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Amadeus Consulting Discusses using Technology to Self-Publish Your Book on an eReader or Smartphone

Author: John Basso

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article that highlighted how E-Readers are changing our reading habits. In sum, people with an e-reader, such as the Kindle or Nook, buy more books and read more on average than people without such a device.

From a technology and entrepreneur standpoint, this presents an amazing opportunity for new authors to build and expand their audience, as well as provide new revenue streams to support their love for writing. This article focuses on three distribution methods that can help authors and other artists distribute their works.

3 Distribution Channels

Publishing a book on these devices can happen in a variety of different ways.

  1. 1.       You can develop a proprietarycustom software application for a specific device
  2. 2.       You can submit a book into any existing e-book application for a specific device
  3. 3.       You can post your manuscript online (for free or behind a pay wall) in a format that is compatible with these devices

As a custom software developer, our perspective is based off interaction with clients as well as our experience in mobile app development, including iPhone® app development, iPad®, and Android® development platforms. As such, this article looks technology options for helping the self-published author.

Keep in mind that although self publishing often refers to books, most of the options below can also be used to publish music, videos, DVD and CD type media, and other visual and auditory formats.

 

1)      Develop a Proprietary Application

Custom Smartphone apps are small programs that can be installed onto your phone. Blackberry, Windows, Android and Apple’s iOS devices (iPod®, iPhone and the iPad) all have unique markets and are not cross-compatible with one another.

Creating a unique application for these devices to showcase your works (such as book, music, art, or other works) can be the perfect platform for you, although it also comes with some unique challenges.

Advantages to creating a unique application

  • ·         Full editorial control, although some stores have content restrictions
  • ·         Take advantage of the device features (such as animating elements of a graphic novel or children’s book so they move and you tilt the phone)
  • ·         Integrate music, video, voice, or many other interactive elements
  • ·         Higher royalties, no third-party commissions, and a broad range or pricing controls
  • ·         Analytics (monitor sales and downloads) and quick user feedback
  • ·         Ability to update the application

Be sure to read our previous blog post about what to look for in a Smartphone Application Developer.

Disadvantages

  • ·         Higher startup costs (the highest of the three options)
  • ·         Unique to each operating system (An iPhone app does not work on Android phones, for example, but it would work on the iPad or on an iPod Touch)
  • ·         Still need to self market, or pay for marketing. However promotion is a bit easier since people are familiar with the app market concept
  • ·         Longer development time

 

2)      Submit to an Existing E-book Application

One option for self-publishing is to create a custom e-book application that can be distributed on an e-reader device. There are three main brands of e-readers on the market, and a fourth if you include the iBookstore for the iPad. These include the Kindle Reader by Amazon, the Nook by Barnes & Noble, and the Sony E-Reader (multiple varieties).

The benefit to this approach is that each of these devices also has an application that allows the e-books to be purchased and read on a variety of different devices including smartphones, other tablets, and on desktop/laptop computers.

While these all have their own nuances and benefits, here is a quick breakdown of some of the good and bad to this option. In general, this is a great “low commitment” option that has almost no start-up costs, and is perfect for the hobby writer. For authors interested in this option, we highly recommend you visit the specific providers directly (links above).

There are also other online self-publishing options that do not exactly fit into this category, such as Lulu.com or Smashwords.com which may also be worthwhile as they provide many of these same types of services.

Advantages to using an existing marketplace application

  • ·         Generally quick and easy to format a manuscript and get it into the store
  • ·         Quick compatibility across multiple devices
  • ·         “Organic” visibility as people browse the store
  • ·         Generally free to submit a manuscript, so no upfront costs
  • ·         Freedom to choose your own pricing, with some exceptions
  • ·         Excluding Apple’s iBookstore, other e-bookstores work on almost all platforms, including most types of smartphones, e-readers, tablets, and desktop/laptop computers

Disadvantages

  • ·         Higher commission – You make less from each sale
  • ·         Still need to self market, or pay for marketing, however it is a bit easier because the market owners (Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and Apple) are all very well trusted retailers
  • ·         Some content restrictions, fewer customization options
  • ·         In most cases, no copy protections or DRM control options
  • ·         Some distribution restrictions limiting your freedom to sell on other platforms or in other formats
  • ·         Not as easy to publish graphic-heavy books, such as comics and graphic novels

 

3)      Host Your Works Online

A third option is to host your content online in a format that is optimized for mobile app devices such as e-readers, smartphones, and tablets. This option can include free or paid distributions methods, meaning that a person would need to purchase the document before being able to access it. Once purchased, the file could be downloaded and accessed by the user, similar to other e-commerce and digital distribution systems.

Custom or semi-custom website development options are available from a large variety of developers, as well as template sites that have limited configuration options, which can fit most hosting needs and budgets.

Advantages

  • ·         Easier to provide preview or demo content
  • ·         Full editorial control with no content restrictions (except for illegal content, of course)
  • ·         Generally cheaper than creating an application
  • ·         Easier to promote all your works in one place, as well as promote yourself
  • ·         Advanced analytics and sales tracking
  • ·         Easy to add new content and works
  • ·         Can be deployed in conjunction with the above options
  • ·         Full price control, no commissions (unless you specifically choose to)

Disadvantages

  • ·         More difficult to market and promote to an external audience
  • ·         More expensive than piggy-backing on other e-book stores
  • ·         Higher ongoing hosting costs, and pay management
  • ·         Some device compatibility restrictions on format
  • ·         Ongoing IT or tech support may be necessary
  • ·         Less control and prevention against redistribution

 

Summary:

There are lots of options for self-publishing, and each may appeal to a different level of writer and artist. In general, piggy-backing into existing apps may be an ideal place to start for hobby writers, since no upfront investment is needed, although the payback is less.

For more serious and ambitious self-publishing writers, creating a proprietary app for each of your works, or selling your works independently online may be a more ideal choice. In either case, self-publishing can be challenging and very rewarding.

 Resources:

The Wall Street Journal story mentioned at the beginning of this article can be found here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703846604575448093175758872.html

We also invite you to visit our website for more information about Amadeus Consulting’s mobile application development options, and our custom website development services.

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