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.