Amanda Hocking, the 26-year-old current indie queen of eBooks, was rejected by so many New York publishing houses that she decided to go the entrepreneurial route and put out an eBook instead. To date, she's sold more than 500,000 books and made more than $1 million dollars. The movie rights to her popular "Trylle Trilogy" series have been acquired and, a few weeks ago, she closed a US$2 million deal for her four-book "Watersong" series with (yes, you guessed it) St. Martin's Press -- a traditional publishing house.
While Hocking's paranormal romance novels are probably not what the typical entrepreneur is looking to publish, the best-practice business point is that eBooks are now a viable way of building your brand and getting word out about your company and expertise.
Here are the basics: An eBook (electronic book) is an electronic document that can contain text, images, audio and video. They can be viewed on a personal computer, smart phone, PDA and eBook reader, such as a Kindle, and are sold through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and dozens of other outlets.
Depending on the length and content of the eBook, they sell from between 99 cents and $99. But the current rage is pricing eBooks at the lower end of the spectrum for around $2.99, or even giving them away for free as a promotion.
The five best reasons why you should be writing an eBook, beyond the immediate financial return of book sales, include:
• Increases name recognition for your company and personal brand, as well as drives traffic to your Web site via links from book excerpts, free samples, reviews, newsletter distribution and blog mentions.
• Introduces you to potential customers looking for what you offer via press releases about the book, an Amazon listing and book reviews from bloggers.
• Provides a perfect free, downloadable giveaway on your blog to entice visitors to sign up and give you their contact information.
• Makes a great calling card to send before you meet with a potential client to show your knowledge, expertise and point of view.
• Forces you to develop content you can then repurpose for marketing collateral and turn into podcasts and Webcasts.
Oddly enough, the easiest part of eBook publishing is getting the finished product up and running for distribution. Many can be uploaded with just a click of a few buttons. But where most entrepreneurs face a challenge is in finding the time, or having the writing chops, to craft the eBook in the first place. Even if that's the case, it's no excuse, since there are scads of eBook-savvy small businesses whose sole purpose is to ghost write, edit, design and publish your eBook.
Still not convinced? Consider this: According to the Association of American Publishers, Americans spent US$440 million dollars on eBooks in the first quarter of 2011, and the Book Industry Study Group found that one in four Americans reads eBooks -- and that's a whole lota brand to be built.
Karen Leland is a best-selling author and President of Sterling Marketing Group, where she helps entrepreneurs promote their businesses through writing, publishing and promoting e-Books, blogs and other social media.