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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

E-Publishing: Changing the Ball Game

When I decided to place my reverted backlist novels into e-publishing, I researched the hows. I was stunned. So much to learn! Multiple software, formats, extensive networking to promote....

Initially, I wasn't certain I wanted to dedicate so much time to my backlist.. Did I really want to take time away from my new WIP to revive my early books? My gosh, as a seasoned veteran of Berkley, Dell, Avon, and Harlequin books, experienced at promotion/graphics/webwork, I didn't expect the necessity of learning so much, so fast, to self-publish my reverted early books. (Reverted: publishers send a formal letter, a reversion of rights of a particular contracted book to the author or responsible person.)

Okay, self-publishing services, i.e. formatting, cover design, etc. are available, but hey, that costs, and there goes the profit. Plus, I'm a hands-on person, and my reverted book list was long, so I dug in to learn the ball game. And I'm liking it.

NIGHT FIRE is my latest cover effort. You can read more about my actual trip on the Oregon Trail to research at my  blog. You can also see the original Berkley cover.

Changing, adapting to the ball game is what writers are doing now, adjusting to a whole new realm of e-publishing and Internet.

One of the main differences, other that writing well in writing to sell today includes more technical knowledge. The writer needs good skills, a good story, and some technical skills at the very least. The majority of selling writers today are familiar with lots of technical stuff, from computer-ease to creating their own websites, blogs, etc. with a high priority on e-mail skill. Experts can be hired, but the more the writer knows, the more the profit, and this is a business, remember?

Writers and writers' organizations are constantly evaluating what works today. !In my opinion, any writers' organization that does not provide some informational programs about e-publishing is deficient. E-publishing is here now, the big elephant, and cannot be overlooked.

Major traditional publishers are now entering this e-reader game, in addition to their regular paper and e-book sales. At this writing, Avon is the latest to start a separate division dedicated to e-publishing; theirs is titled Impulse. There is a realm of e-publishers available for submission. The list of Indie Authors (writers who self-publish) is growing.

Self-published writers like Amanda Hocking or ground-breaker J.A. Konrath have soared to top lists by hitting self-publishing after traditional publisher rejection. Beth Orsoff has a great blog post on her experience.

These writers generated their self-publishing careers by sheer energy and dedication, after rejection from traditional publishers. They used blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Kindleboards and every Internet source possible. (Publishers usually want their writers to be active anyway in these media.) At 26, news-maker Amanda Hocking is a millionaire, after 10 months of grueling Internet work. Konrath's story is legendary, but his road to success took several years. These sellers and others inspire writers to get that "drawer" manuscript out, polish it, and send that baby out into the ball game. Or publish new material, bypassing the traditional route.

There is a big question out there in Writerville now: Do I want to bypass the traditional method of querying an agent/getting a publisher? Or do I want to do my own thing?

Many have decided to self-publish alone. Writers akin to myself with traditionally published books, and those reverted rights are reviving their books, too. E-newsletters remind subscribers when a new title is ready. An online presence is a must, i.e. a blog, etc. Blogger and others are free, drawing reader/buyers to your product.

It's out there, folks, all the how-tos you could ever want, if you want to self-publish. Learn by doing. Almost every writer's site has how-to information. (Please visit my Writers Guide to Survival tag at my blog, and or information at my Writers Tips.)

While my publishers have Cait London paper and e-books available, I'm currently placing my reverted backlist into epublishing and learning every day. Night Fire was a Berkley Diamond 1994 release; Wild Dawn a 1992 release. After Blue Leaf Scanning service provided a Word document of my scanned title to me, and I cleaned the file, I created the new covers, using Adobe Elements 9.

If using fresh copy, this journey is much easier. I've uploaded various formatted versions several times, uploaded different covers in my learning journey. It's smoothing out now, but I am redoing some early tries.

NOTE: The overlay of "Dawn" is really the sunset from my back yard. 

Basic pieces of freeware (software that is free) are necessary. For covers, graphic software is available for download called Paint.net, which is pretty good. I've started using some of my own photographs on my covers, which saves on stock photos, such as you can buy at istockphoto and others.

Self-publishing my reverted rights novels is finding me new readers and new sales, plus readers familiar with my contemporary work, are enjoying my early westerns. My early books were under the Cait Logan pseudonym, but it was easy to copyright them all under the Cait London tag. I've also retitled one early book and may retitle another. The ease with which changes can be made, after uplifting the original file and cover is amazing.

One reader wrote that she was glad I was placing my "classics" into e-publishing, because she couldn't find copies and she'd worn hers out! Others appreciate this rebirth because their e-readers allow for enlarging the fonts. I love this feedback.

In this safari to get my reverted backlist novels into e-publishing, I've found that the learning curve is very steep. Remember that services are available. But a determined individual can learn the mechanics and save. As a business person, thinking in terms of profit/loss is ultra-important. Always remember that writing to sell is a business.

NOTE: THE MACLEAN TRILOGY.  I'm changing the middle cover soon. All so easy. Just upload new graphic or new edition.

We're not all going to hit J.A. Konrath's heights, but if you're headed for e-publishing, here's basic facts:

1. Most self-publishers use PubIt, Kindle and Smashwords. All have FAQ pages. Read them.

2. As self-publishers, or "Indy Authors", energy invested equals proportionate success. Amanda, J.A., Beth and self-published are pushing hard for sales. You can hire services, cover artists, formatters, etc. but most self-published do their own, or at least until $ start moving. One benefit of working with e-publishers is that they do this for you. If you prefer not to face this steep learning curve, you might choose to go with an e-publisher, rather than publish your own at Amazon's Kindle, or in paper at their CreateSpace, or Lulu or other places.

3. Business attitude. Same as in the old days: good, clean copy, but now Word 2003 is standard. Be prepared to regiment time, i.e. creative writing time, and dedicate a block of time learning the specs, circulating on Twitter, Kindleboards, etc. Through my lifetime as an artist and/or writer, I've found that anything I wanted to learn, would be mine with a dedicated 2 hours per day. Study this animal as if you were stalking big game, and you are. The "game" is now international, and so is the competition. (In my opinion, Twitter is one of the most useful learning and promotional tools available.)

4. If you're not computer savvy, learn. Today's writers must use computers and enter the Internet. Learn how to network on the various loops and communities. Learn how to back up, how to format for Smashwords, an aggregator. (Aggregator: takes your copy and spins it into others for sale at places like Amazon Kindle, Sony, Apple, etc.) Some places (Sony/Apple/etc.) require ISBNs, which Smashwords makes available, or you can purchase from Bowker. (*Each format, print/epub/audio requires a separate ISBN.) Not all online bookstores take from individuals like Kindle or BN's PubIt will, but they will from a licensed "aggregator".

5. Double Note on Formatting: Each e-book reader will have a prescribed format. Every e-book online seller offers either specific or many formats. Learn the difference between formats, i.e. html, mobi, epub, lit, PDF, etc. Every seller has specs: borders, indentations, line space, fonts. Again, Word 2003 is recommended. And it needs to be cleaned of hidden formatting. In this, Notepad is your friend.

6.  The following are essential freeware: For epublishing and/or changing formats from one to another for your ereader, Calibre is foremost. Then MobiCreator prepares material for Kindle. Adobe Digital Editions, Kindle for PC, and Nook for PC (available from Barnes and Noble) allow means to check your file, prior to Uploading. I am not Mac-acquainted, but software is available for that format, too. These and Notepad are essential for a self-published author, plus they are free and can be used for e-reading without a Kindle, etc. device. Tremendous amount of free e-books out there now, available for download.

7. Cannot say enough about good editorial work on manuscripts. Writers are hiring editors, which has opened jobs. In e-publishing, quality counts.

The Time Crunch: 
Making time (not finding time) to write forward is essential and it's all about priorities, folks. I'm writing new material now, but also dedicated to reviving my "classics". Learning this ball game takes time/energy, too. Did I say the learning curve for self-publishing is steep? Make that double-steep. But highly rewarding. Highly enjoyable.

The first thing to do? Get a ring notebook dedicated specifically for this game, ready for all those passwords and URLs you'll need, like Amazon Associates.

Right now, I'm dedicated and enjoying this journey, and learning more as I self-publish my reverted backlist titles, as many career traditionally-published authors are doing now. At this writing, I am just starting to learn the ins/outs of promotion, such as Daily Cheap Reads and Kindleboards, etc. I'll continue to learn these new emerging e-publishing trends, such as interactive stories--fascinating!
I've written more about my experiences at my blog, Daily or Not. But are you fascinated with e-publishing, too? Either with an e-publisher, or self-publishing? As a reader, do you prefer an e-reader, i.e. Kindle, over a paper book/magazine/newspaper?  


Shirley said...

Good morning, Cait. Thanks so much for stopping by on this beautiful St. Patrick's Day.

You've given us a lot of information. The one thing I've found a bit annoying/time consuming is that all these different epublishers want DIFFERENT formats. Which means you have to learn each one of them. It's definitely a learning process.

Since I want to put books and stories on epubs, I'll have to keep a folder of "notes" for each publisher just to remember what to do each time.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks for providing all this information. I'm going to bookmark it to refer to. So far, I have only one e-book and that was done by a publisher. But this is certainly something to think about.
Best of luck with your e-books.

Lois K. said...

Shirley, I not only have a folder, but a notebook that is growing w/notes. I hope you read the Julianne MacLean story, linked somewhere here or at my blog. Very interesting. So far I'm just doing backlist and that is totally absorbing, but I do have new stuff, so I'll see... Where's your batch of Sleuths?

Cait London said...

Ok, I'm either Cait or Lois. :)

Best of luck on your book, Jacqueline. You'll learn a lot through the process of working either with a publisher or self-publishing with an editor, etc. Lots to learn in a professional marketing, too.

StephanieJ said...

At least one of us is here, many more to come I'm sure, Lois. Thank you so much for your blog post full of excellent information and resources. I agree whole heartedly with your comment that with 2 hours a day one can conquer almost anything. Also that it is a matter of priority. I'm excited about all the new areas of marketing and opportunities for writers. It reminds me a bit of the Wild West legends that you love so much.
Thank you for inspiring me to whine less and write more.

Cait said...

Hey, Stephanie. Sad, but true:
Only other writers understand a writer's problems. Families are great support, but they don't understand really. So you need to share your writing problems and it isn't whining. :)

Shirley said...

So Cait, are you planning to put some of your new stuff on ebooks? Or stick with traditional publishers? Or both?

Julianne MacLean said...

Wow - that was jam packed with info!! Great blog today.

Pat said...

Hi Lois: Thanks for blogging for Sleuths today. I must get busy. I'm falling behind. My head is spinning. I must read your blogs again and again. May never be up for the challenge.

Cait said...

Julianne: Thanks. And thanks for your great posts and info.

Shirley: I'm focused now on getting my backlist out, and it is all consuming. I just got a strong lecture from top marketer, Kathy Carmichael "Kissing Kelli" on playing my PR cards stronger. (I'm adverse to mentioning my USA Today and NYTs bestseller tags :)) So I'm headed for that now. I have mew completed books and like Julianne's post, not quite sure what I'll do with them, after this backlist is up and playing.

Attn: Pat. Please don't let my post discourage you. I'd feel very bad, if I did so. Get your writing out there. If you don't want to do the different tasks yourself, then a publisher is a good option. But get a good editor. Good=highly experienced professional. :) There are lots of traditional book editors out there now, seeking work. I will pass my new stuff thru one.

Angela said...

WOW! Cait, you never cease to amaze me. Thank you so much for this very valuable information.

I have learned the hard way about 'Making time'. Thankfully I have a very supportive person - who just moments ago spirited the grandtoddler away for a couple hours so I could get some work done :-)

Thank you, also, for your wealth of support to all of us.

Cait said...

You're welcome, Angela. And BTW, as a selling artist and would-be author back in the day when my 3 were small, I had no help at all. But their nap-bed times were really, really productive for me.

Also, part of writing is not learned in books, but by a hand-me-down mentor situation. In time before Internet/groups, it was really difficult. I started to grow when moving into a community where there were published authors.

Best on your work.

Wanda said...

As a writer just starting the process of editing my first novel and starting to look for an agent, it all seems so daunting. Makes me tired just reading your post! Lots of good info, though. Thanks!

Cait said...

Wanda: traditional publishing may be an easier route, compared to a do-it-yourselfer epub route that I'm doing now.

I'm wading slowly into this and learning more all the time.

I don't believe we can expect to know everything at once, rather Growing and Learning, chipping away at our goals and gaining ground. We're all learning, so please don't get discouraged?

Shirley said...

Sure traditional is easier, but is it better? Still? A traditional print PLUS epub sounds like a great plan.

Cait, how are you planning to market your work?

Cait said...

Re: marketing my backlist epub is taking time to learn. There are lists of "touch" places to viral market. I don't think I'd pay for ads in mags as I once did, traditional. Not when so much is available online and easily. But now, we depend more on the ripple affect, that is, reviews at the different URLs, i.e. amazon, tagging, networking. I'm just starting this as I've said and noted places in the post. I'm in several loops with traditionally published authors, now working with their backlist and new, and there is a lot of support/info in those, plus the blogs from people "making" it.

Lots of debate now on which is the best route. Also debates on large traditional or small publishers doing well. So far as profit, a self-publisher/Indie, doesn't usually make as much profit in paper as they would in epub. There's more costs involved in self-publishing paper and distributing yourself. But some are using CreateSpace, etc. as support for their e-pub books. I'm not certain about that, but when major traditional publishers consider e-format as a "new mass market" and put a lot of pressure on it, that's something to consider.

Everything is changing now, so it's a wait-and-see deal. Generally, tho, cannot stress enough a professional editorial job on your self-pubbed work.

Cait said...

Shirley,if you haven't read Julianne MacLean's post linked in this one, do so?

Nancy said...

Thanks, Cait! I'll have to get busy and start learning all of this. I have seen two interactive children's books on the iPad, and truly believe that this is the newest wave in publishing. Plain words must be "bad enough" to learn for ePublishing, but interactive pictures? Whew! Still, I love 'em.

Beth said...

Wow. So much info. Thanks for posting such an indepth analysis, Lois. I can see you've been hard at it with your backlisted books.

How many books have you written anyway?

Personally, I'll pay a publisher to do this. I don't want to invest that much time but I can see how it would be rewarding if you're an artist or really like to roll up your sleeves and dig into the process.

Glad to see you mention that hiring an editor is important if a writer self-publishes. I agree wholeheartedly.

In a perfect world, authors will have a print book plus an ebook! Good luck to you and everyone else.

Beth said...

P.S. I see you mentioned several things I had on my blog last week including the amazing Amanda Hocking success story at the ripe old age of 26! I wonder if part of her success is her genre and the target market of her readers' ages?

You might want to research thriller author Boyd Morrison who guest blogged for SI about his success with self-pubbing his novel, THE ARK, as well. Impressive stuff.

Cait said...

Re: Amanda Hocking's success at 26 in YA. She's on practically every blog/news report now. She clearly states in one interview, if you follow her on mediabistro and other places, that she believes her work hit the right spot at the right time in YA, and that she worked very hard on her PR, exhausting work, to get her spot. It is a lot of hard work, even if your publisher handles the book. The girl worked for her stripes. I very much like how she did her truthful/revealing interviews. In self e-publishing, Kindleboards, DCR, blogging, the reviewers, etc. is very demanding to rise as she did. She's smart, and worked like a dog. :) Lots of great blogs out there for all sorts of info, but Konrath's might be the top one in fiction. Do not know about non-fiction.

But not everyone wants to jump into this busy-bog. They are quite happy with their book up online and/or published. Everyone makes choices for what suits them best.

Beth said...

I give many kudos and stripes to Amanda Hocking. Wonder when she'll show up on Sixty Minutes?!!!

Happy that you're enjoying this adventure, Lois. Well done and I'm sure your fans are thrilled as well.

Cait said...

Re: Publisher vs. Self-publishing. Somewhere out there in blogosphere is a breakdown, and that might have come from PW, figures concerning what the publisher receives and what the author does not, into the minuses. Pretty astounding author-minuses for anyone making the choice. Designing a cover now, using my own photo of my quilt. Too lazy to take out my grandmother's and photo. :)

Just remember that quality counts.

Janet Kay Gallagher said...

Hi Lois,
Thanks for all this great intimidating information. I will have to learn so much more than I do know now. Thanks for the guidelines on how to do it.
I like a book but usually read on my Kindle for PC or Kobo reader for PC. I can make it large and EASY to read. I am glad you got your older books put up online. Like someone said, some of them, you just can't find anymore. This opens a whole new readership. Everything on e-books is new to the majority of people. Also a good book is always good the second time you read it. I usually pick up something the second time that I missed in the first reading.

Cait said...

Oops, Janet. If looked at like a chunk, it can be intimidating. But keep in mind that while there is a lot to learn, there is also time to learn, working at it, bit by bit.

You pick up a bit, learn it, head for another, and so on. It's just like learning to write, it takes awhile. I'm still learning.

You're doing great, all.

Anonymous said...

Lois, I've read and bookmarked your blog here today. Great information. As you know I've begun this process and am dizzy from learning. I plan to publish some short stories as a short book to sort of help me learn while I wait to receive the first scans from Blue Leaf.
Thanks so much for sharing. You are amazing.

Palooski65 said...

You amaze me--is there anything at all that you can NOT do? You're sooooo very talented! Thanks for sharing so much of your expertise with us. Like many of the others, I have copied and filed all your wonderful tips.
Congratulations on reviving your past books--you'll have a whole new audience with the ebooks, I'm sure.
Best wishes and continued success to you.

Cait said...

Thanks so much, Virginia. BTW, for everyone in Springfield, Borders has Kobos for $59. I got one for a gift. Or for myself. :)

Thanks everyone for having me.

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