karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

eBook advice column

Dear Kindle Owner:

I'm an author, and I don't understand the fuss about ebooks. Why should I care about ebooks? I love seeing my books in the bookstore, and I stare at my laptop screen for hours every day, so I like reading paper pages. Amazon is a Greedy Gus! I have no interest in ebooks, and you can't make me care about ebooks.

            (signed) A Midlist Author

Dear Author:

It may seem presumptuous for me, an aspiring (no sale yet!) writer to give advice to you, a published author, but this isn't advice on writing, it's advice on reading.

Read a book or two on an eReader.

Seriously. I know that print is not going away any time soon. I know right now ebooks are only about 3 to 4 percent of the market. But a year ago they were about 1 percent; they are growing so fast, they have the publishing world in a snit. And more than that, people who buy dedicated eReaders buy lots of books. In many cases, they were avid readers to start with, but no one I have talked to reports buying (and reading) fewer books once they have a Kindle (I only know one Sony owner), and most report buying substantially more. The book market has been stalled lately, and these are folks who can kick start it into a growth market for a change. You want them to read your books, and you want them to buy your books.

You can get a free Kindle for PC app or Kindle for iPhone or (as of today) Kindle for Blackberry. I believe Barnes and Noble also offers a free eReader app, although I don't know much about it. There are tons of free books in the Kindle store, and presumably in the B&N store. If you download one and read it, you will have some sense of why ebooks lovers are both enthusiastic and annoyed. Without the e-ink screen and wireless connection of a Kindle, Nook, or Sony Daily Edition, you won't see all the reasons for their enthusiasm, but if you read an ebook, especially one converted and made available for free, you will understand the frustration of ebook readers when they encounter run together or flush left paragraphs, badly hyphen- ated words, and occasionally diacritical marks that show up as garbage (Nuñez becomes Nu&^%^%ez).

You should also download a free sample of your own books, if they are available, not only to check their formatting but to see where the free sample ends. I downloaded a free sample of a paranormal romance yesterday. I'm sure the sample size is some kind of percentage or byte limit for the file as a whole, but this sample had so many pages of "praise for this author" and "other books by this author" that by the time I got to the first page of real text (and it was a prologue!) I was at 62% of the sample. I never did see Chapter 1 or get to meet the protagonist. eBook readers rely on free samples when deciding whether to buy books by unfamiliar authors. I did not buy that book partly because it was still an unknown quantity.

I can hear my friend mindyklasky speaking up about now. This, like so many other things, is something the author has no control over. Quite true. But most likely, the editors are too busy to check the formatting of your ebooks, and also to see if the free sample ends at a good spot. If you check for yourself and find problems, maybe the publisher can do something about them?

It's worth a shot.

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Tags: ebooks, writers

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