By Leah Price Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
NEWPORT NEWS, Va.
Several years ago Miles Lambert of Williamsburg, Va., self-published two wine books, "Desert Island Wine" and "Tokaji Wine-Fame, Fate, Tradition."
He used a commercial press for printing and arranged for distribution through a wine guild that offered channels in the United States and abroad.
Thinking that would hit his target market (wine enthusiasts), he said he ordered a print run of 2,000 copies of each at his own cost. What he hadn't considered, he says now, was the guild's lack of overall reach.
Because the guild "focused on a niche market, they do not have any clout. For instance, they cannot get their books onto the shelves of Barnes & Noble," Lambert said via email.
The result: He is left with hundreds of copies of his books, and he is giving them away. "I have donated copies to numerous libraries around the country, and entire boxes ... to university wine programs. I also hand out free copies in front of the Williamsburg Trader Joe's from time to time, which is sort of fun because of the people I meet."
Thanks to advances in technology, today's writers have choices that limit their out-of-pocket expenses but provide them with access to global distribution of their books.
With Print on Demand (POD) publishing, writers can order as many or as few copies of their books they like. Retail distributors can fill an order for a single copy or a case and more, usually within two weeks' turnaround, and ship them worldwide.
One of the most popular platforms for POD publishing is Amazon's CreateSpace (createspace.com). Amazon offers fee-based production and design services, but basic softcover book set-up as well as changes and corrections are free. Distribution is free as well, and titles are automatically placed for sale at Amazon.com. Expanded distribution, which places a book for sale on other retail websites and in wholesale catalogs for libraries and schools, is an option, but can raise the price of the book on those sites. CreateSpace also places several conditions for its expanded distribution, including trim size, so make sure you read the fine print.
Lightning Source (lightningsource.com) is another POD printing/distribution service. Set-up costs vary depending on the type of distribution you select. Lightning Source charges a set-up fee, a proof fee and a fee for each change/correction submitted. However, Lightning Source offers a wider range of production options than CreateSpace, including more sizes and paper types as well as return of unsold books, which is an important feature for distributing to brick-and-mortar bookstores.
AUTHOR EXPERIENCE Marliss Melton, the York County, Va., author of the SEAL Team Twelve romantic-suspense series, knew she wanted to make her books widely available while limiting her costs in both time and money, and she said she researched both options. "While I use Lightning Source because book buyers tend to get their books from them primarily," she said in an email, "I am so disenchanted with Lightning Source's difficult interface, their high costs, and their poor customer service that I will not be using them in the future. CreateSpace is free and easy to work with."
Melanie Howard, a former Hampton resident and co-author of "Queen of the Court," went with CreateSpace from the start. Howard said in an email that she and co-author Andrea Leidolf chose CreateSpace "because they do as much or as little as you need them to." While the writing partners used outside providers for editing and cover design, they opted for CreateSpace's interior design services."Our design team was great, and we are really happy with the final product," Howard said.
The digital publishing world can be defined as the fast and furious. Because here's where book production gets a little tricky. With eBook production, there are two main considerations, format and distribution, and the two are linked.
An author wanting to sell books for Amazon's Kindle eReader can publish relatively pain-free via Amazon's self-publishing platform, Kindle Direct Publishing.
The process is relatively simple: upload the completed manuscript to Kindle Direct in one of the several accepted file formats (which includes MS Word). The Kindle Direct application reformats for compliance with its devices, and after a check for the file's digital integrity, the titles goes on sale at Amazon.com. There are a couple other steps, for example uploading the cover art, completing pricing and distribution information, but an author can often see his/her book for sale within 48 hours.
Barnes & Noble has a similar process for its Nook eReader, a self-publishing platform called Nook Press (formerly PubIt!). Where Kindle devices use file formats specific to Kindle (mobi and AZW), Nook devices use the widely accepted epub format. Nook Press functions similarly to Kindle Direct, and turnaround times are comparable. Titles are automatically placed on sale at BarnesandNoble.com.
iTunes Connect is Apple's platform for publishing on its iBooks store. The process, as described on the website, appears more complex than either Kindle or Nook. A publisher/author must submit an application, and once approved, download iTunes Producer, its "delivery application." By contrast, both Kindle Direct and Nook Press run on a basic web browser and no special software is needed.
All three of these platforms are site-specific, meaning there is no distribution to other sites. But like print production, there are options for writers who want a one-stop shop for eBook production and distribution to major online retailers, schools and libraries.
Popular eBook distributor Smashwords (smashwords.com) is one example. According to the company's website, Smashwords is "the world's largest indie eBook distributor," promising access to all major online retailers when certain technical requirements are met. Readers can also shop directly at Smashwords.com and choose the format that fits their device. The service is free to join, and publishers/authors are paid royalties between 60 percent and 80 percent, depending on whether the book is purchased from Smashwords or another site, the company says.
While Smashwords does handle distribution, the author still carries the burden of preparing the files for production. Multiple file formats are accepted, but if anything other than epub is uploaded, the author must process the file through Smashwords' quality-assurance tool known as the Meatgrinder. As the name suggests, the tool manipulates, scrubs and smashes the material into submission so that any harmful code from the source file is destroyed.
As with print production, there are numerous service providers who will do the work for you for a fee, but having a basic understanding of the process should help you decide which route is best for you. ___ GLOSSARY
Brick-and-mortar bookstores, Retail book stores with a physical space, as opposed to online stores
epub, open standard of digital book formatting that is supported by a wide variety of eReaders, including Barnes & Noble's Nook,
Apple's iBooks and more. Kindle devices use either Mobi or AZW files.
POD/Print on Demand, a process by which books are printed as needed, as little as a single book at a time.
Print Run, a single printing of multiple copies of a book
Trim Size, the size of the book after it is printed and bound. (Bleed size refers to the area on the page from the end of the text to the end of the sheet. The sheet will be trimmed in the bleed space.)