Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Current Experiments in Self Publishing

Modern technology, which greatly simplifies self-publishing, raises the possibility that the conventional market structure may be replaced by a new model in which the role of the publisher is reduced or eliminated. That future is here and I am there. My second novel, Salamander, is  up on Amazon.com as a Kindle file and has received its first (positive) review. We will have to see whether it attracts enough readers who like it, review it positively and tell their friends to read it, to make up for the lack of a publisher's endorsement and marketing. I'm not quitting my day job just yet.

That is not my only experiment in online self-publication. My wife and I have produced a collection of medieval and renaissance recipes—about 350 of them, each accompanied by a description of how we make it—along with related articles, and are in the late stages of publishing it as a physical book using CreateSpace, Amazon's POD subsidiary. The process turned out to be surprisingly easy and inexpensive. By the time we are done, it will have cost us less than a hundred dollars, mostly postage for proof copies—it is amazing how many minor errors  can survive one, two, or even three rounds of proofreading. Once we are done—real soon now as one friend likes to put it—the book will be available via CreateSpace or Amazon. All we have to do is collect royalties.

The project is not entirely new; this book is based on the cooking section of the Miscellany, a book on our medieval hobbies which we have  been self-publishing for twenty-some years, nine editions and something between a thousand and two thousand copies sold. The great thing about doing it via CreateSpace instead of Kinko's or OfficeMax is that I will never have to fill another order.

Assuming that the next proof copy is, as I profoundly hope, the last, the book should be available in a month or so. The title, for the benefit of any of my readers who might like to try cooking from very old recipes, is:

How to Milk an Almond, Stuff an Egg, and Armor a Turnip: A Thousand Years of Recipes.

One way of replacing the marketing efforts of a publisher is online self-promotion. Blog posts, for instance.

19 Comments:

At 5:24 AM, May 31, 2011, Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

Nice post. I just emailed you but might as well put this here so others can see it.

I just published ebook and paper versions of my journal, Libertarian Papers. Like you, I used CreateSpace for the paper version. However, instead of publishing to Kindle myself, I wanted the journal on the other major ebook platforms, namely Nook, ibookstore, and Sony reader. So I had a guy help me prepare epub files, and I then opened a BookBaby account. You then submit the epub files to BookBaby, pay $100 fee plus $20 for them to assign an ISBN for you, and they publish it to all 4 for you. (Apparently some of these platforms will not deal with independent authors and/or their interface is very difficult.)

I think Smashwords is another ebook aggregator but for some reason the guy who was assisting me with the epub files recommended BookBaby over Smashwords.

 
At 7:23 AM, May 31, 2011, Blogger Marcel said...

I sincerely hope you read Konrath's blogs in the last year... he's very enthusiastic about self-publishing (and, while he's not making as much as Amanda Hocking, he's still very satisfied). In fact, the $2.99 price makes me believe you did read Konrath.

 
At 8:23 AM, June 01, 2011, Blogger NCLu said...

One of the unforeseen hiccups to self publishing has been the new pirates. Allegedly, these people copy your book and put it in the same marketplace, then they spam bad reviews on your copy and good reviews on theirs. The new publishers will most likely be the dogs of war that can be released in their direction.

 
At 9:11 AM, June 01, 2011, Blogger Jonathan said...

I like the attractive cover design you've given Salamander, but so far I remain suspicious of electronic book readers, which seem destined to be as short-lived as other electronic gadgets.

In two senses: each individual gadget is short-lived, and its technology is also short-lived. So after a while you can use neither the gadget you bought nor the books you bought that require such a gadget.

 
At 10:32 AM, June 01, 2011, Blogger David Friedman said...

Query for Jonathan (and anyone else who wants to respond):

Suppose Salamander was on Amazon both as a Kindle for $2.95 and as a physical paperback for $9. Which would you be more likely to buy?

It would be easy enough to do, using CreateSpace.

 
At 10:36 AM, June 01, 2011, Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

I'd buy the kindle version even if they price was the same, as I prefer that. I think you should offer a paper version however, and then make sure Amazon links the two pages together.

 
At 10:57 AM, June 01, 2011, Blogger Jonathan said...

Currently there's zero chance that I'll buy any Kindle e-book, because I don't have a Kindle and don't plan to buy one. Whereas I continue to buy paper books now and then.

But my attitude could change at any time. E-book readers like the Kindle have both advantages and disadvantages; at any time I could re-evaluate the balance and decide to get into e-books.

The most striking advantage is bulk. My house is cluttered with paper books, some in piles on the floor. If I had more confidence in the longevity of e-book technology, I'd be a new convert.

 
At 11:09 AM, June 01, 2011, Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

I don't have a kindle either. I use the kindle app on my ipad, iphone, and macbook.

 
At 11:16 AM, June 01, 2011, Blogger Jonathan said...

Stephan, thanks for the info. So far my interest in the subject has been such that I didn't know you could use a Kindle e-book without the Kindle.

 
At 11:19 AM, June 01, 2011, Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

The other advantage of an ipad is it can read kindle, nook, and also epub and PDF books (using iBooks app). Kindle devices are more limited.

I confess I don't use the ipad as muc as at first--for non-book and movie purposes. Partly this is b/c I do a lot of editing and content creation, and now the MacBook air 11" is almost as small as ipad and does all this for me. I wish I could use the ipad only but for me I cannot. for those who do not do al ot of content creation or editing, the ipad may be able to be the only portable computer. That would be so awesome.

I have some thoughts on ipad use here:

http://www.libertarianstandard.com/2010/12/10/followup-on-thoughts-on-ipad-from-a-slightly-disappointed-fanboi/

 
At 6:22 PM, June 01, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a recent convert to kindle books. I read them on my iPhone and PC. I'm going to Europe for six weeks, and bought a 3G Kindle so that I'll be able to read a whole library of books, as I won't be using my iPhone in Europe and will only have limited access to the internet. My house has too many paper books, and it's just awesome to have so many books on a device. Oh, David, I now buy a kindle book rather than the paper book even if they're the same price.

 
At 7:29 AM, June 02, 2011, Anonymous Kid said...

Do not publish only in a proprietary format. That is vendor lock-in. Publish in an open standard so your readers can buy your book and read it in on any device they like.

Do not worry about piracy. The more this book is pirated, the better the next one sells. Fear obscurity.

 
At 7:48 AM, June 02, 2011, Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

What open standard do you mean? I see no problem publishing on kindle etc.--some people want this. BookBaby does Nook, Kindle, Sony Reader, and iBookstore. ARe any of them "open standard"? I don't really care if not.

I am not concerned about pirating at all, but I do not think it is incumbent on the author to provide a free epub to everyone.

 
At 7:58 AM, June 02, 2011, Blogger Amateur Economist said...

Thanks for sharing this David. I've been impressed with how easy it is to sell my used books on Amazon. Maybe I'll try writing and selling something there too.

 
At 10:18 AM, June 03, 2011, Blogger Jonathan said...

I've now installed the Kindle for Windows application and bought a copy of Salamander for it. I find it uncomfortable to read books on my desktop computer, but this enables me to experiment with the technology a bit.

As a minor technical comment, I notice that Salamander has curly quotation marks on some pages and straight ones on other pages.

 
At 11:53 AM, June 03, 2011, Blogger David Friedman said...

to Jonathan:

Thanks for the quotation marks information. I'll fix it on the Word file on my disk, for future use; I'm not sure it's worth redoing the Kindle and replacing it.

 
At 11:59 AM, June 03, 2011, Blogger Jonathan said...

Indeed. The shape of quotation marks makes no real difference to the text, and most people wouldn't even notice it. I live under a curse in that respect.

 
At 10:46 AM, June 09, 2011, Blogger Doc Merlin said...

Awesome, I really liked Salamander. Your first novel was kind of harder to get into, but was rewarding once I did. Salamander was great all the way through.

 
At 2:14 PM, June 09, 2011, Blogger David Friedman said...

I'm glad you liked it.

The sequel, working title _Eirick_, is about 3/4 done; I'm currently stuck trying to figure out how to make all the subplots come together at the end and matter--and, ideally, how not to be too obvious about how things will work out so as to maintain some tension. If you are sufficiently interested I could email you the current draft.

_Eirick_, incidentally, is Iolen's son, stranded in Forstmark by his father's death; he's named after his maternal grandfather. He is, as Mari comments, a much nicer person than his father.

 

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