How do you publish an e-book and why would you do it?

Those were the questions I was asked by my agent.  I told her about the e-book and my concerns about having a script out for acceptance to publishers.

She had no concerns about any conflict of interest, but was perplexed about the advantages of self-publishing an e-book and selling it on Amazon versus having it in printed form.  To be fair, it is far easier for me to self-publish a printed book than probably most.  A company that specializes in printing self-published books is just across the bridge from me, not ten miles away.  I could physically be there to check every step of the process if I wanted to.

So why an e-book then?  The short answer is costs.  It costs so much less to build an e-book than it is to build a physical one.  To create a paper bound book you have to write the book, format it to the pages in the way you want it presented, pick out the type of paper it will be printed on, decide if you can afford to have it printed in hard cover or soft, consider the cost of ink if your book has prints or pictures (as this one will), and then have to figure out how to get the book stores to carry it as well as put it up on Amazon for sale.  Creating an e-book is much simpler.  Write the book, create a cover, save it as a PDF, and then put it on Amazon.

I picked Amazon just because they are the most known online shopping source.  With the largest reach of people it makes sense to go with them.  Some would argue that they’ve done quite well making their own web page for their e-book and marketing it themselves.  I have no argument with that.  If that’s the way you feel is best for you, I say go for it!  I just want to write the book and get it out there.  I don’t want to be stuck working on broken codes or accidental inputs of web design when I can have smart, accomplished people doing all that for me.  Besides, Amazon makes it simple as can be.  They even have a page showing you how to do it.  I found all this in a two minute search.

If you want to make your e-book available to more than just Kindle, I’m sure there are site to help.  (I’d also bet that you’ll still be able to sell those formats on Amazon as well.)

With this knowledge I am even more excited about creating an e-book.  But I am now enjoying the fact that I’ll be doing an experiment that will help out my fellow writers and give substantive feedback on e-publishing and sales to my agent.  That makes it more fun.

The E-Book Challenge

The E-Book Challenge

Picture provided by Jette Harthimmer

“Why don’t you do a plant book?  You’d be good at it.”

This phrase has been tossed at me since I posted the Hibiscus blog roughly a year ago. My father was the first one to suggest this idea, and it’s been encouraged/echoed heavily by my wife ever since.  (To argue their point, I am a landscaper, and the hibiscus blog post is very popular.  It ranks in the top five every week.)

I did dabble with the idea of a gardening book.  I added a garden section to the menu and typed up a few posts about the basics of gardening.  They never got the same amount of traffic or comments that Hibiscus does, so I figured it had to be the pictures that pushed the post and kinda let it slide.

But every week, I always get questions about plants and gardening from the residents that I work for.  (Usually about insects, and the general health of the plant.)

So maybe, just maybe, I’m looking at this the wrong way.  Like every blogger out there, I have a huge range of viewers.  It’s global.  Plus I love to change things up and have a variety of posts for you to read about.  (Plus I feel it helps hone my writing skills by having to write in different styles about different subjects.)  So basing what would be an item for a local region on such a large geographic audience isn’t a good gage for desirability.

I need to think “niche market”.  There are roughly 1,578,000 people in the Southwest Florida region, according to the 2010 census, and some of them could really use a simple guide on how to garden in this region.

Enter the E-Book.

The E-Book I have in mind should be simple:  Basics on the soil of the area, the fertilizers that work the best, where plants will do best in a given area, what are the positives and negatives of each type of mulch, and some common plants that people can buy and install without worrying that they got the wrong plant for the wrong place.  – That last one happens all the time!

It sounds like a fun project, but I have some strong concerns and questions.

The first two are neck and neck in my worry column:  Copyright infringement and liability.  This book is going to need many pictures and those that I don’t take; I usually get from web searches.  I need to find a way to make sure they are not copyrighted.  I also need to find a way to protect myself from being sued from a misinterpretation of what I suggested in the book.

“He wrote that I should plant these plants in a separate bed for better unity.  He never told me there was an irrigation line running under my lawn.  That cost me money!”

Then there’s the concern about what licenses, permits, and tax forms I’m going to need to do this correctly.  To sell this through self-publishing means I’ve created a small business.  So have I created a web based publishing company?  Will I need a fictitious name form?  What about tax collection?  Do I need to add that to the price?  Is the government going to consider my computer a “taxable business expense” even though I use it for other things?”  What forms am I going to have to use when tax time rolls around?  Does this need to be recorded quarterly or just once a year?


Just thinking about all this makes me want to just run out the door and forget the whole thing.

But I have another dilemma:  How will this affect my other book?

I’ve already written a novel.  In fact, it’s been edited and my agent has sent samples off to multiple publishers.  Are they going to be turned off by the fact that I’m self-publishing an E-book how to guide?  What happens if next month I get signed on and they want the garden guide as part of the package?

I don’t know.

Does anyone out there know the answer to these questions?

Have you written or published an E-Book?  What obstacles did you encounter?  Did it help or hurt your other works?  How bad was the bureaucracy you had to deal with? Any helpful hints?

I am going to try this experiment out.  I gotta see what happens.  If anything, I’ll learn a little more about using Microsoft Word.  (All those plant I.D. pages)  Through it all I’ll keep you informed on my progress.  (It’ll help prod me along when I feel it’s getting a little dry.  It is a guide after all)

For those that are interested, I’ll have a new category on my side bar specifically for this challenge.  That way all the posts will be in one spot for easy viewing and printing.

I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I’ll be writing about it; and don’t be afraid to throw out those comments.  I’d love to hear your thoughts as we go through this together.  There’s a great adventure ahead.