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Making of An eBook

The Making of an eBook: Part 2.5

Cradle Book.jpg

I want to briefly follow up on yesterday‘s post about my journey, along with my publisher, toward turning my upcoming collection of short fiction into an eBook. Yesterday I looked at Smashwords in terms of what the site offers potential eBook authors. I found it’s got some real limitations, but also some smart and convenient features that make it a good platform for aspiring eBook authors. But, I decided, it’s not for me and BOA.

My editor at BOA, Peter Conners, agrees and went on to explain a little bit about how the folks at BOA made decisions about their first three Kindle titles:

We spent many hours sitting around a table with our eBook designer and the print versions of our titles, trying to decide how to format our Kindle books. Our view of it was that we needed to standardize some formatting issues to keep an elegant, unified design for our online books that we could replicate for future titles. Where should the copyright page go in an eBook? How about the Acknowledgments page? The cover? Etc. We didn’t merely look at it as slapping our books up online and hoping for the best. If they’re carrying the BOA logo, then we want them to be presented with the same quality as our printed books. We also want readers to know that any BOA book they download through Kindle will provide a similar reading experience–in other words, it will make sense structurally and be presented in a way that compliments the writing.

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The Making of An eBook: Part 2

Cradle Book.jpg

Hi again. I’ve got a lot to say this week, so I’m going to do two posts in this series, one today and one tomorrow. Over the last few days, I’ve been looking into Smashwords. After last week’s post, Smashwords founder Mark Coker contacted me to let me know what Smashwords has to offer a publisher like mine, BOA Editions. Coker pointed out that over 100 small presses are using Smashwords as their eBook platform, and he sent me the Smashwords Style Guide, which he wrote, and which gives very accessible instructions for how to prepare a manuscript for uploading to Smashwords. After looking into it for a week, I concluded that Smashwords isn’t quite appropriate for a press like BOA (I’ll explain why later), but that it offers some very cool functionality, and real ease-of-use, that makes it a very handy way for as aspiring author, or an all-eBook press publishing longform prose, to make their books widely available.

Here’s a bit of what Coker wrote me: “If you wrote the book in Word, it would probably take under 1 hour to prepare the file for Smashwords. Your publisher could even hire one of the freelancers on my list (all Smashwords authors) who format books for as little as $25/hr. Or, better yet, you could do it yourself,” Coker wrote.

From what I saw, it would indeed take only about an hour for a reasonably computer savvy user. Here’s how Smashwords works: when you upload a book to Smashwords, you use a system the company calls “Meatgrinder,” an affectionate and humorous allusion to the fact that it takes documents and rapidly churns out eBooks in various formats, including EPub, Mobi (for Kindle), PDF, RTF and others. The Style Guide is very upfront about the fact that this system won’t “format my eBook to make it perfect,” as one FAQ hopes. “If we did that,” answers Smashwords, “our service would not be free. Our technology is completely automated. All file conversions are automated by our Meatgrinder file conversion system.”

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The Making of an eBook: Part 1

Cradle Book.jpgWelcome 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]:

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