Ebook Publishing in Local Gov

So, exciting news at Shropshire Family Information Service  HQ, we’ve published our first ebook. Let me hear you say whoop whoop. No? Just me then.

Parents can now download our information on Amazon. We’re amazed by this. We feel like rockstars. We may, or may not* keep clicking on Amazon just to look at the image up there *yeah it’s may, of course it’s may, we’ve got a book available to buy on the internet, of course we keep looking!! You can also look here.

The Why

Research shows that 70% of parents feel they need advice and support in their parenting role, yet many are unaware that services exist or have difficulty accessing those services. The Family Information Service (FIS) offers free impartial information, advice and support on all aspects of family life for parents and carers of children and young people aged 0-19 years.

Over recent years, triggered in part by local gov budget cuts, but also a desire to expand the ways and ease with which parents can gain access to the quality information they need, we have been exploring the use of social media and digital technologies. We have social media sites, we have a blog, and we have a website, we’re also developing an App for that. It’s fair to say that we have been trying to enhance our electronic offer, so that those parents who can self-serve are shifted to an online channel, which enables us to support the most vulnerable families and children in Shropshire.

The What

Research shows that parents of children with a disability or special educational need face additional barriers to accessing accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive information to support them in their role as a parent. We respond to this with an FIS publication, amongst other things, called The Rainbow Pack, which is a 100+ page hardcopy handbook for parents of children with disabilities and additional needs. It’s now in its 3rd edition and is a well-respected resource among parents.

As the Rainbow Pack is already a book of sorts it was a perfect choice of publication for the FIS to make available as an EBook. Downloading the pack enables parents to have access to the information either through their iPhone, iPad or Kindle devise, and so to be able to refer to the contents as and when issues arising in their child’s life and journey through services and support.

As the Rainbow Pack is also one of the most costly publications for the FIS it also made it a good choice to ensure the information would remain available to parents even if budgets would not allow for a hard copy print run in the future.

The How

Some things you might need to consider if you’re also thinking about developing ebooks:-

  • We spoke to our corporate comms team from the start – and they were incredibly supportive. They always have been. No other service had produced an ebook, so they were keen to support our trailblazing.
  • We spoke to Information Governance – to ensure they were satisfied we were complying with data protection and all that jazz.
  • We set up a corporate account on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. It was important to establish this corporate account from the start. The account keeps us updated with the number of downloads, so we can monitor uptake.
  • We couldn’t get around the charging something for each download, but went with the option which was cheaper for the customer (77p) and which gave us less in royalties – this isn’t going to make the FIS millionaires.
  • We tested it before publishing it.
  • We tested it before promoting it.
  • You’ll need a Daniel Franey. He’s the tech and skill behind the idea and we couldn’t have done this without him. He’s helpfully written a few blogs on some of the issues he discovered when setting up The Rainbow Pack ebook – there were issues with bullet points so he’s blogged about formatting he’s also blogged about doing a front cover and one on developing a table of contents. All very helpful. He’s ace. This is his blog

The what next?

We’re going to be producing our Summer Fun guide as an ebook at the beginning of July, giving parents and carers access to things to do and places to go during the 6 weeks school summer holidays. This is another costly publication, but one which many parents ask for, as they try and bounce back from the ‘I’m bored’ cry.

We’ve looked at two of our most costly publications as ebooks but there is a lot of potential for our service, which we are keen to explore over the coming months, I’ll keep you posted, and invite you to our next launch party.

Kate Bentham

Sunday 2nd June 2013

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