Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Barry Eisler Walks Away From $500,000 Deal to Self-Publish

Thriller writer Barry Eisler just walked away from a $500,000 two book deal because, as he said to self-publishing guru Joe Konrath, '...based on what’s happening in the industry, and based on the kind of experience writers like you are having in self-publishing, I think I can do better in the long term on my own.'

We all know there are big changes going on in the publishing industry, but this is a significant event by anyone's standards. Read a full and frank open discussion between Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath  here.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Really free

I'm not convinced that all of the best things in life are free - not until someone starts giving away Rioja, anyway - but there are many, many good things to be had that are free. Really free. No strings.

Here are two I found recently.

The Focus Booster
I have battled against distraction my whole life. I was still in junior school when it made its first appearance on a school report and that wasn't the last, not by a long chalk. I like to think I have an enquiring mind, but it's arguably more accurate to say that I have the attention span of a gnat. What do you think the Internet did for my productivity? Exactly! When I had a 'proper' job and was paid for turning up, that was less of an issue. Now that I have to make every minute count in order to earn the rent money, it's pretty important that I do whatever is necessary to stay focused.

And that's where the Focus Booster comes in useful. It's a wee widgety-thing that sits on top of all the other stuff on your desktop and counts you down to your next skive break. You can set the session length and the break length to suit yourself, but I have stuck with the default setting. That means I work in 25 minute bursts, after which I take a five minute break. And do you know what? It's working!

Now, if I see that an email has come in, the longest I need to wait to check it is 25 minutes. Previously I would look at incoming mail immediately. It also means I do the 'I wonder if anything's happened', 'I wonder who's around' mad clicking thing in a five minute burst after concentrating on the task in hand for 25 minutes. I suspect it helps that I'm ever-so-slightly OCD, but what the hell! Whatever does the trick! Give it a go and see what you think. Feel free to share your thoughts. I'll be with you in 25 minutes!

Free e-book reader applications
I've got two, greedy girl that I am. I started off with the Kindle for PC application, then found out about Adobe Digital Editions. (I got it to check e-book formatting for Smashwords.) Anyway, while I decide if I need a Kindle or some similar device, they keep me in e-books.

Mind you, should you decide to get yourself a free e-book reader application so you can have a look and see what all the fuss is about, you will quickly find that you now have access to a bunch of free e-books, too. That's right - one free thing leads to another. How cool is that!

My Kindle for PC malarkey actually had some books available when I downloaded it: Aesop's Fables, Treasure Island, and Pride and Prejudice. They may well not be to your taste (I hate Jane Austen) but it means you can see how it works, and then start looking around to see what other goodies are out there.

I wouldn't be without my e-book reader application now. Or my Focus Booster. In fact, using them both in tandem, I can read an e-book for five minutes in every half hour period and still get things done. Result!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Being a Twit

Twitter. Just the word fills me with horror. Then there is all the associated terminology: tweets; twitterstream; twitterers; conversationalists; marketers; followers; autofollow ... it's enough to make a sane person scream.

Twitter, as I've observed before elsewhere, makes me think of a field full of people all shouting as loudly as they can, all on 'transmit'. Apart, perhaps, from the stalkers.

And yet, and yet ....

People keep tellng me I should be on Twitter. That if I tried it, I'd like it. They've even given me some hints and tips as to how I can minimise the pain (thanks, Sam). The latest person to get on my case is Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, via the Smashwords Marketing Guide.

All of these people may be right in what they say. It might be fun, it might be informative, it might help me to spread the word about my writing. And it's not as if I'm afraid to admit if I've been wrong about something, the most recent proof being my about-face on e-books.

But Twitter! I don't know how to get past the fact that I find it puerile, that I utterly despise the very notion of it. There might be something good in it, but if someone told me there was a gold sovereign in a cowpat and all I had to do to get it was put my hand in and ferret about, quite frankly I'd pass.

So, there we are. I'm no further forward than I was when I first seriously considered Twitter, some months back. And, for today at least, I'm not sticking my hand in the cowpat.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A steep e-learning curve

It's less than two weeks since my mind was opened to the sheer potential of self-published e-books and my first one is already for sale. As changes of opinion go, this one has been pretty radical.

Perhaps the most insightful observation made to me about this was that I was initially looking at e-books from the point of view of a reader who would far rather have a 'proper' book, and moved to the standpoint of a writer who wanted to be able to have direct contact with readers. I think that sums it up quite nicely!

I've learned a lot over the past couple of weeks. Luckily, there's a lot of help and advice out there for folk like me who are just catching on to this phenomemon.

Smashwords have a brilliant free style guide written by founder Mark Coker. There's no doubt that it didn't only help me to format my e-book correctly for Smashwords, it also paid off when it came to producing the Amazon version. Smashwords also offers a marketing guide, which I'll be looking at next. There's help from Amazon, too - not least, their DTP Quickstart Guide. 

Perhaps the most valuable and certainly the most inspirational help, though, is thriller writer J A Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide To Publishing. If you have any interest in e-publishing, I recommend it to you wholeheartedly, along with the e-book of the same name. (I'm working my way through that slowly, reading a handful of pages each evening.)

I'm not done yet, though. The Kindle version of the book is still pending at Amazon and once that step has been completed there'll be more to learn and do to actually get it listed in the Kindle Store. The book is available now, in a range of formats, from Smashwords, but acceptance into the premium catalogue, essential for wide distribution, is still pending. After that, I'll have to assign an ISBN (which looks straightforward) and then sort out the necessary forms with the IRS so that I don't pay tax in the US as well as the UK.

All of which assumes the book will sell and generate some income. And guess what? It already has!

Friday, 4 March 2011

E-publishing - first steps

Okay, so now I have a schedule of titles and a plan of action for my foray into e-publishing. The first book will be a collection of short stories, and whilst all but one have been previously published, a bunch of them haven't seen the light of day for some time and others have not been previously available other than in paid-for publications. (In fairness, some of them can still be read online for free, but the price on this e-book will be very low indeed.)

I have the content and the cover and I'm all ready to upload my e-book - which may bring on another bunch of issues, depending on how easily the file converts - but for one thing: copyright.

I want to continue to use one name for business books and another for fiction. I want to e-publish both types of book. I don't think I'm going to be able to keep the identities separate, however, and I'm in a quandary as to how important that may be. For starters, I will have no copyright protection on books published under my pen name unless I register every publication with the copyrighting service, or include a copyright notice showing my actual name. I suppose I could create a publishing company and copyright everything under that name, but I hesitate to take such a step as I'm not convinced it's a good idea.

I have a couple of days to get my head round this, but whilst I need to get this right, I don't want it to unnecessarily delay the start of this project. It's exciting! I can't wait to see what happens! And I'll report progress here, of course. (Another month and zero sales - awaaah!!!)

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Should I just get on with it and hope the two types of books don't alienate the two types of potential reader? Does anyone other than me even care about this stuff?

Anyway, in the meantime, here's the cover for the collection. It matches my fiction blog and I love it! (And yes - I know that's yet another name, but it's going to be 'the one' from now on - probably! ;p)