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Author Francis Tapon On The Benefits Of Self-Publishing

eBookNewser caught up with Francis Tapon, author of the new book The Hidden Europe, to talk about self-publishing, crowd sourced editing and eBook pricing.

EBN: Why did you decide to self-publish your book?
FT: My brother, Philippe Tapon, went the traditional route. He had an agent and published two books with Dutton Press. He got a modest advance and so-so marketing support. It was clear that publishers do little marketing. They depend on authors to do it.

Even in 2006, when eBooks were just 1% of the market, I believed that they would grow to over 50% of the market within 10 years. (Today it’s about 20%). eBooks destroy two of the key advantages and costs of publishers, printing and distribution. Although their costs have decreased, publishers have hardly shifted their royalty rates. They are unwilling to pay more than 20-25% royalty for eBooks, sometimes they pay just 10-15%. Meanwhile, if you self-publish with the major eBook distributors you’ll get 65-70%. Is the editing and cover design that publishers do worth giving them such a big slice of the pie? I didn’t think so, especially when they provide little or no marketing support.

EBN: How did you go about it?
FT: I created a publishing company called WanderLearn. I bought a set of 10 ISBN numbers. Instead of hiring an editor, I found two amateur editors (people very finicky about the English language) who were willing to edit my book for free. In addition, I had dozens of “Beta Readers” who signed up for getting drafts of the manuscript in exchange for their feedback. Some people love seeing books before they go to print and they love the power that they can influence the author’s final work. With all those eyeballs scrutinizing the manuscript, there were no more errors in the book than if it had been professionally edited. I effectively crowd-sourced the editing of my book.

Instead of hiring one book designer, I sponsored a $1,000 Book Cover Contest. It’s crowd-sourcing again. I received 80 submissions. I picked the final 8. Then I opened it up to Internet voting. Each round of voting got nearly 1,000 voters. This also helped drum up interest in the book. I paid a student to do the interior layout. After getting several bids, I had the book printed in India and shipped to warehouses in America and to my UK distributor. I got Baker & Taylor to put the book in their catalog so that any bookstore could order it. I hired a couple of college graduates to help me do the marketing and PR.

EBN: What challenges and opportunities are there in self-publishing?
FT: The challenge is that you need to do the things that a publisher does. You need some business skills to do that. I’m a Harvard MBA, so I enjoy getting involved in those things that most authors find tedious. The key is to outsource as much as possible. The opportunity is that you get to control the end product and keep a bigger piece of the pie – a piece that will only get bigger as eBooks continue to gain market share.

EBN: What is the best price for your eBook and how did you determine this?

FT: It depends on the elasticity of demand. Most books are price sensitive. For years my first book, Hike Your Own Hike, was $9.99. It seems like that’s a fair price for an eBook. You definitely want to price the eBook less than any physical version perhaps half the price and the hardcover is $24.99. However, a few months ago, I lowered the eBook price to $2.99 and suddenly sales volume shot up over six times – so I made more money, even though Amazon charges publishers a fixed price for the data download. More importantly, more people are reading my book, which creates more fans, some who might buy my second book.

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