A few days ago, I published my first ebook, “Dropbox In 30 Minutes“. The product website answers the question “What is Dropbox“, and includes an overview of the contents of the book, plus links to a few locations where it can be bought. What I briefly wanted to mention in this post were some of the requirements to publish a 10,000-word e-book on a technical topic (Dropbox, an online storage service). Technical production was a DIY effort, which I suspect is rare in this business — most authors are good at writing, but need help with production.
I knew almost nothing about ebook publishing before I started, and had never authored a print book. However, I quickly discovered that I had very strong skills in other areas that are required for publishing an ebook. They include:
- Writing: Besides writing magazine features, newspaper articles, a business case, and a graduate school thesis, I’ve been a blogger for more than 10 years and have published more than 1,000 posts in various locations. I have a strong voice, and cranking out 10,000 words is no longer a big deal.
- Editing: I have worn many editorial hats over the years, from copy editor all the way up to managing editor for The Industry Standard. This helped with catching errors, organizing the text, and coordinating the various elements required for the ebook (for instance, screenshots, text, and front matter). Note that I did ask two other experienced editors and a technical expert to review early drafts before I published, however.
- Design/Layout: I’ve worked on print layout as a “paginator” for a technology magazine, and have been working with Web layout through blogs and other online work for more than 15 years. I was able to apply this knowledge to the design of the cover as well as the arrangement of text, headings, and images in the body of the document.
- HTML: I didn’t know this until I looked at the publishing guide for the Kindle, but HTML is actually an important part of some ebook publishing standards. I first learned to code HTML in 1995, so it was not a problem for me to fix some HTML code that Microsoft Word had generated for my Kindle edition.
An ebook for Dropbox users becomes a template for other books?
I could keep on going with this list. Experience with business setup, marketing, even photography all have played a role in getting my first ebook for Dropbox newbies off the ground. It gives me a lot of leeway to experiment, but also made me realize that for future books I may want to outsource certain elements (especially cover design and copy editing).