Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions


The Freelance Leap: Unpublished!

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Last week I unpublished all my books.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I only actually unpublished them in one place, Smashwords, but this is basically my distributor for Nook, Sony, iBooks, Kobo, and other ebook sellers.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.

Self-Publishing Goals

  • Finish & Publish Summer Trilogy part 1: Published and launched – you can now buy The Flesh Remembers at Amazon, exclusively for the Kindle. Done.
  • Finish Summer Trilogy part 2: First handwritten draft almost complete and ready to be put aside before editing. Rough sketches of possible directions for the cover from artist Vincent Chong are already in hand.
  • Finish Summer Trilogy part 3: Outlined, but no work planned next week.
  • Continue The 52: Sorted. ‘Observations Made In A Small Gallery’ by Meghan Arcuri and I was published on Wednesday. It’s short, so only takes five minutes to check out if you haven’t.
  • Sell 5 Books A Day: So far this month I’ve sold a grand total of nine books. That’s 1 book a day, stats junkies! I’ve hit whole numbers now! I feel so grown up!

Traditional Publishing Goals

  • Finish the 25 Day Novel: Nothing new on this over the last week, although I’m now slowly picking through the first 70,000 words, editing a little here and there, and reminding myself of all the bits that happened.
  • Short Novel 1: Half-written in longhand first draft. No new work done, and none scheduled this month.
  • Short Novel 2: Quarter-written in typed first draft. No new work done, and none scheduled this month.
  • Anthology Novella: To be started. No new work done, and none scheduled this month.

Submit A New Short Story Per Fortnight

  • Fortnight 1: Sent final draft of a story called ‘Doomed’ to Philip Purser-Hallard, for the upcoming anthology Iris Wildthyme Of Mars. Phil was happy with the corrections made, and the story is in. A good way to start. My short story ‘Doomed’ will appear in the forthcoming Iris Wildthyme From Mars.
  • Fortnight 2: Overdue! We’re halfway through the third fortnight and I’m still redrafting a story called ‘The Philosophy of Pain’ in the hope of sending it to Michael Bailey’s Qualia Nous anthology. Panicballs!
  • Fortnight 3: See above! Not started, and a whole week is gone. BIG panicballs!

*please be one of these people.

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  1. Richard SalterMay 9, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    If you were publishing your books on Smashwords, how were you able to do the Kindle free promotion thing? I thought they demanded exclusivity for that privilege.

    • Richard WrightMay 9, 2014 at 9:30 pmAuthor

      Whenever I’ve released a book, it’s been exclusive to Amazon for the first ninety days, then I launch it on other platforms after that. The Summer Trilogy is a bit different – that’s going to be exclusive to Amazon for longer, possibly indefinitely.

      The Flesh Market is about to come out of its 90 day exclusivity period, and the thought of formatting it for Smashwords made me want to drive pins through my eyes.

  2. David Niall WilsonMay 9, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Actually, though I agree with you on most of this, for a long time now you’ve been able to upload your own, properly formatted ePub that just has their copyright line in it and bypass the meatgrinder altogether. Since the only place they distribute to that doesn’t want ePub is Amazon, nothing is lost by this, but your formatting is preserved.

  3. Richard WrightMay 10, 2014 at 8:48 amAuthor

    Hi there Dave. You’re right of course, though when I checked that option last year they were still asking for a Meatgrinder option in the first instance, which you could then replace with a formatted epub. Is that still the case, or can you go straight to an epub now?

    Even with that sorted, I’m minded to move. The long lag in reporting alone is starting to be a real problem for me. It wasn’t so bad when I had just one or two books listed through them, but as the range expands I find myself more interested in tracking individual titles against exposure events, promotions, and so on.

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