Author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, etc.

C.M. Mayo < About C.M. Mayo < Interviews <

Originally at http://www.inreads.com/blog/2011/07/25/c-m-mayo-author-turned-publisher-taking-digital-rights-into-her-own-hands/
Recaptured via archive.org's Way Back Machine
C.M. Mayo: Author Turned Publisher Takes Digital Rights Into Her Own Hands
JULY 25, 2011 By Jada Bradley

Author C.M. Mayo’s writing career has spanned genres, borders, and publishing formats. She is the author of the novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, which was selected as one of the best books of 2009 by Library Journal.
......Mayo enthusiastically embraced blogging, starting her “Madam Mayo” blog in 2006, incorporating her own writing with that of guest bloggers and creative writing tips.
......A native of Texas who was raised in Northern California, Mayo has a background in economics and has taught finance to undergraduate and graduate students. She is also founding CEO of Dancing Chiva Literary Arts, S.C., a Mexico City-based publisher of e-books and limited editions specializing in Bajacaliforniana, Maximiliana (relating to the life of Maximilian I, 19th century emperor of Mexico), and works for writers.
......Recently, she independently converted many of her print books into e-books—a process that’s becoming increasingly popular among authors and readers.
......We “conversed” via e-mail since I am in the U.S. and Mayo is in Mexico where she spends part of the year living, researching, writing, and conducting writing workshops.

inReads: Was it easy to get digital rights for the books you’ve converted?

C.M. Mayo: Each book has its own story. The contracts for some of my older books, such as Sky Over El Nido (University of Georgia Press, 1995), did not even contemplate e-books. In contracts made a few years later, such as for my travel memoir, Miraculous Air (Milkweed Editions, 2007), I had to negotiate for any digital rights.

By the mid to late 2000s, publishers were beginning to realize that digital rights might have some value, but few were actually exploiting them. What I managed to negotiate was a clause that let them keep the digital rights but only for three years, at which point, if the publisher had not yet exploited them, the rights would revert to me upon request. Only a little later, in 2008, when I signed the contract for my novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), I couldn’t keep the digital rights; the publisher insisted on them.

Many writersin fact almost all, I would thinkwho published books before the mid 2000s, are in the position I am, with works that might find new life in digital editions. The problem is, it isn’t as easy as it might sound to convert an ancient file into the files for uploading to Amazon, and other e-book stores. There are services that will convert books that come without clean Microsoft Word files for about 500 dollars. Having done the work myself, I have to say, that price is about fair, and it makes me appreciate why many small publishers, short on staff and strapped for cash, have not yet gotten around to converting what backlist they can into digital format. But I imagine this will change as the technology improves.

An important clarification: what is a book? Because an essay, a collection of blog posts, a short story, really, anything can be turned into a so-called “e-book.” Several of my e-books with Dancing Chiva are individual stories and essays.

Finally, there are works in the public domain. Anyone can have a go at those. Dancing Chiva will be bringing out some very oldbut undeservedly obscureworks in subjects of particular interest to me, such as Baja California and Mexico’s Second Empire / French Intervention of the 1860s. They will have the added value of translation, editing, and introduction.

inReads: What did you have to do exactly to get your books ready for e-book format?

There are many answers to this question because there are many formats. A PDF e-book, for example, can have a full-color cover, elaborate design throughout, and include photos and what-have-you. Because I firmly believe that book design matters very much for both appeal and ease of reading, in my PDF e-books I have taken great care in selecting fonts, and designing each page. The trickiest part, however, was figuring out how to encrypt the PDF and then program the website to allow a direct download after payment via PayPal.

For a Kindle version, on the other hand, other than a black and white cover, the formatting is standard—there are a few choices of font and size, all left up to the reader, not the publisher. As described on Amazon, the process sounds simple: you start from a Word document, walk through the steps provided on their website, and voila. But in fact, many people, including me, have found that they end up with garbled punctuation and lines jumping all over. Sometimes the culprit is an indentation or stray margin—the Word document you plug in really does have to be impeccable. But in other instances, the source of the problems remains a mystery. What helped me solve this problem was running the Word document through the open source program called Sigil.

As for Nook and iBook versions, I’m working on these now. In the meantime, PDF e-books downloaded from www.dancingchiva.com can be opened in iBooks on the iPad.

inReads: Why did you start Dancing Chiva, your niche press?

Mayo: First, because some of my publishers did not have the wherewithal to bring out e-books and, as I owned the rights, I figured, why let the digital rights languish? And why, when I can just upload them to Amazon and iBooks, let some other publisher take a bigger cut, leaving me a small slice of royalties? When Unbridled Books brought out the Kindle and iBook editions of my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, in 2009, it found many readers. It was news then, though it isn’t anymore: the e-book market is exploding.

Second, there are several works I want to publish but that I know are not commercial, so in attempting to place them with an agent or directly with a publisher, I would be wasting my time. But I believe in these works; I know they have readers, relatively few as they may be. For example, this November, I am publishing my translation— the first into English— of Francisco I. Madero’s Spiritist Manual. Mexican historians have written about Madero’s Spiritist Manual, but it certainly deserves to be brought out in English. Why not for its centennial?

Third, I’ve been teaching creating writing for over a decade, and slowly but surely, I’ve been writing about various techniques of fiction. I’ve brought several blog posts together in a 50 page e-book, C.M. Mayo on Creative Writing, and I’m working on a second volume for January 2012. Yes, I could write a proper book and have my agent sell that, but I’m so busy writing other books, that won’t happen anytime soon. In the meantime, I can offer the 50 page e-book as a gift to my students, and also to anyone who signs up for the newsletter www.dancingchiva.com/join.html.

inReads: Has the reception for Dancing Chiva been different in the U.S. and in Mexico/the Spanish-speaking world? Or has it been the same?

Mayo: It is too early to say. Right now Dancing Chiva’s website is only in English. There will be a Spanish page when I launch the e-book of my novel, El último príncipe del Imperio Mexcano later this year. What I can tell you is that I am optimistic. The novel, published by Grijalbo Random House Mondadori, is a bestseller in Mexico, widely available in bookstores throughout the Republic. With the e-book, I hope to find readers in Mexico, the U.S., and elsewhere who would otherwise have trouble finding the book.

Are there e-book readers in Mexico? Yes. And while it is true that Mexico lags behind the U.S. in adopting technology, the lag is not so much as many people suspect. Most urban teenagers in Mexico are hooked on Facebook; Mexican politicians are tweeting; and Mexican businesses e-mailing newsletters and coupons. Many Mexican businessmen travel with a Kindle in their briefcase. How long until larger numbers of Mexican readers start downloading e-books? I say, not long.

But a note about publishers. I don’t think most readers, even fairly sophisticated ones, whether here, there, or in Greenland, notice or would even know the difference between one publisher and another. The ones who care are bookstores and reviewers. Why? Because they know that the publishers with muscle are the ones that move the merchandise. So writers care about publishers because publishers are gatekeepers: they decide which books get distributed to brick-and-mortar bookstores, who gets promoted to major media. But in the online world, there are fewer and less effective gatekeepers. I’m not saying they’ve disappeared. I hope to publish my next novel with a publisher who knows how to get its books reviewed by major newspapers and prominently displayed in bookstores. I’m just saying that I don’t think most readers, when they see a book listed online, notice or care much about who published it. And that works to the advantage of small publishers.

inReads: With the ability to work with traditional publishers and generate niche e-books and limited editions with your own press, do you feel you have the best of both worlds?

Mayo: Indeed! And you writers out there, why not start podcasting? Blogging? Making YouTube videos? Uploading your work as e-books? It doesn’t require much money—just vision, audacity, and time. With the explosion of the digital world, our creative opportunities are infinitely richer.


Look at an excellent post on converting a PDF that C.M. Mayo suggests.

About The Author: Jada Bradley
Jada Bradley (jadabradley.com) is a Washington DC-based writer and educator who enjoys telling stories in formal and informal ways. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and online. She holds Masters in Spanish Translation and is a great supporter of creative expression in the various forms it takes. She also writes about local cultural events as D.C. Cultural Events Examiner for Examiner.com.