Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Gonzo Guide to Publishing to Kindle

The first thing you need is an Amazon account. I just mean the bog standard buying stuff from Amazon type. I assume you've got one? Assuming that you have, go to https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin and log in as you would normally to your Amazon a/c. I wasn't publishing under the same name on my Amazon a/c which caused me some problems, but if the Amazon a./c is the same as your writing name there won't be any problems.

Logging in brings up a screen which looks like this (although without the book titles obviously, since it's my screen!)

You'd click on Add New Title bottom left. You get what's shown here -

This is a 2-page screen from which you will enter everything necessary to publish your book, from the text itself, the cover design, through to the blurb and the price. it is fairly self-explanatory and if you have all your materials ready, takes no more than an hour. Then you wait about 24 hours and hey presto your book is live and available to buy. The first thing on this page is about whether to opt into KDP Select which I'll leave until the end as it's probably the most confusing, though ultimately it's only about marketing.

Step 1 - Title. Make sure you type exactly what the title is and that this matches the title as it appears on your cover. This is what will appear in all the search engines and Amazons own listings. Is it part of a series? Just tick if it is and give the series name.

The next two are optional and likely to be left blank as you are self-publishing.

Then comes Description. this is vital, cos it's the blurb that's going to appear to sell the book on your Amazon page. If you've got a print copy too, the two blurbs should probably be the same. Draft it out properly before you sit down to upload your book on kindle, otherwise it will hold things up.

Book Contributors - Anyone with a role in your book that you want to credit. Cover Designer is a usual one. If you've got illustrations inside the book, then you ought to credit whoever did those.

ISBN - Amazon Kindle generates its own number which is not an ISBN, but rather one from its own system of classification. But if you're doing a print version, you'll have an ISBN number which would be entered here. But then that means you'll have to wait for the print version to be ready before you can upload to Kindle. Maybe just consider leaving it blank if you're keen to get the book out and re-edit these Amazon details when the print version is out.

Step 2- Verify your publishing rights. Tick this is not a public domain work. If you're not sure what this means, click on the blue "what is this" hyperlink. These hyperlinks are very helpful on the amazon kindle site.

Step 3 - Target your book:
Add catergories - you get 2 of these. One is fiction, don't use a second unless it's a really appropriate fit.

Labels or tags. You get 7. Think SEO (search engine optimisation) and Amazon's own way of dividing the millions of titles they have from one another. Genre is important. Horror? Fantasy? It can be both. Then you've got 5 others. Any sub-genre? Is it a serial killer, or humour, or historical? You can say novel. You could even say Mongolia if that's where it's set and it's important to the book. When the book is finally published, check these tags are on your book's page, sometimes they fail to show up. Readers are encouraged to add labels or agree with yours. The genre labels are important for getting in the right charts.
* I haven't uploaded a book since Amazon said they were doing away with tags, so I'm not too sure about the status of this stage of the publishing process. 

Step 4. Upload your book cover. You must have a high-res thumbnail JPEG design for the cover. You don't need a back cover or a spine like you would for a print version. Simply click Browse For Image and from there click on your JPEG of the cover.

Step 5 Upload your book File. Before you upload, you have to choose whether to enable digital rights management. It's about the rights of your book when it comes to lending. Read their hyperlink guide to make up your own mind.

And now we come to the book upload. You have to have the formatting all sorted before uploading, otherwise it gets very tedious and time consuming.

I assume your book is in Word format.
  • Kindle will translate the basic html behind bold, italics, underlining, strike through so these are fine.
  • You can indent lines to open paragraphs. But do not use spaces between paragraphs, indent instead to distinguish a new paragraph (as with print books - take a look).
  • Do not under any circumstances use tabs, kindle will screw them up.
  • Don't do fancy fonts - Times New Roman 11 or 12 point is advised. Chapter headings can be larger, size 14. But remember the reader determines font size not you. You upload a very basic, stripped down format and the kindle software transforms it into the size-flexible text that appears on screen.
  • No page numbers on your document, because the pages will vary according to the text size the reader opts for.
  • Don't right Justify either for the same reason.

So if you're confident that any stylistic flourishes have been removed from your Word document, that you have every one of the extra page bits you need, like contents (if required), acknowledgements, dedication, index, any of these you deem necessary all in the same document and in the right order, you convert it into HTML code. The simple way to do this on a Mac is simply to save the Word document as a Web page - I assume it's similar on a PC. What you'll get then is a continuous version of your book, (a file called MyNovel.html) and this is what you'll upload to Kindle and which kindle will convert into it's own programme. You might just want to check through this to make sure there's no odd looking spacings or weird looking bits where you hadn't stripped out the formatting in your original Word version, and which comes through once converted into html.

Click browse for book and then click on your html version of the book. Then click upload. You have to sit back while this happens, the time depends on the length of the book, but it's not too bad. While it's doing this, it offers you to continue on to page 2 of the process which is all about pricing and stuff. But when your book has finished uploading, you MUST MUST MUST view it in the preview option - either on screen or you can download it to a kindle-compatible viewer on your PC, like Calibre. You have to check through every page, because this is what will be available to the reader. You need to ensure the spacing in particular hasn't done anything odd. If it is, then you have to go back to your Word version, fix it there and then save it anew in HTML and reload the new HTML version. This is where it gets really tedious, so try and avoid it by having the formatting right in Word. It took me 3 flipping months with my debut novel to sort, but that's because my Word version was cobbled together from different versions of the book over the 9 years it took to complete it. All my books since then have been straight forward in this respect.

If you get in a tangle, the Amazon Kindle forums are pretty good for asking a technical question and getting an answer.

Page 2 is about pricing in different countries, whether you opt for 35% or 70% royalty and make sure you have your bank details that you want the money paid into, unless you prefer them to send a cheque.

Royalty statements are viewable at any time on your Kindle account screen see below- just hit reports tab.

Royalties are paid 3 monthly, except from the US - you have to have $100 worth of royalties before they send you a cheque.
* I have heard that Amazon.com is willing to pay direct into UK banks, so this threshold may not remain in place. However, I haven't looked into this yet myself.

Right, back to the opening question, whether to join KDP select or not. This is a service whereby you can promote your book with up to 5 days of free give aways (taken all at once or individually) and you get enrolled into a Kindle lending library. There are other benefits, you can gift copies of your book to reviewers. You have to decide if you want to do this or not. I've done it only for one of my books and that was for a global flash fiction promotion I was part of, otherwise I wouldn't have. I've blogged about my experience of promoting with free giveaways here: I don't think it works, but it does depend on the genre of the book. People find they get in the top 10 "Free Chart" for their genre on such giveaway days, but it doesn't last. If you do it, make sure you image capture the chart with your book in it! And when you hit publish, that's it. 24 hours or so later you're book will be out & available to buy. Although there's often a further lag before people actually can buy it, so don't start telling your mates until you're sure it's actually there to buy. There are periods when Amazon is doing spring cleaning where the publishing thing takes 48 hours.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Something For Nothing?

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum Marketing. I sold 150 times as many books last Wednesday than I usually do on Amazon Kindle. I say sold, maybe moved units might be more germane. For they were all free of charge to the, um purchaser.

I wasn't doing it as any promotion. The book, an anthology of flash fiction, has already been out for 9 months. The organiser of the inaugural flash fiction day asked if me and others would consider making our anthologies free as part of the events of the day and I said yes. Without imagining any consequence of just such a move, for I simply wanted to contribute to the day dedicated to promoting the profile of the flash fiction art.

I had to seek his advice as how to make one's book free, since I'd never done it before. First thing was I had to enter the book into KDP Select, which was something I'd also studiously avoided as I couldn't see its relevance to my work. After that the process was quick and easy, but I'd been advised that the timings of the 24 hours of your offer were taken from the US not the UK. I resolved that in order to ensure that the full scope of the 24 hours of National Flash Fiction Day were covered by the offer no matter where you were in the world (sorry Australasia, not sure if I covered you entirely), I actually set it up for two days, the 15th and 16th May.

So the offer went live sometime on the 15th May. I made not a single plug or announcement of the offer on the 15th, since to me it really concerned the 16th May's festivities. (I covered the 15th to ensure people in the Uk could get it for a full 24 hours of the 16th, being 5-7 hours ahead of the US). There was a link from National Flash Fiction Day's own website, but again it was trumpeting launch day of the 16th. And yet lo and behold lots of units moved on the 15th. Mainly in the USA it has to be said.

So what did that suggest to me? These purchasers could only have come by the book and the offer by trawling for that day's free books. Perhaps they did this every or most days at least. Perhaps they do it once in a blue moon when they need something to read and America being so large, this was the cohort who just happened to be looking on this day and in categories pertinent to my book. I wondered if those same people surfed on the 17th May, using their same search requirements of genre and the like, whether they would have bought the book for its modest price of $2.89.

Once the day of the 16th dawned, then the British take up of the offer started to catch up to the US one, though US sales continued to tick over. That was unsurprising since National Flash Fiction Day, though international, originated and centred in the UK. I even appeared in the upper reaches of the charts of Literary and short fiction on Amazon Kindle UK, which was nose-bleed territory for me. I'd never even bothered to consult them before. I was just below the likes of Victor Hugo which seemed fair enough to me.

That started me thinking about the whole question of promotion through freebies. My book appeared in the free chart and would no doubt disappear within 24 hours once the offer had ended. Therefore how much of a boost could that inject to its profile? I suppose if one were able to link it in to other things such as a press release, a video or live reading it might engender a bit more sustainability. But otherwise, nice as it was, I couldn't quite see the long-term benefit.

But then there is the greater boon of my work being introduced to 150 new readers. Even if only 5% of them were to read and review, that would represent an enormous and lasting boost to the book's profile on Amazon. But of course I have no way of knowing who these purchasers are to gently nudge them via social media. Particulalry those Americans who bought before the offer was advertised. I do have more idea of some who might have interacted through National Flash Fiction Day's site, plus of course my own endeavours via social media.

So what are the benefits to promotion from day long giveaways? Apart from getting your work into the hands of more readers, I'm not sure there are any useful ones. And while any writer welcomes more readers, I do wonder if the way of Amazon and Kindle shopping means there is a tranche of readers who maybe only want something for nothing?

In many ways I have no problem with that. Many of the stories in the anthology first appeared on my blog where they were therefore available for free. If a writer only writes to be read, then maybe we should give our work away for free (although there's still no guarantee that the book will reach an audience, though the evidence above suggests it probably will). But then what price art and artists in this? A writer is to make no money from their endeavour? Maybe that's how it is to be, a return to the days of the tribal storytellers around the campfire, entertaining their kinsfolk but maybe only for the price of their meal cooked on the spit.

We write because we love it right? That we choose to spend time at the keyboard rather than go out drinking with mates or seeing a movie. Do we expect to be remunerated for our time? I do think that art suffers when it is entirely drawn into a commercial nexus. That is when the main considerations have to be about commerce rather than artistic content. But maybe I'm deluding myself. Here's an earlier post on the issue of art and artists.

I'd love your responses to this as I'm genuinely rather baffled by the whole experience.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Kindle Adventure

I'd always been against e-readers. I'd regarded them as being about delivery systems and not content and as both my writing and personal preferences for reading are not about convenience or fitting in with a certain lifestyle, I took no interest in them.

While I still don't possess an e-reader of my own, I have become converted to putting my own books out in e-format. I had always viewed, perhaps sentimentally, the book as an artefact. A solid, tangible thing, a collectible. Something that had a material substance in my bookshelves. I always viewed my own work as embodying everything about literature. That is it started with the cover and extended to the words inside as part of a whole experience. Some of my projects involve design and typographical elements and I was fairly certain their integrity could not as yet be preserved in e-reader format.

So what has caused a change of heart and mind in me?

1) Well the debut novel tracked on this blog has been out in print for 21 months now. I have been marketing it solidly for that time, but its natural cycle has probably come to an end. The kindle opportunity may allow it to have a new sales impetus, with a whole new e-reader market being opened up. A couple of Twitter folks have asked if it's in e-reader format and asked me to let them know if (and now when) it will be in e-form.

2) In addition, there has been one serious flaw I feel with my POD experience. I am unhappy with the reporting of sales by my POD publisher/printer. I know I have sold more than my sales statement through conversations with specific readers via social networking. They have sent me pictures of my own book. Of course I don't get this from every reader, and have no precise figure of actual sales, but for example I know the declared sales from America seems woefully under-reported. I have asked the publishers to look into the last 2 sales periods, but other than an acknowledgement of my query, have received nothing. It is not clear to me if the problem lies with the printers, or the publishers themselves. I am highly disatisfied with this aspect of the service, but they really have me over a barrel. I can't prove anything. I only have anecdotal evidence. It has in truth soured my taste for POD publishing. Comparing notes with a couple of other writers who use the same service, suggests I am not alone with this feeling.

3) I still only ever received 1 of my 5 filmed book trailers. Taking receipt of any of the others would be a waste of time and money now. Unless, a kindle release could be timed to coincide with one or more of these new trailers. Mind you, there's no guarantee I'll still take receipt of any of them as finished... But it remains a tantalising possibility.

4) The joy of a kindle release now, is that I can re-edit the novel. Through doing live readings, I have come to learn so much more about my book. Performing it live really shows you what works and what doesn't. If I stumble over something, what chance the reader grasping it? The writer may let go of a book at the end of the writing process, but the book may never be truly 'complete'. This affords me a wonderful advantage of tweaking bits here and there and hopefully improving them. This sort of thing happens all the time in new editions of non-fiction, but non-simultaneous editions and the ease of reuploading new kindle editions allows for this to happen in fiction.

5) If that wasn't privilege enough, the kindle edition can also come out with new cover art work. The tree edition cover was something I'd had in my mind for two years before the book came out. The concept was refined and refined and the POD company got the gist of it in their two goes at rendering my brief, if not quite how I'd envisioned it. Yet it wasn't their shortcomings that engendered a new cover for the kindle. The fault is all mine. It just goes to show the vagaries of the creative process, but despite me settling so firmly on the original concept, lo and behold after the book was out a wholly different and far superior image came to mind. It emerged out of my video trailers, an image I storyboarded turned into something I realised could stand for the novel as a whole. Well the kindle version is going to afford me the opportunity to realise it. And though I'm going to post here separately on book cover art and e-readers, there can be a relief that the e-reader format does not require a back cover nor spine, thus making a new front cover more palatable.

6) I haven't had anything new out in the market place for those 21 months. I've had plenty of flash fiction on my blog, but that is fixed in situ, not something that gets distributed to readers. As a writer in the market place, I have had no new impetus for nearly two years now. A debut, then seemingly nothing. Well the first idea is to collate and publish those flash fictions in e-reader format as an anthology. But I am first and foremost a novelist. I had three other novels completed. One simply can't lend itself to e-format at present because of a host of typrgraphical demands within it. One is a novella and I'm still editing that. But the third is ready to go and had been knocked back by publishers because of its inflammatory subject matter, that of homegrown suicide bombers. It seemed to me that it could perfectly be pitched on kindle and sink or swim under its own auspices as to whether it found a readership or not.

So not only will I be bringing out my print novel in kindle format, but there will be a completely new novel and an anthology, all released at the same time. Is that overly-ambitious? At £1.50 and £1 download price, I don't believe it is. Were they 3 print editions simultaneously released at £7.99 then that could well be biting off more than I can chew.

I'll let you know how the decision turns out as well as the process of actually converting my Word document to kindle and how easy or not that turns out to be.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Been A While... Theory versus practice of book marketing

Gosh 9 months already, like a pregnancy coming to term. Although this post has needed to be induced with all the other things going on. Where did the time go? Why, into marketing of course...

But just like London buses, no posts here in an age, then 3 come along all at once. One is on Twitter and the other on the value of artists in society and how we approach pricing our work.

Don't think I've been idling in all this time fair reader. In fact I've never been so busy writing in all my life. This blog is the one that has been pushed to the back of the queue, as every week I'm writing a new 1000 word piece of flash fiction, posting to the "Spectator" arts and culture blog, posting a book review to Booksquawk commenting on blog posts of others and other people's flash (see below), making goodness knows how many tweets through both my Twitter accounts and posting pieces on various parts of literary craft and the ever-changing literature market here, there and everywhere. Oh and to counterbalance all this virtual world activity, I've joined not one but two writers' groups just to re-engage with other writers in the flesh.

Very stimulating, very thought-provoking, very indirect. For while these each are I believe, a worthwhile endeavour for its own sake and all loosely bracketed under my marketing campaign, they are very indirect forms of reaching potential customers. None of them involve the book itself, but offer more of me the person and hopefully people will be attracted to the book by osmosis. But it's hard to get any data to back that dynamic up. Take Twitter for example, you build up a virtual relationship with someone you come to consider as a friend. At what point in the relationship do you drop in "maybe you'd be interested in my book?" At any time it can seem a betrayal or a manipulation at best. Answer, I don't do it.

Before I go on to examine some of these indirect marketing strategies, I'll present evidence of a direct one. I have a 20 page sample of the novel up at BookBuzzr.com To date, it's had 5700 views. Now if everyone of those views had turned into a sale, I would have smashed my own sales target. Of course they haven't and I've no real way of knowing how many sales have emerged from this source. So this direct form of marketing, successful in its own terms in that 5000+ views is a very acceptable figure, yet even this is probably not having a huge impact on sales of the book itself.

So indirect forms of marketing, a sort of getting my name out there qua name rather than qua book, is likely to have less success even than that. There definitely seems to be a giant leap from someone liking what you have to say about the status of the "hero" in the early 21st century in a blog post somewhere, to them being moved to stump up money for your novel. It seems a bit more than theory leading them to chase down the practice.

I think there seems a fundamental flaw to social networking marketing. Because so much quality product is online FOR FREE, the discerning surfer can get their fill of really good literature (or art or whatever they're interested in) without having to declare their credit card details. Freemium may just not work as a model when you are starting out as a neophyte producer. Once you've achieved Seth GODin like status, then you can seemingly charge the earth for your product, but how to make the jump from one to the other...

Sometimes this glaring reality bugs the hell out of me, other times I don't care. There are other forms of validation. Take a Twitter hashtag community called FridayFlash Every Friday writers all over the globe post a new piece of flash fiction (1000 words or less) on their blog and tweet it with the hashtag Fridayflash. All the members of this community are thus alerted to each others' work and they read, comment and then re-tweet it to their own twitter followers. It's a great way to get your work read, to direct people to your blog. How many of such readers are not themselves writers? Probably very few. So it is a validation, but it is writers mainly talking to other writers. And thereby that reflects out wider when you are trying to pimp your book, it is mainly a message sent out to other writers, who as we all know are penniless!

None of this really diverts me from my original business plan, my sales target and means of achieving it. It has however made me extend the period devoted to marketing from 6 months to 18 months. If it achieves anything, it's going to be via a slow build is the one lesson I've learned. I've still to receive final edits of 4 of my 5 video readings for example, and they were shot in January. These delays always happen and you just have to allow for them. What it will enable is a fresh impetus when they do land on video file-sharing sites. So the way I look at it is as a happy adjunct of the marketing drive, I've also developed these rather joyous online relationships, not necessarily with customers or dedicated fans, but with a group of people who are just fantastic to know.

The other direct form of selling is via live readings. I've done about 7 now, always in tandem with other writers rather than solo spots and thoroughly enjoyed each one. Sales have been skimpy, but again that''s secondary because the show has been the thing! I'll post my thoughts on doing live readings here next week.

So that's the update. A lot of sound and fury for possibly scant return - we'll have to see the results of the royalty statement due in October which covers Jan-Jun of this year. But it's been a lot more fun than I'd anticipated. And as I said when I started this, I can have no one else to blame but myself if it doesn't work out. Just so long as I know I gave it my all.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Artistic Values -What Is The Value Of a Writer Today?

Okay I've been doing this self-marketing thing for 9 months now and I'm a little puzzled by the conclusions I'm drawing.

Marketing online is a great way to make contact with readers, but not necessarily a terribly good way to sell to them. (I think it's greater strength lies in a post-purchase service, by which they can come back directly to you and dialogue about the book and their feelings about it which is invaluable).

Why do I say it's a questionable way of selling product? I think because so much literature is available online. A canny reader can surf and trawl and find very good literature for free. The E-Bay hunting trove mentality is very much in evidence. By passing on your book, which they've probably sampled (for free as you've provided it as part of your marketing), it may not be any reflection on your writing, but on your pricing.

Which begs the question, should all literature be free? That the freemium model is the only way to go to maximise the chances of your book being read. After all, you've taken down one of the two major barriers to it being read (the other being visibility, pointing people in its direction).

Two contrary points of view arise from this. Firstly any writer just wants to have their books read don't they? So making them free must enhance the chances of a greater number of readers, as there is no economic impediment to them at least starting your book. But against this is that writers want to be paid for their artistic output. It takes anything from 6 months to years to write a full-length novel, a great investment of the individual and one for which he would hope to be partly reimbursed or rewarded for. The only way a freemium model could allow a smidgeon of recompense, is to have a sort of special edition, print version, maybe with some extras not otherwise available. This can be priced way above the current cost of a print book, as it is more of an artefact or piece of art in how it's to be regarded. Personally, I think this is unrealistic unless you are in the upper echelons of the literati, when your signature is akin to that of an artist's on a canvas. That is what inflates the value of the product. And just a brief note on the freemium model; something that is on offer online for free, tends to put the purchaser in a mindset that it's of no value, and therefore far less likely to buy a physical, priced version of the product. If you've got free tickets to a reading or panel discussion of a book, it's no loss if come the day you don't feel like going; wheres if you've paid for the tickets, you likely to be less disinclined.

But such issues lead to a far wider question to my mind. What value do we place on our creative artists in this early part of the twenty-first century? We being society as a whole. With the market and technology seemingly determining most of the options for distribution and promotion as laid out above, seems like the artist possesses very little value today. We are maybe being reduced to offering a service for providing reading material, rather than producing an artistic work which has some value over and above the cost of printing and distribution as in days of old. Artists are tending towards functionaries and costermongers in the open ended online market, with no special regard by society for being able to reflect it back on itself. In the current economic climate, with so many vital public services being cutback, it is really impossible to argue for any elevation of the arts through subsidy or other protections to be sought from government treasuries.

Am I wrong in seeing this as a decline in the status of artists? With the concomitant loss of creditable status within society, whereby we used to be able to reflect it back to itself? Does anyone still care what writers think? Have writers gleaned this and changed the nature of what they write? Going down populist, non-threatening paths as perceived to be market-friendly and therefore sustainable, of escapist literature such as "Twilight". Are writers unwittingly practising self-censorship as they try and reposition themselves within the market? Have authors lost confidence int their own abilities to wreak some sort of meaningful art, because it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to gain validation via a level of remuneration that acknowledges their worth to society?

If we give it away for free, we may get more readers. But they may not gain or give back any value from the experience. There has to be some sort of premium to any work of art.


Twitter has changed me. Changed the type of writer, the type of creative artist I see myself as. Of course I can't ascribe any blame or agency to Twitter, that I haven't allowed to happen to myself.

Watch a conversation between just 2 people. How their sentences trail off, or veer wildly along a new train of thought. How they cut across one another. How they are punctuated with 'ums' and 'ers' as they gather and compose their thoughts. Twitter is not unlike this, in that the time to type means you are both lagging behind past conversational exchanges and cutting across new ones as they appear. Oh and it's unlikely to be restricted to just two parleyers. But because it demands a rapid response, you often don't have the luxury of time to compose and gather your thoughts. Then the 140 character automatic edit may further distort and deform your meaning. Nuances can be lost in something that comes over as declamatory. Twitter has no time for 'ums' and 'ers'.

Okay, so how has Twitter changed the type of writer I am? Like any writer, I am a magpie always on the lookout for ideas. Anything from daily life may be noted down, filed for later sculpting in fictional form. But it would have been worked on, chewed over, cogitated upon at length. Yet now within the exigencies of Twitter, I have started to react immediately to things. It's certainly changed the way I watch television programmes or sporting events. Now I can be sat there, laptop poised, commenting and critiquing live to the broadcast. In doing so, I can't be giving it quite the same focus as were I just to be watching it untrammeled by any keyboarding? The impulse seems now to just jump in, to react instantly and offer an opinion. How wise is it to unleash unmediated thoughts? It certainly goes against the author's tendency to weigh up and reflect upon his material.

Moreover, just what exactly is that persona of you that exists online and through Twitter? Does it represent 60% of the real you? 75%? 90%? All of you? The latter assumes we can ever even possess full self-knowledge. Whatever the percentage, it is the amount you choose to put out there of yourself. But it is still just a persona. You almost certainly reveal snapshots of the artist you. The workaday you for those who Tweet from the office. The leisure time you as you Tweet from a concert or the pub. But what about the family you? How much do you want to bring in of those nearest and dearest who themselves may have no online presence? Those who are never asked for their consent to be mentioned in your dispatches. Kids and spouses become part of our Twitter routines, if we judge it reflects well on us, or even badly so long as it is in a comic light. I don't know, if you're at a bus stop and a complete stranger gets out their wallet and shows you pictures of their children, is that significantly different from what we Tweeters do? Authors are often quizzed about how much of real people in their lives they put into their books and whether this presents them any problems of conscience. Well you can probably double that with regard to Twitter.

Yet it always fundamentally comes back to the words. The 140 character bite-sized morsels. Those that no matter how directly, may be silently, subliminally imploring Tweeters to go visit your blog, go read your book, to see your words at their full value, given proper breathing space to articulate themselves. And in order to fulfill this dynamic, the demands upon the writer are now to have fresh words as often as possible for consumption. To keep getting people to come visit your blog or view a piece of flash fiction or a poem you've posted. So now I'm writing flash fiction on a weekly basis, when I'd never written one in my life before joining Twitter. If I keep up the pace of one new piece of flash for each week's fridayflash Twitter hashtag community, then that will entail 52,000 words written in the year, irrespective of other new slightly longer pieces I occasionally pen. Plus weekly blog posts and book reviews. In other words, easily the equivalent of a new novel, only I'm not actually engaged on any current work in progress.

I blog opinion pieces and my take on literary theory, usually as guest posts on other blogs. Oh yes, I also review books - it's no longer sufficient just to read books for pleasure, now I feel the compunction to express my views on them publicly. All well and good, but from the noises I've had in regard to all this, I am just as likely to be 'spotted' and possibly offered an invitation to step up to the next level professionally, as a blogger or reviewer rather than as a novelist. None of which I've ever yearned to be or seen as a career path I'd take.

While that may seem churlish, I've never been someone of the opinion that all writing of whatever form has to be a good thing if you see yourself as a writer. This is purely my personal view, I certainly don't hold that it must be so for all writers. For me, I don't want to be a jobbing writer, maybe earning a crust that enables me in my spare time to devote my energies to my fiction. For I am all too aware, that the nature of the beast is such, that to do justice to the necessary professional standards of blog or journalistic writing, entails such an investment of time in its proper craft, it inevitably erodes the mental energy left for one's own work. I'd far rather earn my crust in a completely unrelated field, leaving me the space to create in a whole different mental space.

So I find myself writing more and in smaller chunks. I find myself being far less reflective and leaving my material far less worked on. I find myself possibly betraying confidences from people who have no means of redress. And I find myself writing opinion and review pieces and therefore consuming my own reading material in an entirely different way than from before. An interesting question comes when I finally draw a line under my current marketing campaign for the novel and decide it's time to return to starting a new long project. Will it coexist on Twitter along with me, or will it be written in seclusion from Tweep friends and fellow banterers? I don't yet know the answer to this, but I guess I'll let you know.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I think I might have a book out

Okay, it's a bit hopping around the time frame for all this, for which apologies, but as of tonight it's all got a bit vertiginous. Apparently my book is available online. No notification from Legends Press. No sign of my free copies. But it's up on Amazon with a delivery time of 3 weeks (!) so maybe it's not formally out quite yet, or as formally out as a POD can be. Nothing listed on Book Depository and Waterstones, the latter I'm not sure if it goes to, the former, well I was advised sometimes the feeds for titles to be added to lists can take a couple of weeks. Barnes & Noble have it as available within 24 hours, so maybe I'll crack America before home? Confused? Not as much as I am right now. New Generation Publishing, the partners in this enterprise with Legends Press, haven't even got it listed on their website as available to buy. Can't see the feed lag being an issue for them... Oh and the e-mail I fired to Tom Chalmers at Legends drew an "Out of the Office" reply... Not because it's just shy of midnight, but he's away until Monday, so this won't get cleared up anytime soon. It's not even worth asking a mate to order one from Amazon as a test run, since they wouldn't get it for 3 weeks. Singularly unimpressed. Mind you, the good news is that there is also one used copy for sale on Amazon. Impressive, unless it was a test copy, how can anyone have pre-owned it? I didn't look at the delivery time for that one.

While I've been networking like crazy and building the mythical platform, I could - potentially - also have been linking to the book. I'm not actually sure. It has been my greatest frustration even before tonight, to do so much marketing groundwork, but have to hold it back because there is no book, with no website links to attach to it. Right now I am holding back on firing off the e-mails to friends, colleagues and other biddable folk, as I don't know if those orders can be fulfilled. They were always going to represent the first wave, but now it looks like it's all concertinaing together with the second wave of marketing to strangers.

I decided from early on that I was going to be as businesslike and therefore emanate consummate professionalism throughout all my dealings with Legends Press. To my mind, that meant answering each email without delay, not bothering them unduly with lots of minor queries (finally collated into 1 e-mail last month, see below) and not really getting hung up on issues and making everything into a battle. The art of the possible has always been my motto. Two drafts of cover art, so be it. Another few weeks delay because of typesetting, well then I shouldn't have sent the original with all those typos then should I? That I never received a date for publication, must probably be because there is no formal release and the times vary when each online outlet has it up and listed. All I had was, an email affirming that it's gone off to the printers, which means the electronic version from which all POD copies will be cloned, plus my small order for 25 copies for touting around and marketing purposes. I just assumed the receipt of those would indicate that the book was 'out'. That I would get my copies before retail outlets listed it.

In retrospect, being professional might actually entail not conducting all our business by email alone. Plus making sure I got what I demanded from the business dealings, without being arsey about it of course.

Instead I restricted myself to an e-mail of minor clarification queries I had, reproduced below. As you can see, number 1 "When can I expect to start selling my book?" wasn't one of them.

Firstly, which online outlets will have the book so I can let people know? When do they start listing the book? - Amazon, B&N, you know the usual. each one varies when it updates its list for new titles.

When and how do I need to post the 100 word blurb for Amazon? The Printers send it on. You can change it and we'll pass it on to them to send out. To date, Amazon has no blurb, though Barnes & Noble does. Shame the book's themes are so damned British.

I had an email from New Generation encouraging me to get people to order through them. Should I direct people to them rather than Amazon or whoever else? Does it make a difference?
If you want, but makes no difference

Is it true that certain outlets may wait for 3 or 4 orders before requesting printing up to fill them? If so, I guess I may steer people to more instantaneous suppliers.
Never heard of it before and makes no economic sense. yet could this be the reason behind Amazon's current stated delivery time of 3 weeks? Doesn't strike me as a time period worthy of the term Print On Demand?

Is there an upper limit to POD copies (a virtual print run as it were?) Or is it continuous as long as there are sales and I pay the annual fee to keep it listed? Pay to play (my summary not his words)

Do I have to lodge copies with copyright libraries? Or does Legends do that? That's one of my free 10 copies accounted for. (I am already a writer with a MS in the British Library - of a performed play and after fobbing them off that I needed to rewrite it into the final script we performed from, I gave up and sent them an unworked script copy with slide on binding. Nightmarish visions of that being less Heath Robinson than the current enterprise).

Sorry to ask again, but if I could have the cover art so I can begin work on the press release and the credits for the video readings. This has been sent, but only the front cover and I would like both. The back cover is more striking (note to self, this may also have been a tactical error)

Is there anything else I either ought to consider or actually be doing? see below.

At no time have Legends or New Generation asked me for my marketing ideas. Their response to the last question was "Will have a think of anything you could immediately be doing." They must still be thinking. Possibly even sat on a beach somewhere. I think at this point I can safely advise any would-be UK self-published writer, to ask to be walked through the process from top to toe. Face to face meeting might be an added advantage.

So there you have it - which is more than I can say for myself or the book. I did kind of blunder into this whole process, but had felt I'd made great strides towards making my target achievable. Right now it's merely a bit of a false start, but what damage really has been done? It's been up on Amazon a few days/weeks and no one's bought a copy that's all. Yes there are still issues I need addressing, but I haven't initiated any of my staged sales drives.

Some of the pitfalls and pratfalls I've encountered may just be avoidable if you're reading this and trying to weigh up going down the self/indie/POD process. In the next post I'll give you the pros and cons of self/indie/POD as I've elicited the arguments from both sides from a combing of the web for people's views on the issue. Oh and I did say I'd tell you what I'd settled on for describing exactly what way I'm being published. I'm plumping for independently published. While it does still contain a suggestion of a small independent publisher having chosen me, rather than vice versa, I like the associations with the punk rock DIY ethic from the late 1970's. POD is factual and uninvolving as a description, while self-publishing conjures up to my mind me sat there in my bedroom desktop and binding glue to hand. More fanzine than printed book, so I guess I can only take the punk rock DIY ethos so far. But for all this, I think it quite indicative that the expansion of self-publishing hasn't really afforded time to give itself a proper name.

Final newsflash. The other Marc Nash, the lower League professional footballer, has according to reports on the Internet, had to retire from his chosen career through injury. The way should be clear for me to ascend up the search engine listings now. I just hope I'm not permanently crocked so as to have to give up my dream vocation like him.