Welcome Nina. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us about your companies. (NINC blog special! Nina is offering an eBook Prep all-inclusive package to a random commenter)

Hi Dara!  Thank you for inviting me to the Novelist, Inc. Blog.  I am honored, (and a little nervous), to be here. Being a raving fan-girl of so many of the Novelist Inc. members, it’s (more than) a mite disconcerting to have the attention now pointed this way. (But I'm planning to survive.)

In your bio you mentioned a disabling accident in 2010 which caused you to rewrite your life and form eBook Prep. Could you expand on this?

Happy to.  In January 2010, I tripped over a dog toy (the family and I are volunteer puppy raisers for The Seeing Eye), fell down the steps and landed in the emergency room with a badly (I still shiver with the memory of it) broken ankle.  Two surgeries, 128 days in a wheelchair, 4 months of physical therapy (and a total of 12 months) later, I was left with a permanent limp; the limitations of which ended my HR career as a corporate trainer.

I’d never felt more emotionally lost, or more unable to see (or believe in) the future.

While I was trying to figure out how to make something of the bag of lemons I was holding, Mary Jo Putney asked me if I’d be interested in turning The Burning Point, the first novel in her contemporary series (and one of my favs), into an eBook.  Of course, I said yes.  How hard could it be?

One HUGE learning curve and a month later, eBook Prep was born in March, 2011.  ePublishing Works! quickly followed.  (Who knew so many of the eBook resellers out there weren't open to individual authors?)

To date, we (and I'm saying we now because there’s more than just me working at eBook Prep and ePW) have created nearly 150 eBooks and the ePublishing Works! catalog is over 100 titles strong.

Not bad for five months.

What are some of the questions authors should ask when selecting a company like eBook Prep (eBP)?

Hmmm  A Top-10 list.  What a great idea.

#10. Do I need a quality copy of the title I want to convert to eBook?

Yes.  Wrinkled, torn, yellowed, water-damaged, marked/highlighted copies scan poorly and produce a high-error rate. Clean, smooth pages are important.

Print quality is equally important.  Here’s a good way to check the print quality of a book.  Grab the book’s spine with your left hand and turn the long edge of the book toward you.  Now, place your right thumb against the pages and fan them.  If the lines of text whizzing past occasionally fade then go bold or waggle left and right like a dog with a crooked hind leg, select another copy; preferably one from a different print run if at all possible.

#9. Will I have the opportunity to update my story before it becomes an ebook?


#8. Should I take the time to update my story?

That depends.

Voice: Has your Voice changed significantly, such that your current readership wouldn't ever believe you wrote that earlier piece?  If the honest answer is 'yes', it’s a good idea to invest some time; perhaps reworking that purple prose, taming those floating orbs and occasional rods of steal.  The last thing you want is your current readership rolling their eyes. (unless they're supposed to roll their eyes)

Setting: Here’s a good rule of thumb.  If your book suddenly became a made-for-TV movie, would it be okay that your heroine loved her big hair and your hero’s cell phone was the size of a brick?  (I'll leave the answers to you.)

#7. What will updating my story get me?

Sales!  The top-selling ePublishing Works! titles are all part of ePW’s Special Author’s Cut Edition imprint.

Readers really like those freshened up “older” stories.

#6. Do I have any input on the cover?

Of course you do! It's your cover, after all.

#5. Are “hot”/clinch covers in?  Mmmm... yes (and no).

Now that eReader-toting readers no longer need worry about being judged by the cover of the book they’re reading while munching in the lunch room or waiting with the soccer-moms, covers are getting hotter.  Let’s face it, ladies (and gentleman), most of us do like looking at the beautiful and well-made. We just don’t like other people knowing we like looking at the beautiful and well-made.

On the other hand, if your readership is (as one of my clients recently put it) “more of the mid-western type,” heat may get you hosed off those particular eBook shelves.

Bottom line: know your readership.  (more on that later)

#4. Do you charge for cover art?

Yes, if you want a certain piece of art that we don’t have. No, if we have it or something similar (that you approve of), in stock.

#3. Do you re-use cover art?

Not if a client paid for the art.  But, if the piece was pulled from our stock, free-of-charge, we will reuse it on another cover after we’ve mirrored, crop and/or shaded the piece to obtain a different look.

#2. When you send me the .doc file of my book, to make edits if I want to, will the text have errors in it?

Probably.  No scan job is perfect.

However, there’s a reason why we employ the best scanning equipment and OCR software in the industry, and have learned how to get the best possible scan out of it for our clients who like our scan-to-editable .doc service – it’s because we use the system, too.

Then, for our All-Inclusive clients (those who want us to turn their print books into “e”), we put the resulting .doc through a 150-point error check followed by a word-by-word read of the first 30 pages.  If the word-by-word read reveals two errors or less (and it’s usually less), we send the file to you for story changes, any additional corrections, and approval.

But, if you have no plans for story changes or don’t have time to read through the .doc, looking for possible errors, eBook Prep now has two high-quality readers on staff to do a word-by-word read and check against the original copy.

And finally, the #1 question (I'm asked most often)… How soon can you have my eBooks ready?

That depends partly on you (how much time passes between us sending you the .doc and you returning it, approved) and partly on eBook Prep’s production schedule.  As of this writing, we’re running 20 business days out from the time the book is received at our offices and the .doc is sent to you.

Then, (if it’s a multi-book project) you can expect the next .doc 15-20 business days later.

When the .doc is returned approved, we can put your eBook (in the .mobi and .epub formats) in your hands about 10 business days later.

What are three misconceptions people tend to have regarding eBook Prep?

Great question Dara!  Let’s see…

1. That we only work with previously in-print works.  So not true.  That ms you've been keeping under-the-bed could be your next best-seller, especially if you have readers clamoring for more new stuff sooner.  (yes, we can start with typed pages as long as there’s little to no marking)

2. That eBook Prep only does fiction .  Nope.  We just completed Law Made Fun Through Harry Potter's Adventures by Karen Morris, Esq. & Bradley S. Carroll, Esq.  (a very fun way to learn basic Law) and we have two more non-fiction titles in production.

3. The eBooks we make work on Smashwords.  Nope, they don’t.  Smashwords does not accept .epub files created by “other people’s software.” (ours or anybody else’s)  If you want to smash-your-words, get yourself an editable .doc of your book (eBP has a scan-to-editable .doc service), download Smashwords’s style sheet, study it inside-and-out, then prep the document accordingly.

Your sister company ePublishing Works!(ePW) was founded by you and two successful authors. Can you tell us more about this?

Sure! It's all Laura Resnick’s fault.  🙂  One night, while Laura and I were on the phone together (Laura was very instrumental in helping me through the how-to-make-an-eBook learning curve), she started talking about DRM.  Then she sent me a preview of her article on the topic (which eventually appeared in NINC's May 2011 issue).  I was so incensed that authors, who wanted to see their eBooks listed with the higher-end eRetailers, were forced to either give up digital protection, or do something crazy like buying $125 ISBNs and starting their own corporations.

I began looking for a way to give them the choice.

Not long after, and with the help of an investing silent partner (who is also an NYT bestselling author) ePublishing Works! was born.

A number of distribution sites for eBooks are popping up and presently the most popular is Smashwords.  Aside from catering exclusively to previously print-published authors are there any other differences you’d like to emphasize?

First, let me say that Smashwords plays an important roll in the ePublishing world.  Smashwords continues to give exposure to many writers who would have been (or have been) spurned by traditional publishing.  I expect SW's contribution to continue and their catalog to grow.

But a print-published author's needs are different from un-pubbed author, which is why I built some major differences into ePW.

DRM (Digital Rights Management):  ePW gives their author-members the choice: to choose or not choose DRM protection for their titles.  I believe DRM is the right choice.   A print-published author's work is valuable (and popular) and thus more-subject-to thievery.  I also believe authors should have the right to choose for themselves.

Reviews: ePW actively seeks reviews for the titles in our catalog.  Here's the latest one.

Promotion: Come early-September (if not sooner) the ePublishing Works! for Reader's blog (linked to Facebook and Twitter) will go live.  We'll conduct interviews with our authors, do other giveaways and have contests.  Our first ePW-R giveaway will be an Amazon Kindle.  ePW has also brought onboard a graduate of The Seattle Film School who is working on some killer book trailers for the site.

Will ePW eventually feature a storefront for readers to buy directly?

Yes. Once we connect with the right DRM provider, all our author-members will be able to direct their readers to ePublishing Works! for Readers, where it is our plan to provide a higher author-share of royalties.

Are there any misconceptions new clients have about ePW?

I've seen a number of different ones.  The two most important are on Rights and Sales.

Rights: ePW asks for NON-exclusive world-wide digital rights in English, only.  That means if you want to POD your book or eBook-it in a foreign language, you can.  If another site like Amazon pops up and you want to list your title there, in English, yourself, you can.  The only thing you can't do is list the version of your eBook that's encoded with ePW's ISBN because (as with all ISBNs) the ISBN is the property of the publisher.

Sales: Contrary to popular belief, not all eRetailers sport hour-by-hour sales dashboards like Amazon and B&N.  The rest (where ePW mostly lists) provide data the old fashioned way: monthly, or in most cases, at the end of the quarter for the previous quarter.

As an author and entrepreneur what are your thoughts on the best way an author can survive and thrive in this quickly changing publishing industry?

Great question!  Read John Locke's book.  You may not like him (I find him creepy).  You may find him manipulative (like I do). You may even question his sales figures. (I could prove you right).  But Locke's system (based on the tried-and-true axiom of “know your buyer”) is a good one.

Selling anything is hard.  Selling an eBook is getting harder; there are over 2 million of them out there.  The secret (or at least part of the secret) is packing a quality read inside a well-formatted eBook that looks good on every eReader device, every app and every eReader software program. (more on that at the NINC 2011 conference

Anything else you’d like to share?


No matter how you choose to create and distribute your eBooks, please don't fall for selling your full-length works for $.99 on Amazon.  Here's why.

Amazon charges a delivery fee ($.15/mb) against royalties.  The average fee for a 90K word book is about $.09, give or take a penny.  This means on a $.99 sale, you'll make about $.26, not the $.35 Locke reported in his book.  Of course, given Lock's sales, (and assuming all 1 mill copies were sold by Amazon) his cut of the royalties still comes out to a cool $256,700.  Not bad for 5 months.

Then again, Amazon made $733,500 off of him in the same 5 months. (assuming all 1-mill copies were sold by Amazon).

Now, if John had priced his titles at $2.99 (which would have put him in Amazon's 70% royalty category) and sold only 1/2 as many (500,000) copies… he may or may not have become the first best-selling self-pubbed author in 5 months, but his total royalties would have been $1,001,500 (yup, just over 1 million dollars) in the same five months.  Amazon would have made $493,500 -- about 67% less.

What’s one final thing you wished our audience knew about either eBP or ePW?

eBook Prep and ePublishing Works! are here for you, and because of you.  Without you, we would not exist.  Which makes our mission a simple one: we handle the details so you can do what you do best – write the great stories that we love.

Give away: One All-Inclusive Package w/Advance cover upgrade (a $265 value) to a a random commenter--so speak up!

Posted by Dara Girard

Filed as: Industry Guests, eBook Prep, ePublishing Works!, John Locke, Laura Resnick, Mary Jo Putney, Nina Paules, smashwords