Monday, February 11, 2013

unkiss me e-chapbook experiment

love. love. love.
I have several clients who either want to self-pub or are self-pubbing, and it occurs to me that, although I have a distance-learners understanding of the vendors, options, players, I've never done it myself, so all my advice is abstract.

A few weeks ago I signed on as a member of the "launch team" for this sweet little book by one of the most revered experts in the agent/pub community. If you're scratching your head about how, whether, when, what or if in the self-pub hubbub, I highly recommend HOW DO I DECIDE, by Rachelle Gardner. It's a $3.99 ebook, and a terrific reference.

chock full of goodies!
Me? Pretty much my whole adult life is a DIY experiment. I've freelanced for over 20 years, dabble in a variety of $-producing writing, editing and teaching gigs, and here I am, at 10:15, in my bathrobe (I'm not recommending that, per se, just trying to offer up the flexibility factor that defines, and will continue to define, my life).

And yet.

I have an agent, and she's pedaling two one of my novels at the moment, and I truly, truly want to nail the elusive traditional book contract. That said, I see a lot of potential in utilizing the technology, the social media marketing options, and the entrepreneurial spirit I'm cursed blessed with to learn more about getting some of my work in front of readers and building my platform and readership.

So, dear readers, I conducted a little Valentine's Day season experiment over the weekend, and uploaded a skinny collection of my stories that (but for one) have been published in small presses over the years. I did it via Smashwords, and I'm still messing around with paragraph formatting, but I think with the latest upload I figured it out. (The gatekeepers are finicky, which is probably a good thing.) I'm selling the book for .99 on Amazon, but am going to give it away for Valentine's Day (coupon code VP23Q until Feb. 15th) if you buy it through Smashwords. So far I've "sold" five twelve 17 27 copies, but the day week is young! Picture me at a mall food court donning an apron and a tray o' chicken teriyaki samples--that's going to be me for the next few days.

The other funnish thing that went along with this, was creating a web page to platform my little e-book--which relied on finding an amusing image for the cover that was big enough for the the background on the web page. (Thank God for morguefile)!

I'm thinking of making a video/trailer, too, but that could be a stretch.

On balance, so far this feels a little like playing house with a new boyfriend--you know? Like, you're not married or even officially living together, but you spend a few weekends testing the waters -- working in the garden, making soup -- it's about possibility as much as it is about caution, this little "let's put a book together and offer it up." Fun without all the gravity and seriousness of true commitment. I'm not sure that's what it's supposed to feel like, though ...

What about you? Have you lost your e-book making virginity yet? What did you think of the experience?

15 comments:

  1. Ah, losing one's virginity for Valentine's. What an idea :) I lost mine for Christmas. Or Thanksgiving. They kind of overlap, these days. Either way, it's still fun.

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    1. Moses, share with us! What's the major hurdle here, in your opinion? What sucks? What's fun? Do you need a condom?

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    2. No; there's losing one's virginity, and then there's really losing one's virginity. Until you actually do it, there's only reading or hearing about it from others, and the maddening mystique that toys with your mind.

      Seriously, though, I ran into a couple technicalities involving the retailers Smashwords distributes to. Barnes and Noble has more stringent cover requirements than the others; I found that out, after the fact, so I had to publish separately to B&N with their own version of the cover. Also, Baker & Taylor (the library distributor) requires DRM, which I didn't turn on, so my book isn't in any libraries. Kobo never did flow, not sure why, but I published separately there, too (not that it made any difference; they're small fry). Finally, Big Elephant Amazon is not affiliated, so I had to publish separately there, too. Last season, I got about half of my sales from Amazon, and about half from Apple (via Smashwords), with a few dribbles from Sony (via Smashwords), or Smashwords, itself. I'll have to catch all the B&N readers, next season.

      My own thoughts is that the actual act (of publishing) is the quick and easy part. Like a proper courtship, you still have to have patience and discipline to wait until it (the book, I mean) is really ready, and afterward, there's a long-term commitment (to marketing) to bear fruit. There's plenty of books available, and there are experienced people to gain advice from, but for your own baby, it's still "learn as you go." That's the fun and frustrating part. :-)

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    3. Excellent details! So, if I may, what is your sales breakdown thus far in the various retail venues?

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    4. Very modest for the first go-around - just family and friends (12/Amazon, 10/Apple, 3/Smashwords, and 1/Sony). I figured out my B&N hiccup two days before Christmas, way late for a seasonal book, so they're a goose-egg, as are small fry Kobo, Diesel, and Page Foundry. For what it's worth, I actually made more money from Apple sales than Amazon, because Amazon pays only 35% for books below $2.99 (between $2.99 and $9.99 gets 70%), while Apple pays 60% minus Smashwords' cut. For my current project, I'm focusing more on the marketing puzzle

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    5. Thanks, Moses, it really is a puzzle.

      I'm going to stick my neck out and suggest that all authors, traditionally published or not, should experiment with direct-to-reader interfaces. Not necessarily with full books (especially if they are well-repped by an agency and/or are working with a traditional publisher), but with the newish expectation that authors should engage directly with their readership, the indie-route for value-add or "outtakes" or "extra chapters" or "supplemental stories" is a great way to spread the love.

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    6. Yes, I'm having f&f (fun and frustration, not the "f" yet) with marketing. Your advice makes good sense. It's kind of like TV. The traditional networks are still there, but it's not just them, anymore. There's traditional cable, which is not that new, either; pay-per-view; and then there's the really new direct-to-internet shows, which I know nothing about except that they're there.

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  2. Yay!!! I've just one-clicked my way to Love. I can't wait to curl up with your stories. Let's hope I can ration them better than the box of chocolates I was supposed to be saving for Ash.

    I have done the e-deed with my own stuff and I'm sure I'll do it again one day. I think it was you who told me about writerly diversification, and I believe in it 100%. I think all forms of publication ultimately feed one another, and the best thing we can do for ourselves is put the work out there and let it grow.

    Good move, Suzy!

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    1. Sweet Averil! And thanks for the clickeroo!

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  3. A few interesting observations re: Smashwords versus Amazon:
    1. Smashwords is much more author-friendly/centric than Amazon, in that the interface encourages platform/author links and author-initiated campaigns.
    2. The uploading/formatting interface via Amazon produces a cleaner book faster than with Smashwords (who is trying to please multiple masters), so I gotta say, the Amazon interface wins in the book-centric category.

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    1. A quick note for all who are publishing on multiple sites: be careful regarding Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing "Select" option. It gives Amazon exclusive rights to your book. (!)

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    2. Good point, Moses. They are so sneaky, and it's a bad deal. Really. Don't press that red button!

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  4. dear lord, your and moses's conversation just smacked me (smashworded me) across the face with how very little i know on the self-pub front.

    i'm off to to get your v-day love stories...

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    1. It's sort of like online dating. Steep learning curve mixed with triumph and disappointment. In my case, online dating eventually led to a great husband. We'll see where smashwords ends up.

      Do let me know if Smashwords is a hassle from the customer end. One person told me they made him jump through too many hoops, so I sent him to Amazon.

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  5. Haven't taken the dive into publishing yet: it's changed from a shorter term to a longer term goal for me.

    Just wanted to let you know that I've given your blog the Liebster award: http://thecapillary.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/liebster-award.html

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