Self-publishing photo book specialist Blurb have come up with some software that claims to be capable of producing files for an ebook and printed book at the same time, a holy grail of sorts for self-publishers. The firm is also offering a distribution deal where it will print, store and sell your books through Amazon.
The free Bookwright software is downloaded to your own computer to design and format your book but you have to distribute the book(s) through Blurb.
Although Blurb really is a photo book specialist I don’t see why that shouldn’t be adaptable for any type of books, including novels and general non-fiction, and Blurb do refer to Bookwright’s novel text templates and cookbook templates.
Anyway, although I’m not a big fan of self-publishing print books due to the basic problem that it’s very difficult to make money with print books, I thought I’d give Bookwright at least a cursory go just to see how easy it really is to produce an ebook and print book in one fell swoop.
There are those who say you can use Adobe InDesign or even Microsoft Word to produce an acceptable hybrid file. All I know is that I have a lot of experience in producing print publications and I’ve been unable to get acceptable results in this way.
My usual method of working is to use Jutoh or Scrivener to produce mobi and epub ebook files. With either of these programs, you can produce excellent ebook files quickly but neither would be any good for pumping out a print book.
If I can really be persuaded to go through the long, hard slog of producing a print book, then I’ll shift over to InDesign or Quark XPress and more or less start again. I believe this is the only way to produce a truly professional-looking print book.
However, I’m always happy to be proved wrong, particularly if it means less work for me, so I downloaded Bookwright and fired it up on my Mac and here’s the opening screen.
Start a New Book is the place to begin so I clicked on the button. The program is definitely not lightning fast and feels a bit clunky. It brings up a Choose your book page where you select the size of book you want. This is obviously designed for the print book aspect as you don’t need to select a size for an ebook.
I was looking for an 8 x 5 inches option but there doesn’t appear to be one as the choices are all really intended for photo books, which is Blurb’s forte. They do have a Magazine option on the right at 8.5 x 11 ins, which they claim to be “Ideal for ebooks.” Not what I would call ideal for ebooks, but that’s the one I went for.
I then had the issue of how to import the content of my book and there doesn’t seem to be any option for doing so unless you have a project already in Bookify format, which is Blurb’s online book design tool.
So I resorted to that tried and trusted method of copying and pasting my text, which is about 50 pages long in terms of a print book. Unfortunately, the text didn’t flow through automatically but just filled the first page and produced this Gnomic utterance, the likes of which I haven’t seen for some years on any self-respecting software.
After a lot of mousing around, I found a diminutive Link Text Containers icon at the bottom right hand of the layout, dangerously situated right next to an also diminutive Delete icon. Using the link tool didn’t flow the text into the whole layout automatically as it took it into a small box which needed resizing to full-page size. It also didn’t flow through to any other pages which needed doing one by one. It was a bit like using Quark XPress in the bad old days when they hadn’t got their act together for producing books.
I’m afraid it was at this relatively early point that I abandoned Bookwright. Call me fickle but I don’t want to learn the ins and outs of software that I’m not going to use and I don’t think Bookwright is going to be a great way of publishing text-based books.
It could be a good program for anyone who hasn’t got InDesign or Quark XPress and wants to publish a photo book, uploading the content page by page, but Bookwright’s not right for me.
Free Amazon distribution and free ISBNs
Blurb is offering direct Amazon distribution free for an unstipulated introductory period and free ISBN numbers through BookWright and its Adobe InDesign add-on tools as well as via Amazon distribution.
The firm’s customers previously had the options of selling books through the Blurb Bookstore and their own channels, mainly by ordering print books from Blurb.
Blurb isn’t just uploading the book to Amazon’s Createspace where Amazon prints books on demand and ships them to the customer. The firm says: “Blurb takes care of the set-up, then prints the books and ships the orders. Profits are distributed monthly via PayPal, and Amazon’s standard fees apply to all books.”
There’s some confusion over how much Amazon will charge for the services as one section of the Blurb site says “Amazon’s selling fees are comprised of 15% of the list price, plus a handling fee” while another says “Amazon charges a fee based on the list price you set for your book.”
Blurb’s fees include the base price for manufacturing plus any fulfilment charges.
Check book sizes
It’s worth noting that the Blurb to Amazon deal only works with certain book sizes and my Magazine size is not included, which would have peeved me no end if I had gone through all the rigmarole of producing it and finding that tucked away in the FAQs.
The only Blurb book sizes that are eligible for the Amazon distribution are: Small Square, Standard Portrait, Standard Landscape, Large Landscape, and Large Square.
After the free introductory period, the set-up fee will be $29.99 per book. Initially it covers the US, UK, Canadian and Australian markets, with more EU domains becoming available by the end of the year.
If you want to try out Bookwright for yourselves, it’s available at at Blurb.
Blurb was set up in 2005 and has over one million book creators and more than 2.8 million unique titles published.