Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My digital adventure...(Part One)

I have been having the most interesting journey with my little e-book Sally Bangle: Unexpected Detective. Interesting because there is no better education in how to make your manuscript into an e-book and into what happens next, than by actually going ahead and doing it. If you want to know more about e-books, if you fancy one day publishing your own work in this way, if the digital book world excites or scares you, then the best thing to do is convert a story and test it all out. So many folk seem afraid of what might happen. What has happened to me is that I now have an e-book title that is totally my responsibility. Whether it fails or thrives is over to me. How it looks and reads is over to me. Any earnings (as per agreements with e-tailers) are over to me. Where it is distributed and how it is priced are my decisions. As some wildly successful selfpubbed e-bookers will tell you, putting your book out as an e-book under your own publishing name does not prevent you from having a traditional publisher come knocking for permission to put it out in print. If a book is good, if it is popular, there will be interest. Of course it is not all sweetness and light. Sales may never happen. There are a ship load of e-books available and no one has the inside running on how to make your book a squealing success. Still I can guarantee you a complete lack of sales for a story languishing in your drawer. The bottom line is the quality of the content should be your biggest concern.

If you have other plans for your novels, try the process out with a short story or novella instead. I must confess I don't think I'd try converting a picture book. Picture books need their pictures. The one picture book of mine that is digital is an app (The House That Went to Sea) and basically has retained its graphic good looks that way. It was converted by a professional. I have no idea what an enhanced e-book looks like and how you would go about making one. But armed with some advice from fellow writer Maureen Crisp and what I'd learned at the Kiwiwrite4kidz e-book workshop last year and carefully following instructions and using a bit of nouse and common sense I have successfully converted two novels. And I know a lot more now than I did before.

So what do you need? There is somewhat of a cookbook recipe feel to this process because first off you need some particular ingredients.

- A manuscript as a computer document (including an awesome title)
- a unique ISBN for each format (e-pub, mobi and PDF are the main ones so far I think) - obtainable from the National Library here in NZ via a very simple online form
- a cover (jpeg ideally I think) - I used a designer for Sally Bangle. I don't have the patience or skill to do it myself but this is definitely an option. The rule of thumb is to avoid looking home made. Think of what appeals to you.
- front matter (copyright phrase, ISBN, dedication, any review highlights, the publisher and edition information)
- back matter (acknowledgements, other titles by you that readers might like to check out, links to your website, blog, etc...)

Step away from the process until you have all this stuff together. Once you go through the process of conversion you will want to load that sucker up for distribution to e-tailers straight away and if you don't have a cover or ISBN especially you will have to stop and wait.

Of course once your book is converted to digital files in the varied formats then the real fun begins. How do you get people to find it, and what's more, buy it. Of course you can stop at this point satisfied with the amazing achievement of actually creating the e-book. And stopping now does not doom you to obscurity. Your book is there on the e-shelf for as long as you leave it there (unlike print books in bricks and mortar bookshops). Laurel resting is not the kiss of death. Come to the marketing and promotion side of things if and when you are ready. However doing nothing is less likely to find you readers, than doing something. I have been slowly feeling my way through this part of the process and done a few interesting things. I'll tell you more about them depending on how effective these are. Some of these things will be effective partly because I already have a publishing history. But I am also thinking that any e-book I create will most likely benefit from further e-books by me. Some of the wonderful book industry friends I have made over the years have been tremendously helpful. But I've also been looking at doing things I've never done before. Getting reviews will be helpful. As with any of these things being polite and professional is still the mantra. They are no less important qualities in the digital world than they have been in the real one.


Fifi Colston said...

great! and I LOVE the cover too :)Thinking when the rights to Verity's Truth are returned to me I'd be keen to do the same. Wanna run a course for me over a bottle of wine?!

Diana Menefy said...

Wow. I've got the rights back for River Crossing (ex-Reeds) and want to try this too. Can't just yet, but I'd join Fifi with another bottle of wine - you could become quite sozzled.

Melinda Szymanik said...

Private courses sound like fun - of 'course'after two bottles of wine my advice may not be that good :)