Kindle to Paperback, And Why I Wouldn’t Recommend It

Kindle Direct Publishing has added a new option to its publishing services, that of turning eBooks into paperbacks. I found this pretty interesting, considering how popular electronic books were when they first appeared, and how many self-proclaimed prophets declared print books dead. So much easier and economical to carry an entire library on one small, lightweight device than to buy expensive, burdensome hard-copy books, right? I confess that I never bought into this (see “Why A Print Book?“). Even though I’ll acknowledge that eBooks are convenient for fiction, I have remained staunchly in the print book camp for everything else. With KDP now offering the paperback option, I can’t help but wonder if the electronic fad, er, trend is fading.

So, being the champion of print that I am, why wouldn’t I recommend clicking on that “Create Paperback” button? For several reasons: page numbering, images, indexing, and formatting options such as charts and tables.

Electronic books are formatted differently than print books. Pages in print books have a fixed design that the content fits a particular page size, including images, text placement, white space, and page numbering. To someone with an eye for aesthetic design, the placement of these elements is important. Because of the variety of eBook reading devices, however, eBooks are formatted so that the text is flowable, i.e. not fixed in terms of page placement. This is to accommodate any brand of eReader on the market. In the printed eBooks that I’ve read, I’ve found the formatting is often too haphazard to be professional looking. Depending on how the author formatted their original file, the print version can be distractingly “off.”

Images, if you include them, are formatted differently for electronic versus print books. Electronic devices render images small enough to fit the screen. Because of file size limitations, low resolution and low DPI (dots per inch, usually 72 DPI for electronic rendering) images are recommended. Most of us probably know how pixelized an enlarged jpg image can become, but smaller looks crisper and cleaner. Images formatted for an eBook will often have that same pixelized look in print. Recommendations for print images are 300 DPI and the specific physical measurements you want on the printed page. In addition, tall, narrow images can be offset side-by-side with text in a print book. This can’t be done with an eBook.

If images include maps, such as I did in 5 Acres & a Dream The Book, then size becomes important for readability. My Master Plans are barely legible in the 6-inch by 9-inch paperback. A reader wouldn’t be able to make them out on a smaller electronic device.

eReaders all sport search functions, just like a search engine does on the internet. Obviously a print book can’t do this, which is why a good index is important, especially for nonfiction. At least it is important to me, although considering how many poorly constructed indexes there are out there, it apparently isn’t as important to everyone else. A paperback from a Kindle version will have no index, so there would be no way to search for specific topics and text.

Another consideration for nonfiction books is tables. I used quite a few charts in the paperback version of my How To Bake Without Baking Powder, whereas in the eBook version, the charts had to be lists. Why? Because charts are usually created in a word processor as tables, and eReaders can’t support tables. Yes, a chart could be supplied as an image, but remember what I said about image size on an eReader? You’d have to make sure that chart is legible in a two or three inch width, which is what an eReader will likely do with it. On the one hand, I agree that charts aren’t absolutely necessary, but on the other, I think they make information visually more accessible to the reader. If I feel I have information that is useful to my reader, then making that information easy to find and access is important to me.

I’ve already mentioned some issues with formatting. One other to be aware of is that eReaders can only read a limited number of fonts. In the professional publishing world of print books, there is quite some snobbishness about fonts (not that I can personally tell muc difference) as though this divides the masters from the novices. Or in my case, the Lobster 2 font for my 5 Acres blog and book title are sort of trademark, i.e. part of my brand. For a print book file, I can use any font I please, as long as I embed it in my desktop publisher. For an eBook, the title would have to be an image.

So, off the top of my head this is why I would recommend not simply opting to print a nonfiction book from an eBook file. It would certainly be the easiest route, but if the author things her or his book has quality and worth, then it makes sense to take the time and give it the respect it deserves.

 

 

 

Finding the Time

Traditionally, winter has been my writing season. The days are cold and rainy, with not so much to do outdoors. This winter has been different! After a blazingly hot and dry summer, winter has been what I wish summer was – mild days with just the right amount of rainfall for things to grow. It’s meant feeling the need to be outside working, however. Getting caught up on everything I couldn’t do in summer because conditions didn’t cooperate. Trouble is, I’m getting nothing done book-wise. And when I let my writing sit unattended for days or weeks, I’ve lose my train of thought. When I get back to it again I almost feel like I’m starting over. No good. I need to carve out some time every day and stick to it.

Another Look at Zim: How To Make an Outline

I’ve blogged about the Zim Desktop Wiki before. It has some really nice features, things like hyperlinking to other pages in my work, hyperlinking to other sources (either on my computer or the internet), checkboxes to help keep track what’s completed and what’s not, and a spell checker. What I’ve had trouble with, is organizing. I haven’t been able to make the outline in my head a reality in the index pane on the left. I’ve looked at the documentation, but it’s pretty slim in the explanation department. Tutorials on the web seem nonexistent, and YouTube videos show more about what it can do than how to do it.

In a huge “duh” moment, I finally realized that Zim’s index categorizes everything alphabetically. For some projects this would be useful, but for an outline, not so much. especially if there are a lot of points on that outline and therefore a lot of categories and subcateories. To get the outline I want, I simply prefixed the pages and subpages so that they would stay in my outline order.

Zim will arrange things according to the letter (A., B, a., b., c., etc) or number (1., 2., 3., etc.). This way I can keep my outline points and subpoints to stay where I want them on Zim’s index.

There are a number of ways to create new linked pages in Zim. The challenge was trying to link pages in my text to the same location as those listed in my index pane. If I created a new page page from the text itself, it popped up in the index as a new and separate page. I finally figured out to copy the link location in the index and link the text to it.

Once I copied the link location I could highlight “Bibliography” in the text pane and select “link”. I pasted the link location in the “Link to:” field, hit “link,” and the job was done.

I tried browse button as well, but it would link me to the text files that Zim had created, not to the Zim page itself.

In the above example, I can now access my Bibliography page from either the index or the “7. End Matter” page.

Figuring out how to use Zim to meet my personal writing needs took quite a bit of trial and error, but – I think I’ve got it. I can write my entire text in Zim, enjoying the organization of it, and not have to bother with LibreOffice Writer at all. Zim will export each page as a text file, which makes it perfect for importing into Scribus.

Maybe I can now get down to some serious work.

Outlining and Organizing

I am having one heck of a time getting my ideas organized and written down in a logical flow of thought. I think it’s because I have too many of them. I have dozens of bits of papers with scribbles on them of things I want to remember. I thought I knew where they belonged when I wrote them, but when I try to sit down and organize them, their fit together becomes more illusive.

Seems like word flow for me comes best in the morning (after I get that first cup of coffee in me) and continues on after my alloted computer/writing time. How many times do I have to run back to the house to type or write something down in the middle of feeding the chickens, before I’ll think to take pad and pen with me.

Husband says I need to carry a mini-tape recorder around. Sounds like a good idea but I can’t see myself doing that. If my written words get scattered about, what will happen with words that float around in the air?

Marketing Models

From my homesteading blog profile:

“The goal is simpler, sustainable, more self-reliant living, and a return to agrarian values.”

I am occasionally quite outspoken on the subject of the industrial versus agrarian models. Mostly I apply this to lifestyle and economics, which pretty much encompasses all of life, wouldn’t you say? Industrialism focuses on profits and consumer dependency to sustain those profits. Agrarianism focuses on the land and individual independence through stewardship and personal responsibility. Not much room for compatibility there.

As a self-published author, I’m also stuck with doing my own promotion or marketing of my work. Of course I want it to sell, but first folks have to be aware of it and then have to see that it will meet a need. So how do I do that? There is plenty of information out there on how to get people to buy stuff, but I confess I’m not completely comfortable with most of it. I once went to a marketing seminar for Mary Kay cosmetics where the presenter told us that “No” doesn’t mean “No,” it means “I need more information.” I know that when I say “no” it means NO. But if that is the typical sales mindset, then it’s no wonder why sales people always seem so pushy. But I don’t like being pushed and I don’t like to push. Call me a square, but why would I want to manipulate or coerce someone into buying something they really didn’t want or need? Yet that pretty much seems to be the norm when it comes to selling.

So how do I get information out there and promote something, yet do it in keeping with my goal of agrarian values? Is there an agrarian marketing model out there?

I set about trying to research the subject of consumer marketing models but didn’t get very far. Not because there isn’t massive amounts of information on the subject, there is. The problem was that I had to sign up to get it. This, of course, is another marketing tactic, and since I’m not at all keen on filling my inbox with more stuff that I won’t read, I didn’t bother. All I wanted was ideas for a straightforward, informational approach to let potential buyers know what’s available, but without using bait or gimmicks, or collecting information for future use. So far I’ve reached a dead end.

Homesteaders with goals similar to mine are not immune to the industrialized marketing approach. Trying to psych, prime, or pump readers up through familiar sales pitches is just as common in the homesteading community as anywhere else in the consumer world. I find myself trying to figure out how to word things without falling into the use of the typical hoopla associated with trying to sell something.

Is what I’m trying to do even possible? The last thing I want to be like is the politician who promised they won’t sling mud at their opponent this campaign but ends up doing it any way because they “have to because they’re slinging mud at me.”

Then I have to ask, will potential buyers understand what I’m doing? Or will they assume it’s just more hype because that’s the way it’s done? Are people even capable of evaluating straightforward information in relation to their personal needs? Or are we so programmed to trends and catch-phrases that our impulses dictate how we spend our money?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but they’re what’s on my mind today. This is a topic I will continue to contemplate and if I come up with anything, I’ll let you know.

Is Good Information Worth Paying For?

Pricing books, especially eBooks, is something of a challenge. There are a lot of blog posts and articles written about it, because it seems to be a common question. I know it was for me, and actually, I still sometimes wonder if I’ve priced my eBooks just right.

There are some guides out there about pricing according to the number of words, but this is mostly for fiction. Experienced writers seem to agree that people are willing to pay more for nonfiction, because of the perceived usefulness of the information. That made sense to me, but I’ve been wondering lately if that’s really true.

I’m saying this because of a number of customer reviews that state that $0.99 or $1.99 is overpriced for information that can be found for “free” on the internet. In spite of that, I think part of the problem is that the consumer knows there are no print costs involved in producing an eBook. Unfortunately, they place little or no value on the author’s time. When I consider the number of hours I spend researching (both on the internet and off), sorting through and organizing the information, writing, creating a glossary and list of resources, and then putting it together in a thorough, logical, and easily accessible manner, I’m more than a little amazed. I’d be willing to go toe to toe with most of what’s free on the internet, confident that I’ve produced a more useful product.

A fellow homestead writer has turned to writing fiction because, she says, it sells better than her homestead eBooks. Considering the popularity of homesteading, this makes me wonder if people are really willing to pay more for useful information; perhaps people are willing to pay more for entertainment.

I do find that my How To Bake Without Baking Powder sells more print copies than electronic. To me, this makes sense, because useful information keeps better as hard copy. It’s physical location (my bookshelves) makes it easy to find, I don’t have to recharge anything to read it, and there’s no worry of losing the information if my device goes.

So what’s the answer to the question? Is good information worth paying for? I suspect the answer is subjective, but I’d be interested in your opinion.

Promotional Gimmicks – Have They Outlived Their Usefulness?

I’ve held a number of book giveaways since I started publishing. I’ve always considered them a good way to get the word out and certainly worth the cost of a book or two. I never considered them gimmicks, however, it was just a straightforward opportunity for someone to win a free book. After all, word of mouth and a personal recommendation is a better promotional tool than advertising’s fanciest bells and whistles.

When I finished publishing the Critter Tales Series eBooks, I had the idea to ask readers to hold giveaways. They would get free copies of the volumes they wanted to give away. They simply had to host the giveaway and email me the winner’s email address so I could send them a link to their prize. It seemed like a win-win. It has been interesting that none of these giveaways have generated a lot of interest. One gal told me she’d pretty much stopped doing giveaways altogether, because they are a lot of work but no one really seems interested in participating.

I think what’s happened is that giveaways have turned into gimmicks and everyone knows it. To enter most giveaways you have to sign up, follow, like, and sometimes jump through a few other hoops. I never asked readers to do any of these things, because I don’t collect email addresses, don’t do a newsletter, and don’t try to follow up to see if I can get them to buy since they didn’t win. I’ll usually offer a discount code for anyone who wants to take advantage of it, but that’s their business.

Marketing experts say you need to get an email list going by offering a freebie in exchange for an email address. As a website visitor and reader, I know this means I’ll start getting regular emails, almost all of which are advertising for whatever they’re trying to sell. Don’t get me wrong, I think being able to have an internet business is a great way to work from home. I’m all for that. The trouble is, most sales approaches are way too pushy.

I do a lot of research on the internet, follow a lot of links, and read a lot of articles. Nothing is more annoying than just getting started and then having a pop-up block my view because it wants me to sign up for their email list. I’ll get a free copy of thus-and-such and be the first to know about all their special offers. But I haven’t even read the first article yet, so how do I know they have anything to say that’s worth signing up for? Then the same pop-up appears on every page I visit. It’s rude, annoying, and it doesn’t take long before I’m outta there. Unfortunately, this is another common gimmick.

I reckon I’m just a square. I believe that good information on my bookshelves is worth paying for, and that’s what I try to offer. I’d rather give a straightforward description of what the reader can expect and then let them make up their own minds. The trouble with modern marketing is that making money has become more important than offering a quality product or service. The consequences are that almost everyone is becoming immune to advertising and its gimmicks. I know I no longer believe the hype I read or hear in the sales pitch. The challenge for someone like me is how to get straightforward information out there; how to compete with all the marketing “noise” that fills the web. I can’t say I have it figured out, but this is what I believe in, so this is how I’ll keep doing it.

Updating a Previously Published Book in CreateSpace

This little tidbit is something I recently ran across in the CreateSpace Community Fourms. It was exciting to me, because I thought that once in print, I could change nothing in a book. With the writing and publication of more books since the first one, however, I longed to add an “Also By” page to that very first book.

Well, apparently I can. And apparently it’s just a matter of uploading a corrected interior file from my CreateSpace dashboard. What could be easier than that?

There were a few other things that bugged me about that first book: two blatant misspellings and numerous punctuation errors. Being able to also correct these is a tremendous relief. For the most part my reviewers have kindly overlooked these, although there have been a few who have given me poor customer ratings because of them. Just being able to make a more professional appearance is important. If I do something, I want to do it well.

This does seem that the more I look at the manuscript the more things I find. I am currently steeped in the world of properly placed periods and commas in quote marks, curly quotes versus straight quotes, en and em dashes, etc. Other things, such as spelling out numbers versus using numerals, I’m leaving alone. I don’t want to change the text, just correct the spelling and clarify the punctuation. That plus the “Also By” page is enough I think.

First Series Success

Whew. That turned out to be a lot of work. But at last I can announce that Critter Tales is now out as an eBook series.

ctseries_webpageIt’s webpage can be found here.

Preparing the book interiors and covers was a job, and so was getting web pages built for each volume. Now comes the work of getting the word out. Next I’ll tackle 5 Acres & A Dream The Book as a four- or so part series. There’s no rest for the indie author.