Setting up an eBook Publishing Company for a Target Audience

I got an email recently that said, Dear Myne,

I need information from you viz eBooks publishing and marketing. I recently set up a Publishing house [traditional publishing + self publishing + eBooks] and we are preparing for our first releases, a novel and a collection of short stories which we are publishing traditionally.

However, ePublsihing is one of our offerings and where we hope to make the money to offset the risks we will be taking with these really great books in our market. We are especially interested in eBook creation and marketing directed at a specific audience [we will eventually publish a broad scope of writers]. I read your piece posted on Bulkyon Books page days back, now, my questions are —

1) What would be the best way to convert these books over which we have intellectual rights to eBooks and what formats are advisable, how do we do this?

2) Is it possible to guard against unauthorized downloads or unpaid copies?

3) We would like to be able to sell from our website, how does that work? Is it about simply creating links to the product on Amazon or the other merchants? Or do we need some special software?

4) Which merchants should we list our books on? Which give a better deal—our authors get their eBook royalties from us at a fixed percentage per book?

5) How do we market these books? Are there special marketing companies who specialize in marketing eBooks, perhaps targeted at our core demographics—Book lovers, Africans, Nigerians in that order?

6) We've had emails from iUniverse and Xlibris but there is so much fine print, we never are sure what exactly they are offering, hence we are asking you—what should we look out for? Any recommendations? Weve also had offers from Indian coys offering to convert text to eBooks and what not for pretty cheap. IS it possible to use these and then somehow make the books available for download on the major merchant portals?


My answers are as follows;

1. If you have MSWord 2007, I believe you can convert word documents to PDF. This is the most common eBook version. There are other formats available based on the retailer, like ePub, mobi, etc. For this you need a software. I have a free one called Calibre. You  can download it to your laptop and use whenever you like from http://calibre-ebook.com/

2. There is something called DRM, some eBook publishers use it to prevent sharing between devices and people, but it's a bit too complicated for me. I do not bother with putting DRM on my eBooks, and go with the theory that piracy and sharing will actually benefit me via free publicity and word of mouth. Neil Gaiman thinks this is true and Nollywood is also evidence of that.

3. To sell from your website, you can either use a third-party shopping cart like Google checkout, Zencart or Paypal to deliver the eBooks when people buy. These need special software that you need to integrate into your website. The easier option is to make the eBooks available on well known retailers websites and then put the links next to the books.

4. There are now loads of eBook retailers. The big players are Amazon.com and Smashwords.com (they will ship your books to Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, Diesel, Sony, etc). You can also publish romance on AllRomanceeBooks.com. The rates are very similar, between 60 - 70%. In some cases, Amazon will only pay 35%

5. There are bloggers obviously, and publicists are available to help market and promote at a price. The big distributors like Authorhouse and Createspace also employ marketers and they can work with you if you pay for the services.

6. Yes, it is. iUniverse and Xlibris are author services companies. They will do for you what you cannot do yourself, for a price. I will assume the Indian companies are doing a similar thing. My advice as always is to only pay what you can afford and what you believe you can make back in a realistic time frame.

I hope some people find this useful. Please put any follow-up questions in the comments and I'll try to get to them. You can also send me an email at any time.

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