I’m not entirely certain what was flapping inside my head when I decided to republish my Matt Jacob mystery series as digital books. I do know I wanted to continue the series without going through the song and dances that drove me out of traditional publishing sixteen years ago. A painful experience I have no inclination of repeating.
I also knew people who had been successful at re-launching their out of print books digitally. (See http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/).
But most of all I wanted to control MY work—not only its content, (the final straw with publishing that soured me on writing for almost two decades), but the entire process from cover design (see JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER) to charging what I believe is a fair price.
Damn, was I in for a surprise. I had very little knowledge of how much time, effort, and work it is to produce a quality E-book. Somehow, I had imagined getting the original series ready to download would zoom along and I would be able to turn my attention to the new book which excited me. (As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the idea of contemplating and writing about the individual, relational, social changes that occurred during this time for Matt Jacob draws me like a stoner to an ounce.)
Didn’t happen that way. I can’t speak for other writers who have done this, but for me the process has been incredibly long, painstaking, with detail piling onto detail onto detail.
A bit about the process. I first sent three of my four books to a scanning company that turned the published books into scanned documents. (Since I walked out of Random House with the fourth, I already have it in manuscript form.) I don’t know how many of you have experience with scanning, but it sure ain’t an exact science. Which meant I had to go sentence by sentence to make certain the scan was accurate. Until my son Jake’s work picked up, I actually hired him to read Still Among The Living out loud while I scoured the scan. “Quotation mark, capital, italicized the, period, capital, end of paragraph, indent,” and so on. Hour after hour. Day after day. It reminded me of the Three Stooges, “Slowly I turned, step by step…”
I gotta tell you, Jake was one happy young man when his electrical apprenticing sky-rocketed and he no longer had to deal with our sessions.
That left me swiveling my head until I was dizzy. On the other hand, I hadn’t read my books in a long time and was relieved and pleased they held up so well. It was actually fun to see what I had written and how much of what I had written I still enjoyed. Laugh out loud enjoy. Although I had been prepared to rewrite if necessary, for the most part all I changed were a few arcane references that might have meant something in the nineties, but who the hell knows Quincy now?
Then comes ‘formatting.’ Life should be so good as to have one set of formatting rules for every digital reading device. But that’s not life as I know it. There are at least three or four different formats to accommodate the reading machines that people own. PDFs, (which will be able to be bought from my personal website) to .PRC for Amazon Kindles, .Epub for B&N Nooks, and another for Kobo, Smashwords, CreateSpace, Lightning Source, Ipads, and other E-book marketplaces.
So proofed scanned copies of Still Among The Living, Two Way Toll, and No Saving Grace were sent to http://www.52novels.com/ for formatting. (I was referred to them by Lee Goldberg, mentioned above, and all his advice is spot on. I can’t imagine a more competent, decent group of people, with a special shout-out to Christina and Amy.)
But formatting comes with many of the same issues as scanning. It too ain’t an exact science. So once the books were formatted they also needed to be proofed, only this time, since there’s more than one format, it means proofing each book multiple times. Gotta tell you, there aren’t nearly as many laugh out louds when you usher at the same movie over and over. In fact, there are days when my mind simply shuts down after four or five chapters. And while there are moments when I think traditional publishing and self-publishing are both lose/lose propositions, those moments are few and far between.
What’s really scary is how all the time it’s taking me to catch up with my writing self (and a lot more of that time is still to come) has driven me further away from my sit-down with the older, wiser Matt and what’s left of his entourage.
MORE TO COME.
“It may be that my sole purpose in life is simply to serve
as a warning to others.” Unknown.