** FIRST SOME E-HISTORY
When the iPad first appeared and I flipped my first touchscreen page of an eBook, I knew I was holding the future in my hands. The more I poked at the device the more I was convinced it was a time machine that would bring me into the future. At the iPads debut, there was already a lot of content on it and I wanted to participate. I knew it was possible to get a book on this thing, because I was looking at the results in my hands. I just needed to know how the others did it. I wondered how the participating companies did it, and asked myself… "How hard could it be?"
It took a little time, but with a little trial-and-error to find out what I didn't know. I eventually pieced it together. The e-publishing puzzle was a little time consuming but didn't end up being all that difficult. Now I'll grant you that I have an extensive background in web development, and I'm sure that helped when developing iPad/eBook content in early months of the iPads existence. However, I was still able to show other non-tech people how to do it.
If I remember correctly the iPad arrived in April 2010? The first one that made its way into my family was on Fathers Day, June 2010. My first eBook "Creating 3D Models from 2D Cartoon Characters" was on sale online in September 2010, then on the iBookstore by Oct 2010.
Since then it's only gotten easier to get onto any eReader you want. Anyone who has a computer can shove an eBook into the global marketplace. All you have to do is write one…
I'll prove it to you with this ePub primer.
Over the course of time I will try and cover the following topics a little at a time...
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THIS PRIMER
WRITE YOUR BOOK
IDENTIFY YOUR PUBLISHING PRIORITIES
UNDERSTAND THE 3 ROUTES INTO THE EBOOK MARKETPLACE
WHO DO I PUBLISH WITH AND WHY
STEP 01: SET UP ACCOUNTS
STEP 02: COPYRIGHTING
STEP 03: BLURBS AND KEYWORDS
STEP 04: CREATE ILLUSTRATIONS AND COVER ARTWORK
STEP 05: ASSIGN AN ISBN NUMBER AND REGISTER IT
STEP 06: FORMAT TEXT FOR EPUB CONVERSION
STEP 07: CREATING EPUB AND MOBI FILES
STEP 08: UPLOADING
STEP 09: REVISIONS AFTER EPUBLISHED
STEP 10: SALES
STEP 11: ROYALTIES
STEP 12: MARKETING
…are you ready to jump in?
** WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THIS PRIMER
My goal with this primer is to demystify the ePub process by breaking it down into a step-by-step practical procedure that anyone can follow supported by some stories from my experience. When it comes to moments where the road forked, I will share my thought process for the directions I chose. I will also point out potential pitfalls or red alerts I found linking around the e-corners. I'll also make you aware of any hard costs. I’ll post links to supporting tools as I mention them. I'll make you aware of any limitations that I know of or alternative routes, so you won't have to waste any time with any false starts.
Now let me get few important peripheral things out of the way first...
1. I have no interest in selling any products or service that I'll mention in this primer, unless it's one of mine. Ha ha. No one has offered me any sort of product endorsement deal, nor have I been paid to do this. Anything that may seem like a glowing review is merely my customer satisfaction. Any recommendations that I make are based on my personal experience. Outside of myself the other thing mentioned in this primer that I have a financial stake in is Apple Computers. I'm a shareholder.
2. I'm probably going to take whatever I write here compile it in an e-how-to-book and publish it once I hit all the points.
3. Everything I'm going to reveal has worked for me, but keep in mind I can't predict every possible future outcome. All the facts I offer you are accurate as of 15 MAY 2012. So if you're encounter this thread/or ebook a year or two later, the marketplace may have shifted. I will try and supplement this information with enough detail to help you steer clear of future potential red flags, and here is the first example…
ALWAYS GO INTO ANY DEAL WITH YOUR EYES WIDE OPEN
4. There may be a lot of comicbook references coming.
Ok now back to the body of the primer…
This process isn't so easy that you press one button and all your work is done. But when we’re finished with the ePub primer you would be able get something on sale on something within in 24 hours of completing your book, if that’s your goal. More than likely you will take a more considered approach, once you absorb all the info to come.
This e-publishing process works for me and I've helped other people get onto e-bookstores as well. We still sell stuff every week.
I hope this information will help strengthen our community here on dieselpunks.org. I hope we are able to help everyone reading this. If you have an idea for a story and the determination to finish a book, let’s get you published. I believe in all of you and there is plenty of room for all of us in the e-publishing world. So let's get started…
** WRITE YOUR BOOK
Get your book out of your head and onto the paper, or computer. Until it's out of your head it's just an idea not a book.
Once it's all out of your head and all the parts are in front of you, you'll find it a lot easier to work with.
** IDENTIFY YOUR PUBLISHING PRIORITIES
You'll have to decide what's most important to you, but my primary concerns when publishing are maintaining ownership of my creative efforts and control of my content. Second is making the most money possible per book without overpricing it.
Our creative fruits are investments. They are worth protecting not only in the sort term but the long term. As you read on you'll see that most of the publishing decisions I've made are informed by these goals. As you read through all the information that I'm going to present ask yourself, "what's important to me, what best fits my needs.”
The other thing to consider is, ‘where you want your books to be available?’ My store preferences are purely pragmatic. I priorities follow the total sales figures for the e-reader devices; iPads 67 million, Kindles between 5 and 8 million, nooks somewhere above 3 million. I include computers too. As you may my expect total sales line up with the popularity of the devices. I’ve sold the most books on iPads, then kindles, then nooks.
** UNDERSTAND THE 3 ROUTES INTO THE EBOOK MARKETPLACE
There are really only 3 routes into e-publishing.
1. THE PHYSICAL MIDDLE MAN
Basically give your story to someone else. They modify it in some way or prep it for publishing.
What are the pros of this approach?
- You get someone else to do the technical work for you.
- They may have an effective distribution network.
- They may have some promotional punch.
- They might do the stuff you don't want to or like doing.
What are the cons to this approach?
- Remember they are in it for the money. You are just a commodity.
- It's someone between you and your customer with their hand out.
- They will undoubtedly want some form of ownership to bind your work to them in some way.
- There is a good chance they will want to make editorial decisions.
- You will lose some portion of control of your idea.
- You may be paying for something you're not really getting. For example, they may just one to route 2 in this list, AGGREGATOR and up charge you for it.
- Unfortunately creative people aren't typically business minded. We usually rely on a different part of our brains, so be careful what you're getting yourself into.
- Ask a lot of questions. Whatever they won't answer is a red flag.
- Remember the only thing that matters in a business deal is what you sign. Read the contract.
- You have to balance your risk with the potential reward.
Unless you think you need them for something, why bother?
How do they make money?
There may there a prep cost they'll want to recoup before you see any royalties. So let's say their prep service cost $100 dollars (a number I’m pulling out of the air) and your book is listed for $1. You'll need to sell 100 books before you get anything. Then there will be a royalty split. My guess is you'll get the little end.
They are online service that through an automated process let you publish and sell your eBooks on the web. There are several of these services. There could be over 100 by now but the two I'd endorse are www.Lulu.com and www.smashwords.com/. There are strengths and weaknesses to them both and will explore those in more detail later. For this section I'm going to focus on them both as a type of publishing option.
They have easy to follow account setups. They will even help convert your book into various e-formats. They also have tiered plans that you can opt for. The most important ones are:
A) "Publish and sell on our site"
B) "Publish and sell on our site and we distribute to our partners to get your material into the other eReader stores."
What are the pros of this approach?
- It's pretty easy.
- No upfront cost.
- This is one of the 24 hour turnaround options I mentioned before.
- They have an effective distribution network.
- Cheaper than THE PHYSICAL MIDDLE MAN.
- You will get a larger Royalty than with THE PHYSICAL MIDDLE MAN.
- You can leverage DMCA protection from copyright infringement. (I'll go into copyrighting later.)
- This can be a one-stop gateway to all the e-reader stores for independent publishers.
- You can use these in conjunction with other direct publishing options.
- Some of the less popular readers like the Sony reader store was/is more exclusive to big publishers. So if getting on the Sony reader is important to you you'll need to include this route.
What are the cons to this approach?
- You get a smaller royalty than publishing direct.
- Depending on the wording of your agreement and the terms of the tier you opt for, your property may become bound to the publisher.
- If your rely on this as your one stop to all the e-reader stores, what happens if the company goes under or is bought out? It's possible that your book will disappear from all the readers.
- Same scenario as above, but say you opted for the tier that binds your property to them. What happens to the your property during a buy out?
- In trade for the wide e-reader distribution, you give up formatting control since they aim for the lowest common denominator.
- You might run into an unexpected level of censorship.
- If you just want to get up and going this may be a good route for you, but read the rest of primer before you make that decision.
- Read the agreements carefully.
These storefronts seem to get a lot of traffic themselves, so it’s worth getting your books on their direct bookstores. But I wouldn't rely on them solely.
How do they make money?
There is no upfront cost. With each sale they split the earnings with you. At tier one the aggregator gets a share and you get a share. At tier two the e-reader store gets a share, the aggregator gets a share and you get a share.
3. DIRECT PUBLISHING
When I say direct publishing I mean getting an account that allows you to upload directly to an e-readers store, like the iBookstore the Kindle store and the nook store.
What are the pros of this approach?
- You get the maximum per book royalty possible.
- All your eggs aren't it one basket. If one goes out of business you only lose one storefront all the others are guaranteed to remain intact.
- You have individual pricing control on all stores for unique sales or promotions.
- You can create custom books for different storefronts.
- More freedom with your layouts.
What are the cons to this approach?
- You need ISBN numbers that will add an upfront cost.
- If you want to get your book on the iBookstore but don't use a mac, I don't think there is a way to get there directly. I believe iTunes Producer only works on a mac so you'll need to rely on one of the aggregators if the iBookstore is one of your destinations.
Set your sights on the direct publishing category and get as many of them as you can. Where it won't work for you use one of the aggregators to fill in the cracks.
With this route you have the most control of your content and you have as few people as possible between you and your audience. So I like it best.
How do they make money?
With each sale they take a percentage, of the point of sale. They get a share and you get a share. The bonus of this direct route is that royalty percentages aren't deflated by the aggregators.
Looks good so far. This is a crazy amount of stuff up already!
Just about to upload my third novel and 7th short, I've settled into a combination of Smashwords (for my ISBN and distribution to the small guys) along with direct publishing to Amazon/Kindle and B&N. I think I might venture out to drivethroughbooks.com and a couple other smaller ones this time as well to see how it goes.
Does anyone else have experience with Drivethrough?
** AGREEMENTS AND CONTRACTS
Publishing agreements are contracts. They specify the terms of the deal you are about to enter into. Through that agreement you, The Creative, will be bound to them, The Publisher, through your work, the eBook, in some manner. Weather you like it or not, you'll be in a relationship. My hope is always that if I need to breakup, I can get out of the deal cleanly, or as cleanly as possible.
As you read through your agreements, try to identify the breakup terms. More than likely the contract will only come out when there is a lot of money at stake, or when things go bad. Is there a way to get you and your work out of the relationship? If so what are the consequences? Then ask yourself, "can I live with those consequences/"
My "2D to 3D" eBook was created in response to all the emails I received on my YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/johnpicha). People kept asking, "How do you make those models". As I replied I quickly realized there was a significant market for this information. So I used all my email replies to cobble together an e-brochure that I could direct people to. That way if they were curious or if they really wanted the information, they could just buy it. A lot of them did and still do.
At this time my original eBook question evolved from "how hard could be?" to "How do I get '2d to 3d' onto the iPad?"
There seemed to be a few viable "free" publishing choices at that time one of them was www.Lulu.com. "Free" is one of those advertising words that's always struck me as worm on a hook. So I as soon as I see the word "Free" I want to know what type of hook is camouflaged beneath the tasty lure with before I bite anything.
Without actually setting up a publish account I couldn't only get too deep into the contractual information. I couldn't get a copy of the publishing agreements, but wanted to complete my first e-publishing to experience. So I decided my e-brochure might be a good candidate for an eBook experiment because it wasn't all that important to me if I lost it. By using it as a proof-of-concept I could kind of stick it above the trench and see how many bullet holes were in it when I pulled it back down.
I went through the account setup steps and got the facts I was looking for. What I found out was some of the aggregators have a deal like this.
1. We can get you on the iBookstore but you'll need an ISBN number, they are expensive to purchase on your own, but we can give you one for "free."
2. Since we are covering the ISBN cost for you, we become something like the 'publisher of record" tied to your eBook, forever. There is no upfront cost, both us benefit from the royalties.
3. Just in case you ever decide to remove your eBook from our site, that's fine. You can even go somewhere else and publish if you want. All you have to do is get written permission from us.
4. Oh and you have to pay us royalties on each future sale beyond our site, since we are the publisher.
It wasn't a trick it was spelled out right in front of me. Contracts don't really hide things. You just have to red them with your eyes wide open. Then imagine how vague parts can play out against you in the future.
Ok, let's say I agreed to there terms. Then later on a movie studio approaches me to make a movie of "2D to 3D". The publisher would not only get a cut, but it was possible that they could hold my access to my content as leverage to get a bigger payout for themselves. It was clear that there would be someone contractually in-between me and my content's freedom.
I looked at ISBN prices and they weren't cheap at that time and my immediate objective was to go through the E-publishing process as cheaply as possible once. I wanted to find all the potential problems or obstacles and I just found one. I wondered what others were lurking out there?
So I accepted that risk "2D to 3D" but knew I wouldn't with something more important to me. If I wanted full control of whatever was to follow "2D to 3D" I'd need my own ISBN numbers. Now the good news is, that was the only real problem I found. My experiment worked and "2D to 3D" is still available in the iBookstore today. In fact it's more than paid for the ISBNs I bought later.
None of the e-publishers I use now, are really publishers in the sense I decried above, they are really just storefronts.
I should also note, since then Lulu's policy has changed. To get onto the e-reader stores via Lulu you need to have your own ISBNs. They won't supply them anymore. I just used that tale as an example of how to assess a publishing agreement.
The reason I knew to look for contractual red flags was thanks to the stories other creative people who have been ripped off have shared with the rest of us. Have you ever heard the behind the scenes tale of Alan Moore battle with DC comics? If not you should make yourself aware of it.
The story goes something like this.
Alan more had created V for Vendetta and they were publishing it in England with an independent. That independent had some financial troubles and eventually folded before the story was actually finished. Alan Moore owned the right to V for Vendetta. DC Comics wanted to have Alan continue the story with them. As you could imagine he was very excited at the prospect. The deal DC offered was, "We get the first printing rights. Once it's out of print the rights all go back to you."
At that time it was unusual for a comicbooks to be in print for more than 6 months and he trusted the people he was working with. Apparently Watchmen was created under the same contractual terms. The books Alan worked on while at DC were hugely successful and both side were happy for a while.
Watchmen came out in 1986. It's 2012 now and DC Comics (now owned by Warner Communications) still owns the rights. So why do they still own the rights over 2 decades later?
They never stopped printing them to keep the properties in their possession.
When Alan Moore called them on it, they basically said that's your tough luck… I still get angry for him when I think about this!
Ok, this is a high profile example, but there are smaller ones too. I know of one other member of the DieselPunks community who has a tale of a contract gone bad, but it's not really my story to tell. If they'd like to share it, I hope they jump in because others could benefit from the information.
The Watchmen example is the type of lingual traps your looking for in contracts. I wish I could predict all possible problems for you, but I can't. But now matter what they say or how they are worded here is what you want to understand:
- How all things are defined?
- When do durations expire?
- Are the triggers that initiate new terms beyond the first contract?
- What wiggle room exists for you and them?
- What points bind you in the relationship?
- What do you have to do to get out of it?
- What penalties exist if you leave?
Once you understand what you're getting into, you'll have to decide what's most important to you and what your willing to sacrifice. As for me I say, if you don’t have to take a risk, why take a risk?
I want complete control of work and to be able to pack-up and walk-away my goods anytime I want. As far as I can tell, that's what I’ve got now.
Remember the only business agreements that matter in court are the ones you sign. Whoever writes the contract has their best interest in mind. You are secondary. Understand what you are agreeing to. Read your publishing agreements.
** GET ISBNS
As ISBN number is a unique ten-digit number assigned to books before publication. The acronym stands for International Standard Book Number. If you want to get on the iBookstore or the nook you're going to need one for your book.
When I began investigating publishing eBooks and the 'ISBN issue' popped up during my "2D to 3D" experiment, I remember getting the distinct feeling purchasing ISBNs was only for "real" publishers. And that club wasn't accepting any independent members, unless, of course, you were willing to pay what seemed like very high price for entry.
As I kept digging I started running into little sites that offered cheap ISBNs for independents. But there were strings attached with some. Others were busted for selling double ISBNs which is essentially a scam. If you'd purchased a double you wouldn't be able to use it.
Eventually I found Bowker.
I don't remember exactly what clued me to Bowker's offer. It might have been something I read on an Amazon article. What ever it was it made me think it was legitimate. Bowker was the solution I was looking for. A single ISBN was $125.00 or you can get 10 for $250.00. That's only $25 each. So I bought 10.
I'm nearly as skeptical of "good deals" as I am of the word "free". So I wanted to test these ISBNs with something else I didn't mind losing. I needed another experiment.
I created a second eBook. It was an image heavy how-to-book called, "LIGHTWAVE FIRE TUTORIAL: GASEOUS FLAME." I assigned and register one of my new ISBNs. I went through the same steps I followed with "2D to 3D" and it worked. This time there was no ISBN binding agreement so the book is unbound, pun intended…
However I did find another unrelated obstacle in experiment 2 that I will share in a quick aside.
Since I had so many screen shots of the Lightwave application embedded in the eBook to show the fireball creation process, Apple wouldn't accept the propagation from Lulu. So if I ever want to make any more screenshot heavy tutorials I'll just upload them to Lulu. The book is a fully functional EPUB it still works fine in the iPad. All the buyers need to do is purchase and download the book from Lulu. Once it's downloaded move it to your iPad. Ta Da. This discovery was only an obstacle not a stop sign. Ha ha.
Ok back to the ISBN story...
The ISBNs from Bowker are legit. I used the second of my 10 ISBNs for my ePulp "Pandora Driver: The Origin" which I published directly to the iBookstore with no problems.
Ok ready for the ISBN procedure?
1 - Go to https://www.myidentifiers.com/
2 - Set up an account. It will take you about 5 minutes.
3 - Use their shopping cart to make your purchases.
If I remember correctly, as soon as your purchasing transaction is approved your new numbers pop up in your Bowker account. You can't access the Manage ISBNs dashboard with out an account but it's very basic and easy to follow.
When you have something you want to publish on one of the e-bookstores. Before you upload it go through these steps to register your ISBN first...
1- log into your https://www.myidentifiers.com/ account.
2- Go to the Manage ISBNs tab.
3- Assign your new book to one of your unused numbers.
4- Upload a copy of the text.
5- Upload a cover icon.
6- Upload a description of the book.
7- Log Out.
Next go to your publishing destinations and start uploading your books.
Here is another interesting tidbit. When you're publishing a book to the iBookstore it appears they only verify that the ISBN number matches the title you give them.
Here is my ISBN advice. If you want complete e-publishing and e-publishing freedom, just buy them. If the cost is too steep for you, maybe you can get 10 people to each chip in $25 bucks and have someone in the group do the registering duties.
If you're using one of the Aggregators and you are taking advantage of a tier that offers to get you on the iBookstore and the nook, they are doing the steps I outlined above whether you realize it or not. The question is what's the cost; Money, control, independence? I guarantee you, it ain't "free."
This advice is great. Many thanks.
** WHO DO I PUBLISH WITH AND WHY
Since I publish directly to e-book stores, I don't really use them e-publishers but more as e-store fronts. When people ask me, "How do I choose a Publisher?" My first response is, "What eReader do you want your books on?" From there we connect the dots. My preferred ePublishing choices typically get them where they want to go. Nearly everyone wants to get their eBooks on the most popular eReaders first. Secondly, they want to make sure people reading on computers can get them too.
Occasionally I'll encounter Android users who feel jilted if I don't mention Androids in the same breath as iPads. When that happens I point out there are several free ePub readers for android devices. Kindle and nook also have free android apps that are essentially emulators that allow you to purchase and download their eBooks. So even though my storefront choices seem limited at first glance, through them my eBooks actually have extremely long reach. Any smartphone, pad, pod, tablet, device or machine, can download and display them, as long as it has a compatible application installed. eBooks are just files that need the right app to run. That's the nature of all software and that's really what we're dealing with eBooks. Cool huh?
How did I choose my Direct Publishing destinations?
I identified the most popular eReaders based on units sold. Which were iPads, nooks and Kindles. In keeping with my original publishing objectives I wanted the shortest path to the devices, with the least number of middlemen. And I wanted the maximum per-book royalty possible. So I publish directly to…
- Apple's iBookstore/iTunes.
iBooks placement offers my books placement on iPads iPhones and Macs.
- Amazon's Kindle Store.
Amazon serves my eBooks to Kindles primarily, but through a downloadable app it covers, iPads, iPhones, Macs, PCs, Android Phones, Android tablets and Blackberrys.
You can find the appropriate kindle app here:
- Barnes and Nobel nook store.
The nook store slings my eBooks to nooks directly, but through a downloadable app it covers, iPads, iPhones, Macs, PCs, android Phones and tablets.
You can find the appropriate nook app here:
Using lulu directly, people get buy my eBooks on their computer, then they can port them to any ePub reading application on any device.
Now I'm going to run through a series of comparisons of my preferred direct publishing partners to help set some expectations for you. Ready?
-- How would I describe the direct publishing experience and tools?
If you've ever read any of the "Apple Human Interface Guidelines", (http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/ios-human-interface-guidelines/id40...) you will see that they practice what they preach when you publish with them. With Apple it's plan everything first then execute. The process feels very formal. Once you're all signed up and ready to go, the process is really slick.
To publish directly here you'll need:
1- To fill out an application.
I think the application is basically there to establish that you are a real persons and to set up internal account for you. It's nothing like credit check, or a background check. It asked things like, "have you been published before." My application was approved within a day. Once you're accepted they will ask for bank information for your royalty payments. Then they give you something to download that allows you to connect to the iTunes store directly.
You will also get access to a 3 minute video that walks you through the ePub uploading process using their proprietary tool, iTunes Producer.
2 - ISBN numbers assigned to your books.
3 - Have access to a Mac with OSX Lion
4 - TIN or SS# for US publishers
5 - A properly formatted ePUB file.
Their current eBook royalty rate is 30% to Apple 70% to me and there are no upfront costs.
Kindle Direct Publishing
If you already have an Amazon customer account you're already 80% percent through the KDP sign up process. The Amazon publishing process feels breezy and everyone is welcome. It’s like they already have bins for your stuff, they just need to know what you're giving them so they know what bin to toss it in. If I remember correctly the account setup went something like…
"Do you have an amazon account?"
You hit yes.
"Would you like use existing account information for KDP account."
You hit yes.
"Are your ready to upload your eBook now."
I'm exaggerating a little but that's what it felt like.
To publish directly here you'll need:
1 - You don't need an ISBN but if you have one they use it.
2 - A computer with a browser.
3 - TIN or SS# for US publishers
4 - A properly formatted MOBI file.
They have tiered royalty rates but the one I use is 30% to Amazon 70% to me and there are no upfront costs.
Barnes and Nobel (Microsoft?) nook store
I think they were trying to duplicate Amazons publishing tool. They came close, but it's not quite as efficient and there are quirks.
I guess my feeling with the nook is, I can tell they are doing the best they can, but to be blunt, I don't expect nooks to survive. Anyone watching their stock over the past year may be thinking the same thing. It's possible that with Microsoft buying them they might make it but I suspect to survive they will evolve into some sort of institution-sponsored school-supply like a textbook reader, but we'll see. There are still a lot of them out there so I'll publish directly to it till it's gone.
To publish directly here you'll need:
1 - ISBN numbers assigned to your books.
2 - A computer with a browser.
3 - TIN or SS# for US publishers
4 - A properly formatted ePUB file.
They have tiered royalty rates but the one I use is 35% to nook 65% to me. There are no upfront costs.
Ahh Lulu…my first love… I think they may have been one of the first ePublishers (2002?) starting with physical books and PDFs. If it wasn't the first it was the first one I encountered. My favorite thing about Lulu is there is no sign of censorship what so ever. It's raw and unbridled they will do anything for you if you pay them for it. The upload tool is as easy to use as a fisher price toy. They will even make an ePUB file for from a word doc or text doc as a part of their upload process if that's what you need.
To publish directly here all you really need is:
1 - Some text.
2 - A computer with a browser.
To get paid you'll need a TIN or SS# for US publishers.
They have what they call royalty calculator and it seems to scale in your favor the more expensive your book is. Right now I get $1.60 for each $2.99 book sold. Keep mind this is only for direct publishing.
Let me just throw in a few words about Smashwords since I've mentioned it as an aggregator that seems safe, but I haven't published to them yet. Smashwords was founded in (2008?) by a high-energy PR mastermind named, Mark Coker. I can see the value in using Smashwords as an aggregator to get to the smaller e-readers. It might be a good way to fish for sales in small ponds. But something about this service strikes me as odd. I can't quite point my finger on one "A-HA" thing, but as I've dug into their site in the past I've noticed some yellow lights.
1 - They seem to be uncomfortable with adult material at some editorial level.
2 - Censorship issues always seems to be swirling around them and they fold under pressure. In the most recent one I'm aware of they claimed PayPal was going to cut them off if they didn't delist some of their "dirty idea" books.
3 - Most of the marketing materials I read felt like a high-pressure sales, in the guise of a no pressure sale. I don't know if any of you have every stumbled into an Amway meeting, but that's what the messeging on Smashwords reminded me of.
4 - As I explored the breath of the site over time, it kind of felt like everyone in there were shoe salesmen at a shoe salesman convention, trying to sell shoes to each other.
5- their formatting rules shoot for the lowest common denominator eReaders.
I realize this is mostly subjective stuff, but it's to call it a yellow light for me. Smashwords has me curious and the site seems to get a lot of traffic, but I'd need to take another look at their ISBN aggregator agreement before doing anything with them.
At some point in the future, I suspect I'll devise and smash-experiment but for now the potential value I see isn't enough to lure me in, just yet.
-- Have I had any bad Direct Publishing experience with any of my preferred e-bookstores?
- One time I posted a review to someone else eBook but my review didn't pop up. I emailed the iTunes support to find out what it was going on. They never gave me a good answer for what the holdup was, but the review popped up after I asked about it.
- I can't think of one.
Barnes and Nobel
- They seem to keep tinkering with their policies and it changes the way my account works, and I find that frustrating.
- With another eBook I helped publish we had a technical question for their support team. The email exchanges went very, very slow. There was a lot of air between emails. If I remember correctly we found the answer before they got back to us.
I'm sure if your read the support forum threads for the various eBookstores you'll see people complaint about all sorts of things. Overall my experience has been good. I feel secure in my choices of e-store and the agreements I made with each of them. I feel safe recommending them to anyone interested in getting ePublished.
There are a lot of choices ePublishing out there. In the beginning of my eBook adventures I investigated a lot them before settling on my choices. Since then, I'm sure more options have sprouted up, but I think it's safe bet that they all fall into the "3 Routes Into the eBook Marketplace" categories I mentioned before. At the time i started, I remember thinking the more I looked at the options the more they began to look the same with very subtle differences. If you do decide to investigate a new one just examine their promises, then figure out a safe way to test if their claims.
** COST SUMMARY
To me the beautiful things about ePublishing are no boss, no trash, access to millions of customers with out leaving your home, and you can do it safely for next to nothing! But again nothing is completely free.
With this Cost Summary I wanted to make you aware of the hard cost you will incur if you follow the steps in my ePublishing primer down the Direct Publishing path. This will basically be a price list, but I will delve more detail as we move into the steps.
$125 for 1
$250 for 10
$35 for electronic filing
- EPUB Maker Application
$30 for the one I use
So for your first eBook (if you go with the 10 ISBN option) you're looking at around $315 to get started. For your second eBook you're only looking at $60 since you'll already have your ISBNs and your EPUB maker application. Not a bad start up cost...
One other thing you might consider, is any labor beyond yourself, like editing services, or if you need an artist to create a cover. Those costs can have a wide range or rates maybe from hundreds to thousands, deeding on who you ask. My advice is to ask around and if the prices you're hearing seem too high, try to negate a barter with someone on the web. You never know unless you ask...
** MY STEPS
With my first 2 eBook experiments "2D to 3D" and "Fireball" concluded I had learned a lot. From them I had pieced together an ePublishing method that worked for me. However I did have a lingering concern that arose from reading the "Standard Copyright Agreement" offered by some Aggregators and ePublishers and I needed to investigate. (I'll get into more detail on that in Step 02.) I'd also been wondering, "Could I actually sit down and write a book?" I asked myself, "How hard could it be?"
I knew I needed a third experiment.
My experiment 3 objectives were:
- To take a unique idea from concept to market on my terms.
- Verify that my ePublishing method worked cleanly from start to finish.
- I wanted my idea to be fully protected by intellectual property law at an affordable price.
- Up to that point I'd written a lot of scripts, but I wanted to know if I had the discipline to write a complete book.
"Pandora Driver: The Origin" was originally created to act as a human shield for another project I'd been working for awhile called "Skyracos." Her main job was to trip all the booby- traps, point out the pitfalls, and expose all the vulnerabilities that might blindside me while bringing independent creative product all the way to e-market. It was a dangerous mission and I was willing to take risks with her that I wouldn't take with the "Skyracos". Eventually I fell in love with her.
Pandora Driver's roots go back to a photo book I got for Christmas sometime in the 90s. It was called "The Worlds Worst Cars." Here is a link to the book if anyone is interested.
I first spotted the Phantom Corsair in that book. But I didn't think it was a 'worst car', I thought it was a 'best car'. It could easily have been the real Bat-Mobile or Black Beauty. In my imagination I always wondered, what if the Phantom Corsair was actually some kind of supercar in its time but no one realized it today. What if its 'real' history was lost?
Eventually I built a 3d model of it. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNHvuYHT5aA)
As I started connecting creative dots and began writing, I soon realized I wasn't making an eBook I was making an ePulp. I had a lot of fun and I finished it.
I continued with experiment 3 and I applied my ePublishing procedure from to start to finish. "Pandora Driver: The Origin" was published on 17 March 2011. That’s 10 months since the first time I poked an iPad and only 6 months since "Creating 3D Models from 2D Cartoon Characters" first appeared on the iBookstore. I'm happy to report that "Pandora Driver: The Origin" is still uncensored, unbridled and available on any eDevice across our Earth. However it's only available in English for now…
With experiment 3 completed I'd verified that my ePublishing procedures worked. All my expectations were matched and I got everything I wanted. Now I'm sharing my standard operating e-procedure with you.
Most of what I've written up to this point in my ePublishing Primer was an effort to give you some context for the steps we're about to go through. I don't know about you, but I find the whys as valuable as the hows.
Now let's get specific and focus on the hows...