Become E-Book author

Bookworm

“E-Book” is short for Electronic Book—an organized set of content delivered in an electronic format. There are many different types of e-books including packaged executables, PDF, and formats for the handheld computer.

As with so many of the original e-books, your e-book doesn’t have to be about Making Money or Internet Marketing—people are interested in many other things. What makes an e-book valuable to a wide audience is that it provides information that people cannot easily find elsewhere.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of writing numerous printed books and working on several electronic publications. From what I’ve seen, the e-book medium supports the greatest creative flexibility. Images can come alive, you can provide interactive forms and content, the user can access remote databases, and you can support dynamic updates whenever the content changes. There are, however, several steps involved in the process to properly develop and promote an e-book to your audience.

The Process

When developing an e-book, you have to perform several important steps to create quality content. Each step allows you to fine-tune your idea and the end-product so that readers will learn from and enjoy the content you provide.

– Brainstorm an Idea

Ideas are cheap, but good ideas take time to develop. To develop a good idea, you have to jot down as many ideas as possible, then go through the list to make sure that:

* you’re interested in the idea;

* you’re knowledgeable on the topic;

* you’re hitting the greatest, potential market;

* people will purchase the information; and

* you can market to those interested.

Once you reduce the list to a few solid choices, go back through and examine the remaining topics to determine which topics you can write, by:

* determining what you know about the topic;

* performing market research to ensure that you have a market and an angle for that market; and

* performing competitive research to find your competition’s products, successes, failures, and target markets.

While fine-tuning your product, remember that people will buy the product if it:

* solves a problem;

* improves an existing product;

* hits on a hot trend;

* creates a new niche; or

* fills a current need.

– Develop an Outline

Once you come up with the idea, you’ll have to create an outline or table of contents to develop the idea. The best way I’ve found to do this is to break the idea down into blocks of contiguous information—similar to assembling a pyramid. At the top is the IDEA with each successive level providing a more detailed sequence of points that ultimately explain the top-level IDEA.

The outline itself should be at least four levels deep so that you can understand what you’ll say for each section or chapter. Research each section and collect pertinent information so that you can develop a coherent outline and understand the depths of what it is you are writing.

– Develop the First Draft

The first draft is merely a “brain dump.” Follow your outline and write as much as possible about each section. Don’t worry about format, spelling, or grammar at this point, as you’ll focus on resolving those issues later.

– Substantive Edit

A substantive edit is a review of the manuscript where you fine-tune the content. You have to make sure that the content is complete, contains pertinent information for the topic, and provides enough relevant information to explain the topic. At this point, you can perform additional research to verify the content or enhance the information for the reader.

– Content/Technical Review

Find some experts in your manuscript’s topic area and have them review it for accuracy and readability. This type of review ensures that the information is correct and that the target audience will be able to understand the content. Many times, experts will take credit in the acknowledgements as opposed to a fee, but this is something you’ll have to work out with them.

– Second Draft

The second draft takes into account the information from your reviewers as well as changes you need to make based on your own review of the content. Once this draft is complete, take a day or two off to give your brain a break. This way, when you return to the manuscript, you’ll be fresh and able to catch any mistakes that you would’ve otherwise missed.

– Copy Edit

The copy edit allows you to check the grammar, spelling, and readability of the content. Make sure that everything is formatted appropriately and that your manuscript provides a professional presentation.

– Proof

In a publishing house, proofreaders will go through the product and check for any final production issues, wording, and problems with content. Do a pre-package of the product and send it out to a few people to have them read through the product. Ask them to check for any mistakes or errors that might have been missed.

– Packaging

Once you’ve completed the manuscript, you can package it in several different formats. The format choice depends on your target audience as well as your desired presentation. Of course, you can always have an e-publisher generate the package, but they too will use one of the formats discussed in this section.

Developed by Adobe (http://www.adobe.com), PDF is a document packaging format that is compatible across several platforms (i.e., Microsoft Windows, UNIX, Macintosh, etc.) A PDF document is viewed on the free Adobe Acrobat viewer, which is itself platform-dependent. When developing PDF documents, stay with standard writing practices involved in creating manuscripts. Adobe Distiller, which usually comes with FrameMaker, works with just about any word-processing environment (e.g., Microsoft Word, TeX, etc.) and generates a PDF of your manuscript directly from the application.

E-Book compilers take HTML files and package them into a single executable application. This format is, however, limited in its distribution as it will only run on its target platforms. For instance, one of the better compilers, Activ E-Book (http://www.ebookcompiler.com), is targeted to run on Microsoft Windows platforms. You will need a compiler that supports all of the major facets of HTML as well as password protection, configurability, and branding. Branding allows you to create e-books branded with your affiliates’ or distributors’ names. Note that the vendors for some of the more expensive compilers will not only charge for the compiler, but also charge royalties for distribution rights.

Handheld e-book reader formats are very wide because of the multitude of e-book readers available on the market today. In most cases, all you have to do is generate a solid manuscript and submit it to one of the e-publishers in Microsoft Word format. They will usually package the manuscript into one or more of the different formats acceptable for the more popular e-book readers.

Copyrighting Your Work

Once you’ve created your e-book, the last thing you want is for someone to illegally copy your work, or worse yet, claim it as their own. It’s true that there are technical means (i.e., password protection) that can make this kind of theft more difficult, but none offer total security. No matter what you do, there’s a chance that you could be a victim of this kind of theft—it could even go on for a while before you discover that it happened.

Even worse than discovering that you’re a victim, is discovering that you’re a victim with either no, or very limited, recourse. But there’s a way to make sure that it doesn’t happen to you—take steps to protect your work ahead of time. Visit the following sites for information on protecting your work as well as registering your work online:

* MediaRegister (http://www.mediaregister.com)

* Click and Copyright (http://www.clickandcopyright.com/)

* International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

If you’re serious about publishing an e-book, you’ll need to have your own ISBN number. The ISBN is a number that identifies book products published internationally. To distribute your work in books stores, online and otherwise, you have to obtain an ISBN number.

An ISBN consists of 10 digits preceded by the “ISBN” prefix. The number is divided into four parts, with each part separated by a hyphen. The number establishes and identifies one title or edition from a specific publisher and is unique to that edition. This supports a more efficient marketing scheme for products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers, and distributors.

 

History of books

bookofdrones

“The free communication of thought and opinion is one of the most precious rights of man; every citizen may therefore speak, write and print freely.”

(French National Assembly, 1789)

I. What is a Book?

UNESCO’s arbitrary and ungrounded definition of “book” is:

“”Non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 pages excluding covers”.

But a book, above all else, is a medium. It encapsulates information (of one kind or another) and conveys it across time and space. Moreover, as opposed to common opinion, it is – and has always been – a rigidly formal affair. Even the latest “innovations” are nothing but ancient wine in sparkling new bottles.

Consider the scrolling protocol. Our eyes and brains are limited readers-decoders. There is only that much that the eye can encompass and the brain interpret. Hence the need to segment data into cognitively digestible chunks. There are two forms of scrolling – lateral and vertical. The papyrus, the broadsheet newspaper, and the computer screen are three examples of the vertical scroll – from top to bottom or vice versa. The e-book, the microfilm, the vellum, and the print book are instances of the lateral scroll – from left to right (or from right to left, in the Semitic languages).

In many respects, audio books are much more revolutionary than e-books. They do not employ visual symbols (all other types of books do), or a straightforward scrolling method. E-books, on the other hand, are a throwback to the days of the papyrus. The text cannot be opened at any point in a series of connected pages and the content is carried only on one side of the (electronic) “leaf”. Parchment, by comparison, was multi-paged, easily browseable, and printed on both sides of the leaf. It led to a revolution in publishing and to the print book. All these advances are now being reversed by the e-book. Luckily, the e-book retains one innovation of the parchment – the hypertext. Early Jewish and Christian texts (as well as Roman legal scholarship) was written on parchment (and later printed) and included numerous inter-textual links. The Talmud, for example, is made of a main text (the Mishna) which hyperlinks on the same page to numerous interpretations (exegesis) offered by scholars throughout generations of Jewish learning.

Another distinguishing feature of books is portability (or mobility). Books on papyrus, vellum, paper, or PDA – are all transportable. In other words, the replication of the book’s message is achieved by passing it along and no loss is incurred thereby (i.e., there is no physical metamorphosis of the message). The book is like a perpetuum mobile. It spreads its content virally by being circulated and is not diminished or altered by it. Physically, it is eroded, of course – but it can be copied faithfully. It is permanent.

Not so the e-book or the CD-ROM. Both are dependent on devices (readers or drives, respectively). Both are technology-specific and format-specific. Changes in technology – both in hardware and in software – are liable to render many e-books unreadable. And portability is hampered by battery life, lighting conditions, or the availability of appropriate infrastructure (e.g., of electricity).

II. The Constant Content Revolution

Every generation applies the same age-old principles to new “content-containers”. Every such transmutation yields a great surge in the creation of content and its dissemination. The incunabula (the first printed books) made knowledge accessible (sometimes in the vernacular) to scholars and laymen alike and liberated books from the scriptoria and “libraries” of monasteries. The printing press technology shattered the content monopoly. In 50 years (1450-1500), the number of books in Europe surged from a few thousand to more than 9 million! And, as McLuhan has noted, it shifted the emphasis from the oral mode of content distribution (i.e., “communication”) to the visual mode.

E-books are threatening to do the same. “Book ATMs” will provide Print on Demand (POD) services to faraway places. People in remote corners of the earth will be able to select from publishing backlists and front lists comprising millions of titles. Millions of authors are now able to realize their dream to have their work published cheaply and without editorial barriers to entry. The e-book is the Internet’s prodigal son. The latter is the ideal distribution channel of the former. The monopoly of the big publishing houses on everything written – from romance to scholarly journals – is a thing of the past. In a way, it is ironic. Publishing, in its earliest forms, was a revolt against the writing (letters) monopoly of the priestly classes. It flourished in non-theocratic societies such as Rome, or China – and languished where religion reigned (such as in Sumeria, Egypt, the Islamic world, and Medieval Europe).

With e-books, content will once more become a collaborative effort, as it has been well into the Middle Ages. Authors and audience used to interact (remember Socrates) to generate knowledge, information, and narratives. Interactive e-books, multimedia, discussion lists, and collective authorship efforts restore this great tradition. Moreover, as in the not so distant past, authors are yet again the publishers and sellers of their work. The distinctions between these functions is very recent. E-books and POD partially help to restore the pre-modern state of affairs. Up until the 20th century, some books first appeared as a series of pamphlets (often published in daily papers or magazines) or were sold by subscription. Serialized e-books resort to these erstwhile marketing ploys. E-books may also help restore the balance between best-sellers and midlist authors and between fiction and textbooks. E-books are best suited to cater to niche markets, hitherto neglected by all major publishers.

III. Literature for the Millions

E-books are the quintessential “literature for the millions”. They are cheaper than even paperbacks. John Bell (competing with Dr. Johnson) published “The Poets of Great Britain” in 1777-83. Each of the 109 volumes cost six shillings (compared to the usual guinea or more). The Railway Library of novels (1,300 volumes) costs 1 shilling apiece only eight decades later. The price continued to dive throughout the next century and a half. E-books and POD are likely to do unto paperbacks what these reprints did to originals. Some reprint libraries specialized in public domain works, very much like the bulk of e-book offering nowadays.

The plunge in book prices, the lowering of barriers to entry due to new technologies and plentiful credit, the proliferation of publishers, and the cutthroat competition among booksellers was such that price regulation (cartel) had to be introduced. Net publisher prices, trade discounts, list prices were all anti-competitive inventions of the 19th century, mainly in Europe. They were accompanied by the rise of trade associations, publishers organizations, literary agents, author contracts, royalties agreements, mass marketing, and standardized copyrights.

The sale of print books over the Internet can be conceptualized as the continuation of mail order catalogues by virtual means. But e-books are different. They are detrimental to all these cosy arrangements. Legally, an e-book may not be considered to constitute a “book” at all. Existing contracts between authors and publishers may not cover e-books. The serious price competition they offer to more traditional forms of publishing may end up pushing the whole industry to re-define itself. Rights may have to be re-assigned, revenues re-distributed, contractual relationships re-thought. Moreover, e-books have hitherto been to print books what paperbacks are to hardcovers – re-formatted renditions. But more and more authors are publishing their books primarily or exclusively as e-books. E-books thus threaten hardcovers and paperbacks alike. They are not merely a new format. They are a new mode of publishing.

What is a book?

BookManager256x256

Every technological innovation was bitterly resisted by Luddite printers and publishers: stereotyping, the iron press, the application of steam power, mechanical typecasting and typesetting, new methods of reproducing illustrations, cloth bindings, machine-made paper, ready-bound books, paperbacks, book clubs, and book tokens. Without exception, they relented and adopted the new technologies to their considerable commercial advantage. It is no surprise, therefore, that publishers were hesitant to adopt the Internet, POD, and e-publishing technologies. The surprise lies in the relative haste with which they came to adopt it, egged on by authors and booksellers.

IV. Intellectual Pirates and Intellectual Property

Despite the technological breakthroughs that coalesced to form the modern printing press – printed books in the 17th and 18th centuries were derided by their contemporaries as inferior to their laboriously hand-made antecedents and to the incunabula. One is reminded of the current complaints about the new media (Internet, e-books), its shoddy workmanship, shabby appearance, and the rampant piracy. The first decades following the invention of the printing press, were, as the Encyclopedia Britannica puts it “a restless, highly competitive free for all … (with) enormous vitality and variety (often leading to) careless work”.

There were egregious acts of piracy – for instance, the illicit copying of the Aldine Latin “pocket books”, or the all-pervasive piracy in England in the 17th century (a direct result of over-regulation and coercive copyright monopolies). Shakespeare’s work was published by notorious pirates and infringers of emerging intellectual property rights. Later, the American colonies became the world’s centre of industrialized and systematic book piracy. Confronted with abundant and cheap pirated foreign books, local authors resorted to freelancing in magazines and lecture tours in a vain effort to make ends meet.

Pirates and unlicenced – and, therefore, subversive – publishers were prosecuted under a variety of monopoly and libel laws (and, later, under national security and obscenity laws). There was little or no difference between royal and “democratic” governments. They all acted ruthlessly to preserve their control of publishing. John Milton wrote his passionate plea against censorship, Areopagitica, in response to the 1643 licencing ordinance passed by Parliament. The revolutionary Copyright Act of 1709 in England established the rights of authors and publishers to reap the commercial fruits of their endeavours exclusively, though only for a prescribed period of time.

V. As Readership Expanded

The battle between industrial-commercial publishers (fortified by ever more potent technologies) and the arts and craftsmanship crowd never ceased and it is raging now as fiercely as ever in numerous discussion lists, fora, tomes, and conferences. William Morris started the “private press” movement in England in the 19th century to counter what he regarded as the callous commercialization of book publishing. When the printing press was invented, it was put to commercial use by private entrepreneurs (traders) of the day. Established “publishers” (monasteries), with a few exceptions (e.g., in Augsburg, Germany and in Subiaco, Italy) shunned it and regarded it as a major threat to culture and civilization. Their attacks on printing read like the litanies against self-publishing or corporate-controlled publishing today.

But, as readership expanded (women and the poor became increasingly literate), market forces reacted. The number of publishers multiplied relentlessly. At the beginning of the 19th century, innovative lithographic and offset processes allowed publishers in the West to add illustrations (at first, black and white and then in color), tables, detailed maps and anatomical charts, and other graphics to their books. Battles fought between publishers-librarians over formats (book sizes) and fonts (Gothic versus Roman) were ultimately decided by consumer preferences. Multimedia was born. The e-book will, probably, undergo a similar transition from being the static digital rendition of a print edition – to being a lively, colorful, interactive and commercially enabled creature.

The commercial lending library and, later, the free library were two additional reactions to increasing demand. As early as the 18th century, publishers and booksellers expressed the fear that libraries will cannibalize their trade. Two centuries of accumulated experience demonstrate that the opposite has happened. Libraries have enhanced book sales and have become a major market in their own right.

VI. The State of Subversion

Publishing has always been a social pursuit and depended heavily on social developments, such as the spread of literacy and the liberation of minorities (especially, of women). As every new format matures, it is subjected to regulation from within and from without. E-books (and, by extension, digital content on the Web) will be no exception. Hence the recurrent and current attempts at regulation.

Every new variant of content packaging was labeled as “dangerous” at its inception. The Church (formerly the largest publisher of bibles and other religious and “earthly” texts and the upholder and protector of reading in the Dark Ages) castigated and censored the printing of “heretical” books (especially the vernacular bibles of the Reformation) and restored the Inquisition for the specific purpose of controlling book publishing. In 1559, it published the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (“Index of Prohibited Books”). A few (mainly Dutch) publishers even went to the stake (a habit worth reviving, some current authors would say…). European rulers issued proclamations against “naughty printed books” (of heresy and sedition). The printing of books was subject to licencing by the Privy Council in England. The very concept of copyright arose out of the forced registration of books in the register of the English Stationer’s Company (a royal instrument of influence and intrigue). Such obligatory registration granted the publisher the right to exclusively copy the registered book (often, a class of books) for a number of years – but politically restricted printable content, often by force. Freedom of the press and free speech are still distant dreams in many corners of the earth. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the V-chip and other privacy invading, dissemination inhibiting, and censorship imposing measures perpetuate a veteran if not so venerable tradition.

 

How to make a book proposal

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Taming the Book Proposal: The Basics

Oh, that most maddening of documents! For so many of us eager to move forward with our nonfiction projects, it looms large like a guard at the queen’s castle, blocking the path to publication. Its perfection eludes us yet it stands there teasing, “Complete me, or your manuscript will never see the light of day, mwahahahaha!”

In truth, that’s a lie. Every author has the option of self-publishing. However, there are advantages to writing a book proposal instead of a whole book.

One advantage is that it usually takes less time than writing a whole book. Two, it creates the possibility of getting paid to write your book, perhaps just a few thousand dollars, perhaps tens or even hundreds of thousands. Three, it forces you to get clear about what you’re doing with your book, on a number of levels.

Even if you want to self-publish, a book proposal serves as a sort of business plan for your book. The time and energy spent on research, evaluation and comparison of your ideas at the outset pays off down the line many times over. After all, wouldn’t you rather find out now that someone else has said similar things more eloquently and have a chance to amend your manuscript, than publish the darn thing only to read terrible–or worse–no reviews?

The process of polishing your book proposal is also an exercise in discipline and focus. It brings the purpose of your book, its scope, depth and message into sharp relief. It will get your thinking muscles into the best shape ever to produce the most marketable book of which you are capable. However, you must dedicate the necessary time and energy to educate yourself, move through multiple drafts and polish this behemoth of a document to perfection, or else hire someone who knows how to do just that.

Here are some answers to questions you may be asking right now:

What is a book proposal?

A book proposal is a document intended to sell a publishing staff on publishing a particular nonfiction book. It is the way most nonfiction books get published by major publishers. It reads very much like a business plan about the book proposed. It can be anywhere from 10-100 double-spaced, 12-point 8 1/2 X 11 pages–most are 20-60 pages, including sample chapters. It generally uses a very specific format and specialized language to make its case.

What does the book proposal do?

It answers a series of typical questions that different departments of book publishing companies need answered when deciding which tiny handful of proposals, out of hundreds, to take a chance on. It acts on your and your book’s behalf to answer questions like, Why this book over all the others in its class? Why now? Why this author?

Who sees my book proposal first, an agent or a publisher?

It depends on whether you choose to have an agent represent you, or go directly to publishers. Many publishers will not accept unagented material, so make sure you check a given publisher’s guidelines first.

What does the book proposal contain?
Generally, a book proposal contains a cover sheet, table of contents, along with the following sections: overview, author bio, author’s marketing plan, market analysis of buyers, comparative and/or competing books, outline, sample chapters.

The overview contains a hook, or means of enticement, draws the editor in, and gives a general summary of the book’s purpose. It’s sort of like an article about the book. It should make you want to read the whole thing!

The author bio puts any and all of your experience related to writing the book, in its best light. It’s different from a resume or CV. It looks a lot like the “about the author” blurbs you see in the back of published books, below the author’s photo.

The author’s marketing plan, or “what the author will do to promote the book,” shows the publisher that you know what it takes to sell your book, and details how you plan to do it. These days, ironically, publishers don’t put much money into publicity, unless you’re already famous. An author with a well-thought-out marketing plan will stand out from most of the others who pay far less attention to this section, thinking instead that the publisher will take care of it.

The complementary and competing books section identifies and describes books that both directly compete with and also that complement the proposed book. The purpose of this section is to show the editors what has been done before, and how your book fits in. The reason for this section is twofold: One, many editors are too busy to keep up-to-the-minute records of what’s being done in every field, and so rely on the author to educate them about what else is out there. Two, just as many editors know exactly what’s out there, and want to know how your work purports to compare.

There’s a paradox here: On the one hand, you want to point to X, Y and Z books as evidence that this topic you’re writing on is really hot. On the other hand, you want to make a strong case that yet another book–namely yours–is still necessary, and why. So you have to point out strongly yet tactfully–you never know what relationship the person reading your proposal bears to your competition– what yours will do that others haven’t.