Today I’m going to talk about my current publishing project. But my sneaky agenda is to review some publishing principles you should know if you’re hoping to publish a book of your own.
In 1998 the University Press of Florida issued a scholarly book I’d written about Bernard Shaw – Pygmalion’s Wordplay: The Postmodern Shaw. Twenty years have gone by, and my book is now out of print. That means the publisher is no longer stocking and selling it.
The contract I signed in 1997 stated that the UPF owned all the rights to my book – until it went out of print. Then I could ask for them to be returned to me. (I had to make the request in a letter.)
While the book was still in print, the copyright belonged to the UPF. That meant nobody – not even me! – could copy significant chunks of the book. So – for example – I couldn’t issue an ebook version of my book, even though I was the author. I had signed those rights over to the UPF.
But now they’ve come back to me, and I am indeed republishing my book as both a paperback and an ebook (two ebooks, actually – one through Kindle and one through Smashwords).
Here are some facts and thoughts about re-publishing:
- A print book like mine needs to be digitized first (turned into a Word document) so that you have a file to work with. You can pay a service to do this for you. I was fortunate that my friend Gustavo A. Rodríguez Martín did the job for me.
- When you convert a digitized file, many mistakes can creep in. Allow time to fix them!
- Because I now own all the rights to my book, I can do anything I want with it.
- I made a few changes and corrections and added a new preface.
- I completely reformatted the book. That meant converting the digital file Gustavo sent me into a .txt file to clear the old formatting. Then I converted it again – into a Word file – and chose a different typeface, new headings, and so on.
- Georgia is my favorite typeface, and I often use Calibri for headings. But because I wanted a more academic look, I chose Century Schoolbook for this book and Baskerville Old Face for the headings.
- Most scholarly books use a small typeface. But I like readability, so I chose a larger size.
- I often quoted word-for-word from plays, essays, and books by Shaw. Many are still in copyright, so I had to get permission from the Shaw Estate to use them. In 1998 I paid a fee to do that. This time the Shaw Estate generously waived the fee. (It helps that Shaw’s works will go out of copyright in 2020!)
- Books don’t go “out of print” anymore. Publishers use POD (print-on-demand). That means instead of storing physical books in a warehouse, they just print them as needed. The only storage needed is space on a computer for the digital file. So publishers keep books indefinitely.
- One advantage of digital files is that it’s easy to update them. In the old days, you couldn’t make a single change when you republished a book – changing the plates (as they were called) was too expensive.
- I’m using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for my paperback. I endlessly tell writers not to pay anyone to publish their work. You can do it free on KDP, and the services are excellent.
- “Vanity presses” are pay-to-publish companies that will do editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing for you. But you’re better off finding freelancers to do those tasks (or you can do them yourself, as I do).
- I used a free cover template from KDP.
- Through Google Images I found a free picture of an Edwardian lady for the cover. (I gave a small cash gift to the artist.)
- I’ll be issuing the book in two ebook formats. KDP will publish it as a Kindle. Smashwords will publish it in multiple electronic formats so that anyone with a Nook or another device can read it.
- The book is automatically copyrighted. All I had to do was put a copyright notice in the front of the book: © Jean Reynolds 2018. For extra protection, I can register it with the copyright office – instructions are posted online.