E-Book Publishing Tips

by Mike Shea on 22 December 2012

If you find this essay useful, you can give back by picking up the Amazon Kindle version.


About This Essay

E-book publishing is the new land rush on the net. Authors now have a way to get paid and, in some cases, make a decent living writing, publishing, and selling their own words without an agent or editor giving them the permission to do so. There are thousands of different ways to publish an e-book to the web. This essay only touches on one such method.

This essay came from experience writing, publishing, and selling Sly Flourish’s Dungeon Master Tips, Sly Flourish’s Running Epic Tier D&D Games, The Lazy Dungeon Master, and Seven Swords, and the works of my father, Robert J. Shea. This essay is designed for authors with a moderate technical background. You will get the most out of this essay if you understand the following concepts:

This essay is not a complete step-by-step guide to publishing an e-book. It covers the general concepts of e-book construction, pricing, publication, and workflow. If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide, there are better books that cover each of those topics. For a book that digs much deeper into the world of e-book publishing, I recommend Ape: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. Kawasaki and Welch have a lot more to say on the topic and a a great deal of experience in publishing books. If you want to read an experts’ opinion, read theirs. If you’re looking for something a bit smaller and more focused, read on.

Why e-Publishing?

We live in a wonderful age. Only two decades ago an author had no chance of getting his or her work read by any substantial number of people without the permission of editors, agents, publishers, and marketeers whose motivations were not the same as either the author or the reader.

Those days are over.

The wonder of the internet, an advancement I argue trumps any other advancement in human existence, gives us direct access to one another. We no longer need to seek permission to publish our work. We need only to make our work known, build the trust of our readers and our community, and deliver on that trust with quality work.

Though we have broken through the barriers that once required we sell tens of thousands of copies to sell any at all, substantial obstacles still stand in the way. We each now act as our own agent, our own editor, and our own marketeer. Instead of convincing a single agent or editor, we must convince each and every reader that our work is worth their money and, more importantly, their time.

Our work is likely too small to get the attention of the agents, publishers, and marketeers who help big-name authors get into the spotlight. We don’t even register on their radar. Yes, we broke through the barriers to publication, but it’s a wide open and scary world on the other side.

We are free. And we’re all alone.

Beyond direct access to our customers, other world-shaping changes affect e-publishing. Only a few decades ago, authors hoped, at best, to receive royalties of 7% to 10%. To make a living on a $10 book sale, an author would have to sell 70,000 books to make a modest living. Now authors can receive a 70% commission by directly selling books on Amazon. Selling that same $10 book, an author only has to sell 7,200 books to make that same living. 70% royalties gives us the potential to find a focused set of core fans who, if they reach a critical mass of 1,000 to 10,000, might support our creative work enough for us to make a living. Kevin Kelly of Wired magazine and Technium discusses this concept in 1,000 True Fans.

That probably isn’t us, though. Let’s talk about reality.

The reality is you might only sell dozens to hundreds of copies. The reality is that e-book publishing will likely, at best, provide us an extra source of income or a bit of extra spending money at the end of the month. You aren’t likely to write the next 50 Shades of Gray or Wool. If you want to see what realistic sales look like for a non-fiction gaming book with a clear target community, skip to the “real world sales examples” near the end of this essay.

We’re not likely to make a living at this and our chance of getting rich are about the same as winning the lottery. If you’re doing this for money, you’re doing it for the wrong reason and your readers will know it. Let me give you the best piece of advice you’re likely to get out of this document:

Don’t quit your day job and write what you love.

As hobbies go, writing e-books is a good one. It doesn’t cost a lot of money and stands to help buy a fancy coffee once in a while. You also get to find the joy in writing something of value and reaching the people who might like to read it without anyone else getting in the way.

Now it’s time to dig in.

Publishing an E-book in Ten Minutes

Every year the tools to publish an e-book get better. If you’re not too picky, you can publish your work to Amazon’s digital bookstore for the Kindle in just a few minutes. Most people will be comfortable writing their book in Microsoft Word. Though not ideal, considering the number of conversions it must go through, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing website will upload word and turn it into a reasonable Kindle book. Here are the basic steps:

With roughly 50% of the market buying books at the Kindle store, you’ll hit your largest audience at this single store. If your primary goal is to get something published without a lot of hassle, this is the way to do it.

It’s not ideal, though. You’ll be skipping on some other big markets. You’ll also potentially face problems with some of the details of a good e-book including a well-working table of contents, proper page breaks, and a few other potential formatting problems. These sorts of errors happen any time you do a direct conversion from one complicated format (Word) to another (Kindle). It might work out fine, but likely you’ll find something wrong and there’s no good way to fix it without doing it yourself.

The rest of this document digs into the details of rolling your own e-book using text files and free software instead of converting from Word.

A More Detailed Process

Instead of a conversion from Microsoft Word, we’re going to look at another process. Breaking this process down into its steps, we have the following formats and tools:

This process is certainly more complicated than publishing Word to the Kindle store and is only recommended for the technically inclined. This process gives us greater control over the output of the work, though, and more venues from which to sell it.

Writing in Markdown

Markdown is a lightweight system agnostic formatting syntax to add light structure to text documents. Markdown uses very simple character and line formatting to tell a processor how to treat certain text. Markdown adds light structure to a text file that is readable by humans and can be processed by computer programs.

If you want to bold something, you simply wrap it in a pair of asterisks. If you want to make a link, you put the phrase you want linked in square brackets and the URL right after it in parentheses.

Here are some examples:

# This is a main header

## This is a secondary header

* this is an unordered list item

**This text is bold**

*This text is italicized*

[this is a hyperlink to Mike Shea’s website](http://mikeshea.net)

You can learn all about the syntax from the website of the original author, John Gruber on Daring Fireball’s markdown page.

Markdown keeps you from worrying about page formatting and gets you closer to the words you type. You can write in whatever editor you prefer and convert the result directly into HTML, the syntax used to generate web pages all over the internet. Keeping your original work in Markdown ensures you can preserve it for as long as raw text can be read by a computer. Other structure and format rich document types such as .docx and Pages do not offer us that level of longevity. When was the last time you opened a document written in Apple Writer or a Word Perfect?

Writing our document in Markdown helps us focus on the words themselves instead of the complexity of page formatting in a word processor. We can write it, restructure it, and edit it all before we worry about conversion and formatting.

Converting to HTML

Once we’re done writing, rewriting, editing, and copyediting our book; it’s time to convert it to HTML. We convert our book to HTML for a couple of reasons. HTML is the most widely accepted structured document type on the planet. When formatted in HTML, we can load our document into any web browser and import it into nearly any word processor.

HTML also happens to be the format most easily converted into the various e-book formats we’ll want later on.

There are numerous processors that convert Markdown into HTML. My favorite happens to be a beautiful and simple Markdown processor known as Marked. Marked takes the Markdown document, converts it to HTML, and lets us export it to any number of formats.

BBEdit, my text editor of choice, can also directly convert Markdown to HTML. With your Markdown document in the text window, click “File” and “Export to HTML” to convert to an HTML document.

Numerous desktop and mobile applications exist to convert Markdown to HTML. Pick the one that works best for you. Right now we just want to convert Markdown to HTML so we can pass it to the next part of the process.

Building E-books with Calibre

Originally designed as a program for converting and exporting your e-books between formats and devices, Calibre is a perfect tool to convert HTML into the formats we need to submit them to various ebook publishers and build an ebook package.

There are two popular e-book versions currently: ePub and MOBI. ePub, is the most popular e-book format in use, but it is not supported by the Kindle and converting Kindle books from ePub often loses valuable formatting and features such as the Table of Contents and proper page breaks. Kindle accepts a different ebook format known as MOBI. Luckily, Calibre makes it easy to convert our HTML document to both ePub and MOBI so we can support nearly all platforms.

This essay won’t describe all the steps required to convert an HTML document to ePub and MOBI using Calibre in this document. With a little bit of understanding of HTML, you can learn how to use Calibre to convert HTML to MOBI and ePub with the e-book conversion section of the Calibre manual. There are a couple of tricky pieces to using Calibre to construct your e-book, however. Here are a few things to keep in mind while converting your book from HTML to MOBI and ePub.

When you’re done converting your e-book, you’ll have your original Markdown text file, an HTML conversion, an ePub conversion, and a MOBI version.

PDF or No PDF?

At some point you’ll want to decide whether or not to produce and publish a PDF version of your work. Mainstream e-book publishers don’t use PDFs so if your primary goal is distribution through Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks; you don’t have to worry about a PDF.

If you plan on distributing your own e-book package, however, including a PDF will make it a lot easier for people to read your work on their PCs, or print it out on paper.

Creating a PDF version might be as simple as saving your document from Word to PDF. Usually, though, you’ll want to do some page formatting to get it to look right. Page numbering, proper page breaks, chapter headings, and internal PDF linking all take a fair bit of work. It’s up to you to decide if it is ultimately worth the extra work.

Over time PDFs may become less and less necessary as people embrace and support hardware and software e-book readers. For PC users, you might just include the HTML version of your e-book and let them choose how to format and print it should they wish to do so.

Ultimately you must decide whether the time you spend formatting a PDF will be paid back by those who choose to use it that way. The type of work you create and the audience you expect to buy and read it will fuel this choice.

For my topic of choice, Dungeons and Dragons advice books, the audience largely expects and depends on PDF versions of electronic products. Poor reviews of the PDF versions of my first two books led me to commission a professional graphic designer to format the PDF versions of my third book, The Lazy Dungeon Master. This added an extra cost and a more complex development plan and final product but for the audience I serve, it is worth that cost.

Now that you’ve built the final version of your work, it’s time to publish!

Publishing on the Kindle Store

According to Publisher’s Weekly, Kindle devices accounted for 55% of e-book reading in the middle of 2012. My own sales of Sly Flourish’s Dungeon Master Tips corroborate those results with 49% of sales coming from the Kindle store over 30 months of overall sales.

At this time, the Kindle is likely the best avenue for sales you will find and its the first one you should target for an e-book.

Amazon made it very easy to publish a work with them. Their publisher’s website, Kindle Direct Publishing, makes it easy to upload a work, insert the metadata, and get it published to the site. Their internal review process only takes a few hours before your work is available on the Kindle store.

Amazon also offers a great royalty rate of 70% for most countries for works priced between $2.99 and $9.99. We’ll talk more about ideal pricing later.

The only problem with Amazon’s kindle publishing website is the lack of direct ePub support. As we discussed earlier, Amazon claims to be able to import from ePub but my own experiments broke any usable table of contents and often ignored page breaks. One can hope their import of ePub gets better so we only need to worry about building a single e-book version to support the widest range of publishers.

For now, we stick to MOBI which imports directly to the Kindle store and to Kindle e-book readers.

Publishing on Apple’s iBooks

According to Publisher’s Weekly statistics Apple devices account for 18% of MOBIle readers. This doesn’t necessarily mean that iBooks has a large market share, however. The Kindle App on the iPad probably accounts for most of the use of e-books on Apple’s devices.

It’s taken Apple some time to catch up to the ease of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing website. Unlike Amazon, Apple requires the use of a downloaded program, called iTunes Producer, in addition to their own online publisher website, known as iTunes Connect. As of this writing, the process is cumbersome and slow. Even with a well-formatted ePub, it can take you a couple of hours to upload our book and it can take a week or more to get it approved. Apple sticks to the industry standard royalty rate of 70%, however, so you have little to lose by uploading your book to their store. You might find, however, that you’ll receive very little sales and that it isn’t worth the time, at least right now.

Publishing to Barnes and Noble

Like Amazon, Barnes and Noble has a very easy-to-use website for e-book publishing called Pubit. Unlike Amazon, Barnes and Noble only offers a 65% royalty payment and accounts for 14% of book sales according to Publisher’s Weekly. A 5% royalty difference between Barnes and Noble and Amazon may not sound like much, but it’s worth considering. Why sell an e-book for less when you can steer your audience towards a more flexible e-book package you sell yourself for a 90% royalty? The main reason is convenience for and discovery by Nook owners.

One way to ensure you steer customers to your highest profit margins is to publish your book to Barnes and Noble but not market or advertise it. This way anyone who learns about your book through your own marketing campaign will buy the higher royalty version while those who find it on Barnes and Noble will buy it direct instead of missing it completely.

Publishing Your Own E-book Package

70% is a great royalty percentage to pull in and Amazon has made a few lucky independent authors rich on this break from the traditional model. You know what’s better than 70%? How about 90%. If you write and publish your work with no other real marketing on your part, you’ll be lost in a huge sea of other independent e-books.

Regardless of where you publish your book, you’re going to have to market it on your own on a blog, across the web, and on various social networks. When you handle your own marketing, you have the opportunity to sell from your own channel on top of Amazon’s channel. Any marketing website or social media account you create can point to your own version of your e-book, one with a higher profit margin. You can also make this version more useful to your customer than those sold through other ebook publishers by providing an ebook package instead of just a single book.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Take the HTML, ePub, MOBI, and any PDF versions of your book you create and package them up in a zip file.
  2. Set up an account on Paypal and another site called E-junkie that connects to Paypal.
  3. Upload your book to E-junkie.
  4. Build a web page or website for your book that links to the E-junkie product link.

E-junkie is just one of many sites that offers to distribute an electronic product for a fixed flat-rate fee. E-junkie handles all of the transactions between your customer and your book. You don’t have to send an email with a link or set up some sort of system to handle temporary links so people don’t pass the link around and download a bunch of free books. All of the transactions are handled transparently by E-junkie. To your customer, it looks like they’re dealing with Paypal and you.

E-junkie costs $5 a month for up to ten different books. Twenty books runs $8 a month. On a $5.99 book, you’ll pay for one month with a single sale. There’s no cut per purchase from E-junkie. Paypal takes between 30 and 50 cents.

The disadvantage of rolling your own ebook package is convenience for your customer. Moving files around after receiving an email to a zip file isn’t easy for a lot of people. This method lacks the convenience of clicking a button and having it show up on a Kindle. Power users, however, will like the flexibility of having multiple versions they can back up and move to different devices.

When you sell your own e-book package, include good instructions for loading your e-book on the most popular e-book devices including the Kindle, Nook, iPad, iPhone, and Android e-book readers. Project Gutenberg has excellent instructions for transferring e-book files to various devices you might share with your customers.

Selling Paper Copies on Lulu

Many people still like the feel of a paper book and companies like Lulu found an economical way to let independent publishers print books on demand with no minimum order and no upfront fees. You probably won’t sell a lot of books through this channel and building the internals of a paper book can be quite time consuming. Unless you have real evidence that you’ll sell a lot of hardcopy books or a burning desire to see your work in print, consider skipping the hardcopy. It can take a lot of time to format the book correctly and can cost you a lot as you test print runs.

Should you choose to build a print-on-demand version of your book, there are many details you’ll want to work out. Here are a few:

In the end you’ll have a nice paper copy of a book in your hand. You just have to ask yourself if its worth the extra time, money, and energy when most of your audience will focus on digital copies.

Other Publishers

Depending on your audience, you may want to distribute your books with other publishers. One example, RPG Now, has a large following of pen-and-paper roleplaying gamers. Other markets might have other primary distributers to which you want to pay attention.

While deciding which publishers to use, base your decision on actual evidence. The Apple iBooks store may seem really important until you realize you receive less than 1% of your sales there and took a week to put your material on it.

It’s also important to pay attention to the details of the contract. 70% is a good baseline royalty. You should consider why you would sell it for less on a smaller platform than the Kindle. You should never have to pay anything up front to publish and every publisher should offer you a non-exclusive contract and let you eliminate the contract at any time.

Spend some time researching the audience for the material you want to produce. If there is a large and popular publisher outside of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Apple, it may be worth the extra time to publish your work through them.

Avoiding Unneeded Services

Like a lot of industries, millions of “e-book services” want to fleece you of your money while feeding you the dream that only they can help you make it big in e-book publishing. Take care considering which services you want to work with and ensure you know exactly what they’re giving you for your money. You’ll see no end to technojargon and marketspeak from shysters trying to convince you that you need them or you’ll remain a nobody.

When choosing a publsiher, work directly with the main e-book distributers instead of middle-agencies who work between you and actual distributers. They often take a percentage cut on top of the cut the big publishers already take. Often, they provide no additional service for this cut other than, at best, some convenience. For example, though Lulu offers some excellent print-on-demand services. You don’t really need them to stand between you and Apple iBooks or Barnes and Noble. They will take an additional 10% to give you the convenience when it only takes an hour or so to publish your book with either of these services yourself.

Seth Godin refers to working with this layer of middlemen as buying expensive scaffolding

Avoid any service you don’t understand. Technological advantages and marketing are two big industries for this sort of pseudo-service. Most marketing groups won’t have any greater effect than one you can create yourself. Most large technical services can be broken down into components you can buy as needed such as editing, conversion, cover art, and page design.

When working with a freelancer or service, use personal recommendations to know who to work with and how much to pay. Stick to the basics like ebook conversion, cover art, page design, and copyediting. Negotiate for a flat fee instead of a percentage of sales and keep in mind the realistic number of sales you can expect compared to the costs you’ll incur.

Designing a Cover

Depending on the services you commission, the cover may end up being the highest cost of your book. A good cover makes for a good book, even in the age of digital books.

Designing and selecting a cover is also extremely hard. We all know instinctively when a cover is good or bad, yet few of us have any real conscious training into what makes a cover good or not. In the end, all we have is our own taste. A simple cover is better than a poorly designed cover. Even simplicity can be very hard to pull off, though.

Your best bet for commissioning a cover is to find an artist who you like and has done cover art before. Prices will vary widely from $100 to $600 depending on the artist. You’re best off finding an artist who has already done e-book covers and can design the entire cover for you instead of just the art itself. If you’re going to build a print copy on a service like Lulu, you’ll want a front and back cover.

Keep in mind that the cover of an ebook will be used in all sorts of different sizes. Your cover should look good and still be readable when shrunk down to an icon on the Amazon web page.

Consider avoiding any internal art in your book. Internal art will add additional costs and art embedded within an e-book requires tricky work to scale correctly across devices. Art that looks good on a 9“ iPad or a 24” computer monitor might look terrible on a 3“ phone or 5” e-ink Kindle. It also adds a fair bit of complexity to the e-book construction itself. For the internal design of your e-book, stick to text.

Page Design

Depending on your audience and the theme of your work, you might want to commission a professional page design for the PDF copies of the book. For gaming products, a good page design is essential to separate a professional product from one of an amateur. Professional PDF page design can run 50 cents to $1.50 a page depending on the complexity of the design. You will likely want to use the same design and designer for any print copy you plan to make as well, though doing so may add to the cost.

Professional page design is one of those expenses you might cut out should you choose to skip PDF and print copies and just stick to electronic versions such as MOBI, ePub, and HTML.

Editing and Copy Editing

Great books come from great editing. If you think you can do it yourself, you’re wrong. Every work needs two types of editing: content editing and copy editing. Content editing is best done by someone familiar with the subject matter of the work with a good understanding of the use of language and a good eye for clean writing. A content editor will go over a work to determine the clarity of the message, the proper structure of the work, and the focus of the material. A content editor moves around and cleans up the big parts to make sure that the whole thing is tight, clear, and focused on a single message.

Copy editors focus on the words themselves. They cover spelling, punctuation, and proper grammar. A good copy editor has a level of obsessive compulsiveness that borders on clinical. A good copy editor is hard to find, you can’t simply ask your friend or spouse to do it (unless your spouse happens to be a top-notch editor — lucky me!)

You can get away with having friends read over and edit the content of your work, assuming they have a good understanding of proper grammar, writing, and the subject matter. The better these friends are at this work, the better your work will be. The more people you have read and edit the work, the better the work will be. Copy editors are harder to find yet crucial to a well-formed document.

Focusing Your Work

Let’s take a step back from the mechanics of writing an e-book and look at who we’re writing for.

In On Writing, Stephen King discusses the idea of an “ideal reader”, the single person to whom you steer your ideas and words. This ideal reader helps you target your writing and understand the community you’re writing for. When you’re writing your book, the ideal reader ensures you don’t write something unfocused and vague. It keeps you targeted on a single reader and their own needs as they read your work. Once you’ve completed your work, this ideal reader helps you understand for whom you should market your book and the avenues you will use to reach them. It also helps you choose the publishers you choose to distribute your book.

The more vague this ideal reader, the harder it will be for you to understand who you’re writing for and the harder it will be to find the right audience when you’re done.

Here’s a real trick. The more narrow your audience, the more likely you are to reach them. If you’re aiming at young-adult fantasy readers, you’re competing with JK Rowling. If you’re writing a roleplaying game aimed at parents to play with their kids, you’re market is a lot clearer and a lot more focused.

Understanding Your Community

In olden days, producers used to talk about their audience. In independent publishing we don’t have an audience, we are part of a community. Everyone is a producer. Tweets, blogs, Facebook updates, Tumblr posts, Instagram photos, Youtube videos; everyone is now a producer creating content other people can enjoy.

When you write an e-book, you aren’t reaching out to readers or finding an audience, you’re joining a community of people that already create great content. You are not making something unique or new anymore, you are adding to an existing pool of material produced by tens, hundreds, or thousands of other people around the topic you have chosen. This leads to two important considerations:

You can’t pretend to be part of a community. They will know you’re a fake. Big megacorps spend billions in marketing trying to pretend to be part of the community. Entire industries of “social media gurus” formed around the idea that you can fake this stuff. Other than Old Spice, almost all have failed.

You have to be part of the community with whom you choose to create. You can’t steer it or manipulate it or get people to buy things they don’t want. You have to know who they are, what they care about, and what they want. You have to be one of them. The more you sound like a company instead of a person, the less likely anyone will care about you or what you produce.

Becoming part of a community means finding out where the members of that community spend their time. Is it on Twitter? On a message forum somewhere? Google Plus? Who are the linchpins in the community? Who are the unofficial leaders in this community around which others gravitate? Where do they spend their time? If you hope to become part of that community, you will want to spend your time where they spend theirs. If this is hard to do, you probably aren’t into your topic enough to be able to speak to it. If you’re reading this and saying to yourself “of course! I’m already knee deep into my community of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans” than you have nothing to worry about.

It is likewise important that you understand what you can give your community that they can’t get anywhere else. In bullshit business speak, this is called a “differentiator” or in somewhat buzzwordy terms of Jim Collins, the Hedgehog Concept — doing one thing and doing it better than anyone else.

Once you establish a voice and build a reputation for work that people trust, enjoy, and care about; your own voice becomes your monopoly. No one else can speak for you or write for you. No one can write a Stephen King book but Stephen King. Once your name has a reputation for high quality, useful, and entertaining words, there is nothing more useful and no better way to differentiate your work.

You build this reputation by writing things of consistent quality, things that people find directly useful to them, and lowering your own self value. Your words aren’t about you, they’re about them. Write to help others, not to boost yourself. When you do a search, how many times do you find the word “I ” in your document? How much of your work is talking about yourself and how much is talking about the topic people actually care to hear about?

You build your reputation with high quality, value, and consistency, and low self orientation (a nod to The Trusted Advisor for clarifying the importance of low self orientation. If your work is good, interesting, valuable to others, and gets better every time you put something out; your reputation will grow.


There are numerous ideas on pricing products and many things to consider. Generally speaking, the price of an e-book will run between $.99 and $9.99. More than that and you’re either over-charging or it cost you considerably more to produce it which probably means its not an independent work and outside the scope of this discussion.

Selling a book below $2.99 has some problems. Amazon will only give you a 35% royalty on books sold below $2.99 and the $.30 base fee of Paypal cuts substantially into your profits if you sell below $2.99.

Prices above $6 will likely sell fewer books than prices below. Prices above $6 is a bigger gamble for people to pay on an independent author.

There are two factors that help you determine your price:

You can get a firm idea of costs and then figure out how many you will have to sell to make up those costs. If you count in your own time, it will cost even more. You will have to ask whether you can reasonably sell that many copies at that price to make back your costs.

The value of your work is clearly subjective. You have to look at other books similar to your own and use their costs as a judge. How do the production values of their work compare to your own? Ideally, there really aren’t any other books like yours, so you’ll have to look for things as similar as you can find.

Sell your work at the price you think it’s worth. If it doesn’t sell, it probably wasn’t the right product to begin with.

Real World Sales Examples

Below you will find some real-world sales statistics for my three books, Sly Flourish’s Dungeon Master Tips, Sly Flourish’s Running Epic Tier D&D Games, The Lazy Dungeon Master. These statistics will not give you a 100% accurate view of what you or anyone else will see when selling an e-book. They can, however, give a gauge of what a normal person might expect to see after following the other ideas in this essay.

These statistics represent 1,224 total sales of Sly Flourish’s Dungeon Master Tips from July 2010 to November 2012.

The following table outlines the percentage of sales by each publisher. E-Junkie represents direct sales through the book’s website. Note, the remaining 1.72% were sold through RPG Now but only for a portion of the time. I expect, had I sold through RPG Now the duration, it would have sold more than iBooks.

Lulu Hardcopies8.42%

It is worth noting that Amazon Kindle sales became the dominant source of sales later in the book’s publication. Here is a chart outlining the first six months of sales.

Lulu Hardcopies12.53%

The first four months of sales were largely driven by visitors to the book’s website, my blog, and Twitter. Later on, however, more people found the book through the Amazon Kindle store. Amazon sales will largely account for sales in the long tail of the book’s publication history.

The following chart shows the total sales across all platforms by month.


Escaping the Gatekeepers

Billion dollar corporations try and fail to do what you’re doing. Armies of suits in giant ancient towers of glass built for book distribution in the 1950s can’t comprehend the world in which we now live. They can’t understand a world in which anyone can make anything and reach out to other people who care about it without the suits’ giving their blessing. The tools and technologies exist to give us a chance to spread our ideas as far as e want. The only thing stopping us now is our own fear of failure.

You’re not going to get rich. It’s unlikely you will come anywhere close to making a living. You can reach people, however. You can boost up the community you care about and offer something that enriches the lives of others. You might even pay for your hobby while doing it.

Put together a kit of the tools you need and start making the work you always wanted to make. Don’t let anyone or anything get in your way.

Recommended Reading

Uncountable resources exist to guide and motivate you in the journey of the written word. Below are a few of my favorites.

Take heed when studying these works. Sometimes exploring tools and philosophies ends up pulling you away from the actual act of creation.

You can’t be a writer without writing, finishing what you write, and getting it out there.


Copyright 2012 by Michael E. Shea

This work is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license. You are free to share and remix this work as long as you attribute it to Michael E. Shea and do so for non-commercial purposes.