If you're a writer, editor, agent, publisher, book designer, bookseller, book distributor, etc., and not completely out of touch with reality, you've been thinking and reading a lot about ebooks lately. And if you are anything like me, you're still trying to sort out the whole thing, figure out what the hell it all means to you now and what it's going to mean to you in the future. I've been reading pretty much everything I can get my hands on about this brave, scary, fascinating, disruptive, opportunity-laden (take your pick) new world.
eBooks are the future whether you like it or not. Sales of paper and ink books are going to continue to decline in the future - though probably never entirely go away. And eBooks are going to become the dominant form of book publishing.
A friend of mine who is a designer and marketing person who has recently been laid off from a long time job in the music industry asked me for some information on e-publishing. She is more interested in the technical side of things than the author's point of view. I sent her a long email filled with links to articles and websites that I hoped might be useful to her. If you've been keeping up with developments like I have, most of what follows will probably be familiar to you. If not, maybe some of it will be useful to you, too.
Everything in red or blue is a link.
ISSUES FROM THE AUTHOR'S PERSPECTIVE
The dialog that has had the publishing world all ababble over the past few weeks is the one on Joe Konrath's blog between him and Barry Eisler - who recently turned down a half million dollar contract offer (for two books) to self-publish ebooks. If you haven't read it, you should. Click on this paragraph to do so.
Nathan Bransford has some interesting points to make regarding some of what's brought up in the Konrath-Eisler conversation. Click on this paragraph to read that.
The Shatzkin Files also has a lot of interest to say regarding the conversation.
If you aren't a member of the Author's Guild, you should be. The Guild's Fall 2010 / Winter 2011 Bulletin has numerous articles on e-publishing that are all interesting and/or useful to authors. Unfortunately the Bulletin doesn't seem to be available to link to. So this paragraph will simply lead you to the Guild's site where you can join up and get your own copy.
THINGS A WRITER NEEDS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT
Editing & Proofreading - This should go without saying. Don't edit yourself. You're bad at it. I don't care who you are. Get someone else to edit your book. Then get another someone else who is a grammar nerd to copyedit your book. Then you, and hopefully at least one other - two would be better - people need to proofread the book before it gets turned into a file for uploading.
Book Formatting (as opposed to file formatting for upload) - A lot goes into making a book readable: font style and sizes, title page, copyright, edition and ISBN information page, table of contents, acknowledgments, chapter headings and styles, paragraph styles, page numbers, etc. Traditionally, your publisher does all that for you. If you are e-publishing a book yourself, you have to do all that for yourself, or find someone who knows what they're doing to do it for you. Sure, you can e-pub a Word or PDF manuscript file, and just as surely it isn't going to look very good if you do. I don't have any links for you here, you'll have to do some research to find people or companies who will do this for you if you can't do it for yourself.
Covers - Chances are, you're going to need new, attractive, attention-grabbing covers. If you've gotten the rights back to your backlist - like I have - most likely you don't have the right to use the same covers the books were originally published with. If you're publishing a new book, it needs a good cover. Again, no links here, find someone who is good to do them for you.
ISBNs - Every new edition of your book, other than those you e-publish to sell on Amazon, will need a new ISBN. Barnes & Noble requires a different ISBN than the one you use for other ebooks - such as those you might publish on Lulu or Smashwords, with iBooks or for the SONY e-reader. You can buy them a lot cheaper in lots of 10. You can buy them from the website you will get to by clicking on this paragraph.
Copyright Registration - It isn't required to register your copyright, publication itself creates a copyright, but if legal questions ever do arise, a registered copyright can be helpful. In traditional publishing, the publisher should register the copyright for you. If you're e-publishing your own books, you should consider doing it for yourself. Once again, click on the paragraph to be taken to the site.
Library of Congress - You don't have to have your book in the Library of Congress, but hey, it can't hurt.
Paper & Ink - No matter what you do, some people are going to want traditional copies of your books. If you're e-publishing yourself, there are ways to have small print runs, or print-on-demand books printed and distributed. One of those is with Amazon's Create Space service.
Another is by finding an Espresso machine that you can use. In Los Angeles, Flintridge Books has an Espresso machine and you can contract book printing through them. (Go to the store and take a look at books printed on the machine first, though. While the quality is good, I don't think that it is yet quite up to the quality available from traditional printing methods.)
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu and Smashwords all have software on their sites to help you publish and upload your ebooks to their sales sites. There is more that can go wrong in the process than they would like you to think there is. If you aren't completely sure of what you are doing in the way of formatting the files for upload, you should probably get someone to do it for you. That's what I did.
I recommend eBook Architects. I found them to be reliable, fast, reasonably priced and responsive to my questions and requests. There are plenty of other companies who provide the same service, though. You can google for them.
If you do want to do it yourself, or if you have someone else format the files for you and then you need to upload them, here are a variety of links that will come in handy:
Amazon's Digital Publishing Site.
Barnes & Noble's Digital Publishing Site.
Lulu - an online digital book seller, publisher and marketing company.
Smashwords - another online digital book seller, publisher and marketing company.
Mobipocket - the development site for .mobi files, which are what you upload to Amazon for sale for Kindles.
Lexcycle - sort of an FAQ for the creation of epub files for B&N, SONY, iBooks, etc.
Jedisaber - another FAQ with further information on the creation of ePub files.
Apple's support page for creating ePub files from Pages. (A word of warning, Apple not only pays lousier royalties (than the others) for books sold on its iBook site, but it is also the most finicky when it comes to formatting files for uploading to its site.)
That pretty much sums up what I have come across that seems of use to me so far. If you've come across anything else please let me know in the comments. This is certainly the biggest business issue for authors today and is going to continue to be for quite some time. The more we all know about it, the more likely we are going to be able to take advantage of opportunities and the less likely we will fall into traps.