Saturday, August 6, 2011

Thoughts on Creating Ebooks

Amazon-Kindle-3-300x488Creating an ebook has been a learning experience.

First off, for some reason I’m always surprised that non-writers aren’t really aware of the major changes going on in publishing. I guess I shouldn’t, but I’d think that as a reader, they’d realize that things were rapidly changing. I’ve certainly been aware of changes in the music and film industries.

But when friends and acquaintances ask me if I’ve got any releases coming out, I tell them, “Yes, I’ve got a book coming out in November—the third book in the Memphis series with Penguin. And I’m about to put out an ebook, myself.” And you should see the reaction. They’re very confused about my reasons for self-publishing. Actually, every one of them have been completely shocked. I just tell them that the industry is changing and I’m trying to just go with the flow and pursue both traditional and e-publishing.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how confusing the process is for someone who’s just been casually reading about e-publishing for the last six months. You can find advice supporting nearly any position you want to take on price, platform, and formatting. The writer has to pick through this huge mess of services and information to find a match—who can edit? Who can design a cover reasonably? Who can do interior design (which is something I wanted—page design for my ebooks)? Is it better to upload to Smashwords? Through each platform separately? Where do I get ISBNs and should I get them? And e-publishing is changing daily.

It makes me think that there is definitely a job market there for ebook service Sherpas. I don’t think it’s something agents should go into unless they quit being agents, though, for obvious conflict of interest reasons. (If they want to sell you e-publishing services, are they actually going to try to send your manuscript out to traditional publishers? How thorough would that search for a publisher be?)

I’ve also noticed a reticence among some traditionally published writers to give e-publishing a go—although this reticence is being quickly eschewed to chase the money. :) But I’ve seen real arguments on some of my writing loops where authors who’ve already taken the plunge are fussing at other authors for not wanting to put more money into the upfront costs of the project for the long-term benefits.

That’s because, I think, traditionally published writers haven’t had to worry about all the mechanics of book production and suddenly picking up those costs is a shock. Many traditionally published authors also tend to quickly forget that ebooks are forever….they don’t have the short shelf life of our physical bookstore novels. So any upfront investment is for a long-term harvest.

Have you taken the e-book plunge? What have you learned in the process?