Book Publishing – Part 2 of 2

August 28, 2017 at 11:35 pm | Posted in Books, Online services, Software, Writing | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

< see Part 1

File Conversion

You’ve now designed your book in a set of files. Your next step is customizing for print and ebook versions. Make a copy of your chapter files in a sub-folder each for print and ebook, without the Book file. For the ebook version, you can drop the Index and pre-title page as they’re irrelevant here. Then create a new Book file for each version. Now you can customize for the final output.

See the Guides links in the Distribution section below to compare requirements with what you’re doing. Distributors require a Contents file and a Cover file for each format that meets specifications. (PDF format for print)

Print Version
Review your files and adjust paragraph breaks to avoid subtitles at the bottom of pages and so forth. Ideally, you want page tops to be even. (you don’t want these customizations in the ebook version)

The files for your cover and your content will be exported into separate PDF’s with fonts.

The print version should ideally be CMYK images to avoid unexpected issues later. If you’ve been working in RGB, update your images to CMYK, copy them into the Print sub-folder and re-link them in the Links panel.

To export the cover, File/ PDF Presets/ Press quality. On Bleed page, select “use Doc bleeds” or it crops them off. On Output, check its set to CMYK (it should be).

To export the book, select all chapters in the Book panel, then Export as PDF, uncheck Spreads.

Check everything thoroughly. Fix and re-export as required.

For both, edit the PDF document properties after to add the title and author. Don’t apply any security. If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat (full version) to do this, you can use the free version of Tracker PDF-XChange Editor. (It’s PDF Reader is much faster than Acrobat Reader)

EBook Versions
Many of the dozen or so early ebook formats have faded out now. The most important are:
.ePub – the open standard format, for Nooks and generic readers but not Kindle.
.mobi – for Amazon Kindle (and the similar .azw)
.pdf – designed for fixed-format printing but almost every computer has a PDF reader.
(comics have their own .cbr and .cbz formats. Other formats.)

The first is what you need for digital book stores. The second for Amazon. The last is best for manually printing a copy, like for your test readers. You can also add security to a PDF but because the pages don’t flow to the device, it’s less flexible for screen reading.

The first two formats are actually a packaged website. The chapters are html files, just like web pages. This is why the text can reflow so easily on any device. Your styles are converted to style-sheets. It uses web tags for formatting and design. There’s a table of contents file, much like a navigation bar. And a file much like a site-map. All of this is wrapped inside the file container, be it on Kindle, Nook, iPad or tablet.

(You can take your Word files and ‘save as a web page’ and upload that. But Word is full of useless code and you’ve lost control over your layout. Better to get it right first and upload that.)

Images for ebooks should be RGB colour. This means a different version from Print.

From InDesign, in the Book panel you can select the chapters and Export the book to EPUB format directly. (PDF too) That file can then be converted to MOBI.

I’d recommend polishing and testing the EPUB before MOBI conversion as you can’t edit a MOBI file very easily. (Amazon gives instructions, but it’s not as straightforward)

Editing, tweaking, and converting your ebooks can be done with free software. If you have a little familiarity with web design, you’ll find the required fixes straightforward.

Calibre is the most popular editor for ebooks and includes a library & converter, a good reader and an edit program. The Manual. Converting requires adding the book to its library first (it makes a copy). When you convert, it will overwrite the previous converted version without warning. It also adds the cover once one is assigned, even if you don’t want it to.

(Alpha Ebooks Manager library software doesn’t copy, reorganize, or change your library, by comparison. But the free version is less useful.)

Sigil is similar to Calibre but has a single interface. I preferred it for editing and got the best results. But Calibre does have the good reader for checking, so I kept it installed.

The EPUB output from InDesign removed the second paragraph break from each paragraph, butting them together. As I didn’t use paragraph indentation, it made it harder to read, so I added them back in.

Ebooks do have their own TOC system but it’s normal to keep the table of contents pages anyway. As the page numbers are gone, you may need to remove the contents page links but you can relink to chapter files instead. You have to add page anchors to link to subsections.

Once you have the file polished, check it meets the EPUB standard. You can use the on-line epubcheck Validator. They also have a downloadable version but it requires Java. (I didn’t find the Sigil FlightCrew validator plugin as useful.)

There will be issues. This often requires tweaking the HTML code. For example, the conversion naturally broke the table of contents links, mentioned above. I also edited the Chapter names in the ebook TOC so they looked better. This is editing the label content, not the file names.

I also needed to add some meta information in the contents file. Use the Metadata Editor to add useful tags and enter your title, author, and so forth. For the ISBN, remember you must do a different version for the MOBI conversion as it has a different ISBN.

I also had to reposition many of the images.

Once it checks out and is polished, it’s time for the MOBI conversion. Amazon has a strong preference for their KindleGen software for converting EPUB to MOBI. This also adds “Enhanced Typesetting.” However, KindleGen is a command line tool. This gets annoying when you have to do a bunch of tests to fix issues. You can get software that adds a GUI, but I got the best results by using the KindleGen plugin in Sigil.

There is also an EPUB3 plugin that upconverts the EPUB2 you’ve been working with from InDesign. IngramSpark wants EPUB3.

Sigil has numerous other plugins too.

Testing
You’ll want to install a few software ereaders to test your files. And try them on any electronic readers you have (called side-loading). Some of the independent software doesn’t translate the formatting well, which is one reason I like the Calibre reader. It also handles a wide range of formats. Avoid software that takes over and reorganizes your library. It may even convert your ebooks to a proprietary format.

Amazon offers a Kindle Previewer which is your best bet for testing the MOBI files. It will let you know how it’s responding to the file and if it has Enhanced Typesetting. (Their Kindle app is distinct)

Finally, you’ll want a cropped image for the front cover, trimming off the bleed. JPG in RGB is the typical format. You’d also use this on your web site and promotional materials.

For detailed specs to check your files against the supplier requirements, see the Guides links in Publishing below.

Web Design

Your book also needs a web presence on-line so you can be contacted by readers, the press, tell people where to order, etc. If you have a website, it’s simply a matter of adding a page for the book. If the website is unrelated, you can get a domain that points just to the book page inside your site.

If you don’t have a site, you can use a free WordPress.com site (like this one) but can’t use it for commercial purposes. Just information and links, like an on-line brochure. Get a domain for the book too, like mybook.com.

If you want to use the site commercially to promote your book and use it as an information hub, then you’d want a hosted WordPress.org site. For that you need a domain and a WordPress hosting service. WordPress is modular so it massively simplifies designing and adding features to your site. Choose a theme and 90% of the design work is done. Choose a plugin to add features.

As an author, it can be very useful to take up blogging to build an audience for your work and a web presence. A blog is an included option in WordPress sites. You can post articles, announcements, events, gather subscribers, and so forth. Blogs also have a higher profile in search engines than static sites.

Keep in mind that having a Facebook Page or similar is social media, not a web site (see below). Only Facebook users have access or can interact with you there. For your main site, you want an open web platform where you control the content. If you’re active on social media, that doesn’t have to change. But you don’t want to limit access to your book info.

You can set up an estore on your website to sell directly via PayPal or an ecommerce platform. But it’s usually not worth the effort for a book or two as your store is largely invisible compared to something like Amazon. People will be less likely to share their credit card info with a small site too. And having a store means a whole other business, as mentioned in Publishing below. Let your distributors take care of this for you. Far more people will look for and see your book in the big stores than on a small site.

Publishing

You are the publisher as discussed in ISBN in Part 1. But you don’t want to be the distributor. You’ve been preparing files to upload to a distributor. They then act as your wholesale (bookstores, etc) and retail (Amazon, etc) sales channels.

You’re looking for a Print on Demand (POD) distributor so you don’t have to carry inventory to fulfill sales. Otherwise self-publishing is massively more expensive and a lot more work. Being your own distributor means buying lots of inventory from a printer, taking orders, processing sales, setting up a shipping system, shipping books, dealing with returns, handling delivery problems, and more. Let your distributor take care of all this and save your time and money.

Price (Update)
It’s worth doing a bit of research for comparables and costs before setting your price. If you’re going to offer your book to bookstores, the price has to cover both the cost of printing and the 55% bookstore discount. This is your wholesale price. If you don’t offer the standard discount, they are unlikely to carry it.

Example:
Book Type: 250 pages, 6 x 9, paperback
List Price: $20.00
Retail Discount: 55%
Net Price for retailer: (List Price x discount) = $11
Print fee = $5.50
Publisher Compensation = $3.50

For direct sales, it would be Price less Print fee plus the cost per book of Shipping the printed books to you. This is usually your best cut. Sales through a distributor like Amazon would be in between.

For ebooks, note the promotional programs. For example, Amazon KDP is currently pushing a 70% royalty on ebooks if you price it at $9.99 or less (compared to 35% for over that). Lower price, but higher take. As you usually want to offer the same price across all channels, this may influence your price everywhere. Ebooks are often about 60% of the price of print but the above example would make it 50%.

As I noted in ISBN in Part 1, if you’re planning to sell internationally, it’s best not to include the price in the cover barcode or text. Instead it’s set in the sales channel of the distributor (below).

Distribution

Ingram, a large, established book distributor, bought Lightning Source (POD). They now offer both print and ebook distribution to a huge market via IngramSpark. You’re included in their catalog used by bookstores and libraries.

Amazon owns CreateSpace for POD and offers the KDP program for Kindle ebooks. Amazon is a bit less expensive but Ingram handles wider distribution better. Ingram is preferable to Amazon’s “Expanded Distribution.” Ingram can handle distribution to Amazon too, but because Amazon is the world’s largest bookstore, it’s better to handle them directly.

Ingram, as with most printers, does charge a setup fee for checking and posting your uploaded files (which is refunded if you order 50 books after). Amazon is free. After uploading the files to each supplier, you’ll be able to view results on-line or in downloadable “proofs.” You’ll want to order a print “proof” and have it shipped quickly so you can address any issues prior to your release date. Check it carefully.

Update: Note that the uploading process is different for each company. Ingram has you complete all account and payment info before you can upload books (see their guide below). CreateSpace takes you into uploading much faster, but reminds you to complete account info afterwards. And so on.

You’ll need banking info for the payment sections. Direct deposit is ideal as you’ll get paid faster. The sales have to meet a threshold in each currency before they’ll mail a cheque.  Ingram pays after 90 days, Amazon after 30 but Ingram’s thresholds are lower. They both insist on paying in the currency of your country. As a Canadian, I couldn’t deposit to my US$ account, for example.

After you complete the process on Createspace, they do offer to send your files to KDP to add a Kindle version. However, I don’t recommend this approach as you have less control over the results. You already did the conversion and testing above. Ditto with adding a print version to KDP (see below).

If you’ve followed the instructions above, your book files should upload smoothly. But you can expect there to still be bugs. The KDP upload, for example, does an automatic spell check and may find surprises.

Amazon doesn’t charge for uploading new versions either but Ingram does. In either case, new files uploaded have to be re-screened, which can make them unavailable for a day or 2 if the changes are significant… so you do want to minimize the number of re-uploads.

Release Date (Update)
They recommend you allow a month or more between first uploading and your release date. This gives you time to test, fix, reupload, and retest. It also gets your files distributed to the various outlets for pre-sale prior to release.

However, Ingram and KDP allow you to set a release date but Createspace does not. It simply launches the book when you activate the sales channels. This means it shows up for sale in some channels in a day or 2, others a little later, and in Canada, nearly 30 days later. As a Canadian author wanting the print book available on Amazon.ca on the release date, this meant allowing it to be for sale in other markets for a few weeks prior. Clearly, this has been an issue for customers as they essentially apologized when I asked about it.

I find it odd they’ve not addressed this as it puts Createspace out of sync with Amazon sales outlets and KDP. But they each behave as quite distinct companies. If Amazon print is your primary channel, it means you have a rolling release date.

Guides
IngramSpark: Guide to Independent Publishing     File Creation Guide (pdf)

Amazon CreateSpace (print POD)
Particularly, you want the PDF submission spec

Amazon Kindle Direct (KDP) (ebooks)

KDP Print Publishing Guidelines (not recommended per below, but here’s the guide)

You’ll notice the many more rules Amazon has due to people trying to game their system. KDP offers tools for doing work on their site but it’s better to use professional tools and test first before uploading. They give you an option to fix your MOBI ebooks though.

You can order prints through KDP but you get fewer options. You can’t order physical proofs or your own copies or (proofs and author copies now available early 2018) drop ship batches to others. But you can set a release date for print books. Here’s a comparison with CreateSpace.

Smashwords is a popular ebook only distributor, but I found IngramSpark covers more bases.

Because of the cost of shipping books, you may also find it valuable to upload to a more local POD or short-run printer, depending on where you’re based. This is not for distribution but simply for your own print orders. You’ll need hard copies to sell at your book launch, to send review copies and gifts, and so forth. Even with setup costs, the savings in shipping and speed can be substantial. It’s worth getting a quote.

Marketing

Marketing is often anathema for writers. Partly because many authors are introverts but also because it’s a very different skill set. Here’s a site on Marketing for Introverts. And Change The World Marketing, oriented to ethical approaches.

If you know any experts or well-known authors, it’s helpful to have reviews or testimonials for marketing. Maybe they’ll even write your foreword. Asking if they’ll read a pre-published version (after primary editing) helps you get them in advance, perhaps for your books back cover or launch publicity.

Also, be sure to set up an Author page on Amazon. This is a separate step from the above. Head to Author Central to register. Five of the Amazon sites have their own Author Page setup but just US and UK have English buttons and links. Do what you can. They’ll send you links.

On Reviews
Do not respond to on-line customer reviews. These are not like blog or social comments. You can get attacked for this and get swarmed with low reviews. There are also some on-line reader communities you have to be very careful about entering as an author.

Don’t pay for reviews. They’ll get deleted along with anyone Amazon discovers you have a social media connection with.

You can certainly send review copies though. For example, Midwest Book Review. You send them 2 books which they review and resell to support the business. They’re long established.

When you get such reviews, don’t add them as a customer review. These are Editorial reviews. On Amazon, you add them through Author Central (above) or put them in the product description.

Social Media
Having a social media presence is a good idea. This will raise your presence in other communities on-line. Pick a couple of popular platforms. But don’t use them for direct marketing. Social media is just that, for social sharing. Think of it like updating friends, not sending ads. If you’re blogging, an update about your book is fine, but spamming subscribers with advertising can cause a backlash.

Remember that some social media, like Facebook or Pinterest, is a partially closed system. Posting there is for that community, not the web as a whole. Non-users will have limited to no access and cannot interact with you. This is why your open-access website should be the center of your marketing efforts. It should contain direct links to purchase your book, typically through other sites like Amazon. By all means, post updates on Facebook and the like. But you’ll gain the most eyes by posting to your website (blogging) and setting that up to feed other social media automatically. This will tend to attract more people to your website mailing list too.

Your writers group should be able to help you with local book launch and promotion events. Local papers are often good about publishing book launch events from a press release.

Congratulations! Publishing a book is still a remarkable accomplishment.

Do you have any other suggestions that worked for you?
David

5 Comments »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. […] Part 2 on ForNow, we’ll convert the book to the final formats and prepare the book for uploading and […]

    Like

  2. I’ve updated the Distribution section to clarify and add a few points.

    Like

  3. Here’s a hard-won list of recommended book promo sites.
    http://nicholaserik.com/promo-sites/

    Like

  4. Ha – just got 2 comments from a company offering paid “Amazon Reviews.” Apparently, they didn’t read the article. 🙂

    Like

  5. I’ve migrated some of the comment updates into the body of the article so it’s better organized.

    Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.