What the eBook Revolution Means and How Copywriters Can Prosper From It

What the eBook Revolution Means and How Copywriters Can Prosper From It

Reader Comments (96)

  1. Yes, I’m of the thoughts that digital ebooks is going to make CRAZY impact in the way we read books. Copywriters now have the rare opportunity to win irrespective of high cost of book production in the real world. But just like anything, it’s not every ebook that will succeed, but only time tested and quality arts, that will.

    I enjoyed reading this and it’s motivated me to start writing my reports right now, and leverage on the power of the web. Great insight and writing style. Keep ’em coming!

  2. Yes, I’m glad all the gatekeepers are missing in action. It really is a glorious time for us, not just the copywriters.

    I luv your publishing idea, and I will check out your book (series) on Amazon. The trailer could have used more images and movement though – it’s not really as enticing as your blog post here !

    • I agree, it’s a great time for all writers.

      The trailer does exactly what we want it too. The focus isn’t on the images, it’s on the messaging. And with $17 in audio and images, I couldn’t be more pleased!

      • Sean, are you saying your video only cost $17 to make? Who made it for you? I think it’s brilliant!

        • Thanks for saying that!

          Dave made it. So really, it was $17 plus his time, which is not nearly as inexpensive as it sounds, since time spent on trailers is time not spent writing another book. 🙂

    • A lot of the “gatekeepers” are what makes fiction books amazing. I heard John Green (a teen fiction writer) say that his editor was responsible for all the parts of his book (Looking for Alaska) that people love.

      • Whitney – Gatekeepers definitely help direct good books to market, no doubt. And I think that publishers still have value. However, the gatekeepers also have a responsibility to make sure books they bring to market are profitable. This means many books are too risky to invest limited dollars.

        Before now, such authors would rarely have a chance to get their work out there. Now they can find their own audiences, as many indie authors have proven, selling books that the gatekeepers previously rejected.

      • No book should ever be published without an editor. No author is above it. But that’s not the gatekeepers I mean.

        Traditional publishers are still the right choice for many authors. Any writer who doesn’t want to do the heavy lifting of getting their books to the digital press and then selling them a post or a tweet or a like at a time, which is a full time job all by itself, should definitely stick with a traditional publisher. Same for writers who don’t want to write a ton of titles.

        But for bloggers who know how to write fast and well, why not?

        Work with a team just like you would with a publisher: editors, artists, etc., but you get to choose them, and you don’t have to ask for permission.

  3. I like the ideas in this post not only for fiction, but also for nonfiction — both “creative nonfiction” (think memoirs or the kind of thing Malcolm Gladwell does) as well as more straight “how-to.”

    I find that since I bought my kindle I buy more books. There’s no barrier — click, click, done.

    • Great point, Sonia!

      SO true.

      My wife and I were on the Scholastic website yesterday, and it is so, so terrible. Just so much friction. It’s exactly why traditional publishers are going to continue to trip. They’re used to people coming to them, while us scrappy Internet folk are doing everything we can to make it as easy to buy from us as possible.

      And hell yeah on the non-fiction. I’m implementing this strategy on many of our titles across the board, and I’ve already started to break apart my first major nonfiction title, Writing Online.

      Writing Online is the “album,” and the individual chapters (marketing, list building, SEO, etc.) are all “singles.”

  4. Little-known fact: I co-wrote the first serialized fiction to be professionally published on the web (with my now-ex husband), for HotWired magazine. Wayyy back in the day. 🙂

  5. You’ve made some good points. I definitely think the ereader era has made it easier for writers to get books digitally published and make a good amount of money. But like you pointed out, just because ebooks are becoming more popular, that doesn’t mean you can put out anything and make money. My biggest fear is that there will be an increasing amount of very low quality books, making it harder for new authors to enter and get recognition. The ebook market may suffer the same fate as websites. You can have a high quality website, but it’s hard to get found with all the noise of spam/low quality websites out on the net.

    • Very good point — which is why everything you learn on Copybloogger about standing out from the noise & clutter will serve you in good stead.

      Everything we do now to promote content, we can do to promote ebooks. Social media sharing, leveraging our email lists, guest posting, etc. (In fact, Sean’s doing that here.) 🙂

    • Amazon is like Google. They want their buyers to be happy.

      There will always be noise, but if you put out a quality product, then intelligently market that product over time, you will see a return.

      With Google it’s links, with Amazon, it’s reviews, recommendations, buys and lists.

      If people love you, Amazon will love, too.

      Once Amazon loves you, they’ll do the marketing for you. This is even better than Google. If people love you, Google makes it easy for you to be found. But if Amazon loves you, they email your buyers on your behalf.

      And that’s pretty sweet.

      • Sean

        The more I think about this model the more I get excited about it….it’s not only doable but potentially very rewarding and lucrative too.

        Now if only Amazon can keep the gatekeepers away from Kindle DP!


      • It’s pretty much my favorite thing ever. I can’t stop thinking up new ways to implement. It’s a broken faucet. I wish I had an army of writing robots.

  6. Any thoughts on pirating ? I love the idea of producing an ebook, but I worry about how easily people can copy it. I see this with so many of my musician friends, who put out great music and try to sell it, only to find out it’s available free all over the internet…

    From what I can see you don’t have a lot of options for copy protecting e-materials, am I right about this? what has been your experience?

    • I don’t care if I’m pirated at all.

      There will always be buyers. I’ll write for them.

      People who pirate aren’t buyers. They’re a waste of my time. Any revenue I would make from them would be inconsequential to the service they’d be doing me by spreading my content and increasing the value of my name.

    • There are a few ways to deal with Digital Rights Media (DRM), including full DRM and soft or partial installations. However, I don’t recommend any to my clients as it is usually not worth the trouble.

      A lot of consumers won’t buy a book that has DRM attached, and for smaller independent or self publisher I agree with Sean.

  7. Shining light on your project and the way books are being read is an ultimate challenge for up-and-coming writers for all genres.

    I wish the best of luck on your project. I’m positive it will be fantastic, especially with the attitude you approach all your posts and information.

    This is definitely something all writers should keep their eyes open to. Most of us won’t realize this opportunity until it’s all finished and dried up. Ebooks are definitely revolutionizing the way readers read and the way writers can publish.

  8. Sean,

    This has got to rate as one of the best blog posts I’ve read in 2011. Loved the video, hope I love the series as much as I’ve just Kindled it! It has the feeling of Prison Break in the presentation which is the only series I’ve ever watched. Good luck, I can’t wait to get stuck in.

  9. Hi Sean,

    Love the concept and can’t wait to read the series. Like a lot of new authors, I have been struggling with the traditional publishing vs self-publishing question (still somewhat unresolved). I am in the process of going through my second edit for an 80,000 + word science fiction novel. With short attention spans (getting shorter) I am concerned that even this is too long. I though about novella’s but it seems like such a waste to develop interesting characters and then end their world so abruptly. Reading your post gave me a sense of hope for a third method, even better. A series of stories delivered regularly, as part of a series. It is absolutely perfect for this day and age and particularly for ebooks. The economics finally work for this.

    My only hope is that Amazon will reconsider some of their pricing policies to give writers and marketers more control over the pricing of their products. Just imagine how incredible it would be for you readers to be able to order the next “book” in your series directly from their kindle for a “special” price. (ie. 2.99 on line but .99 when ordered at the ‘to be continued…’ page of the installment they just read.

    Last thing. You mention on your web page that each installment is about 100 pages. Can you fill us in on how many words that translates too? Is 25k about right?

    Again, thanks for the post. I came at just the right time for me. Let me know if I can help you out with your new venture.


    • Yeah, the economics are incredible. The best I’ve ever seen per unit of measure, at least for what I’m good at. The well is bottomless. But you can’t change the hours in a day, so now it’s all about improving the quality of your bucket.

      That’s my life right now, building a better bucket.

      Pricing is evolving. It’s extremely malleable and we have a lot to say about where it’s going. I’m not complaining about a thing, though. It’s better than it’s ever been and improving with a pulse. Having said that, I think it’s going exactly where you predicted. And I think titles like this will set the trend.

      It’s fiction with a funnel.

      It’s about 22-24,000 words. My partner and I each aim for 12,000 each, then hit it up or down.

      The best way to help is to buy the big and leave an honest review. That’s so helpful I can’t stand it!

  10. Hey Sean

    You know already what I think about the model you’ve come up with (IT ROCKS!). I’d never thought about applying it to non-fiction as well though. Very interesting.

    Good luck with it all and speak to you Friday.


    • The applications are crazy.

      And here’s the thing. Bloggers can own this up and down and inside out. What do bloggers do? They connect with their audience, keep them on the page, and let them know what to do next.

      Good bloggers, who know how to entertain and connect with their audience on a consistent audience, well, it’s a just a fantastic way to get paid for your content. Build an audience and let Amazon market for you.

  11. I am–mostly–convinced.

    One thing I worry about is that once more and more writers enter that space, copywriting won’t actually have the affect it’s supposed to because who cares if you can write convincing stuff if it’s an effort to even get people to read it?

    I think the people who will succeed will have to be excessively manipulative (in a bad way, not in the that’s-just-good-advertising sense). Guess we’ll find out…

    • You don’t need to manipulate people in a bad way to sell fiction. You just need to get your voice heard. We do that by telling our stories.

      Yes, there will be many more people entering the space, and maybe competition will get stiffer. While it may become harder to get attention, good storytelling combined with good marketing (not manipulative marketing) will always help good work stand out.

      Too many writers are worried about too much competition, worrying that they’ll never stand out, worrying about things out of their control, things that HAVE NEVER BEEN IN THEIR CONTROL.

      What it comes down to is this: There’s never been a better time to be a writer and get your work in the hands of people who want to read your stuff. Might conditions change and make it harder in the future? Who knows. Nothing is guaranteed. But if you’re a writer, you MUST WRITE. Now.

    • I don’t see that at all.

      Good fiction has always been manipulative. As has good writing in general.

      What is a great speech, other than a well made argument, meant to push you into rousing agreement.

      It’s okay to push people’s buttons. We like it. It’s why we go on roller coasters and watch scary movies. It’s not okay to be dishonest. Most of the time, the marketplace punishes dishonesty. Sometimes it doesn’t. But I don’t see any reason the ratio would change.

      • I don’t mean the content of the book is manipulative. I’m saying that copywriting and advertising is not enough, and people will, likely, resort to scummier business practices to get attention, become a guru, whatever. I hate those stupid “gurus”. They’re so full of it. Normal people don’t act like their word is God’s word.

        • I’m not sure how you’d even use scummy marketing tactics to sell a fiction book.


          I get where you’re concerned, but I don’t think you can market in a shady way and expect to build a readership. Like I said, the market (the readers) will determine what books will sell, what won’t. There’s no getting around that.

  12. I think it’s interesting how technology makes things come round full circle.

    Social Media = Referrals and reputation become central, just like they were before broadcast media took over.

    And now, if you’re correct, Fiction = published in an accessible format as serials. Just like back in the 19th Century!

    Good luck with the new books 🙂

  13. Sean

    About a year ago I wrote the manuscript for a chicklit book (a modern romance taking place in exotic Istanbul). I would love to serialise it. Any idea where I should go to run with this idea?


    PS. Can’t wait to read the first installment

    • @Linda – Thanks. As for getting started, I’d suggest self-publishing on the Kindle. https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin That’s the link to get started. There’s links there to tell you what you need to know to get started. And the forum is great with authors who can ask a lot of your basic questions.

      There’s various websites devoted to helping you with your manuscript if you need it formatted for the Kindle and such, just be careful not to pay a lot or sign away a percentage of your income. Where there’s opportunity, there’s usually people looking to exploit newcomers.

      I would suggest learning to do it yourself, though, it’s the best investment you can make in your writing career and isn’t that difficult to get started on.

      Google David Gaughran or Catherine Ryan Howard, both have very friendly indie author websites and both have low priced and informative books on Amazon. I’d link to them all here, but I think the comment would get autoflagged for having urls. But I can highly recommend both authors as helpful. Another is Zoe Winters, who put out a book on indie publishing, also very good.

  14. I must confess I fear the digital revolution as much as I embrace it. Won’t the rising tide of ebooks also flood the gateways with – shall we say – subpar content? Especially now that the gatekeepers have stepped away momentarily.

    • There have ALWAYS been bad books on the market. Even if the market is even more flooded with bad content, the good content will still rise to the top. Amazon will promote books that people are reading, and readers will decide with their purchasing and reviews which books get attention.

    • Yes, there will be subpar content, just like there will be subpar blogs. But you never read those more than once, right? And your friends never recommend them, right?

      They go radio silent eventually because delivering what people don’t want isn’t sustainable.

      Yes, there will be crap, and the marketplace will have to suss it out. But it will.

  15. Tried doing the “TV season” type of book over a year ago at Who Dares Wins Publishing with my book, Chasing The Ghost. I thought we’d go back to the day of Dickens and be able to serialize books.
    It failed miserably just to give you a heads up. Might have been me and my marketing, but the overwhelming response from readers was: give me the whole damn book up front. They kind of resented being fed it piecemeal or having to buy it piecemeal. Pulled it all together, released it, and it has been in the top ten in men’s adventure on Kindle ever since.
    But I’ll keep my eye out to see how you do and if you take a different approach.

    • @Bob Mayer

      I WAS wondering about that. Serialized books sounded like a terrible concept to me, but he seemed so proud of it that I left it alone. I totally would have been that person who yelled at you to give me the whole damn book up front.

      • Some people will always hate the idea. We’re not writing for them.

        Some people will love the idea. We want to reach as many of those people as possible.

        Yesterday’s Gone is for everyone who says, “Cool idea!” or was at the bookstore the day Green Mile came out (like I was) each month to get there new book.

        This one’s easy because I’m marketing to me.

        It’s fiction with a funnel.

        I don’t want the reader to buy each episode. I want them to buy the full season. That’s the only way to make money.

        I have no interest in selling the .99 book. It is a lead magnet for the $4.99 title.

        So far, we’ve had no sales of episodes 3, 4, 5, or 6. People buy one, and maybe two, then buy the full season.

        If they buy episodes one at a time, then I’ve not done my job.

        The books are filled with open loops and cliffhangers, designed to push buttons, just like TV. Of course I could be off, but the model makes too much sense on every level. And if it works, it’s going to be awesome.

        Just because the first one didn’t work, doesn’t mean your next one won’t be out of the park. Sometimes great ideas are just too early.

        I’ll check out Chasing The Ghost. How was it broken apart?

        • I just think it’s a mistake to treat something written (like a book) as if it were a visual medium (like TV). It’s cool to get inspiration from another medium, but people’s brain chemistry and reaction to stories is completely different when it comes to tv and books.

          This reminds me of how designers create advertisements that have a black background with white text because it looks good, forgetting completely that people’s eyes are so used to reading black text on a white background that the ad will be less effective whether it looks better or not.

          • Whitney – While we treated the book like a TV show in many ways, and combined some of the best elements we like from TV, Yesterday’s Gone is still very much a book, with a focus on what makes books great. There’s inner dialogue, detailed characterization, and such things that translate differently in TV and books. Of course, you could read it and decide that we failed in that effort, and that’s cool.

    • Thanks Bob for your thoughts on the matter. I think marketing a serialized book is a tricky prospect, but I’m just naive enough to think it can work.

      Our model for this book is Stephen King’s The Green Mile. He serialized that book in 100 page books and then released it as a whole. I remember going to the bookstore each month on release day, anxious to get my hands on the next book! The closest thing I can compare the feeling to is following a really good comic book when I was younger, or nowadays, watching great serialized TV like Sean mentioned above. There’s something magical about the cliffhangers and anticipation that I love as a writer, reader, and viewer.

      Even if some people are turned off by having to wait, it’s not an either or option. With our model, we’re releasing six “episodes” at a rate of one per week (as of Season Two). After that, we’ll release the full book. So people who don’t want to wait, can certainly buy the full book when it’s released.

      Was your book serialized from the outset or did you serialize a book you’d already written? I think there is a distinct difference in writing an intended serial and breaking apart a book into serialized pieces. The way we’re writing Yesterday’s Gone delivers (I hope) whether you’re reading one episode or a full book.

      I’m hoping this format takes off. Not only for my own sake as a writer, but I’d LOVE to read more serialized books which make me as excited as Stephen King did with The Green Mile.

  16. Also, to establish what I know about ebook publishing, I outsell some of the authors you list as the gurus in terms of both volume and/or income (1 million ebooks at $.99 equals 166,000 ebooks at $2.99 BTW). I have 14 titles in the top 1000 on Kindle and recently had the #2 overall seller on Nook over the Labor Day weekend with a new release.

    I really thought serializing would work, but it was one of several things that just didn’t click. Quite weird, but understandable once you get the feedback.

    • There’s a whole new wave of Kindle readers out there coming this Christmas. I think as long as people have options, they’re happy. If they can buy the book altogether, that helps. I also think changing the language helps.

      We’ve adopted the language from TV, which I think helps with what we’re doing. Episodes and Seasons are specific words and we get to piggyback off consumer association.

  17. Great article! I love books, always have and I have a whole collection of print ones that won’t be going anywhere soon.

    But since I am an avid (and fast!) reader, I love that I can take a collection of eBooks with me where-ever I go.

    Also it isn’t just the eBook readers that are evolving. They are improving the standards and features in which I can create eBooks. Now you can have embedded multimedia, outside links, and one company is even developing ambient sounds to play while you are reading.

    I am not sure how practical the last feature is, except for children’s books. But consider that the first eBook version were very restricted text, we are most definitely heading in the right direction!

  18. I love everything about this project. It is current, catchy and Kindle will be KING! There has never been a better time to make YOUR move! Serialized Fiction. Brilliant!

  19. Can’t wait to read it Sean. There is a revolution going on and I can’t wait til it’s over!

    You see I don’t have a kindle, I have a IPad and you can get the Kindle books on the iPad but I don’t know how. Have to get my tech expert/hubby to help with that:)

    Won’t it be fantastic when everything is super simple and we can get all digital media without all these shenanigans?

    Anyway, I’m excited about it. I studied did an MA in interactive media in 1995 because I could see it was the way of the future. But the future took a lot longer to happen than I thought! We’re getting there now though and yes, what a fab time to be a writer:)

    • @Annabel – Buying for the iPad is SUPER EASY. You simply install the free Kindle app for the iPad on your iPad, link it to your Amazon account – which I believe is just entering your Amazon username and password. And then when you go to Amazon.com, you click to buy whatever book you’re looking to buy, and it will give you a choice in your dropdown where you want the book delivered to. It might say, Annabel’s Kindle as the first option, PC as second, then Ipad, as third. Just select iPad and next time you open your Kindle app on the iPad, the book will be on your bookshelf.

      You used to be able to buy from within the app itself, but Apple got strict with vendors, demanding a cut of the profit from in-app sales, so you can’t do that, anymore.

      It’s not that big of a deal, though, as I’ve always bought books while browsing on my pc or mac and had the books sent to my Kindle or iPad, as I described above.

      I’m excited too about book interactivity. There are some beautifully done children’s book apps in the Apple app store which my 4 year old loves. I’m also a cartoonist, so I’m hoping to explore interactive children’s books, too, once I figure out how to develop apps.

  20. Truly a marvellous time to be a writer – if you view what you produce as a Shared Social Object, which is what Seth Godin calls books – I reckon.

    Have had 9 non-fiction titles traditionally published and have top-notch agent representing my fiction – but a deal impossible to come by. So have had novel professionally edited and am taking it into community it is about – women in mining villages. Live, am going to invite content contributions to website and advise on social networking that content.

    Hope to combine emotive memory and digital engaging – if that doesn’t sound too earnest!

    It’s called The Gritties project and anyone interested in progress will be very happy to update you. I start Mon..

    • Yes, Seth is dead on, Hugh Macleod, too.

      Build your own community and cut out the middlemen! Sounds like you know exactly what you’re doing. Best of luck with The Gritties project. Sounds cool!

  21. If you guys could please step back and see yourselves.

    Yawn ! Boring !

    You used the analogy of the tipping point of the IPOD $99 price point by way of an introduction to a “pending explosion” in digital publishing.

    Can you imagine visiting a site for “professional studio musicians” that where having this conversation about writing hit songs on the day that the IPOD hit $99 ?

    For that that is what you are doing here – whilst I don’t disagree with the intent of the post ( its almost all true ) there is absolutely nothing new or even inspiring being put forward or discussed here, in fact this discussion is almost 10 years old I am serious when I say even my 70 year old mother has a base level understanding and awareness of what this is all about.

    Do you have any real world idea how many real books, music or infact “content” of any kind produce a second generation income of any consequence ? honestly ? And that’s in your plan ?

    I am as happy as anyone that the gate keepers have been removed – I am a creator not a gate keeper but what you are totally missing is that they weren’t there as creative content creators. They where business people, a skill set completely missing from most creative types – its only when you can bring both skills to the table you stand a chance at success and if you tabled this strategy at a “business meeting” you would be shown the door or wasting my time.

    • Yes, I can absolutely see a conversation happening around writing hit songs when the iPod hit $99.

      And sure, the discussion is 10 years old, but the numbers have only hit reality now. Before it was theory, now it’s reality, and that’s made all the difference in the world.

      I went online to write fiction, but didn’t figure it would happen until 2014 at the earliest. It is happening now.

      Yes, I understand how many titles need to be sold to generate significant income. And I plan on hitting those numbers, over and over again. I’ve written millions of words in the last three years, most of them for other people. I don’t have to do that anymore. It’s too bad you see nothing new or inspiring there, but for a lot of online writers, this could be a really great thing.

      You are 100% correct, you must bring a business mind to the table if you expect to make it big as a writer. Which is what Copyblogger is all about.

      Last week I shared my strategies in a room filled with ~ 40 entrepreneurs, most of them 7+ figure earners. Judging by the applause, I don’t think one of them thought their time was wasted.

  22. This blog post has completely changed my POV about e-books. I have been so resistant to change. As a Social Media Specialist, I have to stay current with all trends, but in my private life, I love my books. I like to turn pages. I own a collection of bookmarks. As a nonfiction writer and poet, I like writing freehand with a pen and a journal. However, you have made me realize that I must buy a Kindle this Christmas. Thank you for changing this stubborn redhead’s mind!

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