Thursday, May 03, 2018

Tell Me About The Early Days of Self-Publishing, George

The other day, while putting together material for my forthcoming Free Friday Frights, I was looking into the origin of the chapbook Active Reader that I had initially created in print.

It led back to 2008 when I had purchased an Espresso Book Machine for the then-bookstore at McMaster University which had been called Titles Bookstore, and we launched a "Titles on Demand" business using a large print-on-demand machine from On Demand Books.

We were the 2nd location in Canada and the 9th in the world to own an Espresso Book Machine. Exciting times.

And, of course, it was the early days of what was about to become the large self-publishing "Gold Rush" of 2011 / 2012. (To be honest, we're still in the early days of self-publishing, as, each year, thousands of more authors learn about the amazing possibilities of what they can do related to selling eBooks globally)

An article from the Dec 2008 McMaster Times
It was my work helping local authors who were interested in print (POD) self-publishing that eventually led me to my role as Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo. Because, as amazing as the machine and having print-on-demand access was, I was still running into the issue of people in countries on the other side of the globe wanting access to locally produced books. So I helped the authors create eBook versions to load to Kindle and Kobo, so we didn't have to worry about shipping costs or logistics.

Pic from Hamilton Spectator article - The EBM, Donna (Bookstore Director) & me
Because the machine required a lot of testing; and, particularly in the early days of the machine, we were doing dozens of tours and demonstrations of it, we needed to create some smaller books so that we could go through the demonstrations quickly (also, without using a ton of paper - ie, printing a 300 page book). So I created a chapbook of about 50 pages that contained three of my previously published short stories. It was easier to use one of my own pieces of writing that I had the rights to than to worry about violating some sort of copyright.

I called the chapbook Active Reader: And Other Cautionary Tales from the Book World.

Of course, once I moved from McMaster to Kobo, and needed to have files to test the eBook self-publishing system (Kobo Writing Life) I had been responsible for creating there, I converted the book into eBook format.

 And, in mid 2017, I then had the book converted into audiobook format using Findaway Voices.

It was interesting how, when doing a book in print, you needed to have a minimum page count in order for the book to be properly bound using certain binding technologies. (For POD, I think the minimum page count that worked well might be somewhere between 30 and 40 pages). The maximum page count for an Espresso Book Machine was somewhere in the 550 to 600 page range. Of course, for ebooks, there's no minimum and no limit. As I have enjoyed sharing when talking to audiences who aren't familiar with ebooks, "you aren't limited to the standard format of 300 pages bound between two pieces of cloth."

Funny to look back about ten years ago and see what I had been up to.

Remembering how cutting-edge this POD machine in a bookstore was, I was only beginning to understand the power of digital publishing.

Who would have guessed what these past ten years have actually entailed?

In many ways it feels like only a few years have passed since I was cranking out POD books at the bookstore at McMaster and sharing the possibilities of that brave new world with anyone who would listen; in other ways, it feels like at least twenty years ago.

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