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How to Publish an Ebook Series – Part 1: Hard Copy vs. Ebook

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How to Publish an Ebook Series – Part 1: Hard Copy vs. Ebook

By Pat Flynn on

Note: For my most current advice on writing and selling your ebooks, check out my guide eBooks The Smart Way (Editor’s Note 09/2015).

Ok, so I’ve talked about income, marketing and building relationships with customers—but I haven’t really gone into how I actually wrote my eBook. I plan to go over this process in a series of posts for you, because it will take more than one—for sure. I’m honestly not quite sure how many it will take, but pay close attention, because I’m going to go over exactly what my thought process was and how it was all accomplished.

In the Beginning

Before, all I had was a website which was earning about 50 bucks a month with adsense. I had not planned on writing a book, but after a few “OMG, your website is so helpful, you should write a book” comments, I figured I might as well give it a shot. I mean—it was only a couple hours of extra work each day, which I found by cutting out things in my life that wasted my time. If it didn’t work out, all I lost was a little bit of time and a few dollars to set up the shopping cart—that’s it.

It’s not like I was forking over hundreds of thousands of dollars for a start-up that may or may not succeed, it was just a book/study guide which required some research, time and effort—not much as far as start up capital is concerned. As you can see from my most recent sales report, I’m very glad I decided to go through with it.

The Hard Copy or Electronic Copy Debate

After making the decision to write the book, the question was whether it should be a hard copy or an electronic book. These are a few of the pros and cons with each that I was thinking of at the time:

Publishing a Hard Copy Book

  • PROS: easier to read, people are more comfortable buying a hard copy book online, possibility of seeing book in retail stores and amazon.com, more difficult to “pirate”
  • CONS: more expensive to create, publisher fees, printing copies, shipping to customers, possibility of not having enough books for number of customers (backorders), possibility of having too many books and no orders (oversupply), inventory space, only portion of sales price is profit, once it’s printed it’s really hard to re-issue a revision.

Publishing an Electronic Book

  • PROS: easier to create, can automate the delivery process, don’t have to worry about oversupply or back orders, don’t have to be present to complete a sale, all sales are 100% profit (no printers or publishers to pay), easy to give “free copies” to people for reviews and gifts at no cost, easy to correct errors and send updates.
  • CONS: harder to get people to buy an eBook, easy to “pirate” (security), harder to read on screen, less satisfaction because it’s electronic and not a “real” book.

I’m really glad I wrote these down in my “idea notebook” so I could share them with you almost an entire year later. Anyways, I did some further research, and ALMOST went with a service that offered on-demand printing.

On Demand Printing? What’s That?

When I found out about on-demand printing, I swore this was the method I was going to choose for my study guide. I found one service via LuLu.com, and it sounded very promising.

Basically, you self-publish your book, submit it in a PDF or Adobe Illustrator format, and then you set up a shop. When people come to your shop and purchase your book, LuLu will print it “on-demand” in a custom book size and cover type you specify. The best part: they also send it to the customer for you and take care of the printing, shipping and they also handle your cash flow too. Pretty freaking cool! And I still think it is, but there are a few reasons why I didn’t end up using this method.

Here is a screenshot from LuLu.com’s cost calculator that is similar to the size of the eBook I published.

This would be how much it would cost for 1 copy of the book. Note that the pages are front and back, so the total number of pages here is actually 186 (My guide is about this size). This doesn’t include any special services LuLu offers, like designing a cover, editing services, getting an ISBN number, etc.

$9.20 goes to LuLu.com for every one book I sell. My profit depends on my retail price. If I set it at $29.95, for example, I’d earn about $20.00 profit for each book. Not bad at all, especially with no inventory, no shipping and little hassle.

So what’s wrong with this model?

Nothing is wrong with the on-demand model, but there are a few things I liked better about selling an electronic book from my own website:

  • I ordered a couple sample books from LuLu.com (a couple fiction stories and a sudoku puzzle book) and the quality was just ok. Also, I did some research on the PDF (or AI format) to hard copy book conversion process, and it takes a little while to make sure all the settings are correct to get the right looking final product.
  • I wasn’t too excited about setting up a storefront on LuLu.com to sell my book either. This meant that people would be directed from my site to a page on LuLu.com where the “purchase” button is located” and I probably wouldn’t be able to customize much. By selling an eBook from my site, the potential customer feels like they are always with my site with less steps involved (the buy now button is on my website). Remember, the less steps that are involved between when a customer is interested in your product and the purchase page, the less chance there is for the customer to leave (aka. bounce).
  • Why give away $9.20, when I could keep that all for myself. The electronic book model I wanted to setup handles all the transactions and deliveries automatically too, and I get to keep almost 100% of the sale price for profit. So, for every $29.95 book I sell, I get to put $29.95 into my pocket (less about a dollar for fees). Over hundreds of books, that adds up to a lot of money. In total, I’ve sold about 3000 books, so if I had gone with the on-demand method, I would have “lost” $27,600 (since my book does actually sell for $29.95).

And The Winner Is…

So obviously you know already that I chose to write an eBook :)

My next post will be about how exactly I created a final eBook product for sale. You’ll be interested to know that you can very easily get started on your own today. After you have your idea, the first step is to just start writing in your favorite word processing software (like Word), like I did! It’s easy!

More about my eBook journey to success to come…enjoy!

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