Escaping the Need to Know Everything

It’s no secret that the publishing world has a fear of digital technology. Ebooks especially are still often treated as the red-headed stepchild of the publishing world—a wild, untamed format that only those with high-level, specialized skills can attempt to conquer. The fact of the matter is, however, this simply isn’t true. Anyone who sets their mind to it can master the art of creating ebooks, yet most remain afraid to try.

Specifically, people seem to be afraid they don’t know enough to even make an attempt.

At the beginning of fall term, I conducted a survey about how Oolies rated their digital skills, and the results were clear: 80 percent of respondents reported having either beginner level or no digital skills at all. Only one person was willing to rate themselves as having advanced digital skills. And yet, nearly 50 percent stated that at least half the books they read are ebooks.

And here’s the thing: when I filled out that same survey a year ago, I put myself into the same beginner category. I had never touched coding in my life and thought the process of creating an ebook involved some sort of mystical hocus-pocus that I couldn’t begin to understand. Yet here I am, a year later, managing Ooligan’s digital output, having produced three Ooligan ebooks and counting. There is still a lot I don’t know, but I have come a long way just by being willing to jump into a project and learn as I go.

For some reason, the publishing world has become entrenched in the idea that unless you have spent years learning about coding, you can’t hope to understand the inside of an ebook or website. Since I started working as the digital manager, I have talked to several different students, all of whom have said the same thing: “I know a little bit, but not nearly enough to do anything.”

So I am going to come out and say it. You don’t have to know everything digital to create an awesome ebook or a cool new look for your website.

When working on one of Ooligan’s websites or creating a new ebook, I frequently come across things that I know should be possible, but am not certain how to do. When this happens, I turn to Google. My search history is littered with everything from “resize WordPress video” to “Font not showing up in ebook” to the oh-so-basic “CSS align center.” Search any coding problem, and you will get hundreds of sites and forums written by people who have wondered the same thing at some point in their lives and found the answer. W3Schools and CSS Tricks are two that I find particularly helpful and return to often. In fact, there is a good chance you will find multiple answers to choose from, allowing you to pick the one that works best for your project.

It sounds so simple: Google it. How many times on a daily basis do we ask a question and then proceed to look it up on the internet? And yet for some reason, the consensus of the publishing world is that in order to successfully create an ebook, you should already have all the answers. It is time for this belief to change in the industry. Digital skills are not an all-or-nothing entity, and we need to stop treating them as such. And if you are still a beginner? Great, jump right in. You’ll find that you know more than you realized. And what you don’t know can be learned, as long as you aren’t afraid to ask your questions.

At Ooligan, we have another resource available when creating ebooks: our backlist of previously created titles. When I began working on my first title, I referred to the ebook version of The Ocean in My Ears a lot. When I wanted to know what types of metadata our ebooks usually included or what sort of code the table of contents used, I used The Ocean in My Ears as a guide to see if I was heading in the right direction. Now that I have a few ebooks under my belt, I can refer back to previous titles that I have made when I need a refresher on manifest content or image placement.

Right about now, you may be wondering, “What the heck is an ebook manifest?” Google it. I dare you.

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