The training workshops How to Publish Your Ebook are a series of two-hour workshops made available by The Australian Society of Authors. Convened by Linda Funnell they cover the background and current landscape of ebooks in Australia and internationally; preparing and producing an ebook option; sales channels; metadata and promotion. Running weekly, participants also receive comprehensive handouts and references.
Last week Joel Naoum, Publisher, Momentum Books, Pan Macmillan’s digital-only imprint, presented Part 1: The growing market for eBooks and recent developments. You can read about his presentation and view slides. This week it was my job to set out the options for preparing and producing an ebook
Part 2: Preparing and Producing an Ebook
I had just under two hours to cover everything that I thought was important. This time is not long enough to give attendees the step-by-step process, but it is a perfect amount of time to communicate the key points to consider when preparing your file and choosing a conversion partner.
The format you choose depends on your content.
- Is it mostly text based? Perhaps with some illustrations? ePUB is the best option for your book.
- Some types of content don’t suit using ePUB. These include highly illustrated material like cookbooks or kids’ books.
- Amazon Kindle has their own proprietary format (AZW or KF8 for the Kindle Fire), but they provide a handy conversion option from ePUB for authors.
- Fixed layout is handy for cookbooks and layout is comparable with PDF in that it is, well, fixed!
- iBooks Author allows for greater interactivity, it’s free but of course you can only sell it through the iBookstore and view on an iPad. Yes, you can give it away free and plenty of people won’t mind only selling through Apple.
The nitty-gritty (or what to think about before conversion)
I have a mantra about what is involved in creating great digital books: Good content; Cover design; editing; ISBN and Metadata. The last two were outside scope of my presentation last night.
Cover design and images in ebooks
- Understand that your cover needs to be designed to be viewed at thumbnail size on a retailer website – and full size as well.
- Focus on the title, clear imagery and author name.
- With reflowable text it is hard to ensure to ensure images within your book will be related to the text and other formats are more suitable when that is imperative.
I believe that an author should purchase their own ISBN. It’s very tempting when so many operations offer you a ‘free’ or highly discounted ISBN but every ISBN has a Publisher part of the code. You want to be recognised as the ‘publisher of record’.
- In Australia you can buy your ISBN through Thorpe Bowker. For Australian authors it costs $55 registration fee (once only) with the fee for one ISBN at $40 and 10 for $80. That’s A$95 if you register and purchase one ISBN and for ten it will cost A$135.
- Although some retailers may not require an ISBN for an ebook it IS necessary.
- You need to allocate one ISBN for every ebook format. That means your Kindle edition format will have a different ISBN to your ePUB format. This is about ensuring your customer purchases the correct format for their ereader but also about tracking your sales. And yes, you DO need a different ISBN to the one used for your print edition.
- Every chance I have I always emphasise the importance of editing. It can take a rough manuscript through to a great book.
- Never EVER think this is a job that can be done by a friend or family member with a keen eye.
- A copy edit and structural edit are preferred.
- I like to direct people to a great post by Catherine, Caffeinated called: Why You Need An Editor: A demonstration. My favourite quote from this article follows:
In fact, there are only two acceptable excuses for not getting your book professionally copyedited (i.e. paying someone to do it) before you self-publish. They are:
- You being a professional editor
- Your book having no words in it.
CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD is a 29-year-old writer, blogger and coffee enthusiast from Cork, Ireland. Her blog is here.
Footnotes and Index
- Footnotes become endnotes and can be placed at the end of the chapter or the end of the book.
- The index is linked to the text and a good coder, so I’m told, can create anchor points on the page. You still need an index rather than having readers rely on just using the ebook’s ‘search’ function. The search function is good if you know what you’re looking for, but an index can show the scope of what a book contains.
- Always make sure your index is on your Table of Contents.
- QA, QC, or what we just call a really good test that everything is working as it should.
- Always run your ePUB file through a validator and make sure that the conversion process hasn’t created errors you didn’t expect.
- Anyone who converts without a thorough QA process is both brave and foolhardy in my opinion!
- A couple of ePUB validators are: http://code.google.com/p/epubcheck/ or http://validator.idpf.org/
Creating Your Ebook
There are many more options available to authors today in creating their ebook. Although my talk was about creation it is impossible to ignore the sales and distribution side as it is part of the decision process. I discussed some of the options and the benefits and limitations of each. They included:
- Creating your ebook with Kindle Direct Publishing. Let’s face it, they do have the majority of the market and make it pretty easy for an author to create their ebook. They accept a wide range of formats and authors can opt-in for the 35% royalty rate or 70% if they meet certain criteria. These include selling your ebook for US$2.99-$9.99 and be aware that it is only for sales in certain territories and that doesn’t include Australia.
- BookBaby is a reasonable option with their conversion packages priced at US149 or $249 and giving authors 100% of net proceeds. Their main competitor is Smashwords with free conversions but passing along 85% of net proceeds. And without Amazon distribution.
- PressBooks is a great option especially for those already familiar with WordPress. With the benefit of working as a workflow tool for collaboration and editing, they give free conversions and output to ePUB, print PDF and other formats. I love the way it enables a web-based book that can be open to all or behind a paywall. You can read here about the ASA workshop on Creating Your Own Ebook presented by if:book Australia.
- Kobo Writing Life will be launching soon and I passed along information currently available. Stay tuned as I’ll be posting more about this as soon as it launches. Update: You can read my thoughts on Kobo Life here.
- We also discussed conversion through a coder or services company. What should you look for when choosing a supplier? Publishing experience; reasonable rates; examples of their work and testimonials. This is a real growth area in business and with good reason. For many authors accessing a company with experience in this area can allow them to choose a-la-carte the services they require. These may include editing; cover design; conversions; marketing and distribution. Palmer Higgs is one well-known one in our market.
- There are also Digital Distribution options like Port Campbell Press who also offer POD as well as distribution to the major retailers. SPUNC has also indicated that they intend to offer distribution options to authors in the future.
- There are many other options available for authors but these were the ones covered in the seminar. Also check out my interview with Miral Sittar from BiblioCrunch for another option for authors.
Parts 3-6 of the How to Publish Your Own Ebook
Week 3: Wednesday 18 July 2012
How can I sell my eBook?
Dealing with major etailers- Amazon, iBookStore, Kobo, Book.ish et al- and getting into their stores. Going direct vs using a service provider (such as SmashWords or BookBaby). What you can expect to be paid.
Jim Demetriou, Sales & Marketing Director, Allen & Unwin, has more than 20 years experience in the book industry and up-to- the-minute experience of dealing with etailers.
Week 4: Wednesday 25 July 2012
How can people find my eBook? Metadata and DRM.
Getting your eBook listed in the right places and making sure people can find it. Digital Rights Management – what is it and do you need it?
Airlie Lawson has more than 15 years experience in subsidiary rights, including translation, film, television and digital.
Week 5: Wednesday 1 August 2012
How can I let people know about my eBook?
Promotion and social media. How to make sure people know it’s out there.
Week 6: Wednesday 8 August 2012
Stories from the world of epublishing.
Convener of the workshops: Linda Funnell has over 30 years publishing experience. Linda worked for ten years as HarperCollins Publisher, Fiction and Literary Non-fiction. She is a book editor and publishing consultant and co-editor with Jean Bedford of The Newtown Review of Books
Information on the course can be viewed on The Australian Society of Authors site.
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