What I'm reading: Playing with Barbie by Wynter Daniels; On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle
Thanks, Daniel for your thought-provoking post on e-publishing yesterday. I'm going to add some of my own thoughts today as a follow-up.
**NOTE: When I checked this morning, the Smashwords website was having problems. If the links aren't working when you read this, I hope you'll come back and try again--it's been one of those days.
My first publications were for e-publishers. This isn't the same as writing for a print publisher that also creates digital versions. Why? My first submission, a short-short story called Words had been accepted by a print magazine. Unfortunately (although not all that uncommon, I discovered), it went out of business before the story appeared. There's not a big market for short stories, and I moved on. A while later, I discovered a new romance publisher, The Wild Rose Press. They took short stories, so I submitted Words to them. It was accepted, and I was now a published author. Of course, back then, the only way to buy the story was through the publisher's website, and there weren't a lot of e-readers around. Most folks read e-books on their computers.
Fast-forward a year or so. I had a novel, Finding Sarah that was outside the relatively rigid box of what the New York print publishers were buying. I submitted it to Cerridwen Press, a new imprint of what was then the 500 pound gorilla of e-publishing, Ellora's Cave.
A brief digression here. Ellora's Cave filled a niche that readers wanted. They published erotic romance, and called it "Romantica." Readers could purchase and read these books and stories from the privacy of their homes. No carrying around steamy-hot covers.
However, that marketing model wasn't as successful for the more mainstream stories. More and more e-publishers cropped up, and again, the hottest market for them was erotic romance.
And then Amazon showed up with the Kindle and the Kindle Store, and everything changed, as Daniel mentioned yesterday. Now there are countless books, articles, and short stories, available for numerous e-readers. This wide variety of both reading devices and content gives readers more choices. And not only readers, but writers, because these "stores" allow you to publish your own work, and it's not restricted to the current trends.
Pitfalls? There's a lot of low-quality stuff out there. Bonus? There's a lot of professionally produced books by authors with numerous top-selling print books, who have short stories featuring their novel-length characters, or novels that just don't fit the current trend. Some are out of print books that are being re-released.
Author J.A. Konrath, who had numerous mass-market books published, is a staunch supporter of e-books, and of making them available for very low prices. His claim is that if a reader likes a 'free sample' such as a short story, they're likely to hunt down more books by that author—and pay for them.
The Kindle Store isn't the only place to shop for digital stories. If you've been paying attention to my sidebar, you'll notice that I now have two short stories available at another outlet, Smashwords. (Thank goodness for their step-by-step formatting instructions!) I will probably tackle the Kindle formatting as well and list them in the Amazon Kindle Store, but you can get them in Kindle format from Smashwords.
I resurrected Words and because it's so short, I'm giving it away. That's right, it's a free download, in just about any digital format out there.
My other story is longer, and it's connected to both Finding Sarah and Hidden Fire. It's called Coping Mechanisms and is available for the lowest price Smashwords allows: $0.99.
Both of these stories have seen professional editing. Coping Mechanisms was available as a free read at several digital stores for 6 months in an abbreviated form, but I reclaimed my rights, and expanded it to include the missing scene from Randy's point of view.
The 'good news' is that as the author, you have access to how many downloads and sales you have for each of your titles.
The 'bad news' is that it's a blow to the ego to see how few people are willing to fork over even $0.99 to read a story. Did they not like the freebie? Or are they simply not interested in paying? Do I expect to get rich on a $0.99 short story? Of course not. But I can watch the stats, and see how many people read Words for free, and how many then download the free sample of Coping Mechanisms, and then how many actually buy the whole thing.
Will Konrath's theory work for someone who isn't a strong mid-list author? I for one hope so. If it works out, I have more stories featuring Randy and Sarah. And if that also works out, I'll consider uploading novel-length fiction. I hope you'll pop over to Smashwords and look around. And if you like what you find, tell your friends.