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.

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin/185-7622109-1294320

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?

Yeesh!

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.

Onward!

Thoughts of: Wither the writer?

“The book is dead!”

How many times have we heard that one before?  Or what about, “The book store is dead”?  Given the death of Borders, some would say yes.  To both I vehemently disagree.

What we are witness to is not a death, but a birth or rebirth of creativity through technology.

Let’s look to the past and see how long we’ve been following this path without even knowing it.

At the very beginning there was no set form of written language.  Pictograms were used to express ideas.  When someone wanted to express themselves to a large audience, they would post these pictograms in a high visibility section of the village or town.

When the written word was established, it was kept in seclusion to royalty, high priests, and wealthy marketers.  They worked, wrote, and read in their groups to help out their common good.  They hired artisans to carve out more refined versions of the pictograms on the sides of buildings to announce their viewpoint to the people.

Soon after there were rabbis, clerics and priests working day and night in creating Bibles, Torahs, and Qur’ans for the various churches.  These were usually chained up and locked away from general viewing.

Then the big break came with the printing press.  With this invention it was now cheap and easy to mass produce the written word.  Soon after, the jobs of pictogram artists and hand-scribes were no longer necessary.  Many artisans soon found themselves without work.

The next change was a subtle, but strong one.  Costs of paper and mass production dropped.  With this came the ability to offer books, papers, and magazines in a myriad of subjects and sizes.   This is the world that most grew up with and has left an indelible print on both our psyche’ and our economic structure.  This era gave us the dime novels, daily newspapers, magazines, coffee table books, small book store chains, large book store chains, used book stores, agents, editors, marketers…  the list goes on and on.  (Typewriters and computers have also sped the change by giving the writer the ability to churn out more works at a quicker pace.)

And now we’ve entered an era as large and dramatic as the last two combined.  The internet and the e-reader have changed the writing landscape like never before.  Writers everywhere now have not only the ability to write whatever they desire, but they now have the ability to put these works in multiple formats at the same time with little or no cost.

They also have the benefit of reaching out to their targeted audience worldwide through various social networks, forums, search engines, ad links, and word tags.

A case in point:  Stephen King wrote that his first novel, “Carrie” sold 500 copies when he came onto the established writing scene, and that the sales were that high only because of a large commercial “blitz” by the local radio channels.

Today we can advertise ourselves through Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Stumble Upon, and reach prospective buyers in numbers unimaginable just two years ago.

We have the choice of going the tradition route of finding an agent and running the gauntlet of publishers in the search to find the one that fits our writing style.  Or we can set it up as a PDF or e-reader file, publish it ourselves in print form if we choose, and sell it online through Amazon or through small stand-alone book stores or both.  The choice is ours.

Writers will not wither in this new era, but will thrive and multiply like never before!

But what about books and book stores?  Will they survive the onslaught of technology and the change of people’s perspective on books and stores in general?  Yes, but not in the way they are now.  There will always be a market for bound books.  Especially for the classics. The market will just get smaller.  What I predict you will see is not just a shift to e-reader style books, but a change in e-reading devices themselves.  Imagine a sheet of plastic about the size of a sheet of printer paper or maybe half that size.  You touch one corner and it self illuminates to show you the print and photos you choose.  Now imagine that this preprogramed e-reader costs roughly $10.00 and is recyclable.  Science fiction?  They have already shown the prototype at the 2012 Consumer Electron Show.  This along with the download files will be the new standard in reading material.  Something you can enjoy and take with you to the bathroom without fear of a costly mistake.

Not only is this wonderful for the new frontiersman writers, but this is a fantastic tool for the established print media.

If you run a magazine like, Car and Driver, Wooden Boat, Handyman, Discovery, Time, and anything else; you will have the capability of putting all the forms of media into one inexpensive and highly portable object.

Let’s use Car and Driver as an example.  When you buy their magazine today, you get a printed story in two columns with a smattering of pictures.  Now imagine this same magazine on one sheet of polymer/jell film that not only has the story in columns, but has an embedded MP-3 file for each article that plays just like a podcast.  The pictures are no longer pictures, but still of short videos showing you the dynamics of the testing procedure of the product; interviews of an engineer, CEO, or designer; or snippets of the exotic location they are at this month.

This same pattern could be used on any magazine or newspaper in print today.

This same pattern could be used by any blogger out in cyberspace.

And what of the book stores themselves?  How will they fare?  They will survive, but they will be smaller.  There will be no reason for the big box style stores when the media product itself will be so small and compact.  Printed books will almost be a special order except for a point of display section set up for romantic nostalgia.  The book store will become more of a social place.  A non-alcoholic bar were people get together for book clubs, social or political exchange, role-play gaming, and general communicating. People are social creatures and we desire comfortable places to gather.  This will never change.

So wither the writer?  Nay.  The writer thrives!