Eating Our Own Dog Food
August 20, 2013 | 12:45 pm
By Laura Dawson
In computer software engineering, “dogfooding” means using your own product. At Bowker, we’ve been doing that ourselves — I’m the product manager for SelfPublishedAuthor.com, and I’m using our services to publish a short story cycle called “The Place Where I Come From.” The reason for this is because we really want to understand what indie publishers and self-published authors are going through, and make sure that the tools we offer are actually helpful.
ISBNs and Metadata
I’ve been a big believer in the value of ISBNs since long before I came to Bowker. So I have a lot of them — many more than this project actually requires — because I’m pretty sure I’m going to have multiple uses for them.
After obtaining them, I went to MyIdentifiers and set up the titles. I assigned an ISBN to the e-book, and assigned another to the eventual paperback. (You can start using ISBNs well in advance of publication.) I also assigned an ISBN to each chapter of the book, because I wanted to sell those individually (as well as the collection as a whole).
I filled out the data entry forms on MyIdentifiers for each product I’m selling. I decided to price the e-book at $3.99. This was the minimum price to receive a 70 percent royalty at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The individual stories are priced at $0.99, because that just seemed reasonable.
I am not a designer; I am a writer. It’s a rare day when I can create a design that’s meaningful. So I outsourced the cover design to Vook. Adam Schnapper managed the project for me, and the result was a really great design — a soybean field, a big sky, and the title very simply overlaid on it in white. The cost was incredibly reasonable: $199. You can see it here.
I had to do things somewhat differently for Amazon. Because I’m selling the individual stories as well, they each needed a different cover — and they couldn’t be too different from the cover of the whole book. So I used Amazon’s cover image generator with the original art. The result is similar to the Vook cover, and the separate stories are also visually related to the whole.
I wrote these stories a long time ago, before Word was even invented. The files consisted of scans (images) of printed material — a manuscript from my honors thesis, and some literary magazines. I am fortunate that I have access to Adobe Acrobat Pro through my job — I was able to convert the images to text files, copy-edit them (I’d already had them significantly edited, developmentally, by various editors at the time of original publication), and began pasting the stories into a tool I’ve used before: PressBooks.
PressBooks is great because your first five projects are free, and you get beautifully-rendered e-book conversions in mobi, EPUB, and PDF. I quickly hit “export,” gave each file a look-over, and proceeded to upload them to Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Which was a mistake.
Never copy-edit your own work. You will miss many things. Upon receiving feedback, I immediately took Guy Kawasaki’s advice: Use Word. Word’s spell check traps a lot. Once corrected, I re-loaded the content into PressBooks and hit “export,” and uploaded the files once again.
There was more feedback. Fortunately, one of those feedback sources took it upon herself to simply make the corrections as she goes, and she is receiving a huge present from me.
Big lesson learned.
Uploading the Files
The hardest part about uploading the files to both Amazon and Barnes & Noble is not the upload process itself. It’s setting yourself up as the publisher. There are lots of data entry fields to fill out, and tax information to supply, in that process — and then there are additional fields to fill out to describe your book. Both sites have guidance, but it’s tedious work. I copied and pasted my metadata from MyIdentifiers. For the individual stories, the most painful part was writing a brief description of each — but I’m glad the work is done.
Now that the books are available for sale, my job gets even harder. So far, my marketing efforts have been rather limited — Facebooking, tweeting, word of mouth. So this is my next step: creating a successful marketing plan, and implementing it. I’ll report back in a few months with what I’ve learned on that front.
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