Rob Siders formats manuscripts to ebook formats for ebook readers, iPads and other tablets Thursday, 05/17/12, in Sylvania, Ohio. He recently moved to Sylvania from Colorado and has a reputation nationwide as one of the better ebook formatters.
The increasing popularity of eBooks has led to a boom in self-publishing.
And therein lies the problem for writers: How to take a manuscript created for printed pages and convert it to digital form.
Contrary to what one might think, creating an eBook is not as easy as buying a software conversion program and reformatting a Word document. There's a significant amount of hidden code in a Word document that can vex a software conversion program, preventing a word in italics, for instance, from changing into bold. Also consider that the design process may include the additional elements of inserting illustrations or photos as well as a book cover.
A few years ago Rob Siders, a recent resident of Sylvania by way of Denver, encountered the hazards of converting documents to eBooks after an author friend, noted self-published writer J.A. Konrath, asked him to format a blog that was proving troublesome to convert to Amazon's Kindle.
"That was my first one and I figured out how to do it," he said. "Since then I've refined my process a little bit, but more or less it's the same thing I've always done."
Observing the growth of eBook readers such as Amazon's Kindle, Mr. Siders divined a business opportunity, and founded 52 Novels, an eBook design shop, in the spring of 2010. 52 Novels was initially a freelance venture for Mr. Siders, who maintained his full-time job as a technical writer for a multinational software company until recently. By October of that year, though, Mr. Siders hired additional help, and in early 2011, word-of-mouth business had increased enough that he saw full-time potential for 52 Novels so he registered it as a company.
"By summertime I was receiving 15 queries a month, by fall 15 queries a week, and by October 10 to 15 queries a day," Mr. Siders said. "It went from something I could manage to, 'Holy cow! I spend all this time answering emails.' "
Mr. Siders now employs a staff of nearly 10 full-time and part-time workers, including his wife, Amy, who is from Sylvania. Through his Web site, 52novels.com, writers submit their manuscript, usually as a Word document, and Mr. Siders and his team "strip it down to bare bones and start to build a design on top of it," he said. "All an eBook is is a self-contained Web site. We can make it do anything."
The rise of eBooks has led to an increasing number of self-published authors.
Once looked down upon as the outcasts of the literary world, self-published authors have grown from amateurs to include talented writers who have never had any success cracking the big six of publishing, those who had publishing deals that subsequently vanished, and published authors frustrated with royalty rates or getting paid by their publisher once a year.
"In a very short amount of time self-publishing has gone from something that you didn't want to do or to be known as, to as sort of the default position for a lot of people," Mr. Siders said. "Instead of going through what used to be considered a rite of passage, [writers] are bypassing that altogether, saying 'To heck with this. I can have this out in 30 minutes after I'm finished writing,' if they're so inclined. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it."
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.