Using Kickstarter

Spacewalk on Gemini flight, from NASA
Spacewalk on Gemini flight, from NASA….For some taking the plunge into self publishing, the first step may be a bit  like spacewalking

Taking The Plunge

It’s a constantly changing and strange world for those who have not yet broken into traditional publishing and are now considering a try at doing it themselves. Roughly speaking, authors have been self-publishing e-books for over 10 years now with the bulk of online activity coming within the last five. For the most part, Amazon has been the main place to post your e-book, but other venues such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Sony have been around almost as long. Following is a quick survey of some things that you might encounter if you decide to self-publish.

Content

Not only do you have to have content that is of a high quality, but also your written material must be in demand by those who are willing to purchase and read an e-book. This might sound like a no-brainer to many writers, but keep in mind that there is a lot of well-written, highly-conceived material that receives little attention by readers. In other words, to draw the interest of readers you have to hit the right chord that will make that person purchase your e-book. This is just as true for the short story priced at 99 cents, as it is for the full-sized novel that runs in the ten dollar range.

The Writer Glut

As time goes on, literary sales to owners of electronic reading devices may become more difficult as the numbers of authors attempting to self-publish increases and the number of e-book  readers levels off. This is just a matter of  numerical reality and common sense. Nowadays, when I put I put up a new title on Smashwords, it is off the charts (relegated to page 5 or greater) in a few hours. Back when Smashwords was just starting out, a newly published e-book would stay visible (in the first several pages of listings) for a few days.

Reversing The Trend

However, all is not lost for the newbie writer, for there are several ways to beat the odds and gain a loyal following. Let’s assume for a minute that you have already found a small niche with a couple of written pieces that readers respond to in a positive way, which hopefully includes an occasional purchase or two. From here the next step will be to bring more people into your readership base.

The best way to do this is to self-publish more work, while at the same time, letting everybody know about your newest release. Currently, blogging and participating in other forms of social media, such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc., are the best methods to get the word out……. And hopefully along the way, something that you wrote goes viral and you become the latest internet sensation…….BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT……for slow and steady seems to be the rule of the day.

Going The Kickstarter Route

So far I have been working on the assumption that you are doing everything, like editing, proofreading, cover design and formatting, on your own. If you aren’t, good thinking because bringing talented personnel to help out with these tasks can be a big boost to the way your final product appears to the prospective buyer. It can also be a big drain on your bank account.

This is where funding sites like Kickstarter can be an essential aid to the newbie self-publisher, because by the time your first publication is ready to go live, you will be more of a publisher than a writer. However, the plus side to all of this, is that going through a public crowd sourcing site, like Kickstarter will force you to plan ahead and seek good graphic designers, formatters, proofreaders and whoever may be required to get your little literary effort looking ship-shape. And then again another big advantage, is that once your project goes live, your potential readership will grow from the ranks of those who choose to support your project. And that my friends is a win-win situation.

contrary to popular belief, self-publishing is seldom an easy ride,
Contrary to popular belief, self-publishing is seldom an easy ride.

 

 

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Keeping Up With the Times

The Silent Fisherman by N.C. Wyeth. N.C. Wyeth was a painter, whose exquisite artwork was done primarily for illustrations in books and magazines.
The Silent Fisherman by N.C. Wyeth. N.C. Wyeth was a painter, whose exquisite artwork was done primarily for illustrations in books and magazines.

The Weird World of the Internet

Things seem to change and evolve at a faster rate than they did back in the good ole days. For example, I never imagined that I would live to see the word ‘google’ become a common verb. I remember learning about the numerical concept behind a google in math class. It was quite mind- boggling, but so is the way we commonly use this scientific term to define an internet search technique. Who knows what the future may bring?

Looking Back

I’m also old enough to have been in grade school when JFK was shot and killed. The whole spectacle, from assassination to burial, became a drawn-out media event unlike anything that had been seen before on TV. ( I was actually watching the tube when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot) Furthermore, the event galvanizing the news media into realizing how much interest can be generated by an extraordinary event like the assassination of an American president and consequently how much time people will invest in following a major news story.

Books In the Electronic Age

Things have changed a lot since the sixties and one of the biggest differences has been the arrival of digital communication. This change also includes something new, called the electronic book, more commonly known as the ebook. Fortunately, today, we still have book stores and book vendors who still actual books made from cellulose paper products. These items have attractive covers, brief promotional blurbs from famous people, some info about the author and a good story. Overall, this piece of merchandise is basically unchanged except the cover artist may have created a cover design containing state of the art digital design.

You Still Can Judge A Book By Its Cover

Surprisingly, e-books still have a lot in common with their paper cousin, the tree book. The cover is meant to catch your eye and draw you in. It is also heavily influenced by digital art, especially since the image must be converted to digital form, so it can be viewed online and eventually be downloaded to your computer or electronic reading device. Not only will the cover be influenced by the new digital design techniques, but writing styles in the electronic age are evolving as well. It still takes a good story to capture a reader, but more and more, the shorter literary forms (such as novellas, flash fiction and short-shorts) are ding a better job at gaining the reader’s attention.

And One More Thing

With the advent of the new media, authors are discovering that the first paragraph and even the first sentence are so important in capturing then reader’s attention. Though a lengthy, wordy and highly descriptive beginning may be still be an important literary achievement, it still might lose the average reader and thus be a detriment to higher sales.

Today's digital imagery not only changes the way we visualize a picture and an idea, but it also changing our reading habits.
Today’s digital imagery not only changes the way we visualize a picture and an idea, but it also changing our reading habits.

The Growing Popularity of Self-publishing

Soul_Nebula
The Soul Nebula from Wikipedia

What’s Up With Kindle’s Direct Publishing Select Program?

Kindle’s Direct Publishing Select seems to be gaining popularity with a growing number of authors and more importantly…..also with readers. However, it should be noted that various publishing companies and some literary agents do not share the same opinions.  Following is a quick glimpse at a few writers who have opted for participation in the Amazon e-book program and how they have done with their literary titles.

DutchMasters-adjusted

 

Submitting to Curtis Brown

As a literary agent for Curtis Brown LTD, Nathan Bransford developed one of the most widely read literary blogs around. Large numbers of prospective authors followed followed his timely remarks and comments, hoping to obtain the right piece of advice that would propel them into the fast lane of literary success. I was one of those people and I even went as far as to submit a query letter concerning a completed manuscript. All I got was a “Not For Me” rejection, but the general insight on the submission process that he provided was most helpful.  This was information published on his blog that could be read by everybody.

SF_From_Marin_Highlands3
San Francisco as viewed from the Marin Headlands, from wikipedia, photo by Paul.h

From Literary Agent To Sub-published Author

While a literary agent, Nathan began  publishing his Jacob Wonderbar series of sci-fi space travels aimed for younger readers. Not long after Mr. Bransford left the West Coast agency and took a job writing for CNET. He still writes the Wonderbar books and blogs as an author instead of an literary agent. As a result his posts are less frequent but still very informative. The development that has caught my eye was a recent announcement that he is writing a novel which will be self-published in the near future. This is a most interesting turn of events that illustrates how quickly digital self-publishing is making inroads into the mainstream publishing world. This is just one example, but I think it shows how important digital e-publishing is becoming to authors.

Buy Your Sweetheart A Book For Valentine’s Day

European Autochrome before 1900
Milksellers with Dogcart, Brussels, Belgium an Autochrome from 1890-1900, Library of Congress via Detroit Publishing Company

Here’s an old turn of the century(1900) autochrome from Belgium that features a dog-drawn cart and some milksellers. Dog-drawn carts are now against the law in most places, as is selling milk in this manner. The picture is  called an autochrome and it is a forerunner of the modern color photograph. The soft out-of-focus background makes the image appear like a painting, as does the dress of the three persons in the picture. All in all it is a remarkable glimpse of a bygone era and oh what a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift this picture would make.

This remarkable image also underscores why the printed page is not likely to disappear any time soon. And in my opinion the reason lies not in the printed word but with the printed images. A picture book with carefully chosen and displayed images, accompanied by good text, is not about to become a thing of the past. Like the intrinsic beauty and simplicity conveyed by this amazingly well-preserved photographic image, books with images have a lasting value. Even the high-tech visual wizardly that comes are way due to software programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Fireworks will not undue the paper-based image, in fact the new technology may enhance it.

ueen of Hearts
The Queen of Hearts from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose, source Library of Congress, picture William Wallace Denslow

This is no easily seen that with the growing acceptance of fine art prints made from designs and images created in pixels and then printed on archival paper with non-fading ink. It seems to me very ironic that some of the best compilations of computer-generated art can be found in the bookstore.

Still, images made from the past have a marvelous staying power, as seen in this wonderful rendition of the Queen of Hearts by William Wallace Denslow. It looks great on the internet, but make a calendar from a computer screen and hang it on your wall. (Well actually you can, but like the e-book, I don’t think the digital picture frames are going to replace the paper print anytime soon.)

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad E-book

a glass of beer
a glass of beer

Last week I had the privilege of attending a Mediabistro function in downtown Boston. The get-together was held at a popular watering hole. right in the center of Boston’s financial district. It was the first time I’ve ever attended such an event, but I have taken several classes through the organization, and so for a good hour or so, I got to hob nob with some of the professional writers, who make their living around the great city of Boston. No great superstars here, just some entertaining and hardworking people , who seemed to know what they were doing and were fun to talk to.

New York City Skyline, credit; NOAA.gov
New York City Skyline, credit; NOAA.gov

Now Mediabistro is a national organization, for they are also active in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a handful of other major American cities. In fact, other places around the country had a seasonal party that occurred about the same time that the Boston party happened. Their website is fun and informative, especially their award winning  blog called GalleyCat.  Also check out their other blog, eBook Newser, which is entirely devoted to the up and coming e-book.

And just this week in New York, Mediabistro sponsored an e-book summit, an event which drew speakers and participants from all over the country and beyond. Anybody who wants to know how the conference went can find a very nice twitter transcript here, but this is really not necessary because the subject of e-books is all over the internet, especially if you follow the blogs of some of the more popular literary agents.

For example, Nathan Bransford recently undertook a survey among his readers to see how the e-book was faring. And guess what! The new format is gaining popularity. You can see the poll results for the last three years here . Also from Nathan is this post on November 23 of this year entitled, “The Top Ten Myths About E-books”.

Here’s another agent blogger, Agent Sydney, discussing e-book deals on the very informative agent blog, “Call My Agent”. Basically, this agent is saying that if you have already published an e-book, it might be more difficult to find a literary agent, because you have taken away the possibility of allowing the agency to handle e-book rights. And finally here is some advice from Jessica Faust at Bookends on the subject of something called e-publishing.

But the question of the day remains; is the e-book going anywhere with its limited commercial success and increased popularity? I am of the opinion that it is not, but I will be the first to admit that this assumption is anywhere from an educated hunch to a wild guess. Best of luck and good searching.

Truly, Everett Autumn.

Boston Public Library
Thinking of Escher, photo of Boston Public Library by E. Autumn