The Australian Society of Authors Creating Your Own Ebook

The ASA is running a great two-day workshop on Creating Your Own Ebook. Melbourne writers  experienced this in March and Sydney ran over the last few days. The workshop will be rolled out to Perth in May, Adelaide in August and runs in Brisbane in November.

Read down to the bottom of the post to read case studies of three participants.

The workshop was put together in conjunction with ifbook: Australia. Described as the ‘think-tank’ connected to the Queensland Writers Centre, it is lead by Simon Groth, author and editor who has been experimenting with various forms of digital since the early days of the web.

Highly recommend what Simon has to say and you can find him at his website, on Twitter and at if:book Australia. He’s interesting, really pushes the edges of what is currently possible and happening. I mean, how many people have written a collaborative fiction book with their brother? I don’t think I could work with either of my brothers without wanting to shout. A lot. But Simon and Darren made it work and were shortlisted for a prestigious writing award with their young adult book. Impressive.

ifbook: Australia also published Hand Made High Tech – commissioned essays on the future or reading and writing in a future slanted to digital. Have I mentioned I downloaded this as soon as it was available? And it’s free? Brilliant work, you would be crazy not to avail yourself of this title.

ifbook: Australia constantly make me wish I was based in Brisbane. That is, when I’m not wishing I was in Melbourne to attend the Wheeler Centre Events. ifbook.australia are always creating interesting events and experiments. One to watch is their 24-hour book in June. 24 hours.9 writers. One book. No. sleep, especially for the editors! You can literally watch the story unfold at their website.

Knowing that digital is a bit of an obsession with me you won’t be surprised that I knew a lot of the background and setting the scene side covered on the first day, but watching the crowd of writers and the interaction with Simon, this was exactly what most of the participants were there to learn. And learn they did.

Simon took participants through a range of topics. He made sure everyone understood the terminology, the different ereaders, what they each could deliver, how they felt and navigated. Hands on. We all got our mitts on a range of readers/tablets. Bliss. Handling and discussing and comparing the Kobos, Kindles and iPads helped everyone understand what they are dealing with.

We’re in an age of digital incunabula

That has to be voted my favourite phrase of the day.  Firstly Simon had to explain the meaning of incunabula! He said he first heard this from Corey Pressman at Books in Browsers in July 2011. I’m waiting for the chance to throw this phrase into conversation myself…

There was an excellent section on ebook cover design where Simon very clearly demonstrated what did and didn’t work when you shrink down to small ebook cover size. What works beautifully in a printed book may not work at all on an ebook so think this through when creating your cover. Simon also identified what you need to think about when digitising content: what design elements to keep and what to discard (page numbers for instance).

Simon took attendees through the Ebook Ecosystem, retailers and business models with examples for each. We learnt about Pure Play, Freemium, Subscription, and Chunking or Bundling. Simon also took us through different pathways to publication available to authors.

The second day was ‘PressBooks Day’! This was hugely interesting to me because although I’ve known and followed them since launch, despite the fact they are built on my blogging platform, that I admire the creator (Hugh McGuire) I just had not found the time to use this as an interface to creating clean .epub and PDF files.

All participants came with their computer and a digital file to be truly hands-on with their content.  One organised attendee had a book ready to go and I suspect that at the end of the day she was  ready to download her .epub file and start selling. Others struggled with the technology and needed a lot of hand-holding, with the majority in the middle field that will probably work through this after the workshop and finalise their text.

Bearing in mind that I work in WordPress with this blog, you may think that  there wasn’t anything too new for me. Not true. I’m guilty of not having much patience and I tend to jump right in. Today Simon taught me new things about working in PressBooks formatting that will be helpful with using WordPress. And Simon showed me how PressBooks is different from the blogging environment of WordPress. He did point out that the platform is new and a work-in-progress, adding on new features all the time. It also has a user forum to help you in many ways.

I wonder if a pre-requisite in the future should be that an attendee has downloaded and read an ebook prior to attending? This may avoid some of the newbie questions about fonts or page numbers in ebooks.

The outcome for me today was that I achieved my objective: Entering text of a book. I know how to get this to the stage that I have a clean (meaning well produced) .epub file or PDF file. Simon showed us how to upload and convert this so that we are able to self-publish this through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program.

I saw a lot of authors who left today with the knowledge and tools to start taking control of their own publishing destiny. I asked three writers why they wanted to attend this workshop. I’ve changed their names for their privacy and freedom.

Case Studies of Participants

Judy is a published author with a literary award longlisted fiction title with a high profile publisher. Although pleased to be published, Judy felt her sales could have been better and she was also frustrated by the delay in digitisation of her work – two years after publication. Judy attended this course to learn about how to proceed with a non-fiction title she has an idea for. Having identified a gap in the market she wants to take control of all aspects of her next publication.

Moira is interested in writing but has not yet been published. Attending this course is her way of gaining greater understanding of digital publishing and the tools that she can use to take herself to publication.

John is an expert in his chosen field and has previously self published books and found this a positive experience. His non-fiction content needs regular updating, and he is paying his supplier to change the text each time.  He saw this course as a way for him to be able to manage his own content and sell his own ebook on his website. He is heading towards a stage where he would like to work less, and hopes working to  monetising his content will create an income stream.

Be aware, Creating Your Own Ebook workshops have sold out in each city they are run so for anyone in Perth, Adelaide or Brisbane I’d suggest get in quick or miss out.


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