Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Moving Farther E-Ward

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.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I've been following Konrath's e-book journey and I think his online presence and platform has a lot to do with his success. I'm really interested in e-books, though, and think that's probably the future of publishing. Thanks for sharing some of your background, Terry!

Terry Odell said...

In yet another 'perfect timing' instance, this morning I've been getting 'server error' messages from the Smashwords site. If you're having similar problems, I hope that you'll keep trying.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - Konrath definitely has a major presence on the web. He's a promotion master.I first met him at a SleuthFest conference, and he'd never seen an e-reader and thought my eBookwise was really cool. He certainly foresaw the future.

Debra Glass said...

I independently published four regional ghost story collections and also sell them through Amazon where they do well. I converted two for upload for Kindle and one is ranked at number 1 in its category so straight to Kindle works can definitely work if you know what you're doing!! Good luck with Coping Mechanisms!

Terry Odell said...

Debra - thanks for the information & encouragement. "The times, they are a-changin'" to quote one of the major influences of my youth.

G W Pickle said...

Great post. Back in '03 I wrote my first book (a SF) and it was first published by an epublisher out of Singapore, they went out of business a year later. My book was then picked up by a stateside publisher and had a somewhat limited success. My next book (a erotic vampire romance) is soon to be released (in July) as (again) an ebook. This time I feel that my book will do better because of the ever growing popularity of the ebook readers and their lower cost. I too joined the ebook craze and bought a Sony ebook reader. The new lower price helped me decide it was time to buy one. I was also supprised at how easy it was to download and use the ebooks.
On a different note (for the trivia buff), the first time I heard or saw anything about an electronic book was in a book written by a British author. The book has become some what of a cult classic. It is actually a four book trilogy. It has been released in just about every format possible, books, records, radio plays,BBC & PBS mini series, and a movie. Now that I got you interested (I hope)The book's name is Douglas Adams famous "Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy. This is just another case of fiction writers predicting things to come.
G W Pickle

Mason Canyon said...

I agree with Konrath that for most readers if you get a little taste of something, it'll peak your interest and make you want more.

I haven't visited the Smashwords site before. I'll have to check it out.

Thoughts in Progress

Wynter said...

I also agree on the free reads. Ellora's Cave has been featuring them for a while now and I hear they help the author's sales. Looking forward to reading Coping Mechanisms since I enjoyed both Finding Sarah and Hidden Fire. I hope you enjoy Playing with Barbie, which has no resemblance to the first version of this you read years ago!

Terry Odell said...

GW - I think "erotic vampire romance" is a shoe-in, regardless of format. Good luck!

Mason - Samples are good, but promotion matters. At least that's been my experience.

Wynter - Hope the Smashwords site comes back up. I picked a great day to start promoting! And you're right; I don't recognize this Barbie at all. I see you've gotten over a lot of your former "ick" factor. :-)

Wynter said...

Smashwords is back up and working now. Yes - got over the ick factor!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks for letting me know, Wynter.

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Konrath is definitely a force!
Maybe readers think why pay $0.99 for a short story when you can get a novel for that price.
I keep looking at readers knowing full well that the time is coming. I can't seem to pick one though. Decisions. Decisions. *sigh*

Giggles and Guns

Terry Odell said...

Mary -- Well, 99 cents was the lowest price you could list on Smashwords. I'm still looking into a new e-reader, but so far, some of the features (like the back light) on my eBookwise are holding me back. I love reading in bed at night and that way I don't have to have a light on.

I discovered my phone has a free e-book reading app. For a short story, it's good enough, but I'm not sure I could deal with a novel on that tiny screen. Some folks do, though.