10 Reasons Why Authors Should Format Old Novels as E-Books

Writing Novels That Sell with Adrienne deWolfe

If you're an author with a backlist of previously published paperback novels, then I encourage you to consider formatting those novels as e-books.  Not only are you likely to increase your passive income, you will gain far more control over your career than you had with your legacy publisher.

Now I admit, I wasn't too keen on jumping on the e-book bandwagon myself.  I had lots of reasons to resist e-publishing, most of which sound like sour grapes toward a previous publisher, so I won’t elaborate.  However, I will tell you that I’ve had a complete change of heart toward e-publishing, and I am writing my next novel directly for electronic distribution.


Because I wised up.

Whether you’re a fan of e-books and Indie Authors, one fact remains irrefutable: e-books and Indie Authors are here to stay.  So why not add to your income, by writing ebooks for a living? 

Have you noticed that teens and young adults are overwhelmingly oriented toward electronic mediums?  Teens and young adults are the readers of your future.

True story:  A midlist Romance author called me to chat.  “Chelsea” (not her real name) mentioned that she recently began self-publishing her old paperback Romance novels for Kindle (Amazon), Nook (Barnes & Noble), and iPad (Smashwords). 

To appreciate this story, you must understand that Chelsea writes books for a sub-genre of Romance that has one of the smallest (but most loyal) readerships in the genre. In paperback, Chelsea was lucky if her publisher printed 20,000 of her books. No matter how good her writing was, Chelsea’s small print run would never let her reach enough readers to become a bestseller.

However, e-books are cheap to produce for Indie Authors. After her paperback publisher released Chelsea’s books (called “reversion of rights” in most book contracts), Chelsea started publishing her backlist – one at a time – every few weeks on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. 

Amazon is recognized for its marketing genius. Simple buying invitations, such as “You may also like . . .” (posted at the bottom of webpages) helped to shoot Chelsea’s e-book sales through the roof. Her titles stayed on Amazon’s bestseller chart. Within six months of having her seventh backlist title self-published on Amazon, she was grossing upwards of $12K per month – on Amazon alone. Through additional e-book distributors, her monthly gross income increased to approximately $17K.

Thinking that she would like to continue publishing her new Romance titles as paperbacks, Chelsea had a heart-to-heart talk with her literary agent.  After crunching the numbers, Chelsea’s literary agent admitted that he could not negotiate an advance-against-royalties on Chelsea’s behalf, with any publisher, in an amount that would equal the income that Chelsea’s e-books are currently earning her.

Needless to say, Chelsea has become an e-publishing convert.  By publishing her backlist, she has grown her readership around the world.  Now she can drop her paperback publisher and earn a lucrative income by self-publishing her new titles electronically.

Is Chelsea’s story typical?  Probably not.  Lots of variables go into e-publishing stories about Indie Authors.

Nevertheless, I continually hear from published novelists that their income from self-publishing backlists is going through the roof – despite e-book price tags of 99 cents or $2.99 (as compared with $8.99 for the average new paperback title). Ironically, many of these authors aren’t actively promoting their books! 

But if the thought of increasing your passive income doesn't light you up like a Christmas tree ('cause maybe you're allergic to money?), here are 10 additional reasons to format your paperback novels as e-books.


10 Reasons Why Authors Should

Format Backlist Novels as E-Books

1)  Earning a decent living as a midlist author has grown tougher than ever.  The rising cost of paperback printing and distribution has made legacy publishers far pickier when deciding which books to contract and which authors to award with promotional dollars to support the launch of new releases.

2)  Your investment in e-publishing can be free.  Gone are the days when authors had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to self-publish paperbacks through a vanity press . . . and then stack boxes in their garage.

3) You’ll broaden your name recognition.  Your old titles will always be available to readers while they wait for your legacy publisher to print your next paperback.

4) You’ll increase your readership in new world markets.  If you’re a midlist author, chances are that your publisher didn’t print enough of your paperbacks to reach potential readers in Europe or Australia, for instance.  Indie Authors can cheaply distribute books around the world.

5) You’ll have more control over cover art.  Your characters' hair color and costumes can finally appear the way you always envisioned them on the book cover.

6)  You’ll have complete decision-making authority over story content and promotional copy. 

7) You can rewrite any portion of your novel at any time, republishing it immediately at little or no cost.  This practice may become important if you’re writing new books to round out an old series, or if you need to update a novel to reflect modern trends.

8)  You can set any price you choose – and change that price at random.  (Of course, pricing your books above current market trends is not likely to profit you.)

9)  Emerging readers (teens and young adults) prefer e-readers over paperbacks.  Like their younger counterparts, 20-something and 30-something readers are active on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace,  etc., where they talk about books they love.  One Young Adult author reported that 50,000 of her new titles were downloaded within 3 days after she alerted her Social Media network.  (A well-known, bestselling Amazon author might enjoy a million downloads in three days.)

10)  You will never again have to worry about a book going out of print.  Your books will be available to purchase “forever” on the web.

Like it or not, e-books are here to stay. With so many great reasons to jump on the e-publishing bandwagon, do yourself a favor.  Re-format your previously published novels, and start to make a living writing ebooks!

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