Friday, May 20, 2011

E-Format Questions

I found the right last page to my YA novel, and am now turning my attention to the next project: getting my backlist onto e-readers. Actually, I also hope to turn your attention there, in hopes that I can get input from all of you out there more knowledgeable about things electronic (which is virtually everybody).

Assuming I can get the e-rights, or already possess the e-rights, to a book, and can't get the copy edited ms. from the publisher (almost a certainty), the first step seems to be to find a company that will scan in the book. I found one, but here are my questions:

Has anybody had any dealings with Blue Leaf Book Scanning Company?

Can anyone recommend a scanning company they have had dealings with?

Since I have a choice of formats in which they will deliver the electronic file, should I ask for PDF or order two files, one in e-pub and one formatted for the Kindle? Specifically, if I get those formats, are they readable so that I can proofread them, or would I have to have proofread in PDF anyway?

Pricing: How much would you pay for a backlist book on the Nook or Kindle? I want to find a price that would actually induce people to buy.

All help very welcome!


Jude said...

I have no knowledge to share except a recent blog post from Bad Language, a great blog about writing. Matthew Stibbe surveyed his readers about ebook technology and wrote this post:

This post isn't about scanning so much as creating from MS Word, but perhaps it will give you some ideas.

I would love to read your backlist in ebook format, so good luck.

Phoebe North said...

I think you should only get it in .epub, and do the conversion yourself in calibre. I've done this myself, and it's really not difficult at all--maybe takes a few hours to figure out what you're doing and do them. If you download an .epub reader like Adobe Digital Editions or a .mobi reader (like Kindle's desktop reader), you can do the proofreading there. I find it much easier on the eyes than .pdf.

For backlisted titles, for me, between $4.99 and $6.99 is the sweet spot. I frequently shop the nookbook store for deals under $5, and would easily buy your entire backlist if I found it there.

Tim of Angle said...

My threshold for an e-book is 'about the price of a paperback'. I won't pay more than $10, no matter who it is. I suspect that the best price point is $2.99; I hear that mentioned a lot, and that's almost an impulse purchase for me.

Ellen said...

ePub is a much better format than pdf for long texts. Especially for use on a tablet like the iPad, where I do all my ereading. Pdfs are useful when the layout is important, with pictures and charts and graphics. The best is to offer both formats. But I hope you will consider distribution without DRM and on platforms easily accessible to international customers. Think FictionWise and Weightless Books. Lots of SF writers there already. I never buy any ebooks with DRM because I don't trust the vendors to maintain the system over time and I like being able to backup my books and put them where I want them with no hassle. The DRM is no guarantee against piracy as you well know. Price? For backlisted novels I would say $4 to $7. Anyway, I'll still buy the hardcover of any new SF book you write, as I've been doing for years. So, whatever you do, I'll still be reading your books.

TheOFloinn said...

I have been ebooked once or twice. My collection THE FOREST OF TIME was reissued by Arc Manor. What I did was send them Word documents of the stories and the one or two for which no electronic version existed -- yes, from the days of Hard Copy and mastodons -- they scanned out of the old Tor hardcover.

They're preparing a new collection for which I am supplying a new story; but it's just like any other electronic submission. I'll get back a copy-edited e-ms which I can annotate in the usual fashion.

The same was true of the one e-novelette at I submitted a Word document electronically.

Anonymous said...

If I could weigh in on pricing: if you aren't making much from these things you are looking to digitize and also hopefully find a new audience I would think something like 2.99 would/ could net you a good chunk of new readership, as well as those of us that already own your books feeling like we can help out by buying the digital copies without having to head to the bank for a loan.

Plus the 2.99 price is something most tablet owners are familiar with as the general cost (.99 to 2.99) of apps.

At that price I think it says, "this has value" but doesn't put it onto the "I have to commit to the price of a hard-bound book".

And one final thing, I think you could silence your "pirates" who say that they can't afford the cost of your work.

But ultimately you do want to recoup the cost of digitizing them, which I do not know.

Thanks for letting us weigh in.

Laurie said...

With BEA happening in New York next week, you may want to wait on making a decision re: formats. There are indications that there are going to be some big announcements by several companies that may affect your decision.

There are rumors that Amazon will soon be accepting epub format files, not just mobi files. Barnes and Noble will also be introducing some new device (presumably) that they're being tight-lipped about.

David Ivory said...

I'd check out the requirements for Smashwords - they have an automated system for transcoding into other formats. They will then get your book out to other resellers.

They have a style guide that you can download - an ebook of course.

Jamie Kress said...

Stuart Jaffe has an interesting post on e-publishing up over at It's not really tailored toward your situation, but he's knowledgeable on the process and I think would be willing to answer questions.

Nancy Kress said...

All that is helpful, thank you, although some of it is over my head. I'm feeling my way through this slowly. I may buy a scanner and scan the books myself. Any suggestions on what to buy? And will it make a Word file?

Dave Creek said...

I've been trying to deal with this for months now, especially because my stories are on the ancient Appleworks program. Also especially, because I'm hesitant to put too much money into converting my published stories into e-books.

Depending upon who does the job, you can end up paying hundreds of dollars I'm not at all certain I'd get back. You would, Nancy, you're an award-winning, bestselling author. For many of the rest of us, it's iffy as to how much we might make back.

Kendall said...

Don't under-price yourself; read Diane Duane's post about how her meager sales jumped up when she upped the price from $1.99 to $4.99....

Kendall said...

Darn, Blogger didn't give me the "email follow-up comments" checkbox. Sorry, ignore this--just subscribing to follow-up comments.

Gary Gibson, science fiction writer said...

Two thoughts. First, Kendall's point is a fair one, though another and perhaps better strategy might be to price the majority at between 2.99 - 4.99, with one at .99 to act as an impulse buy that might lead to the purchaser buying your other, higher-priced ebooks if they subsequently become a fan. I don't claim to be an expert at these things, but I figure that's the way I'd do it, and even if one strategy doesn't work, the nice thing about sites like Smashwords and Amazon is that you can change the prices of your books at will.

One point worth mentioning that hasn't yet been brought up is to be very careful about the covers of your ebooks. I've seen some ebooks by highly respected authors that featured cover designs that were tragically amateurish, even though these were provided by the same companies that converted the books on their behalf. If you use an outside company to do the work and their cover designs suck, it might be worth hiring someone else to create some cover designs. There are plenty of graphic designers around (I used to be one) who could do a solid job.

Jonathan Laidlow said...

Get it scanned into a word document so you can proof-read and copy-edit properly. If they send it directly in epub then you may not have the software to check any scanning errors. If you have PDFs of the books, see if you can find anyone with the full version of Adobe Reader - it might be able to extract the original text back into Word. I use it at work and it's a surprisingly useful feature

Calibre can then be used to generate an ebook from word, or html (better - as you can set up hyperlinks for the table of contents)