In recent years, the world of publishing has been transformed by the advent of electronic readers such as the Kindle, and the subsequent boom in e-book publishing. The appeal is obvious, for both writer and reader: removing the time and cost associated with publishing books in traditional form means that writers can connect with readers quickly and cheaply.
Attorneys sometimes find traditional publishing daunting, but they may also find that e-books are an ideal way to share information about their field, and give their firms a marketing boost as well.
Attorneys are natural writers, but besides correspondence and case documents, most attorneys have not written much for the general reader beyond a magazine article or blog posting. For a busy lawyer, writing a book may seem to be a monumental task, and would it even be published? The good news with regard to e-books is that they can be any length, and you decide for yourself whether and when to publish, and on what terms.
So how is it done? Here we will examine the primary concerns for a prospective e-book author.
Content is foremost, of course. For most attorneys, an e-book topic will be some aspect of their practice or their field that will be of interest to others. You should consider your audience. Are you writing for the general public or for other practitioners? Also consider whether your topic is unique and interesting and whether you can bring a fresh perspective to it. Writing a book is a big job. Ensure that you can you schedule in time each week to work on a long-term project.
Every writer needs an editor. Attorneys are often accomplished writers, but good writers know that a second set of eyes makes all the difference. Even if it is on an informal basis, be sure to have a colleague or a professional editor or writer review what you have written. Notes on style and proofreading can only improve your work.
You also must think about formatting and cover design, and here we consider the spectrum of what constitutes an “e-book.” At the most basic do-it-yourself level, any text converted into a PDF or similar format and made available to readers is an e-book. However, to bring your e-book to more readers, you will have to take a look at the different publishing platforms.
Amazon’s Kindle is the e-book leader, and Amazon makes it easy for first-time self-publishers to create an e-book and make it available for sale. The guide for new authors provides a tutorial in how to upload a file in, for instance, Microsoft Word, and release it to the buying public. Authors may choose for themselves whether or not to include digital rights management (DRM) code in the e-book, which restricts whether readers can share the book with others. You can choose your own price for your work, and there are different royalty options, including an option for the author to receive 70 percent of the retail price. Be sure to read the fine print, however (more on this shortly).
Before you jump into becoming an instant self-published author, take a moment to consider the format of your e-book and your cover image. For most types of e-books, your text should be organized into short, easily-digested chapters. If your topic lends itself to subheadings and bullet-pointed lists, consider adding those, as they have been shown to hold the reader’s interest. In addition, you should have a cover image that will grab a potential reader’s attention. In online bookstores, readers search on a topic and then click on an image, so that image makes a difference. If you do not have graphic design experience, consider hiring a professional.
Other formats for e-books include Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes and Noble’s Pubit for the Nook reader. There are third-party services that can help you prepare your book for electronic publication, including the Mobipocket ebook Creator, Smashwords, Bookbaby and Lulu. These aggregation services charge various fees to format your e-book and distribute it to e-book retailers like Amazon and Apple.
Money and Marketing
So you have written an e-book, and you are about to publish it. What should you charge for it? Established authors generally can charge slightly less than the price for a physical book. They know people will pay to read their work, and they will be happy to pay slightly less to get the book in a more convenient electronic format. In the case of self-published e-books, the author is often unknown, and it is necessary to establish a more attractive price point.
On Amazon, many e-books are priced at 99 cents, because so many readers are willing to take a chance on such an inexpensive purchase. Another common price range is between $2.99 and $9.99, in part because at this range, Amazon allows for the author to collect a 70 percent royalty.
Before agreeing to publish your book on any platform, be sure to read the fine print. Some contracts allow the retailer to change the price of your book without consulting you, even reducing the price to zero, as a loss leader.
This brings up another important point: why are you publishing an e-book in the first place? Is it because you hope to earn income from people buying and reading your work, or is your book more of a marketing tool? If your primary goal is for as many potential clients as possible to read your e-book and think of you as an expert in your field in order to generate leads, then you can offer your writing at a very low price, or for free. On the other hand, if you are writing a detailed style guide aimed at colleagues (and potential competitors), then you will want to price your product appropriately.
For an attorney who has a book-length message to share, e-books can be a potential revenue stream and a powerful marketing tool.