One of the tasks that becomes increasingly more time-consuming as an indie author publishes more books is managing his or her backlist. Today, we’ll talk about tracking the ebook files that reside at the various portals. Books might require corrections or new information – like the addition of new titles to the series – or they might have new covers or changes to the front or end matter. A newsletter link or website url might need to be changed or updated. A new version of the book might be available (like audio) and you might want the link in the ebook. All of these options require the files to be uploaded to the portals again. Some authors update their ebook files on a regular schedule. I’m not nearly that organized anymore: I tend to update all books in a series when there’s a new release in that series. I try to update the end matter in completed series every one to two years. That’s a slippery objective which doesn’t always happen.
One thing I do is track my uploads and (you guessed it) I use a spreadsheet.
No matter how you generate your ebook files, it’s good to practice version control. This means that when you update the file, it has some info in its name to identify which version of the book it is. The easiest way to do this, IMO, is to add the date to the file name. I use Vellum to generate my ebook files, and it does not show the version automatically in the name. Once the files have been generated, I change the file names like this:
Vellum generated this file name without the date and I added the part in bold. (And yes, I create portal-specific editions with my English books, and yes, I upload an epub to Amazon. If you want to learn more about that, check out this blog post from Vellum.)
Some of the portals will preserve the file name, so that when you look at the book’s metadata on your dashboard, you can see it. Others don’t – GooglePlay, for example, always changes the file name to the ISBN, although it does list the upload date.
When you upload a new version of a book file, it will be handled differently at different portals. All portals will deliver the current book file for new purchases. Some portals will push out the updated version to existing customers or (Apple) offer them the choice of updating their version. Amazon defaults to not delivering the new version to existing customers. You can ask them to push out the new version to all customers, but they may not agree to do as much. There’s only a chance of their agreement if the new file is 10% different from the old file or more. This can be frustrating if you’re only uploading a new version because you received a quality warning from Amazon about half a dozen typos: while fixing them isn’t perceived as a major update or one worth delivering to readers, that quality flag could result in the book being removed from sale if left unaddressed. The other wrinkle is Kindle Unlimited – when a KU reader adds a book to their library, I’m not sure the version can ever be updated.
To keep track of uploads without needing to click into the metadata for each book on each dashboard, I have a spreadsheet. To create a similar one, create a new workbook. You can call it Uploads or EbookVersions or something that makes sense to you. Add the year to the file name.
Call Column A “Title”. Make that column as wide as necessary to display your titles completely. Then, across the top and starting with Column B, name the columns with all the portals you use. I put the ebook portals first, then the aggregators. I have a column for BookFunnel, so I know the date of the version loaded there. It’s often an ARC, so having the date here is a good reminder to update it whenever I’m going to sell directly or give a book away in a BF promo. Last, but not least, I list the portals that serialize fiction, mostly because these are newer to me. List the portals in an order that makes sense to you.
I have a vertical line before the POD portals. In that section, I track the covers separately from the book interiors, so each format at each portal has two columns. I list all the various format options there, too, since many of my books are available in multiple print formats.
After another vertical line, I list the audio editions of the books. ACX is first, then Findaway Voices, then KOBO and BookFunnel – because I upload my non-exclusive audio at those portals.
There may be other outlets that make sense for you to add. If you have a Patreon and provide content there, for example, it might make sense to list it there.
Then, fill Column A with the titles of your books. I list them by author brand (which is sub-genre) and by series. Add horizontal dividing lines where it makes sense to you. I have them between author brands, then to delineate translations – which are listed by language.
Once you have all the books and portals listed, you can start to fill the form.
Here’s a peek at the top of mine:
Just looking at these dates makes me want to update all of those files! (Although actually, this is the 2020 spreadsheet and most of these files have been updated this year.)
Whenever I know that a specific version needs to be updated, I use the highlight option and make that cell highlighter yellow. That way, I won’t forget to go back and update it. This can happen if I’m uploading a new version and one of the portals is having server issues. (That happens more often than might be ideal.) The yellow cell reminds me that I haven’t done that bit yet. You can add extra fields or columns for things that you tend to forget. I have a price column, for example, because I sometimes change prices at the end of the year, up or down, and this column reminds me to do every book at every portal.
Overdrive has a column because I used to upload directly to that portal. Now I use Draft2Digital to deliver to them, which is why it says “via D2D” in that column. I could remove it completely now, but it lingered while I made sure I changed the distribution on every single book. If you could see way over to the right, I have a similar column for NookPress POD’s – I had uploaded a few there, but now the bulk of those files get to B&N from Ingrams. The POD’s are available for sale at B&N but they go “via Ingrams”. This year, I decided to use D2D for distribution of all my translations (part of my ongoing quest to simplify) so there are a lot of “via D2D” entries further down the spreadsheet.
Since you’re going to fill dates into the spreadsheet, this can also be a good way to track exclusivity. I tend to take my audiobooks out of exclusivity after a year at ACX. This way, I can see the publication dates on them at a glance. Similarly, I have a column for KU in my Amazon section where I can list the date a book will finish its current term in KU. You see there’s a column for removing the books from wide distribution, too, as that can take some time before the KU enrollment. My translations that are published through Babelcube are licensed there for five years. There are a lot of reasons why you might want to know the date a book was uploaded.
Although this is a perpetual spreadsheet, I do create a duplicate each January and rename it with the current year. That way, I have an archival version in my files. That can be helpful for looking at the timing of previous enrollments in Kindle Unlimited or past pricing strategies.
Next time, we’ll talk about another handy spreadsheet to keep updated on your desktop. Happy publishing!