E-book publishers save costs, but marketing still essential

More authors publishing directly on e-books instead of print to save costs and have greater editorial flexibility, but self-publicity needed to help increase visibility for their works.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor on

Publishing directly on e-books helps authors bypass traditional publishing costs, increases their chances of publication and enables greater flexibility of content and structure. However, marketing efforts will be important for these authors, who can turn to Internet marketing and social media.

The advent of advanced and user-friendly e-readers in the market has grown immensely, enabling busy consumers who to read to buy, download and enjoy content anywhere they are, observed Sandra Laverde, senior international brand manager at self-publishing company, Author Solutions.

She added authors would be "crazy" not to leverage this trend.

For one, "Fifty Shades of Grey", which owns the record as the fastest-selling paperback had started out as an e-book series posted on a fan site by E.L. James.

Other authors have experienced success with publishing directly to e-books, including Stephen Leather, author of "The Basement"; and Sarah Desforges, who writes under the penname Saffi Griffiths, and Mark Williams, who sold 100,000 copies of their e-book "Sugar and Spice".

Publishing directly on e-books brings several benefits to authors, Laverde noted. To cover costs, traditional publishers tend to price physical books at a higher price compared to e-books. When authors self-publish, they have complete control over their pricing strategy, she explained.

Authors also do not have to worry about the high cost of physically printing book titles as well the associated shipping costs, since e-books can be downloaded anywhere at any time, So it is cheaper to publish digitally, she added.

It is also simpler to edit or update their book since changes made at a later date can be reflected and updated instantaneously in all copies across all databases, she said.

Goh Kheng Chuan, publishing consultant at Rank Publishing, further noted that with e-books and the Internet, anyone can be an author and get published. In comparison, traditional print authors typically would face numerous rejections by agents and book publishers.

According to Chris Newson, vice president of the Singapore Book Publishers' Association, e-book authors also reap the benefits of self-publishing, such as being free from the confines of editorial rigor and not having to conform with the usual standards of structure.

Career blogger Penelope Trunk, for instance, published her book "The New American Dream" directly on e-book through independent publisher Hyperink. In a blog post last month, Trunk said print publishers do not know how to market online, have low profit margins, and do not have a good handle on who purchased their books. For these reasons, the author said she decided to go online.

Leverage Internet, social media
Regardless of whether a book is published on print or as an e-book, the same challenge remains--the titles still need to be marketed to see success.

Goh observed that when authors choose to self-publish, they fail because ultimately they are still writers, not marketers.

With traditional publishing, authors depended on the publisher or distributor to handle the selling and marketing of their book titles, but by going directly to e-books, they are left on their own, he explained.

He also warned that many authors get "carried away" with the hype of e-book publishing and forget the fundamentals of writing a good book, choosing a sellable topic and marketing it.

Goh said: "A book is a needle in a haystack or a tiny sand particle on the ocean bed. "Whether [an author's] book has been printed the traditional way or on in an e-book, the amount of marketing efforts required to make it sell will not change."

Authors should hence learn online marketing skills if they do not know how to set up a Web site or blog to promote themselves, or pay a specialist to do it for them, he advised.

They can also make use of social media, Newson added.

Being active in the online community, especially one in which the book seeks to address, will improve its publicity efforts as the author will be able to engage the target audience more effectively, he explained.

Laverde noted social media is also effective in "free" word-of-mouth promotion, since people often purchase products based on recommendations.

Facebook and Twitter enable authors to grow their fan base and followers, while reader community Web sites such as goodreads.com can be used to make the book more visible when their followers start adding the author's titles to their book list, she said.

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