How to Produce an Ebook for your Business
Ebooks can help small businesses by providing an additional revenue stream, or for promotion. But how to produce an ebook? And how to sell it or give it away? That’s our topic today. To help, we are joined by a professional book publisher. He’s Tony Michalski, owner of Kallisti Publishing in Pennsylvania. He speaks with Web Marketing Today’s Kerry Murdock.
Web Marketing Today: Our readers are small business owners. How can they produce an ebook and where can they sell it?
Tony Michalski: “The big thing with ebooks is that there are two, maybe three, popular and acceptable formats. If you produce your ebook in one of these formats it will be able to be read on iPads, Kindles, Nooks, even on home computers. Those three formats are ePub, MOBI, and Adobe PDF.
“The ePub format is used by iPad, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Kobo, another kind of reader. Kobo is not as popular as either the Kindle or the iPad or the Nook, but it’s still out there. The MOBI format is primarily used by Amazon.
“So, yes, a business can produce its own ebooks, in those two or three formats, and then put them up for sale. When consumers download, they could transfer them to their iPads, to their Kindles, or even their laptops or their home computers. It’s easy to do, and as long as you hit those formats, you’re going to be available in the entire e-reader marketplace.”
WMT: Can a business put a Kindle-optimized ebook on its own site and a consumer can then buy it and download it, without having to include Amazon?
Michalski: “Yes. The consumers will download it, and it will either go on their computers or sometimes directly on their Kindles. It’ll just go into their book files, and they’ll be able to, read the book. If it goes in on a computer, there’s a way that the person could attach their Kindle to their computer and transfer it right over. Sometimes, you don’t even need the cable. You’ll be able to do it wirelessly.
“I don’t know the specifics of the process because I don’t own a Kindle, but I know it is possible. I know people either attach their Kindle to their computer with one of the cords, maybe a USB cable or something like that, and it’s a matter of what we would do moving files on our computer from one place to another, dragging it onto there. I also believe that there’s a way to do it wirelessly. You’ll be able to see it, and it’ll get transferred over.
“With an Apple iPad, it would be as simple as adding the book to iTunes, and then that will sync wirelessly when you sync your iPad with your iTunes on your computer. It will be transferred right over if that’s the way you want to go. I don’t know the specifics when it comes to the Kindle. But I know you can do it, and I know it’s just a Google search away. It’s definitely doable.”
WMT: Let’s say a small business wants to diversity its revenue stream and sell ebooks related to its products or services. How can it do that, and where will it sell them?
Michalski: “The first step is to write the book. After that, you would produce the ebook. That you could outsource. Right now, to take a book and make it into an ebook — ePub, MOBI, and PDF — shouldn’t cost an insane amount of money. We’re not talking brain surgery here. At the most, perhaps a couple hundred dollars.
“After that, you place it on your website — if you have that set up. You can also hit the ebook sellers: Amazon, the Barnes & Noble Nook store, the Apple iTunes iBook store, and the Kobo store.
“Once you’re set up, it’s just a matter of uploading your book, adding a description of the book, setting a price for the book, uploading the cover art, and agreeing to the terms. Sometimes in as little as an hour later you can start directing people to those retails sites to buy the book. That’s basically the gist of it.”
WMT: What about proofreading, grammar checks, edit checks, and designing a cover. Can I get all that done for $200, too?
Michalski: “No, that would not be included. That’s actually touching the work itself, so to speak. Once you start adding pictures or anything like that, things can get a little weird and sometimes you have to go inside the ebook and tweak things a little bit, and that’s what a lot of these ebook producers do.
“The more intricate it gets, with photos and illustrations, the more likely you’re going to outsource it to these producers. More than that, books are just great marketing tools. If you have something out there that has your name on it or your business’s name on it, it’s one of the best marketing tools you could have, because you’re providing great information.”
WMT: How can a business do the entire process itself — writing, formatting, designing?
Michalski: “There are sites online that will convert from one format to another. I don’t know them offhand. But you can do a Google search — it’s constantly changing, and it’s constantly shifting. There are also free programs that a businessperson can download onto her computer that will convert from ePub to MOBI, from PDF to MOBI to ePub. One such program is called Calibre.
“You can download Calibre for free. Once you have the ePub or the MOBI or the PDF, you place it in Calibre, and everything else is just literally clicks away.”
WMT: Tell us about Kallisti Publishing, the company you own.
Michalski: “We publish the books you need to read to succeed, such as personal development and self-help books. Anything to help make peoples’ lives better, to motivate people, to inspire people. We are located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and have been publishing books since around the year 2000. It’s been a long, strange and fun trip, but along the way, we’ve published some really phenomenal authors. For people who are interested in marketing, you might recognize the name, Jim Straw. I published his book right before he died, called Mustard Seeds, Shovels, and Mountains, which is a great inspirational book. One of my biggest books was The Master Key System, by Charles F. Haanel. That’s the book on which “The Secret,” a big hit movie a few years ago, was based.
“We currently have a catalogue of about 25 books, and we’ll be increasing it quite a bit in 2013. After that, we’re shooting for the stars.”
WMT: Do you sell more ebooks or printed books?
Michalski: “Right now, I’m about 50/50 ebooks and ‘traditional books,’ or real books. I’m about even.”
WMT: Anything else?
Michalski: “Don’t necessarily use ebooks to create a revenue stream. That’d be fine; that’d be nice. But keep the prices low. Get the books into as many people’s hands as possible because in this day and age, with information overload, marketing overload, and email overload, give the end consumer something of value at either a cheap price or even a free price.
“They will remember you for that. We’re seeing examples of, say, million-dollar sellers on the Kindle. One of ways they did it was pricing correctly, and that means hitting that sub-five dollar price point.
“I see my sub-fives facilitating the impulse buy — no one misses a $5 bill — but once you start talking about a ten-spot or a fifteen-spot for an ebook, people get hesitant. If you hit that sub-five spot and get into a lot of people’s hands, you’re going to see some really wonderful things happen.
“As I said, they’re also great marketing tools. Use them as such, and I would practically guarantee that nobody will be disappointed in any of the results.”