Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to post more than a dozen ebooks online within 7 days.

That concludes posting my self-published books  to Amazon and 5 others - whew!

Just wanted to make a note of this while it's still life in my head (as it were.)
What we started out with was a tall (virtual) stack of books which I'd written, edited, and published in various formats over the years (since about 2006 or so.) Now this was really before the ebook phenomenon took off - made possible by tablets, which had to wait for micro-micro chips and all sorts of technology to make it all possible. 
So these books were in print with Lulu (least expensive at that time - all the other POD printers were charging up front, Amazon hadn't bought CreateSpace at that time.) And otherwise, I had PDF's also with Lulu.

Once I started seeing what had been written up on "how to make money with Kindle" (and all sorts of extremist title copy from Internet Marketers), it was patently obvious that this was the way to go. (And I'll flesh this out more, later.)

I got the best 14 converted, and then edited another one together for grins and giggles. Out of those, they went to their various locations and all got converted and posted in a week. So maybe I ought to tell you how...

Converting existing files:
Unfortunately, as these books had been written over years, and several computers had bitten the dust during that time, the files were a bit of a mess. And I didn't necessarily have all the final files I worked with - and as well, while I had been using OpenOffice for all of them, the versions had been updated, so the file formats had changed. In many cases, I started out with just the final PDF file.
But, as has been more usual lately, Lady Luck was on my side. Open Office natively exports really clean PDFs, so I was able to use a full version of Adobe Acrobat to extract these as html. This is because I had read advice to open the HTML files in Sigil to edit them there. But that's what you get from free advice. Yes you can edit that way, but it's painfully slow. 
Now, I've got to tell you at this point that I've been designing web sites (called a "developer" these days) since the late 1990's so I know enough about HTML to get around - and you really don't know much. 
Anyway, I found that if you open up the code and find/replace the junk in there (like double returns), you can then open it up in OpenOffice (LibreOffice these days) with their WebWriter, and then first clean up the file by removing all the arbitrary formating (unfortunately also takes out all your bold, italic, and underlines - but leaves the links) - and then go through to assign the headings (no deeper than H3) where they are needed.
Once your copy looks good, then open a straight version of OO Writer (not the web version) and copy/paste your HTML right into it.
The reason for this is that there's a plug-in called Writer2Epub which works like a charm to convert OO documents right over into epubs. But only works on Writer files. 
That next step is to open them up in Sigil and tweak. The great part is that the plugin does a great job in making a near-perfect file. But Sigil has "epubcheck" integrated to find errors - which is the standard all the others use. So when it comes up "no errors", take a win - and know that you're in great shape for here on out.
The next program you need to use is Calibre. What this allows you to do is to track all your data in one spot - and do a quick preview. It will convert to mobi so you can see is on your Kindle, but mostly Calibre doesn't do as good as job as OpenOffice - it can only work with what it has. Most of the files it gets to work with are way too complex to make into decent epubs.
Now, why am I talking about epubs and not mobi, if you're going to get the biggest boost from Amazon? Because everything accepts epub. Even Amazon. And everywhere but Amazon is going to either need real clean Word doc or that epub. So having a clean, checked epub just sets you ahead. Just because Amazon has the lion's share, doesn't mean you want to leave money on the table. 
The Major Players

Given, I was biased toward Lulu to begin with. All my books were there. However Amazon has the lion's share of everything. And their CreateSpace looks to be less expensive than Lulu for distribution to a wide line of online and brick-and-mortar bookstores. That evened things up on several levels.
Top ebook sales outlets are
  1. Amazon
  2. Kobo
  3. iBookstore
  4. Barnes & Noble
  5. Google

Those 5 cover about 90-95% of the sales. Smashwords could pick up most all of the rest, but there are 3 reasons I finally decided against using them - 1) You have to submit a Word Doc. 2) You don't have a choice about where they send your files. But Smashwords will post to Apple and B&N for you. 3) They have zero tolerance for PLR or Public Domain material - Amazon at least has rules on how to make your books based on these to fit.

What these players do:

  • Kobo is only ebooks, and covers more countries than the others. It's also a very easy upload. Their specialty is international ebooks, and are rapidly moving into smaller bookstores in the U.S. with their readers.
  • iBookstore gets you into every Apple product out there. 
  • Google Books gets you onto every Android device out there.
  • And the B&N Nook is a very competitive alternative to Amazon in the ebook area, claiming 20% of the market.
  • Amazon is the 900lb. gorilla in the room. Market leader and all that.
My choice is to use Lulu to post to both iBookstore and B&N, because they can sell your ebook as well to their own community - and as PDF's as well. The factor that takes me to Lulu is their ability to publish books in hardcopy. And they'll post your ebook to iBookstore and B&N for free, helping you through the strict hoops these two have. (The other extra option is to post your PDF to Scribd.com to get additional sales.)
Now, that cuts it down to 4 spots instead of 5. If you want to post to iBookstore and B&N on your own, you can. Just figure that is 2 more sets of profiles to build and statistics to track. Lulu gives you a single interface to do everything from.
If you replace Lulu with Smashwords, you gain several more outlets - so it's probably a toss-up. If you're already on Lulu (like me), then that tilts the scale. If your OpenOffice file creates clean copy for Sigil, then it's a logical extension to port through Smashwords. (The only other problem I have with Smashwords is the complaints of service lately. So that tilts the deal back to Lulu for me.)
But there are many who simply go all-Amazon. I'd rather hedge my bets.
The workable epub publishing sequence: 

0. Create and check your epub.
1. Post to Lulu - this gives you an ISBN
2. Post to Kobo
3. Post to Amazon
4. Post to Google
5. Create the hardcopy version on CreateSpace/Lulu.
- - - -
Sorry for the intense data dump. But you can see this is starting to become an ebook on it's own - which is the exact point of this study.
And after this comes the marketing via social media, which is a completely different subject. (Plus another blog post.)
Update: Now examining the idea of publishing to Smashwords just for that community, not right now striving to get onto their "premium" catalog - this for social media networking possibilities and local sales.

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