Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Three bags of hurry up and wait

Well, that took a bit longer than I thought it would.
The prize aspect of a writer is discipline. You got to keep your butt in the chair and keep plugging away. Even when you’re staring at a screen that says “Uploading your ebook now.” That’s not so great for my ADHD.
My plan to e-publish was two-fold. The first was to provide several short stories so that potential readers could have more content to choose from. The second was to spread my distribution among the big three -- Amazon, Nook and Smashwords.
But if you have 7 shorts that essentially means you’re uploading 21 stories. I should have thought out that math earlier. So my plan to do a massive upload in one day turned into more like a week. Technically, I could have done it in a day, but I would have gnawed off my arm by the end of it, and learning to type with one hand is a bitch.
At this point, the experience of it all is a bit blurry (having a cold that week didn’t help). But from what I can remember …
For any of the three e-publishers:
·         They will want your tax information: It’s the price (or payment) of doing business. If you haven’t incorporated yet, they will take your social security number in lieu of your tax ID number.
·         If you have the  .doc file and a short story, you’re all set: it’s savvy to learn how to set up your formatting and TOC for your novel in Calibre or Scribe. If you have a .doc (not .docx) file, though, all three publishers have online conversion tools that should work for short stories.
·         Each company has different cover sizes and they change without notice: Do your homework on the covers.
·         For all the talk of how traditional publishers want to straightjacket you into a marketable niche, the genre labels for these companies are mostly either generic or what’s trending. If you happen to have a post-apocalyptical Science Fantasy short in the vein of Vance’s Dying Earth, good luck with that getting lumped into Science Fiction, Apocalyptical, and Adventure. And the Fantasy genres will only touch on Epic, General or Contemporary/Paranormal.  If you’re lucky, you could find Steampunk. Unfortunately, the pull-down menus for these are clunky. I’ll get to tags/labels with each publisher.
·         And no matter the publisher, if you have more than one book online, then you probably aren’t going to be happy on how you have to drill down in the reports to see what’s really going on with the sales numbers. That’s for just 7 stories. I can’t imagine what hoops the writers who have dozens of stories have to jump through to understand their data.
·         A “Same entry as last time” for things like author, publisher and price would make the process much less of a time suck.
·         Have a “cheat sheet” of your blurbs, tags and author bio handy to do a lot of cut and paste
Now for the individual guys:

You sly, sly dogs. I’ve already said that Amazon tries to make themselves a convenient one-stop shop for an author. They allow you to use Styles from Word to set up the formatting for TOC and offer a gallery of customizable book covers. However, then they’ll try to tempt you to go exclusive with them. (But do you really want only one company holding all the cards at the end of the day?)
Amazon only allows 7 tags for your product and offer limited genre choices. The biggest positive is that I saw one or two instant sales -- but then afterwards, nothing.  My cynical side wants to think that Amazon has a slush fund for buying the first copy of a writer’s work. If they can keep you hoping, then you’ll keep putting out content.
Not that I have any proof of such a silly idea. Maybe I should just pat myself on the back that I got lucky day one.
Uploading takes forever and you can’t really go on to the next project as you wait. The whole process happens over several different screens.
The actual publishing of your ebook takes 24 hours.
Nook doesn’t offer you a free cover, but they do try to make themselves your browser-based word processor/Scrivener project manager. If you have any bold or italics in your document, you’ll have to go back and add them in via the Nook system.
I seem to remember this one was the most clunky to work with, though they seemed to have the most flexible system for cutting and pasting your tags in.
Again, uploads take forever and it seems that you take chances if you try to skip to the next project. You have to go through several screens related to different silos (price, audience, actual upload).
The upside is, they publish your ebook in a few hours.
How I hate and love you.
Smashwords had the only single upload screen process, which was great, and the process actually invites you to upload something else as your ebook is translated in any format you need. Neat.
But SW has the most proprietary system for formatting your work (which at the very least means including a copyright that names your submission a “Smashwords Edition.”) For example, Their Word TOC system works off Bookmarks, not Styles and other odd bits.

->TL:DR Read their handbook. It will save you from a lot of grief later.
Even though the actual upload is painless, it take days -- yep days – for a story to go live. It makes me imagine that they have a light-starved gnome locked in a server box, reading every upload by the light of a candle and a Sega Genesis.
I still believe enough in my strategy that I’d do it again. But in the future, I’ll be adding individual stories and remember that I have to multiply my efforts by three.  
’Cause as an ebook author, there’s no such thing as bulk shipping.

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