They made the announcement early in the summer that Pubit!, Barnes and Noble’s version of the Digital Text Platform we’ve all come to know from Amazon, would be available by the end of summer. I can’t say that I agree with BN that the last week of September is the end of Summer (although, hey, maybe they live in Mississippi where summer is really 6 months), but it’s finally up. I got my invite on Friday, read through the contract, and agreed to the Terms of Service, all before I got to the information I really wanted to know: How do their royalty rates compare to Amazon?
For books below $2.99 or above $9.99, you will earn a royalty of 40% off the list price (which you set), no matter what they ultimately sell it for. For books between those price points, it’s 65%, which is a bit lower than Amazon, BUT, you get paid off the list price always, NOT the sale price (which is something that Amazon hasn’t been very vocal about at their 70% royalty rate). That’s a yay, as far as I’m concerned.
So Friday night I sit down to set up the Epub version of Forsaken By Shadow. Pubit! will take assorted formats and run it through its cruncher to create an Epub (out of html, doc, docx, and some others), but let me be the first to tell you that the end result is kind of ugly and you’re going to want to fiddle. Their formatting guide is a joke and hella uninformative. So I set out to acquaint myself with Sigil.
Sigil is a multi-platform WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) ebook editor. It is designed to edit books in ePub format. Now there are tutorials and such on the site. I’ll readily admit I didn’t use them. Instead I wound up playing around and reverse engineering my Epub. First, I took the Smashwords Epub file and plunked that in, just to see what it looked like as a finished product (pretty good, if I do say so myself, so kudos to Mark Coker on his Style Guide). I considered just changing the license and version information and uploading that, but I wasn’t sure if it would have the code that BN mentions in their style guide, so instead, I took my Smashwords source file and ran it through Pubit!’s cruncher, then I downloaded the first version Epub file it spit out and loaded THAT into Sigil. It wasn’t pretty. There weren’t any gremlins in terms of wingdings or other weirdness, but the formatting wasn’t wholly right.
First thing’s first, I had to separate out each chapter with formal chapter breaks. In Sigil there is this nifty little button with a stylized Ch at the top right in your toolbar. Simply put your cursor where you want to insert a break, and click that button. Do this all the way through. It’s going to create a series of what looks like tabbed web pages. Now you’ll want to set the heading level for your chapters and title page by highlighting the relevant text for each chapter/section and using the drop down menu on the left. Whatever you do, be consistent and save after each change. Possibly I was just being superstitious, but it seemed to work better for me that way.
When you’re done with that, save the whole thing, close the file, and REOPEN IT IN SIGIL. Trust me, this is going to save you hours of swearing and frustration (I already did that for you). Double click on each section and make sure your chapter headings, etc. are showing up how and where you want them. I had issues with 2 chapter headings popping over to the left EVERY TIME, and I didn’t find it until I’d already run it through Pubit! again and paged through the Nook emulator a million ties. Once everything is showing up as it should (and you’ve verified by saving and reopening in Sigil), THEN go upload the Epub file to Pubit! and preview the entire book in the Nook emulator. After that, it’s a simple matter of following instructions (and BE SURE TO SAVE AFTER EACH SECTION!) just like the DTP of uploading the cover, summary, reviews, author info, etc. Once you’re happy with everything, click List for Sale and wait.
Now for those of you who are in the same boat as me and have your book in Barnes and Noble already through Smashwords, what happens when the new listing goes live? Well there are 2 listings, but they’re both identical. The new author info, editorial reviews, etc. all merged with the old description (I’m waiting another day or two to see if the new, correct summary populates, since that takes a while with DTP). One of the listings shows Pubit! and the other doesn’t. The only thing that doesn’t seem to cross over is the sales ranking. Since there are two listings you will want to update your Barnes and Noble links to the new one until Smashwords makes a new shipment to BN that notifies them of your opt out so that you’re actually getting your full rate from Pubit!
I am also waiting for the actual categorizations to show up. That’s been my biggest gripe about being in BN through Smashwords. I’m listed just under Ebooks and not in any kind of category, which I was told is because I listed 2 categories on Smashwords (incidentally neither of which is exactly right). So no one is actually FINDING ME without looking specifically FOR me. BN actually has a straight up paranormal romance category, praise God, so I’m hoping for increased sales from being properly listed. Whenever that happens. But again, I’ll give that a few more days to populate.
So far my impressions are that it’s very similar to DTP in functionality, but BN doesn’t yet have the support and infrastructure up. Their link to the alleged Pubit boards doesn’t go anywhere but back to the main “support” page, and the details listed on the site are limited. For Amazon veterans who are familiar with DTP, I don’t think you’ll have a problem listing here, but be prepared to figure some stuff out on your own.