Pottermore: J.K. Rowling’s e-book Adventure

20 Jul

With last weekend’s release of the final installment of the Harry Potter movies, fans everywhere found themselves forced to accept not only the end of the magical story, but (for some) the end of childhood itself. (OK, I’ll admit it…I’m one of those fans.)

But is it really over?

As it turns out, author J.K. Rowling is not only a fantasy-writing genius, she is also quite business savvy. Until recently, fans could only hope to read Harry Potter in print form, as Rowling held off on making the books available in digital formats.

However, in a bold move, Rowling has revealed to cosumers that the Potter series will soon be offered in multiple languages in digital form — but exclusively on Pottermore, a free website for fans that is partnered with Sony.

The Pottermore Insider (official blog) describes the site as an “interactive, illustrated companion” to the books, which will include “exclusive new material especially for Pottermore giving unique insights, back stories and additional information about the characters, places and objects in the Harry Potter series.”

So, fans will flock to the site for the interactive experience and the new information, and there the e-books will be, easily available for purchase.

Come on, Harry Potter doesn’t need any publicity help! But, like I said…genius.

While Rowling has decided to share some of the proceeds with her print publishers, Bloomsbury (United Kingdom) and Scholastic (United States), by avoiding the traditional methods of e-book publishing and selling to her consumers directly she will undoubtedly receive a significantly larger share of the sale proceeds.

The Atlantic calls Pottermore “a guaranteed success” and notes the possible ramifications of the plan for the rest of the publishing world:

“Rowling’s initiative is bound to encourage other major authors to press for a greater portion of revenues than they have received so far, with the implied ‘threat’ of breaking away from their long-time partners and going direct to consumers.”

Will J.K. Rowling change the way authors distribute books to consumers? This billionaire — who is sure to have publishing houses kissing the ground she walks on — is going for a (sort-of) self-publishing approach. And I love it.

According to the blog, the Pottermore shop is due to go live in October and the site hopes to offer e-books in as many formats as possible.

And, just because they love watching us hang on the edge of our seats, the Insider blog offhandedly adds,

“We don’t want to ruin the surprise but something will be happening on Pottermore.com on 31 July.”

…the magic continues.

Common PDF Problems: Quality of Graphics

30 Jun

Another common problem that occurs when creating a PDF file is that graphics lose quality.

In the original document used to create your book, your graphics may look like this:

But when you convert the file to a PDF, the graphic may end up like this:

Depending on which program you’re using to create your book, the settings to avoid losing quality vary.

However, as long as your image was high quality to begin with, you’ll be able to create a PDF without losing any quality–it may just take some experimenting to get the options right.

A good rule of thumb when saving as a PDF is to check every “options” or “properties” window that appears when saving to make sure nothing is compressing the file. (“Print” quality is always better than “Web” quality and a larger file is usually better than a smaller file!)

Here are some specific examples.

For Microsoft Word…

…when you’re ready to convert to PDF, be sure to check all of the options or preferences. They may not be exactly the same as the example shown here, but they should be similar.

In the properties window, check if there are any sections referring to images, graphics, or resolution.

Then, change the resolution to 600 dpi.

If you’re saving to PDF from Microsoft Word, you may also see the option here:

You may need to select “Optimize for Standard Printing and Publishing” and make sure that “Minimum size” is NOT selected.

For Adobe Programs….

…be sure to export your file as a PDF. After choosing a location on your computer to save the file, you should get a preferences screen that looks like this:

Under the “Compression” options, make sure all elements are set to “Do not downsample” and “Maximum” quality.

For Open Office files…

…choose “export as PDF” and then change the resolution to 600, and make sure to choose “lossless compression” or JPEG quality “100%”


…these settings will only help you from LOSING image quality–they can’t give you quality that wasn’t there to begin with. So, if your image looks like this:

in your ORIGINAL document, changing these settings won’t fix the issue. You’ll need to find an image that is high resolution to begin with. You can read more about that here.

Common PDF problems: Reflow

20 Jun

Common PDF problems: Reflow

No matter how long you spend writing, formatting, editing and re-editing your book, the truth is that computers sometime seem to have a mind of their own… and things may not turn out the way you think they will.

For example, when converting your file to a PDF in preparation for printing, your file can go from looking like this:

to looking like this:

This is what we call reflow (when the text shifts on the page throughout the entire book).  This usually happens in one of the following circumstances:

1) When you’re converting your file (Word document, Publisher file, etc.) into a PDF

2) When a file is opened on a different computer than the one used originally to create it (This does not happen with PDF files, but is a common problem with Microsoft Word documents. Because not every computer has the same version of Word or the same fonts installed, the properties of the document can fluctuate if you send it to someone else or open it on a different computer.)

One way to prevent text from re-flowing like this is to use page breaks instead of hitting “return” to move text to a new page.

Add page breaks between each section or chapter of your book, or whenever you want the text following the page break to begin at the top of a new page.

To do this in Microsoft Word, make sure your cursor is placed before the text that you want shifted to a new page. Then, go to Insert and select Page Break.

Most companies require PDFs for printing because of the second reflow circumstance: unlike other file types, PDF files cannot be edited and the text will not move when the files are opened on different computers.

Issues like reflowcan be a headache but can be avoided. Problems like this are why it’s important to double check your work during each step of the process. It may be time consuming, but you’ll be glad you did it in the long run.  After all, why spend your time, energy and money on something if you’re not sure it’ll turn out the way you want?

Why PDFs?

13 Jun

What’s a PDF? and how do I make one?

Many printing companies (48 Hr Books included) require PDFs for printing. However, if you’re not sure how to create a PDF, if your PDF doesn’t look like your original files, or if you aren’t even sure what PDF means, this requirement can seem a little overwhelming.

Luckily, PDFs are easy to create and work with–once you know the correct settings.

Files that are not PDFs can still be printed, but cause many unnecessary headaches. In the next few posts, I’ll go over some of the common problems and how to avoid them. These headaches are why it’s best to print from a PDF file, or a file that is in Portable Document Format. This type of file will end in .pdf

Just as image files have a .jpg or .tif at the end, and word documents have a .doc or .docx at the end, the .pdf at the end just lets the computer know what program to use when opening it. It’s simply a type of a file.

When writing and editing your book, you’ll likely use Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign, or another editing program. All of these file types can be converted to PDFs when you’re ready to print.

You’ll most likely need a PDF converter to get your files in the correct format and to make sure they’re the best quality for printing. If you need, you can use 48 Hr Books’ FREE PDF CONVERTER. You can download the software and find instructions for the free converter on our website or by clicking here.

If you’re using our converter, which is called doPDF, you won’t be “saving” your document as a PDF, you’ll be “printing” it to a PDF. Don’t worry – this doesn’t mean you’re actually printing out copies of your book.

After you’ve downloaded our converter, select File and then Print.

A box will pop up with printer settings. Make sure you select DoPDF as your printer.

Click OK and when the next box pops up, make sure you save the document on your computer where you can easily find it. The PDF file may be saved in your “My Documents” folder by default.

I’ll end with a video that provides an overview of how to create a PDF. Keep an eye out for my next post on how to avoid common PDF conversion problems!

The Future of Bookstores

25 May

With Borders closing more than 200 stores nationwide (after filing chapter 11 bankruptcy), the publishing industry has been buzzing about the future of bookstores.

Will bookstores eventually disappear completely? Will Amazon someday become our only means of purchasing books? Will we never again be able to browse aimlessly through physical aisles of books until a flashy cover catches our attention?

The loss of bookstores could mean the loss of book discovery, laments one blogger.

“When it comes to a physical store, I go there because I want a certain level of interaction. I want human contact. I want tactile. I want readings. Events. Original content. Something unique that I can’t get anywhere else. I want to be seduced by a cover with a striking image, and, honestly, I think booksellers have a better idea of what attracts readers than publishers (especially those publishers who don’t leave New York very often).”

Sure, we can browse for our favorite titles in the Apple ibookstore or on Amazon, or search for new finds suggested by Oprah or The New York Times, but how will we find those titles that we didn’t know we’d love because no one told us to love them? (Does that even make sense?)

Carolyn Reidy, the chief executive of Simon & Schuster, says that the survival of the physical bookstore is her number one concern:

“‘We need that physical environment, because it’s still the place of discovery. People need to see books that they didn’t know they wanted.” [From Booksquare]

Bookstores are taking a bit hit because, well, for one…you just can’t purchase an e-book in a physical bookstore. And e-books are selling like crazy. In fact, Amazon is now selling more e-books than printed books. According to the Sydney Morning Herald,

“Since April 1, Amazon sold 105 books for its Kindle e-reader for every 100 hardcover and paperback books, including books without Kindle versions and excluding free e-books.”

Both print and digital books saw increases in revenue in the past year, which suggests that it is possible for the two formats to coexist.  However, print books aren’t out of the woods yet. In the past year, e-book sales have increased remarkably by more than 145%.

*Category March 2011 March 2010 Percent change
Adult Hardcover $96.6M $91.2M +6.0%
Adult Paperback $115.9M $125.6M -7.7%
Adult Mass Market $55.2M $54.5M +1.2%
E-Books $69.0M $28.1M +145.7%
Religious Books $63.5M $49.8M +27.4%
University Press Hardcover $4.4M $4.5M -1.9%
University Press Paperback $2.6M $2.5M +7.1%

[stats from The Association of American Publishers]

So, how can physical bookstores survive if they can’t provide the best selling products? What makes shopping in an actual store better than shopping online?

I’ve compiled a list of bookstore vs. online bookstore experiences for your–well, okay, mostly my–enjoyment. Feel free to comment and dispute my claims or add your own!


Online store

Speak with an actual person if you need help finding something. Avoid speaking with an angsty teen who doesn’t believe the $8/hr they’re getting paid is worth treating you like a human being.
Ask the employees for recommendations. Instantly access reviews from countless other customers.
A sense of intimacy and community. No need to change out of your pajamas.
Long lines at the checkout. Busy servers and other computer/internet errors.
Look at and touch the product and know exactly what you’re purchasing. Easily compare the product with others like it or compare the price of the same product at several stores.
Stores close at night. Shop any time, anywhere.
Instant gratification. Walk out of the store with your purchase and start reading immediately! Pay extra for shipping. Wait around several days for the book to arrive.
Browse the aisles or the “recommended”/ ”best-sellers” tables for something that catches your eye. Receive suggestions based on what “other customers who bought this product also bought…”
Grab one of the comfy chairs in the store and start reading to see if you’re really interested. Get through most of the book until the manager kicks you out because the store is closing. View the first few pages of the book (if that) on your computer screen. Wait impatiently to get your hands on the rest of it.
Pay with cash. Dig those nickels and dimes out of the bottom of your change purse. (Usually) Pay with credit card or PayPal only. Risk entering your personal information on the internet. Receive spam emails for the rest of your life.
Try to purchase a book while there are screaming children running around. Order books in peace and quiet. Or while watching TV.
If you have a problem, speak to an employee or (if necessary) a manager. If you have a problem, call an 800 number. Listen to a list of 10 “press 1 for…” options. Finally press 0 for customer service. Get put on hold for 20 minutes. Have your call transferred to 3 different departments.
Only have access to the books the store stocks. Access endless books; if one online store doesn’t have it, another probably does.
Have an employee tell you when a book will be back in stock if it is out of stock. Sometimes don’t be informed that an item is out of stock (or “backordered”) until after you purchase it. Receive no estimate of  when it will be back in stock.

Will Ebooks Kill Print Books?

13 May

Afraid that the print industry is dying? Here’s some optimism that may help you see the e-book as more of a friend than foe:

Will Ebooks Kill Print Books?

—From PCMAG.com

Book Cover Design Dos and Don’ts

28 Apr

Last week, I discussed the basics of how to set up your book cover–how to size it, how to add bleed, and how wide to make the spine.

I’d like to depart from the technical stuff and focus more on the design aspect of setting up a book cover.

So, this week I’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts in book cover design. Some of these are technical (like image resolution) but many of them are based solely on opinion. Feel free to argue with me or add your own tips!

  • DO avoid white backgrounds or very light backgrounds, unless you’re going to add images and colorful text.


  • DO try to keep it simple. Images and text add visual interest to your book cover and give the reader information but remember that sometimes LESS is MORE. Simplistic covers are often the most sophisticated.
  • DO use fonts that are easy to read. If you can’t read your book title from a few feet away, it’s probably too small or too complex.
  • DON’T use too many different fonts. (Avoid using more than 2 different fonts if possible):

  • DO use photos or illustrations. Sometimes an image can convey more information than several lines of text! (A picture is worth a thousand words, right?)
  • DON’T use blurry images or stretch images so that they’re larger than they were originally–these won’t print well. If you want to learn about image resolution, I go into more detail on that here. Likewise, make sure your text doesn’t look blurry or stretched:

  • DON’T use too many different colors.
  • DO use colors that contrast and avoid neon colors:

  • DO decide what audience you’re trying to target. Think about what would get their attention and make sure your images and wording are audience-appropriate.
  • DO think about what tone or mood you want to convey with your design. Make sure this matches the tone or mood of your actual book.
  • DON’T make your font too small–or too large. Try printing one line of text on a piece of paper at several different sizes to get ideas. In my opinion, if your font is smaller than 11 pt. on your cover, it’s too small to read.
  • DON’T stretch the font or make it very large on the back of your book to fill space:

  • DON’T write a book on the back of your book. A few short paragraphs about the author, a summary of the book, or quotes about the book help draw readers to your book–but if there’s too much information, you may lose their interest.
  • DO add texture, but
  • DON’T place text over a textures if it may be difficult to read. Try adding a semi-transparent bar of color to help your text pop:

  • DO print one copy of your book before printing a large run–this way, you’ll know that you’re happy with the way the colors, images, and text appear when printed.
  • DO get opinions from others and ask for help if you need it!
  • DO look at lots of book covers beforehand to get inspired.

DIY Book Cover Design

20 Apr

If you’re self-publishing your book, you may want to hire a designer to create a professional-looking book cover. However, if you’d like to save some money and try your hand at cover design, we’d like to make it a little easier for you with some basic cover layout how-to!

What size do I make my cover?

This depends on the size of your book and how you’re designing the cover.

The easiest way is to design the front cover and the back cover separately.  The front and back cover should be the same size as the inside pages of your book (But you should add 1/4 inch to both the height and the width to create BLEED. More on that later). You can also create the spine separately, but make sure you know how wide to make it or you design may not match up. (Don’t worry, I’m getting there).

You can also design the front cover, back cover, and spine all in one as an image that “wraps” around the book. In this case, you’ll want to make the height of the file the same as the height of your inside pages, but the width should be two times the width of the inside pages plus the width of the spine. In this case, make sure you put the back cover on the left and the front cover on the right. The text on the spine should be flipped towards the right. (This way, if your book is sitting face-up on a table, the text on the spine will not be upside-down).

How do I determine the width of my spine?

If you’re printing on 60# paper, you can determine how wide your spine will be (in inches) by dividing your total number of pages by 440. (for example, 220 pages/440= 0.5 inch).

So, if the FINAL TRIM SIZE of your book is 5.5 x 8.5 and your book has 220 pages, you should set up your cover to be FRONT COVER + BACK COVER + SPINE, or  5.5 +5.5 +0.5  for a final size of 11.5 inches wide x 8.5 tall.

HOWEVER, this does not account for BLEED.


Bleed needs to be accounted for when your artwork goes all the way to the edge of the page without a white border. Most book covers need to account for bleed.

Adding bleed is simple–just add an extra 1/8 inch (0.125) on all sides of your cover wrap–top, bottom, left and right! Essentially, this means you’ll need to add 1/4 inch (0.25) to the total width and 1/4 inch to the total height. The example above with bleed would have final setup dimensions of 11.75 x 8.75.
Here’s a quick how-to video that will help you add bleed to your document:

Why is my text getting cut off?

When designing your own book cover, you’ll want to make sure that you leave a 1/4 inch (0.25) margin from the edges as a safe type zone. This area should not have any text or important artwork –it will be too close to the edge. Not only does this mean it’s at risk for getting cut off, but it means your book won’t look as professional as it could.

In Summary

  • Make your cover the same height as the inside pages of your book, but add 1/4 inch to the total for bleed
  • Make the width of your cover twice the width of the inside pages of your book PLUS the width of your spine, PLUS 1/4 inch for bleed
  • Find the width of your spine by dividing your # of pages by 440
  • Don’t have any text or important images closer than 1/4 inch from the edge of your cover

Good luck and happy designing!

ISBNs: A Quick Overview

11 Apr

One question that you will inevitably be asking yourself when preparing to self-publish your book is: Do I need an ISBN?

…and, hey,

What IS an ISBN?

An ISBN is an “International Standard Book Number.” It identifies books and book-like products (like audiobooks) and its purpose is to establish one title from one specific publisher, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

To make it simple? An ISBN is like a serial number that identifies the publisher, author, and title of a book (as well as other information).

Who needs an ISBN, and where can I get one?

You’ll more than likely need an ISBN if you plan on selling your book (and you’ll definitely need one if you plan on selling it in bookstores).

You can purchase an ISBN from isbn.org, and it will be emailed to you directly. Keep in mind that if you’re planning on publishing several books, it may be more cost-effective to purchase blocks of ISBNs. You can purchase 1, 10, 100, or even 1,000 at a time and use them whenever you have a book ready to publish.

Bar Codes vs. ISBNs

An ISBN is not the same as a bar code, although the ISBN is used to create a bar code. You must have an ISBN if you want a bar code on your book.

(A bar code is like a price tag; it’s the graphic with vertical lines that gets scanned whenever an item is purchased).

This is why it’s important to purchase an ISBN before selling your book. A bar code is also necessary if you’re planning on selling your book in a book store, but you may want to wait until you’re sure how much you’ll be selling the book for before you get one. A bar code can be purchased at the same time as an ISBN from the same company or can be created later by a variety of sources such as a publisher, printer, or designer.

When do I need a new ISBN?

If you make minor changes to your book such as typo-fixes or price-adjustments, you can use the same ISBN when re-printing your book.


You will need a new ISBN if:

  • You make extensive changes that would confuse customers as to whether or not it is the same book (like changing the content drastically).
  • You write a new edition of your book. (Each new edition needs a new ISBN).
  • Your book is printed in different languages. (Each language version is a different product with a different ISBN.)
  • You have many books in a series. (An ISBN is assigned to each book in the series; a series of books is also eligible for an ISSN (International Standard Series Number), available from the Library of Congress.
  • Your book is presented in different formats. (For example, hard cover, paperback, and audiobook versions of the same book require 3 separate ISBNs)

Re-Using ISBNs

ISBNs cannot be transferred on an individual basis, so if you decide to purchase more than one ISBN at a time, make sure you’ll be able to use all of them; you won’t be able to sell the extras to friends.

Additionally, once a title is published with an ISBN on it, the ISBN can never be used again, even if that title goes out of print. You’ll always need to purchase new ISBNs when selling new books (or in any of the circumstances listed above).

This is just a quick overview of ISBN basics. All of this information (and more) can be found on the ISBN website. Happy writing/publishing!

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing: The Million-Dollar Choice

5 Apr

Self-publishers have been popping up all over the news lately–and this particular story caught my eye.

It’s a story of two authors, two book deals including the phrase “million dollars,” and two different choices.

The first author, 26-year-old Amanda Hocking, has already made close to $2 million on her own. Until recently, Hocking was strictly a self-publisher, selling her books through online retailers such as Amazon.com.

Amanda Hocking’s self-published books were wildly successful–at least I’d call $2 million wildly successful (wouldn’t you?)–but she has decided to go with a traditional publisher for her next series. St. Martin’s Press, part of Macmillan, will publish her next four books, the “Watersong” series. Negotiations for the series have reached seven figures (full story here).

Why the move to traditional publishing? On her blog, she writes,

“I’m writer. I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full time corporation.”

Hocking makes a valid point here–some authors just don’t have the time to devote to self-publishing. Time spent marketing, proofreading, designing, etc. is time that is not spent writing, which is sort of counter-productive.

However, Amanda Hocking will not stop self-publishing. She made it clear that she had several titles lined up this year to self-publish, and would have more in the future, even commenting on one significant downside of traditional publishing:

“I am fully aware that I stand a chance of losing money on this deal compared to what I could make self-publishing.”

While traditional publishing may have been the right choice for Amanda Hocking, when novelist Barry Eisler found himself in a similar situation–with a $500,000 offer from St. Martin–he opted to self-publish instead.

Eisler had previously agreed to a two-book deal with St. Martin for the release of his new thriller, The Detachment (full story here).

In an extensive interview, Eisler revealed his high hopes for the self-publishing industry:

“I mean, it used to be that self-publishing was what you did if you couldn’t get a traditional deal. And if you were really, really lucky, maybe the self-published route would lead to a real contract with a real publisher. But I realized from that one innocent comment from my daughter that the new generation was looking at self-publishing differently. And that the question–‘Should I self-publish?’–was going to be asked by more and more authors going forward. And that, over time, more and more of them were going to be answering the question, ‘Yes.’

Barry Eisler touches on many pros of self-publishing in his interview–especially that he feels authors can be more financially successful on their own. While traditional publishers usually offer an advance (a large sum of money up front), they can be more expensive in the long run. Traditional publishing also means that authors have to relinquish control of their work, and some authors, like Eisler, want to be a bigger part of the process.

So I suppose there are pros and cons to both sides of the publishing world. The choice between self- and traditional publishing must be made on an individual basis, for each unique situation.

However, all publishing pros and cons aside, I have to give Barry Eisler props for turning down half a million dollars. That takes some guts…and a whole lot of confidence.

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