Welcome to the inaugural interview in my new blog series called Aspire and Inspire. My very first interview is with the extremely talented and funny Deena Schoenfeldt. She is the director of the digital division of The Book Connection, known as eBook Builders.
Do you prefer Geek or Nerd?
I don’t see either one as derogatory anymore, but my favorite is the moniker Mark Rice gave me, which has started to stick with my twitter-friends: “Super-nerd”. He’s biased, thinks that everything I do is the absolute best, but I still like it the best of all “geeky” nicknames.
How did you get into the ebook coding business?
My mother has been in the printing/publishing industry for over 40 years. I have always helped her while also pursuing personal career goals away from the “family” business. About a year ago she had 3 clients who were adamant about doing ebooks along with the print runs, so she asked me to figure out the best way to fulfill her clients’ wishes and do it for her. I did the research – starting with Smashwords Style Guide - but that didn’t address all the formatting issues that The Book Connection’s non-fiction clients required. So I spent three days immersed in HTML to find the right way to do things with the formatting challenges. That is how the Digital Division of The Book Connection – EbookBuilders – was born.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Is coffee or mocha a choice?
What sets your business apart from other ebook developers?
First and foremost, I am a voracious reader. I know what irritates readers of ebooks enough to make them give up reading a file. Nothing irritates me as much as looking at an ebook that is jacked all out of whack (unless you count the ones that haven’t been edited, but have instead been rushed out in an attempt to cash in on the digital boom). Since I started doing format-intensive ebooks (non-fiction, biographies, cookbooks, photo-packed books, etc.) there isn’t much that I haven’t faced or can’t figure out. Of course, Kindle’s inability to handle numbered lists is a pet peeve of mine.
Formatting in HTML then converting the file myself leads to fewer glitches in the finished book than trusting e-retailers’ “conversion” modules to do the conversion. Plus, I add a fully functional icon-linked author page, author photos, along with chapter-end and scene-change images that most formatters don’t try. I do the formatting and conversion then send it to the client for uploading, or in some cases upload to the client’s account myself.
What formats do you code?
If you are asking how, that’s HTML. If you are asking what kind of files I produce, the answer’s mobi (Kindle) and epub (Nook & everyone else). I can do a Word file for Smashwords but I try to stay as far away from them as possible. To me, doing the formatting in Word is too much work for lackluster results.
Have you ever thought about writing your own book?
I think that everyone who has ever enjoyed reading as much as I do considers writing their own book. Unfortunately, I think mine would evolve into an autobiography and then I would be in serious trouble. I don’t relish spending years in court for telling the truth and naming names.
You've seen this business grow over the last several years. Do you think ebooks will be the death of the paperback completely?
I don’t think that digital versions will ever completely overthrow printed books. There are still too many instances where people want printed books. I have a beautiful Marilyn Monroe coffee-table book, which in ebook format would lose its appeal. Besides, you will always have some die-hard printed book fans that will refuse to go digital, and I can’t blame them. Right now, the ease of digitally publishing is causing a boom, allowing more people to bring their works to the public without the worries of vanity presses or outrageous expenses.
Can you format picture books?
Yes, I can. Recently, I finished and uploaded a pyramid ebook with 322 color images, charts and photos for Dr. Semir “Sam” Osmanagich – the discoverer of the Bosnian Pyramids. We are not “in” fixed format ebooks as of yet, but I believe those will be done by The Book Connection soon. Fixed format is good for graphic novels and children’s books.
How do you feel about kilts?
As the love of my life is Scottish author Mark Rice, who has been known to wear a kilt, I would have to say that I am a fan of them! But then again he could be wearing a burlap bag and I would be a fan of that as well. I guess I could ask how you feel about them too, as your other half wears one frequently.
(Why yes, yes he does and I love it!)
What are some of your favorite genres to read?
I have always been an avid reader of historical romance, but not the ones that depend on the male hero riding to the rescue. I also enjoy futuristic mysteries (i.e. J. D. Robb’s In Death series) and comical fiction (like Janet Evanovich’s Plum series) and even some YA. Recently, I was introduced to Rock Fiction – Metallic Dreams by Mark Rice – and found it terrific. I tell everyone to read it because I think his writing style is wonderful, very descriptive and funny.
Is there one format that is harder than another to code?
Cookbooks – hands down. Tables are a pain in the tookus to format: they have some funny issues and require a lot of code for such a small amount of space. The premise behind all other coding is simple and easy to understand.
When you're not nose deep in code, what does a nice cowgirl like you do for fun?
I would like to say I have a life of leisure but that would be a big fat lie. I am working from the time I get up to the time I fall into bed. Of course there are breaks where I have to run the kiddos all over town or run errands, but I am usually on the phone or brain-storming then. My fun comes from spending time with Mark. We work together and help each other. Some people might not understand that working with the person you love can be fun, but it is for us. We both have an off-beat sense of humor and are mutually supportive; to me, that is the most important thing. It doesn’t matter if we are talking literature, coding, or writing, it’s always fun – the highlight of my days.
How long does the process take from start to finish?
I finished my son’s 12K-word short story collection in 45 minutes; a 75K-word novel took me about 10 hours total, including final corrections. “A Blended Bouquet” by Writers Inc, a book of Scottish prose and poetry, took about 7 hours total. As a rule, fiction is quickly formatted and converted, while non-fiction and biographies tend to be more time-consuming.
Do you have a favorite author?
Mark Rice, no doubt about it. I love his novels, short stories and poetry. He is a multi-faceted talent – a true triple threat. His writing is so descriptive and his dialogue is believable. I keep telling him he should branch into audiobooks so that his readers can experience his writing the way I do.
How do you balance a home life with kids and a home based business that keeps you up all hours of the night?
Balance? I am supposed to be balanced? Crap, I knew I was forgetting something. Seriously, being a single parent and trying to get a business off the ground is hard. I am lucky enough that my children are spaced in age – 18 years, 10 years and 2 years. The two older boys help tremendously with their baby sister. They understand that there are times when Mom’s weekends are booked solid with ebook promotions and coding, but I try to work it so that I have one day of just kid-time. Then we watch a movie as a family every night in my office. I might still be working but we are all together.
Did you always want to be a super coding nerd or was there something else you wanted to be when you grew up?
This will shock, but I always wanted to be a lawyer or go into politics – until I realized that when I argue passionately I drop lots of f-bombs (I drop lots of those regardless) and that there is no common sense in the government. I can’t stand stupidity and so couldn’t be part of a government largely composed of morally bankrupt individuals who – if integrity were dynamite – couldn’t blow their noses. Don’t get me started on the whole situation. I am vocal about how screwed up the world has become.
Thank you Deena for being my guinea pig and allowing me to pick your brain in the process. Best of luck to you with your business!
For more information or to get in contact with Deena Schoenfeldt about having your book digitally converted please visit her website.