eBooks and the Independent Spirit





1. Know why you're publishing independently

Why the rule?

ePublishing can't be pursued as a last resort. I believed that before I could take the plunge, I had to make ePublishing my FIRST choice. I knew if I wasn't going to treat my book the way a publisher-- who'd spend all kinds of money to print, market and distribute the book--was going to treat it, then independent publishing probably wasn't going to work for me. I had to believe to the depths of my soul that I knew what was best for my book. I was not doing it favors by letting it sit on a shelf, unread.

What has changed since you first ePublished?

The process has been amazing. Since releasing my book last March I have worked with the amazing folks at Hatch Show Print in Nashville, Tennessee to create a fantastic cover to replace the one I'd made for the book. And I met an entire group of people I never knew existed--readers.

And the book, in all its self-published glory, led me to the wonderful folks at Raw Dog Screaming Press.

So, was ePublishing a good choice for me?

2. Know risk to gain ratio

Why the rule?

Before taking the plunge, my experience working with a large publisher gave me an idea of what they'd be doing for me and what I'd be doing myself. The large publisher basically supplied a publicist that sent .jpegs to a few newspapers. I knew I could top that. 

You also have to know how finances are going to break down for you, because the old adage of 'money flows to the writer' is no longer valid if you release the book yourself. Many writers are tight-lipped about sales, and for good reason, so finding reliable information about what a new small press or mid-list writer earns will be difficult, if not impossible. Many are lucky if they sell-out their advances (if they even get an advance,) and fewer still ever see a royalty check. This applies to many writers with large presses as well.

What has changed?

Nothing. The reward has outweighed the risk a thousand times. That may sound trite, but in a few short months I've had experiences that are beyond description or monetization. And so far, I've recouped every single one of my expenses, and then some.

3. Know what you're compromising

Why the rule?

When I devised these rules, legitimacy was a huge deal for me. I worried about what other writers--specifically my peers from Seton Hill--would say about my choice to jump ship. I had a huge list of Big Six-published books in my arsenal, books from people like Snooki, Nicole Richie, Lauren Conrad, that I could whip out whenever Big Six publication as a path to true legitimacy was mentioned.

What has changed?

For me, everything. Readers legitimized me, not an agent or peer.

I'll argue this point if anybody feels the need to rebut.

4. Know that you are the business

Why the rule?

This forced me make a list of all the things I knew I'd be doing myself, and let me know whether I had the stomach for it: editing, publicity, formatting, cover art, author photos and on and on. This list includes space for the thousand things I'd never even thought of yet.

What has changed?

I think we're going to need a bigger boat.

I've never worked so hard for anything, and I have never in thirty-eight years been so proud of an accomplishment. And now I have a partner in crime, so the burden is shared. Knowing what formatting a manuscript for print feels like has given me a tremendous amount of respect for what my publisher does. And because of my experience with self-publishing I know there are a thousand things they do to the book that I no longer have to think about. But I do. I wouldn't have had this experiencing without self-publishing.

5. Know if you have the time and energy

Why the rule?

We have jobs, lives, and friends. Stuff we didn't want writing to interfere with.

What has changed?

Writing is my life. Which was always what I wanted, why else would I drop $40,000 on a degree? For a hobby? This pursuit has moved writing from the backburner to the hotplate.

Bonus Rule, specifically for the IN YOUR WRITE MIND workshop.

No matter how you are published, or who publishes you, you ARE an independent writer.
-You can't rely on a publicist to drum up readers or Twitter followers for you.
-You need to know what a good author photo looks like.
-You need to know what good cover art should look like.
-You need to set up blog tours and speaking engagements and sell your own book like lives are at stake, because your life as a writer is at stake.


Amazon Kindle 

Why the Kindle?

Formatting for the Kindle Store: Amazon.com


Why the iBookstore?
  • Tablets such as the iPad appear to be overtaking e-reader devices such as the Kindle as the platform of choice for reading e-books; Forrester predicts that by 2015, there will be twice as many owners of tablet PCs than there are of dedicated e-readers.
  • Apple’s iBookstore is gaining rapidly on Amazon.com as the highest volume sales platform for e-Books. (Source)
Formatting for Apple's iBookstore: Apple uses the ePub format. Conversion to ePub can be done via Smashwords.


Why the Nook?

Microsoft Invests $300M Into Nook To Give Windows 8 Its Own iBooks

Microsoft has teamed up with Barnes & Noble with a $300 million investment that will create a new subsidiary focused on accelerating “the transition to e-reading.” Microsoft will take a 17.6% equity stake in a subsidiary, which is yet to be named, while Barnes & Noble will own the remaining 82.4%.

The move will provide Microsoft with its own answer to iBooks, with plans for a NOOK application that will run on Windows 8, and it’ll give users an alternative to the Kindle Store.

Formatting for the Nook: Barnes and Noble uses the ePub format. Conversion to ePub can be done via Smashwords.





What is DRM?

2K pares down BioShock 2 DRM: SecuROM all but gone now

     As the world turns, the confusion surrounding BioShock 2‘s DRM continues to… confuse. 2K Games said that it’s all but eliminating SecuROM for the game’s DRM regime, but that Games for Windows Live will remain. Installation limits? Gone. Well, kinda. Riot, etc.
     You’ll recall that certain sections of the Internet, primarily the hardcore PC gaming community (hi, guys!), freaked out last week over 2K’s decision to include every single DRM implementation under the sun with BioShock 2. SecuROM, Games for Windows Live, and whatever Steam wants to add into the mix. The main offenses included: limited, SecuROM-imposed installations; Games for Windows Live-imposed game-save restrictions.
     Basically, it was DRM multiplied by three, and for what? It’s not like the game won’t be cracked either the day of, or the day before, it’s release.
     So 2K has relented, kinda. SecuROM will now only be used to verify the integrity of the game disc at launch. There will be no SecuROM-imposed installation limitations. That’s good news.
     There’s bad news, though. Games for Windows Live isn’t going anywhere. The Microsoft thingamajig imposes an installation limitation of its own, currently set at 15 per account, but this limit can easily be reset with a phone call to Redmond. So it is and isn’t a limit.
     Steam details still aren’t finalized.
     So, to recap: SecuROM has been neutered, but Games for Windows Live is still there, and will technically limit the number of times you can install the game. I don’t want to use the phrase Pyrrhic Victory, but…
     BioShock 2 is scheduled to be released on February 9. Unless you pirate it, which means you’re probably be playing it on February 5.

From http://techcrunch.com/2010/01/25/2k-pares-down-bioshock-2-drm-securom-all-but-gone-now/


Digital Rights Management is an access control technology, designed to limit unintended uses of copyrighted material. DRM is a 'digital lock' meant to combat the pirating of electronic materials.



Paulo Coelho calls on readers to pirate books

     Bestselling Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho is joining in with a new promotion on the notorious file-sharing site the Pirate Bay, and calling on "pirates of the world" to "unite and pirate everything I've ever written".
     Coelho has long been a supporter of illegal downloads of his writing, ever since a pirated Russian edition of The Alchemist was posted online in 1999 and, far from damaging sales in the country, sent them soaring to a million copies by 2002 and more than 12m today. His latest move goes a step further, however, joining in with a new programme on The Pirate Bay and exhorting readers to download all his work for free.
     Signing off as "The Pirate Coelho", the author told readers on his blog about "a new and interesting system to promote the arts" on The Pirate Bay. "Do you have a band? Are you an aspiring movie producer? A comedian? A cartoon artist? They will replace the front page logo with a link to your work," wrote Coelho. "As soon as I learned about it, I decided to participate. Several of my books are there, and … the physical sales of my books are growing since my readers post them in P2P sites."
     "Welcome," said Coelho, "to download my books for free and, if you enjoy them, buy a hard copy – the way we have to tell to the industry that greed leads to nowhere."
     From his debut The Alchemist, a fable of a young Andalucian shepherd boy, to his most recent book Aleph, which describes "a remarkable and transformative journey of self- discovery", Coelho's spiritual writing has sold 300m copies around the world. The author has said in the past that "you can add another 20% for pirated editions".
     His link-up with The Pirate Bay was widely praised by readers, who described him as a visionary ("maybe I won't buy a book from you right now (because I already have like 5), but I will tell every person I know about this"), a "role model for all of mankind" and a hero. "Ahoy Mr. Coelho, You sir are right, by downloading your books I was determined to buy the hard copy! If I wasn't a pirate I never would read your books! I consider it a preview, if you like it, buy it!" said one reader.
Last month Coelho laid out his opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act, calling it a "REAL DANGER, not only for Americans, but for all of us, as the law – if approved – will affect the whole planet".
     Although Coelho admitted that as an author he should be defending intellectual property, he went on to call on the "pirates of the world" to "unite and pirate everything" he has ever written.
     "The good old days, when each idea had an owner, are gone forever. First, because all anyone ever does is recycle the same four themes: a love story between two people, a love triangle, the struggle for power, and the story of a journey. Second, because all writers want what they write to be read, whether in a newspaper, blog, pamphlet, or on a wall," he said. "The more often we hear a song on the radio, the keener we are to buy the CD. It's the same with literature. The more people 'pirate' a book, the better. If they like the beginning, they'll buy the whole book the next day, because there's nothing more tiring than reading long screeds of text on a computer screen."


And still more, from Mr. Coelho: MY THOUGHTS ON S.O.P.A.


The opposite of DRM. From Wikipedia:

The original set of licenses all grant the "baseline rights", such as the right to distribute the copyrighted work worldwide, without changes, at no charge. The details of each of these licenses depends on the version, and comprises a selection of four conditions:
Attribution Attribution (by) Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified by these.
Non-commercial Noncommercial (nc) Licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only for noncommercial purposes.
Non-derivative No Derivative Works (nd) Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works based on it.
Share-alike Share-alike (sa) Licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work. (See also copyleft.)
An interview with Doctorow where he talks about DRM and piracy and a bunch of other stuff: Chicago Tribune

And a bunch of DRM-free books from Cory Doctorow at craphound.com


Of course, I'm going to talk about marketing more in my next workshop. But here are some things that independent authors (a.k.a. ALL authors) should be thinking about:

Go, today, and set up accounts for Twitter, Facebook author page, Blogspot, Goodreads, Tumblr, and Google + in YOUR OWN NAME! (Or the closest available.) Even if you don't plan on ever using them (big mistake) get them so nobody else can take them.

Amanda Hocking interview, from mediabistro.com:

What did you do, step by step, to effectively build your fan base?
      I think what ended up working the best for me is that I had a blog; I had a Facebook; I had a Twitter. I gave books away a lot too. I would give books to anybody who was willing to do a review, so they would start getting the word of mouth out there. And it started taking off from there.
      I was also active on the Kindle Boards, but I think the best thing that I really did was just be present. I did [a theme-driven blog tour] Zombiepalooza in the first year and I had something going on every day. I had other writers contributing, and they were doing giveaways or short stories. There was 31 days of stuff and that was incredibly stressful. I think as far as being effective compared to the amount of stress it was, I don't think it was worth it.
      You need to be discerning too; if you're hosting a blog tour, make sure it is entertaining content. My most effective techniques were talking to book bloggers and in giveaways. What I wouldn't do again was Facebook ads. It didn't really sell any more books.


From Amanda Hocking's blog. (Notice it's a Blogspot account.) 


No matter what kind of deal you end up with, relative success will be determined by how much you put into it.





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