About seven months ago, I finished up at a day job to see what I can make of a full year of writing full time. I’m keeping track of things during these blogs, which are reverting to their regular Friday slots. Previous installments are racked up here.
Last week I unpublished all my books.
This may seem an unlikely route to publishing success. Bear with me.
I only actually unpublished them in one place, Smashwords, but this is basically my distributor for Nook, Sony, iBooks, Kobo, and other ebook sellers. It amounts to ‘everything that isn’t Kindle’. Expect my ebooks to vanish from all those sites very soon, if they haven’t already. I’ve wanted to be rid of Smashwords for some time, so this has is an overdue move.
I should probably qualify that. Smashwords is a sort of ebook distributor. You upload a single file to them, and they turn that file into ebooks formatted for distribution on Kindle, Nook, Scribd, iBooks, Sony, and so forth. It’s a one stop shop. You can buy books there if you like, though I don’t think many people do. However, it’s been a useful central place to gather up royalties from sales on all the other sites, and receive them in a single payment. For a long time it was essential if you wanted to sell ebooks from outside the US.
There are several reasons I want rid of Smashwords. In order to let them distribute ebooks with different specs for different vendors you have to upload a horribly formatted Word document that they can put through their ‘Meatgrinder’ process to spit ebooks out the other side. It’s an ugly one size fits all sort of a solution, which as anybody who wears clothes* will tell you means that no size fits well. The ebooks it produces are inelegant and sometimes plain ugly, which reflects poorly on the author. I can do much better creating the ebook in the correct format from scratch – and I can do it without that alienating and time-consuming Word formatting process.
Beyond that the distribution takes more time than you would think, given that it all happens via digital transfer and other electro-wizardry. You might have noticed that when I drop prices or run limited promotions on Amazon, I never do the same for the other ebook stores. This is why. By the time Smashwords has sent the new price or info to the the Nook store and the Nook store have implemented the change, the promotion is already over.
Sales reporting is the my last problem with Smashwords. I have to wait weeks and months to see what I’ve sold on the Sony Reader. I’ve literally no idea right now what I’ve sold, if anything, for either the Nook or Apple iBooks since March 1st. By comparison, I know what I sold on Amazon this morning. As I’m trying to keep a close eye on how things work, what does and doesn’t influence sales, and so on, the long reporting delay makes things very difficult.
Now that the other major bookstores are allowing independent authors outside the US to upload books directly, the only reason to stay with Smashwords is laziness. Over the next few weeks I’ll be reformatting all of my novels into shiny new ebooks for the Nook, Kobo, and Apple to start with, then relaunching them directly with each store device over the summer. I’ll have more control, more information, and better ebooks.
It’s been a busy week, behind the scenes. First up, I went through my short story ebook His Work To See with a fine tooth comb, reformatted it slightly, and then republished it for the Kindle. I caught an error or two, but for the most part I wanted to improve the back matter with better links to other books (particularly Thy Fearful Symmetry). Over the next month or two, I’ll be doing the same with all of the books I’ve published myself. When I republish them for the Nook, Kobo, and iBooks I want them as clean as they can be, and will update the Kindle versions at the same time.
Yesterday was also an artist/collaborator day. First up, I sent some cover ideas off to Vincent Chong for the next Dexter Lomax book, and I took a break from writing this blog a moment ago because he’s already come back with some rough sketches. They’re glorious. As with the last book, I won’t be previewing the cover so you’ll have to wait until release day to see the finished version. If you’re eager to see the sketches, and get a little bit more information on what Dex is up again in book two, sign up for my email newsletter, above. As long as Vinny’s okay with it I’ll do another subscriber preview post near the end of this month showing all of this, to tide you over until the book’s release sometime in June. Looking at the options now, even in sketch form, I think it’s going to look stunning.
I also sent off notes to a second artist for what I can only describe as a SECRET PROJECT. Said artist dropped me a line a while back with an idea that I love, for a book that would be bloody awesome, but with everything else going on I’ve been slow in doing the thinking I promised I would do. As soon as I can tell you about the SECRET PROJECT, I’ll do so (as it’s not mine, I don’t want to jump the gun). If it goes ahead then it’s something we’re doing ‘on spec’. There’s no publisher in place basically, so we’d have to find one when we were done. The SECRET PROJECT would be a ton of art and a ton of story, all bound up into the sort of awesome thing that your guests will gasp at and fondle. It will probably ship with special tissues, so you can wipe their grubby fingerprints off afterwards.
Finally, following my tentative toe-dipping into the world of audiobooks, I listened to a couple of audition pieces from prospective narrators for Craven Place. It’s very odd hearing somebody else read segments of your own book, but invigorating too. One narrator in particular has a pitch and tone that adds a finish to the book that I’ve never noted before, so we’ve exchanged emails with a view to taking it to the next stage. Fingers crossed! If this goes well, the audiobook could be available by the end of July…
I’m keeping track of my fairly ambitious/silly targets for the last few months of the freelance year here every Friday so I don’t take my own eye off the ball. Active stuff that I plan to work on between now and next Friday is in bold.
Traditional Publishing Goals
Submit A New Short Story Per Fortnight
*please be one of these people.