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Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: The “E” Word

Here’s one question you never used to hear authors asked at their readings and signings:

“There’s an ebook version, right?”

The times, they have a-changed! Despite the fact that I’m pretty up-to-date on publishing and bookselling trends and by no means a stranger to the news that ebooks are becoming increasingly popular, I’ve been surprised by how often I’m asked if/when my new story collection, Quiet Americans, will be available as an ebook. The question came up again (and again) on my recent trip to D.C. for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference and reading/signing at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. But for someone as tech-challenged as I am (I still haven’t dared to buy an ebook reader of my own), the conversion process is a bit…intimidating.

So I was grateful to see Joel Friedlander (“The Book Designer”)’s February 10 post:

Every author I’ve talked to recently has questions about ebooks and how to go about getting their book ready to go on sale in the Kindle store, the iBookstore and all the other venues where people are buying ebooks to fill up their new Kindles, iPads, Nooks, Kobos and other ebook readers.

Since most of these books start off life as print books, getting your book ready for life as an ebook is a matter of converting the print files to ebook formats like Mobi and ePub.

So the answer to this question of how to move to ebooks involves finding someone to make these file conversions. People who create ebooks need to have skill at understanding how books are constructed, and how best to interpret them in the ebook environment.

Joel’s post goes on to provide some excellent guidance and a new resource: a directory of companies offering ebook conversion services.

Since I’ve worked with Joel before (he is indeed The Book Designer behind Quiet Americans), I trust his recommendations, and I’m waiting to hear back from someone he referred me to. Remember that I am working with a new micropress; my publisher can manage getting a book listed on Amazon for the Kindle, but I’d like to explore some other options and see what we can do to get Quiet Americans available as an ebook for multiple platforms.

I’ll conclude with another blast from the past: In the “old days”–and it still happens–publishers planned hardcover releases with paperback releases to follow many months later. And with the paperback release came another round of publicity and promotional opportunities. But it’s a new day. Quiet Americans was released last month–as a paperback. And, if all goes well, it will indeed be available as an ebook–for your summer reading. In case anyone asks.

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7 Responses »

  1. Erika,

    Thanks for the mention. I think you’re wise to move your book to ebook formats. Some novelists I’ve talked to have reported they are selling five or ten times the number of ebooks as they are selling print books. When a lot of building a career as a writer is gaining a readership, this represents a terrific opportunity for anyone who has a book in print. Good luck with your new “editions” and you might download one of the ereader apps like the Kindle app or the B&N app to see if you enjoy that reading experience before you spring for the reader itself.

  2. I hope you can pull this off, Erika. It may not seem to make sense, but the new e-readers, from what I hear, have made reading even more exciting for those who love it, and perhaps the devices will bring in semi-readers as well. In any case, it seems like a great way for your book to reach a broader audience. Now, go get an e-reader! (I just got one myself, just last weekend.)

  3. Thank you both! Way back when, I did download the Kindle for iPhone app, but I don’t think the iPhone is the right device for reading books online. This week, I finally went ahead and ordered a Kindle. Others’ recommendations helped convince me to go that route.

  4. Hi Erika, I am a somewhat tech-challenged person who finds the iPhone a great ereader. I have about four or five e-reader apps downloaded, but Stanza is my favorite. I have lots of books, in English and French, and all were free. About two years ago, I reread War and Peace on the iPhone for the first time since college, and it was a fantastic experience. It was always with me without lugging around a heavy book and without the page format, the scenes somehow unwound in a different way as I read. I’ve read lots of books since then, and I made my 2001 novel Fall Love available as an ebook through Feedbooks, Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, and its own app on iTunes. I decided to make it available on Feedbooks and Smashwords free of charge and on Kindle and iTunes at a nominal charge, and I’ve had over 25,000 downloads. By the way, Feedbooks and Smashwords books can be read on any e-reader. Other e-book distributors have entered agreements with Smashwords–it’s really helped to keep my book from dying.

    • Thanks for sharing that, Anne. How did you handle the formatting/file conversion processes? And don’t you find the iPhone screen rather small for reading purposes? I downloaded Kindle for iPhone but didn’t really use it much. Now I’m trying to learn my way around the actual Kindle, which does seem pretty readable. It’s just the options (highlighting, sharing selections, etc.) that I’m finding challenging.

      • Feedbooks, Smashwords, and Amazon Kindle all have instructions on their websites about how to format the file for conversion. Basically it’s a Word file but there are some special formatting instructions. I can’t remember all of them, but I do remember that you can’t use tabs. The instructions are pretty straightforward and you can email for technical assistance, which I did. I am not that tech-savvy but I managed to do it with not many problems. As I mentioned I have several e-readers downloaded on my iPhone, but I prefer Stanza. However, I never highlight or share. I just read. What I like about the iPhone is that it is always with me, and I don’t find it too small because you can make the print larger. I want to make my life simpler with fewer electronic devices. While I love the iPad, I haven’t gotten one, because I have a computer and the iPhone and I think that’s enough. Also I have gotten all my ebooks free, which I love. I hope this is helpful to you.

        • Hmm. Well, along the lines of simplifying one’s life, I am indeed abdicating responsibility for ebook conversions to a professional. I’ll keep everyone posted!

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