December 19, 2011

Adventures in E- Publishing: An Editor’s Guide goes digital

An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors is now available for sale on Kindle through Amazon and on the Nook through Barnes & Noble.

I wasn’t an early adopter of e-readers, but last summer when the Nook Simple Touch came out, I decided to buy one. I didn’t really want to shift away from hefting a nicely designed volume in my hands as I read, caressing the paper and admiring the typeface. Still, I knew that as a writer, an editor, and a teacher, it was important for me to keep up with the times.

I’d also become more aware of the possibilities of e-books in terms of self-publishing. My foray into publishing An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors on the Espresso Book Machine had left me with a keen sense of the distribution problems most self-publishers face. The book was available with a click on PayPal on the Author-Editor Clinic website, but buyers couldn’t search for it among editing titles in any online bookstore. A handful of excellent Seattle bookstores made space for the book on their shelves and sold numerous copies (thanks, editors!), but I knew I wanted to reach more readers.

I decided to have the text files and cover converted from the published book rather than to begin fresh with the Word files. I also decided to work with a local freelancer as arranged by Third Place Press, which did the EBM version. Instead of going through a site such as Smashwords or FastPencil, which does everything from designing and converting files to setting up royalty payments via vendors such Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I decided to become a vendor myself and deal directly with the e-bookstores.

Despite the fact that the e-book conversion process went on two months longer than estimated, I was pleased with the result. I also think I may have picked up more about the process than I would have otherwise, because the designers were clearly learning on my project. For one thing, I now know that converting tables is a problem, particularly for a Kindle. (There are now no tables in the e-version of An Editor’s Guide. They have been changed to lists.)

When I started the project, back in late summer, I was vaguely aware that there would need to be one platform for Kindle (called Mobi) and another for the Nook and other devices on the market (ePub). But it’s more complex than that. For, as we know, there are quite a few devices out there, from the iPad to the smart phone. Each device has its own quirks. In my experience the Kindle format seemed easiest to program, the Nook more challenging. But the biggest takeaway for me was that the e-book designer must own or have ready access to a wide variety of devices and even different versions of the same device. What looks fine on one device may show problems with text formatting on another.

After I finally had the formatted files, I set up vendor accounts. Barnes & Noble has an encouraging, easy interface, and while Amazon’s is more confusing, it’s quite manageable. After I’d filled in my information, I uploaded the books—in a one-click tap that still seems to be called “publishing.”

I’m very pleased to make The Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors available digitally. And I feel more confident now about advising other writers and editors about the process. For my next editing book I might choose to go straight to e-publishing. My suspicion is that it’s only going to get easier.

—Barbara Sjoholm


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