*** EBook Giveaway ***
If you're here just for the free copy of Gray Matter, book 1 of the PJ Gray series by Shirley Kennett, skip to the last paragraph of this post.
who published books before eBooks took off in popularity may be able to
go digital on their own with those books. It's a great way to breathe
new life into a series that has gone out of print. The tools are
available now for authors to do this, the same way many people are creating
original eBooks. I decided to undertake this with a series of
psychological suspense novels I wrote under the name of Shirley Kennett,
and I'd like to share some of my experiences here.
a few exceptions, writers creating original works would go through the
same procedures, so if you have a book ready to spread its wings, sink
in its fangs, or transform under the full moon, this is for you. This is
just one means to an end; the paths are many, including using a paid
eBook conversion service. I wanted to know the details, so I did just
about everything myself. I'm going to provide specifics for my path so
if you're frustrated or in a muddle, as I was at various times, you can
at least see something that works.
Make Sure You Own Your Digital Rights
you have a contract from years ago, there may be no mention of digital
rights. Still, the best way to make sure you're on safe ground is to
have the rights you signed away in the contract reverted to you by the
publisher. If your books are out of print (as defined in your contract) a
letter to your publisher's legal department should produce a notice of
rights reversion. Read the fine print. If your situation is not clear
cut, consult your agent, editor, or an intellectual rights attorney for
advice. Don't cut corners here. If your eBook is original, this is
something you don't have to worry about.
Consider the Widest Distribution
eBook readers use different input formats. They can be simplified into
Kindle (Mobi) format and everyone else (EPub, the international
standard). This means you'll want to supply these two formats for your
eBook to reach the Kindle, Nook, iPad, and a host of other readers. I
puzzled over this for some time and chose two online services, Smashwords (ePub and other formats such as PDF) and LiberWriter
for Kindle. Smashwords is free to use, distributes your eBook to
markets like Barnes and Noble and iPad, and provides a page within the
Smashwords site for you to sell your book. For all of this, they extract
what I consider a reasonable fee from each eBook you sell (nothing up
front). LiberWriter charges a flat fee of $25 (or $50 if you want them
to do more of the conversion work) upfront for each Kindle book you
produce and claims no fees after that. Amazon does, though. LiberWriter
provides the output that you upload directly into Amazon. After tangling
with other Kindle "converters" with no joy, I was pleased to discover
LiberWriter and don't plan to use anything else. (No, I'm not connected
with the company in any way.) If you want to offer your book for the
Kindle only, you can just use LiberWriter from the start, including
writing an original book. You might also investigate Vook, which will be available early in 2012. I'm just tossing out the name because I've heard good things about it.
Obtain an ISBN for Your EBook
You can get a free ISBN from Smashwords, or if you want one that isn't associated with Smashwords, you can go to ePubBud and get one for $5. Yes, you need one. Don't give me any grief over this.
Prep Your Text
found that when I looked for my Word files of the PJ Gray series, I had
files that were submitted to the editor but had never been updated as
the books went through copyediting and proofing. In other words, my
files didn't have the exact same text as the final published versions.
(Not a problem if you're writing an original eBook!) There are two ways
to go here. The first is the brute strength method of comparing the Word
file to the published version page by laborious page and bringing it up
to date. I did this for my first book, Gray Matter. The second
method is to have the book digitized, meaning scanned in and converted
using Optical Character Reader (OCR) software to a readable file. EPubBud
does this for $20 per book plus $.15 per page. Because OCR is not
perfect, you'll still have to go through the file you are sent line by
line to make sure it's correct. Given the time I spent bringing my Word
version up to date, I'm going to try digitizing the next book in the
series and see how that works! Be warned it takes 4-6 weeks, so start
Then I did some minor revisions in my text
because technology had moved forward since the book was published and
some references would be jarring to a current reader. That means I now
have the 2nd edition of the book. Smashwords provides a free, detailed Style Guide
to help you get your book into the correct format for conversion. The
Smashwords Style Guide is helpful and should be followed closely. You'll
save time if you do. If you're writing an original book, use the
Smashwords Style Guide from page one.
Design a Cover
that even after the rights to the book are reverted to you, you don't
own the rights to the cover. Those rights belong to the original cover
artist. I'm fairly handy with Photoshop, and I had a lot of fun
designing the covers for the eBooks of the PJ Gray series. I bought
stock photos from iStockPhoto
and combined them with the book's title, my name, and a juicy quote.
It's very important that you have a professional-looking cover. Be
honest. If you can't do this step on your own, pay for cover design. LiberWriter
offers cover design, but I didn't use it so I can't personally vouch
for them. There are other cover designers available, but don't skimp on
Putting It All Together
worked with Smashwords first, because it offered the best way to clean
up my text with its Style Guide. Once I was happy with the text, I
submitted it for conversion. I learned that building the internal linked
Table of Contents (yes, even for fiction) is very important and a
touchy thing to do. The ToC produces the navigation that allows the
reader to jump to various parts of the book and enhances the reading
experience. In my experience, if I've built the ToC (the Style Guide
directions are excellent), and then need to make corrections to it for
any reason, the whole thing seems to mess up. I take a deep breath,
count to 100, and delete what I have in order to start over from
scratch. I've wasted hours trying to fix an existing ToC until I
resigned myself to starting over. Maybe it's just me. ;-) Once
Smashwords accepts the formatting of the book, it's made available for
sale on their website. To get to Barnes & Noble and the iPad
catalog takes longer, up to ten days, because there's a manual review by
a Smashwords editor before your material is passed along. You can and
should verify that your eBook looks the way you expect by downloading
your free ePub copy from Smashwords to an ePub-capable reader or to your
computer. An excellent ePub reader available as a free download for the
PC or Mac is Adobe Digital Editions.
By the time your text is squeaky clean (or thoroughly edited
if your book is original), using LiberWriter for the Kindle is a snap.
Throw away your lovely ToC you built for Smashwords. Upload your text on
the LiberWriter site, mark your chapter headings with their "Chapter"
designation, and press the easy-squeezy "Build ToC" key that does all
the work for you. Convert to Mobi format and check that your book looks
the way you want the world to see it. Do this with a Kindle or with the
free Kindle reading app for
PCs, Macs, and other devices. When you're happy with your results, it's
time to upload to Amazon. (Note: Amazon now accepts other files for
uploading, including ePub, Word, HTML, and even PDFs. However, it's my
impression that you'll get the best results when you submit Mobi format,
and in my case I chose LiberWriter to produce that format. As I said,
You'll need an account at Kindle Direct Publishing,
so start with that. Then upload your Mobi file and book cover and set
your price. Consider the pricing/royalty offerings carefully. You get a
higher percentage royalty if you price your book at $2.99 or higher, but
you may sell fewer books that way.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic
there have been some great successes with eBook "reprints" or original
works, but far more are published with little fanfare and even less
profit for the author. Depending on how much you spent getting to this
point, you may not earn back your investment. It's not all about the
money, though. If you are a writer, you know what I mean. If you keep
your expectations modest, you can always have a pleasant surprise if
your eBook takes off!
Promote your eBook via your
website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Offer some free copies. With
Smashwords, you can create coupons that allow readers to purchase your
book for a reduced price or for free. With Amazon, you can give away
gift certificates. LiberWriter allows you to give free Kindle copies to
individuals, such as reviewers, with their names embedded in the copy.
Join the Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Associates programs. These marketing programs give you a small rebate
whenever a reader clicks on your book link on your website or blog, goes
to Amazon or B&N, and then purchases that eBook. You referred
the reader and a sale resulted, so they're willing to pay a small amount
for that referral. And I do mean small. But even small amounts can add up.
hope you find this guide useful. Poking my way through this blind
wasn't fun, but the results were rewarding. I know that my next eBook
conversion will be much smoother and more fun. I hope this post might help writers out
there and readers who want to tell their own stories. If it isn't
relevant to you, maybe you know someone who might be interested. Questions? I'm not a pro at this, but I'll answer what I can.
If you'd like to see how Gray Matter, book one of the PJ Gray series, turned out, I'll give away a free copy
to anyone who leaves a comment here by Friday, December 9th. Let me
know if you want the Kindle or Nook/iPad version (ePub). I'll be sending
it to you as an email attachment, so I'll need your (disguised) email.
If you prefer, you can email me at dakota @ dakota-banks dot com. Be
sure to add my email to your whitelist for my response.
Enter to win a Kindle Fire by “liking” Dakota’s Facebook Fan Page!