Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Books Rising Up from the Dead DUST

By now we've seen the stats: ebooks comprise 7% - 10% of the market today, but some project that ebooks could gobble up 50% of the market by 2014. And we've all read about some indie writers selling Kindlefuls of self-published ebooks or even cracking the USA Today Bestseller List.

I'm not one of those people who believes that traditional publishing is doomed. I do believe, however, in hedging my bets. And of course I'm not the only one.

Kids and teens haven't yet taken a huge leap into ereading, but that day will be here soon enough. Canadian writer Art Slade decided that the phrase "out-of-print" didn't have much meaning in a world of ebooks, and chose to epublish some of his old titles, including the Edgar-nominated mystery Dust. Why would a Governor General's Award and TD Canadian Children's Literature Award-winning novelist with a successful traditional career want to do this?

"Two main reasons," he wrote on his blog . "One is that these books were out of print in various countries, so I could at least be making an income from them. The second is that right now in the publishing world there is great, numbing fear about the changes coming to the industry via ebooks (umm...update the changes are here) and, frankly, the e-rights being offered by major publishers are not very generous (to make it simple if I sell an ebook through a publisher I make $25% of net which on a $10.00 book would be $1.75. If I upload that same book to amazon myself I make $7.00). Obviously there are a multitude of factors on why a traditional contract is still very much in the cards for a new book ("paper" books are the vast majority of my sales and, at this moment, the sales of the Children's market, publishers have promotion budgets, editors, sales staff, etc.) For my out-of-print books it was an easy decision to go it alone. "

Art is a techie, proactive kind of guy, and he makes it sound pretty easy. Because experimenting with OOP titles seemed like a no-brainer to me as well, I also decided to put my OOP novel, Lily's Ghosts into ebook form myself. But there are a few hurdles. To epublish an OOP title, you'll need:

1) The Rights. Because Lily's Ghosts is an older title, contracted when the Kindle was just a twinkle in Amazon's eye, my agent had little trouble getting my rights back. But just because you held onto your erights doesn't mean you can produce an ebook on your own. If your book is still in print, non-compete clauses could prevent you from self-publishing. Check your contracts! And if you're a picture book author, you'll need to ask your illustrator to request his/her rights back, too.

2) An ISBN: Platforms like Amazon's Kindle and Lulu will assign you an ISBN, but you can also buy a block of your own ISBNs at Bowker, the official ISBN agency of the US. In the UK and other territories, the official agency is Nielson.

3) New Cover Art. Unless you're a designer, I'm not sure doing your own cover art is the best idea. Art Slade decided to hire an illustrator to work on a new cover, and gives the names of his cover illustrators on his blog. Be conscious of the fact that ebook cover art has to look striking even in thumbnail size. Jane Friedman of Writer's Digest has 10 tips for effective book covers here.

4) The text of the book. I'll be using a Word file that I just finished copyediting for clarity (and because I CANNOT STOP TWEAKING). But existing physical books can be scanned and then converted for publication. If you're comfortable with techie stuff, like Art, you can format your files and upload them yourself, or you can hire someone to scan/format your files for you.

Finally, you'll have to upload your files to the various ebook platforms. Amazon's Kindle is the best-known, but then there's uploading to iPad, B&N's Nook, Sony's ereader, etc. Yes, there are folks you can hire to do this for you, too (usually the same ones who format the files). Or you can use a program like Scrivener to export your file as an ebook.

I'm sure I've only touched on some of the issues involved, and I'll be blogging more about the process soon. In the meantime, despite the chaos in the publishing and bookselling industries, I'm happy that we'll see more fabulous books rising up from the dead dust oh, you know what I mean.

-- Laura


  1. Awesome. I'm thrilled that authors are doing this!

  2. I just double-checked about ISBN numbers with Kindle Direct Publishing, this is from their site:
    Q.Do I need an ISBN to publish on Kindle Direct Publishing?

    a. An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is not required to publish content with Kindle Direct Publishing. Once your content is published on the KDP web site, Amazon.com will assign it a 10-digit ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number), which is unique to the eBook, and is an identification number for the Kindle Book on Amazon.com. If you already have an ISBN for your eBook, you’ll be able to enter it during the publishing process.

    I didn't realize all the ins and outs of that... guess when the time comes we‘ll all have to read the fine print about these various ebookstores.

  3. I think the issue of whether you want Amazon to assign you an ISBN or whether you want your own comes into play when you think about making your book available via numerous platforms (and POD print editions). I think it makes sense to have the same ISBN at Amazon that you do at B&N, no?

  4. Yes, same ISBN for the same edition. The publisher (which may be the author) must apply to get an ISBN from the appropriate national agency. This is a link to ISBN info. Then the pub can assign that number to a Kindle book. Amazon does not generate nor assign ISBNs. Though some epublishing platforms provide that option, Amazon does not, as far as I can tell.

  5. Smashwords will assign an ISBN for you (for a fee). You need to have one if you want your book for sale on iBooks. And yes, I agree it makes sense to have the same ISBN for all retailers (being a Canuck, we can get our ISBN's for free--you just apply online and three days later you have a whole schwack of them--err a schwack being 10).

  6. What I neglected to say earlier was “Thank you” to both Arthur and Laura for bringing this first-person account of reissuing an OP title to E is for Book. It’s very inspiring to authors and readers to know that “out-of-print” no longer means “unavailable.”

  7. You're welcome! Yes, out of print is no longer a bad word! Yay!

  8. My book agent recently sent out an e-mail to all of the people she represents about doing just this with their out of print books. Terrific post.

  9. Excellent and interesting post, Laura! Yes, OP now means possibilities and opportunities, even though it's all a little more complicated for picture books than novels... still great to have options!