A new online service is offering free ebook production facilities that can also produce PDF files and link up to a distribution service that charges 10% per book sold.
The ebook production part is called BackTypo and has been set up by an Italian firm but the site can be viewed and used in English. You can produce epub, mobi and PDF files fairly easily using the service.
Any word processor can be used to prepare your book and your file is then uploaded to BackTypo where you can add front matter, meta details, etc while formatting the work as an ebook. You can also write and edit your whole book in BackTypo if you prefer.
The service offers a number of basic templates which can be used for various genres and is aiming to add more templates, plus the ability to produce fixed-layout ebooks and, intriguingly, audiobooks.
I have no idea how the audiobook plan would work but this is an area where an indie production service could really stand out from the crowd.
Ebook files can be downloaded from BackTypo and checked on your computer or in the cloud and can be used without any constraint or limitation.
You could, for instance, use the free service, download your validated files and then upload them direct to Amazon or a distributor such as Smashwords or Digital2direct.
Content can be changed or updated at any time and republished without any charge. There’s a good Help section available for authors who want to produce their own ebooks.
It can be confusing initially as the system works on dividing the original content into ‘blocks’ which are separated into ‘chapters’, ‘sections’ or ‘parts’ which are also referred to as ‘primary nodes’, while there are also ‘sub-chapters’ and ‘sub-sections’ referred to as ‘secondary nodes’.
However, if you’re producing a relatively straightforward book such as a novel, then you can ignore much of the technical stuff.
The ability to generate a PDF could be particularly useful for authors/publishers who want to produce a print book as well as an ebook. I haven’t looked at this in any detail yet, so I’m unable to make any judgement on the quality of the PDF output.
I’ve always found it extremely difficult to make a really good PDF from a word processor file that’s been formatted for ebook production. It might look good at first glance but you’ll generally soon find bad line breaks and widows and orphans galore as you check through.
My painstaking solution is to start again, using software that has been designed primarily for print output, such as Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress, although I have been told by many people that they get good results out of well prepared Word files.
If BackTypo really has cracked the problem of ebook-PDF conversion, then it’ll be worth using, if only for that facility. I’m hoping to test out a book on it soon and I’ll report back on the results.
If you also want to use the distribution service, then BackTypo ties in with Narcissus.me, which distributes and sells ebooks worldwide on Amazon, Apple iBooks, Google Play, Nook, Kobo and other retailers. It’s a simple matter of clicking on Publish with Narcissus, entering the price of your book and picking the stores where you want to sell. Narcissus takes 10% of every sale made through its service, which is the standard amount charged by other distributors.
The firm says it pays royalties at the end of every quarter. But this isn’t an automatic payment as you have download your sales report from Narcissus at the end of a quarter, fill in the invoice with the total amount of your royalties and then send it to Narcissus, which is a convoluted way of doing things when other retailers and distributors make automatic payments.
The terms also say payments are made 60 days from the date of receipt at the end of the month, so it’s possible that you would receive royalties only every five months.