Thinking about publishing a print or eBook — some points to consider

Majority of my experience in the publishing industry since 1990 has been in the commercial publishing arena — large publishers as Simon & Schuster-Prentice Hall, to mid-size Government/Political Science college text and reference publisher —CQ Press to the small, specialized publisher with a growing illustrated children’s books imprint — American Psychological Association and since 2005 with the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) Sales Program

Upon entering the Government publishing environment, it has been a total different animal than commercial publishing. Commercial publishers editorial team acquires manuscripts throughout the year and determines the seasons for the selling season and produces about 25 new books for each imprint sold as “frontlist” titles throughout the appropriate markets and target audiences. Commercial publishers’ production schedule begins one year out so they can work with the authors to develop the text for the appropriate audience and set a release date for the book industry of retailers, corporations, individuals, schools, libraries, organizations, and state, local and Federal Government purchasers Six months prior to the release date, they provide sales and marketing the ISBN, product description, table of contents, author information, author biographies including previous published works and marketing begins to work on the marketing and publicity plans with the author to promote their forthcoming book. At six months ahead of the release date, galley copies of the book are printed if the publisher and author agree that the book should be sold through the chain and independent bookstore market. Most chain and independent store buyers need to review a galley copy three to four months ahead of book release date to consider a purchase on their shelves for print books. Otherwise, you should not expect a commitment for sales from this commercial bookstore channel.

At the U.S. Government Printing Office Sales Program, we are lucky if we know about the forthcoming book three months ahead of the intended release date and most of the Federal content publishers that I have been in contact with have wanted this type of sale for their print books. However, some of the Federal agency content publishers have contacted us within the timeframe needed and we are proud of the success with our guidelines that have been accepted and showcased on independent and chain bookstore shelves. Some essential features for a chain bookstore purchase include a barcode on cover 4, with descriptive content about the book on cover 4, also subject categories noted on cover 4 . Some other features that bookstore buyers, especially Barnes & Noble consumer trade books that are not fiction novels, like a nonfiction book to include blank worksheets with exercises, scattered throughout the book, so the reader can use and identify XYZ for themselves.

I have seen all types of Federal publishing books, including those that have been appalling with the “anything goes format”, such as publishing a book that they wanted to be adopted by university classroom professors that have ignored the basics of textbook publishing. This agency produced a 6×9, 300 page book with an appendix at the end of each chapter, no Summaries or questions at the end of the chapters to test the student’s knowledge, no index or glossary in the back of the book. Plus, the agency contacts were proud of the book cover and binding —buckman cover with embossed lettering for the title, no descriptive copy on the back cover, and no ISBN barcode on cover 4. To say the least, I was amazed that they thought the presentation of this book would be accepted by a college professor for their classroom. The only books that I saw during my eight-year tenure at Simon and Schuster-Prentice Hall with buckman and/or leather-binding with embossed gold lettering were either reference works that there was a large buying power from the library community that wrote the publisher and requested this binding and would agree to a high cost to purchase this bound volume, or a custom-edition where the customer requested this binding and approved costs prior to production. An university or college student would not have enough money to pay for this type of binding to use as a textbook or supplemental reading guide.

At GPO Sales Program, we are authorized to buy copies from the agency’s print run at the “rider” cost to sell our copies to the public. We do not have the authority to change any of the text or binding the agency produces without their permission

In the last year, the GPO Sales Program has received permission from a few Federal agency content providers to covert their PDF files into ePub format eBooks. We have set up a few e-retail and E-library channels to sell these E-pub format eBooks. As part of this test program, we have learned some pitfalls and better practices for producing eBooks and selling them through these e-sales channels. We are continuing to negotiate contracts with more e-channel vendors to get Federal agency content that may be produced in e-pub eBook format out to the general public that use these channels to purchase eBooks.

GPO Sales Program had also worked with GPO Print Procurement and GPO National Account Managers to develop practices as well as a list of vendors for e-Book conversions bids. This process is now set in place so Federal agency content providers can work with GPO to produce eBooks for their constituency.

Now, some pointers when producing content to publish, not just post on your website .

Here are some questions to ask yourself. Who’s is my audience? Is it going to be text-based to read like a novel, text-based to be used for classroom instruction? Data heavy with many tables, graphs, and figures? Is it a reference-based book that the reader will refer to look up specific information from time-to time?

It is important to figure out how your target audience will best use the information that you want to publish.

For instance, if there are pages and pages of data separated into numerous tables, figures and graphs/charts, would the product be best to have available as an electronic data set?

Data sets are suitable for products with 40-100 percent of content will be published through tables, figures, and graphs used for comparisons of historical data, commercial data, or with other data sets for analysis

Possible formats for data sets are MS Excel, so the user can manipulate and sort the data as they want.

XML is another popular format for data sets, especially if you are creating a large database of past years and future years data. Within your XML-formatted data, you will want to insert key tags, so the data will be searchable by those tags through the large database.

Another common format for data sets is the old and true ASCII (text and numerical-based) format. This is probably the most popular format because it can easily be manipulated through the “notepad” software that is custom-built into many older computer machine models and can easily be imported into MS Excel or Lotus spreadsheet applications.

Data sets are most useful to accountants, financial and statistical experts as well as researchers that are comfortable with sorting through numerous tables of information.

If you have 10-30 percent of content that you want displayed in a document with tables, graphs, figures, graphs/charts with text, here are some considerations:

First, determine how you want your end-user to use this data. Would it be best to produce a data set to be downloaded from your website in one of the above formats and produce a text-based eBbook with links to the appropriate data set on your website?

In this scenario, the eBook, if sold through our GPO Sales Program e-sales channel, will be purchased by the user, but will link them back to your website to access the data set through the link to the agency website. If the eBook is adopted by a college professor in this scenario, all students that purchased the eBook, professors, professionals, and other users would need to be referred to your website to access the data set and may find other useful materials on your website as well.

Another possibility would be to publish an eBbook with the data sets assembled in static images, so the end-user can view the data, but cannot manipulate or change any of your programmed data. In this scenario, you may want the eBbook to be adopted by university professors for teaching a course in their classroom. If this is your desire, please keep in mind that a professor is more likely to adopt a Government publication for their class of undergraduate or graduate students, if the ebook has a supplement designed as the professor copy.

In the professor copy, you will want to provide guidelines for how to use the data sets in a classroom-setting. It will be helpful if you suggest the types of research papers that could be developed by the students and submitted to the professor for review and grading.

If you decide that you think it would be beneficial to your stakeholders to have a print book developed, you will want to keep these suggestions in mind for print textbook adoptions. The common format for print textbooks are 7 x 10 or 6 x x 9 trim size. I would still recommend that the datasets are mentioned with links to the agency website. Therefore, the student and professor will still be able to manipulate the data for their own customization and analysis, plus it brings the reader back to the agency website where the user may find other useful materials.

Many commercial publishers will print minimal tables within the chapter and position majority of the tables in an appendix for print and either create a userlogin/password protected section on their website for access to the datasets, sample tests, and lesson plans/syllabus and often will include the userlogin and password within the text.

Another option would be to produce a textbook with links to your website for datasets and print a vest-pocket guide sized “8 x 4 x 1.3” with key, quick-reference items for the student and professor to use as supplements for handy references. Commercial publishers often call these “vest-pocket” books,or “slim-Jims” because they are thin, paperback books (usually less than 250 pages) containing vital formulas, key words or terms with quick-reference definitions, etc. You have probably seen or used these “Vest-pocket” or , “slim Jim’s” from many publishers. They are inexpensive to print even though they have an uncustomary trim size. Commercial publishers usually print these “vest-pocket” guides for students pursuing business, Medical, Engineering, and other advance degrees. Normally, their initial print runs are around 1,500-3,000 copies, pending their target audience, how broadly the guide can be used, and publicity/ marketing programs in place that the author is willing to commit his or her time.

Please do not hesitate to contact me to consult with you about your print and eBook publishing projects that may be in the planning stage at [email protected].

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