Thursday, February 24, 2011

Digital Publishing

I LOVE books—the feel, the smell, the look of them. So when I put a Kindle on my Christmas list a few years ago, it surprised me as much as anyone. I’m not much of a gadgets guy (well, except for kitchen gadgets), so the desire to own this little electronic reader had to go back to Jean Luc Picard, Captain of the Enterprise. Well, and the memory of lugging two huge satchels of books away with me for the summer.

When I first saw Captain Picard’s electronic reader, this is well before Kindle, Nook, etc., I was impressed that a whole library could be on his hand-held device, and I knew that this was an invention from the future that could be mine. I knew someone would create it for me. And they did. And others did. And more others will take them to the next level.

But for me to publish that way instead of or before a printed book? Well, I just wasn’t so sure I wanted to do that. I had Kris Tualla do a guest blog here at Write Away to help me understand the topic better. I needed to be won over.

But the sessions at the Southern California Writers’ Conference President’s Day weekend and the interactions I had with successful e-published authors got me re-thinking my goals.

First, one has to get past the old vanity press notions that dog us. Digital publishing can be accomplished through legitimate publishers who review your book just as is done for print versions. It can also be done on your own through sites like Lulu and Create Space. When digitally published by a digital publisher, you get a royalty rate, pay no upfront money, and may even see a print copy of your book. They pick the cover, they arrange the copyright (sometimes), and they provide editing services and will format your book for digital release.

When digitally published on your own, one panel at SCWC said you must do two things: pay to have your book professionally edited and pay to have an original cover designed. Both are critical to keeping up the quality of digital books. Don’t rely on the stock covers the site provides. Additionally, you will arrange for copyright on your own, and you will use their templates to format your book for publication. Still, after you pay the fees, you own your book outright with all rights and you get all the royalties after paying some site maintenance fees.

In both cases, as we have been learning over the last few years, marketing is job one for you. Publishers, digital or print, do little. So, the panel argued, why split your money with print publishers.

I am still getting my head around all this, so bear with me as I write my way to understanding on the issues involved. Please comment if you have had good or bad experiences with digital publishing. More, later.

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