The Making of an eBook: Part 1

Welcome to the first part of an ongoing series on eBookNewser called “The Making of An eBook,” in which the blog will follow the process a small publisher goes through to turn a manuscript into an eBook. As we mentioned before the New Year, the book we’ll be following is mine–I’ve been permitted to drop the veil of the third person for the purposes for this series.

As you may or may not know, in the other part of my writerly life, I’m a poet, and, sort of, a fiction writer; my second book is coming out in June. It’s a collection of stories and fables called Cradle Book, being published by BOA Editions, a venerable small poetry press. First, I’ll ask you to forgive the flagrant self-promotion inherent series: I’m the easiest author for me to follow… Anyway, I’ll also make sure to keep the posts packed full of information. Expect to hear a lot from my editors at BOA, Peter Conners and Thom Ward, as well as other folks involved with the book at BOA, and people involved in eBook production at presses small and large. So brace yourself–here goes.

I initially approached BOA about doing an eBook in addition to the print edition when I saw that the press had put three of its titles into the Kindle Store. At that time, Peter said an eBook basically wasn’t in the budget, and that the press wanted to test the field before going further.

Here’s what Peter had to say about the reasons for and challenges of doing eBooks for a small press [after the break]:

According to Peter Conners, my editor,

Independent publishers (like BOA) are fueled by editorial visions. In BOA’s case, our stated mission is to “foster readership and appreciation of contemporary literature. By identifying, cultivating, and publishing both new and established poets and selecting authors of unique literary talent, BOA brings high quality literature to the public.” Once you know the type of books you want to publish, the last part of that statement kicks in: “brings high quality literature to the public.” In other words, once you know what you want to publish–the question becomes, how do you get it to people? That’s where the process gets tricky and, most challengingly for an independent not-for-profit publisher, expensive. Printing, shipping, and warehousing fees account for a substantial part of our budget. So one potential benefit of e-books (and I emphasize “potential” because we are in no way close to achieving this) is to cut down on those expenses. Also, because part of our not-for-profit mission is to “bring” our books “to the public” it is crucial that we stay on-top of innovations like e-books. If “the public” is reading books on Kindle, then we need to figure out how to get our books to them in that format.

As far as the big challenges go, Peter said,

At this point, the biggest challenge is recouping the expense of setting up and posting the file. The same person (Bill Jones) who typesets your book for print will create the Kindle version. Bill is a freelancer, so we pay him by the hour for the time he spends on these projects. We know the methods and expenses for publishing a print book and can anticipate the financial part of the equation. While Kindle books don’t carry the expense of shipping, warehousing, etc. we also haven’t seen them sell many copies. So at this point, it’s a worthy experiment and we want to get our toes into the pond, but it’s by no means a format that can compete with print books.

I’d imagine many indie presses are feeling the same way (indie presses, feel free to write in, and I’ll be contacting you down the road). This seems like enough for one day. As the series progresses, I’ll take you through the whole process of making my book into an eBook, from coding to uploading to marketing. And I’ll talk to other presses to learn more about their challenges and hopes. More next Friday.