By now you all know that Book Design Made Simple is in its second edition and that we also have an ebook edition on the market. We’re going to reveal how it all came about, and we hope you can learn from some of our stumbles . . . yes, even seasoned publishing professionals can make mistakes, foul up, and generally just muddle through. Read on!
About a year after the book came out, Adobe released a new version of InDesign: CC 2017. We definitely did not see that coming, at least not so soon. But what were we thinking? That everything would stay the same forever? Book sales were going well, and we knew that we’d need to print more copies soon, but this event forced us to accelerate our plans.
At first, we figured we’d simply do a second printing of the same book. But then a colleague suggested we create a second edition instead. This would announce to readers that the InDesign upgrade was included, and also boost our visibility in the market. So we agreed, and suddenly we were off on a new publishing adventure, complete with a deadline imposed by Midpoint Trade Books, our distributor.
We began in earnest, describing the new features and adding margin notes to point readers to each supplemental blog post and video we had made. We replaced a huge number of screen shots because of a tiny icon that suddenly appeared on many InDesign panels and dialog boxes (what a big fat pain!). We described again, in detail, the entire InDesign installation process, since it was now different. It seemed rather endless, and we kept fussing right up until the day we went to press.
Meanwhile, the ebook
Last summer, some potential readers told us they would buy Book Design Made Simple only in ebook format, so we considered that possibility for the first time. Once we decided to go ahead, we immediately started preparing our InDesign file for the ebook conversion process. Ereaders offer only the most basic formatting, so we found ourselves removing styles that ereaders don’t support, changing some type to images for easier conversion, and adding color. We also added hyperlinks throughout the book wherever we referred to a page (i.e. See page 45) or referred to a related video or blog post. And we linked every entry in the whole index. Phew!
Then we contacted our main man for the ebook conversion, Mark D’Antoni of eBook DesignWorks. He took us on but soon reported that this was a challenging project.
There were so many different typefaces! So many special characters! Small caps all over the place, and old style figures, too! Oh boy, it was a lot of work, and not going very smoothly. Somehow in the fall, though it was 90 percent finished, the whole thing ground to a halt. We were disappointed, but at the time we didn’t realize that a new edition was in our future. We ended up just stumbling into some lucky timing.
This past winter we got in touch again and proposed a new approach for the second edition. To help out, Fiona did a massive amount of advance work before we sent the file back again, and this time things went much better. And again, we linked, checked, and rechecked every single hyperlink in the book—twice!—and if you think that’s a quick job, remember the index, with thousands of page numbers to jump to.
What about a new cover?
Should we come up with a new cover design? The big publishers always go with a new one for each new edition, and our distributor needed something on their website immediately, so we furiously started creating new concepts. For continuity, we used the same colors as in the first edition, but we discovered, once again, that designing anything for ourselves was twice as difficult as doing the same thing for a client. Here are some examples:
We weren’t satisfied with any of them. So we surveyed our designer and publishing friends, but each one had a different opinion! (Which one do you like?) Then our good friend Peter Blaiwas of Wordesign Services offered the wisest possible advice: We were still building up our brand and it was too early to go off in a new direction. Now that made a lot more sense than anything we had been thinking! So we became our own worst clients and rejected every one of the new cover concepts.
And what about those gold medals we had won for the first edition? Could we legitimately show them off on the second edition cover? We decided to go ahead and do that, on the back. A little boasting never hurt any marketing campaign, after all.
Oh yeah, a printer
Naturally we had to build in time for printing. Should we return to Friesens, which did such a good job on the first edition? Or should we try someplace new? We decided to request a bid from every digital and offset printer on the list in the book (page 21). The range of quotes was pretty amazing. Printing in India would be one inexpensive way to go, but we worried about shipping times. We got a really low bid from a digital inkjet printer in the U.S., but we decided that inkjet would not do justice to the hundreds of screenshots in the book. (Please note, though, that printing in India and digital inkjet printing are still perfect for many projects!)
Why not just use POD printing like most self-publishers? Several reasons: (1) the cost per book is much higher, (2) distributors do not accept POD books, and (3) when we had an advance copy printed by one particular enormous POD printer, the first 40 pages were completely missing and the cover was way off kilter. So, no way!
In the end, we went back to offset printing at Friesens. Printing in Canada, with the CAD now at a big discount to the USD, has distinct advantages, as many American publishers have discovered. (Friesens and other Canadian printers are doing a booming business these days.)
Sigh of relief
So the black and white files went off to the printer, and the color files went off for ebook conversion. Phew. We figured we had a month to relax with no worries.
Wrong! It ended up being one of our busiest times ever. We had to catch up on our marketing efforts, because it really is true that the minute you stop, sales drop off a cliff. We had a blog post to complete right away, we made arrangements with a distributor in the UK, we received a new award (Winner in the New England Book Show), and on top of that we reviewed our proofs from Friesens (and made four more changes). Meanwhile, the ebook proofs kept coming at us, too, one section at a time, requiring more hyperlink checks—pretty exhausting.
In the end, though, we met our deadlines and are thrilled with the new print and ebook versions. It was all worthwhile.
Those lessons we promised you
So what can you learn from our experience?
- Nonfiction authors, anticipate change in your subject matter.
- Plan way, way ahead for every single step in the process and don’t let the unexpected derail you.
- Pay strict attention to the differences between prepping for a print book and an ebook. Work with your conversion service to see what you can do to help it go smoothly.
- Your book’s cover is a big part of your marketing scheme. Don’t lose sight of that.
- Keep up your marketing efforts during the production of your new edition.
- Forget about relaxing. It ain’t gonna happen! In fact, if you know of a way to clone yourself, it might really help.