Thursday, 12 July 2012

The joys of publishing....

My latest venture has required me to learn a great deal about the publishing business, especially the more technical aspects of layout and design, and setting up an e-book. It's been a fascinating few weeks. Let me explain.

What happened was this. Back in 2010 I had a book published about my travels in Central and Eastern Europe since 1970, recounting my impressions of the hugely interesting places I've been lucky enough to visit over the years, and talking about some of the projects I've worked on as an economist. So the book was a curious mix of travel tale, a history of the region, and an account of what economists actually do when they do research or give policy advice in Eastern Europe.

At first the book was written just as a record for myself, and to some extent for friends and family. But I also wrote it because I realised that fewer and fewer of my students had any idea that Eastern Europe was under communist rule for several decades. Many had not heard of the Berlin Wall or the Iron Curtain, so not surprisingly they had no idea what transition - the process of shifting from a centrally planned economy to a more 'normal' market type economy - might entail. This is part of what my book sought to explain.

The book was published under the title: Vodka and Pickled Cabbage - The Eastern European Travels of a Professional Economist. Since I was never that bothered about making money from the book, I made the pdf-file of the book available on my own website, and it was also on the website of a US-based area studies association. Through these channels I gather that several thousand copies were distributed, and I still get e-mails giving comments on the book.

Unfortunately, in early 2011 I discovered that my publisher had gone into administration. At first it seemed that some other publisher might take over the rights to keep the book in print, but that fell through. Then a couple of months ago I finally wrote to the liquidators to find out what was happening. I never received a reply. This is why I finally decided to reissue the book myself, with a new cover (nicer than the original one, I think), using free software available through the Amazon company, CreateSpace. Using this, I set up the book for a print-on-demand paperback, in the process of which I learned a lot about formatting, style, layout, editing and the like. But I got there in the end and the book is now on Amazon - see link in right panel.

At the same time, since the original book had never been made available as an e-book, I decided to set it up for the Kindle. The formatting needed to do that was a bit fiddly, as I discovered, as my original book file for the paperback version turned out not to convert very well. In fact it's still not perfect, and when I have some time I may go back to it and tidy it up. One of the big advantages of this modern technology is that I can do this whenever I want, quickly and easily.

So now, of course, I hope someone will come along and buy the book...............

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