16, 2014

How To Successfully Succumb to the E-Book Universe by Guest Blogger Brendan DuBois

It's a pleasure for me to introduce my good friend – and one of the genre's best story writers – Brendan DuBois. Brendan has published 16 novels and more than 120 short stories. His works have earned critical acclaim, including starred reviews and translation into several foreign languages and published in Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Italy, South Africa, Japan, Estonia, and Poland. His series of mystery novels featuring Lewis Cole is set on the New Hampshire seacoast; the latest novel in the series, Fatal Harbor, was recently released. He resides in Exeter, New Hampshire, with his wife. 
Brendan's tales have appeared in publications such as Best American Mystery Stories of the Century (which included the likes of Raymond Chandler, O. Henry, Flannery O'Connor and John Steinbeck), and in such magazines as Playboy, Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
These stories have earned him the 1995 and 2001 Shamus Award for Best Short Story of the Year from the Private Eye Writers of America; three nominations for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Short Story from the Mystery Writers of America; the 2007 and 2010 Barry Award for Best Mystery Short Story of the Year; the 2005 Al Blanchard Crime Fiction Award from the New England Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. His short stories have also been extensively anthologized, including the 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1995 editions of The Year's Best Mystery & Suspense Stories, as well as the 1995 and 1997 editions of Year's 25 Best Mystery Short Stories, and the 1997, 1999, 2001 and the 2003 editions of Best American Mystery Stories, and the 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 editions of The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories.
As an aside, he is also a one-time Jeopardy! game show champion.

Here, Brendan will share something he's been helping me with for five years – how to make money in the e-book business. 

You can learn more about him by visiting


Although I love science and science fiction, and stories of technological prowess make my soul sing — I once went to Florida to see a space shuttle launch (an incredible experience) — in truth I’m a bit of a Luddite.

My first two novels were written on a typewriter, as well as twenty or so of my first short stories.  In 1989 I got my first Apple computer, and since then, I’m always a few years behind in getting the newest and latest computer. If it works it works, has been my philosophy. I got on Facebook a few years after it became incredibly popular, and my cell phone has a flip-top, and I’ve probably sent a half-dozen or so text messages in my entire life.

So there you go. But having said that, I find myself in the unusual position of having twenty-four of my works (novels, anthologies, non-fiction articles and short stories) up for sale on the Kindle, Nook and Smashwords e-book platforms.

How did that happen, you might ask? The simple answer: fellow authors were doing it and were getting money and recognition. Not a bad combination, and I wanted in on the deal.

But it did sound daunting, and I delayed for months before diving into the e-book pool. Yet I kept on going back to thinking, hey, if they can do it, why can’t I?

And yet, the daunting remained. Heck, I didn’t even own an e-book!

But one quiet day in my office, I decided to go to the 800-pound gorilla that’s Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing empire, and found that it was…


Absurdly easy.

I mean, really easy.

So I took a deep breath and dove in.

But before I did that, I made a key decision which was vital, and which I pass on: Don’t try to upload a book-length manuscript your very first time out.


While working with Kindle is easy, there is a demon out there, and that demon is called Formatting.  Many a strange thing can happen twixt a manuscript and an e-book, and you can’t believe what whacky things can occur while converting one of your works. Bad paragraph breaks. Odd-sized fonts.  Weird line spacing.

Which is why you don’t work with a book first. It will drive you mad and discourage you, and the ultimate joys of e-book publishing will forever be beyond your grasp.

So what I did was to take an original short story, and upload that. The story was only a dozen or so pages, so when I worked with it, I could fiddle with font sizes, paragraph breaks, and all that good stuff.

And you know what?  I did it even without having a Kindle, because Amazon has an on-line viewer that duplicates what a Kindle page looks like. So by uploading your first attempt — short story or small non-fiction piece — you can see how it will look on a Kindle without having one at hand. And if it looks funky, you can go back to your original document and make the necessary adjustments to make it look fine.

From there, everything fell into place. Other authors’ experiences showed that for shorter pieces, like short stories or magazine articles, the best selling prices was 99 cents. For book-length projects, the proverbial “sweet spot” was a price of $2.99, which meant it was an attractive price for readers, and with an average royalty of $1.97 per book sold.

Having an attractive cover is also very important, and lately, Amazon has made that easy as well, with a cover design program as part of the Kindle set-up that offers numerous cover options.

One word of note, however, is when you decide to enter the e-book universe, Kindle will ask whether you want to have an exclusive agreement with Kindle. There are some upsides to this — you get a better royalty rate from some overseas markets — but it also restricts your distribution. There are two other e-book platforms out there — Nook from Barnes & Noble and Smashwords — which offer other markets. I always do better via Kindle than Nook or Smashwords, but I figure the trade-off is worth it, by getting the widest possible exposure to my works.

And I find it does eventually pay-off. My first conversion to a novel took almost an entire month. Now it can take about a week. And you don’t need any fancy conversion programs; all three platforms will accept your manuscripts in a Word .doc format.

One more thing: there are many professional editors out there who will assemble an e-book for you, and that just might work best for you. But I’m a crusty New Hampshire Yankee who likes to pinch pennies and do things for himself. So keep this in mind… if you pay someone $400 or $500 to make an e-book for you, you’ll need to sell 200 or 250 copies of your e-book before you start making a profit.

And how much profit? Well, as in anything, your mileage may vary, but with all of my works up for sale, I can sell on average 150 to 200 books a month. That’s not quit-your-day-job money, but it’s a nice income stream that can introduce new readers to your works without much effort on your part.

And I still don’t own a Kindle!


Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Welcome to Type M, Brendan. Your post reminds me again about my first series that is not available in e-book format. Must do something about that.

Eileen Goudge said...

Thanks, Brendan. It's nice knowing I'm not the only Luddite! I, too, wrote my first novel on a manual typewriter. Switching from tradpublishing to indie was like learning a language. I discovered some great resources along the way, though, and one of them is Polgarus Studio. Jason digitized my 300+ page manuscript for under $100. He did a great job, too. It shouldn't cost an arm and a leg.