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.