Chris bumps into some ebook self-publishing services cowboys…….
Chris has described in several earlier posts he has written for me how he started to get his already published book (Is for Good Men to do Nothing) into ebook format (links below) and the various problems he had run into already. Owing to pressure of work, he has left it alone for some time, but now is back trying to get it together, and has run into some rather curious online publishing “agents”.
So, read on and learn……………………..
Previously on Chris’ thoughts on eBookAnoid….As you may recall, I published my book in hard cover and soft cover in 2004. I’ve been trying to convert it to an eBook for the last many months. Ever since Tony Cole was on my radio show.
I must confess, I’m not trying too hard to convert my book. While the critics liked it, it never sold well. So converting it to an eBook is not my highest priority. But I do still want to do it.
Smashwords requires me becoming an expert on MS Word. Which I have neither the time nor inclination to do. So I am trying to find a service I can hire that I can pay a small fee and they would do this work for me. And by “trying,” I really mean that I was thinking about it a little but not taking any initiative to really do anything about it. I’m directing a show at the theatre and that’s a much higher priority.
Which brings me to a confession. Yes, I have confession to make. It’s only a small one. But it is true. It is this. I sometimes reply to spam. Yes, I do. Rarely. Not often. But I have. As an author who self-published, I’m on all sorts of mailing lists for publishing services.
One of these auspicious emails had the header, “Convert your book to an ebook for $99”. I’m paraphrasing because I deleted the email and don’t remember exactly what it said. I thought to myself, “Great! That’s what I’ve been looking for.” I don’t have the time to do this myself. But I can pay someone else $99 and have them do it. Perfect. This is good news for me.
So, I replied and said I was interested. Their reply to me was, in essence, that I should send them money quickly. With no description of their services. Just send money fast. Now. Um, I didn’t reply again. They quickly followed up with a second email that said I needed to send money very, very fast. It was a pretty poorly run operation. It certainly didn’t inspire confidence that they’d do the job correctly.
Another email arrived in my inbox within days of the first one with the heading simply saying, “Grace E-publishing Services”. Grace E-Publishing is located in Shanghai. Since I’m in Beijing, that would be relatively convenient. I gave Ruth at Grace E-Publishing my phone number and she called and chatted. She was very nice. Very pleasant. Delightful to talk with. She indicated the price to convert my book to an eBook and make it available for sale online would be between $100 and $150. She would send me a questionnaire and based on my answers, she would finalize the price quote. Sounds reasonable to me.
The price quote came back: 10,000 RMB. That’s about $1,500.
“Yikes. In our conversation, you indicated this would be about $100 or $150. What happened? There’s no way I can do it for the price quoted. Not even close,” I said. She replied that there was “a bit of confusion” or something or other. A bit?! She wasn’t very convincing. She hemmed and hawed some more. But with this uninspiring start, I’ll pass.
Strike two. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I’m replying to spam. So I get what I ask for. Maybe you’re right.
The third attempt came in the form of an email with the subject heading, “Your manuscript published in print and eBook for $599”. The sales pitch came from William Earle at Accurance. Here’s the elevator pitch on Accurance’s website: “For more than ten years, Accurance has prepared more manuscripts for publication and sale – more covers designed, more interiors formatted, more content edited – in less time – than anyone else in the world – now nearly 25,000 books and counting. Some of the biggest self-publishing firms in the world are among our clients.”
OK. I’ll bite. Let’s see what Mr Earle has to say. I replied to Mr Earle’s pitch. I said, “I already have a print version of the book published by a POD service about five years ago. How much to just do the eBook version?” I also directed them to my book as it is on sale at Amazon.
Bill’s reply—now that we’ve exchanged one email, we know each other well enough that he now signs his email as Bill—his reply was, “Thanks so much for writing. All you need is our eCombo Package for just $299.” Hmmm….that price still seems a little steep to me. My entire 13 word reply was, “Thanks. That’s more than I want to spend for just the eBook. C”
Later that very same day, Bill replied, “This conversion and distribution package is unique in the world—enabling your eBook to be viewable on 95% of all viewers made and distributed where 90% of all eBook sales are taking place. I would love for you to be in this market the best you can be. I will offer to discount the cost of the package today to just $229 for you. If you would like to take advantage, just go….” I just saved $70 in 12 hours. Not bad. He concluded, “Thanks so much. We really would love to bring your book to ‘elife’!”
Unfortunately, I really want to get close that $99 or $150 price the other two companies had quoted me. I’m not sure if that is realistic. But I’ll test the market prices. My 16 word reply, “Sorry. The price is still out of my reach. Best of luck with your services. Chris” I must say I really thought that was the end of it. I’d be waiting for another pitch to arrive in my inbox. As I said, as an author who self-published, I’m increasingly it seems get more and more offers for these services. Another one will come along.
Bill is a persistent sales guy. And in my book, as long as you are polite, persistence is OK. I hadn’t flat out said no and I guess he figured I was still a cool lead. He wrote, “I know you will find no lower prices anywhere, so what price range were you looking for and exactly what did you need to accomplish. I may be able to get us there.” This time my answer doubled in length, “The last two companies both quoted me $99. Admittedly I didn’t go with them because they didn’t seem professional enough. But my book has already been published. I have ISBN number for both hard cover and paperback. All the design elements are done.”
He lowered his price to $199.
I confirmed, “So, if I do this, my book will be available for purchase on kindle and all the other ebook readers?” “Absolutely,” he replied. “You will be absolutely thrilled.” Then his email went on to list all the services.
“OK. You sold me,” I said. So I paid him $199 and we’re off to the races.
So now that payment is made, he sends me a long form that I need to fill out. Which it seems to me is doing a large part of the Smashwords stuff I don’t want to do anyway. Plus he says I need to pay an extra $35 for some cover art work. I have the masters of the cover and internal art. So I don’t think this applies. But sneaky hidden costs like this perturb me.
I ask if I can just send him the manuscript and the art and have him get started. Thankfully, he agrees.
“I appreciate your helping me put my book into an ebook format. The book is about volunteer charity work I did in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. For this ebook version, all revenue from sales will be donated to the charities I worked on during the book’s writing,” I wrote to Bill. “Attached is the MS Word version of my manuscript for Is For Good Men To Do Nothing.”
I went on to identify the cover art, internal maps and chapter are, critic review updates, typo corrections, the ISBN issues and other stuff.
“Lastly,” I concluded. “I’m a little non-plussed that we agreed to a price for publishing my ebook and one of the first emails you send me is that I might need to pay $35 more for something. I agreed to pay $199 to get my book into an ebook. That is what I will pay. If there are hidden costs, let me know now so you can refund my $199 and we can save ourselves some effort.”
A little too stern, ya think? Hmmmm….maybe. I don’t know. But hidden costs annoy me.
So for those of you boys and girls playing along at home, that’s where we stand today in the adventures of getting the eBook published. I’ll keep you posted.
So, there is the latest report from the Front…..
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Have any of you had similar experiences with your attempts to get your work published as an ebook? Or have you gone through the whole process like a hot knife through butter? Do share your experiences, both good and bad with us here… It could help others who are attempting to do this.