How to write and publish an e-book

e-book concept design, vector illustration eps10 graphicWith the advent of e-books anyone can now be a best selling author. No longer do you need to beg a publishing house to take you on. Those days are long gone. Self Publishing means it now takes around four minutes for the words on your page to be accessible to anyone around the world.

One success story is Mark Dawson who has sold over 300,000 copies of his crime series and regularly returns yearly revenue in the six figures.

So what are the steps involved in successfully publishing an e-book?

 

Step One – Write!

typewriterAll writers are faced with the tyranny of the blank page but writing regularly and churning out words is something you just have to go through. You don’t need to download a fancy programme to write. A simple word document (.doc, or docx) is fine – you can Zamzar it at a later date to put it into the right format.

Some writers aim to write a certain amount of words every single day whilst others prefer to write when they are inspired. Find out what works for you and then get into a routine and stick to it.

Whatever route you go down you have to get the words onto the page, unless you plan on releasing a book like this.

 

Step Two – Design your Cover

 

Almost as important as the content you write is the cover you design. To stand any chance of your book being downloaded it has to stand out. Amazon has over four million self published titles for users to download to their Kindle and so with competition that fierce you need to grab the shoppers’ eye. If you are not blessed with a paintbrush then you can use a service such as 99designs to get a professional looking cover done for little money.

bookshelf

All you need to do is create a spec for what you  want the designers to create – include your favourite existing titles, and styles that you like – and set a price for how much you are willing to pay. Designers then put designs together and you pick your favourite. The great thing about 99Designs is you can give designers feedback so that they can tweak their designs to meet your needs and at the end of it all if you don’t like any of the designs then you don’t pay!

At the lower end of the price bracket is a service like Fiverr where you can pick up a design for $5. But, as you might suspect, designs can be very hit and miss so do your research and find a designer on Fiverr who comes highly recommended and produces designs that catch your eye.

Depending on where you are publishing your book, your book cover will have to be in a certain format. We’ve got you covered as you can convert any of your images into the required image format.

 

Step Three – Pick the right self publishing tool

 

Pick the right self publishing tool for you and this means you may want to consider cost and ease of creating the book, distribution and finally how much of a cut do  you get when you make a sale.  There are two types of publishing channels available to you – single channel and multiple channel – and you need to decide which of the above criteria is most important to you as you pick your preferred publishing channel.

Antique printing press

Single channel distribution is as it suggests – distribution via one retailer via one device. For example, Kindle Direct Publishing for Amazon Picking this option allows you to retain almost total control of your book, and its profits, and you can generally produce a book cheaply but the onus will then be on you to try and sell it and get momentum. Single Channel is also best for those who like the DIY side of creating a book – i.e. creating your cover and formatting the book yourself. It is also the route taken by those who write novels and whose books contain text only, rather than a bunch of images. If you’re creating a book that’s packed full of multimedia then you may want to consider heading down the multiple channel route.

Multiple channel is best summed up as a middle man who pushes your work out via various channels. So you write the book, upload it to a site (or create it on the site using their editors) like Smashwords, LuLu, Blurb or BookBaby and then your book is pushed out to multiple retailers. However, you tend to have to pay either an upfront fee or give away a large slice of your book to these multiple channel distributors. Multiple channel is often recommended if you are feeling somewhat overwhelmed at the thought of having to format and convert your own book. If instead, you want a nice tool that allows you to drop text and images into pages from a template then this could be the solution for you. Multiple channel is also especially good if you have special layout requirements or there’s various multimedia being used. For example, if you’re creating a coffee table book full of pictures then a service like Blurb would probably be best for you. This CNET article takes you through the pros and cons of all the different multiple channel publishers if that’s the route you are leaning towards.

 

Step Four – Convert your file

 

No matter what service you decide to use it needs to be in the correct format. The three most common formats for e-books are EPUB, MOBI and PDF. You can use Zamzar to convert your word document into any of these formats, or any other e-book format. EPUB is considered the global standard for e-books and works on almost any device as it is an open e-book file format. MOBI is the format that is ideal for the Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks. For a full list of e-book formats head over to our file format pages where there’s a more in-depth appraisal of all of your e-book file format options.

zamzar

 

Step Five – Format your book

 

CMYK poster

Formatting your e-book is key. There’s nothing worse than someone downloading a book of yours only for the formatting to be skewed, words spelt incorrectly or a whole chapter missing!

Use a tool such as Calibre to format your book after you have converted it. If you’ve decided to head down the multiple  channel route then you’ll find that some publishers such as blurb have a built in editor that you can use.

 

Step Six – Publish and then get to work!

 

So you’ve written your book, created your cover, gone through all the different publishing options, converted your work into the right format and then checked that you’ve not accidentally omitted a key chapter; you’d think that’d be you done right? Wrong! Depending on the ambitions you have for your book the really hard work starts now and that is the marketing you have to do to make sales.

As we said earlier there are four million e-books on the Kindle platform alone. So it’s hard, really hard, to stand out from the crowd. Some people will update their Facebook status and send out a couple of tweets and think that’s all the promotion they need. But for you to make serious money from your book then you need to create a website,Website.jpg which you can do via a service like Wix or SquareSpace. One self published author, Ben Galley, said of a website “Some people survive off Twitter or a blog, but you need an online presence. Most people who buy your book want to find out more about you and they can’t find that from your Twitter feed,” he says. “A website is a sales platform, it’s a marketing platform and it’s a global presence if you do it right.”

Next, identify all the key people (bloggers, journalists and people of influence) within the genre that your book sits within and approach them. Remember to make the pitch personal [avoid calling them the wrong name!] and punchy – make it stand out from the crowd. Maybe offer them a free or discounted book and try and offer them something in return, for example, offer them a guest blog post for their site and maybe share their works on your website. Get creative. Ultimately if you want your book to gain momentum it needs to get a groundswell of support and therefore needs good reviews which are only likely if people of influence are talking about it.

Run giveaway competitions. For example you may want to give away your book for free to the first 1000 people who share it or review it. Again, creativity will win the day here but the more you can get people to talk about your book the greater chance you have of it being a success. Fifty Shades of Grey began as a simple free PDF that gained momentum like a runaway train – in the UK E.L. James, the author, has sold more books than J.K.  Rowling. 

Hashtag gold medal athlete takes a selfie in front of the colorful Selaron Steps in Rio de Janeiro, BrazilFinally, when you use social media  – and you should use it extensively – and partake in forums don’t just spam users. Users will spot a spammer and probably go out of their way to submit negative reviews or press which can ultimately kill your book.

Instead, engage in conversation, play the long game. It’s an awful lot of work and there’s no quick way to success but  given you’ve already slaved away on the book a few more months of hard work makes sense.

As you can see publishing your own book has never been easier, but publishing a successful book still requires lots of hard graft and a little luck.

dave eggers quote

Happy Writing!
The Zamzar Team.

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Convert MIDI and MID files to MP3, AAC, WAV and more

Convert MIDI files to MP3, AAC and WAVRelease your audio files ! Zamzar now has the ability to convert MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) files into a variety of of other audio formats, including MP3, AAC, WAV, FLAC and more.

MIDI files are popular with musicians and recording engineers since they provide a standardized template for saving musical arrangements (or sequences) into a common file format which can be played back across a variety of different computing environments. The MIDI specification holds that the file itself doesn’t contain any actual music, rather it comprises a set of instructions which describe how the audio has been arranged, including the notation, pitch, and velocity as well as control signals for volume, vibrato and audio panning. Since MIDI files don’t contain the audio itself, the quality of its playback depends entirely on the quality of the device being used to playback the file (and the audio samples from that device). This means that audio quality can vary greatly depending on the system setup being used.

Sometimes MIDI files use the MID file extension – These files are exactly the same format as a MIDI file but use a three letter file extension, normally because they were created on a computer system limited to three character file extentsions (for example MS DOS).

Zamzar now offers the ability to convert these files into audio formats which will guarantee that the sound you hear will be replicated on a friend or colleagues computer.

You can use Zamzar to perform all of the following conversions online for both MIDI and MID files:

  • aac – Advanced Audio Coding File
  • ac3 – AC3 Audio File
  • flac – Free Lossless Audio Codec
  • m4a – Compressed video file
  • m4r – iPhone Ringtone File
  • mp3 – Compressed audio file
  • mp4 – MPEG-4 Video File
  • ogg – Ogg Vorbis Compressed Audio File
  • wav – Windows audio file
  • wma – Windows Media Audio

Go convert your MIDI files !

Happy converting,
The Zamzar Team.

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Announcing the file conversion API

We’re delighted to officially announce our brand new file conversion API which allows you to integrate file conversions into your apps and projects using a simple REST-based API – check it out now at https://developers.zamzar.com.

1,100+ conversions !

 
File conversion API formatsThe API is launching today with support for 1,100+ different conversions, so whether you need to convert documents such as WordPerfect or MS Publisher into PDFs, videos into animated GIFs or PSD’s into JPG’s we can help. Check out the full list of formats at https://developers.zamzar.com/formats – we support documents, images, videos, audio, eBooks, compressed & CAD files.

 

Simple to use

 
We have designed the API to be simple to use with comprehensive documentation, code samples and support direct from the development team so that you can get up and running quickly – perform complex file conversions in just a few lines of code.

Try it now ! Just copy and paste this code to get a list of all available API formats:

curl https://api.zamzar.com/v1/formats -u GiVUYsF4A8ssq93FR48H:

 

Production ready

 
File conversion API Our services are cloud-based so we can meet your conversion demands, whether you are converting 1 file or 10,000.

The API can scale with your needs, so if your app or website needs a huge burst of file conversions we can handle it, seamlessly.

 

Free to test

 
Signup for a free file conversion API accountGet up and running in minutes by signing up for a free API account (no payment needed), and start converting files immediately.

You can use your test account to convert files for free whilst you are evaluating the API.

Get started now

Happy Developing !
The Zamzar Team.


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Why Fred Wilson is wrong – files aren’t dead


zamzar-logo-18x18Check out our file conversion API – 100s of formats supported


Prominent New York VC Fred Wilson just posted an interesting and thought-provoking retrospective on 2014. He attempted to sum up some of the major trends in tech over the course of the last 12 months, and made some astute observations, such as “cyberwarfare … was the dominant theme of 2014” and “messaging is the new social media”.

One thing he got wrong though was his assertion that:

“We finally got rid of files. dropbox, google drive, soundcloud, spotify, netflix, hbogo, youtube, wattpad, kindle, and a host of other cloud based services finally killed off three letter filenames like mp3, mov, doc and xls.”

Fred isn’t the first to call time on the humble file – plenty of other commentators, technologists and websites have been sounding the death knell for the notion of files and hierarchical file systems for years – here’s a piece from 15 years ago doing just that. Despite our best efforts to replace them files soldier on, refusing to know when they are beat.

So why haven’t files died out ?

  1. Files make the world go round

    If you peak under the hood of most of the world’s favourite operating systems you’ll find a hierarchical file system trying to break out. Android, Linux, OS X (which is built on top of UNIX) and Windows all use files to manage core system resources, and developers haven’t yet found a better paradigm for managing the complexity of building, shipping and maintaining a modern operating system. The notion of a “file system” even sits at the core of the most oft-quoted filesystem-killer – iOS:

    ios-file-system

  2.  

  3. Your devices use files

    In the last 10 years there has been an explosion of devices which we use to consume content – from smartphones, e-readers, tablets and (now) watches to internet-connected toasters. For these devices to display meaningful content to you (books, films, songs, photos) they use file formats defined by agreed-upon standards. Some of those standards are developed collaboratively between companies, others are proprietary, but their common feature is that somewhere along the line most of them use a “file” as the storage container for your content.

    As we have more devices thrust upon us, so we can expect more standards, new file formats and more files – the rate at which they are developing is speeding up, not slowing down, and there is always a commercial imperative for companies to push for ownership of new standards (despite what they might claim to the contrary in public):

    apple-u2-file-format

  4.  

  5. Even “THE CLOUD” use files

    “WAIT !” I hear you thunder – have you not heard of “THE CLOUD ™” and it’s endless capacity for slurping up data and allowing me to create unique, meaningful content ?

    All of the killer apps that Fred mentions will use files at some level in order to bring you the service they provide. But what’s more interesting is that many of them still surface the notion of “the file” in their interfaces to end users – you can import MP3’s into Spotify, download videos from YouTube and upload audio files to your Kindle. Even Dropbox can’t quite bring itself to kill the file extension yet:

    dropbox-screenshot

    So whilst it’s tempting to think of “THE CLOUD ™” and apps as filesystem killers, they still rely on files as much as any other software of it’s type has done in the past. And many users still value the control this gives them.

What Fred really meant

 

I think what Fred was really getting at was that from the point of view of the average computer user files are becoming less important and less visible.

And it’s hard to argue with that – Most people couldn’t care less what underlying proprietary binary data format their words, videos, drawings and music are encoded in – they just want to be able to find, view and edit their stuff quickly and easily, on any device at any time. Anything that enables that is a “win” from the point of view of most consumers.

The data seems to back this notion up:

google-trends-files

… or does it ?

soundcloud-netflix-download

youtube-download

 

Ceding control for convenience

 

Most people are prepared to cede control over their content for the benefits of convenience – The rise & rise of the largest consumer Internet companies are predicated on this fact. Facebook will organize your social life, YouTube your videos and GMail your email in return for mining your content to advertise at you. Many users aren’t aware they are making this trade but are happy since their lives improve as a result.

But what happens when Yahoo accidentally deletes all your photos, or your backup provider implodes, or you can’t play that new computer game on Christmas Day, or your [insert app-du-jour] is deadpooled overnight ? Who owns your data then ? Can you even get it out before it gets wiped ?

This is to say nothing of digital obsolescence – It comes to something when the inventor of Powerpoint can no longer open his own files because the software he originally created no longer lets him.

The magnificently brief history of computing has seen wild swings in where your files live – the mainframe ? the minicomputer ? A tape drive ? the PC ? The Netbook ? The Smartphone ? Your USB drive ? Or SD Card ? It would be naïve to think that we are necessarily at the end of that cycle with “THE CLOUD ™” or the latest mobile app.

Recently we have seen the beginnings of a backlash against too much centralisation of data thanks to the privacy issues raised by Snowden – ironically one of Fred’s own investments (DuckDuckGo) is something of a poster-child for that movement. It’s too early to tell where it will go, but the notion that you can still own your own files is a powerful one for many – we haven’t got rid of files yet.


Full disclosure: We provide services to allow business and individuals to convert files to and from 100s of different formats so we clearly have a horse in this race. If you’re a developer we’re just about to launch an awesome API to take away the pain of that process – you should check it out 🙂


 

Happy New Year !
Chris Whyley – Co-Founder, Zamzar.


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Convert AIFF / AIF files to MP3, WAV, AAC and more – online and free

Convert AIFF and AIF files to MP3, AAC, WAV and more.The Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) is an Apple Mac OSX audio file format, usually denoted by files using either the AIFF or AIF file extension. You can now use Zamzar to convert AIFF or AIF files into a variety of other audio formats using our online conversion tool.

AIFF files tend to be much larger in size than compressed audio files such as MP3, because it is an uncompressed and lossless audio format. This can be useful for preserving audio quality and allowing more rapid streaming of audio files from disk to applications, but filesizes can grow to be large, very quickly. The format tends to appear most often on Mac OSX systems.

If you need to convert an AIFF or AIF file Zamzar now supports conversion to all of the following formats:

  • aac – Advanced Audio Coding File
  • ac3 – AC3 Audio File
  • flac – Free Lossless Audio Codec
  • m4a – Compressed video file
  • m4r – iPhone Ringtone File
  • mp3 – Compressed audio file
  • mp4 – MPEG-4 Video File
  • ogg – Ogg Vorbis Compressed Audio File
  • wav – Windows audio file
  • wma – Windows Media Audio

 

AIFF – A potted history

 
commodore-amiga-a500The AIFF format has a long (and somewhat glorious) history.

Originally developed by Apple Computers in 1988 for the Mac OSX operating system, it was based on the Interchange File Format (IFF) developed by Electronic Arts, which was designed to ease the transfer of data between software produced by different companies. IFF files were widely used on Commodore Amiga systems, most notably for various graphic formats.

According to the official AIFF specification document the new AIFF format was “… the result of several meetings held with music developers over a period of ten months in 1987-88” – back in the days of an unusually collaborative Apple Computing 🙂

Happy converting,
The Zamzar Team.

[Amiga image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/quagmirez31/4046472613]


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Free your emails – Convert EML and MSG files to PDF, DOC, HTML and more

Convert EML and MSG files onlineDon’t leave your old emails locked up ! Zamzar now has the ability to convert email files from the popular “EML” and “MSG” file formats into PDF, DOC, TXT, HTML and other formats.

Files which have an .eml extension are email messages which have been created by email clients such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird or Eudora. Files with a .msg extension are email messages which have been exported from Microsoft Outlook into a proprietary binary format, which can make them difficult to read if you don’t have the software to open them. You can read more technical details about the MSG format here.

We now offer the ability to convert these files into formats which are easier to share with friends and colleagues, such as PDFs. You can use Zamzar to perform all of the following conversions online for EML files:

  • doc – Microsoft Word Document
  • html – Hypertext Markup Language
  • html4 – Hypertext Markup Language
  • html5 – Hypertext Markup Language/li>
  • jpg – JPEG compliant image
  • pdf – Portable Document Format
  • rtf – Rich Text Format
  • tiff – Tagged image file format
  • txt – Text Document

You can convert MSG files to all the same formats:

  • doc – Microsoft Word Document
  • html – Hypertext Markup Language
  • html4 – Hypertext Markup Language
  • html5 – Hypertext Markup Language
  • jpg – JPEG compliant image
  • pdf – Portable Document Format
  • rtf – Rich Text Format
  • tiff – Tagged image file format
  • txt – Text Document

Go liberate that email !

Happy converting,
The Zamzar Team.

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Convert CR2 files to JPG, PNG, TIFF, PDF and more

Convert CR2 filesA Canon RAW Image (.cr2) file is the go-to file-type for avid photographers using Canon digital cameras. You can now use Zamzar to convert your .cr2 files to other image formats.

If you’ve just splashed out on a brand-new digital camera, have rented one for an important event, or have been emailed files containing the images of your special occasion, it can be frustrating to realise you don’t have the correct image-editing software to open and view your images.

At Zamzar we now offer support for converting .cr2 files into a range of popular image formats, such as tiff, png, jpg and pdf. There’s no need to download any additional software; you can simply convert your files for free online, quicker than you can get everyone to say “cheese!”

The .cr2 format is a RAW image format that stores data taken directly from a camera’s sensor. This file type offers the best quality-to-size ratio, and allows for detailed post-processing of an image. It also avoids the image quality loss that can occur with other more common file formats like .jpg and .png. However, with .cr2 files the image isn’t readily viewable, meaning that specific software is needed in order to view and edit the pictures. This is fine if your camera came with a RAW software package, but not so simple if you’ve purchased your camera second-hand, have borrowed or rented one, or have been sent photos in the .cr2 format by a friend. If this is the case, simply use Zamzar to convert your .cr2 files to any or all of the following formats:

  • bmp – Windows bitmap
  • gif – Compuserve graphics interchange
  • jpg – JPEG compliant image
  • pcx – Paintbrush Bitmap Image
  • pdf – Portable Document Format
  • png – Portable Network Graphic
  • tga – Truevision Targa Graphic
  • tiff – Tagged image file format
  • wbmp – Wireless Bitmap File Format
  • webp – Lossily compressed image file

If you’re a budding photographer wanting to progress beyond simple point-and-shoot cameras, cameras that save images in RAW format are a great choice, allowing you to experiment freely and edit images later. If you’re confused by all your camera’s different picture styles and filtering options, or find you keep forgetting to select the correct options for that all-important shot, simply save your photographs as .cr2 files. That way, you can relax in the knowledge that you can edit your images later and correct any issues at that point – something that’s often not possible with images saved as .jpg files.

With Zamzar’s free online file-conversion tool, there’s no need to purchase or download specialist image-editing software for .cr2 files. Anyone with access to a camera that saves images in RAW format can view, share and print their photos.

Happy snapping !
The Zamzar Team.


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