Last week when I blogged about my decision to republish a book that went out of print, I promised to follow up with a post outlining the various steps required to release a book in an e-version and print-on-demand (POD) format. Jayme Johnson, a publishing consultant, handled that process for me so I asked her to do a guest post describing how she converted the book into the necessary formats and listed it on the various platforms readers use to find books.
I’ll now leave it to Jayme to explain the rest. Note: Jayme’s advice is valuable for anyone self-publishing in any situation, not just in a case like mine where you already have a published book. If you’re self-publishing from outset, you won’t need to deal with the conversion issues described in Step 1.
Step 1: Obtain the Final Manuscript File from your Publisher
Get in touch with someone at your publisher, ideally your original acquisition editor, and have them send you the PDF and/or InDesign file of your final manuscript. This will be much less time-consuming than recreating/transcribing your book into a Word document format from scratch.
All book conversion services take Word or .txt documents, but a few, that I’ll mention below, also take PDF or InDesign files. If you’re making minimal changes to your book, it’s much simpler to take that PDF or InDesign file from your publisher and either make the changes yourself (if you have the needed software I mention in Step 4) or commission a designer to help.
To be clear - making edits to a Word document is much easier, BUT you won’t receive a Word document from your publisher. They create books using InDesign, so they’ll either send you the native InDesign file, or they’ll send you a PDF that’s been saved from the InDesign file. That’s why it would be more time consuming if you have to type your entire manuscript into a Word document in order to make your needed changes.
After you receive the manuscript, look through the file to determine what changes, if any, you’d like to make. Is a new, updated introduction in order? Maybe there’s new information available now that wasn’t in the first edition that you’d like to update. Remember that you’ll be publishing digitally, so take advantage of this opportunity and include links to websites or resources throughout the manuscript where appropriate. Drive readers back to your website (build traffic!) for any added content.
Make a list of all of these changes so you, or someone you hire to help, can implement the changes to the file. Unless of course, if you’re starting from scratch with a Word or .txt document, you can make the changes on your own.
Step 2: Create a Cover Design
There are two ways to go about this:
Keep your original book cover design in mind and incorporate elements of that design if you can. This way, readers can visually tie the two versions together, but understand that the new version is, well, new and updated.
Key point here: Remember that you are selling this digitally which means the book cover will be displayed in a thumbnail size across the web. Make sure the cover design translates well enough so the title can be read when the design is shrunk. Visually, you want your design to look great and be easily recognized against the swarm of other titles in your genre. Do a little research on bookseller websites to see what other covers in your genre look like, and go from there.
Once you have your final cover design nailed, save or obtain a web resolution (150 ppi is great) JPG file to use for uploading to the appropriate sites. Some sites may also take PNG files but JPG is the standard image file format universally accepted.
Step 3: Obtain an ISBN from Bowker
Because you’re releasing a new edition, you’ll need to purchase a new ISBN # from Bowker to include on the new file’s copyright page and in order to sell on retailer websites. ISBNs are used as the identifier for books. Without one, you’ll run into major issues selling your book across the supply chain. However, if you don’t intend to sell the book through the chain retailers (although I highly recommend you do - it’s simpler for consumers to buy directly from these sites rather than from your own), you won’t have to take this step or incur the expense.
A single ISBN is $125.00. If you intend to also make your book available via Print-on-Demand (through Amazon’s CreateSpace service as an example), you’ll need a separate, additional ISBN for the print version. But know this - you can purchase this additional print version ISBN through CreateSpace directly for a majorly reduced price. If you intend to go this route, don’t purchase more than one single ISBN through Bowker directly, to save yourself some cash.
Upon purchase of the ISBN, you’ll be asked to include metadata information for your book (such as author, designer, publisher - if you have your own imprint for example, edition, genre, on-sale date, etc.) on the Bowker website. Make sure you take the time to include this information. Retailers pull this data to inform the listings on their sites.
Step 4: Make Edits to Your Manuscript
Now that you’ve made a list of all the needed edits and you’ve acquired your new ISBN, you need to implement the changes within your manuscript.
If you’re creating your manuscript in Word (or Pages), the changes will be easy to make. But as I mentioned before, if you’re receiving your book back from the publisher it’s not going to be in Word. It will be a PDF or an InDesign file.
Therefore, you’ll need the right software to be able to make those changes on your own.
If you have a PDF from your publisher, you can use Adobe Acrobat Pro to open the file and make the needed edits/additions. This method can get a little tricky if you don’t have the exact font on your computer that was used in the manuscript. If you don’t have the exact fonts, there will be some variances throughout the manuscript. You can either deal with that discrepancy or purchase those fonts for an additional (and somewhat costly-depending on the font) fee.
If you were able to obtain the native InDesign file from your publisher, along with the appropriate packaged fonts and links, you’re in much better shape. But, you’ll need Adobe InDesign to make the changes. Of course, if you don’t have either of these programs and don’t want to incur the expense of purchasing the software (several hundred dollars for each), you can hire a designer (probably through SheWrites!) to implement the changes for you. I actually recommend the latter option. Unless 1) you see reasons for why you’d want to spend several hundred dollars to purchase the software for other projects down the road and 2) you are pretty technically savvy and can adjust to the learning curve these programs require, hiring a designer to help you for $50 - $100/hr is the much simpler and cost effective route. And, she will know what she’s doing.
In either case, don’t forget to include links in your table of contents and index to the appropriate locations throughout your manuscript. This is a key change to make for any digital book conversion so that readers can click on the specific chapter and be taken to that exact location in the book.
Step 5: Convert the File
The newest version of InDesign (CS5.5) provides the ability to save the file directly to an .epub format which is what is used for iPad, Nook, eReader, and many other services. Amazon Kindle and MobiPocket require a .mobi file extension which you’ll need a converter service to help with. I recommend services like Convert A Book, or BookBaby to help with this. You can upload your file (any format - Word, InDesign, PDF) directly to them and they’ll output and provide you with the different versions you need. You can even use them to implement changes to your file too, like the table of contents and index links I mentioned above. Additionally, both services run your file through a series of quality assurance checks to ensure that the file will be accepted at each of the retailers where your book will be sold.
Step 6: Sell the book!
Now that you’ve had your book converted, it’s time to sell! If you want to offer the digital versions for download directly from your website, you’ll need to setup a simple shopping cart system to handle purchases. If you have a PayPal business account, you can literally set up your products (set up a separate product for each file version you have) and obtain buy buttons for each in a matter of minutes. Then, you can embed the buy button links on the appropriate page of your website.
The easiest way to distribute the book to all the major digital retailers is with BookBaby’s distribution service. If you use them for your conversion as well, they include the distribution fee as part of their pricing model. At most, you’ll pay $199 using BookBaby for both conversion and distribution.
Additionally, BookBaby provides a status dashboard that tracks all of your sales from the retailers and directly deposits 100% of the funds to any bank account you specify. Once the book is available on the retailer sites, make sure to include buy buttons on your website to each of these retailers.
That’s it! You’re off and running and making sales. Now that you know how the process works, it’s time to get the ball rolling!
Jayme Johnson is President and Founder of Worthy Marketing Group, a boutique full-service firm specializing in book launches and marketing for authors. She’s been one of the “secret weapons” behind more than a dozen New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling books and she is a partner alongside author and blogger Jonathan fields, in the popular Tribal Author Enterprise program.