Fruita best-selling author wades into e-book world

Rebecca M. Hale has experienced enough fast-paced change in the book-publishing industry during her relatively short writing career to recognize 2014 as a tipping point.

“It’s a watershed year across the industry,” predicted the New York Times best-selling author, who lives in Fruita.

When Hale in 2008 published the first book in her Cats and Curios Mystery series, “How to Wash a Cat,” her publisher didn’t even release an e-book version.

Since that time, the scales in fiction have tipped more and more to e-books. Her fifth in the Cats and Curious Mystery series, “How to Paint a Cat,” is due out in March and she’s working on the sixth. She’s also writing the next book in her Mystery in the Island series. All, naturally, now come with e-book counterparts.

Hale’s career has moved from having her books solely in print, to a hybrid market of print and e-books, to short fiction published only as e-books.

Outside of her Penguin publishing contracts, she’s wading into the waters of e-book novellas on her own. Hale last year independently published “Ode to a Fish Sandwich” as an e-book for $2.99. She has four more in process.

There can be advantages in working with a traditional publisher such as Penguin when it comes to editing, marketing and distribution. But publishing directly to e-books can be financially advantageous for a dedicated, prolific and business-minded author, particularly one who already has a fan base, such as Hale.

This removal of barriers to entry for authors is a “democratization of the book publishing process,” Hale said.

Even authors with one book may find e-books a way to get their work out without incurring the expenses of print.

Bud Johnsen published his Western novella, “Pleasant Valley,” last March through Kindle Direct Publishing. Available for $2.99, the story appeals to anyone who enjoys horses, Piper Cub airplanes and ranching, Johnsen said.

“It has been fun and frustrating at times,” Johnsen said. “The folks at Amazon and Kindle tell you the hoops you must jump through, but once you have read the instructions through a dozen times anyone can do it.”

The story was inspired by the years he lived in northwest Colorado, outside of Oak Creek. “I wrote and re-wrote this novella over 10 years,” Johnsen said. “When we moved here, my wife, Sally, said I should finish this project, which I did. I love the Kindle because I can increase the font size for my old eyes, and not wanting to wait for a traditional publisher, we decided to go the e-book way.”

Paula Anderson thinks e-publishing a short book she previously published in print, “Eat Well ~ Be Well,” will help her reach a national market difficult to penetrate otherwise.

“So far my biggest challenge is simply formatting the text (in a Word .doc) to upload to Kindle Publishing,” Anderson said.

“There are a number of services out there in cyberspace willing to do that for you, but so far I’ve been reluctant to engage them because I assume they are pricey. I have asked questions of Kindle Publishing, and they have been quick to respond.” Anderson expects to have her e-book available in the next few weeks.

One online vendor that provides services to e-book authors is bookbaby. Whether you choose to use its services or not, it’s useful to review a free download at bookbaby’s website, “Ebook Publishing: The How-to Guide for Writers,” to get a sense of what’s involved.

Hale uses the services of INscribe Digital, but INscribe is selective about working with authors and generally works with those who already are established.

Once the hard work of writing your story is done, that’s when the hard work of independent publishing really starts.

You need an experienced editor, an understanding you’ll need to rewrite — possibly several times — a strong title, a catchy cover that works well small, formatting and a marketing plan.

Without a physical book to show and sell, you’ll need to work at search engine optimization by listing your title at Goodreads, for instance, and using appropriate key words.

Then you start promoting. And what’s the most effective way to sell an e-book?

“Keep writing more books,” Hale said.

Readers who discover a new author often want to read that author’s entire backlist, Hale explained. You want to cultivate that loyalty and have several books to sell at the push of a button.

Have news about local authors, bookstores, book clubs or writing groups? Email Laurena Mayne Davis at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Davis is the director of marketing and product development for The Daily Sentinel.


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