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Buying a Self-Published Ebook? 4 Things to Look for Before You Purchase

The article Real Authors and the Paradox of Desktop Publishing inspired a spirited discussion on self-publishing.

I’ve self-published quite a few ebooks, with plans for many more. The author writes in the aforementioned post, “There’s a lot of crap content out there. Anyone can invest in a program or two, buy a few stock photos or clip art and throw something together.” And he’s right.

So this post got me to thinking about what to look for if you’re going to purchase an ebook from a self-published author. As both a writer and purchaser of self-published ebooks, following are four things I look for before I hit the “buy now” button.

1. Author Experience: My non-fiction ebooks* are all about freelance writing, small business and marketing, and all are written from first-hand experience because I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993; I’ve owned several small businesses (online and off) and got into internet marketing this year (2008).

So, this is the first thing I look for from a self-published author, ie, do they have experience in what they’re writing about.

I find that most books written and published via traditional publishers have a lot of fluff or expect you to follow the “rules” so to speak. Many self-published authors have managed to find a success formula without doing this (this is why they are self publishers) and share that experience in an ebook.

And, this is one of the main reasons I write and buy self-published ebooks. The author has experienced success on their own terms, which was learned from first-hand experience.

Ebook Marketing Tip: One of the most effective marketing methods I’ve used is the ebook giveaway, eg, sign up to my newsletter and get a free ebook.

*Update Oct 2016: I write fiction too; primarily romance novellas.

2. Author Background: This piggybacks on the above. I like to know a little about an author’s professional background. This is important to me because it clues me in as to their motivation for self-publishing – and their depth of experience. It tells me a lot about how they approach their subject matter.

As an example, I’ve been in publishing since 1987. I’ve owned an editorial staffing agency and have been a freelancer. So I know the ins and outs of freelance writing from an employer’s view, and from an employee’s (independent contractor’s/freelancer’s) view.

When I write, I bring all of that experience to bear on the subject matter. I can lay out scenarios, predict outcomes and suggest solutions because I have a depth of knowledge on freelance writing that only comes from having worked in publishing/editorial for many years.

3. Author Website: You can tell a lot about a self-publisher from their website. Following are three things I look for in a self-published author’s site/blog:

(i) Site Content: As in, is there a repository of informational articles on the subject matter of the ebook I’m thinking about buying? Is it written by the author of the ebook, or are the articles pulled from sources like article directories? Is there a blog? Is it updated regularly, or was the last post three months ago? Are first-hand stories recounted, or is the information very general?

All of this lets me know how well the author knows his/her subject matter.

(ii) Affiliate Programs: Affiliate programs in and of themselves are not a problem. But, if an author’s website is filled with affiliate programs and almost nothing else – especially when they are unrelated to the subject matter of the ebook I’m thinking of purchasing – then I’m wary.

If I’m considering purchasing a self-published ebook on freelance writing for example, I’d expect to see affiliate programs for things like ebook cover and/or logo design, web hosting companies (we all need websites), email marketing software and yes, even other ebooks on freelance writing.

Unrelated ads make me pause – because it makes me feel as if the seller is just trying to make money, not sell me a product that they really know about or believe in.

(iii) Site Updates: As I mentioned above, I look at how often the author’s site is updated. It doesn’t have to be daily, or even every other day. If a site is not updated at least two or three times a month though (or on a set, publicized schedule if it’s less), then I dig a little deeper; eg, are they on vacation, is the site currently being redesigned, has there been a personal matter the author is handling, etc.

My rationale for looking at how often a site is updated stems from the fact that self-published authors — who are actively engaged in what they write about — run a business. Businesses don’t stay “closed” (eg, are not updated regularly) for very long – not if they are legitimate.

4. Google: One of the last things I do is run a Google search of the author’s name. It’s amazing what you can find out about a person by just doing a simple Google search. Mainly, I’m looking to see if they’ve been around a while.

Can what is on their website be backed up by other stuff that appears on the web? Have they written and submitted content to sites like Business2Community or Medium? Have they guest posted, been mentioned, or discussed on other blogs in their niche?

All of this lends legitimacy to their “author status.”

Why Buying from Self-Publishers Is the Best Way to Get Information (IMO)

Self-publishing is becoming more and more mainstream. And as a self-published author, I know that the information received in ebooks can be some of the most effective, direct, hard-hitting information you will ever find.

Good ebook authors cut out the fluff and get right to the point, which is why buying from self-publishers is the best way to get information in my opinion. If you want to know how to do “x”, find someone who’s done it/are doing it – and wrote an ebook about it. Then simply follow their advice.

And this is the power of self-publishing – if it’s gotten from the right source. Visit the Inkwell Editorial bookstore for links to all of my self-published titles.

Wanna Publish an Ebook? Here’s a Valuable Tip. Make it an immediate download. My ebook sales jumped when I signed up with e-Junkie, which allows buyers to immediately download the ebooks they buy.

P.S.: Make Money Writing Romance

This is one of my most popular self-published ebooks. To date, I’ve written over 40 romance novellas. Here’s one of my most in-depth posts on the subject.

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