Tag Archives: indie publishing

Maximizing the Potential of Your eBook

Guest Post by Natasha Fondren

The question I get asked most by my clients is this: “What else, other than the text, should I put in my book?”

POD books and eBooks can handle extra pages, images, color, fonts, and content without any cost (up to a certain point, and even with Kindle, it’s marginal). When you’re done writing your book, you want to add content that will first, sell your book, and second, sell your other books.


In eBooks, the front matter serves only one purpose: to sell this book to your readers.

In bookstores, readers check out books in this order:

  1. They catch sight of the cover.
  2. They turn it over and read the back cover.
  3. They skim through the appropriate ad pages at the beginning.
  4. They turn to the first page of the text and read a bit.

With eBooks, it goes more like this:

  1. They catch sight of the cover on the website.
  2. They click on the title.
  3. They check out the average rating.
  4. They read the synopsis and maybe skim the reviews.
  5. They download a sample.

It’s important to note that once they download a sample, they haven’t yet bought it. You still have to sell your book with the sample: the first 10% of your book.


In a traditional book, the opening consists of ad pages, half-title page, title page, copyright page, list of other books by the author, dedication page, epigraph, table of contents, and sometimes acknowledgments.

In an eBook, we want to get rid of everything that doesn’t sell your book because it takes up space in that first 10% of your sample. First, the half-title page, a holdover from printing processes, is completely unnecessary.

The copyright page will not sell your book, nor will it magically prevent piracy. Send it to the back. The acknowledgments, likewise, should be sent to the back.

The list of other books by the author will only sell this book if you have a long list that proves you to be an author who’s had some practice at this. When in the front matter, this list does not sell those books; it only tells the prospective reader that you’ve some experience under your belt.

This list is better at the end, after they finish the book, when they’ll be looking for their next read. Probably they’ve already seen on the website that you’ve written other books, if you have.

The dedication? As interesting as it is to you, it should only stay up front if it’s truly going to hook the reader into buying your book.

The table of contents is accessed through a menu button, so it’s unnecessary to put it up front unless it sells your book, as is the case in nonfiction (telling the reader what is contained in the book) or in some fiction, where the chapter titles are so interesting that they hook the reader.

So what does that leave?

  1. Ad pages
  2. Title page
  3. Epigraph
  4. Text

Ad pages go first, and these should be an invitation to the reader. While you should take advantage of this opportunity, do not let the ad pages dominate your sample; you want to sell your book to readers, then give them enough of your content to hook them into your story.

There are several potential items that can go in your ad pages (I don’t advise using them all!):

  • Reviews: If you have some exceptional reviews from respectable sources, or some funny, tongue-in-cheek reviews, then put two or three at the beginning. More than that, and you’re crowding out your sample.
  • Synopsis: Reminding the readers what the book is about is not only a good sales tool, but it’s also one of the ways the human mind learns: big picture to little details. When readers sit down to a book, they want to know what it’s about. While this information may be on the website, they may look at the sample days or weeks later.
  • Excerpt: A short excerpt, maybe one or two paragraphs, can work really well. There is an art to selecting just the right paragraph or two–make sure to get lots of feedback from your friends!
  • Letter to reader: This is a bit of an old-fashioned technique that I’ve only seen in romance books. It’s been used quite a bit, so it must have some effect. If you pick this, please make sure your note to the reader is super good!

The title page sets the tone for the book, so embed a nice font and have a care for the design. The epigraph, as well, can set the tone for the book.

The text should be inviting: a nice chapter header, a dropcap, possibly some styling in the opening few words all help pull the reader into reading your text. Book design is important!


If you upload a Word document or use a converter to make a Kindle book, then when a reader opens your book, it will open to Chapter 1, skipping all front matter, ad pages, and even the prologue.

If you hire a professional, they’ll make sure your book opens where you want it to–except the cover. On Kindle, the book generally refuses to open to the cover, unfortunately. (Please do write them and complain, though! Maybe they’ll change it!)


From the very second your reader reads the last sentence of your book, you need to sell your next book, or your backlist.
The back matter can contain:

Thank You: First up, it’s nice to thank your readers. Make it short and sweet; this is not an about-the-author page. Perhaps a sentence or two informing about (and linking to) what you’ve got in the back matter for the reader. For example:

“Thank you for reading Great American Novel! I hope you enjoyed it. A list of my other books is on the next page, and then the first chapter of my upcoming novel, Pulitzer Prize Novel, to be released in the spring of 2014.”

Second, offer a link to a very simple html sign-up form for your newsletter. (You do have a newsletter list, right?) This should be simple and ugly, easy enough for e-ink browsers to handle, such as my newsletter (free book on Indie Book Production coming soon to all subscribers!). Please note that this doesn’t have to be your only newsletter sign-up page, but for this purpose, you should stick to a sign-up page that can be handled by the worst of browsers.

A List Of Your Other Books: This can go before or after the next section.

Your Next Book: Like the sample, this should be in three parts:

  1. An image of the cover.
  2. A quick synopsis or blurb of the book that hooks the reader.
  3. An excerpt–you can make this substantial, such as the complete first chapter or two.

Other Ideas: I’ve seen some authors put a miniature version of their website in the back, starting with a home page that links to each section of the content that follows. Remember, the page count is nearly limitless, so be creative and give to the reader, and hopefully they’ll give profits back to you!

AND THEN . . .

After that, you can put an about-the-author page, so they know who you are. And then, (finally!) all the stuff you took out of the front matter that doesn’t sell this book or your next book.

the eBook ArtisansNatasha Fondren is the founder of the eBook Artisans. Whether you’re a traditionally-published author looking to make an out-of-print book available, an indie author releasing a self-published eBook, or a publisher looking to make a backlist available, the eBook ArtisansSM is passionate about making your print book or eBook a welcoming and beautiful experience for your readers.

Eric Edstrom: It Worked, It Failed – Lessons Learned in Indie Publishing

Guest post by Eric Edstrom

On December 24th, 2011, I clicked “save and publish” on Amazon’s KDP platform to launch my very first novel, Undermountain. A few hours later the book appeared for sale on Amazon.

Relief and satisfaction washed through me. I had realized a life-long dream, a biggie from the bucket list. I had done it. I’d written and published a novel.

I relaxed and smiled. No more pages of edits to go through, no irritating “track changes” issues to deal with from an editor, no more “when will your little book be out?” questions from doubters.

I’ve done this twice since then. In January of 2012 I published a little non-fiction ebooklet about writing lyrics for the Nashville music scene. And on July 1st I released Afterlife, the sequel to Undermountain.

I don’t claim to be an expert. If anything, I’m an advanced beginner. But I do have enough experience to offer insights into what has and has not worked for me as an indie author.

1. Goodreads.

Although many authors fear Goodreads due to trolls torpedoing authors’ books, I’ve found a friendly and welcoming community there. I wouldn’t have half the reviews I have without them. There are a number of Goodreads groups (basically discussion forums) with dedicated topics for “Authors Requesting Reviews” or ARR. Join one, read the ARR rules, introduce yourself, offer up free copies, and be patient. And it’s pretty much a no brainer, give a free e-copy of your book to anyone who promises to review it. It worked!

2. Hiring editing and proofreading services.

I worked with two editors. The first one did an okay job, but mostly just pointed out that my book was crap. I rewrote a bunch of it and then worked with Joshua Essoe, who helped me beat it into shape. After that I hired a proofreader. Notice I’m not mentioning who did that. I should have done an extra proofreading round after that. It worked. Lesson learned: ask for references.

3. Sourcing cover art through Crowdspring.com.

This worked, but it made the cost higher due to Crowdspring’s listing fees. I listed a project there, set my price, and then waited for designers to submit concepts. I gave feedback and encouragement to some of them, and eventually chose the cover you see for Undermountain (which is awesome according to everyone). Since then I’ve worked directly with the artist on the sequels. It worked! Lesson learned: It’s cheaper to work with artists directly. Find unknowns on deviantart.com and conceptart.org.

4. Hiring services to prepare my manuscript to feed into Smashword’s infamous meatgrinder conversion software.

I did this for Undermountain because I was exhausted and couldn’t face reading Smashword’s style guide. I paid ebookartisandesign.com $50 to do it. It worked!

5. Preparing my manuscript for the meatgrinder myself for book 2.

It’s actually not that hard to do if you clear space in your calendar and mind to just do it. It worked!

6. Hire Createspace services to create the interior layout for the POD version of my book.

I got my POD book done and ready for sale. It worked . . . but I was extremely disappointed with the speed and quality of their service. Their mistakes added three weeks to the process.

7. Create the interior layout using Word for Mac.

I did a superior quality layout for my second book in about four hours by following a tutorial I found online. If you’ve done your own prepwork for the Smashwords meatgrinder, you have the perfect starting point, BTW. It worked!

8. Dictating the first draft.

Once I got over the idea that dictation wouldn’t work for me and just did it, I found that it was insanely fast and the quality was good. I wrote a blog post on this. It worked!

9. Reserving an editor time slot before the book has been written started.

I did this on my second book because I knew Joshua’s schedule was filling up. I treated this date the same way I would a deadline for any other editor. I worked backward from that to figure out my schedule. I worked forward from that date to figure out my launch date. As a result, I launched an awesome book on time. It totally worked!

10. Tweet spamming my book.

I couldn’t help myself at first. I was so proud of my book and thought all fifty-seven of my followers would rush to Amazon and buy it. I do tweet my buy links occasionally, but for the most part I’m trying to build relationships on twitter. I have no evidence that I’ve sold a single copy due to tweeting. Tweet spamming: Fail!

11. Being afraid to push my book.

I just got done saying I was a Twitter spammer, but in real life I wouldn’t bring it up with anyone. Fail! Lesson learned: You’re not selling your book so much as you are selling yourself. Some people are good at this, some are like me. I can say with 100% confidence that I never sold a book to someone who didn’t know it existed.

12. Advertising on Facebook.

Fail! I sold nothing. I’m not saying it couldn’t work, just that it didn’t work for me. Why? Because I had no idea what I was doing. Advertising is an skill, and to do it right you really need to A/B test everything and tweak headlines.

13. Amazon Select.

Fail! (for me) I gave away thousands of free ebooks. There was no post giveaway sales boost and I got only one review as a result (it was very positive, BTW). I think my absence from other platforms set back my growth there and my sales on the big A did not go down once I left the Select program.

14. Creating a printed version of my book to boost sales.

Fail! I’ve given away way more copies than I’ve sold of my POD book. From a return on time/investment standpoint, POD was not worth it for Undermountain. And yet . . . there is nothing in the world like holding that book. Now that I know how to do interior layout myself I will continue to do them. Lesson learned: when you hire your cover artist, make sure they agree to tweak final dimensions for the wrap-around cover and placement of back cover text, etc. The issue is that you won’t know the spine dimensions until you know how many pages the book will be. And you won’t know that until the book is finished and the interior layout is complete.

15. Create an awesome book trailer that will go viral, resulting in huge sales and movie options.

Fail! I did all the work on my awesome trailer myself. It was far more expensive than it had to be because I licensed stock video and sounds from istockphoto.com and pond5.com. I already owned Final Cut and had video editing experience, so at least that didn’t cost me extra. Lesson learned: having an awesome book trailer is its own reward.

16. Speaking to a bunch of eighth graders at a local school.

It worked! Many were very interested in buying my book. Lesson learned: Make sure your your POD book is ready. This may be different now, but not one of the 100+ kids in the audience owned an ereader at the time. Due to Createspace design services slowitude, I did not have any inventory on hand. Fail!

17. Ringing up sales by obsessively refreshing the KDP, Pubit, Smashwords, and Writing Life dashboards.

Fail! I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that this is ineffective. If it was, I would be the best-selling writer in the history of the world.

Guest Writer Bio: Eric Kent Edstrom is an author, songwriter, and guitarist. The first two volumes of The Undermountain Saga, Undermountain and Afterlife, are available in ebook and trade paperback from all online retailers. Eric lives in Wisconsin with his wife and daughter.

Twitter: @ekdstrom
Facebook: facebook.com/EricKentEdstrom
Web: ericedstrom.com

The greatest YA science fiction series about bigfoot of all time: The Undermountain Saga. Book 1: Undermountain and book 2: Afterlife. The final book will launch 24 December.

Sunday Reads: 24 June 2012

Well, Publishing Month is drawing to a close.  We’ve got just one week left to go.  Stay tuned for our  final Publishing Month guest bloggers, Brandon Sanderson and Gini Koch.

In the meantime, here’s 10 reads worth your time:

Rachelle Gardner talks about what to expect from your agent in Understanding Your Agent.

Also on the topic of agents, Red Sofa Literary lists some basic mistakes writers make when approaching an agent in How to “win” over an agent.

Lois H Gresh discusses the necessity of submitting your work in Rewriting Treadmills: Traditional Publishing versus ePublishing.

Philip Goldberg talks about the benefits of traditional publishing in Who Needs Publishers? We All Do!

Writers In The Storm discusses how a writer’s business needs should affect his choice of publisher with Gettin’ Busy With It.

Dean Wesley Smith dispells a few common myths in The Secret Myth of Traditional Publishing.

The Intern discusses Five Signs You’re About to Land an Agent.

At The Art and Craft of Writing Creatively, Cheryl Shireman guest blogs about the prejudice against indie writers with Dear Traditionally Published Writer.

Rainy of the Dark looks at Just What Percentage of Book Sales are eBooks?

Ashley Barron discusses lessons learnt during the indie journey with A Self-Publisher’s Dilemma.


Missed any Fictorians articles this week?

Moses Siregar III – So, You’re Considering Indie Publishing…

Nancy DiMauro and Colette Vernon – Women Writing the Weird: Publishing in an Anthology

Joshue Essoe – Editing Saved My Life. And It Could Save Yours