How To Publish And Monetize An E-Magazine Or E-Book

How To Publish And Monetize An E-Magazine Or E-Book

CONSIDERING E-PUBLISHING?

I have recently been approached by an entrepreneur who has quite a lot of content previously published in print media and would like to monetize the content through e-publishing. His original idea was to develop a custom application. It is not a reasonable course of action any more.
In a series of articles I will attempt to explore the options available.

Let’s assume you have some valuable content in an electronic form. In order to monetize it you, basically, need to do at least two things:

  1. convert it into appropriate formats and
  2. feed the content into online distribution channels.

To generate revenue your content will need to be available in at least one of the e-readers – understood broadly, as any set/combination of devices and software which allows to consume e-published content. The content needs to be available in the places where your customers are present. The wider the channel coverage, the more likely you are to reach your targets. However, e-publishing comes at a cost which may painfully bite into your bottom line.

The decision on how to e-publish will largely be determined by:

  1. the type of content you want to e-publish,
  2. the kind of target audience you are after and
  3. your financial constraints.

Why is e-publishing such a daunting challenge? There is a myriad of options and combinations available, each with very specific advantages and disadvantages. You need to consider:

  • various devices / Operating Systems on which readers access content (e.g. Android, iOS);
  • a number of cloud-based e-publishing platforms which offer a varied selection of services from content format conversion, analytics and subscriptions to multi-channel publishing; some of them with, others without their own stores (e.g. YuDu, WoodWing, Graphicly);
  • at least a few major e-book stores (online distribution channels) through which e-publications are distributed / sold (e.g. Amazon Kindle Store, Apple iBookstore, Apple App Store).

Only some of them will fit your specific needs, requirements and constraints. You can make the right decision when you know the options available, understand their strengths and weaknesses and can assess their suitability for your specific situation.

This article will:

  1. list some of the issues to consider when you want to e-publish,
  2. provide a high-level overview of the options available,
  3. provide examples of how specific types of content owners deal with the challenge,

and thus, hopefully, help you select an approach which best fits your needs.

ISSUES TO CONSIDER

What are some of the questions to answer before you take the leap into e-publishing? As regards the target audience and distribution channel coverage, it is good to consider:

  • where your potential customers are – which devices and thus stores they use to consume e-published content / which stores you should cover;
  • what the stores’ file format requirements are,
  • if it is sufficient to use just e-book stores or if it might make more sense to add publishing in the form of a mobile application,
  • if dedicated e-readers will do or if you also need to be present on mobile phones.

As far as the content is concerned, consider the following questions:

  • what is the current format of your content?
  • how easily can it be converted to meet the format requirements of the available e-publishing platforms?
  • what is your copyright license for the content; do you have the right to make an e-publication in the first place?
  • is your license limited to a set of languages or territories?

It is impossible to make a good decision without fully understanding your financial constraints as well as the investment needs and costs associated with the specific options available. Some of the questions you might ask yourself in this respect could be:

  • what is the upfront investment (setup cost) you can afford?
  • is there any competitive content available? how likely are you to win customers (over)? what level of investment should you risk?
  • what are the distribution costs, in particular,  the commissions charged by store owners?
  • if you want to publish a magazine – how much does it cost you to publish successive issues?
  • is there a monthly fee charged by the e-publishing platform owner?
  • is the monthly payment based on a per-app or per-issue basis?
  • does the cost depend on the number of online distribution channels you want to cover?
  • is there any specific software you have to invest in?

do you need to upgrade your existing software to a more recent version?

OVERALL APPROACH – POSSIBLE OPTIONS

I assume you need to distribute your publication through a store to reach your target customer.
To make your content available in e-readers you need to:

  • convert your content into  appropriate formats and
  • feed it into the selected online distribution channels / stores.

You can either acquire the relevant skills/expertise and do the above yourself or purchase the associated services from e-publishing platforms. If you choose the latter option you may have to share your revenue and/or cover the cost of the service. The service providers convert electronic content into the different formats needed (e.g. ePub, which can be read on all currently available devices) and/or feed the appropriately formatted content into online distribution channels (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBook, Barnes & Noble Nook).

To put it in other words, there are two main approaches:

  1. DIY – use dedicated tools and publish in each online distribution channel separately or
  2. use an e-publishing platform that enables you to “upload once and publish everywhere”

Now let’s differentiate between ebooks and emagazines. As the form of your publication may direct you towards one option rather than the other.

E-BOOK

With an e-book it seems reasonable to consider the DIY approach in the first place. The obvious advantage of in-house publishing is that you do not share your revenue with e-publishing platforms or need to cover the costs of their services; you only pay the distribution fees to the store owners selected. Typical fees / commissions charged, as of today, i.e., March 2012, are as follows:

  • Amazon Kindle Store – 65%
  • Apple iBookstore – 30%
  • Barnes & Noble Nook – 35% to 60% (depending on the price of your e-book)

You will at least need to be able to create ePub format files which can be distributed on all e-readers. To ensure enhanced user experience, you will need to use several dedicated tools – a different one for each online distribution channel / store. When you have your content converted into appropriate formats, all you need to do is to upload it to the stores chosen. Though time-consuming, the task is not very challenging.

E-MAGAZINE

The case is a bit different when you intend to publish a magazine, especially a magazine with rich content like interactive elements, embedded videos, and multimedia-rich widgets. The topic is broader and more complex. There are more differences between specific e-readers and thus more requirements and limitations to consider than in the case of an ordinary e-books.
For example, current e-ink readers do not support interactive content so you will need to have a separate trimmed down version prepared for them. With non e-ink readers the interactivity is very high but there is no universal format for magazines like the ePub format for ebooks. Consequently, you are forced to provide the content via a native application, which means that for every e-reader there will have to be a separate app created. If you do not have sufficient expertise or upfront investment, you may have to use the service of e-publishing platforms, whereby you provide the content and the vendor generates the native apps you need.
If you choose to take this way, you are most likely to start with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. It can be used for both: generating native apps with content and for preparing the content to be submitted to e-publishing service providers who generate the apps. The Suite enables you to create interactive content for iPad, BlackBerry PlayBook and Android devices such as Kindle Fire and Samsung Galaxy Tab. There are several e-publishing platforms that provide added value on top of the Adobe’s solutions and, in particular, can help you with subscription capabilities for periodic publications.
Your choice is obviously not limited to Adobe and there are other solutions available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. I will cover them in the next article in the series.

HYPOTHETICAL CASE STUDIES – CONTENT OWNER TYPES AND APPROACHES

Since content owners differ in terms of size, the budgets available, the type of target customer they try to reach, the competitive landscape of their business, etc., their overall approach to e-publishing differs likewise. It is possible to identify some broad categories of content owners and identify the ways they typically choose to implement e-publishing. The three case studies below, which are by no means exhaustive, may help to capture the point.

  • An individual publisher / author who wants to publish his own book
  • key issues:

    • minimise the upfront investment needed, commissions, fees and other costs
    • maximize coverage
  • generic solution:
    • DIY: use “native tools” or an inexpensive service to prepare the book in formats such as ePub and Kindle KF8
  • example:

    • The Domino Project by Seth Godin

  • Small / medium-sized publishing house pressed to enter online distribution channels
  • key issues:
    • fast execution
    • maximize coverage
  • generic solution:
    • use an e-publishing platform that covers many devices and has a relatively small cost
  • real life examples:

  • A corporation which intends to increase their magazine coverage through electronic devices
  • key issues:
    • state of the art user experience
  • generic solution:
    • use the best provider for each online distribution channel
  • real life examples:
    • BBC News, Readers Digest, OTTO, The Guardian

CONCLUSION

To summarize, if you own content you would like to monetize e-publishing:

  • consider the issues mentioned to understand your requirements, needs and constraints well,
  • become familiar with possible approaches, including their pros and cons as seen from your specific perspective,
  • check what other similar entities do and
  • select the approach which best fits your specific situation.

I will attempt to drill deeper into details in the articles to come.

A final note:
If  you need to publish “traditional” – let’s say, relatively passive – content, possibly with links to online resources, you should not build your own custom application. If, however, the content you intend to publish needs to be augmented with on-line services, building an application may be an option to consider.
To be even clearer on the point, let me cite an example. If you have a maths problem textbook and you just what to e-publish it, consider some of the options discussed above. If, however, you would like to augment the content by allowing the teacher / parent visibility into how the student is progressing or by allowing the student to check his performance with interactive online challenges available from within the book, an application may be considered. In such a case, we may have some valuable service to contribute here in Selleo.