(written for Hauld.com)
The Cambridge University Press is the world’s oldest publishing house established in 1534 with impetus from Henry VIII. Royal encouragement from Charles I allowed the Oxford University Press to follow in 1636. Religious and academic subjects were the focus of the first books published. To this day, the Oxford English Dictionary remains a gold standard among reference materials occupying both extensive library shelves and home study nooks the world over. If you notice its conspicuous absence from some of those shelves and study nooks of late, it is only because it has gone digital. When you turn on your Kindle Fire for the first time, you will find the New Oxford American Dictionary sitting right there on your virtual library shelf.
Space and Time
If you multiply the Oxford English dictionary phenomenon by the number of publications and books that have likewise gone digital, you will begin to appreciate how much space all those books would have otherwise been occupying on your shelf or in your student knapsack. Even more remarkable is the blink-of-an-eye it takes on a computer to find a word by simply typing letters and then pressing the order to “Search.” The impact of space and time is greater for an author trying to get his/her book published.
Comparing Apples and Pineapples
How much are traditional and e-publishing (un)alike? Let us count the ways.
Steps in Traditional book publishing:
1. Write the book.
2. Approach different publishers, some of whom will only entertain solicited material which have gone through agents. Publishers have their preferred genres, various word limits, and different format guidelines. Some will ask for a synopsis and may accept soft copies but all will require a printed version.
3. Waiting time. This can take months. When your manuscript is accepted, the next steps are done by/with the publisher.
4. Negotiation. A traditional publisher often ends up being granted all or most book rights by an inexperienced author.
6. Book Cover design.
7. Marketing. This may include a reading tour, editorial writing, a round of talks and less possibly, media and advertising.
8. Distribution of physical books.
9. Visibility/exposure. Bookshop display may be limited as your book competes with those of other authors and will likely be moved aside in favor of the book whose movie version is currently showing.
Its advantages are:
• Better quality control via the publisher’s screening which considers inputs from editors and marketers who have a professional feel for what a potential bestseller reads like;
• Possible advance payment for authors against their royalties;
• Exposure to the mainstream book market utilizing the author’s presence as well as the physical book for media interviews, book signings, and awards.
There are lesser steps in e-publishing. Steps 2, 3 and 8 above are eliminated. Steps 5 through 9 are simplified with the author given more control as well as stronger negotiation leeway in step 4.
E-publishing steps are as follow:
a. Write the book and thoroughly edit the content.
b. Book cover design. You can design the cover yourself if you are artistically and technically equipped or short on budget. Many authors would, however, suggest that you spend on a professional graphic designer because cover design is crucial to getting attention online.
c. Choose the publisher. Your choice of e-publishers include Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble PubIt, Smashwords and several others.
d. Upload the book. When uploading your book, you will be asked to create a bio, supply keywords to help position your book, select options on publishing and digital rights, and set the price.
e. Negotiation. Negotiations with e-publishers are made easier because the terms are transparent.
f. Marketing your e-book works pretty much the same way as marketing other products on the internet—by creating awareness and strong online presence. Message your Facebook and Twitter followers, send notices to your full e-mail list, give copies away and then ask for reviews and for them to tweet and blog about it, write an article about it, blog on it, and get an author page on Facebook to make it easy for people to “Like” your book.
The most apparent advantages of e-book publishing are:
• It substantially shortens the publishing process;
• It simultaneously reaches more readers.
Back where It All Began
Remember the academic content first published by the pioneering Cambridge and Oxford University Presses? Well, such content is as necessary now as it was then.
E-published academic journals have these advantages:
• Readers get the option of purchasing and printing only the portions they need, allowing customization of what a reader chooses to keep.
• Less paper and ink is used and cost is lower.
• E-published medical, scientific, and technical publications accommodate multimedia and image applications which enhance the teaching and learning experience.
• Research is faster and easier with the inherent connectivity of the internet. From the magic “Search” to find a word in just one document, you can now type any group of words and Google it to find similar content related to your study on the worldwide web.
• Deeper learning of digitally-presented subject matter is achieved with interactive forums and discussions.
The e-publishing business has opened up other related businesses such as multimedia service/application providers, online/social media marketers, and aggregators like Lulu who format and provide content for sites and devices.
Substance or Fluff?
E-publishing is easy and democratic, allowing any one to get a book e-published, regardless even of age. This is NOT literary license for everyone to flood the internet with random or even “borrowed” content hastily put together and passed off as an original book. An author is expected to possess reasonably solid creative and ethical judgment on what a good read is. Individual judgment is very subjective, however. Our task as discerning readers is to put on our detection glasses and thinking caps to distinguish between fluff and well-written substance. In the meantime, you can bet your Kindle Fire that the e-publishing business will continue in full swing.