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E-Book Publisher's Reference Shelf

ePublishing gives writers new opportunities in every field, subject and topic. Here is a core list of reference titles for writers and publishers considering ebook editions of their work.

ePublishing For Dummies
Victoria Rosenborg
IDG Books Worldwide
ISBN: 0-7645-0781-8, Paperback, 341 pages, $24.99
Includes CD-ROM (requires Windows 95 or later, or Windows NT4 or later)
Book web site:

The first thing you should do is pick up a copy of ePublishing for Dummies and observe the size of the book. It's not one of those killer-heavy computer tomes that weighs more than a gallon of milk; but with its 342 large-sized pages, you can assume that you'll be getting mountains of information here. Then, open the book and scan the 'Table of Contents" which runs nine pages long. Here you will happily notice that the book contains a complete course in electronic publishing for authors: everything essential that you need to know about how to write, how to produce, and how to market your electronic books.

What do we learn? ... How to write for the new electronic medium. How to use the leading authoring tools to make ebooks for PCS, for the leading dedicated reading devices, and for PDAs. How to effectively use colors, fonts, images, and multimedia. How to find a publisher for your ebook, or start that one-man-band known as publishing yourself. How to publicize and sell your ebook. And how to avoid the most common pitfalls that swallow up new authors and publishers.

The book also contains a yellow-paged directory of Web sites related to epublishing. This directory is an annotated list of sites personally researched by Ms. Rosenborg. In these pages she explains which sites are useful (almost all of them) and which ones (just a few) should be viewed with careful eyes. This forthrightness is imbued throughout the book: Rosenborg shows us many options then tells us which gadgets, software, and methods that she personally uses and likes the best.

I love to get CDS in the back cover of computer books. The CD included here is a gem that reveals the unique value of ebooks, by offering items that print-books alone could never provide. Although the CD could have been better organized -- I could not access all the files from one convenient menu, and I needed to use the Windows Explorer to see it all -- once you open it up you'll be very impressed. The CD includes the Open eBook specification; various latest editions of software programs (called readers) that allow us to read ebooks; and the red-hot ebook publishing software from OverDrive, the free version they call ReaderWorks Standard. The highlights of this CD are the half-dozen files that made me shout "Eureka!", "So that's what it looks like!", "Aha!" Here you can actually compare what it looks like to publish your ebook in different publishing formats (.lit, .htm, .pdf, .rb) for the MS Reader, the Web or offline Web browsers, Adobe Acrobat, and the Rocket eBook.

From the 19 chapters in ePublishing For Dummies, you can select any one chapter and hold it up as a model for excellence in non-fiction writing. Chapter 10, for example, begins with (by far) the most complex topic in the entire book: creating an .opf package file and complying with the OEB specifications. Just two months ago I worked on this topic -- without the benefit of Rosenborg's book -- by studying the sometimes cryptic documents downloaded from the Open eBook website. Had I first looked at the explanation in this chapter I would have come away with more accurately tagged files, more time to focus on the book's content, and fewer white hairs on this low-tech head.

This book will take an absolute beginner and transform her into a competent or even expert ebook publisher. For authors at my level, who have already published ebooks in a variety of formats, the book will fill in scores of knowledge gaps in this new field, already so complex and diverse that no one person can know every nuance, format, device, software, and late-breaking detail.

Electronic publishing may or may not prove to be the long-sought paradise for authors who previously have been stepped on or ignored by the publishing conglomerates. No one can predict whether ebooks will lead writers to that heaven above or to some warmer place below. Whichever way it goes, ePublishing for Dummies is now the standard reference for general readers curious about the everlasting kingdom of ebooks, and for every author and publisher who dares to jump into the game.

How To Publish And Promote Online
M.J. Rose & Angela Adair-Hoy
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0-312-27191-3, Paperback, 257 pages, $ 13.95
Book web site

Most writers in America cannot make a living from their writing. John Hamilton, in his hilarious critique of the book industry titled "Casanova Was A Book Lover", tells us that according to the most thorough study, the median income for writers in 1980 was less than 5,000 dollars a year. According an article in the New York Times, only 9.5% of American writers can afford to write full time -- but this figure may be over-optimistic, since the incomes of a portion of these writers are supplemented by a spouse's earnings. And these pitiful numbers do not even include the millions of Americans who are trying to break in: estimates report that there could be as many as 24 million persons who might be classified as "pre-published" writers, or, less politely, the writer wannabes.

With help from the Internet and ebooks, M.J. Rose and Angela Adair-Hoy are two writers whose careers have been blessed by a seemingly miraculous rise. In 1999 Rose's self-published ebook, the novel Lip Service, was picked up by a major publishing house. Now, almost everywhere on the Web when I see the word "ebooks" I find her name nearby. Ms. Adair-Hoy tells us that less than two years ago she was unemployed and desperate: "I was recently divorced, leaving me a single mother of three receiving no child support and my refrigerator was broken, my pantry was so bare it echoed." A mere two years later and her cupboard is full: the sales of her ebooks exceed 5,000 dollars each month.

How did these two enterprising women achieve such stunning success, and boldly go where so few men have gone before? ... Rose and Adair-Hoy have more than an unending work ethic and great sense for business: they have chutzpah, persistence, ingenuity.

The book is an anthology of 58 short articles, 37 written by Rose or Adair-Hoy (or Rose and Adair-Hoy together), and 21 by other authors and publishers including James A. Cox, Jamie Engle, Paul J. Krupin, Karen Wiesner, and print-book marketing guru John Kremer.

The articles cover only a small part of the process of making electronic books -- the Microsoft Reader is omitted, for example, as well as the world of the Open eBook -- but what is covered is covered well. Adair-Hoy knows all the crucial details about such things as type sizes, copyright acquiring, merchant accounts, ISBNs. Rose thoroughly insists that your ebook should be professionally edited. And rightly so: a badly written book assures disaster from the start.

The strength of this book is the excellent practical advice it gives about book promotion and marketing. Adair-Hoy has more tricks than Houdini for finding ways to persuade people to connect to her work. Rose also is a brilliant strategist. In Chapter 29 she explains how she test-marketed a promotional letter, using the same technique that major periodicals use to choose which one of many will be most effective. The periodicals pay more than $ 100,000 for this type of survey; Rose did it for the price of a few dozen stamps.

And at the end of it all, the good news emerges that authors do not need to spend a fortune to promote their books. And yet there is a price to pay. Rose explains that after she pinpointed two groups of women as the specific target markets for her book: " ... I disappeared into my computer and spent 6 hours a day, six days a week for three months and searched for e-zines, Web sites, and lists aimed at those two groups of women."

Written by two remarkable women along with a number of veteran contributors, How To Publish And Promote Online teaches the crafty art of low-cost book promotion, in a hands-on style which offers information, encouragement, and inspiration all at the same time. Those skeptical authors who would merely pay lip service to this fine book, should attempt its marketing strategies in fidelity. How Individual Writers Can Now Effectively Compete With The Giants Of Publishing
Dan Poynter & Danny O. Snow
Unlimited Publishing
ISBN: 1-58832-002-2 $TBA Paperback, 172 pages
Book web site: explains what the authors call 'the New Book Model.' That is a marketing plan where publishers use print-on-demand (POD) technology to test the market, produce books only as needed, and greatly reduce their initial investments and overall costs. Co-author Dan Poynter is the highly-respected grandfather of the American self-publishing movement. As you'd expect from any title bearing his name, this work contains detailed explanations and inside tips about the business of book promotion. Epublishers who offer a printed version of their works, in addition to the electronic formats, will find here much useful advice.

Chapter 3, titled 'Electronic publishing: Stop the presses!' compares the advantages and disadvantages of ebooks with their printed progenitors. Chapter 8 reveals the authors' methods for using the Net to promote their books. Despite the improvable title of this work , the expertise of Poynter and the savvy of Snow make it a book well worth adding to every publisher's professional shelves.

Editorial Note: These reviews have been excerpted from a larger essay, located at

Michael Pastore, Reviewer
Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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