Most publishers are now releasing books in 5 formats: the traditional hardcover and paperback, as well as Kindle, ePub and PDF. That’s at a minimum – and does not include audio, or enhanced ebooks with multimedia features embedded. Publishers are selling these different formats at different prices in the supply chain – agency pricing to Apple, MSRP to other retailers, institutional pricing to libraries.
Publishers are selling these different formats at different prices…overseas – meaning they have to grant the appropriate rights to the appropriate bookseller in the appropriate country. And publishers are selling books through tech companies – Apple, Amazon, Google, Sony, Overdrive, Copia, Blio, Kobo – rather than through traditional booksellers.
Publishing ebooks is not simply a matter of tacking on another output at the end of the production process. Ebooks – because they are new – are somewhat unstandardized. The same ePub file that gets in the door at Kobo can be rejected at Apple. An ePub validator only catches so much. The wrong (or missing) metadata can trip a publisher up as well – Apple requires some data elements (such as page count of the print book) that other retailers do not.
So it’s important to recognize that, on a day-to-day level, publishing is a lot more work than it used to be. Just as importantly, publishers are not seeing much of a rise in overall revenue due to ebooks (thanks to the inevitable cannibalization of print sales) – so that increased workload is handled without a whole lot of new hires. If you feel overworked, frazzled, harried, and perpetually behind where you think you should be…that’s the new normal. If your relationship with publishing were a Facebook status, it would be, “It’s Complicated.”
Here’s the part where a vendor newsletter generally gets all sales-y and starts talking about magical solutions that will give you the clear conscience and peace of mind to plan your vacation to Playa del Carmen while your ebooks publish themselves.
But instead, probably the most productive thing we can do – for current customers and Firebrand friends alike – is offer some practical advice for dealing with the complications of publishing digital and print side-by-side.
- Recognize the complexity – at all levels. From the C-Suite on down, it’s important that everybody in the organization understand that complications are a way of life in this environment, and deal with them realistically rather than insisting that “it shouldn’t be that complicated.” Maybe it shouldn’t! But it is.
- Use your single source of truth. Task tracking and scheduling, title search – the tools in Title Management, for example, are there to streamline your workflow, help you generate to-do lists, keep you in sync with your ebook deliveries and conversions. Spreadsheets on hard drives add to the noise and clutter (which version is correct? Can I trust this data?)
- Slow down to speed up. (This is always a hard lesson for me.) Take time before you hit “save” or “send” to review what’s in front of you at that moment. In today’s frenetic environment, undoing something done wrong takes a lot more time than doing something right the first time.
It would be great if there were magical solutions out there so ebooks could publish and distribute themselves. But in this chaotic market, it’s best to have control over your processes – it’s best to actually do the work. It’s complicated – and there’s a lot of it – but being realistic about that is what determines a publisher’s sustainability in the long term.