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Questions from readers and clients are where I find out what is causing the most confusion for self-publishers. Lately, one area has dominated the questions I’ve been getting: ebooks.
Lots of people have read about the success Joe Konrath and other authors, mostly novelists, have had in recent months with ebooks. And we’ve followed the many posts by guest authors he’s been running on his very useful blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.
Every author I’ve talked to recently has questions about ebooks and how to go about getting their book ready to go on sale in the Kindle store, the iBookstore and all the other venues where people are buying ebooks to fill up their new Kindles, iPads, Nooks, Kobos and other ebook readers.
The Bottleneck is Easy to Find
Since most of these books start off life as print books, getting your book ready for life as an ebook is a matter of converting the print files to ebook formats like Mobi and ePub.
So the answer to this question of how to move to ebooks involves finding someone to make these file conversions. People who create ebooks need to have skill at understanding how books are constructed, and how best to interpret them in the ebook environment.
The big differences between print books and ebooks can make this process a bit of a bumpy ride. On the one hand, the person doing the conversion needs to observe how the book is presented in the print version, then have the skill at coding HTML to reproduce, as closely as possible, that presentation in ebook formats.
Smashwords, the big distributor of indie ebooks, only offers its own automated conversions, so if you have a heavily formatted book or one for which you want to do your own ebook files, you can’t use them.
Some of the other distributors, like BookBaby, will do basic ebook conversion for free, but there are signup fees to consider and you may not have any more control of the final file that you have at Smashwords.
In yesterday’s interview, Joshua Tallent of Ebookarchitects explained how his team takes a completely hands-on approach to each book, and the books I’ve seen from his company show the results of this attention. Other firms rely on a more automated process, and you can tell the difference between these types of ebook conversions right away.
However, there’s such a big demand for ebook conversion services that firms like Joshua’s are simply overwhelmed with projects. Many large publishers are moving hundreds of backlist titles to ebook formats, and there are all the new books coming out ever day as well.
An entire industry has sprung up to accommodate this demand. However, in trying to find vendors to recommend to clients, I have been frustrated since there was no listing to be found anywhere on the web for companies to provide this service.
The Ebook Conversion Services Directory
A few weeks ago I decided rather than wait for someone else to solve this problem, I would take it on myself. With input from some members of the the #ePrdctn group on Twitter, I started soliciting information for a directory.
I also queried the participants in the LinkedIn ebook discussion group, and generally put out the call for anyone who would like to be included.
Although I had planned to make a blog post with the information I gathered, it soon became apparent it would be much more useful to have it on its own domain.
Now we’ve launched the Directory and it has over 40 companies and individuals listed from several countries, each of whom perform ebook conversions. It’s located here:
It’s a simple alphabetical listing with information from each responding company. Here are the questions we asked on our Request for Information:
- Which ebook file formats do you convert to
- Acceptable file formats to convert from
- Which type of file is best to convert from
- Turnaround time for standard book conversion
- Provide basic pricing information
- Are there discounts for multiple file formats or multiple books converted at the same time
- Estimate of the cost to convert a sample book
Since companies quote prices in many different ways, I wanted to come up with a means to gauge relative pricing. That way users would know they were comparing apples to apples.
I went to the White House website and downloaded a bunch of recent speeches by President Obama and created a kind of instant book, Speeches of Obama. In our request for information we asked each company what they would charge to convert this sample book to Kindle and ePub formats. You’ll find that information in the directory listings, and there’s a link on the Submissions page if you’d like to download the sample book to see what the prices are based on.
Caveat Emptor: Let the Buyer Beware
I hope this directory proves useful to you in finding vendors for your ebook conversion needs. Keep in mind that I haven’t tried to verify the information that’s been provided by the vendors, since that’s outside the scope of this project.
However, being able to compare companies side by side as far as their capabilities, prices, locations, and turnaround times should give you quite a good head start on getting your book done to your specifications.
I would be interested in any feedback you have about the Directory, ways it could be more useful to you, or things we might include in the future. For now, it’s the only listing of ebook conversion services that I know of on the internet. And that’s something that simply didn’t exist a couple of weeks ago.
So go over to the Directory site and check it out. And please let other people know about this resource. I’ll look forward to your feedback.