Monthly Archives: September 2019

From Digital to Paper: A Teaser

This blog came into being when I self-published New Old World as an e-book in late 2016. Since then I’ve discussed the mechanics of formatting and publishing an e-book, the vicissitudes of bringing a digital work to the attention of the public, and to a lesser extent, the actual contents of the novel.

Now New Old World is starting a second, more traditional life as a book on paper. It did that once before, briefly, when I printed a few copies on the print-on-demand Espresso Book Machine at Powell’s Books in Portland in 2015.  It was the length, weight, and cost of that incarnation that convinced me to publish a digital edition instead.

The e-book was received well, if not with a ton of sales.  It garnered positive reviews at Apple Books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and was acquired by the Multnomah County Library (Portland, OR) this year through their Library Writers Project.

But I knew I was leaving out a whole class of potential readers: those who either can’t, or prefer not to, read books electronically. By going digital-only I also had no physical object to show or sell at book fairs and nothing to place in the hands of professional reviewers, for whom e-books are essentially invisible.

Of course my hope was that the e-book would be discovered by a major publisher, who would then produce a print version.  But since that hasn’t happened, it was clearly going to be another DIY project.  It just remained for me to screw up my courage to reformat yet again (e-books and print books are whole different animals) and find a good printer nearby.

The woman who operated the Espresso Book Machine told me that some of her customers had moved on to Gorham Printing, in Centralia, WA. Gorham specializes in printing self-published books—of all sizes, shapes, style, and content. New Old World wasn’t too big for them, and the per-copy price was better than the EBM (which no longer exists at Powell’s anyway, the joke being that my big book broke it!).

I took a train up to Centralia in June to meet with staff at Gorham, had many questions answered about their capabilities and procedures, took a tour of the plant including their digital printing presses (not offset), and pretty much decided I wanted them to handle my novel. The rest of the summer was spent reformatting the manuscript, upgrading the photographs to a higher resolution, tweaking some language here and there, and updating the back cover with excerpts from readers’ reviews.

So, almost three months later, two boxes of books were delivered to me, a total of 25 copies (Gorham’s minimum run).  I’ve always dreaded having boxes of books in my proverbial basement, but this is manageable. Certainly I never want to be in the position of Henry David Thoreau when the remainders of his first book, “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers,” came back to him.  Always the wit, despite the general view that he was dour, Thoreau said, “I have now a library of nearly 900 volumes over 700 of which I wrote myself.”

In my next post, I will officially announce the availability of New Old World as a print book, with the addition of a “Buy” button that will operate through PayPal. But first, I must get ready for a trip to France, which seems to be my go-to way of celebrating.  After all, it was to celebrate the publication of my first book, Faces of a Reservation, that I took a three-month trip to France…which provided the grist for New Old World.

 

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On Having My E-book in the Library

Isn’t it the dream of every author to have her work available in the local library? My first book, Faces of a Reservation, is safely ensconced on many library shelves around the country, an especially good thing now that it’s out of print. And I mean it literally when I say “ensconced”—it seems always to be available at our county library, as in not checked out!

That’s the auxiliary dream—that your book will actually be borrowed and read. I have that chance again with New Old World, which the Multnomah County Library recently chose to include in their e-book collection. Their annual Library Writers Project solicits e-books from local writers and chooses a number of “standouts” from the several dozen entries. This year the theme of the contest was fiction and memoir, and New Old World, which blurs genres, happened to suit both categories.

It was good fun to watch the initial rush when my e-book first appeared in the catalog along with the other Library Writers Project selections. Readers swooped in and there was an immediate wait list for most of the titles. The library had purchased ten copies of New Old World, and they soon ordered five more to shorten the wait time. Over the next month or so, the wait list dwindled from a couple of dozen to a handful to none. That is apparently the way of all books, even one-time best-sellers, albeit not that fast!

While it’s good for the ego to see people waiting for your book, the beauty of having no wait list is that borrowers can keep and renew the book for as long as they need it rather than having to return it when the three-week lending period is up. Because New Old World is such a long book, I wondered if anybody would actually be able to finish reading it during this first frenetic period. I did get two reviews on Kindle, which is the main platform used by the library to disseminate e-books, and since there hadn’t been any purchases at Amazon, they must have been borrowers who read quickly!

So how does it work? It’s counterintuitive, but e-books behave just like physical books in that one copy can be borrowed by only one person at a time. Residents of Multnomah County who have library cards can go to the main catalog at https://multcolib.org and search for the title or my name. Then they can borrow a copy via the OverDrive or Libby app, a somewhat mysterious process that is more familiar to regular e-book borrowers than it is to me. One thing I know is that you have to choose whether you want it in EPUB (Apple Books, etc.) or MOBI (Kindle) form, depending on what device you have, and both the method of delivery and your reading experience flow from that choice. I’ll stop here before I get myself out on a limb.

As an author, I can say that it’s great to have this access to new audiences, and the library is to be commended for connecting local writers with local readers. It saved me having to market my book to the library acquisition people, which can be daunting when there are so many books and e-books on the market vying for attention.

If buying or borrowing e-books is not your thing, you’ll be glad to know that I’m currently creating a print version of New Old World. My next post will be to announce its arrival.

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