The Trials and Tribulations of Self Publishing an ebook -- Part 2

OK, now I have been through 43 drafts--yes I numbered them-- each time converting the word processor files to epub and loading them into my tablet for inspection. Each time I found something that needed to be changed until the 43rd try. So I am ready to check out publishers. There are a couple ways you can go about this. First there are aggregators who will publish the book on your behalf--for a cut of course. Sometimes they are just wide spots in the road on the way to the big guys--amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple-- and sometimes they sell directly themselves--or both.

But in the ebook world you can also deal directly with the "big guys" yourself. As you check out the various options you find that most are interested in inexpensive "word" books--novels and the like. In one way or another they discourage or even prohibit publications of a book like Mastering Cone 6 Glazes. For example, Smashwords has a limit of 5 megs on the .doc file you submit--and they will only accept .doc files. This caused me two problems. MC6Gs in .doc format is over 10 megs and, as much trouble as I had to getting a word processing file to turn into a decent epub file, I was not about to trust an unmonitored computer to do it for me. That is apparently how Smashwords does the conversion of .doc to .epub. Stick it in one end of a computer and market what comes out the other. OK for novels maybe, but not for graphics-intensive books.

Then there was the matter of commissions. Some publishers cut the commision percentage in half if the book was listed for over $9.99. That means the author gets the same amount of money for a $20.00 book as he does for a $9.99 book. How is that fair? The final straw with one publisher was a "delivery fee" to send the book from their server to the buyer of $0.15 per meg. In epub format MC6Gs is 20 megs. That is a $3.00 delivery fee. So when I boiled it all down, only Apple seemed interested in publishing a book like MC6Gs as an ebook. Maybe the others will come around, but for now Apple is the clear choice.

So what next. Would Apple actually deal with an individual like me? It turns out they will. Of course there are pages of forms to fill out, and lawyerese to read and agree to. But they really weren't too bad. I think I still retain the right to visit my first born child on alternate weekends. No, seriously there really was nothing I would call outrageous. I submitted all the forms and a few days later my acceptance as a publisher came back by email. When time came to submit the book it was an easy process. After worrying about whether or not it would be accepted, the acceptance was almost immediate.

So now it has been published for a little over a month and we have sold a few copies. Our first royalty check is due to be deposited directly to our bank account in a few more days. It really has been a positive experience and I would encourage others to try it. Why not bypass all the bureacracy and get all of the reward yourself?

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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