The Moveable Writer

New technology and old comforts for today's writer.


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The Publishing Revolution at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference

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What an exciting conference this year! It is an interesting time in the publishing industry and the rifts between independent publishers and traditional publishers could not be more apparent. Add to this the common enemy of them both: Amazon. Tensions were high at the conference this year, opinions were voiced, and sides were taken.

Beneath this layer of the publishing revolution were great talks and wonderful writers from all over the country. Some highlights were Laurie McLean speaking on pitching your idea to agents or publishers, agent/author speed-dating, meeting fiction agents and publishers, Constance Hale’s Crafting Prose like the Pros, anything that Kevin Smokler was involved with especially his talk on Reading to Inform your Writing, Mark Coker’s Secrets of Indie Bestsellers, and Sheldon Siegel and Rhys Bowen on Keeping Up the Pace. BTW, Rhys Bowen is simply lovely!

There were three main columns at the conference and they were the Craft of Writing, Independent Publishers, and Traditional Publishers. Depending on where you spent your time, you walked away with a different view of the writing/publishing world with the craft seminars being the most neutral. There were some inspiring things spoken by the traditional publishers, but overall the mountain that editors need to climb to get a book published is daunting – and not only to authors. In this traditional model, you first need an agent because editors at the big six publishing houses will not allow you to talk directly to them. This model already sets in motion a lack of communication between authors and publishers. Next, after you get an agent, you need to catch the editor on a day that they are interested in your topic and it is marketable to mass readers. Editors take the books they love to giant committees of lawyers, salespeople, marketers, and the publishing executives. If they can’t all agree that it will sell a million copies then tough luck.

On the independent publishing side, what can I say: everyone has access and it’s free. The issue is how can you get your book into your market’s hands and beyond your own friends and family? Check out Mark Coker’s free ebook The Secrets to eBook Publishing Success. However, the lower prices on eBooks and the rising costs of paper make it harder for traditional print publishing to compete and pay their employees and authors as they try to compete with independent publishers online booksellers.

But back to the heat. The conference exploded with Barry Eisler‘s keynote speech – wow. He took the opportunity to address fellow authors and champion the choices that were available to them to get their work out to the public. He called out traditional publishers who were in the audience calling them “legacy publishers” and telling them that they perpetuated an “antiquated system”. He revealed/complained that they take too much money from authors in revenues and only pay them twice a year. He likened this to “medieval times.” But the biggest revelation was when traditional publishing argued that they were the gatekeepers to good literature. Someone in the audience asked how do we keep the quality of books if there are no gatekeepers and everyone is allowed to publish their work. They said it shouldn’t be allowed. It was clear that Barry Eisler has thought about this a lot, is passionate on the topic, and is very intelligent. He used the Internet as an example. He said, “I think 99.999% of what is on the Internet is crap, but do you use the Internet? Do you get pleasure from it?” And there are no gatekeepers there. Choice is always better. Mark Coker had a similar answer on this point when he said that he believes the readers should be the deciders on what is good literature.

Riveting!

I am all for choice and strive to be a hybrid author: both traditionally published and self published. If I can reach readers – it’s all good:) I am looking forward to the future of publishing and hopefully for traditional and independent publishers to be innovative together and find solutions that make both print and ebooks available and accessible to everyone who wants them.


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Uploading to Smashwords

In a previous post, We Can All Be Published, I compared uploading my ebook to Kindle Direct and Barnes and Noble publishing websites. I concluded that Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press was much more intuitive than the Kindle Direct Publishing site.

Recently I was shocked to learn that Barnes and Noble and Amazon do not have a coupon program where authors can create a sales promotion for their book and offer certain people a free copy using a coupon code. I have a marketing idea involving a coupon and was disappointed that I would not be able to launch it yet.

Enter Smashwords. Smashwords is another great internet company hailing from the Silicon Valley. They are an ebook publishing and distributing company that does offer a great coupon program. They also offer other promotional programs and will distribute your book in every format to most ebook retailers including Apple and Kobo. Their author percentage is also higher than Kindle Direct and Barnes and Noble. And when you first publish to their site, your book is featured on their new ebook page.

There were a couple of things about uploading to their system that I didn’t like. After you use their 140 page ebook to format your ebook for their system, you fill out the usual information and upload your materials. If you make a mistake and check off a box on their form that comes back as something you need to correct, then you have to upload your cover and manuscript again. You have to upload your materials for as many times as it takes you to get the form right. This is not the biggest deal, but still annoying.

The bigger issue for me was that you are published and featured on their website as soon as you hit the publish button. BUT, there is no way to know if you formatted your ebook correctly. There is NO preview section like in Kindle Direct and Nook Press. You don’t get to correct your book before it goes live. Since I like my books to look as profession as possible, this was a problem for me.

Next your book goes through a computer system that flags any immediate problems for you to change. You receive an email and then must consult the 140 page manual again to figure out how to fix the issues. Luckily they suggest where your problem may be found. When you are finished, you upload your revised manuscript. It goes through their system again and flags other problems that you may have. If no new problems are found, it goes into a cue to be reviewed by humans. All this while it is still live and featured. By the time the review is done, you are no longer a featured book and the only way you know how your book looks before this is to download it yourself in all of the formats to see what it looks like, which they suggest for you to do.

I did this and found that it did not look right in epub and looked great in mobi and others. I was able to make corrections and it turned out to look good in all formats, but I lost that window of being featured at my best. I am sure that across the industry the uploading systems will greatly improve over the next year, and still, Smashwords is an innovative company in this space.