NINE – E-PUBLISHING

When I was first investigating whether and how to publish my novel I was given the advice on a few online writing forums to only do an e-book. This was from experienced self-publishers who had seen a lot of self-publishers get hundreds of books printed and ended up with a garage full of boxes of their unsold books.

All along though, my intention was to get a physical printed version of the book done. Most people still prefer to have the physical object, and I myself have grown up holding, carrying and flipping through the actual paper pages of books. For a lot of people there is still something special about a book you can hold in your hand, that you can put on a bookshelf, that you can lend to someone. And the majority of books sold, even in developed countries, is still in the printed format.

Yet e-books are increasingly popular. And the increase in quality of e-readers makes them far more attractive. I have an old Kindle from about four or five years ago, and recently I bought a tablet with a Kindle app that allows you to read books on it, and there is no comparison in the clarity, range of things you can do (increase or decrease text size, ease of use of dictionaries) and sheer look of the two. In five years e-books have become something much more user friendly.

It will be a few weeks yet before I have the 100 copies of the printed book I am initially getting printed, but the e-book has been on Kindle for two weeks now (I already have 11 sales and a review!) and on iBooks for the last week. There is a debate about whether it is worth branching out and putting your book on digital platforms other than Amazon (Kindle), and that is one I am still trying to work out the answer to. There is an interesting discussion here about that very topic. Amazon is so dominant in the market that the suggestion is that really other sites for downloading e-books (Kobo, Nook, which is the American store Barnes and Noble, there are others) will only provide a tiny number of sales.

In general, Kindle is incredibly user friendly, and iBooks, in my experience, is exactly the opposite. For Kindle you just need a Word file, the more basic the better. There is a useful guide here , but generally you just need to take out page numbers, headers and all extraneous details, make sure that you have page breaks between each chapter, and then send it off to Amazon. I had a cover already designed, but they even give you a cover generator if you wanted to make your own. The whole process is child’s play. You can write a book in Word, upload it for free to Kindle Direct (the Amazon digital platform) and begin selling it straight away. Practically anyone can do it.

iBooks and Apple is a different proposition altogether. I got my book designer to format the book for iBooks, he did it for me cheaply as he wanted to practice doing it, he hadn’t done many before. You can pay companies on the Net to convert a file to the required format, or if you have some technical knowledge you may be able to do it yourself. But my impression is that that would be beyond most people.

Then when it was ready I went to upload it to iBooks, and found that you can only do this from a Mac. There is a particular program you have to use to upload a book, and this can only be downloaded on an Apple computer. I don’t have one, so I had to email the files to my brother who does have a Mac, and he had to use my account to put the book on iBooks. There was an issue with the image size on the cover, and some other issues that my designer had to address, so we were going back and forth with emails for days, before we managed to successfully put A Year in Lisbon on iBooks. It is there now, but it has not been an easy process. Apple seem to want to make it as difficult as possible for authors to use its service.

Anyhow, A Year in Lisbon is now available for Kindle and iPad. I have set the price at €2.99 on Kindle and $2.99 on iBooks, it is now out in the world. I think that the price is standard, and in fact the Kindle price is the minimum allowed. There is also the option with Kindle of joining Kindle Select, which is where you can offer your book for free for a limited time to promote it, as well as other benefits, but it also requires you to only have your e-book available on Kindle for a period of ninety days, and to take it down from every other e-book retailer. That may be an option for the future, depending on how iBooks sales go.

It has been a long process, but I am almost there. The files are with the printers, I should have 100 brand new novels in ten days to two weeks. Next stop, book launch.

EIGHT – A REAL BOOK

So I have a real book. I got the proof copy of the novel from the printers last week. In general I am very pleased with it, it is compact, well designed, and looks good, professional, like a real book. It is a physical object that I, in part, have created. To hold it in my hand and flick through the pages, seeing words that I wrote, definitely made an impact. IMG_0736

There is just one problem with it, the inside margins are too narrow. I gave it to a couple of people to look at, and they didn’t really comment on this, but I noticed it. The margins were set at 15mm on the inside and outside, but when the book was printed and bound the binding took up about 2mm of that space on the inside, and so it looks a little cramped. It is still readable, but it might not be as comfortable a read as it should be.

So I had to go back to my book designer, Martin, and ask him to adjust things a little. What he has done is just move the text over about 2mm. In other words it is exactly the same organization, but the inside margins are now 17mm and the outside are 13mm. The text is going to be closer to the edge of the page, but that is fine, there is enough room. I think it will make a big difference to readability.

It is curious to think that such a tiny change can make such a significant difference, but it will. For book design you need to think in such small measurements as millimetres, and one or two each way can effect how you experience a book. There is some research to suggest that the design of a book and its layout can have a greater influence on how someone enjoys that book than you might think, so it is important to get it right. This, I think, is one lesson I have learned from this whole process.

Right now I am trying to sort out the e-book. In fact it is already on Kindle, and I have had six sales there, though there are still things to be worked out with the file and layout. The iBook should be up this week. But more of that later…….