Traditional Publishing to ePublishing: What you need to know

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 at 9:42 AM | Category: Books, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 2 comments

Margaret Norton

Guest post by Margaret Norton

Five years ago, when I started thinking about writing my first book, most people recommended a traditional publisher rather than self-publishing. I took that advice many times, but since then I’ve wondered if I made the right choice.

One year after my book was released, I terminated my relationship with my publisher. There were several reasons for this: I felt that I was doing most of the work anyway – except for printing the book – so why not get the full financial reward? However, my biggest reason was lack of control. I felt that I had very little say over anything that happened with my book and I had no way to track my marketing efforts. Like most new writers, I wasn’t making much money anyway, so why not venture out on my own?

That was five months ago and this is what I’ve learned so far:

The electronic author has most of the same problems as the traditional author. For the new writer, the biggest problem is publicity. I am doing the same things I was doing 18 months ago – press releases, blog tours, working social media, trying to build a name for myself as a writer, etc. The only thing I’m not doing is physical book signings, which I could do with my remaining stock, but have chosen not to. My goal is to have a total virtual experience.

Technology is the biggest epublishing challenge, especially if you’re weak in this area. For months, I took classes and read articles to prepare for this change, yet I’m almost overwhelmed with the amount and content of the information. Initially, I was under the impression that there were two major formats – Mobi for Amazon’s Kindle and epub for everything else.

What I’m learning is there are variations on these two and it hasn’t been as easy as it sounded. Most web sites that publish books have technical departments that are very helpful and there are companies that assist you with the technical aspects of epublication such as formatting and creating ecovers.

Numerous outlets exist for epublications. New writers are usually encouraged to purchase their own books from the publisher until they create a demand for their product. Epublishers typically do not have as many restrictions and once your book is in the correct format, you can often list it free. One list had 40 web sites that allow you to sell books online.

This is time consuming. Some have regulations, some charge small fees, some have time limits, most let you set your own price with a minimum and maximum, some allow you to give your book away or free chapters, some have blogs and community support and some list your book with other sites and help with the promotion.

Payment is quicker with epublication and varies by site – PayPal, check or electronic transfer. Returns are not as likely with ebooks, a good thing. It takes time to get everything set up. Once this is done, all you have to do is maintain and collect your checks.

Changing from traditional publishing to epublishing is going from one extreme to another. I no longer feel that I have little control. Instead, I have total control over everything that pertains to the distribution, promotion and sale of my book. If it doesn’t do well, I can’t blame my publisher. On the other hand, if it does, then I’ll get to claim all the glory. The royalties are less per book, but the expectation is that I’ll sell more books.

Publishers tend to send you out to pasture unless you continue to generate healthy sales numbers. Online sales are different – they don’t drop you if sales are down. You can spend the rest of your life promoting a book and perhaps generate some healthy sales over time. For me, this was a chance that I was willing to take.

If you’d like a copy of the list of 40 web sites, the name of the company who did my formatting, my ecover designer or others who’ve helped me in this process, please contact me at margnorton at yahoo dot com.

When Ties Break bookAbout Margaret Norton: Margaret Norton has always pushed the envelope – never totally accepting the status quo. A people person, her greatest joy comes from helping others. Preventing abuse, empowering women and improving health are her passions. As a personal life coach, Margaret founded Life Transitions to help individuals deal with change. In addition, she’s a trained Stephen Minister and Dale Carnegie Coach. This training, along with her personal life experiences, makes her a caring and compassionate coach. Her stories have appeared in A Light Along the Way, the Upper Room, various local newspapers, and on-line.

Margaret Norton’s When Ties Break: A Memoir About How to Thrive After Loss chronicles one woman’s struggles through life, encumbered by far more than her fair share of burden, and her eventual triumph. The author provides an excellent guide through the tribulations of life, having survived divorce, abuse, abortion, excommunication, chronic illness, homelessness, death, bankruptcy, sibling rivalry, adultery, single parenthood, drug addiction, low self-esteem and depression.

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Books vs. Library vs. Ebooks

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 at 5:29 PM | Category: Books, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 1 comment

For the past few years, I’ve been more cautious about things I buy and keep. Part of it, I attribute to my dad’s passing. He left behind a massive Donald Duck collection thanks to friends and family spoiling him with the Disney character he often imitated to make children laugh. Plus, why have all that stuff in the house to sit there and take up space?

The Books Must Go on … elsewhere

I hope to donate my Theatre World Annual collection. Each book is an encyclopedia of theatre for that covers one year. The shows that played, the shows that closed and recognized actors. I started collecting them in the early 1990s when I discovered the first five books. I wish I had never started the collection because I spent more time loading and unloading the books from shelves than I did reading them. Besides, today we have ibdb.com and many Internet resources where I can look up show information.

Yet, I can’t just give them away. I tried to sell some of the books, but it’s hard to find the hardcore theatre fans who actually collect these. I sold a couple on eBay, but it wasn’t worth the time to post and repost each book as collectors will be looking for specific editions, not a bunch in the set. Shipping a bunch of books in one box is pricey.

The Second Kindle Book Purchase

My book club announced the latest book (It’s a new year — so we haven’t put together our list yet) the day before I had two doctors’ appointments. While I could grab one of my many books I want to read, I needed to read the book club’s choice because of the deadline. With two doctors’ appointments, I expected to read a bit even with a kid in tow.

I don’t keep fiction books after I read them, so why pay for it? I checked with the library. I put my name on the waiting list that had seven people in front of me. I couldn’t tell how long it’d be before the book would be available.

Since I have a Kindle and a need to get a book ASAP, I bought my second Kindle book. (And I’ve had the thing for almost a year.) The first Kindle book came in August when I was heading out of town and found out my book club’s read the night before leaving town. Since I read a lot while traveling, I thought it’d be worth purchasing and it was.

I checked in my library’s website to cancel my request. Aw, man! I couldn’t. A copy is on its way to my library and arrived at the library on the day of the doctors’ appointments. Thanks, Murphy. It’s OK. I read at least 13 percent of the book, so I’d say it paid for itself (it was cheap for a Kindle book, too).

Quirky Book Buying Habits

By the way, the Kindle has a bunch of free books and PDF files loaded. (Check Amazon’s limited-time offers page for free books — scroll down past the fee books.) Have yet to read them just like the many books on my bookshelf. Isn’t that odd? I don’t want to buy an ebook unless I’m absolutely sure I’ll read it soon. Yet, I have books on the shelf that have been sitting unread for years. When buying books, I don’t think about when I’ll get around to reading it — just that it has value because I typically buy nonfiction reference and advice.

Even though I, a geek and gadget lover, still prefer books to ebooks — the ebook readers have a purpose. For me, I can grab a book that I need in a hurry without fuss. As much as I’d like to cut down on books and bookshelves, I’m not going to buy an ebook version of all of the nonfiction books I own and keep. Ebooks aren’t cheap enough to replace a big library.

Besides, I make a lot of mistakes with the tiny mouse / joystick on the Kindle. The administration and categorization process is tedious on the Kindle.

How do you feel about ebooks today?

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Adventures of Reading a Book on a Kindle

Monday, September 13th, 2010 at 9:33 AM | Category: Books, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 5 comments

KindleMy book club met the day before I headed to Boston. While we planned out the 12 months of reads, we had a little change up because someone left the book club. Most of us weren’t enthusiastic about the departed member’s choice. Instead, we moved October’s book to September, and November’s to October and so on. Although I order a few books at a time to stay ahead, this time I didn’t have the next book I needed.

I knew that traveling to Boston would provide plenty of time for catching up on reading. I didn’t have time to go to the book store. Even if I did, it may or may not have The Girl from Foreign. So it forced me to buy my first Kindle book and download it.

Uh oh. Trouble.

We’re Having Technical Difficulties

It had been so long since I had looked at the Kindle, its battery died. I plugged in the charger to get it going. But the charger had a weak connector that kept coming loose causing the Kindle to stop charging.

<Wiggle wiggle> Finally. Stay… don’t move. Light stay on.

After the Kindle finished charging, I downloaded the book and promptly turned off the wireless. Leaving the wireless on can run down the battery faster as the Kindle keeps listening for whispers of a download.

eReading

I read a few magazines first to get through them. (I had a pile of magazines to go through and took a bunch with me.) Halfway through the flight, I turned on the Kindle and selected The Girl from Foreign. I liked the crispness and design of the contents. Comfortable and easy on the eyes.

The first annoyance was the turning of pages. At times, the Kindle would flicker and not instantly load the next page. It felt like I returned to the ’80s when computers were slower and things took longer to load. Or the Internet of the ’90s.

Formatting was also an annoyance. Sometimes spaces between words were missing. (I know this happens in print, but I noticed it more in reading this book.) Sometimes paragraphs got split into two pages leaving one page with half of a page’s worth of content.

Since this was a memoir, it had photos. None of the photos contained captions. I couldn’t tell what the photo was about from reading the paragraph before or after the photo. At the end of the book, I found a list of photos and associated page numbers. The page numbers matched the printed version’s page numbers, not the Kindle. In other words, three digit page numbers instead of four. I couldn’t click the photo caption to jump to look at the photo. It was tedious trying to match up the photos with the captions. Dark age computing.

Digital Page Numbers vs. Print Page Numbers

I couldn’t get used to having  four digit page numbers (line numbers). Why couldn’t it match the book? I knew it was possible because the passenger next to me had an ereader and it used page numbers. Plus, it had a clock at the top of the page. To see what time it was, I had to hit “Menu” and it’d appear there.  I understood that Amazon wanted to provide line numbers for easier searching — but it can do this while retaining print’s page numbers.

Using the print’s version’s page numbers would also make it feel like you’re making progress in the book. It took a long time to feel like I made progress even with the progress bar on the bottom.

The bookmark, search and notes features came in handy. I bookmarked facts for later and instant referencing. When a person’s name came up — and he had not been mentioned for a while — I searched the book to jog my memory. Took fewer than 10 seconds. In the print version, I’d be flipping longer.

It was a neat experience, but not enough of one to convince me to switch to ebooks. At least, I have the option of getting a book instantly or downloading a few if I ever manage to go on a long vacation. That way, I don’t carry multiple books — just one reader loaded with multiple books.

Update on September 22, 2010: I had my book club meeting on this book last night and it turns out the pictures don’t have captions with them. All the captions appear in the back of the book with the page numbers. Big mistake. They need to be with the photo. And the Kindle should be able to link those pages so you can jump to the picture associated with the captions.

What do you think of ereaders?

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Books and eBooks: Keep or Purge?

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 at 5:22 PM | Category: Books, Meryl's Notes Blog 17 comments
A Picture of a eBook
Image via Wikipedia

Joel Capparella asked a great question in Twitter. “After you’ve read a book, do you purge it or keep it?”

My reply, “Purge fiction. Keep nonfiction.” Of course, if I hated the book, out it goes.

@RobertHruzek: I keep it if I like it. I’ve still got books from forever ago!

@Vanessa_LW: I’ve been purging a lot more lately. Or better yet, getting from the library.

@elisapr: Keep!

@stenoknight: I keep it; books are my favorite element of home decor. Also, if book is worth reading once, it’s often worth rereading.

I like what @stenoknight said because it’s true in my home. My small home office squeezes in one tall bookshelf. The newish add-on loft is more of a library (and dumping ground for kid toys). AND we still have bookshelves in each kid’s room and one in the game room. I also organize the books. (You’ll see two bookshelves in the picture, but that’s not how it’s set up anymore.)

I rarely buy fiction books. Most of my fiction books from library book sales, or borrowed from the library. Besides, I read little fiction with the work I do with non-fiction books. I don’t like to read a book twice as I have too many waiting for me. Instead, I refer to a non-fiction book again as needed.

For book club reads, I buy them cheap as I don’t want to worry about library due dates. Besides, I prefer the feel of a retail paperback and hard cover over the library covers. This may sound weird, but I love how a book feels in my hands especially those with the soft paperback covers.

I’ve been making an effort to use the library more often. My son brought home the Scholastic Book Club catalog (I managed to not go crazy buying too many as it had a lot of goodies this time), and he circled a book I would love for him to read. The book was hardcover and more than I wanted to spend (almost as much as I spent for the entire order). So I’ve put in a request through the library’s online system.

When I came across a book title about applying to college (I have a 10th grader), I reserved that through the library and read it quickly. The college application process changes so much in a short time, so it’ll probably be outdated before kid #2 (5th grader) starts the college hunt.

Now that I have a Kindle, I pondered this question further. Do you keep all your Kindle (Nook or whatever) books loaded and then purge if you run out of space? How do you manage them?

I also wonder how people decide what ebooks to buy, if they still read pbooks (print). I browsed the Kindle catalog and can’t decide how to handle this. It’s a shame you can’t send your print books to Amazon in exchange for the ebooks that you want to make notes on, or some way to receive an electronic copy of the pbooks you own. This would not work fairly for the other way around as paper, ink and printing process cost much more than creating ebooks.

Children’s books are another story. I move books from oldest to youngest as they outgrow them or grow into them. I’ve moved books that the youngest has outgrown to another shelf in another room. I’ll sort through them later to decide what to keep. I bought children’s books long before I had children, so they won’t all disappear.

P.S. I just returned from the library where we checked out books for my son’s book club 🙂

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