I’m always on the look out for ways writers and bloggers can easily blog their books or book their blogs. For some time now I have been aware of Pressbooks.com, but I haven’t had the time to try producing a book using their technology. Thus, I was hesitant to recommend the service. I’ll be trying a lot of technologies in 2014 as I start work on the second edition of How to Blog a Book, and I plan on completing a project I began there. Recently, however, I found someone who had used Pressbooks to produce a booked blog …someone I know and trust as an expert in the self-publishing field…and she raved.
So, I decided it was time to publish an interview I conducted with Pressbooks founder Hugh McGuire almost 10 months ago. According to my “source,” Carla King, author of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, it’s easy to import your blog posts into Pressbooks and publish a book. However, you can still edit those posts—and that’s the important thing. Your blogged book, which you produced on WordPress, can still undergo editing at the Pressbook’s stage, if you desire. That’s great news! No dump in the posts and end up with a book that reads—and looks—like a blog. (This system offers design tools, too.)
Also, you can use this technology to actually write your book in the public eye. Using the site afterward to continue blogging, however, has some technical difficulties, but Hugh explains how they can be overcome.
So, for some writers, Pressbooks might provide a great option. (I still think WordPress.org is the way to go; then import your posts into Pressbooks to complete the project. Or do an integration as Hugh describes; that really might be the ticket since the Pressbook’s site is set up to host a book in process—but not a book being produced in post-sized pieces necessarily.)
Anyway, it’s free to give it a try. See what you think after you hear what Hugh has to say. I’ll let you know more after I try it out.
PressBooks is built on a WordPress Platform. So, an aspiring author can actually blog a book on PressBooks, make it public and use the site as a blog, is that correct? They don’t necessarily need another blog?
Yes that’s correct, though for the moment we have stripped out some of the more “bloggy” features of WordPress to make PressBooks better suited for creating books. This means, for instance, that the most recent post doesn’t float to the top of the front page. But, yes, especially if an author has a network, such as Facebook or Twitter to use to announce new chapters, PressBooks would be excellent for blogging a book.
Plus they have the benefit that at the end of the process, there is an ebook file ready to go to Kindle/iBooks/Nook, and a PDF ready for print-on-demand.
Can they customize the site at all, like you would with a typical WordPress site?
Right now on PressBooks.com, customization isn’t possible. We’ll start adding that ability in the new year. And, we have announced that PressBooks is open source, meaning you can download the source code, install your own PressBooks plugin on a WordPress blog, and customize it as you like.
(Note: The PressBooks plugin is built to be used with a fresh install of WordPress Multisite. It should NOT be used with an existing WordPress blog.)
Is there a way to continue blogging generally once the book is complete or will posts look as if they are part of a book?
Posts will look as if they are part of the book.
However, we have some publishers using an integrated WordPress/PressBooks setup, so they get a front-end WordPress site (with book catalog), plus the book production part of PressBooks, all in one package. See: theroguereader.com for an example.
The site is set up perfectly, however, for someone wanting to blog a book publicly and attract readers (a fan base or author platform) in the process, correct?
They can also blog the book privately, should they want to do so, although that isn’t why I advise blogging a book; I tell them to do so to promote their book at the same time.
I think we’ll see lots of new models, as the tools get easier, and people’s acceptance of ebooks grows. For instance, a small New Zealand publisher, SayBooks, worked with an author from the fanfic community, Laura Bontrager, to create a subscription based novel using PressBooks. Readers subscribed for a price they chose (I believe the average was $5), and got a new chapter online every couple of days until the book was completed. The subscribers got a copy of the ebook, and then the ebook was put up for sale in Kindle, etc. You can see the project here.
All that to say, There will be different models, for different writers. But generally, unless an author has an existing following already, I think your approach (blog your book, and offer it to the world for free), is a good one, in many cases.
Tell me about the advantages of using PressBooks for a blog platform as opposed to WordPress. It would seem like a no brainer for those who are not technologically minded or who don’t have the money to get a self-hosted blog set up. Plus, it has everything a writer needs for blogging a book.
Well, I think the advantage is twofold:
- PressBooks is built to produce “a book” … so the web version of the book really is optimizied for book-like navigation and long-form reading on all kinds of screens.
- When you finish your book on PressBooks, you get an ebook file that you can send to Kindle and Nook and iBooks (and a typeset PDF if you want to do print-on-demand).
The downside is:
- PressBooks has stripped out some more blog-like features, so if you want to be doing regular blogging while also posting chapters of your book, it might not be totally ideal.
Can you import a WordPress blog or some other type of blog into PressBooks if you’ve used another blogging platform to blog your book or you want to book a blog (repurpose existing posts)? (I looked at this and it seemed you need to create some sort of “import file”; can you explain how to do this, since I didn’t see any explanation?)
Yes, you can import your WordPress blog, see here for some details:
Once done blogging, I noticed you can upload a photo, input isbn, and add all your metadata. Can you edit and work with the document—see it in its entirety? At what point can you do this?
Well, you can export your ebook file (in the EPUB format) and see it together as a book.
There are many different files to choose from for exporting. Can you tell my readers about this, and what files are appropriate for which ebook formats? (What formats will they be able to upload their docs to—iBooks, Kindle, Smashwords, etc.
EPUB is the standard ebook file format. The EPUB export file is the file you would send to:
- Kindle (KDP will convert the EPUB to their own format when you upload the file)
and just about any other ebook retailer.
Smashwords accepts Word files and EPUBs files.
What does using PressBooks cost? Is it an inexpensive option for book bloggers?
PressBooks.com is fee.
(Note: PressBooks is free to use with PressBooks watermarks in EPUB, MOBI and PDF exports. There are costs to remove the watermark. If you need more storage or want conversion help with a document, there are fees attached to these services as well.)
What about the formatting? How can they see what the designs look like, and are they only for ebooks?
- PDFs (for Print-on-demand)
- and webbooks
In order to look at the ebooks (and PDFs), you’ll have to download the files and open them in software that reads ebooks. Here’s a post we did on how to test/look at your ebooks:
PressBooks does provide distribution to ebook stores. How does your distribution compare to some other companies, like BookBaby and Smashwords—as many ebook stores, less, more?
Actually we’ve decided to focus on what we are good at … making books. So instead of distributing ourselves, we’re partnering with BookBaby for distribution. If you go to BookBaby.com and use the discount code: PRESSBOOKS, you’ll get 10% off!
Is there anything else book bloggers (or bloggers) should know about PressBooks—any other reasons why PressBooks should be their first choice for going blog to book if they choose to self-publish?
I think for anyone comfortable with blogging software, PressBooks is going to be the easiest, most intuitive ebook creation software around. And it’s free!
Hugh McGuire builds tools and communities where book publishing and the web intersect. He is the founder of PressBooks, is a simple book publishing tool, and LibriVox.org, a community of volunteers that has created the world’s largest free library of public domain audiobooks. You can find him on Twitter at @hughmcguire.