First, let me start by apologizing for being late this morning. I didn't get the post written last night and, gasp, slept in some this morning.
Reading through the comments to yesterday's open thread post started me thinking. Yes, I know, this is a dangerous thing. But I'm not to blame. Really, I'm not. You guys are the ones who did it. ;-p
What I'd like to do is talk publishing through Amazon's DTP platform, Barnes & Noble's PubIt program or even Smashwords as an independent author. More than that, I'd like to focus on doing it as an independent author who doesn't have books already out through traditional routes.
The first things you need to remember is that not only do you have to read the book, but you have to make sure it is edited on a professional level. This isn't so much because the platforms for digital self-publication require it and will check for it but because your readers will. Amazon et al, doesn't offer editing services. However, they will yank an e-book if they receive enough complaints about the editing. (The same goes for formatting, but we'll discuss that in a moment.) Worse, if your book is poorly edited -- and this means copy edits as well as proofreading -- it will be discussed at length not only in reviews that will be posted on the e-book's sales page but in the various ebook fora where readers congregate to discuss their latest reads.
You also have to worry about layout and formatting. Working hand-in-hand with this is making sure you submit to each of these e-book outlets in the appropriate manner. Amazon DTP requires different files than B&N which requires slightly different from Apple's iBookstore which is different from Smashwords. Also, Smashwords requires certain language be included on the title page showing that your e-book is being distributed through them. After each of your e-book outlets have done their conversions, you need to check EACH PAGE of your book or short story to make sure everything looks right.
This is important because your formatting can and will change at least once. A chapter title that was centered may no longer be. That special character or accent is no longer there and, in it's place, is some strange mark. The spacing between paragraphs is missing and you don't have indentions so it now looks like you have one great big paragraph.
Oh, and you can't rely on their emulators to know how your e-book will look when opened on the appropriate e-book reader or pc version of their reader. You need to look at it on the reader or pc program. Again, more time.
And, again, if you have too many issues with formatting, the readers will complain in the fora and to the seller and the e-book may be pulled. Amazon, when they do this, will let you know so you can correct the problem.
Another factor to take into account is the fact that after you upload a file to any of these e-book sellers, it take time before it appears on their site. You need to generally allow a week from upload time to appearing in the catalog. Sometimes it will be less and sometimes it will be longer. It all depends on how many other e-books are in the queue ahead of you and how many "problems" their automated programs spot in your submission.
Other things you need to do that publishers would do for you -- secure an isbn for your work. Not all retailers require this, but a number of them do. Cover art and the more professional it looks the more seriously your book will be taken. Most e-tailers do require covers for any e-book submitted to them. Accounting. This is a biggie. You need to keep track of who is selling your e-book for what. Remember, you set the 'cover' price, but they can price it below that at whim. And that may impact your royalties. You also need to make sure their payouts meet what your dashboard says you've sold and your returns. And yes, there are returns on e-books and they are charged back against you.
Finally, there is the elephant in the room that can't be ignored. There are hundreds of thousands of for pay e-books out there (probably many more if you look at all the different outlets). Add to that the public domain e-books that are also being offered. You are in competition with all of them. Ask any author who has published through the traditional route about how their need to self-promote has changed over the years. Now, multiply that by 100 fold and you might be where you need to be as an indie e-book author. You don't have a publisher's name to bring readers to you. You don't have a name yourself -- unless you've been in the field for awhile and are releasing your back list now. So you are in the middle of the scrum with all the other writers trying to get readers' attention. That means promotion. Lots and lots of promotion and that takes time and creativity.
One more qualifier to consider. Bookscan will soon begin tracking e-books. That groan you just heard came from every author who has lived in fear of Bookscan numbers for their print books. Bookscan is Nielson's program a number of editors use to determine if an authors' numbers are high enough to justify buying another book from them. It's not perfect -- far from it because it doesn't track sales from Amazon (at least that's my understanding at the moment) and a number of independents, etc. So how they will track e-books is something that will be interesting to see. It may also change how they track hard copy books. But, it means the numbers from your self-published e-books will also be available to these editors and will be something they can and will refer to when considering publishing you later down the road.
All this said, I'm not trying to discourage you. But I do want you to go into this with your eyes open. It really is a lot harder to put our a quality product than it first appears and there is a lot more to being successful at it than just putting the book up on Amazon or B&N or elsewhere and waiting for the readers to come.
So, how would you promote your new e-book? Are you already building your "platform"? Do you have any questions you want to throw out there for the hive mind?