It has never been easier for writers with disabilities to get published. Writers can now turn their novel or short story collection into an electronic book (e-book). The e-book can then be uploaded to the internet or an online bookstore.
What is an e-book?
E-books are electronic versions of printed books. E-books can be read on devices like computers, smartphones or dedicated e-book readers. Many online stores and bookstores have developed their own e-book readers.
E-books are becoming increasingly popular. One in five Australians read an e-book last year according to research company Nielsen. In a previous DiVine article I wrote about how e-books can make reading easier for many people with a disability.
Self-publishing an e-book
Once a writer has written a book, its file must be converted into an e-book format. There are a number of different formats used by online bookstores. Amazon and Smashwords are two popular online bookstores. Their websites have style guides and forums on how to convert files to an e-book format.
A patient writer can learn how to convert files and do it themselves. Alternatively, a writer can pay a service to convert the file into various e-book formats. The online service will cost around $350 for the average novel. A writer should ensure that the service is reputable before paying.
Once a writer has an e-book ready for sale they need to publicise it.
E-books are ideal for many authors with a disability. As an e-book cannot be signed or placed on a shelf, promotional tours of bookstores are not required. Authors instead undertake virtual tours of websites and blogs that discuss e-books.
Like any book, readers need to be shown that an e-book has a good story and is well written. Price is also an important consideration. E-books tend to be cheaper than printed books.
Amanda Hocking is an American e-book sensation. She has sold millions of copies of her young adult e-books. Hocking is set to become the first e-book millionaire. She sells her e-books for 99c to $2.99. Victorian Vicki Tyley has also enjoyed success. She has sold 35,000 downloads of her crime novel Thin Blood for $2.99.
Stephen King and other top-selling print authors tend to sell their newer e-books for $8 or more. Amazon's top 100 bestsellers recently showed 20 e-books priced at 99c and nine at $2.99. At the other end of the scale, seven were $7.99 and 22 were $12.99. No other price had significant numbers.
Most online bookstores take a percentage of the selling price. Amazon usually takes 30 per cent. But if an e-book is sold to a customer in Australia or costs less than $2.99, Amazon takes 65 per cent. Smashwords takes 15 per cent to 40 per cent. On ibookstore, Apple and Lulu get a combined 44 per cent. A $2.99 e-book sold to an Australian would earn an author as little as $1.04 on Amazon or as much as $2.50 on Smashwords.
An author would need to sell thousands of copies of a $2.99 e-book to make a reasonable living. Many self-published authors are trying to do just that. But as more and more authors flood the market with cheap e-books, will enough people buy them?
Many authors end up making their e-books free. Some authors are frustrated with low sales. They just want people to read their work. Other authors hope consumers who read the free e-book might pay for a sequel.
Many other e-books are free because they are out of copyright. Online bookstores like Amazon and Google Books have millions of free e-books. With so many free e-books, an author may have a hard time convincing customers to pay even 99 cents.
An uncertain future
The vast majority of e-books may be free in the near-future. Authors may need to rely on advertising or product placement in their e-books to make money. Product placement is where an author is paid to have his characters enjoying particular real-world products or services. It is just like in television shows and films where products and brands are prominently featured.
So go out and self-publish your e-book. Enjoy the thrill of people reading your stories. Just don't expect to make much money out of selling e-books.