My Experience with E-Pubbing My Backlist

- by Leslie Langtry

OMG!  I’m so excited to be a new member of NINC!  I’ve wanted to join this organization for a long time!  Now I get to blog here!  Woo hoo!

Sorry about that – had to get the Star Struck factor out of the way.

There’s been a LOT out there in recent weeks about epublishing.    I just recently joined the e-pubbed and it’s been an interesting experience.  Here’s why I think any author with a backlist should do this.

Bear in mind, I used to write for Dorchester and last fall managed to secure the reversion rights to my last four books (which is actually, all of them).   A few of us former Dorchester writers decided to attempt to sell our books as e-pubs ourselves.  It’s a good thing we did it at the same time, because I have the brain power of a lobotomized jelly fish when it comes to technology.

Fortunately, my friend Jana DeLeon was going through this too.  And fortunately, Jana is a genius at this stuff.

Unfortunately, there was a big learning curve for me.  It sounds easy when you start – just throw them up on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords and the money comes rolling in!  And yes, gullible me bought into the fairy tale.

Actually, the first step really intimidated me.  I would need new covers for my books.  The publisher or graphic designer owned my covers.  I put it off for a week because I didn’t think I could do it.  Finally, after Jana told me to get off my $#!! and get it done, I decided to dip a toe in the water by just trying one book first.  I searched some stock image sites and found one.  Then I looked at my old covers and realized I could do something somewhat similar.

My publisher's cover    Cover I designed

Publisher’s Cover    Cover I Designed

Turns out, this was the easy part and I plowed through the other three covers fairly quickly.  I did pay for the rights to these images, so that I could use them exhaustively.  And I did them in Microsoft Publisher (please don’t wince – all you Photoshop experts!).

Now all I had to do was set up accounts on Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. 

This was probably the easiest thing I did.  The websites are pretty straight forward – if I could do it, a fifth grader could.

The formatting came next and that’s what took the longest time.  I actually went through my four books, using the Word file I had for them, and cleaned it up, page by page.  I’m glad I did that, but it took a long, long time – and I get bored and want to eat chocolate.  After I got them up on Amazon, I just used the same format for B&N.  No problems there.

Then came Smashwords.  I really wanted to get my books up on SW because of all the formats they support.  They even have a formatting guide to help.  Only problem is, I’m not a whiz with Word.  Sure I can type, cut and paste and stuff, but the real nitty gritty junk was beyond me.  It took 4 hours to format my first book.  Now, I must say, that the time it took to do this got shorter with each book.  By the fourth one it took only 20 minutes.  Of course, then, I was an expert with nothing more to format.

Once it was all done (and I would be lying if I said it was done in one, or even two weekends), I could just log on every day and check my numbers.  With little to no marketing, the books started selling and sold pretty well, I thought.  The numbers continue to climb each month – a fact that astonishes me.  I’m even considering writing a couple of novellas for straight to e-release.

Of course when all was said and done, I owed Jana a lifetime of indentured servitude and had 1 – 8 cocktails.  But that’s just how it works.

So give it a shot!    I highly recommend it.

8 comments

  1. Epubs are actually zip files with xhtml text and a couple other files (css stylesheets, metadata), so it will convert better if you save it as an html file than it will if you save it as a word file. Also, the program calibre is pretty awesome for converting between ebook formats.

  2. No servitude required…but I’ll take one of those cocktails. :)

  3. Thanks for the tip.

    Jana – one or two?

  4. Welcome to independent epublishing, Leslie! I hacked my way through the same learning curve — including doing homemade covers with MS-Publisher! :) This is an exciting time for authors to be able to revive your own backlist and even publish new works at will. Glad it is working well for you and here is to your continued success!

  5. Thanks Dan! It really is an exciting time now!

  6. It’s fun epublishing OOP books, though, isn’t it? I was lucky that my husband took over the cover design and the formatting. Very lucky. I am no techno-whiz.

    Hope your books sell well.

  7. Leslie, thanks so much for the helpful post! I’m contemplating taking the e-book plunge myself so I was very interested in reading about your experience. You make it sound less intimidating than I expected, although I can tell the process is time-consuming. Glad to know the sales make it worthwhile!

  8. Congratulations, Leslie. I actually like your cover better than the publisher’s. I suspect more and more authors will take this plunge, and the readers benefit because books will no longer “go out of print”.