by Jules Older
Sometimes a great notion comes in unexpected form.
In this case, it was an email — a deeply humiliated email — from a travel and ski writer. He'd just spent a night in the drunk-tank in the ski town of Whistler, British Columbia. Here's how the email started:
“For accommodations in Whistler, you can’t beat the price. I found a single room for the cost of a bottle of Chianti (Reserva 2007 - $24.95, plus tax).”
The moment I read that opening line, I wanted to publish the email as a ski story.
The moment I had that thought, I had another: I can publish it as a ski story.
And before the sun set, I’d begun the process of publishing my first and, so far, only, ebook.
Ebook: a book-length publication in digital form, to be read on ebook readers, mobile devices and home computers.
I emailed the best ski writers I knew who wrote personal stories — not instructional, race coverage or gear reviews — and asked them to contribute one chapter each to an ebook with, as yet, no ename.
And while I awaited their answers, I created a name:
SKIING THE EDGE: Humor, Humiliation, Holiness and Hope.
Almost all the writers said yes. They sent me deeply personal tales from an altitude of 17,000 feet in Bolivia, from dodging gunfire on the slopes of Lebanon, from the day the chairlift crashed in British Columbia. They sent stories from the interrogation room in Toronto’s airport, from a sickeningly steep couloir in France, from the little ski town in Colorado where Beth Jahnigen first encountered real male culture:
SKIING THE EDGE: Humor, Humiliation, Holiness and Heart is my first eBook, and the learning curve has been as steep as a double-black-diamond run at Vail.
If you're thinking about publishing an eBook of your own, here's what I've learned so far about publishing, promoting and avoiding future fights.
I understand there's a fortune to be made in eBooks. Please confirm.
Yes, and the eStreets are paved with eGold.
No, I read this article about a housewife from—
I read it too. Made her fortune just by selling her novel — her many-times rejected novel — as an eBook.
Exactly. So, how do I do it?
Wish I knew. It hasn’t yet happened to me. Or anybody else I know.
OK, then, here's a worry. I'm no nerd, and I'm not digital savvy. Can I really publish an eBook?
Yes. You've just described me, and I have.
I've heard that when you publish online, people can steal your stuff.
I've heard the same thing. Don’t let that stop you from doing it.
If I'm working with other writers, do they have to sign a contract with me?
Yes. That’s one thing everybody agrees on.
Is it enough to offer the ebook for sale on Amazon’s Kindle?
No. That’s the biggest player, but don’t neglect Apple, Sony and Barnes & Noble. Or home computers.
How do I reach them?
Through either SmashWords or BookBaby. Both companies reformat your Word document so it uploads to Kindle, iPad, Sony Reader and Nook.
Which one is best?
They're both good, both innovative, and since they both have clarifying websites, see which one works best for you. In my case, partly because I thought the process would go faster and I'd get the book out by the opening of the ski season, I went with BookBaby. I'm more than happy with the choice.
Very easy to work with. Very reasonable cost. Excellent job of formatting for the various platforms. Excellent helpline. Fast.
OK, how much should I charge for my eBook?
Oh, how I wish I knew. How I wish anybody knew. I went for $3.99, but only time will tell if that was smart or cripplingly wrong. We’re in the arena of mystery and magic. eBook prices range from free to every bit as expensive as old-fashioned dead-tree books.
What's the quality of eBooks?
The full range, from utterly despicable to “I wish I'd written that.”
How bad is the e-competition?
It’s your worst nightmare. There are, by actual count, 37.5 gazillion eBooks already out there, all raising their hands and shouting, “Choose me! Choose me!” That’s your competition.
What can I do about it?
Write well. Edit well. Use a strong and appealing cover. Publicize the bejeezus out of your book. Tell everyone you know about it — and get them to tell everyone they know.
Is there a best publicity tool?
A lot and different for everyone. In my case, as soon as SKIING THE EDGE went up on PitchEngine, interest in it grew. Not necessarily sales, but interest.
Are there other ways to publicize?
Definitely. Your local radio and TV stations. Hometown paper. Alumni magazine. Websites, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, the works. Use ‘em all.
How about publicity opportunities to avoid?
Rule of thumb: If it costs more than $20, it’s more than likely a scam. Unless you're shelling out big bucks for a publicist you know and trust, stick to the free and nearly free stuff.
Speaking of free, what about giving books away free to get the buzz going?
The practice has many advocates, but I'm not one of them. Long before the Digital Age, publishers were saying, “I can't give you any, you know, money, but the exposure will be great for your career.” Didn’t believe it then; still don’t.
A little luck is always a good thing. Skill and insane persistence are even better.
Jules Older hangs out at http://julesolder.com. He opines about San Francisco restaurants and New Zealand life on the apps, San Francisco Restaurants and Auckland Insider. SKIING THE EDGE is available on every electronic and mobile platform, including computers.