Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"An exciting time to be an author!"

I've never been to BEA, though I've always wanted to. I really wish I had gone this year because  Alvina spoke about my new book,  Starry River of the Sky at the middle grade "book buzz":

Didn't she do a great job? I hope people were excited about the book!

But I also was really interested in BEA because I know that the publishing world is changing. For me, these changes fill me with apprehension and I worry about what the future will bring.

However, my friend Janet Wong, who did go to BEA, has a different viewpoint. When Janet's early poetry collections Good Luck Gold  and Behind the Wheel: Poems about Driving  (originally published by Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster) went out of print, she got the rights back and created e-book and paperback versions. And when I asked Janet about her BEA experience, she said, “This is an exciting time to be an author!”

I was so intrigued that I asked Janet to share some of her "takeaway thoughts" from the conference. I thought they would be interesting for anyone interested in self-publishing e-books (which might be all of us in the future!).

Here are Janet's BEA notes:

 1) Plan an e-book at the same time as your print book. An e-book edition of your print book might be released later; you want your text and illustrations to work without the need for too much tinkering. For poetry, keep the Kindle screen in mind when breaking your lines; for picture books, make illustrations vertical or square. (Design for the “worst machine out there”; lots of kids will have hand-me-down devices.)

 2) Authors need to think about metadata; discoverability is key. When planning a new book, spend a couple of hours at Google Adwords or Market Samurai. (If you don’t know what metadata means, Market Samurai has some short online videos that explain it.) Knowing the most frequently searched keywords might give your book an additional new direction, more structure, and a better title.

 3) Think of an e-book as a “continuing work-in-progress.” One of the great things about e-books is that you can “play” with your book even after it’s published. If you are the publisher, try different prices and try to measure the effects on sales. Insert new links into the back matter to make readers aware of new books or new related blogs or sites. Parts of your text can be reworked at any time. Audio features can be added. E-books are still in an experimental phase; we shouldn’t be afraid to treat them like experiments!

 4) Social Media and Networking Tips: Pinterest is where it’s at. Put up a Pinterest board for each character in your book or post photos related to your book’s setting.

 5) Our business is changing so rapidly . . . this is a very exciting time to be an author. Don’t be afraid of the changes--have fun!

 Thank you, Janet!


Anna Alter said...

Thanks Janet! All great points. I'm curious, when you create your own e-book, do you use a particular company to assist in the conversion or do you do it yourself? As an author, are you then able to sell your e-book through the channels that publishers do?

Melanie Conklin said...

This is great info. Instead of a freaking out, responding creatively leads to opportunities. I like the pinterest tip--great idea!

Janet Wong said...

Anna: My first 5 e-book projects were formatted by professionals ( and at a cost of $200-$500. They sent me the finished mobi and epub files and I uploaded them myself to Amazon, BN, and the iTunes bookstore.

My 6th project took me 3 days to format myself; I was quite frustrated during those 3 days but satisfied with the end result. My last project, E-book #7, took me only 20 minutes to format (using MobiPocket Creator for the mobi/prc file and Sigil for the epub). I'm sure that I did it "The Dumbbell Way," but it turned out all right.

I heard (just last week) that has switched their paid e-book conversion service to a free e-book conversion service (for very simple manuscripts). And I've also heard a rumor that SCBWI might be adding an e-book formatting service soon--this would be really empowering for authors.

Anna Alter said...

Thanks Janet, really great to know. Interesting move by SCBWI, I imagine that will be wildly popular!

Libby Koponen said...

janet, this is all really interesting. Thank you for posting and for all these good tips!