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Ten Tips About Digital Publishing

E-books are here to stay – at least until the next big development in the way we consume text comes along. Statistics gathered by the book industry, both in Australia and overseas show that there is a rapid rise in the publication of e-book titles and in the purchase of e-books. It is in writers' interests to understand the possibilities so that they can make informed decisions about whether to pursue e-publishing or not.

The e-publishing industry is changing at a rapid rate with new developments and ideas being released into cyberspace every day. And the evolution of e-books is creating exciting possibilities in terms of interactivity and the embedding of video and music in the text.

TIP 1. UNDERSTAND HOW AN E-READER WORKS

E-readers allow the reader to resize the font and change the font (amongst other features) and the text will reflow on the page. Not all books are suitable for digital editions. Highly illustrated books where the relationship between the images and text are integral to understanding the content, don't work so well on e-readers. Art and photography books, where the reproduction of the images is vitally important, may also be compromised on e-readers.

TIP 2. KNOW YOUR FORMAT

If you want to produce an e-book, you need to have it available in two formats: PDF and EPUB.
     A PDF file is a version of your book best suited to be read on a computer screen. The reader can change the size of the page, but all the information on that page changes in proportion and is set in place. PDF ebooks have hyperlinks and bookmarks allowing navigation through the document.
     EPUB is the official standard of the International Digital Publishing Forum. It is the format used on e-readers put out by the main players such as Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble (Nook) and Kobo, as well as on android devices.
     The exception is Amazon; the Kindle e-reader requires a format called MOBI. However, there is free software readily available that converts from EPUB to MOBI, so if you have a book prepared in EPUB, it can be easily converted to MOBI for upload to Amazon.

TIP 3. TREAT YOUR TEXT WITH RESPECT

To have the best possible chance of success with your e-book you should take the time necessary to develop the manuscript to a publishable standard. This may involve having your manuscript professionally assessed. It is also important to have your text professionally edited. Copyediting (checking for grammar, punctuation, spelling etc.) and proofreading (checking of typographical and layout errors) are costs that you just can't get around when considering the digital publishing model.

TIP 4. LAYOUT AND DESIGN DO MATTER

There are specific design considerations for an e-book. Images need to be placed in a certain way to ensure they appear in the right places when viewed on screens of variable sizes, and it is important that style sheets are set up properly. Conversions to EPUB need to be verified before being accepted by online distributors and retailers. Using industry standard software (such as InDesign), professional book designers are able to set up files that can be used for PDF and EPUB versions, as well as print versions.

TIP 5. JUDGING BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS

Let's face it, we all do it. If you want to attract people to your e-book with a stunning cover, consider employing a professional graphic designer, preferably one experienced in book cover design. Remember that your cover needs to look terrific, preferably with a readable title, when reduced to the size of a postage stamp!

TIP 6. DISTRIBUTE YOUR E-BOOK AS WIDELY AS POSSIBLE

There are many ways of selling an e-book, for example through your own website, through social media networks and through online book stores. As with print books, you can do set up accounts with individual stores, or you can go with online distributors, such as BookBaby or Smashwords. There are a few around and it is worth searching discussion groups and forums to get an idea of how well they work in terms of getting the books to the promised outlets and paying royalties. Be aware of tax implications if your distributor is based in another country. Always read the fine print!

TIP 7. PROTECTING YOUR COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a method of controlling access to copyrighted material. DRM is applied by the retailer/website and most of the big players have their own versions. Whilst it sounds like a good idea, some argue that having DRM protection on your work reduces sales as it limits the way the book can be used and is unpopular with e-book buyers. Again, check out online forums before making a decision about DRM.

TIP 8. IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE MARKETING

Your book may be brilliant, the cover eye-catching, but it's not going to sell itself, even online. You need to promote, publicise and plug your book any and very way possible. This is an ongoing task. Get a website, set up a blog, give seminars in your field, get reviewed, go on radio, write articles for the local press, gather testimonials that will help attract the attention of major media, join online writing communities and make as many online connections as you can. Create your own networks, exploit your niche, be creative. There are a lot of possibilities and a lot of ways of doing promotion, and a lot of work to do it well.

TIP 9. INFORM YOURSELF

Do your research well. There are many organisations and online communities that explore issues related to ebooks. The Australian Society of Authors has several fact sheets about digital publishing (www.asauthors.org ) and the Australia Council covers many issues facing writers in their guide to making a digital living (www.australiacouncil.gov.au/writersguide/ ). Check out potential e-book services carefully and read all the fine print before committing to an agreement.

TIP 10. ENJOY THE JOURNEY

Digital publishing offers exciting possibilities and challenges to authors. If you want to embrace the future and have the necessary time, money and commitment, go for it! Study the map well before embarking on the journey and be prepared to navigate a constantly changing landscape.