ebook Guide: Apple gets an ‘F’ grade for iBookstore

All author Dave Lieber wanted for Christmas was for his book to get published on the iPad.

For two months, he tried to work with Apple, keeping a detailed record of his dealings. But with Christmas days away, it appears the award-winning book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, isn’t going to be available through Apple. At least not yet.

Turns out Apple’s procedures for working with small publishers are so poorly organized that they are an embarrassment to this great, ground-breaking company. The company can’t seem to do what other ebook publishers do every day: place digital books on sale. (UPDATE: A month after this post appeared, the book finally became available on iPad, three months after the project began.)

Here’s the new Dave Lieber Guide to ebook Self Publishing with the latest information on how to publish on Apple (not) and the other major ebook companies, which are easier:

My research on Apple was done as part of the creation of this ebook publishing guide. When I decided a few months ago to jump into this rapidly-growing market, I searched the Internet for an up-to-date guide showing  how to do it yourself, who to contact and what the difficulties are.

Couldn’t find one.

So I made my own – for you — because I believe every writer should live his or her dream. That’s what I’ve always taught authors as part of my popular Dave Lieber Guide to Self-Publishing. I show how to publish without the major publishing houses or the vanity presses taking all your profits.

More than a dozen books have been published by other authors who used my self-publishing system because they wanted to make more money. Now I want to lear how to do the same with ebooks. And, as always, I want to share the latest information that I learn with you. It’s here now, below, for free.

My goal was to take Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong and convert it to the proper e-book formats. Then I wanted to upload them to the top ebook pubishers: Apple’s iBookstore; Barnes & Noble, Borders and Amazon’s Kindle. These four represent about 60 percent of the ebook market.

Important: You don’t need a physical book to create an ebook. You can skip that step and publish straight to ebook.

First, you need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for your ebook (separate from the ISBN you used for your printed book). You can buy the numbers from bowker.com either singly or in a group of 10 or larger. I suggest the bigger purchase since the price is better (around $200 for 10) and once you get your ebook business going, you won’t want to stop. (Note: Bowker tells customers to buy a separate ISBN number for each ebook file format; but I found that not to be the case.)

Next you have to get the book formatted the way it will appear on the screen. All ebooks must start as a Microsoft Word document. (I hired my book designer Janet Long to copy and paste the original book from her files into a Word doc.)

Checked with publishing expert Jerry Simmons, who creates the popular www.writersreaders.com website. He recommended firebirdwebdesigns.com to convert my Word document into the various formats. (Remember there’s no standardization in the industry; different ebook readers require different formats. Ugh.)

For less than $300, my Word doc was converted to these formats: PDB (Palm Database File); PDF, Mobi, LRF, ePub (the evolving standard), PRC (Palm Resource File) and HTML.

Firebird provided me with a starter sheet, too. Several of the platforms listed were no-go’s for me. I couldn’t make contact, let alone get e-published with Mobi Pocket Reader, Sony Reader, Microsoft Reader and Adobe Digital Editions. But they aren’t part of the top four anyway. Here’s how it worked with the major publishers  — and my grade for them:

Amazon.com/Kindle

Start the process at dtp.amazon.com. Open your account and provide bank account information for sales proceeds. Watch an instructional video at http://bit.ly/AmazonKindleVideo.

Uploading the file is easy. My submission was quickly accepted and placed on sale. There was one slight problem. The “Buy it on Kindle” label next to my hardcover book, also for sale on Amazon, was linked to the out-of-print 2008 edition and not the actual 2010 edition it’s based on. Eventually, after two tries, I got it fixed.

Grade: A

Yippee! Dave Lieber's book was published with the greatest of ease on Amazon's Kindle.

Apple/iBookstore

For degree of difficulty, Apple is as tough as Amazon is easy. Getting to the point, Apple has earned a failing grade. Why? Let me count the ways.

Information about the ebook process on Apple’s website is nearly impossible to find. When you call customer service, staffers don’t know much either. Apple is not responding to e-mail requests for help or information either.

But I kept calling and writing. When I finally got in the front door, I learned you must upload your book on a Mac, not a PC, using Apple’s iTunes Producer software. I borrowed a friend’s Mac.

After the upload, Apple did not acknowledge its arrival. My book was listed as “Pending” for a month, and nobody in Apple would answer my e-mails. Finally, it was listed as “Removed From Sale.” Apple never notified me.  Finally, when I pestered for an answer, Apple, taking its sweet time, alerted me that my cover image was too small.

It’s clear that Apple wasn’t ready to enter the book business. It got slammed, fell behind and keeps changing the way it runs this new business. I’m patient. I really want my book available on the iPad. That’s why I started this process. But as of this writing, no can do.

Learn about the process at apple.com/itunes/content-providers. To get the iBookstore Publisher User Guide and create an account, start at itunes.com/sellyourbooks. If you have problems, call 1-800-275-2273 and ask for a “senior adviser.” Or try this e-mail address: itunesmarketing@apple.com.

Grade: F

Barnes & Noble/NOOKbook

Gosh, this was easy. I opened an account at pubit.barnesandnoble.com, uploaded the book and it was immediately for sale on the website as a NOOKbook. Apple could take a few lessons from this enterprise. (E-mail help is available at support@ereader.com)

Grade: A+

Borders/Kobo

Kobo (the Borders platform) rejected me outright because they require vendors to have “a minimum of 10 titles.” A kobo.com staffer wrote me, “We have been known to settle for 9 or even 8 titles; however the point here is that the work required on your part and on ours to get set up as a vendor doesn’t always make sense for a small handful of titles.”

Grade: Incomplete

The Alternative

If you don’t want to do it yourself, “digital aggregator” companies can help you. The best-known is smashwords.com. Other digital aggregators include authorsolutions.com, fastpencil.com and ebookit.com. I can’t vouch for them, but wanted to present them to you as options.

Happy e-publishing.

Dave Lieber is an investigative columnist at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. This story appears on columnists.com, National Speakers Association blog and WatchdogNation.com. Find him on Twitter @DaveLieber and WatchdogNation.com. If you want to self-publish in either a hardback or softback, creating your own company, doing it yourself with a great publishing house, you should check out the Dave Lieber Self-Publishing Guide.

Scammers: Don’t mess with kids!

WatchdogNation.com gets dozens of letters and e-mails each week, but one that really tugged at us was the case of the 16 Texas middle schoolers and their teacher who lost $2,000 to a fictitious publishing company in Indiana. The students wrote a book called Locker Letters. Their original book signing at a Barnes & Noble store in the spring was held — but it may have been the first book signing in history where the books weren’t even printed. When a police detective visited the publishing company owner at the listed company offices, he found a disheveled man in a bathrobe coming to the door of a rickety home in a trailer park. To catch up, you can read here the previous Dave Lieber column, which first appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The team that produces WatchdogNation.com — the book and our upcoming CD audio book — immediately pitched in to help. Locker Letters arrived at a Borders book store in Colleyville,Texas on Sept. 11, 2010. The students from North Oaks Middle School in Haltom City, Texas in the Birdville school district hosted a wonderful book signing. And you can support these student authors and buy Locker Letters here.

Watch the WatchdogNation.com video Scammers: Don’t Be Messing With Kids here.  Congratulations to the kids! You’re authors now! And Carolyn Hedgecock, the teacher who got fooled, has a new autographed copy of Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong. The inscription? “You need to read this! Stay safe, Dave Lieber.”

She need not feel that bad. Self-publishing scams are common these days.  You can learn how to protect yourself from all kinds of evil with the book that promises to save you money, time and aggravation. Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong won two national book awards for social change. Learn more here. Thanks to Jerry D. Simmons of WritersReaders.com for his assistance. Thanks to our book designer, Janet Long, for her book design. Thanks to our copy editor, Anita Robeson, for her work on the project. Thanks to our printing house, Friesens and rep Coral Gates, for their great work.  And a special shoutout to Tamara Roberts whose new company,

Royal Shield Publishing, issued the book as its first imprint. Roberts studied with WatchdogNation.com founder Dave Lieber at a writing workshop. She learned how to create your own book publishing company. Do it yourself! That’s the best way to avoid getting hurt by others. And these days, it’s easy for committed authors to pursue their dreams. After many requests, Dave Lieber created a how-to-self publishing manual that many authors have used to create their own self-publishing companies and live their writer’s dream. Learn more about Dave’s Guide to Self-Publishing here. Locker Letters is the latest book to come out of this Dave Lieber system. Way to go, kids.

# # # Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. The new 2010 edition of his book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, is out. Revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

Dave Lieber's self-publishing guide shows authors how to do it yourselves, save money, make money and avoid getting scammed.

How to get your self-published book printed

For 16 middle schoolers in Haltom City, Texas, the expected publication of their debut book in May 2010 was certain to be one of the biggest thrills of their lives.

These sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders planned for their novel, Locker Letters, to be unveiled at a signing party in late May at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at North East Mall.

Dave Lieber exposes a self-publishing scam

The book was to be the debut project of the Birdville school district’s new Rising Authors program. Teachers, parents, students and school staffers invested more than $2,000 to print it and buy promotional materials and first editions. But something went terribly wrong.

They paid Four Star Publishing in Anderson, Indiana. George Grant promised that the books would be delivered in time. But they never arrived.

Weeks later, they still aren’t here.

Here’s a letter the company sent the teacher:

From: author_services@fourstarpublishing.com [author_services@fourstarpublishing.com] Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 10:13 AM
To: Hedgecock, Carolyn
Subject: Book Release

Thank you for approving your book.

You’ve successfully completed your part of the Publishing process.

Here’s what happens now:

Your book information will be sent to Bowker’s Books In Print. Once they approve it, we’ll upload your title to our distribution network. If there are any problems at this stage, you’ll get an e-mail from us within 2-3 weeks. Otherwise, it should be smooth sailing.

Then, you wait, as patiently as possible. In about 8 weeks, you can go to http://www.bookfinder4u.com, search on the ISBN assigned to your book, and see if you’re in the system yet.

So for now, sit back and bask in the glow of your approved book.

Congratulations, you’re now a published author.

Your five free copies will be shipped to you in a few days; you’ll get an e-mail from us when your books are shipped.

Thank you,

The Staff at Four Star Publishing

www.fourstarpublishing.com

Dave Lieber exposes a self-publishing scam

A police detective in Anderson told me that he fears that the students may be crime victims.

Carolyn Hedgecock, a North Oaks Middle School English teacher who spearheaded the project, told me the experience has been a horror for her. Hurting children is the worst, she said.


Dave Lieber exposes a self-publishing scam

The school's logo


Throughout the weeks-long ordeal, Grant promised that everything was fine. “Congratulations,” said one company e-mail to the school. “You’re now a published author.”

Grant said he bought an international standard book number for the book, but Hedgecock said she learned that he never properly registered it.

Grant insisted in e-mails that he printed the book and shipped copies to the school, so Hedgecock asked him for the postal tracking number. He changed the number several times, she said.

Police Detective Mitchell Carroll told me that he made two visits to the company’s office, at a mobile home park.

He knocked on the door of what he described as a “ramshackle trailer” and found Grant, who said he knew nothing about a shipping problem.

“He said he was going to check his records,” Carroll said. “But he doesn’t look like a guy in that business.”

“The scope of the investigation is getting larger,” he said. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Indianapolis intends to speak with Grant, too.”

My e-mails and phone calls to the company were never returned.

Its website is no longer up, but I found an archived version that made this promise: “We strive to publish the highest quality book available, and we go the extra mile to give our authors the best opportunity to succeed and gain recognition as a published author.”

Hedgecock said she spent $1,300 of her own money to publish the book. School officials spent $770. Parents ordered more copies through Four Star.

Fortunately, most of the money was paid through Pay Pal. Oftentimes, it can refund money to buyers when wrongdoing is found.

Last week, Grant or someone else using the e-mail address gwgrant@fourstarpublishing.com told Hedgecock that she could not use the ISBN or the planned book cover because they were property of Four Star.

“We will sue you and the school for copyright and ISBN infringement,” the e-mail said. “You have 10 days to comply.”

Hedgecock sent me a copy of the e-mail with a note: “This is unbelievable!”

Carroll wrote to Hedgecock that such Internet cases are difficult for municipal police departments to investigate: “Historically, law enforcement has hedged to take on these cases as they pose monumental problems. First, the sheer number of cases is mind-boggling. Secondly, there are jurisdictional problems. Would you, your students and their families be willing to travel here to Anderson for depositions, and later for a criminal trial? All costs would be incumbent on you.

“Lastly, our prosecutor (as most) rarely agrees to take on these cases. Internet retail has grown so quickly that law enforcement has been unable to keep pace. Accordingly, those transactions are guided by caveat emptor.”

However, because children are involved, the detective added in his note, “My chief concern is getting your money back.”

Jerry D. Simmons, a self-publishing expert in Arizona who writes the Tips for Writers from the Publishing Insider newsletter, said in an interview that such situations happen all the time to new authors who want to self-publish through small companies.

Publishers get novice authors to pay several hundred dollars to start the process, he said. Later, authors learn of costs that were not previously disclosed.

“Once they get you for thousands of dollars, you can’t leave them,” Simmons said. “You’ve already invested that money.”


Dave Lieber exposes a self-publishing scam

Jerry D. Simmons


Barnes & Noble held the book signing party anyway. Hedgecock distributed compact discs of Locker Letters to the 50 or so people who attended.

Store officials gave all the students gift certificates as a consolation and promised to hold another book signing if the book arrives, Georgette Radford, store community relations manager, told me.

Hedgecock says there will be a book. She is now working with North Texans to produce it again. She hopes it will be ready when school resumes in August.

# # #

Writer Dave Lieber created his own publishing company in 2003 and shows other authors how to produce their own books. After many requests, he created a how-to self publishing manual that many authors have used to create their own publishing companies and live their writer’s dream. You can learn more about the manual here.


Dave Lieber's self-publishing guide shows authors how to do it yourselves, save money, make money and avoid getting scammed.

Dave Lieber's self-publishing guide shows authors how to do it yourselves, save money, make money and avoid getting scammed.


# # #

Self Publishing Tips

* Reputable publishing companies have a website that lists detailed information about company officials, their background and publishing experience.

*  Check Amazon.com and other book-selling websites to see if books claimed to be published by a company are actually for sale.

* Check to make sure contact information for a company is real before making a purchase.

* Check references with other authors who used the company.

Source: Jerry D. Simmons. Learn more at his wonderful website at www.writersreaders.com and sign up for his Tips for Writers here.

# # #

Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. The new 2010 edition of his book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, is out. Revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

Dave Lieber's new award-winning book helps American save time and money.