"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Monday, September 3, 2012

From Paper to Digital

by Linda Sandifer

With the ease and popularity of e-books, many authors have considered selling their books in the digital format. And many published authors who own the rights to their backlist want to make those books available to new readers on Kindle and Nook. If you’re one of these authors but feel challenged by the technological aspects of e-publishing, don’t feel bad, you’re not alone, but getting your book into digital format doesn’t need to be a nightmare.

Here are a few things you might like to know to help you get started:

1. Book Rights

If you’re working on your backlist, make sure you have all rights to your book. Your original contract will state when the rights can be reverted to you. Have your agent send letters to your publisher(s) requesting, in writing, a reversion of all rights to you. If your book has never been published before by any publisher, and you’re the sole author of the book, then you own the rights.

2. Editing

If you have a new book, which hasn’t had the luxury of having been edited by an agent and/or editor, then make sure it gets a good edit by someone who knows their stuff. You might have to hire a professional if punctuation and grammar aren’t one of your strengths. If you need content editing as well as line editing, it could get pricey, but it might be worth it. No matter how good your story is, disjointed content and editorial errors will distract a reader and destroy the credibility of the story as well as your reputation as a writer.

3. Document Conversion

There are people and companies online who will do everything for you: editing, document conversion, and cover design. But it all comes for a price, which can sometimes be hefty. You should shop around and compare. And no matter how professional their web sites appear, make sure you see their finished products, even if you have to purchase and download one or two to your own Kindle or Nook reader. Get recommendations from other writers if at all possible. You might discover there are writers who can successfully use both sides of their brains and they might be able to do this left-side stuff for you without breaking the bank. I actually know writers who fall into this category (!) and I admire them greatly.

Still thinking of tackling it yourself? First, look at the Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites and read everything they have written about getting your book into the Kindle and Nook formats. If you understand what they’re saying about conversion and cover specs, then go for it. If it’s all gobbledygook, turn to a professional.

If your book is from a backlist, such as mine, it could have been published years ago and might be stuck in the back of your closet on some old 3" floppy disks. If you haven’t transferred your manuscripts from your old computers to your new computers and into new versions of Word or Word Perfect, then you might have a challenge ahead when you discover your new computer doesn’t even have a drive for 3" floppy disks. You might have to take those floppies to a computer place and have them help you with the upgrade. And don’t assume the last version you have is the final edit done by your publisher. It takes some time, but I always check the published book to my file to make sure it contains all the final changes.

4. Book Covers

If you decide to tackle your backlist, it’s unlikely you have the rights to the cover on your original book. You can check with your publisher, but you’ll more than likely have to design a new cover for the e-book.

Look at other books in your genre and get an idea of what’s popular today and what you like. You might be able to rough out your own design and then give this idea to a professional to finish with the right specs for uploading. If you know how to use Photoshop and have an eye for design--or want something similar to a cover that has been professionally designed--you could save some money and do it yourself. The most important thing is to keep it simple and uncluttered.

The hard part is finding the right image or images to use. Again, you have to make sure you have the rights to the image you use, or you have a license to use them. If you want artwork, that could get very expensive, unless along with your talents you’re also an artist. You might opt to take your own photography, but it had better be good, and, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll need to know Photoshop.

If you opt for photography but don’t have your own, you can buy stock photography through such places as istock photo, 123rf, Getty Images, and Dreamstime, just to name a few. Read their contracts well. They offer several licensing agreements based on what you will be using their images for.

5. Product Description

This is your book blurb and it’s what customers will read first on the Kindle and Nook sites. Like a query letter or a synopsis you send to an agent, this is what sells your book so work long and hard on it.

6. Author Bio

You should make up a brief author bio to be placed at the end of your e-book after the content. Amazon encourages you to have an Author Page on their site. This is an opportunity you should take advantage of along with some of the other promotional ideas they have for authors.

7. Reviews

For those of you with a backlist, you can use your reviews from the original publication. Otherwise, you’ll need to search online for places where you might be able to send your new book for review. I would shy away from places that want money to review. I also look at the review sites and see how they’ve reviewed other books. If they are consistently nasty or snarky, for example, then I’d pass them up and find a site that handles their reviews in a professional manner.

You might see if you can get an endorsement from a few published authors who might belong to your writer’s organizations. Most are happy to help you out if they have time. Remember, once your book is out there anybody can review it on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites and people can be mean so be prepared if not everyone thinks your book is wonderful.

8. Promotion

In today’s internet world, promotion has a new face. Everyone is writing a book, it seems, and competition is fierce so you have to search all avenues and even create some of your own. The social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are good places to let people know about your book. Many will repost your release to their friends, which is a good way to reach thousands, perhaps millions, of people.

Look into all the internet avenues and be creative. Check out all the sites where you might be able to list your book. Have friends and other authors you know put up reviews on places like Goodreads. And make sure you have a website. Blogs are, perhaps, going out of vogue as people prefer the short snippets of Twitter and Facebook, but sometimes readers and fellow writers want to know a bit more about you. That’s when they’ll appreciate a website and interesting blog posts. You might also want to do a book trailer and post it to You-Tube, your website, and your blogspot.

The best way to sell your book is to have people read it, love it, and spread the word.


Amazon and Barnes & Noble make this easy for you. They will provide you with an ISBN for your e-book. I might add that Amazon and Barnes & Noble charge you nothing for publishing your book to their e-book stores. They get their cut from the sales.

10. Pricing

Read thoroughly the Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites to learn how they handle their pricing for the United States as well as Worldwide. See what other e-books are selling for then set your price accordingly. One nice thing about the Kindle and Nook stores, you can change the pricing of your book as often as you like. If you want to put your book on sale for a period of time, you can do so and then change it back to the original price when you’re ready.

All in all, setting up an account with Amazon and Barnes & Noble is quite easy and self explanatory but I’ve had help from many talented people to get my books uploaded to the Kindle and Nook stores. If you can’t figure something out yourself, chances are your children, grandchildren, husbands, co-workers, and fellow writers will know how to make book trailers, covers, and even do book conversion. About the only thing you have to do completely by yourself is write the book!


  1. Linda, this post is great! It sounds a lot easier the way you have the steps spelled out. You've done a wondrful job with your books. I'm hesidant because I don't have a finished copy (except the book) of all the trimming I had to do for word count.


  2. Good advice, Linda. This is a good blog. I'm going to save it just in case I get brave sometime in the future and want to epublish.


  3. Excellent post, Linda. Lots of good stuff here. Unfortunately, I'm such a computer illiterate--dummy,actually--that I don't have the fogiest notion of even where to start with such a project. So I guess I'm going to have to shell out the bucks and buy the services you talk about. I can get all that done through Wheatmark
    here in Tucson, as well as get my book published in print form.


  4. Bill, you should look into having Wheatmark bring it out as an e-book. I'm surprised they haven't already!

    Linda S.

  5. Linda - Great post, very informative and has helped to nudge me closer to the point of giving it a try. Another dozen or so rejections will probably push me over the edge. Keep up the good work.


  6. Linda:

    Actually, Wheatmark will bring it out as an ebook as well as in print form. Both are included in the same package.