Looking for a way to position yourself as an industry thought leader? Interested in building even more credibility for you and your company? Interested in developing a passive revenue stream?
Well, digital publishing might be just the thing for you. Let’s look at the benefits, some potential challenges with going digital, how to develop (or find) content, and what steps you need to follow to become part of the digital revolution.
Digital Publishing – The Benefits
The benefits to digital publishing are many:
1. There’s no barrier to entry. Anyone can publish to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords etc. This, of course, also has its downside: because anyone can do it, you’ll find lots of competition, and the market can be flooded with low-quality work.
2. eBooks are forever. This is the mantra of writer Joe Konrath who has embraced self-publishing and has become one of its most ardent supporters. His point is that once you put a book out there, it’s out there forever (or until you take it down). As he says, forever is a long time to find an audience.
3. Think passive revenue. There’s no re-stocking, re-ordering, shipping, or need for customer service on your end. You post the books to the publishing platform and voila, the rest is done automatically by the online publisher, like Amazon. These sites operate 24/7, so you could make eBook sales as you’re sleeping, during the weekend, and while you’re on vacation. No, the numbers might not be huge at first, but even a couple of extra hundred bucks a month added up over a year is not a bad source of cash for doing nothing, right?
4. Position yourself as an expert and promote the fact you’re a published author throughout all media. This credential will help build credibility with your prospects, customers, and colleagues. It could help you land speaking gigs. It could help persuade a journalist to give you a call when he or she needs a quote from an expert in your field.
5. It’s likely you already have content that’s ready to go digital. Do you know all those white papers, blog posts, newsletters, and other content you’ve written over the years? Make it digital. (We’ll discuss this in more detail below.)
Digital Publishing – The Challenges
We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out some of the challenges to digital publishing. The thing to note about these challenges is that they’re all something you can overcome. But you do need to be aware of them.
1. “Do it yourself” is exactly what it sounds like. So if you decide to go down this self-publishing digital road, you’ll need to either educate yourself on the ins and outs of digital publishing, such as file formats, royalty options, and marketing techniques, or you’ll need to outsource some of the tasks.
2. Digital publishing will require an up-front investment. Yes, you certainly could do everything yourself—file conversion, cover art, etc.—but we don’t recommend that. Certain things, cover design especially, is a special skill. Ditto with converting Word docs into digital files. These things are also time consuming. The good news? There are plenty of cost-effective resources out there to help you and to make sure your books look and read their best. You should also hire a copyeditor and/or proofreader to go through all of the content.
3. Just because you build it, it doesn’t mean they will come. You’ve probably heard about some self-published, digital authors who become an overnight success. Yet, it’s important to note that the concept of an “overnight” success isn’t accurate, since these authors often toiled for years before making it big with digital publishing. Second, these stories are the exception, not the rule. Like anything else, you will need to market your eBooks. This includes having a section on your website, making regular announcements through social media, issuing press releases, etc.
Digital Publishing – How to Develop Content
If you like the idea of digital publishing, but you’re wondering where the content is going to come from, there are typically three ways:
- You have a topic that you feel passionate about and you write a book around it. That’s great.
- You re-purpose existing content, such as blog posts, white papers, newsletter articles, etc., and stitch them together into one cohesive book.
- You brainstorm a list of topics (or survey customers on what topics they would want to read about), choose one, and hire a ghostwriter to draft it. You get the byline, but your ghostwriter does the work.
eBooks needn’t be super long, either. You want to have enough meat, of course, and you’ll want to price the book accordingly, but a business book doesn’t need to be 300 pages. A 75-page or 100-page guide, booklet, tutorial (you get the idea) can work quite well.
Remember, you’re an expert on your business, so you have the knowledge!
Digital Publishing – How to Publish Your Content
Let’s assume you have a draft of an eBook ready to go. Here’s an overview of the steps you need to follow to bring your book to digital life.
- Cover art design
- File conversion
- Preparing marketing materials for the launch (e.g. press releases, website pages, newsletters, etc)
There are many places you can digitally publish your book. We recommend focusing on the big four (the biggest being Amazon):
*Note: if you’re a Mac user, you can publish directly to Apple’s iBookstore, but it’s a bit of a complicated process. An easier way is to use a distributor, such as Lulu or Smashwords. At the writing of this post, we recommend Lulu, only because it accepts ePub files (the gold standard in the digital publishing world). Smashwords requires you to submit a specially formatted Word doc to go through its proprietary MeatGrinder software, which turns your Word doc into a digital file. You have more control of how the final product will look on digital devices—which is extremely important—by using an ePub file. (That said, Smashwords is supposed to start accepting ePub files soon.)
The first three self-publishing platforms are extremely intuitive and walk you through the process. What you’ll need:
- Your final digital files (ePub for PubIt and Kobi and Mobi for Amazon)
- Your final cover art
- A description of your book
- An author bio
Each platform will also have you enter keyword phrases and the book’s categories. For the latter, you’ll be selecting from a pre-defined list (e.g. thrillers, memoir, business books, etc). For keywords, you’ll want to choose keywords you think people would search on to find your book. You’ll also set the price (and you’ll see what your royalties will be based on that price).
Uploading these items can take 5-10 minutes (once you’ve set up your initial account, which will require you to enter personal info for tax and banking purposes).
From there, your book will show up in the online stores anywhere from 24-72 hours. Yes, it really is that easy!
Market, market, market. At a minimum, you’ll want to do the following:
- Create a section/announcement on your website. We recommend including a call-to-action on your home page and creating an “eBooks” page in your “Resources” section.
- Issue a press release. We wrote a post a few weeks ago on when you should issue a press release, and one of our main points is that the release has to be newsworthy. “Local Business Owner Publishes Book on Awesome Topic X” is definitely newsworthy, especially for local papers and industry publications.
- Create a plan for social media. You do NOT want to spam people about your book. But you do want to make regular announcements. Create a schedule of tweets, status updates, etc. And yes—you should freshen up the copy. Make these sorts of announcements when you receive new reviews, receive coverage, receive an email from a reader, etc.
- Consider a “blog tour” to promote your book. A blog tour is just like a book tour done in bookstores, except this happens virtually on people’s blogs. You can either reach out directly to the owners of blogs you follow and ask if you can do a guest post that talks about a relevant topic (the post would not be ABOUT your book; at the end of the post, you would include a link to your new book). There are also companies that set up blog tours for you for a fee. Google “blog tours” and you’ll find some (just be sure the company deals in nonfiction).
- Add notes about your new book in all the obvious places: email signatures, voice mail, about sections in online profiles (such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook).
- Send a newsletter to your database (also send an email to your contacts in LinkedIn).
How about you? Have you digitally published any books? Do you have any suggestions to add to our lists above? Share in the comments, and feel free to include a link to your eBook as well!