Signing Ebooks

Over the weekend, I released the first ebook editions of Matt Forbeck’s Brave New World: Revolution. These went out to the backers of my Kickstarter drives, and a good number of them (over 200) were autographed. This took me forever to pull off, but it gave my backers something unique and special, so it was worth it as a way to thank them for their support.

When I first promised to sign ebooks for my backers, I really had no idea how I was going to manage it. Since I planned to publish the books myself, I knew that at the worst, I’d take the brute-force approach.

To pull that off, all you need is a stack of blank paper, a scanner, and a lot of time to get the images of the signatures into your computer and then generate unique copies of the ebook one at a time. It’s clearly doable, but painstaking and slow.

Fortunately, Paul Cooley contacted me about an iOS app he’d produced called MyWrite. It’s a clever solution to the challenge of signing ebooks. You just send Paul your ebook in epub format and pay a small fee to register it. Then you purchase blocks of signatures from him so that you can use the app.

In the app, you select the ebook you want to send out, then enter the name and email address of the person you want to send it to. The app then gives you a blank page on which you can draw or write anything you like. I used a stylus and wrote a short thank-you note and signed it with my notoriously illegible signature. Once you’re done, you tap a button, and you’re done.

Paul’s servers then generate a unique copy of the ebook in both epub (iBooks, Nook, Kobo, etc.) and mobi (Amazon) formats, with the personalized sheet as the last page in the ebook. If the files are under 1 MB, the servers send the files straight out. Otherwise, it sends links that the reader can download the files through instead.

Because I’m handling my 12 for ’12 books as an indie publisher, Paul offered to cut me a break on the pricing. It wound up costing me less than 20¢ in total for each signature. Given the amount of time it saved me, it was well worth it.

Despite that, it still took me hours to get through it all. Even if I spent only two minutes on each note, it was bound to take me nearly seven hours to finish, after all. When I started out, each one took me more than that, but as I smoothed out the workflow of copying the necessary data out of Kickstarter (bluetooth keyboard really helped), that average time went way down.

MyWrite helped make it as painless as possible, and I think it was well worth the effort to sign all those books. I hope my backers agree.