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Ebooks: What do the Experts do?

Ebooks: What do the Experts do?

There are a whole host of dedicated, reputable self-publishing companies out there. Some of these are totally dedicated to e-publishing and others offer a combination of printed and ebook publishing, which can be convenient if you’re already using that company to publish your printed book. Some companies will arrange dedicated ebook marketing campaigns, tailored to the online market, or work with retailers to see their ebooks placed prominently on retailers’ sites. It’s true that it’s possible to convert and distribute an ebook yourself if you have the relevant skills, time and determination, but Help to Writers’ Catherine Dunn explains why asking an expert can be well worth your while.

Why use a Company to help you with your ebooks?

One of the biggest advantages of using a company to do your ebook delivery is access to more stores. Amazon Kindle might seem like the only game in town, but it really isn’t. Readers want the convenience of being able to buy your book on the device they own, or they might be browsing on their device and decide to make an impulse buy. If you want your book available in stores like Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play and more, it might make sense to use an intermediary.

It’s also worth remembering that Kindle doesn’t dominate the market everywhere. For example, India has a fast-growing population and an increasing literacy rate and appetite for books – particularly in certain genres – but most people read on their smartphone rather than a dedicated e-reader, and country-specific ebook stores are much more popular there than Amazon or iBooks. In fact, around the world sales of smartphones and tablets are soaring while those of e-readers are stagnating, so getting your book on iBooks, Google Play and in country-specific stores is a wise move.

What about conversion? If you decide to convert your ebook to ePub and/or MOBI format using an online converter, you will essentially be feeding your original manuscript into a piece of software that converts it and spits it out in a different format. This is totally reliant on your input, so if there are any oddities in the formatting in the original document, this will translate over into the ebook. Sometimes it’s an element that you can’t even see on the original – very frustrating! It can take a long time to get this all sorted to your satisfaction.

An ebook conversion company should manually check your document to make sure there are no formatting errors rather than simply firing it back at you and expecting you to sort out any problems. And if your book is somewhat ‘more than ordinary’ – for instance, if it has lots of illustrations, or if you want to embed interactive elements like audio or video – you may want to think about creating a fixed layout ebook, which is even more complicated to produce. A reputable company will also make sure that all files and elements are of the correct specification. For instance, if there are low res or blurry cover images – not the best look! You want your ebook to look its best, and a professional company will be able to advise you of the best image size and resolution to use.

They will also run their eyes over your metadata – that boring-looking but vital information that helps to categorise your book and make it visible to potential buyers in all the right places. Some will put that data together for you so that it’s as comprehensive as it can be. Seemingly small details like a typo in a keyword could cost you a lot of readers. If you are having your book proofread or copy edited or you are paying for another service like cover design or marketing, it can help to have all the services under one roof because you know the company has a vested interest in getting every element right. After all, if they get something wrong and you’re an unhappy customer, you might pull all of your business from them, so they have more to lose.

What it mainly boils down to is time. I always say that you can do a lot of things yourself. You can clean your own house, mow your own lawn and put up your own wallpaper. You can also make your own clothes, your own pasta and, yes, your own ebooks if you have the time, ability and inclination. However, there are many thriving businesses providing all of these services, and it is up to you whether you decide to take advantage of them. Rather than spending hours fiddling with your manuscript formatting, why not let a company take the strain? Then you can spend more time doing what you love – writing.

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From the editor…

As we enter the autumn, the publishing industry is gearing up for the great Christmas rush. For self-publishers, this is often a frustrating time of year, with many not realising the long timescales that retailers work to. If you haven't already got your book in production, it's looking likely that it won't be ready in time for Christmas!

Even if you do get your book ready well in advance of the holiday season, getting retailers to take notice can be difficult. There are so many big books from the established publishing houses that it can be impossible to get noticed. That can mean that you forsake what appears to be the best selling season in favour of a time when there are fewer big books around, so in the early spring, for instance.

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Yet that can work in your favour in fact... sell privately before Christmas, sell to the retailers afterwards when they are looking for new titles. A win-win for all!

In the next few months we will be altering the way that this magazine reaches readers, so watch this space!

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