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The Anatomy Of An E-Book
by Mary A. Mitchell

A year ago, I had no idea what an e-book was. One night I was reading a newsletter, alias an e-zine, and spotted the word. A week later, a publisher was seeking ideas for new e-books. So being the nosy journalist that I am, I asked what it was. Her definition was that it was too long to be published in a periodical but too short to be published in hardcover. The books she sold related to writers and writing and concerned how-to topics.

Aha, my middle-aged mind noted as it whirled with ideas. As one jaded after 20 years of travel writing, I immediately ditched any ideas in that genre and decided to venture into something different. As I contemplated my possibilities, a four-year old idea surfaced.

As a result of teaching as an adjunct at a local university and having to create my own curriculum for a PR writing course, I had disks of information crying to be used. From my standpoint, it was something different. I had combined the best of my knowledge as an English major with the refinements I picked up in a master's program for journalism at the University of Kansas. I then threw in all that I had learned from both sides of the communications business: five years in public relations and 18 in journalism as a writer and editor. The program had worked well for my students, but any ideas I had of using it as a training program or transforming it into software or a web site never quite clicked.

The e-book idea sounded just perfect. I had a how-to topic: preparing the nearly foolproof press release. Over the years, I had thrown enough bad ones away to repopulate whole forests.

Then, I went a step further. I made my book something that was best used online. Eight concise and ready-to-use press releases (from the writer's view, of course) were included. They could be customized right online, printed on letterhead stationery and mailed to the media. Of course, the book included directions on how to identify news and how to develop local mailing lists. Now three weeks, later I have an electronic book, to which I hold the copyright, being sold on four web sites. The arrangement with all four splits the revenues anywhere from 50-50 to 30-70 (Mine being the 70%). Why was I once thinking of opening an e-store?  It's worth the price to have someone else maintain the site and take care of the downloads and credit-card charges and occasional hassles.

The contracts were precise and simple, an improvement over all those from travel guides that I declined. Only one site charges a monthly fee of a $1 to sell the book. No one charged to put it in a certain format. Now it's up to me to promote the sites, but, being a business writer, I have plenty of contacts in the right places to plug a business book. And I am learning all about Internet promotion, having started with registration on every search engine known to man. I also raced like a hurricane through tons of free classifieds posting my own book ad.

It was gratifying to see a positive article in a recent Newsweek about e-books as a wave of the future. Where the trend heads is anyone's guess, but like the Internet itself, e-books have a prosperous future.

So where do you go for more information?  Try the sites below.

This URL lists myriad sites for e-books in all kinds of formats:http://www.exemplary.net/omnimedia/links.html

This one tackles the promotion issue with 26 methods:http://www.wilsonweb.com/articles/checklist.htm

Here's one that ranks best-selling e-books and offers reviews of new ones:http://www.ebookconnections.com/

Then there's another that discusses hardware, software and carries reviews and news briefs on this evolving industry. http://www.ebooknet.com

© Copyright 1999, Mary A. Mitchell

Mary A. Mitchell, a contributing editor for Travel Weekly for 14 years, recently published "Hot Copy: Getting Your News in Print With Effective Press Releases," an e-book available at booklocker.com.

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