Digital Publishing Trends and Tips

An interview with eChristian's Dan Balow

Watch the video interview

Dan Balow digests articles on digital publishing as part of his daily regime. He is the publisher for eChristian, a digital online retail store of eBooks, audio, video and also a print book and audiobook publisher, based in Chicago’s suburbs. Dan serves on the boards of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and The Christy Awards. He recently shared these trends and tips on digital publishing with MAI.

Q: What’s the profile of a person who reads e-books?
In 2007, the early adopters in the U.S. were almost exclusively male, but five years later almost 70 percent are female, primarily because fiction is popular in digital formats. The “psychographic” of an e-reader is techno-savvy and educated. There’s also a huge growth in older audiences. It has a lot to do with lifestyle: avid readers and traveling a lot. 

Q: What genres do well as e-books in the U.S.?
The majority of Christian e-book sales are fiction. Most fiction readers read a lot—some as high as a book a week. Biographies and business books also tend to do well as e-books. 

Q: How is marketing different for e-books?
You must go directly to the consumer. It’s very important the author has a personal website, a Twitter and Facebook following. We’re not placing ads in magazines or on the radio—it’s not efficient. If an author has 30,000 Twitter followers or speaks regularly, that’s good.

Q: What advice would you offer to non-techies who are intimidated by digital publishing?
Make decisions based on experience and intuition but pay attention to information on current trends or you’ll be making poor decisions based on old information from 10 to 20 years ago. Or even from two years ago!

Inform yourself a little daily, constantly—it’s like studying Scripture. Is it better to read Scripture daily, do a weekly bible study, or go to a once-a-year Bible conference?  All three are good, but you would grow more by feeding your heart daily.

Just a few minutes a day reading short articles can help you stay aware. 

Q: How would you advise publishers around the globe who want to venture into digital publishing?
Do your new books first in digital formats, then work your way back. Try setting a two-year plan and start working backward with a set number of titles per month. Publish all your new books as e-books starting with the bestselling titles. This will reduce conversion costs. 

Pay attention to what’s happening in your local environment. This varies widely, partly depending on whether Amazon or Apple is active there. Your decisions should be based on long-term trends, not on a a single article or news item. 

Q: What does the future look like in digital publishing?
Our company assumes the future will be a smart-phone based technology. Cell phones are the one piece of technology that nearly everyone has. Even 5 year-olds have phones. Go to China or the backstreets of Mali and people have cell phones.  We look for content that will work well in digital format.

Historically, it takes 10 years for a new technology product to take off. Within five years, 50 percent of book sales could be digital. 

This is not just a passing trend. I don’t know the future, but I know it doesn’t look like the past.

Watch the video interview with Dan Balow

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