Self-publishing in a digital world

It’s been awhile since I’ve taken “pen to paper” with this blog. The events of last year derailed me mentally and emotionally (in particular July-December). After a few months of recovery I began to get back into writing in a way I hadn’t experienced since college.

I started writing fiction and wanted to explore a variety of genres (to find my comfort zone(s)) and do novels. However, as I was moving from a long gap in writing into prose and thence into fiction I needed to build up to it. I did some deep research on the growing ebook/ereader evolution and saw that what had begun as a niche market was quickly becoming a popular pastime. People are buying ereaders by the millions and reading again. The portable digital versions of books has proven popular far beyond anyone’s wildest projections.

The introduction of the Apple iPad and the latest Kindle by Amazon (as well as Border’s Kobo and Barnes & Noble’s Nook) have widened the playing field for ereaders and the authors who feed into them. In addition, the explosion of smartphones with their ability to run “apps” has allowed every ereader manufacturer to publish their own app for ebooks.

So that means that there is a huge market of readers out there craving digital books. But it also means being smart, strategic and patient. I happened to learn about a company called Smashwords.com earlier this summer and have had great experience using them. They sell ebooks, but also allow authors to push copies of their ebooks into the major ebookstores out there including: Diesel, Kobo, Nook, Apple’s iBookstore, and Sony.

You format a Word document according to their simple guidelines and they create HTML and PDF versions as well as versions compliant with each of the various ereaders. So one version literally becomes nearly a dozen formats without extra time/effort.

They send updates to the etailers weekly and depending on the etailer’s process, your work is there within 1 (Apple) to 8 weeks (Barnes & Noble) (the rest generally within 2 weeks). You set the price and see before publishing what your cut is (Smashwords takes a small % and the others take slightly more).

You will notice I didn’t mention Amazon-they will be pushing into Amazon’s Digital Text Platform at some point soon, but in the meantime, I just publish directly into Amazon’s site (which populates both the US and UK Amazon stores).

So you’re covered across the broad spectrum and they’ll continue to expand as more avenues arise here and abroad.

I’ve had much more activity then when I just did books as print-on-demand and feel ebooks are the way to go. I will still do print-on-demand versions via Amazon’s Createspace.com, however they will be in tandem to the ebook versions. In fact, after doing research I followed the ideas others have used.

1-Start by getting your name out there-publish your work as a series (think of the old days when authors like Arthur Conan Doyle or Charles Dickens published their works in newspapers in parts). You can always publish a collection in the end. I wanted to write horror fiction so I decided to do a collection with four parts and then put them together.

Windy City of the Dead
FREE ebook
2-You can get something for nothing-give stuff away for free. People are filling their smartphones and ereaders with as much as they can and free is always a winner. I made part 1 of my eseries (Windy City of the Dead) free and the other three parts a nominal price ($0.99).

3-Use Social Media to spread the word. I have made so many amazing contacts on Twitter in the last few months it’s unreal. Hundreds of people all over the world into horror (books, movies, etc.). Make sure to use proper etiquette and don’t spam them with messages to buy your books. Start connecting/following and sharing their stuff. Read their works and give them reviews. Don’t push for quid pro quo, but decent folks return the favor.

4-Let people take a peek. In addition to giving away part 1 for free, I set up parts 2-4 so they can be 50% previewed before purchasing. That lets the reader get into and hopefully hooked and want to buy the book to read more.

That’s enough for now, just getting back into the blog swing of things. I’ll keep tabs on my journey into this new world. So far nearly 250 people have downloaded my book via Smashwords.com and someone kindly gave it a nice review and 4 out of 5 stars. Looking at Barnes & Noble, 8 people have given it an average of 4 out of 5 stars. It’s great when family and friends give you the thumbs up, but as a fledgling author just getting out there, the kindness of random strangers is thrilling.

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