Vook, a new distributor and other ebook musings


So, I was reading my Publishers Weekly last week and ran across a big add for Vook. Have you heard of them? They’re a new company like Smashwords: you upload a Word doc or docx or an epub file and they convert it for you and then distribute it, royalty free to Apple, B&N and Amazon. Sounds good but it’s not really free… you pay a subscription to use the service. The one book package starts at $99. Check them out yourself by going to Vook.com.

I looked into this because it sounded like they were somehow affiliated with Publishers Weekly… but I’m not sure about that. Most of my clients upload to Smashwords who doesn’t charge a fee, but does take a cut (5% I think), so if you were selling a lot of one of your titles, Vook might work for you. On reading their instructions (Vook), I was pretty confused about how they wanted you to format your Word document though… really confused. In fact it went against everything that I have learned about constructing a good-looking document in Word. I guess I need to see one of their books because the examples that they showed to illustrate things like Titles was truly awful. But I have my methods, they’ve worked for me for a long time, and I’m sticking with them. And although I do give my clients a Word ‘doc’ for Smashwords, it’s very simply and specifically formatted so that it makes it’s way through Smash’s ‘meatgrinder’ unscathed. The epub and mobi/Kindle formats I build with an HTML file… so much more control over your output that way.

I guess I’m talking about this today because I’m concerned about the quality of the ebooks that I’m seeing lately. Quite a few just don’t look very good. All the words are there (or most of them are anyway), but they just aren’t very attractive… big honkin’ fonts, strange margins, odd image formatting, stuff like that. Of course the biggest offenders are the books converted by the New York publishers. I think they just try to get as many ebooks up as they can as fast as they can. Last night I started a book by one of my favorite authors, big publisher, very disappointed in the look of the book. In fact, although I bought it at the Kindle store specifically for my Kindle Fire, after a few pages I switched to reading it on my iPad because the story is just so freakin’ good, as are all of his books, even though the iPad isn’t very comfortable for reading in bed. For some reason it just looked better on the iPad, maybe because the font size coding in the book just wasn’t working on the Kindle Fire but did work in the ‘Pad.

You know, I don’t think of myself as a formatter anymore, but as an Ebook Designer. I’m striving to get my proofing perfect, but I still find that I overlook some words and punctuation even when I run that document through SpellCheck one more time, and I have my SpellCheck set so it finds everything. Just today, I went back over a book, a big book, and found two dropped periods, one beginning quote which should have been an end quote and upon instead of up on.  That actually was a new one. Usually I’m looking for clown instead of down, or but instead of hut! Now that was a funny proofing error… the sentence had the heroine putting a notebook in her but instead of in her hut… a real story changer. Reminds me of what happened on The University of Texas School of Public (Pubic) Affairs Commencement program. Proofing is hard, and getting it perfect is just about impossible. After reading 120,000 words twice, your brain and your eyes start to battle for superiority… You eyes see one thing, but your brain (the dominant member of this partnership) just knows it’s something entirely different. What’s a girl to do… as a last resort, run it through SpellCheck… just one more time!

But to get back to Ebook Design, I think that ebooks should be as attractive as print books. Clear fonts, crisp images, small images for book excerpts, flourishes which look especially nice in Regencies. Some authors are beginning to use small line drawings as scene change markers as well as beautiful line work as borders above and below titles and other elements to set them apart. I really enjoy doing flourishes. I did a blood splatter for one of my clients and found that if I converted the ‘jpg’ mage to a ‘gif’ image with color fill (red of course) but no outline then it wouldn’t have that pesky white box around it in Kindle when you have your screen set on Sepia. That just drives me nuts. Epubs don’t react that way, no white box no matter what color you make your screen. So if any of you write Vampire novels, call me and I’ll do some flowing blood for you!

And in closing, I just have to give out a big Thank You to my fellow formatter and a fabulous author, Lori Devoti. She showed me how to save the italics during a nuclear purge… what an incredible time-saver.  Go check out her books such as The Witch Thief and Trust Me, they’re wonderful. And don’t forget novels by her alter-ego, Rae Davies, such as Loose Screw and Cut Loose, Dusty Deals Mysteries.

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About athirstyblog

If you're a published author and are sitting on a basement full of backlisted books, then you've found the right blog. Although I formerly filled these pages with book reviews, they will now be filled with tips on eBook formatting, talk about the current technology of eBooks, and other stuff that interests me and hopefully interests you. I'm currently an eBook formatter, formerly a bookseller, archaeologist, illustrator and lover of all things historical and scientific. And I'm now a permanent citizen of DownEast Maine with my own beach and 175 year old house and everything! Come along for the Journey!
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3 Responses to Vook, a new distributor and other ebook musings

  1. This is Matt from Vook. You can always reach me at Matthew@vook.com. I just wanted to make a few comments on this.

    First — Vook charges a monthly subscription rate of $9.99 a month and we don’t take any royalties off of what we receive from the distributors. We’ll soon have new business terms as well, so check in shortly at Vook.com

    Second — Vook allows you to make some of the best looking eBooks on the planet. Our entire tool was designed to address the very problem you raise — bad looking ebooks. You can style the CSS without knowing code, create beautiful designs within the limits of flowable text ebooks and add images to your heart’s content. If you’d like to see it in action, just contact me and I will set up a demo for you so you can see the high quality ebooks we produce.

    Finally — We do have a relationship with Publishers Weekly where customers who sign up for the PW Select Program also get a free ebook via Vook.

    Please reach out with any questions and I can give you more information.

    Thanks!

    Matt

    • athirstyblog says:

      Matt, thanks so much for commenting. I will update my blog immediately! What eRetailers to you distribute to? My customers will be interested in that. Do you distribute to Amazon? What kind of file? This is the crux of the problem right now. They are starting to refuse to upload Mobi files that have been produced by Calibre. One of my files was refused recently. However, using the Calibre Epub through KindlePreview/Kindlegen (Amazon’s prefered method right now), gives completely awful results. I think I know what the problem is… but this is just so complex. Word to HTML to Calibre to Sigil and either back to Calibre to produce a Mobi or use the Calibre Epub through Kindle Previewer to produce the mobi. Anyway you look at it, it’s just too complex… and I do this for a living! And although it is very easy to edit an epub through Sigil… it’s almost impossible to edit the mobi unless you go all the way back to the HTML doc and then rebuild.

      So my question to you, Matt, is… do you have a better way? I’d be glad to vet it and pass it along.

      Thanks again,

      Pam

    • athirstyblog says:

      Matt, I just looked back on your site, and the smallest package was $19.99 per month… and you have Amazon royalties listed way below what my clients and I are getting and below what they are receiving from Apple. B&N is in line though. Why is that?

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