Not long ago, the only models for publishing were traditional book houses or limited self-publishing. Not anymore! Today’s author can choose from print books, Print on Demand, or eBooks and sell through bookstores, direct marketing, e-retailers, or web sales.
Why would a modern author want to consider eBooks?
Even though the lion’s share of publishing still goes to printed books, eBooks have sky-rocketed. They offer the reader a variety of formats to choose from. And there are at least ten good reasons why every aspiring writer should consider eBooks!
- Popularity. In the United States, 34% of book buyer households own an eBook reader. Indie publishers are excelling in the marketplace and approaching 50% of the digital market share. That’s besting the Big Five publishers of Hachette, Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Penguin Random House. Yes, eBook sales have diminished slightly, but Indies are proving they are here to stay. With Amazon claiming to sell more eBooks than print books in the US, those figures should get your attention.
- It’s Easy…well, relatively easy! There are a few quirks to preparing and publishing to an eBook format, but nothing that is too difficult. And once you learn the process, you are better prepared for your next publication.
Kindle offers guidelines to help navigate their formatting as does iBook and Nook.
- Speed of Publishing. You can finish and publish your book in one day! Once the electronic file is complete, simply upload it, fill in the necessary information, and your book will be available for sale in a few hours. Pretty nifty!
- Huge Market. Amazon is the giant in eBook sales, but Barnes and Noble’s and iBooks have hefty market shares also. These companies are worldwide distributors of books and continue to expand into new countries. This goes one step beyond hoping your book will appear on the local bookstore shelf!
- Price Control. You as the author have control of the price. You can decide to give your book away, promote it for a limited time with a price reduction, or just fix a price and leave it. Amazon pays a 35% or 70% royalty, Apple a 55%, and Barnes and Noble a 65% profit of the sale price. eBook authors sell directly to readers, so the profits come straight into the author’s pockets.
- Never Goes Out of Print . Self-published eBooks never disappear off of the electronic shelves. You are not pressured by a three-month promotion and then your book is yanked. This gives you more time to develop, direct your marketing strategy, or re-edit and update your book.
- Immediate Feedback. Readers are able to rate your book and write a review. Their critique appears below your book and can be a great selling point!
- Size of Book. eBooks are redefining the standards of book length. Instead of lengthy works, especially in non-fiction, eBooks can be written in shorter segments or series. One well-published eBook author recommends that the book be a minimum of 40,000 words.
- Shelf Space. With eBooks, you don’t need to store books in your garage or basement. The eBooks take up a small space on your computer, not your shelves.
- Cost. eBooks are cheaper than print. In fact, they can be free! You will never need to print a long run of books just to get a decent price. You can publish for free and sell at a very affordable price. This alone should attract some of you aspiring writers to publish an electronic book
eBooks are here to stay. They are convenient, affordable to publish and read, and a trend that you as an author should consider. The wave of the future is here…give it a try!
Most authors write in MSWord, Pages or another word processing software. But if you have chosen to publish your text as a digital book, you must first convert your text for eBook distribution (Ready, Set, Publish: Choosing an eBook Format).
The options for taking your book from print to eBook are vast. Some word processor programs will export the file in the chosen digital form like a PDF. Other times, you may need to use an intermediate converter.
I have used several processes and researched others. Here are my conclusions.
The easiest way to convert to those pesky text files into eBook files is to write using a program that will export the desired format. If you want a one-stop software, Scrivener is the most versatile. It will take the book from the initial stages of outlining to the final export as an .EPUB or .MOBI.
I write directly in Scrivener and I also import my MSWord documents into it. Exporting is a little complicated, but possible. For detailed instructions on how to use Scrivener to export for Kindle, read How to Publish Your eBook from Word to Kindle in Under 10 Minutes. The post will help Mac users in particular. (more…)
Self-publishing offers many options. Your book can be available in print, eBook, or another document version like PDFs. Which format do you choose?
The final destination of your published book will become the driving force behind how you prepare it for publication.
Where will you market the book? If you are a speaker, a printed version might work best. These books are fairly easy to transport and a beneficial addition to any product table. The one big advantage is that you are bringing your book directly to the consumer. No shipping. No waiting.
If your market is online, some kind of digital or downloadable version might work well. A point to consider if you are entertaining a digital format…not all eReaders are the same! And not all self-publishing formats can be read on every eReader.
So what dictates your formatting choice?
With several options available, there are a few questions to ask. Where will I market my book? Where will my eBook be available for downloading? Which device accepts that format? Which formats are the most popular?
To answer these questions, we will look at how formats work and then the most popular ones in self-publishing today.
If your book will be printed, the formatting choices are simpler. The author submits the text file according to each printer’s guidelines.
Every publisher has their own requirements as to font, layout, and margins. They may offer downloadable templates where you simply cut and paste your document into the format. Some will accept a .doc file while others prefer a PDF version. Check with your printer/publisher for their requirements and style options.
The format files for eBooks contain more than just text files. Instead of a fixed layout where the same words always appear on a specific page, most digital books have reflowable text. This means that for any given device, the text may be adjusted or will “flow” to fill the prescribed parameters of the eReader.
eBook files are a combination of many different types of files. The amount depends upon the complexity of the eBook. Within each .zip file that is uploaded to the publisher, you will find…
- A file that contains only the unformatted text. This is the basic text of the eBook.
- A file that tells the eReader how to display elements of the text. This file is the CSS or coding file which regulates how the type will be displayed. For example, in Adobe InDesign, the style comes from two sources. Paragraph Style defines how the elements of different paragraphs (margins, indent, spacing) will be displayed. Character Style influences the individual structure of each word. Will they appear normal, italic, drop cap, etc.? When the document is prepared for publication, there are files that reflect these selections.
- Other files that contain information, such as images, ISBN, and other elements of the eBook.
Popular eBook Formats
Every eReader has its own format preference. The following are the most popular in today’s digital landscape:
- Epub. The standard format for digital publishing is Epub. Most eReaders will accommodate these files. The devices which support Epub are Apple iPad and iPhone, Kobo eReader, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader, and Android phones.
- Mobi. Kindle readers will not work with ePub files. Instead, Amazon has developed its own version and called it Mobi. In order to read a book on Kindle, you must access it directly from Amazon and use the Mobi format.
- AZW. This is Amazon’s adaptation of the Mobi format for devices other than Kindle. An eReader may download the Kindle eBook Reader and access AZW files from the Amazon bookstore.
- PDF. The Portable Document Format has been around for years. It was developed by Adobe and is easily used on most any device. PDF files maintain the original format of the document.
If you write in MSWord, Pages, or OpenOffice, you will have to convert your book if you decide on a digital format. Again, even if the book will be in a printed version, some adaptation in formatting may be necessary. In order to reach the greatest amount of readers, publish in several formats.
In order to reach the greatest amount of readers, publish in several formats. Epub and Mobi are the most popular digital versions. But don’t forget that many still prefer the traditional paper and ink of a book.
As a newbie to self-publishing, I had to learn the jargon of the industry. It was like studying a foreign language…bleed, front matter, genre! I came face to face with a whole new set of self-publishing terms and definitions.
I noticed a comment on a publishing website that echoed one writer’s frustration. “This is too complicated,” wrote the aspiring writer. “ I have to find another way.”
Don’t let the terminology frighten you!
Publishing has its own language. But with a few explanations and a picture or two, you can master the jargon and be well on your way to publishing your first book!
Once you decide on your publisher of choice, the first thing to look at is their templates or their guidelines for printing. I am going to use the 5.5” x 8.5” cover below to illustrate some of the terms. This picture includes the front cover, back cover, and the book’s spine all as one document.
Trim Size… The size of the book after it’s printed. In the schematic below, the trim size is 5.5” x 8.5,” one of the most popular sizes. The text document must be formatted in your software of choice to match this sizing. In Microsoft Word, you can set the parameters in the Page Setup. Then apply it to the entire document. I use InDesign when I format my book and can fix all of the parameters during the Document Setup phase.
Cover Copy…The words, bar code, ISBN #, or pictures on the front and back cover. Notice that the copy is contained within a 5” x8” area or “safe” zone on both the front and back cover. This ensures the text does not get cut off.
Bleed…The term refers to the extension outside the normal trim area. In this example, the bleed extends .125” on all four sides beyond the trim size.
If you are designing a cover, you will need to include the bleed area in your dimensions. Any graphic must include an extra margin to fit within the bleed. A slightly larger design gives the machinery a little flexibility when it trims a book to its final size.
Spine Width…This is narrow end of the book that is visible when the book sits on a shelf. The spine width depends upon the number of pages in your book. These dimensions are given by your publisher and are added to the overall design dimensions. A book with a hundred pages needs an extra 0.218 inches of width.
Many publishers offer an online template where you can build your cover by uploading your text and graphics. Createspace has Cover Creator to assist an author in completing their project. Cover Creator formats and sizes the cover automatically, so you can focus on the layout, design, and copy for your title. Check with your publisher of choice and possibly save yourself a considerable amount of time.
Front Matter…The material that comes at the beginning of a book. This includes the title page, colophon (technical information with publisher, copyright, date of publication), table of contents, preface, forward, dedication, prologue, or introduction. These pages have Roman numerals instead of page numbers.
Back matter…This is the material found at the end of the book. It includes the epilogue, appendix, glossary, bibliography, author’s page, and index.
Copy…The text written by the author that appears throughout the book.
Header…The area at the top of the page which has the book title or chapter title. These are often the same from page to page or change with each new chapter.
Footer…The text separated from the main body of copy which appears at the bottom of a printed page. This usually includes the page number.
Margin… The space between your text and the edge of your printed page. Book margins include the top, bottom, left, and right side of the page. A header or footer has added margin sizes. Your publisher may offer a pre-designed template you can download. In MS Word you can set these in Page Setup and with InDesign in Document Setup.
Font…The design of the letters. Usually the font size for the text is a 10-12 pt. The two main classifications are the serif font (small line attached to the end of a stroke) and the sans serif font (one that does not have the extra stroke). For more information on fonts, check out my post All Fonts Are Not Created Equal!
Page Break…An electronic marker that distinguishes a new page for the publisher.
Line Spacing (Leading)…The vertical space between lines of text.
Kerning…The horizontal space between characters in a text.
Format… The process of designing a layout for the manuscript which creates book pages. MS Word, Open Office, and Pages are some of the common software used to format a book. InDesign by Adobe is professional formatting software.
Style Sheet… A document that describes spelling, grammar, punctuation standards for your book. Every publisher has their own preferences.
Print-ready…The final form of your book after editing, proofreading, and formatting. It is ready to print.
Genre… A class or book category that describes the subject matter. For example, science fiction, romance, self-help.
These a few of the terms which you will meet as you deal with publishers. If you encounter other foreign words in the process of publishing your book, try these sites for definitions:
Self-publishing requires an education in the trade. Once you arrive at the publishing phase, check your readiness by reading my post Ready, Set, Publish: The 7 Steps of Preparation.
A self-published author must wear a variety of hats. Writing is just the first step in the process. In his classic book APE: How to Publish a Book, Guy Kawasaki describes the multi-faceted role of a self-published author. She is Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur.
When you are ready to see your book in print, it’s time to move into the publisher mode. With a little practice and patience, you can manage this process yourself. Here is my list of seven basic steps that prepares your book for publication.
7 Steps to Prepare for Self-Publishing
#1 Write the Manuscript in Its Final Form
The final copy-edit should be complete. This can be done by you or with a professional editor. (see my post The 5 C’s for Choosing the Right Freelance Editor ) Identify any pictures, graphics, or tables that will be included in the body text. If you are using pictures, make sure you have obtained copyright permission to use them. Also, shrink pictures down to a low resolution suitable for the printing format you will use.
#2 Determine Your Budget
Publishing can be expensive and the costs can easily get out of hand. You may need a graphic designer for the cover, someone to format your book, and marketing help once it is published. Make a list of those items that you are able to provide, what is needed to ensure your book’s success, and which items will need to be contracted. Set some budget guidelines for each of these items and determine to stay within them.
#3 Choose Your Publishing Format
Your first question…will my book be electronic and/or in physical print? If you decide to go digital, the most popular formatting choices are mobi, ePub, or PDF. Click here for a more detailed comparison of these and other eBook formats.
Print formats are dictated by the individual publisher. They will supply a list of pre-determined formatting parameters that are acceptable. These guidelines include margin, typeface, font and much more. The publisher may also suggest compatible software with their individual publishing company.
#4 Select the Publisher
This may be the most difficult step and will take some investigative work on your part. Some questions to consider will be…
- Do you want hard copies of your book?
- How much are you able to financially contribute to the actual publishing?
- What services do you need and how are they provided by the publisher?
- Which marketing and distribution channels does the publisher use?
#5 Create Front and Back Matter
These are additional pages which are added to the front and back of your book. You will want to include a title page, copyright page, and table of contents as well as an author page at the end. Other options are a dedication, forward, preface, appendix, or bibliography. If you are going with an ebook, keep it simple!
#6 Format Your Book
Once you have chosen your publisher, find their specific guidelines. Publishers will insist that your submission comply with their standards. For a print book, this means book size (i.e. 6×9, 8 ½ x 11), margins, trim size, even font. Digital publishers will have a set of parameters that you must meet in order to fit their templates. Once you know the requirements, you can format the book yourself or hire a professional to prepare the manuscript.
#7 Design a Cover
Your cover is the first impression of your book. It will influence a potential reader to take a closer look or skim past it in their search. The 3 Second Rule means a potential buyer will decide in 3 seconds whether your book is worth consideration.
As a self-published author, you may want to be frugal. But, if you do not have the skills to create a compelling cover, hire a graphic artist to design one for you. Also remember to include back copy, a picture of yourself and short bio (this is optional and you should check the current trend) ISBN number (if you choose ), and bar code.
As a self-published author, you may be tempted to cut corners and do the entire work yourself. Be frugal when it is possible, but also realize you may need to invest some upfront money. Publishing is a process just like writing…don’t scrimp on time or money. Ensure that the quality of your published book reflects the quality of your written work.
If you write in MSWord, Pages or another word processing software, your must convert your text for eBook distribution (eBook Format for Self-Publishers). The options for taking your book from print to eBook are vast. Some word processor programs will export the file in the chosen digital form like a PDF. Other times, you may need to use an intermediate converter.
I have used several processes and researched others. Here are my conclusions.
The easiest way to convert to those pesky text files into digital is to write using a program that will export the desired format. If you want a one-stop software, Scrivener is the most versatile. It will take the book from the initial stages of outlining to the final export as an .EPUB or .MOBI.
I write directly in Scrivener and I also import my MSWord documents into it. Exporting is a little complicated but possible. For detailed instructions on how to use Scrivener to export for Kindle, read How to Publish Your eBook from Word to Kindle in Under 10 Minutes. The post will help Mac users in particular. (more…)