Friday, December 30, 2011

eBook Publishing

If I can believe all I've read and heard this past year, ebooks are the hottest form of publishing, supposedly 70% of all books published last year (2010) were ebooks. The keynote speaker in the first writer conference I ever attended, Jeremiah Healy, said, "The personal computer has made it very easy for people to write. Unfortunately, it also made it very easy for them to write badly." The same thing can be said for the burgeoning number of ebooks available through any number of outlets.

I have published a number of ebooks via smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing (for some reason Barnes and Nobles and a number of ebook sites will accept books from Smashwords whereas Amazon does not, preferring that the author use their Kindle Direct Publishing) and receive an RSS feed from Smashwords each time I access my email with Outlook. Scrolling through the uploads can be quite eye-opening. The number of amateurish books makes one believe that ebook publishers have become the vanity press of the 21st century.

I find it quite easy to identify some of the lesser experienced writers by checking the price they put on their work. I doubt any accomplished writer would publish a book for free or for as small a price as $0.99 (Barnes and Noble and several other outlets will not list a book unless they meet a certain pricing standard).
Of late, I have seen more and more books by established authors for the Nook and the Kindle so I can't arbitrarily dismiss the platform...I am seeing more an more readers carrying ereaders of one type or another.

One of the reasons it is so easy to publish an ebook is that no special software is required. In fact, Smashwords and KDP prefer that the manuscript be written using Microsoft Word. There are some things to be aware of when preparing your manuscript for submission and the easiest way to ensure that your work will look its best on an ereader is to download the publisher's style guide. It has been my experience that if your book complies with Smashwords Style Guide (available for download at most other publishers will accept it with no reservations.

It can, however, be very frustrating when your Smashwords version keeps generating format errors. EReaders do not like tabs, or a sequence of more than 3 spaces used to separate text (I recently had the wonderful experience of preparing a manuscript which contained poetry where the author had used spaces to align sentences to create a visual. For example in one poem entitled PINE, the author spent a lot of time making the lines appear to form a pine tree. It did not work as an ebook--ebooks ignore things such as page breaks and, on my Nook, the pine tree was presented across two screens.) and font can be an issue. EReaders allow the reader to increase the font size for easier reading and therefore most publishers restrict font size to 12 pitch for normal print and no more than 16 for titles etc. Most publishers also require a cover for their higher levels of service. In the case of Smashwords to be included in their Premium Catalog requires you meet certain standards.

Why is inclusion in the Premium Catalog important? To quote Smashwords: "The Premium Catalog includes Smashwords titles that meet certain mechanical requirements for distribution into major online retailers such as Smashwords partners, Barnes & Noble or Apple. Smashwords books that achieve Premium Catalog status receive the greatest possible distribution across Smashwords' growing distribution network. If you're a serious writer and you want to reach the greatest number of readers, you want inclusion in the Premium Catalog. It's free."

In summary, eBook publishing is easy (although it usually takes me 3 to 6 hours to redesign a manuscript to meet Smashwords Guidelines) and virtually instantaneous--in a matter of hours you can see your book or short story in an ePublisher's catalog.


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