Friday, August 19, 2011

Submitting eBooks for Review

There's no denying ebooks are evolving and lets face it, less expensive when it comes to mailing ARC's or books for review. Not all reviewers accept ebook versions, but I believe many are adjusting to the times and see the advantage to authors, publishers and reviewers alike. I am one of those reviewers who gladly accepts ebooks for review. It's not that I don't prefer printed paperbacks, because I do! I love getting the packages in the mail, flipping through the pages, and filling my shelves with colorful spines. However, with the cost of printing and shipping, this is not a budget-friendly option for debut authors or independents. Even with the 'media mail' option, the cost can really add up. Also, ebooks are easier to send internationally -- in minutes as a matter of fact. How amazing is that!? With all this said, I'd like to address some submission issues that have continually cropped up with ebooks. Are they convenient? Oh yes, if done properly!

PDF's are great and should be thought of as the template -- not the final product. Converting to PDF is typically necessary for printing, but also for ebook formatting. However, it should not be thought of as an ebook or necessarily interchangeable. There are many devices out there that book reviewers use. It's unwise to assume they are willing to sit in front of a computer screen for 18 hours pushing the page down arrow to read your PDF because it saves you money. 

I do not read on my computer, period. It's uncomfortable and frankly, you want the reviewer to be in the best mood possible when viewing your creative work. Now, if the device the book reviewer is using happily accepts PDF's with no problem, then by all means, send it -- but golden rule ASK! I clearly note in my review policy and when emailing that I use a Kindle ereader for ebook reviews. That means, I want any submissions sent compatible with Kindle (.mobi) or given the option to download from a site that provides most formats i.e. Smashwords.  

If you don't know what this is, I suggest taking the time to learn because I don't foresee the mode of information sharing reverting any time soon.  It would be fantastic if every ereader would do the conversion or better yet, if there were a universal format -- but that is not the case, not yet anyways. If you've gotten this far and you don't know what I'm talking about then likely you're not ready or shouldn't be submitting electronic books to anyone. I suggest taking a step back and learning about ereader devices and familiarize yourself with the basics.

I can't tell you how many times I've kindly responded to an author's review request (who noted they'd like to provide an ebook) that I'll accept for review, but to remember I use a Kindle and would appreciate .mobi or a way to download in compatible format. Several times I've received a response that the author is not tech savvy and doesn't really know what that is (as if this is my problem) and they send a PDF because that is 'electronic,' right? In the past, I've downloaded the PDF, converted and then sent it to my Kindle. Basically, I did more work for a review than I should.  I will no longer be doing this. All non-converted or non-compatible PDF's for Kindle will be rejected. It's basic, fairly simple, clearly stated and really all I ask. 

Although, the author is making a truthful confession by revealing their lack of technical know-how and hopes I'm sympathetic, it's sending a negative message to (me) the book reviewer.

  1. It exposes lack of knowledge with the quickly evolving industry of ebooks.  I knew nothing about ereaders, coding, html, formatting, coversions ect. when I was ready to publish my first book and began blogging.  However, I learned and learned quickly.  I spent hours reading and teaching myself.  Am I an expert?  No, not by a long shot -- but I like to think I understand the basics which is vital.  I desperately try to keep up, which can be a difficult endeavor.  We all make mistakes.
  2. It's disregarding.  Ignorance does not get a free pass.  Fine, you don't have computer skills and perhaps, you don't want to learn -- then, as an author, publisher ect. your means are limited to mailing paperbacks.  Don't take the attitude that a word document or PDF is good enough, deal with it ,because I don't have time to figure out all this muckity muck.
  3. Lastly, if you agree to send a print copy -- most book reviewers assume this actually means a 'book.'  300 pages of 8x11 loose pages is not ideal.  I don't have the patience or time to keep it all straight.  It's cumbersome, messy and disorganized.  Unless the reviewer has specifically agreed to read a manuscript in rough form, don't send 'print' in any other form than a binded book.

There are many resources providing guides, free service, software, free conversions and basic information concerning ebooks.  Here are just a few that I've used:

  • Smashwords, Smashwords Style Guide - Hardly anyone wants to face the task of formatting for Smashwords and following the dreaded guide, but the effort is worth it in the end and honestly, you'll learn a lot without having to spend a cent.  Also allows authors to create a coupon code with expiration.  Perfect to send to book reviewers and again, at no cost to either party.
  • Calibre - converts those lovely PDF's into various formats for several ereader devices i.e. .mobi, epub for free.

1 comment :

  1. What a good post! I completely agree. I always state that I have a kindle so .mobi is best but more often than not, I get PDFs. And not all of them work, which is just frustrating. Especially if it is the author contacting me for a review.

    I will have to check Calibre out. Now I just wish there was a way for me to get adobe digital copies on my kindle. :(

    -Michelle @ Book Briefs