The Trials and Tribulations of Self Publishing an ebook -- Part 1

Blogging! One of the key communication tools of our time. From time to time I will document successes or failures in my studio; however, I want this first post to be about the experience of self-publishing an ebook.

Mastering Cone 6 Glazes is now in its 6th printing with nearly 18,000 copies sold. However in the last couple years sales have slowed. Add to that packing and shipping all those books has gotten to be a drag -- we self published in the truest sense of the word, hiring the printer ourselves and taking possession of 3000 books at a time. So what to do? We could let it go "out-of-print", print another 3000, or try publishing it as an ebook. While we haven't decided whether or not to print more, we did decide to experiment with the ebook format.

That was quite an experience. the epub format which is commonly used for ebooks is designed to be most useful for "word" books -- novels or books with minimal graphical content. MC6Gs is, of course, graphics-rich. We have lots of color photos, graphs or charts, and tables integrated into the text. We also use a lot of sidebars to further explain certain points or make points that were related but did not fit into the flow of the main text very well. Epub is not particularly fond of sidebars either.

The epub format is a linear stream of words and whatever graphics are used. It almost has to be this way because "pages" are of variable size depending on the device on which the ebook is read and the font type and size the reader chooses to use. Therefore there are no such things as page breaks or page layouts as there are in traditional printing. In addition the epub format has an arbitrary upper limit on chapter size. I have no idea of the logic for this, but it is there. If you go over that limit the rest of that chapter just disappears into the ether. So graphics intensive books must have very short chapters.

I won't bore you with the details, but I was able to work around these differences and still come out with an attractively presented book. But the "layout" I had worked so hard on a few years ago had to be completely thrown out. I would estimate that I spent the equivalent of 2 months of hard work over the course of a year to get the format redone in a way that made both me and epub happy.

Next: Choosing a publisher or publishers. What fun!


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