Seems like all I ever read about making an ebook is how easy it is.
Either that or a story about how somebody has created the perfect online app to let you self-publish.
I’ve just self-published my first “real” e-book. It’s a step-by-step guide on how to set up an Agile team. The title is ScrumMaster. Here it is:
I found there were all kinds of details to keep track of — whether or not you use a magic application or not. Here’s a brain dump of just some of the things in no particular order.
- Market research: initial. Determine the size of the potential market, what the buying indicators are, and where the competition is.
- Actually writing the book.
- Converting the book into EPUB or another format. Bonus points if you write the book in a text editor and make your own BASH script to pack it all up.
- Finding reviewers.
- Creating a cover image.
- Creating a 3-D image of your book as if it were a real book.
- Creating a marketing plan.
- Locating a distributor. Amazon pays me 17 bucks for a 50-dollar book. Can you say “assholes?” LuLu pays me 43 bucks, but only if you buy on their site. Do the math. Platform vendors own authors and small publishers.
- Setting up an “I’m interested” email list in MailChimp. Integrating that list with your site.
- Locating or creating any relevant artwork that you want inside the book.
- Testing the book on various reader formats. Yep, it’s back to the bad old days of browser compatibility. Looks great on my DX. Sucks on my Nook.
- Validating your book. Just like HTML validation, it’s not strictly necessary, but if your book validates at least it makes you feel better.
- Dealing with special tags. Kindle has a page-break tag. Should you use it? I didn’t. I’m not sure what the correct answer is.
- Worrying about copyright issues. Remember that picture you took of the Sprint close with 15 guys all working at the story board? Got model releases from those guys? I didn’t think so.
- Market research: execution. If you finally get a book completed, then the real work begins: marketing campaigns. From your initial research you know there is a market, now how to you reach them? Who are the thought leaders? Where do the people hang out? What are their selling points? Some of this you’ll only find through execution, but after you qualify the market though initial research, you had better be continuing the research as you put together the e-book.
- Getting reviews. It’s a social world, and people buy based on social signals. Can you provide enough social signals to a potential reader to allow them to make the purchase? That means a lot of people explaining your book’s benefits to strangers. Where are you going to place those reviews, anyway?
- Beta test. Yes, books, like computer programs, have beta tests. Who’s in your beta program? How are you going to manage it?
- Buy an ISBN. Have you seen the price on ISBNs? Try over a hundred bucks for just one number. Then you need a new number for every format your book is published in.
I’ll be upgrading my book to version 2.0 over the next week or so. This is just “first publish,” which I imagine to be something like the first time your program starts working — pretty neat, but a long way from anything solid. The world is full of computer programs that solve all sorts of problems that nobody wants. I’m sure it’s also full of e-books that nobody wants. I still need to check how the book appears on LuLu and Amazon, tweak the sales copy, and receive and process about an half-dozen technical reviews. The content is the least of it — as a domain expert I imagine my content is 90% on-target. It’s all the other stuff. If my marketing and sales pipeline don’t work? Hang it up. It was a waste of time.
E-book publishing is not as easy as writing a MS Word document and pushing a button, no matter what the bloggers say. Even if you spend a couple of thousand dollars (I know somebody, not me, who spent over $4K on his e-book) it doesn’t guarantee much of anything.
E-book publishing looks very much like writing your own app. Yes, you shouldn’t spend all your time in the weeds, but just like any startup activity, the technical details of doing it and the actual business details of making it all work are two completely different things. The trick is making both the technical work and the business work mesh into one product. All this work I’ve done? I’m just barely getting started. Now the real work begins. Don’t believe what they tell you. E-books are not that easy. Not at all.If you've read this far and you're interested in Agile, you should take my No-frills Agile Tune-up Email Course, and follow me on Twitter.