Make a living from e-books?

Can journalists make a living from e-publishing? This was the question at a recent London Freelance Bureau meeting. E-publishing models are catalogued at Journalism models, co-founded by NUJ vice-president Tim Dawson.

Dawson says the most reliable moneymaker is ebooks. Readers expect to pay for books and the shift to digital hasn’t changed this. Apparently, author Helen Smith, now makes all her living (up to £40,000) from teh sale of ebook titles on Amazon.

Print can still make some money for journalists too. Fishing and shooting columnist Alastair Robertson was frequently approached with readers’ questions. In response, he wrote a 100-page print paperback around 40,000 words. He printed a run of 3,000 selling at £10 each and almost sold out. The ebook was sold at £5 and has also sold well.

Rupert Colley writes short history ebooks for people who are interested in reading up on a subject in an hour. They sell at around £2 to £3 each. He is now published by epublisher Endeavour Press.

Another model is Peter Jukes who raised £20,000 via crowdfunding to cover the Coulson-Brookes trial. He attended every day and had 16,000 Twitter followers. He then turned this into an ebook.

Dawson said that Amazon will not make big sales when used on its own. When getting started he recommends using Kindle’s manual – just 15 pages long. The process is simple for text-only files. It involves making a Microsoft Word file with Word’s own indexing system and then uploading it to the Kindle site. Adding pics will complicate matters.

Marketing is crucial. Amazon can help but only when you start selling treble figures. Amazon will pay 70p in the pound of all money taken in sales. The bigger the file size the more the author’s share decreases. Better to make shortish books and price them cheaply. Go for the price of a cup of coffee, recommends Dawson.

Other ebook formats? Apparently, formatting needs careful checking if you are using multiple platforms because Word or epub files may not translate to KDP, Kindle’s own format. You could prepare documents as PDF files. InDesign is a good option because it reflows well on other devices.

Lulu was also recommended as a publishing service.

March 17, 2015