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104 - Touching on the Techie Side of eBooks

ebook ebook conversion Jun 25, 2021

Hey Guys! Nicole Gabriel here! I’m the host of the Let’s Get Your Book Published podcast. I’m also the author multiple books, a Book Designer, and a Publishing Coach as well as an Intuitive Business Coach.

I’ve been in the book business for awhile now and I’ve helped many clients get their book published over the years. On this podcast I share personal stories, client stories, and the truths about the publishing industry….


The subject of today’s podcast… Touching on the Techie Side of eBooks

I just had a bunch of clients go to print and subsequently a large group producing eBooks and I thought there was enough confusion with the process to do a special podcast on a bit of the techie side of all things eBook. But, don’t worry, we won’t get too deep here - I’ll keep it relevant to you as the author.

I know it seems kinda strange in this day and age to think there would be anything complicated about creating an eBook. I mean they have been out awhile and it would seem that there would be a simple one-size fits all approach to getting one done. But, there are a few complications with regard to how the files are generated and where they get distributed.

When I first became an author several years ago there was just one place for a self-published author to do an eBook and that was Book Baby. I think it was something like $195 to do the conversion. And now? I’ve heard it’s easy to pay somewhere near $500! They do the distribution so that’s great. You don’t have to labor through that tedious process. But, there can be a few down sides to hiring a big company outside of your original book designer…not to mention the profits taken and the complications around future changes. So, lets get into today’s show and talk about all this techie stuff and how it relates to getting your manuscript into converted into an eBook.

So first things first - profits! I’m going to tell you that the cost of eBooks have gone way down and there isn’t a very likely chance you are going to make any kind of profit on your eBook unless you find a way to sell it in bulk. The going price for most eBooks today is somewhere between .99 cents and $2.99. And, of course, you have to pay out distribution fees on this as well. So, why all the hassle and expense to make this happen? Well, it’s the same thing with a book really. It comes down to what is expected by the consumer. It is simply expected when you produce a book that it is available in every format. And generally this means you hit the gate running when you launch your book. You have all formats available for purchase just like the big publishing house authors do when they launch. The one exception is probably going to be the audio book. Until you have this listed on Amazon for sale you won’t likely be able to hire talent and produce the book through the large audio book conversion companies. They basically want to know that you are the author of the book and you have the rights to it. But, you can work around this on Amazon too. I will save this subject for another podcast because, I’m embarrassed to admit, I have yet to produce an audio book for any of my own books. I’m going to make that a goal for the next year so when I do I will be sure to share the process. I’ve honestly never felt there was a need for it, but my Let’s Get Your Book Published book does get many business requests for it so this one will be created. I don’t think there is much need for the others. It seems its the business or instructional books that are being demanded in audio form. Lots of people are listening to them on the go. But, the eBooks have never really commanded a large audience. I honestly think people don’t want to haul around another device or spend more time at a computer screen. At the same time, a light packer would prefer the digital format for the device they are already carrying.

So, now that we know there isn’t a large profit in eBooks we need to keep that in mind as we move forward in the costs to produce, market, and distribute one. But what are the techie complications? Let’s first start with the idea of who creates the eBook.

Who Creates the eBook?
If your Book Designer has the capacity to do this it is always going to be the best option because then you have one place to go for all changes to your manuscript. If you go to a third-party you will have another relationship and manuscript to manage. And, generally, when there is a change they cannot manipulate the file like your Book Designer can so that means every time you make a change to your manuscript, and want to update your eBook, you will have to pay for a brand new file. The Book Designer will likely have an agreement for change requests. Sticking with your original Book Designer should, in essence, keep costs down and files manageable. The other sticky point is that your original Book Designer has your printed book files and manuscript, so you are going to have to involve them by asking for an export file. The exporting of the file is not always easy and it requires your Designer to take time away from paying clients to do this. Don’t expect the file to be handed over without a cost. If your Designer does just give you the files for the eBook company they are being extremely kind. Generally the files have to be exported out in a particular format for the eBook company so there is going to be some kind of involvement with the original Designer…time is money. And, there really is just no way around asking for the files so it’s best to listen to the advice of the Designer for the best approach.

Since I am also a Book Designer, I charge a higher fee than some of the big eBook conversion companies but this is for a few reasons: 1.) I don’t have a team to help me, and 2.) I will generally take the time to format your original manuscript and the new eBook so that you can get multiple file types for distribution or for selling your eBook on your own website. I generally wait til the printed book goes off for it’s final printing before I create your eBook and then we know there are no more changes. And, when we make changes to your original printed book files we can also be sure to make them on the eBook files.

There is a lot of benefit to working with your original Designer. The other benefit is that you can get multiple file types so that you can manage the distribution process. Let’s talk about that a bit more.

Distribution Process
When you work with your original printed book Designer you will find that you have more control of the distribution process. Your Designer will give you the necessary files to upload wherever you choose to distribute your eBook for sale.

The large eBook companies will generally take care of this for you. Mostly people work with the large companies so that they don’t have to manage the tedious uploading to all the individual distribution companies. Book Baby, for example, will format your file then distribute to all the major distribution networks. But, there are some cases where you might like to manage the upload yourself. Let me explain why.

There are obvious reasons you’d want to manage the eBook files. Every vendor in the distribution process will take a cut of sales, so when you take the time to upload your own files you get to manage the sales, the price, and which distribution networks you are sold on. The other benefit to uploading the files direct is that you can upload what is called a fixed file format. This format looks just like the printed version of your book. Most large distribution networks ask for the re-flowable file so they can upload to all the networks in one fail swoop. This version strips away all the pretty formatting.

Yes, there are quick ways to distribute your eBook but image is important too. And, there are some companies you may just not agree to work with for a variety of reasons. For example, if you have written a book which challenges main stream agendas then you might not want to be distributed with a company that is not in alignment with your standards or mission. Most new authors aren’t thinking of branding or positioning. They just want to get a book out to as many people as possible and don’t think about such things. They are simply thinking volume. With the state of our world right now this may be something more authors become aware of. Image is always going to trump volume. When you have given image and brand awareness any consideration as a conscious author you are thinking about the business of your book.

Re-flowable Files vs Fixed Format
If you really just have no idea what a re-flowable or fixed file is then let me take a minute to explain. The fixed file format is generally going to look just like your printed book. There are a few benefits to this format, but the industry experts will tell you it is more often used for children’s or other graphically-rich books. Basically what is page 1 in your printed book is page 1 in the fixed format eBook. I disagree about the idea this is more for a picture book or children’s book and like the idea of holding the integrity of your printed book together. If you are teaching or coaching and make reference to a page in your book, it will be the same page in the fixed-format eBook. And all the graphically rich elements will still be present for brand imaging. You see, the choice of self-publishing isn’t so that you can fit into an industry but so that you have flexibility and control over what you are producing and how it functions in your ecosystem. There are benefits to not making yourself fit in.

When you understand that producing a book is never about making an income then you look at the whole process a bit differently. You begin to understand that you get to make more choices that serve your brand image and message. You get to produce whatever you want. And if money is no object then you have unlimited choices. It’s actually quite comical that we have been brainwashed to believe going with a large publishing house is more prestigious. The reality is that it’s more limiting. Not only do you loose the rights to your own book but you no longer own your intellectual property. You do as the big publishing house says and you conform.

The fixed format book can go on Amazon and iBooks and many others, but it cannot always go up on many of the distribution websites like IngramSpark or Smashwords. There are many platforms available for mass distribution of eBooks these days but do you remember the days of Napster? If you do then you remember that not all music files were created equal back then. It’s kinda the same with eBooks. You might get your eBook out there but how well will you be represented if where you show up isn’t supporting your image favorably?

Creating the Best Image
Because you are a self-published author you want to not just write and publish a book, but you want to create a brand strategy that creates the best overall image for you. Some people ask which is better - a printed book or an eBook? They also ask which is better - a soft copy or a hard copy book? Isn’t the best always the best? The hard copy book is more substantial and costs more to produce. You have to go to a professional printer to get one. Whereas a quick print with a print on demand online printer will get you subpar results. So, it costs more and it looks better. It is better! So, if you can afford the best get the best. Go for hard cover. Go for all formats if you can. Give your audience hard, soft, eBook, audio book and more. When you launch your book do it with everything in place if you can. Also have a professional website, do a bunch of marketing, do a live video release party online, launch a podcast, do in person events, promote with sponsors, etc. But, all in all, make sure you do some brand positioning and do some discovery in advance on how your PR strategy will go. Have a plan. And most definitely, don’t do anything to promote your book! Wait, what? Yeah, you heard me! Don’t promote your book! Promote what you want to be known for and let people know “Hey, I also just wrote a book and I’m doing a book launch or I have a book available.” But, that’s just a token or a tool to create awareness of your specialty. So, do everything in your awareness-generating activities that aligns with a strategy.

And when it comes to all things eBook? Make sure that you have this aligned in your strategic planning. When you communicate with people about what you do, be sure you know which format you want to gear people towards. Is the strategy aligned with income-generation or is it an awareness campaign to promote something else that leads to income generation? Always stay focused on what you are trying to do knowing this is not the income side of things…producing an eBook.

To Summarize
I used to work in technology and there always seems to be a break down somewhere between what is desired and what can be created technically.  Every business struggles to some degree with finding a balance between technology and the front-end. So we’ve talked about who creates the files, the distribution process and fixed format verses re-flowable files. There are far more techie things but, that goes well beyond what a typical author needs to know. When you are ready to do your eBook be sure to first check with the original book layout designer to see what they can do, then make sure your design and launch plans align with your marketing and business strategies. Do not launch either your eBook or your printed book until you have a clear business plan laid out. This will always give you the clearest path to success.

I hope that gave you a bit more clarity on some of the more technical challenges you might run into as you go forward into creating your eBook. Please reach out to me if you need more guidance on this, or any other part of the book publishing process. For now, and as always, I’m wishing you peace, love, and light.

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