Thursday, 15 September 2011

Kindle publishing - suffering for your art.

The Kindle website is a nightmare to navigate. I clicked through many screens and used the term 'What the f--' on almost every one. Anyhow, I have now loaded both 'Fears of the Old and the New' and 'Dark Thoughts and Demons' onto there. I think they went in okay but there's no way to know for sure until they appear. The preview offered during loading is pitiful. I couldn't even test the contents-page links.

Pricing is in US Dollars with conversions to Euro and GBP, so the latter prices will fluctuate. This is awkward because Lulu prices are fixed in GBP, so at the moment it'll be cheaper to get the Kindle version, but sometimes it'll be cheaper to get the Lulu PDF, and if you're in another country it might well be vice versa. The difference is only a few pennies but it's still irritating. The print version is only available from Lulu so at least that price will be reasonably stable.

The second collection I priced a little higher than the first on Kindle, because the first was easy. I'd already written and published all but two of the stories, so it was a simple matter of assembling them into a book. The second one took much more work. Even so, I firmly believe electronic books should be cheap because they are so easy to copy. Pricing them high just makes it more worthwhile to copy them.

Smashwords still has 'Fears' in a variety of formats and they've sent it out to a lot of ebookeries but they still haven't ported to Kindle. So I opted out of their Kindle link and did it myself. They still have all the formats on their site and are still selling through a whole range of electro-outlets, some of which I've never heard of and neither has anyone else, but not Kindle. So far I haven't put 'Dark Thoughts' there. I might not bother. If I do I'll still opt out of their Kindle distribution.

Self-publishing is not an easy option. With Jessica's Trap, the publisher took care of the cover art and the editing and all I had to do on those parts was check and approve. It was much easier, although it took a lot longer. More importantly, advertising material was all designed for me by the cover artist, and the publisher is marketing the book (that doesn't mean I can ignore marketing, but it does mean I'm not doing all of it myself). Downside? I don't own the cover art. If, when the contract expires, I put that book with another publisher, I can't take the cover with me. It's not mine and never will be. Which would be a shame because it's a really good image of Foras, the self-appointed chief of the demons who most of them accept as being in charge.

The most important thing to remember if you're publishing is that it shouldn't cost you anything. If you are paying to be published, you are being suckered. A publisher does not need to sell your books if they can make money straight from you.

'Proper' publishers take care of cover art and editing costs and they make money from their cut of whatever you make. You pay nothing up front. You never, at any time, pay money to a publisher. They pay you. If a publisher even suggests doing it the other way, run.

'Self' publishing means you have to do it all yourself but that needn't cost anything either. I'm lucky in that I'm obsessive to the point of infuriating when it comes to the written word, and even so, I'll run it through an online critique group like and pass it around a few folk because I know I'll miss bits. Plus, I'm not too shabby with Paint Shop so I can make a decent cover. So I don't have to recoup costs paid to cover artists etc. - I don't have any costs at all beyond keyboard wear and sleepless nights and whisky (fuel for the deranged-idea machine).

Lulu, Smashwords, Kindle - none of them charge a penny. If I don't sell a single book, all I've lost is time. Even then, I have ready-made personalised Christmas presents in enough of a range of sizes to deal with any wobbly table.

Vanity publishing is a mug's game. That's where you pay to be published - either you have to pay up front for some mysterious 'admin' or you have to buy a certain number of books. The publisher doesn't need to bother advertising your book at all. They already make money from you. Nobody else will read it, even if it's great, because the vanity publisher won't bother telling anyone it exists.

I bought some copies of Jessica's Trap at a very decent author discount (even with the postage, I could sell signed copies at Amazon's price including UK postage and still make a profit) so I'd have some signed copies to hand out/sell. This was not a requirement - I wasn't obliged to buy a single copy myself. A vanity publisher would have had that in the contract. Damnation Books (yes, well, who did you think I'd publish with? Mills and Boon?) charge nothing. How well do they pay? Depends on how well the book sells. I honestly don't expect to retire on one book, or even a dozen, which is why I am currently wearing my fingers down to little stumps and drinking the Water of Madness as if the price is going to soar soon.

The trouble with self-publishing is that anyone can publish any old crap for free. Convincing people that your self-published work isn't some random text-speak babble filled with 'yeah but no but yeah but no but...' gossip about life on the local street corner isn't easy. They have to read it first, and they have to buy it to read it, and there are thousands upon thousands of self-published books in the way. Some really good ones and a lot of really bad ones.

I have no marketing department. If I could get a tobacco company to sponsor this blog, well, they all have marketing departments with nothing to do, don't they? Lots of the characters in my stories smoke. I could easily specify a brand. What say you, Phil Morris? The latest collection does include a vengeful apparition made entirely of ash, you know.

Novels are hard work to self-publish. I think I might do it with this dystopia though. It can take three months for a publisher to respond to a query, then they get the full manuscript, then it can take more months before they say yes or no, and if it's 'no' you have to start all over again. That won't work where the wretched story is going out of date as fast as I write it.

Speaking of which, I suppose I'd better get writing. I am already facing having to delete Chapter Seven - universal medication. The swines are catching up again.


subrosa said...

Now there's a good title for a book "Life on a Street Corner'.

Leg-iron said...

I thought that as I typed it - there could actually be a story in there.

'Trainspotting' did well, didn't it?

Richard Allan said...

As did, you know, "The Corner". Got made into a TV series as I recall!

View from the Solent said...

Of course, refusal to accept your universal medication will then be diagnosed as a mental disorder.

View from the Solent said...

One of your stories (Telephone Pest) in Fears of the old & new was prescient.

Are you sure this publishing thing is a good idea?

Leg-iron said...

View from the Solent - I like to think the story caused the scare. It probably didn't, but I like to think it anyway.

I wonder where the first 'don't go out in the rain' scare will start?

Leg-iron said...

Richard - I don't remember 'the Corner', but Trainspotting did well, and that was about wastes of space.

Chief_Sceptic said...

Kindle - not perfect - just bloody brilliant ! ...

Althouh I'm not quite sure how I ended up with 4 readers - large white \ large black \ small black \ small white ...

Fortunately, my oldest son and daughter have each "borrowed" one - saves a little embarrassment when people come round ...

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