Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

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Publishing Thy Fearful Symmetry: Selling On Street Corners

Okay, it’s time for an overdue Thy Symmetry Day. Apologies for the hiatus, but I had Sri Lanka to visit. You know, priorities. Still, it’s just over a month until I publish this Scottish apocalypse, so I need to shake off the vacation and get on with things.

Just before I left, I released His Work To See into the wild. For those of you just joining us, this is a short story that I’ve released as a separate ebook. It’s a prelude to the apocalyptic events that unfold in TFS, but was originally written to stand alone (only after it was published did I revisit the characters with a whole novel). It’s a kinetic little tale, a moment of crisis for men and immortals alike (if you’ve read the story, you’ll have briefly met both father Calum Baskille and a little girl called Minna Gilroy, though neither are named – both reappear in the book). The very impressive cover was commissioned from Malcolm McClinton, who talks about it briefly over here (and you should all take note of his suggestion that the story is best read while listening to REM’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It).

Unfortunately, due to the family vacation, I had little opportunity to promote the book, and downloads reflect that. So far, direct from Smashwords, the book has been downloaded 127 times. It’s less than I’d like to see, but probably reflects my absence after it went live on the site. I’ll be raising my efforts this week. It’s almost a handselling process, at this stage, which can be awkward and time consuming, but that’s the publishing world we live in. I feel like one of those guys I used to see in Newcastle in the driving rain, with bundles of the local paper at their feet, shouting incomprehensible things to draw your attention. “Kreeeeewoooonikaaaal!” I always thought they were shouting “Chonicle!”, but could never be sure. You must have seen similar if you live in a city. Well, that’s me, that is. “Heeeezwooooktooozeeeeee! Getchoooor heeeezwooooktooozeeeeee heeeyaaaarrrr!”

There are several things in the way of this promo book being read at the moment. The first is the unexpectedly long wait for it to be distributed from Smashwords to other retailers. The book was published three weeks ago, but the speed with which it’s rolled out has been agonising. iTunes was fast, appearing within a day or so of the distribution being authorised. Everything else? A snail’s pace, which is hardly what’s you’d expect in a digital world.

The problem with sending you to Smashwords to download a copy direct from there is that it asks a little time of you. You need to sign up for an account. It’s paperwork. Most casual readers, who just want to check out this one book and see if they like it, will very likely be put off by this unless they really, really want the book. If I’m stopped on the street and offered a free thingy to try, I might very well snatch one up. However, if I’m then presented with paperwork to fill in, I’ll change my mind and move on. I’m busy. The thingy wasn’t of interest to me before it was offered, so I can live without it. It might be that if I’d taken it, I would have found it to be the most wonderful, life-enhancing thingy I’d ever come across, but that paperwork kept us apart. The Internet is the same, and unless you’re already a Smashwords user with an account, I can understand why you’d have backed away from downloading a copy.

The trick, then, is to put the book somewhere when you can just grab it and run. If you buy books from iTunes, then it’s the click of a button to addHis Work To See to your library, at no cost. This week, the book finally appeared free at the Barnes & Noble website, for their NOOK reading device. Another win – Nook readers can grab it whenever they like, at no cost, and with no hassle.

As for Amazon… sigh. They’re still charging for the book. Not much – I’ve set the price as low as they’ll allow – but it works against the marketing idea. A free sample that isn’t free? Bleeuugh. I don’t even like sending people to Amazon for it, because I’m asking them to pay for something that other readers can get for free elsewhere. My hope is that some Amazon algorithm will notice that the book is free at B&N. It’s worked for other authors – if Amazon note a lower price at another retailer, they adjust to match. With luck, His Work To See will benefit from this, sometime soon. Because I’m not making any effort to point people towards Amazon (the world’s biggest ebook retailer!), there’s only a handful of sales associated with the book – 8 to date. I’m surprised it’s even moved that many, to be honest (and am both grateful to whoever bought them, and sorry they had to pay at all).

Still, these things are sent to try us. My biggest problem remains putting His Work To See in front of readers who might like the look of it. If you’ve read this far, take a moment to give me a hand and pass on the His Work To See page on this site via Facebook or Twitter. Don’t pretend you read it and loved it if you haven’t and don’t – I’m not keen on that sort of word of mouth, but it’s fundamentally dishonest, and no help to readers. If you just pass the link on though, the people who follow you might have a look for themselves. Many won’t be interested – not their sort of thing, perhaps – but a handful might. I’d suggest something like:

If you read horror or dark fantasy, Richard Wright has a short, free ebook available that you might enjoy – http://bit.ly/OOIXaU

If you’re doing this on Facebook, you can throw in the whole link – http://www.richardwright.org/2012/06/his-work-to-see/ – and it should convert it to one of those pretty link box things, complete with image.

Give it a whirl. If you and several others do this, the people who know you will at least see the book. It’s then a matter of crossing fingers, and hoping some of them think they’d enjoy it. I’ll keep an eye on visits and sales, and report back on exactly how effective this sort of thing is next week.

Other things I’ve done related to TFS and His Work To See include buying a year’s worth of advertising at Hellnotes. This is a genre news site, dedicated to dark fiction, and gets major traffic. I wish the ad (which is forHis Work To See right now, but will be swapped out for TFS later) were higher up the page, but those slots were already gone. Still, though I had doubts, I’ve been seeing a steady trickle of traffic from the ad, and if it continues then the ad will be worth it over time.

Most recently, I’ve also joined the Alliance of Independent Authors, a particularly proactive community of self-publishers, who seem to share my basic belief that a good self-published book should be indistinguishable in quality from any other. I’ve learned a lot in just a few days – the membership is a little steep, but for me it’s already thrown up opportunities and information that have changed what I’m about to do with TFS. More on that later though, as this has been a long post already.

Come back for next week’s entry, where the focus will shift away from the promotional ebook, back to TFS itself.

And a reminder – His Work To See will never be available for sale in print. A chapbook will be produced, however, and given away at any event I take it to (the first of which will be Anthocon in November). If you’d like a copy, sign up for my monthly email newsletter (the first edition will go out at the end of this month). Every time I post a newsletter, I’ll pick a subscriber at random to send the hard copy chapbook (and occasionally, other things as well) too. The sign up box is at the top right of the page. Just tap in your email – and thanks to those of you who have already!

Onwards!

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