What makes you buy an ebook?

Nothing. i don’t use or want ebooks.

That’s true. It’s also true, however, that most publisher-published books are also complete and utter crap. 90% of everything is shit. You’re just showing your personal prejudices.

You’re an author just by writing a book, even if it’s never published. If you make a significant amount of money at it, you’re a professional author. A lot of self-published authors on Amazon make a significant amount of money from it. And for your information, you actually make a greater percentage of royalties self-publishing on Amazon than most first-time genre authors do with a publisher contract.
BTW, I am an amateur photographer…yet I’ve been published in several magazines and had my photos displayed. But I don’t make significant money from it, so I call myself a hobbyist. I also write science fiction and self-publish it on Amazon. Despite the fact that none of my books are priced over $1.99, I made over $10,000 from just my first two 99 cent books (from which I make 35 cents a sale) in their first year. I consider myself a professional writer because I make a significant amount of money at it.

Sure. Amazon should forgo potential profits with almost no overhead because it offends your personal prejudices. I’m sure they’ll get right on that.


Then why comment on the thread at all? Just curious.

I have about 250 ebooks on my kindle. I had a lot more than that in my physical library until my recent move. :frowning:

Price doesn’t matter if the book looks like it contains something of interest to me. I find books through Amazon recommendations to me, book club, NYTimes and NPR reviews/interviews. I can’t imagine buying a self-published book, as I’m a grammar/style nitpicker, and haven’t found stuff written without oversight by a professional editor to be readable.

Cover may catch my eye, but beyond that, it doesn’t matter, especially in an ebook.

I only buy through Amazon, as I am seriously into collecting rewards points.

This is my one issue with ebooks.

No fucking way am I paying the same price for a digital download as I would for a physical item.

An ebook has no printing costs, no shipping costs and almost zero quality control required. It requires no warehouses or boxes to ship it in.

If an ebook of something I was already likely to want to read was like 25% of the cost of a real book, I’d consider it and perhaps purchase it. But full price? FUCK no.

I completely disagree with LavenderBlue, and have never had that experience with self-published or small-published books. Sure, caveat emptor, but more and more previously-publisher-housed authors are retaining their ebook rights and “self-publishing.”

The Shack, What Color is My Parachute, and 50 Shades of Grey are standouts. Maybe not literary masterpieces, but sitting on those millions, who would care?

The Da Vinci Code, by contrast, had a fucking editor.

If the Da Vinci Code’s editor was good at fucking, it was the only thing he or she was good at.

I don’t know; I do judge an ebook by its cover.

I’ve found that the ones with terribly made MS Paint quality covers tend to be a lot more poorly done than ebooks with decent looking ones. It shows that the author didn’t care enough to make sure their book was well presented.

In that case, what else were they lazy about?

That said, I don’t care about the subject matter of the cover, just that it looks halfway aesthetically pleasing.

The ratio is far higher with self-published ebooks. They may publish crap by Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield but at least it’s grammatically correct crap. I constantly run into threads where people complain that self-published books are filled with such errors.

Writing a book and getting it published are two entirely different things. Anyone can sit at a computer and physically write a book. Getting a publisher to agree to take notice and agree to publish it is entirely different. One takes nothing more than the ability to type that we all learn in seventh grade. The second takes at least some degree of writing skill, mastery of English and, yes, talent.

Oh and FYI, I know a fair bit about Amazon pricing and royalties. I happen to know that you can keep seventy percent of royalties if you price the material you self-publish on Amazon at a certain price point. I’ve looked into putting some fun ebooks on Amazon just to make some money. That still doesn’t make anyone who self-publishes material on Amazon any more than someone who self-published material on Amazon. Most libraries won’t carry self-published material nor will most bookstores stock them. They certainly won’t get reviewed by Booklist or Publisher’s Weekly or any of the major newspapers and magazines.

That’s nice. Congratulations. I make about three hundred bucks a month from old eHow articles I wrote via the Demand Studios rev sharing program. I was making a small fortune on self-publishing material on eHow before they shut it down. But it was still crap. It’s one of the reasons I’m sort of thinking of writing some ebooks myself: to make money.

Amazon has no problem with predjudice. They told me that the other day when I called them to ask them to do something about an idiot anti-vax nut. A certain Cynthia Parker has been spending hours and hours and hours writing garbage about my book on their site. She references holocaust denial websites and insults me and me and my co-author at least once a day and yet they allow her a personal platform to spread hatred and scientific illiteracy. Yeah that offends me.

All they’re doing is charging the public for access to the slush pile. I co-authored a book with a respected academic publishing house. The book went through multiple drafts, was read by four different people and praised by major media outlets. It has pages of accurate endnotes and a long bibliography. I am a published author. The guy who threw up some stuff on Amazon is mostly still just a guy who threw up some stuff on Amazon. The former is a lifetime achievement. The latter is not.

When we’ve gotten to the point where we refuse to distinguish between the two I stand by my belief that’s a problem.

I don’t just write that as a writer. I write that as a reader. I love to read more than almost anything else in the entire world. My idea of the perfect day is one spent next to a beach with a book in my hands. My house is filled with books. I think the last count was over 7,000 and that was before a major culling. I buy them every single month of the year. My library card is worn from constant use. There are books in every single room in my house. They’re behind the bed, under the couch, next to the tub and underneath the cat righ now. Between me and my daughter we have over 20 bookcases.

Yuu want me to pay money to read your book? Then put some effort into it as I did when I wrote mine. Ideally put a whole hell of a lot of effort into it. Prove to me the book is worth reading. Merely typing it up, putting it on Amazon and then getting your friends to praise it is nothing more than a vanity press. I want better than that.

I see a place for the return of publishing houses, as gatekeepers. They’d require actual screening, with a rejection process, and some editing, before you get to sell your book under their imprint. The customer gets the security of knowing the book has at least passed some level of critical review.

It wouldn’t infringe on anyone’s liberty; it would just address the problem you note. Just as I wouldn’t buy a toaster without the UL seal of approval, so I’d be reluctant to buy a book that wasn’t sold through a respectable publishing house.

On the other hand, for 99 cents, I’m willing to take chances!

That is definitely the attitude I take. I’ve learned a lot from books that would probably have difficulty being published traditionally. And they certainly wouldn’t be available for such a cheap price if it weren’t for self publishing on Amazon.

It’s not harming me to read the free excerpt of the book and decide for myself if it’s any good.
I don’t see where I need publishers to tell me what is worth reading or not.

I’ve run into books published by publishing companies that were filled with grammatical errors as well.

Frequently it takes none of the above.

Good for you. Here, have a cookie.

You’re missing the point, which is the inadequacy of your terminology.

How are they with reading comprehension?

Thanks for the continuing feedback, it’s all very enlightening so far. Another question:

How often do you download free samples of ebooks? Does having a free sample available make you more likely to give it a try? If you like the free sample, how likely are you to buy the full ebook?

If I may add to the discussion about self-publishing vs traditional publishing, this was my decision making process:

I finished the first draft of the book in 2010, and went through about 4 full drafts (over a year and a half) with edits from someone close to me who has editing experience. I spent another year and a half submitting to publishers and agents. I got some interest from a couple of literary agents, but they would not communicate with me reliably, which was extremely frustrating. I also corresponded with a handful of successful, traditionally-published authors, and the surprising advice I got from most of them was to self-publish- to maintain control of the work, to get greater royalties, and not have to worry about unprofessional and unreliable publishing houses.

So I decided to self-publish.

Unless the book is part of a series I’m already involved in, pretty much any time I have the opportunity to do so.

Well… yes. It’s no different from 30 or 40 years ago when I’d riffle through a treebook (the only kind of book we had back then) glancing at random pages to get a feel for the book. If I like what I see I’ll buy the book.

Of course, with e-books this is also an opportunity to check for spelling/grammar/format errors and anything else that might impair readability. If the free sample is full of that sort of thing then no, I’m not buying it.

Oh - my personal thoughts on traditional publishing vs. self-publishing as someone who has been reading 45 years and has published a few small works of my own, and not just to you but to aspiring writers in general:

First, I invoke Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is bullshit. And the corollary is that Sturgeon was an optimist. That really applies to all publishing.

The inverse, however, is that 10% of everything is better than bullshit and might be worth your time.

As an author your task is to get into the 10%, regardless of how you go about getting published.

If you’re going to self-publish then be a professional about it. If you don’t have a formal publisher to provide an editor then YOU have to provide one for yourself. Absolutely have someone else edit your work, at the very least for basic spelling, grammar, and format errors. Please. That is probably THE most common mistake I see with self-publishing and it’s a huge turn off. (Regretablly, I’ve also encountered it with traditional publishers as well, even if not as often - >sigh<)

Once you get the art portion done you have to think business. You have to move from being the author to being the publisher. That means getting your work edited, formatting it, setting up a means to sell it, doing your own marketing and promotion…

Yes, there have been some self-publishing success stories. And ALL of them have that “business” component well in hand. It can be done, but it’s not often done well.

Good luck

Curious - what genre is this work of yours, OP? I do admit I tend to read only certain genres these days, but if happens to fall into one of them I’d be interested in taking a look.

Thanks for the advice!

My novel is a fantasy adventure (for adults, not YA), with a bit more emphasis on the “adventure” rather than the “fantasy”.

Almost never. I will often use the “look inside” feature at Amazon to read the first few pages just to get an idea of the writing style, but I don’t bother downloading free samples.

I give them some attention. They can be particularly useful if they mention a bit of what the book is about, and give comparisons to other books with similar themes.

Of course, they also have to be well-written. I’m not inclined to take advice on books from people who can’t put together a proper sentence.

For an unknown author, price is probably the most important factor. I’ll often take a chance on a book that’s 99 cents, because, come on, it’s 99 cents! That’s less than a chocolate bar.

If the first one is good, I’ll usually bump up the amount I’m willing to spend for later books by that author, since they’re no longer unknown. How high it goes depends on exactly how good they are.

But even for well known authors, I rarely pay more than $10 for an ebook. If you can’t make money at that price point, you’re doing something very wrong. There’s no rational reason an ebook should cost the same as a physical book, or even more, in some extremely silly cases.

Amazon recommendations are my first stop, with occasional forays into the lists of newly published books. I’m not sure what makes something “catch my eye”, though.

Another important source is positive mentions is places like this, where I generally respect the opinions of most posters. I’ve bought more than one book this way, and haven’t gotten burned yet.

One important factor for after you’ve caught my eye, is the “Try a sample for free” option on Kindle. If I’m on the fence about a book, a really good free sample, combined with the 99 cent price point, will almost always get a sale. After that, whether I buy a second book comes down to how well the rest of the book holds up. for an example, take a look at this one, which I found via a recommendation on a forum:


The free sample ends at just the right point, where I wanted to know what came next. Sold! The rest of the book was worth it, as well.

Quite often, and very likley. The fact that cheap ebooks makes it possible for authors to market directly to readers is one of the things I like most about them. Sure, lots of them will be crap, but enough of them have been good enough to make it worthwhile, and have produced some really good books that likely wouldn’t have seen the light of day under traditional publishing practices.

Wow, I almost missed this thread! As another self-published author, I’m definitely interested in the insights here, and have a few of my own.

First of all, I agree with LavenderBlue and others–so much self-published stuff is just pure garbage. The stuff from the major publishing houses is fine, of course (as pointed out, might be bad but at least it’s edited bad) and I trust self-produced ebooks from known authors (Mike Stackpole, for example, self-publishes some of his stuff, and it’s quite good). But I look at the “Look Inside” for lots of ebooks, and I would say that it’s running at least 70% crap to 30% that gets past my “this person can actually write, spell, and punctuate properly, so I’ll at least consider giving him/her a further chance.”

It annoys the heck out of me when I see ebooks on Amazon that are just pure, utter, and complete crap (badly written, badly punctuated, unedited–just crap) and they have 20+ glowing 5-star reviews. Now, I don’t claim to be any great shakes as an author, but I am absolutely confident that my books are spelled properly, punctuated properly, formatted properly, have dialog that’s not a mess from a mechanical standpoint, and have plots that at least make an effort at holding together. I feel like the proliferation of crap because there’s no gatekeeping at all makes it difficult for those of us who actually make an effort to rise about the garbage heap at get seen by readers who are every bit as jaded as I am.

As for the answers to the OP’s questions and others:

  1. The cover does make a difference to me, but not much of one. I will be a little leerier of a book with a bad cover, but one with a simple cover is fine. There are schools of thought that say you shouldn’t put too much effort into making an elaborate ebook cover because it won’t come through in the thumbnail.

  2. I never get free samples, but I always read at least part of the “Look Inside.” If it doesn’t have one, unless it’s a known writer I won’t even give it a second glance. See my “crap” comments above. I can usually tell in about three pages whether the book is going to annoy me with mechanical errors. I’m very unforgiving of them, so if I see too many I won’t continue.
    The frustrating thing for me about self-publishing is marketing. I’m confident that if I can get my books to the kinds of people who enjoy my style and genre, they have a good chance of enjoying them. But I lack the confidence and the skill set to really go out there and aggressively market. That’s another thing that depresses me–that many of the authors who write crap seem to have endless contacts and friends they can sell their books to, so that kind of thing gets perpetuated.

BTW, just in case you think I’ve got a case of sour grapes, here’s an example of what I would call self-published crap. Judge for yourself.