Friday 22 July 2011

Publishing an eBook from a Beginner's Perspective

When I started writing Prometheus Bound I had blithely assumed that I would go the traditional route. I had planned to search for an agent and go shopping about for a publisher but the prospect was a daunting one. Every day, as I wrote, the sheer improbability of the whole thing loomed before me like the cliffs of my childhood home. It was frightening, to say the least.

After six years of trying to write part-time, sneaking in an hour of work every now and then on a decrepit old laptop, I found myself in a situation where I was finally able to work full time. Now the idea of having to find an agent at some point in the next couple of years was replaced by the need to find one right now.
How do you know if the agent gushing with praise about your story is the right one? For all you know, this may be the guy whose submission causes the commissioning editor to roll his eyes and chuck it straight on the shred pile while thinking yet again about taking that job at his brother-in-law`s used car dealership.
As I surfed the web, looking for hints and tips on how to find a good agent, I stumbled onto Joe Konrath`s blog. I stopped and scratched my head for a while. Where had I heard of this guy? Then I realized that I had read his article in one of the writer's periodicals about how he got his first publishing deal. I figured that his blog would be a good place to learn a bit more about how to get a foot in the door. Talk about an eye opener. The door is on my own house. I`m already in; I just have to do the work.
 I always viewed self-publishing as a good way to blow your life savings to have a pile of unsold books in your basement. What store wants to take a box of books from some unknown? At best, they might let you sit at a little folding table in the front of their store where customers can pretend not to see you and your neatly stacked piles of books. I always feel bad for the unknowns sitting there like some kid with a lemonade stand. Boy was I missing the point.
Back when Johannes Gutenburg invented movable type and then took it a step further and combined it with an adaptation of the wine press, he started a revolution. Until then, books were copied by hand in scriptorums and were prohibitively expensive. No doubt some monastic pundit was heard to say, ``I think there may be a global market for perhaps five books`. Let`s call him Brother Watson. Gutenberg`s work led to a revolution – for publishers.
Don’t get me wrong, Gutenberg`s work helped lay the foundations for the renaissance, and he made it easier for authors to get published but the publishers still held the keys. This latest revolution has put the keys in the hands of the authors.  
Online publishing houses like Smashwords represent a game changing concept. Not only do they sell and distribute eBooks, they convert them as well. In Smashwords` case, their `Meatgrinder` application  will convert your word file for free and allow you to place it for sale on their website for a small commission.
When I learned about Smashwords, I knew immediately that I wanted to try them out. Who wants to struggle through the arduous process of finding an agent, searching for a willing publisher and then waiting for over a year for the book to hit the shelves? Especially when you can sell your eBook for a third of the price and get four times the commission.
So, fool that I am, I happily banged away at the keyboard knowing that I would simply go to Smashwords, convert the file and put it up for sale. Then I finally read the Smashwords Style Guide. This is a great document, written by founder Mark Coker, and it really does tell you everything you need to do if you are going to use their conversion process.
The trouble is, I was up to ninety thousand words before reading the guide. I had to go back through the whole thing and search for all the little things that can make the conversion process stumble. At the time, it seemed an arduous process but, looking back, it all makes sense. For the second book in the series, I plan to go with Smashwords again and I will review the guide before setting up the new Word file. Second time around should be a breeze!
So, at this point, I have the files waiting for human review as there are no auto-vetter errors to correct. If all goes well, it should go into their premium distribution catalogue which ships to the major distributors such as Kobo and Apple.

Now I have to concentrate on the wonderful world of eBook marketing.
Fingers Crossed…

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