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The Zumbathon for Harvey

I wrote this Pantoum-mime poem in honor of the many people inside and outside of Texas who have given any aid to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. by R. L. Copple - 9/4/2017 The call goes...

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How to Make an Ebook:
Step 7 – What To Do With the Ebooks?

Note: these articles will form the core of a new ebook by this title. Disclaimer: I do not work for, represent, or am associated with anyone who works or represents the sites or products I’ve listed below. I’m not getting any fees for listing them here. Any company names, trademarks, etc, are the property of the respective company.

What you should have now are the following items, if you’ve done all the steps in this book: the original book document file, a print version document file, a PDF version document file, a PDF ebook, an EPUB ebook, a MOBI ebook, and your book on sale at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. Smashwords, once the book has passed the Professional Status and been assigned an ISBN, will distribute the book to other important retailers, most notably Apple and Kobo. You should also have a good 600 by around 1000 pixel-sized front cover graphic you can use for many promotional purposes.

So now that you have these various ebook versions of your book, what do you do with them? The obvious answer is to sell them. But there are other options. Let’s look at a few here.

Setting up Your E-store

The most obvious use is to sell your books on your own internet store. Ebooks are made for internet sales, and for immediate gratification. It only makes sense if you have them, to put them up for sale. However, there are two daunting tasks for most authors to do this. One, setting up an online store is intimidating. Two, most authors, unless they become popular enough, know they will sell little from their own store. It isn’t easy to generate the traffic or the effort to do so is more work than the author is willing to invest to make the returns worthwhile.

But let’s look at the options before we automatically ditch the idea. We’ll look at the easiest routes to the more technical. As you might expect, the easier it is for you to do, the more likely you’ll be “paying” someone either in up front money or a portion of the sales to do the job. But let’s take a look and you can decide whether any of the options are worth your time to set up.

Payment Options. One of the first items on the agenda is to create a method for people to pay for your books. For most author sites, which will get little sales, at least in the beginning, having a full merchant account is out of the question. Those usually require a minimum expenditure of thirty dollars a month or more. Most authors will be doing very good to even think about breaking even with that cost on their site’s sales.

One of the most common payment options people use is PayPal. Most any site or website application can use PayPal to work as your payment method, and PayPal can take any credit card, without requiring that the person sign up for PayPal. The percentage they charge for each transaction is on the high side compared to most credit card merchant accounts, but considering you are not paying monthly fees for the account, access to the Internet, gateway, and all the other typical fees a merchant account comes with, you are actually saving a ton of money. Especially when you consider if you sell nothing that month, your fees are also zero. So it is never more than you will make on your site. Plus, you can even use it to create your own hand-made web store if you are html inclined.

Another option that is free is Google Checkout. This one isn’t as widely supported by all software, but is required if you are going to use Google Checkout Store (explained below). And like PayPal, will enable you to take credit card payments on your site for a fee for each transaction instead of a monthly fee. The advantage to it is if you already have a Google account, then you don’t have to set up a new account with someone else like PayPal, and using it may give you better results on searches, driving more traffic your way.

There are some others that could be used. Do a search on it if you wish, but either one of the above will enable you to take credit cards on your site and sell your books.

Online Commerce Sites. There are a host of online commerce sites, that allow you to set up an online store, frequently for a fee, and they make it easy for you to put your product up for sale. If you do an online search along the lines of “online store,” you’ll see many options. I’m going to mention a few I found. Disclaimer: I have not used any of these except one, and I have no clue how effective, easy, or well they work. Most of them that require a payment have a trial, so it is easy to try one out if you wish. And I’m mentioning a few, but this is in no means an inclusive list, nor does my listing them here infer an endorsement of their site. Use at your own risk and buyer beware.

I did find a free one, assuming their site isn’t hiding anything. Miiduu proclaims itself a “Free Online Store Solution.” Not having used them, I don’t know how they make money, but I’m guessing advertising. So expect your site to show some ads on it. But they claim to be a full-featured online store that is easy to set up and get product selling. Check it out, give it a test drive and see how it works before throwing your whole line up of books onto it.

If you want a more well known name, there are a few for a fee. Yahoo Merchant can set up a site for a monthly fee of $40.00 (as of this writing, they have a three month special of 35% off). Amazon has their own “web store” you can set up, but not sure how happy they would be if you sold your ebooks there along site the Kindle versions. They may not care, but it should say somewhere in the fine print if that is okay or not. But at least their price is a little more reasonable, at $25.00 plus 2% of each payment made through it, and there is a one month free trial period, so trying it out for a spin won’t hurt the pocket book. But on both of these paid versions, you’d have to know you would need to be making enough sales to justify the expense. Most authors would lose money each month even with above average sales. The benefit of Amazon is they may do some marketing that pushes traffic your way from their main site.

There are others I saw, but this gives you a sample of what you can find as of this writing. They can help automate a lot of the technical set up of a site and handle the processing, but it will usually cost you something.

Embedded Stores. I’m only going to mention one, though there are likely others if you did some searching. An “embedded” store is a store whose database and servers are separate from your website’s domain, but you display the store on your site, usually using some code you copy from the site that imports your store from them into a web page on your site.

The big free one that does this is Google Checkout Store. Follow the steps, which requires you to sign up for Google Checkout for payment purposes, and Google Docs so you can use their spreadsheet to list your product. When linked with Google Checkout Store, it will give you code which takes the information on the spreadsheet and imports it into a web page to create a store on your site, with shopping cart and all. Which also, like all the next few methods, requires you have an author site on the internet you can use to create your web page.

The downsides to this method are when I set up a test run for it, I had to check their help docs and use their widget, but had trouble getting it set up correctly. It took several tries until I got the information in the spreadsheet to sync with the store function and have it come out correctly. I recall to get the store to do downloaded ebooks, you had to modify their standard template to include that option, using the info from their help files. So expect a little work to figure it out.

The other downside to this method for downloaded ebooks, is the download function isn’t secure. It isn’t too difficult for someone to figure out how to bypass the standard steps and get your ebook for free. That said, most people are going to follow the dots and download after paying, but you do run the risk of less honest people getting your ebook for free.

The main upside to this is of course this one is free. Also, unlike the next option, you can use this on a blog or hosted site like WordPress or Blogger by using a static page. But it requires more up front work to get it set up, and you have to know enough about editing web pages to insert the code onto a web page.

eCommerce Web App. Another popular method of setting up your own webstore on your own domain site is to install a web store application. There are several of these out there. You can do a search to find them and look them over. If you know how to install database applications on your website, you can usually download many of them for free, ftp the files to your site in a directory, and follow their steps to set up the store, usually requiring database set up, usually in MySql. To use these, your hosting company needs to be PHP and MySql (or another compatible database) enabled. Some programs may have other requirements. Check their sites.

One bit of good news on that front is many hosting companies have in their control panels a place where you can install a whole host of web applications with “one click.” So many times if you go scroll through the list of programs they offer to install for you, they will often include an ecommerce shopping cart. Using that feature allows you to bypass the hassle of downloading the software, uploading it to your site and going through its install process. But whichever way you do it, there is still the following.

Once up and running, you’ll want to change the “skin” of the website by searching for and trying out different templates, and install the one you want. Then you’ll want to replace the default text with your own, and learn how to set up sales tax information, default settings, and a whole host of other bits of information in order to get your product showing as on sale. In other words, with most of these there will be a learning curve. They go by the general rule: the more flexible a program is, the more complex it gets both to set up and use for the webmaster. More options means more complexity, and most of these programs attempt to allow for setting up a webstore to sell almost anything.

There are several of these you could use. I’m only going to give you one example simply because I use it and know it, and know it can work for the purpose of this book: to sell downloadable ebooks on your site. Zencart is a popular offering, relatively simple webstore application. I use this for my own webstore: http://store.rlcopple.com. It can take PayPal as a payment method, and has a secure download method that allows the person access to the ebook to download for a specified amount of time you set, and the number of downloads of the book you set. And it uses an indirect download method, so the end user doesn’t get a download directory where he can find all your other books to download for free. While you should plan to spend some time figuring it out and setting it up, it is, according to all reports I’ve read, easier than most. But like most of these, it isn’t intuitive. You will need to learn how to use it.

Do a search on other shopping carts. There are several open source versions to chose from. Check what your hosting company will install for you through their control panel and select the best one from that list after looking them over. Would I recommend Zencart? Yes. I’m not saying it is the best one out there, but after my own research I went with it, took the time to learn it, and I don’t intend to learn a different one. But it has more than met my needs and presents a professional looking webstore complete with customer reviews, customer tracking, and order tracking. But there may be easier ones to use out there now, as it was 2006 when I looked at the different options and set up my webstore. So do some research if you want to go this route, before you settling on one and take the time to learn how to use it.

Manual Webstore. The least costly and medium technical route for your own site’s webstore, but requiring you to know how to set up a webpage on your domain or set up a static page on your author blog, is to only use PayPal and build your store site by hand. This works best if you only have a handful of books to sell, know how to create a webpage using html and get it active on your site. If you know that, this is the least learning curve method to use.

First, create a “landing” webpage for each ebook you are selling if you want to enable your customers to download directly after buying, or one landing page thanking them for their purchase and the ebook will be sent to them soon. If using the later, you’ll be getting an email from PayPal when someone purchases an ebook–you’ll need to email them a copy of the ebook. PayPal calls these “return pages.” If individual return pages are used for downloading the ebooks, make sure you place a download link on the page to where the ebook sits on your site. I would recommend setting up a separate directory for these books and place each book in its own directory that is cryptic.

For example, let’s say you have your bookstore at http://www.yoursite.com/bookstore/, then I would create a directory for your downloads, something like: http://www.yoursite/bookstore/purchased/. Then lets say you have two books to sell: Your Dog, and Your Cat. Then create two directories inside that main one, something like http://www.yoursite.com/bookstore/purchased/x3eb45cj-x/ and place the various ebook versions in that folder for that book. Your return page for that ebook would be placed in that directory. On that web page, put a download link to each version of the ebook in that directory. You’ll also want to place a file in the directory to tell search engines not to index that directory or sub-directories. Do a search to see how to create that file. While these precautions won’t stop a determined book thief, they will help make it harder and so not tempt people so easily. Not knowing the cryptic download webpages or the directories for each book, they should only have access to the books they bought.

PayPal has a link for ecommerce to create codes that enable a “buy” button to be placed on your website. For each book you want to sell, you’ll want to create a button for it. Each button for each book will request a return page, which is where PayPal sends them after successful completion of the transaction. There will also be a cancel page if the transaction is canceled or they can’t pay. If you are doing direct downloads, insert the individual download webpages for that particular book in the return page. Otherwise, use the generic return page you created, promising to email them the ebook soon. Save those codes in a document, labeled with the book they go with.

Then create a bookstore webpage. I would recommend, if your hosting company allows it, to create a subdomain to put the bookstore in (http://bookstore.yoursite.com). But you can put it in its own directory (http://www.yoursite.com/bookstore/) or if small enough, just one web page (http://www.yourwebsite.com/bookstore.html). List each book on the webpage along with blurbs and enough information they can make an informed decision. Link to a detail page and reviews if you have any. Avoid linking to the Amazon reviews, as if they are at your site to consider buying there is no reason to send them to Amazon where you’ll get a smaller cut. Then copy the PayPal code for that book onto the web page next to each book. When you’ve finished it, upload it, see what it looks like, take it for a test drive to see if the buttons do what you expect. Set your price to zero to go through the whole process to make sure it brings you back to the page you expect. Adjust as necessary until you have it the way you want it.

If you have any hard copy books, you can set them up to sell this way as well, but use a different button than their ebook verisons, and the PayPal notification will be your clue to ship or drop-ship them a copy of the book. But you may want to use PayPal’s shopping cart code for those, if you have more than one hard copy to sell. But be sure to include a “View shopping cart” button that PayPal provides on the page if you use that code. There is, however, no reason to use a shopping cart code for ebooks. One, since they are downloaded, it doesn’t make any shipping difference whether they are combined into one sell or not. Two, if you have it set up for direct download, there is no easy way to send them to a page with only the ebooks they selected to buy when PayPal returns. You can only use the email approach if you use that.

This method requires a bit of set up, doesn’t look as professional unless you have experience in producing professional website designs, and is harder to maintain if you need to add or change book information. And once the site began to look cluttered, you’d need to go to a multi-page set up, with links to detail pages for each book. You also might need a search engine at some point. But it has the advantage of low learning curve if you already know how to create an html web page and is free. If you only have a small number of books, setting it up isn’t too much work, and it can slowly grow as time goes by.

Other Uses for Your Ebooks

But what if you don’t want to go to the trouble to create and maintain an author webstore? What good is the PDF, EPUB, and MOBI ebooks you created? There are several uses for them, actually. Here are some ideas.

Review Copies. Some review sites still only want a physical book. However, as ebooks grow in popularity, this is slowly turning. Many reviewers (me included) prefer ebooks because we don’t have shelves of physical books to figure out what to do with, they can carry all their review books with them and read when they can, and once the book is finished, they don’t have to figure out how to get rid of them. Most have avoided reviewing ebooks because in the past ebook tended to mean “self-published” and that tended to be a lower-quality book in many cases. But with an ebook available for all new traditionally published books, and more reviewers with an ereader they like to use, it is becoming more widespread.

And the benefit for the author and publisher is obvious. No need to eat the cost of the book and pay for shipping to the reviewer. For self-published authors, this is big as they usually don’t tend to have a lot of money to send out several review copies, especially since a lot of sites don’t show any bump in sales when their review comes out, the investment of the author usually doesn’t pay for itself. Not to mention if the review is less than glowing, it could actually depress sales instead of boasting them. But each reviewer is a risk the author is taking. So at least sending an ebook takes the financial investment out of the equation.

Publicity copies. Frequently, when I am interviewed at a blog, I’ll be asked if I want to offer any of my books as giveaways for publicity. An ebook is a good route to go for more than one reason. One, the obvious one, is it doesn’t cost you anything to send them a copy. You’re not out a book that you could have sold to someone else and lost that money. Two, another obvious one, you don’t have to pay shipping. Simply email the person the book in the version of their choice. This is especially helpful when someone wins from another country. A recent winner of one of my books went to another country, and though the shipping wasn’t outrageous, it was almost three times as much as what it might ship for in the USA. So my $9.99 retail book shipped for more than $5.00, which put the total price of the book over $15.00. My cost was in the vicinity of $8.00 when considering the wholesale price of the book, which meant I practically bought a book at close to new book price for that person. I didn’t mind since I had offered a physical copy, but it would have been nicer if I could have sent an ebook as the cost to me would have been zero instead of eight dollars.

Freebies. Some authors have done well by giving away copies of their books as ebooks. The idea is that as someone read an ebook they have received for free, one or more of several events will tend to happen, which can drive the sale of physical books. One, they really like the story and want a hard copy for their library, so they go buy one. Two, they like the book so well that they tell their friends about it, and their friends go buy a hard copy. Three, the person liked it enough that they want to give it as a gift to people they think would enjoy it, usually for birthdays or Christmas, so they go buy multiple copies of the hard book. And some authors have had sales of their physical books jump by putting out free copies of their ebooks for people to share freely. So it has worked.

The only problem I see with this model is that the method works only as long as the buying public still sees ebooks as inferior to physical books, and would rather have the later. The more popular ebooks become, the less likely it is the person will want a physical copy taking up space on their shelves. The more people who own ereaders, the less likely they will prefer a physical copy as a gift instead of an ebook. And the more popular ebooks become, the more their friends will want an ebook when they go to get a copy for themselves, which may very well be easily provided for free by the friend who told them about it.

As long as physical copies of books dominate the retail market, that method works. But as soon as ebooks become the primary revenue generator for publishing companies and authors, that method will fall flat on its face. And guess what, this year the trend is ebooks are outselling all formats save trade paperbacks. And the continued slide in trade paperback sales and the explosive growth of ebooks this year, I would not be surprised to hear next year that ebooks outsold trade paperbacks for 2011. If it doesn’t happen this year, it for sure will next year.

Which means if you are not making money off your ebooks, you are not going to be making much money on your physical books to offset that. So I would warn against giving away the ebook except in limited circumstances. What circumstances are those?

There are two instances I would consider giving away an ebook, and each time I would limit the time period. One is when a new author no one knows is working to get noticed. The first book or two might be provided for free. But subsequent books, as the author gains a following, would be sold and eventually that first book or two would be taken off the free list.

Two, when following books are coming out in a series, it has worked well to offer the first book for free as a way to hook new readers into the series with the hope they will buy the subsequent volumes. It aids the readers because they get to “test drive” a new author and series before sinking any money into the experience. Then they can determine if the following books are worth paying for. But I would only run that sale for a limited time, one to three months after each new book in the series comes out.

But, if you want to offer a free book, there is no easier and better way to do that than with an ebook. While producing additional copies of a physical book means additional cost to the author/publisher, with an ebook, the cost is negligible–only costing the time to email it, anywhere from five to ten seconds or more of labor depending on how big the message is. So the financial loss is much less than a physical book.

Sample Books. It can be helpful to have sample files readily available and put on your website. You can go back to the PDF document source file and the print source file, cut out all but what you want to show as a sample, being sure to keep any promotional material at the end of the book, save that as a sample file, like: MyLastBreath-PDF-Sample.odt, then create the ebook as we showed before. Do that with the print file too to create the EPUB and MOBI versions. Then put them up on your website as downloads and encourage people to freely share them. They can provide an easy, cost free other than your time, way of giving people a taste of your book.

Gifts. If you like to give your books as gifts, and you know a particular person has an ereader, or will get one for Christmas, an ebook is an easy way to give them a gift at relatively little cost to you but high value for them. Especially useful for people who have helped you in editing your book to show appreciation if they weren’t paid. And if you are giving them an ereader or ereader-capable device, it makes sense you’d want it to come preloaded with your ebooks on it for added value.

There may be other uses you’ll find for them, even if you don’t intend to sell them other than through the channels we’ve set up in the previous steps.

Final Thoughts

I hope you have found the preceding information valuable and worth way more than the price of this book. My goal was to equip the reader of this book with the know-how to create ebooks of their own and sell them without needing to invest a bunch of money in software. To that end, I pray I was successful.

This book was written using Open Office Writer, and the ebooks created using the methods I’ve detailed here, and the cover created using the information in Step 2. You can judge the final quality based on what you’ve been reading as to whether the method works well.

On first read, you may feel overwhelmed with all the information. I’ve tried to break this down enough that you can use it as a reference in digest it in bite-sized chunks. Take step 1, learn the concepts there, and practice using them if need be. Once you master that, go onto step 2, taking each section one at a time. As you go, you’ll take one bite, chew for a while, and swallow. When you’ve swallowed, you’re ready to take the next step. Before you know it, it will be second nature. But if you forget something, it should be easy to zero in on the info and re-read. Also, most ereaders come equipped with a search function, something you can’t get in a physical book.

Remember, enjoy the writing journey, but be serious with your craft. Put out the best book you can, as typo-free as possible, and that looks as professional as you can make it. It’s your name that’s going on that cover. Be proud enough to want that book edited and effective to create a positive brand. But above all, have fun doing it. May the information here help you accomplish that and more.

__________

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About R. L. Copple
R. L. Copple enjoys a good cup of coffee and a fun story. These two realities and inspiration from the likes of Lester Del Ray, J. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, among others, caused him to write his own science fiction and fantasy stories to increase the fun in the world and to share his fresh perspective.
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