Buckle up folks. This is a long entry but it’s step-by-step instructions for doing something revolutionary.
Autographs. We love them. We love getting our books signed and having something hand-written alongside a machine-produced book of text. For ages people have taken their books to an event and gotten their copies personalized and signed by the author. Bookstores use these events to sell books and get people in the door. It’s a wonderful thing. Then eBooks hit the scene.
The Kindle has blazed a trail that now includes Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony and others to deliver instant gratification, great pricing and near-infinite selection. With Amazon selling more Kindle books than print books (about 22 million as of July 2010) we’ve discovered a problem in this otherwise fantastic format: how do you get your book signed? I’m glad you asked.
One company, Autography, says they’ve solved the problem. An author signs a page on their iPad or other tablet and then it gets inserted into your copy automatically on your eReader. Sounds great, right? Well there’s a few caveats:
1. You have to buy the book from Autography’s eBook store. That means an instant-loss of convenience from the built-in shopping that makes your eReader so wonderful.
The author must pay a fee to utilize this service. While Autography is still in a limited rollout, I don’t know the details of their fees pricing, but if you’re an author signing real books in a store, you don’t pay anything. I bet even the pens & markers are provided for free too courtesy of the store. Yes, the service needs to make money but I personally feel it’s a situation where neither the author or reader should have to pay.
3. Because you are buying from another marketplace,
pricing the author or publisher can set a different price than the Kindle or Nook store. Also terms can differ. Again, since Autography doesn’t display specifics on their website, I cannot tell you the details of how the store differs.
I’ve given this a lot of thought and through some creative thinking, I have come up with a solution. If you self-publish, YOU have the ability to sign copies of your book for free and give it to your readers. It’s Autography without the middle-man. With that said, be forewarned that the process does require a little elbow-grease on your end. While it’s not hard to do, getting your signature into an eBook takes a few steps.
Getting your signature into your eBook
The method I came up with is based on my workflow and how I write. I’m sure there’s other ways to do this but since this works for me, that’s what you get.
1. A copy of Scrivener (Mac or PC, it doesn’t matter) but if you have your finished book in Word, that’ll work too. Scrivener does make this process a LOT easier though.
2. A tablet device such as an iPad, Android device or anything else that allows touch input.
3. An app for your tablet that lets you draw. Since I have an iPad, I use Bamboo Paper from Wacom. It’s free and works great.
4. An email account that lets you send semi-large attachments. Gmail is the ideal solution. Make sure it’s configured on your tablet ahead of time.
*5. While not required, it’s handy to have a stylus. A stylus is a pen-like device that lets you write on your tablet. Your finger will suffice but having a stylus makes things easier. I use the Jot Pro by Adonit.
Signing Your eBook
This is the easy part. Open your tablet’s drawing app and get a blank page ready. Then simply sign the page as if it’s a page in your book. You can see an example from the picture above at the start of this post.
Get Your Signature onto Your Computer
Within the app, you need to email the page to yourself. For most apps it will be built in but check with the specific settings of the app you’re using. The important thing to remember that the signed page needs to be exported and attached as an image or PDF. Bamboo Paper does this automatically.
Insert Your Signature Into Your eBook
Open Scrivener or whatever word processor you used to type your book. This should be your final copy that you used to upload to Amazon and all the other stores. If you’re weary of editing the original file, just duplicate it and work from there.
Once open, insert a blank page into your book near the beginning, in whichever place you want. It should live somewhere in the “front matter” of your book.
Open your email on your computer, get the attached image and drag it into the blank page you just created in your book. The page should now have your dedication and signature within it, exactly as it looked on your tablet. You now have an autographed book ready to go.
Export and Deliver
Scrivener makes this next step dead-simple but you can do this with Word too. In Scrivener, compile the book with the new page included and select either ePub (Nook, iBooks and most eReaders uses this) or Kindle depending on what device your reader is using. For you Word users, export it how you did originally for uploading to Amazon / B&N and convert it into the appropriate format with Calibre or whichever software you used at the time.
Once ready, simply compose an email to your reader, attach your exported & signed book, and send! All your reader has to do is connect their device to their computer, then drag & drop the new book into their device.
The Finished Product
As you can see from the image at the start of this post, the signature is *IN* the book! Your reader will have the exact same book that they purchased (in fact two will now live on their device if they had purchased it already) but they now have a hand-written, autographed copy of your book in eBook format.
I know the steps here are a bit tricky but if you do this once, you literally just keep swapping out autographed images and re-export a new book for each person you’re sending it to. Your book becomes a template that you simply save out as a new file each time.
Some Things To Know
-The book you’re sending has no DRM, so keep that in mind if you enabled that when you listed your book on Amazon / B&N.
-Your reader has no backup except the copy in their email. If they lose the file, it’s gone.
-There is no mechanism to verify someone has bought your book before you sign and give them a copy for free via email. My solution is to have people show me a page in the book that is only available in the paid version as proof of purchase.
-You can use this autographing method to sign books at conventions and other events using Square to accept credit card payments on-site and instantly sell someone a signed copy of your eBook.
So that’s it. As I said, it takes a little preparation and requires some extra technology but if you have at minimum a tablet, you CAN do this. I’ve signed a few books so far and they look great. I will be taking this eSignature method for a full test-drive later this week. Details to follow in an upcoming blog post.
I would love to know what you think of this and other possible methods in the comments!
Updates: I’ve made some small clarifications and updates to how Autography works based on a comment from Tom Waters, co-founder of the service.