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We’re living in interesting times when it comes to being a writer or author, and there’s no one right way to publish a book. Some previously traditionally published authors are getting back the rights to their print books, and some–like Jana DeLeon–are republishing their book back list as ebooks.
Seeing what other writers and authors are accomplishing will help you understand the real world issues and potential of ebook publishing… Now onto Jana!
Jana DeLeon, Author Since 2005
I started writing in 2002 because I am an avid reader and thought the ultimate high would be writing my own book and giving other people the same escape and pleasure so many authors had given me.
I write humorous contemporary romance/mystery hybrids and sold my first book in 2005.
My “other” life includes an accounting degree and executive level experience, so when my publisher first started having financial difficulties, I recognized the signs and cut my series short by one book and immediately began looking for another publisher.
In 2010, after missing royalty statements and payments, my agent and her attorneys pursued the publisher for the rights to all my books due to breach of contract. I received the rights back to my entire backlist in September 2010.
Authors weren’t the only people the publisher wasn’t paying and because of that, I knew my May 2010 release (the last book in my series) had received very limited distribution. Essentially, the distributor refused to release the books until they received payment.
I researched printing copies of the book, but for an individual, printing is cost prohibitive unless you charge $10 or more for a book. I couldn’t see the sanity of charging $10 for a book that originally cost $6.99, so I ditched the idea of print altogether.
I’d always known I would release the books in ebook format. My minor is in programming and I’m currently a technical writer for a software company. I understand, enjoy, use and promote technology every day, so the ability to release my books for readers, at a discounted price but one that still made me considerably more profit than traditional publishing was in the forefront of my mind during the entire rights fight.
Being a techie-geek, I did the formatting myself and it wasn’t bad. If you’re going to pursue epublishing, I highly recommend downloading the formatting guide from Smashwords and using it to format all your books.
Smashwords was the pickiest of the formats I published to, so starting there will get you a usable copy for Smashwords (who distributes to Apple, Sony, Kobo and others) as well as Barnes & Noble and Amazon. For those who don’t want to manage multiple payers and sites, Smashwords can also distribute to BN.com and Amazon, but you will make less royalty on the sale.
Professional e-Book Covers
I’m a hack Photoshop user, but I managed to create new covers at a fairly cheap price using royalty-free software from online sites, such as istockphoto and fotolia. In December, I received an email from my agent that the original cover artist for four out of my five books wanted to know if I was interested in using the original covers.
Heck yeah, I was interested! My covers had long been lauded as some of the best ever, and I definitely agreed. I had tried in the past to find the identity of the cover artist, but that’s something the publisher would never tell me. So I contacted her and purchased rights to all my cover art, except for UNLUCKY, which still bears my Photoshop work.
I posted the books figuring I would get a couple hundred in sales for a few months as people purchased the last of the series and people who’d discovered me with the series went back to buy one or both of my first two stand-alone books, but sales have far exceeded my expectations and in January  alone, hit several thousand.
Now, I don’t want to mislead people onto my path, because I want to be very clear that I am certain my sales are so high because I was traditionally published with extensive distribution. Over a hundred-thousand copies of my print books are floating around the country, grabbing up new readers and sparking recommendations from old ones.
Other than posting a blog, updating my website, and sending a newsletter to subscribers, I have done no marketing for my ebooks at all.
Given the unexpected success of ebook sales, I am seriously considering releasing one ebook a year on my own.
I would pay for professional editing and cover design to ensure the reader’s experience is not compromised, but the idea of not being restricted by the desires and opinions of a sales and marketing department at a publishing house is very appealing.
I also have no desire to abandon traditional publishing. My new publisher, Harlequin, has distribution on a single book of 50-100k and sells to over 30 countries. That’s a whole slew of potential new readers to draw to my ebooks, and not only am I not paying for that level of advertising, I’m getting paid to do it and love writing the books! It’s a total win for everyone.
I don’t see traditional publishers ever allowing authors to keep ebook rights. Their margin of profit on ebook sales is just as high as those who self-publish.
But I do think that as more best-selling authors abandon crappy, low ebook royalty rates, like 15-20%, in favor of self-publishing, traditional publishers will be forced to reconsider the royalty rate given to authors in order to avoid losing all their bestsellers.
I also don’t predict the death of print or traditional publishing, but a better merger of the two. Traditional publishers need to rethink their marketing and sales to include all the advantages of technology.
More and more people are reading books on ereaders, computers and mobile devices. It’s time to see the writing on the wall and jump on the technology train – before it leaves the station.
More About Jana DeLeon and Her Books
Find out more about Jana’s ebooks at: