Monday, October 3, 2011

Things We've Learned So Far About ePublishing

This summer T.J. Lind and I formed N&L Publishing for the purpose of publishing a handful of things that I have written over the years but for which I was unable to find a traditional publisher for. The whole process of getting an agent, writing book proposals and all the rest of the games the publishing industry plays simply exhausted me. I never stopped writing, but I did stop trying to get my work in print by that channel.

Then the Kindle came along. And the Nook. And everything changed for writers like me.

The cool thing about eBooks (to me) is that Amazon.com treats them with the same respect as their print companions so that my books have descriptions, reviews, ISBN numbers and really cool book covers. (That is, unless you design a not so cool one... but I really like mine.) In my opinion The Red Scorpion and Unremembered Histories look just as attractive as the latest Stephen King bestseller and, with the exception of the authors' names, just as interesting of a read.

So, TJ and I met this past week to discuss what we have learned after three months of working together and getting two books listed at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Here are some of the things we have learned about ePublishing.

1. Conversion software is frustrating.
Writing a book using your favorite word processing program is only the beginning. You still need to convert the manuscript into a specialized form for eBook readers, and it isn't quite as easy as it looks. For both of the books we have launched the final day involved numerous iterations which TJ would format, email to me and I would review. Sometimes the revisions he made would "take" and sometimes they would not. It can be a tedious process but you have to review every single line every single time if you care about the quality of the final product.

2. How to get books onto Kindle and Nook.
We persevered, and we have learned the process. It has been very rewarding emotionally and it's nice to know that each one will be easier going forward.

3. Learning time management.
Both TJ and I are very busy. In addition to being a full-time high school student, he has the same full life of most teens his age, which includes a job, friends, and other interests. One of his interests is the Proctor DECA program, which is how our paths crossed. He is planning a run for State DECA President, which is simply one more thing he's added to his plate for the year. And with my own host of activities, including the Red Interactive collaborative art events, my free time outside the office has been fairly chewed up as well. The key for each of us is learning the others' rhythms.

4. Fast communication is easy, but accuracy also needful.
It's so easy to send a lot of quick snippets and messages these days. But a book needs the same patient attention as ever before, and you just can't ignore this.

5. eBooks can be corrected after they are in print.
The Red Scorpion was a major undertaking. And I'm embarrassed by how many errors slipped through the cracks. Right at the end I asked TJ to change Mr. Harris to Mr. Henley near the end of the book. For some reason the software inserted Mr.HenleyMr.HenleyMr.Henley in the place of Mr. Harris. Fortunately, an early reader caught this and we corrected the online version of the book. Unfortunately, for the sake of the book launch party that we had September 15 we had fifty copies printed, all of which had this funny Mr. Henley in triplicate. Maybe this erratum will make these original 50 books more collectible some day, though I doubt it. It's just embarrassing.

6. People like the story.
Feedback in the digital age is nearly instant. It was great to see three five-star reviews show up on Amazon.com in a relatively quick manner.

7. Market research works.
When we produced the 50 printed versions we weren't sure which book cover to use. I liked TJ's version with the haunted house, and he liked the original with the red scorpion that I painted. We printed 25 of each to see which one the public would prefer at our launch. The scorpion covers were favored 3 to 1.

8. The economics of printed material is a problem.
To get costs down we would have to print hundreds or thousands of books. Yikes. That's not only a big outlay of cash but then there are the storage issues. At $5.00 a book and priced at $9.95 we would make zero dollars if we brought them to B&N who would take their cut at our expense. In short, this might explain why writers get such a small slice on the dollar of things they produce. The publishers, distributors and distribution channels all need their piece of the action.

For what it's worth, if interested in either of our first two books, simply click on the book covers here on your right and they will take you to Amazon.com where you can get a free preview of each.

In the meantime, have a great week... and read on.

No comments: