Sunday, October 30, 2011
In my continuing series on e-books, backlists, and self-publishing, here's my new Huffington Post. Please post and pass around. I will continue next week with cover design and how to find the right cover for your e-books. Some more tips on the book trade.
Posted by Brenda S. Peterson at 3:16 PM
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Today I begin my promised series on the future of publishing, especially bringing out an author's backlist into e-books and also the prospect of self-publishing. It's hot news, the fact that publishing is in such flux with the proliferation of author-to-publisher opportunities on Amazon, iBooks, and Nook. In fact, there's a fascinating article in the 10.25.2011 edition of The New York Times with a lot of savvy commentary from authors about self-publishing at this link:
And having just brought my own two out-of-print novels back into e-books, I want to share with my readers this exciting but often laborious process. The pitfalls and the possibilities.
First, for those authors who have already published books but seen them languish in publisher's backlist or haunting themselves on Internet shelves where no one ever sees them anymore, don't despair. These books can be reborn as e-books. I just reissued DUCK AND COVER, my New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," which was a critical success. In 2003, I was one of the first authors to publish in paperback via the Author's Guild BackinPrint.com program.
e-book is now available on Amazon.com at this link:
But in paperback, royalties were as minimal as hardback publication, 10 or 15%. It was the old publishing model with the author receiving very little. When I started tracking the 70% royalties available via Kindle, iBooks, and Nook, I decided to venture into the publishing business myself. Here's what I've learned:
E-Book Formatting: Don't Listen to the Ads
All the technologies have changed so quickly that a Quark format from Adobe's InDesign, which most publishers used for many books, now must be translated into either WORD or pdf before it can become an e-book.
There are two main e-book formats. The first, used by Amazon, and the easiest, is MoBI. The second, used by iBooks and Barnes and Noble, Nook, is e-pub format. If you remember nothing else about this first blog on e-books and self-publishing, remember this: Don't translate into e-book formats yourself!
Even though all the e-book publishers advertise that it's easy to translate your WORD or pdf files, you'll soon discover when the book goes up for sale that it is full of weird font problems and spacing gaffes. Sometimes there is dropped copy and unintelligible squiggles that look like an alien landed right in the middle of your story.
Trying to get a lower cost for e-book translations led me to several very quaint and courteous conversations with e-book formatting entrepreneurs around the world, especially in India. While their emails were polite and professional, most of them were full of grammatical errors. And though they offered formatting at prices as low as .25 per page, this did not include hand or "human" proofing. It would all be done by machines. The chances of errors goes up exponentially.
After much research, and more than a little bewildering exchanges, I finally found myself on an online forum via Digital Book World on Linked in. Digital Book World Group
I've never in my life been in a chat room. But suddenly I found myself conversing with total strangers about formats, pricing for e-books, and cover designs. My author peers and some small, independent publishers were extraordinarily helpful. It felt like writers had at last found a kind of union -- all organized around How To.
Another forum that was helpful was on Linked In, which has a very lively conversation about e-books and the future of self-publishing -- everything from children's books to YA to memoirists.
It was through Digital Book World that I discovered one of the very best e-book formatters -- Data Conversion Laboratory at www.dclab.com
They do e-book formatting for Amazon.com. When I contacted them by e-mail, they set up a phone call with real, live people. They informed me that they not only translate from Quark, pdf., scanned pdfs, and WORD, but they also proof with a hands-on process.
In about two weeks, DC Labs sent me my beautifully formatted novels in both MOBI and e-pub. I hired a professional proofreader, just to make sure they had translated the book well. I found only two errors in over 300 pages. This is quality work! I give them my highest recommendation.
But then what? I had the inside of my book ready to publish. But what about the outside? That little thumbnail cover that appears on your computer screen. The first thing a potential reader sees? Again, even though Amazon, iBooks, and Nook offer you a fairly inscrutable process to create your own cover -- please don't do it yourself!Stay tuned for my next blog in this continuing series -- Cover design.
Posted by Brenda S. Peterson at 2:19 PM
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The Post-Marriage Bed: Can This Mattress Be Saved?
Every morning when I awoke with a lower back ache, I still denied the truth: This mattress, like my relationship, no longer supported me. So why stay in a bed that sagged under my spine like sorrow?
Every morning when I awoke with a lower back ache, I still denied the truth: This mattress, like my relationship, no longer supported me. So why stay in a bed that sagged under my spine like sorrow? Every night I was sinking deeper into a foam-filled valley, next to an empty gulley. Could this mattress really be saved? I took a first step: check out what's possible.
"Let me introduce you to some splendid beds," the elderly department store salesman swept me into his huge boudoir. He seemed like a favorite uncle dressed for a wedding, dark suit with bright bowtie and his silver hair shorn in a respectable crew cut. He waltzed me through a bonanza of beds until my mind was numb from too many -- King, Queen, Super Lumbar Support, Firm to Pillow Top to Plush.
"So, will there be two of you?" he asked discretely, noting that I still wore a black pearl on my ring finger."No," I said softly. "We're....well, separated."
"Oh," the salesman nodded, then asked with a detached gentleness. "Are you having trouble sleeping?"I nodded, turning away quickly to hide my sudden sadness. I tried to recover my composure by plopping down with what I hoped looked like consumer cheerfulness to test yet another bed. It had a surprising suppleness and bounce.
As it happens, I had landed on a twin bed. It was a modest, firm, no-nonsense single bed, the kind I hadn't slept on since childhood when I graduated from sleeping with siblings to my own room.
"This is so comfy," I said, bouncing a little more. "But then, I'm sure it's too small for...." I fell silent. "Did you know that for every ten years, four of them are spent on a mattress?" The salesman waited patiently.
A radical idea took hold of me. It was as if the bed reached up through its individual coiled springs zinging a new synapse into my brain. A single bed for a single woman! After all, I was sleeping alone and unexpectedly enjoying it. I did not have the slightest intention, for now, of starting another relationship until I'd thoroughly sorted out and understood what went wrong. I knew I needed to learn to trust again after such an intimate betrayal. And until I healed, I would not be a good mate.
"Can I just buy just one twin... like a closed set?
"Certainly you can," he said sensibly. "A twin is always good for kids, guests, you....whatever."
Here was my second epiphany. I could afford a much more expensive and supportive bed if I bought a single version of the Queen Size posturepedic I'd been eyeing. I jumped up and turned to lay both of my hands, palms flat, against the strong twin bed. It felt so sturdy and somehow self-possessed.
"Sold!" I said and smiled giddily.
I was quiet as he neatly wrote out the order and delivery date. When he handed the paperwork to me with a warm smile, my eyes met his. I had not noticed how dark and kind his expression until this moment. He concluded the deal by saying almost tenderly, "You'd be surprised how many of these twin...er, single beds I sell these days. It will last you...when other things don't."
As I walked away from the bed department I noted a young couple testing a King size, already arguing over plush or firm. I imagined their bodies adjusting to a young marriage and another body. Surprisingly, I did not envy them. All I wanted was to be home in a new, slim and stable bed -- dreaming alone. I saw myself on this bed for the next four out of ten years sleeping contentedly in monastic poise. If and when I ever do take another mate -- well, there is always the matching twin.
Brenda Peterson is the author of 16 books, including the recent memoir, I Want To Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth, which The Christian Science Monitor named among "Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Books of 2010."
For more: www.IWantToBeLeftBehind.com
Posted by Brenda S. Peterson at 12:35 PM