Information Technology Dark Side

Struggles of a Self-Taught Coder

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Review: eBook Creation Services from

February 8th, 2012 · 2 Comments

I’m No Stranger to Self-Publishing
I’ve been self-publishing my writing for a long time. I figured out a long time ago that a good blog page with a few ads on it will return more money in the long run than an article in a magazine or on someone else’s web site. Let’s take my two most highly-visited blog posts of all time as an example:

These two pages are highly ranked in google and account for most of my search driven traffic. As a result, they generate between $800 and $2000 per year in ad revenue. If I had sold them to a magazine, I might have made $300 each. Once.

But that’s not my only self-publishing experience. The books for the classes I teach are also self-published. Exploratory Testing Practicum is published on Lulu and I publish Immersive Agile and User Stories for Business People at FedEx. Granted I sell them privately, but the point is I am no stranger to the work required to create a printable book.

I also published one of my works of fiction, Alter Ego, on I laid out the book myself and designed the cover on my own as well. It shows. I can’t wait for the new version of Alter Ego to be out – the cover is infinitely better.

The Manuscript in my Drawer
I wrote Genesis 2.0 several years ago and for a long time I was determined to publish it traditionally. Even though I already had a grasp for the long tail of publishing independently, my egotistical need to win the approval of the publishing establishment held me back. I wanted it. I got pretty close to getting it, I think. I was able to interest a top agent to read it twice and send me an extensive critique of it. But I also garnered a pile of rejection letters from people who couldn’t be bothered to read a single word.

About three months ago I finally got over myself and decided to self-publish. Wary of my not-so-stellar artistic work preparing Alter Ego for publication, I decided to enlist the help of a real artist for the cover and creation of the eBook. Genesis 2.0 is a story I really love and I wanted the book’s appearance to reflect that.

An Option I Couldn’t Afford
Based on the recommendations of Joe Konrath and others, I contacted artists who create eBooks and eBook covers and quickly learned that it would cost $400-500 to prepare Genesis 2.0. This isn’t necessarily a bad investment, but at that moment in my life I couldn’t afford it and I decided to wait. I also wanted to re-issue Alter Ego more attractively (the new version is coming soon!), and altogether I would have been out at least $800.

That wasn’t happening, not after I burned through a small pile of cash on a small marketing experiment with TroopTrack.

Along Came Booktango
Partly because of the work I’ve done on Author Learning Center and partly because of my love for writing, I was asked to participate in the beta program of a new self-publishing package called Booktango. With Booktango, you can create an eBook from your manuscript and distribute it to all the major channels for free. Or, if you’d like additional help with your cover or some art inside the book, you can purchase a package for $49 or $189 depending on your needs.

I used the $49 package and published Genesis 2.0 and Alter Ego. I was surprised by how easy it was to take a Word manuscript and turn it into an eBook. Really, you just upload the file, spend a few minutes resolving any errors it finds, fill out the metadata about your book, describe your cover, and submit. It was quick and easy.

I was naturally skeptical about the cover design that I would receive. After all, the prices I had been quoted by artists were a lot more than $49, and I wanted my cover to look good.

I was stunned when I saw Genesis 2.0’s cover. It’s awesome. I love it.

The other thing I was worried about was what the interior of the book would look like. There’s currently no way to preview your eBook, but again I was very pleased with the end result. I’ve been told previews will be in a future release of Booktango and I look forward to that.

I was pleased that the table of contents was created for me – that was something that was a bit unclear to me at the time.

In the interest of true disclosure, I did run into a few problems while I was creating my book. There were some small issues with saving data along the way, and the user interface, while not bad, is also not awesome. But it’s easy enough to use. The cool thing I learned as I encountered and reported my problems is how responsive and helpful the Booktango staff is. They made it super easy.

The Bottom Line
I couldn’t be happier with the Booktango product. As soon as I saw Genesis 2.0 on my Kindle I decided to re-issue Alter Ego through Booktango as well. I can’t wait for the moment when I can take the old picture of Alter Ego down from the side of my blog and replace it with the new one.

So, would I recommend Booktango to other writers? Heck yes I would.

Minutes after posting this, I discovered that Alter Ego is complete – the cover on the right is the new cover, not the old one I designed myself.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Shana Dimes // Apr 20, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    This is a very good review of Booktango. I have not tried it or anything else at this time. I am completely frustrated. I would love to have someone show me how to format and publish, one on one. I feel really retarded as it is all greek to me.
    I have been burnt a few times and am afraid to spend money on something that I can’t figure out. Thanks for the review. I will think it over.
    Sincerely Shana Dines

  • 2 Shana Dimes // Apr 20, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    My name is Shana Dines, not Dimes, geesh

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