Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Dyfed's Adventures in Publishing

My name is Dyfed Lloyd Evans and during my career I have been a physicist, structural biologist, computational biologist, informatician and webmaster.

Over the past eight years, as well as my normal daytime job I have been running my website, Celtnet which has sections on Celtic texts and legends, recipes (indeed the Celtnet Recipes section is the largest), historic cookery books and articles (the Celtnet Articles section is the next biggest on the site). Over the years I have created lots of content.

During this time I have been converting historic recipe books and Celtic manuscripts into digital forms. Basically, I have lots and lots of content.

About a year ago I showed this to a friend and he asked me why I had not published any of it yet. Which got me thinking... why hadn't I? I had a couple of novels I'd written a few years back, lots of poetry and thousands of recipes and recipe-associated items.

But how do you begin with getting published? I really didn't have a clue, so like a good researcher I hit the books and the websites. I learnt about agents, publishers, book proposals and the phenomenon that was starting to take-off in 2011, the eBook.

What first took my notice was Amazon's kindle eBook reader. After buying a machine for myself and signing up to the program I decided to work on my first book. eBooks basically use a cut-down version of HTML as their back end and you can create eBooks in HTML directly (this is the language on which the internet runs). Or you can use an eBook creator. At the same time, Amazon made their first plugin for Adobe InDesign available. Now, I am familiar with InDesign and have a copy, so it was easy to add the kindle publisher plugin and to use it to export the book's text in kindle-compatible format.

I'd already written a few eBooks for my website using InDesign, so it was easy to adopt what I knew already to produce kindle eBooks. So I started on my first eBook, the Guide to Spices and their Uses (you can find the Guide to Spices and Their Uses on Amazon and you can also find the Guide to Spices and Their Uses on Amazon.co.uk).

What it then needed was a cover, so I took a photograph of a pestle and mortar I had with some spices, photoshopped that to add text and author name then exported to JPG in the format Amazon recommended. I now had the book's text and the picture. What I did not have was the table of contents and index. Now that took almost as long to create as the main text of the book.

Finally I had everything, uploaded the files onto the Amazon Website and I was published! The book ame out on the 19th of November, 2011. I immediately moved on to my next book... which was m first mistake... I should have been doing my marketing and making the links for my book available. But I didn't have a clue.

It's now almost 10 months on and I have come back to the spices eBook. Amazon have improved their eBook plugin for InDesign considerably. And I had a few problems with the original eBook, so I went over the whole thing again, added some more contents (there are now 88 spices described with almost 800 recipes given).

Yesterday I uploaded the new version of the eBook (second edition) and, as you can see from the link on the left here it's available for sale again. Bigger, better and considerably improved.

A complete guide to a whole range of spices (both common and not so common) from all corners of the globe, including recipes that demonstrate how the spice is used to best effect. The book also has chapters on classic spice blends from across the globe as well as a chapter on curries (both restaurant style and traditional).

OK, that's the marketing section done, but it is my eBook and I have to get it known! But joking aside, like I said, marketing is a big part of actually making money from your eBooks.

Why start with kindle eBooks? You will probably not make as much money from eBooks as you will from physical books (you definitely do not get an advance and you have to do all the marketing yourself). However, everything you learn from eBook publishing can be immediately applied to the publishing of any book.

And that is the real point...

I used the kindle eBook as a learning exercise and I am new to this business and still learning. One thing I did learn is that it takes real effort. The writing is OK, I am comfortable with that, but the marketing is alien to me and I was so focussed on writing new books that I totally ignored it.

Still, realization had to dawn eventually... and because I have my own website, I decided to leverage that. I asked a friend to review the book for my site (you can read the review of Guide to Spices and their Uses for yourselves).  I also used the code that I use above (it's quite a cool iFrame that calls a script on my website that then delivers the Amazon ad for the eBook and the cool thing is that the ad is geo-specific so that UK visitors see the British version and everyone else sees the US version of the ad.

This was placed all over the website and associated with my website's spice guide and recipe pates. The advertising portion of marketing was underway.

This encouraged me to redouble my efforts, so I created my author page on Amazon, added a bio and all my books to it (I will take you through this in the next post). Things were going well, so I also began writing book proposals for physical publishers as well and went back to my old novels.

The work is in progress, but it will all be shared with you so that you can learn from my mistakes and my successes in your own publishing efforts.

It is hard work and it is a real job, but it is also very rewarding.

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