>between sanity and insanity, and it hasn’t been helped by a very intermittent internet this weekend. Let’s put it this way, I was on the phone and then on chat and then back on the phone with my provider before 0630 this morning. Not exactly the way I want to start any day, so forgive the rambling post this morning.
After reading Kate’s post this past Thursday and the comments that followed, I debated whether to answer in the comments section or not. After talking with Kate, I decided to address some of the comments here, from an editorial point of view.
Most of you know that I’m one of the editors at Naked Reader Press. NRP, for those who don’t know, is a small — think micro — e-publisher. We went live in August and offered our first titles for sale in September. In the few months since then, we’ve started building not only our stable of authors but also the number of sales. To say I’ve been pleasantly surprised is putting it mildly.
But it has been a lot of work. Not just for me but for everyone involved in the venture. There is a great deal that goes into not only starting up an e-press but in keeping it running. A big part of that is preparing the books and short stories for publication.
The quick version is a manuscript is submitted by an author and accepted or rejected by our editorial board. If it is accepted, it is assigned to an editor and that’s when the process really begins. The editor will make suggestions and comments in Word — yes, I know. I can hear the groans. It’s not my favorite program, but it works and most folks have it — and then they send the manuscript back to the author. The author then reviews the comments and suggestions and either accepts or rejects them. Then it’s back to the editor. Sometimes, that is the end of this phase. But quite often, this process is repeated at least once more.
Once everyone is as satisfied as possible with the story or novel, it is sent to our tech guru to be translated into the different formats we sell. The first step is to translate the manuscript into HTML. Now, the easy way is to use the “save as” function in Word. The problem is that this leaves a lot of junk code, code that can cause problems later as the file is converted into the different e-reader formats. So the techies use a text editor and, thankfully, they are much quicker at it than am I. From there, the manuscript is checked in a web browser to make sure the formatting looks right.
While all this is going on, our art director is working to get the best cover possible for not only our novels but the short stories as well. Even with e-books, covers matter. Once the cover has been decided on, the ISBN registered and the files ready for conversion into the proper format, then we’re ready to make the e-book.
From there, it’s an upload to the NRP site store where the e-book is immediately available for purchase and download. The lag time for Amazon and Barnes & Noble runs anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. Smashwords can be up to a week or more — and that is if there is no problem with formatting. They have their own rules and require different fly page text from every other outlet we use. Google books can be even slower. To upload directly to the iBookstore, you have to have a Mac with very specific specifications.
It is important to note that all of the outlets listed above require specific formats to be uploaded for their own “conversion” process prior to sale. None, require a PDF file.
This is important, and goes to the heart of the POD question raised in response to Kate’s post Thursday, because most — if not all — POD outlets require you to submit your book as a PDF. What that means is that you have to upload your “book” in ready to print format.
That’s a very different format than what is put together for e-books. Because of the differences in e-readers and programs, you don’t put in headers or page numbers. You don’t use fancy fonts and you keep the formatting to a minimum. You don’t have to worry about page bleed or margins. Basically, if it looks good in html, it will look good as an e-book — at least in theory.
To set up a book for hard copy publication, you have to worry about all of that. Layout is very important. Sure, you can set it up in Word or Open Office and save as a PDF. But there are problems in that. There are some wonderful programs that allow you to make “proper” PDF files for publication. Some even allow for easy — again, in theory — translation to e-books. These are not cheap, however. And, as anyone knows who has tried to translate a PDF file to MOBI or EPUB, there isn’t a seamless translation.
Now, what that means for NRP is that we will do print editions of our books one day. But not in the immediate future. We’d rather put out the best e-books we can, both in the quality of writing but also in the quality of presentation, than to water down our efforts right now by expanding into print too quickly. However, that isn’t to say we won’t do print. If we see a big enough demand for a book, we will consider putting it out in hard copy. But that will be driven by demand.
As a lover of “real” books, I look forward to the day when NRP is in the position to start putting out hard copies of some of our titles. As a reader of e-books, I love the fact we can bring out books that have been out of print (we’ll be bringing out two of Tom Easton’s books — Firefight and The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy — this year) as well as introducing new authors to our readers.
So here’s a question for you. What format do you prefer, paper or digital, and why?