What They Knew #11

The unexamined life is not worth living.

–Socrates

…and examining your life makes you want to kill yourself.

–Saul Bellow

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Self-Publishing Literary Fiction – A Ray of Hope

Oh, it’s hard times for literary fiction in general, I know. (People don’t read it any more!)

And for indie publishers, there is the stigma. (Who do you think you are? You need to have someone else decide whether your book should be available to readers…)

But there’s hope! As David Gaughran, guru of marketing indie books on Amazon, points out, one of the problems in the past was that readers of literary and historical fiction couldn’t zero in on what they were looking for:

The problem with historical and literary fiction was that, until recently, there were no sub-categories for those genres. This meant that authors had to be selling 50 or 60 copies a day to even hit the back of the respective Top 100 – which most authors might be able to achieve during a promotion or new release, but would struggle to maintain outside of that on a single title.

The good news is that Amazon’s new subcategories make it easier for readers to find literary and historical fiction that interest them:

Well, Amazon has delivered. Historical fiction now has twenty-five subcategories and literary fiction has sixteen (see the left-hand sidebar)…. This is fantastic news for authors and readers. If you write literary fiction or historical fiction, life just got a hell of a lot easier. And it’s a big boon to readers too, who have sub-categories that reflect their interests, and who will, as a result, see a lot more churn on those lists, introducing them to new books instead of the same old stuff.

This is great. Now I can categorize The Race as contemporary, humorous, and suspense. Not as clear a genre as Sci-Fi, Romance, or Fantasy, but it’s a lot more meaningful than just “literary fiction.”

Jacke’s new credo: managing expectations, one reader at a time.

Self-Publishing: How To Get It Done!

Readers! I’m pleased to announce I’ve joined the ranks of writers who have managed to complete all the steps to make one of their books available to the world. And with actual sales! Hooray!

But this is not about me. It’s about YOU. You may be sitting there, as I was, wondering how in the world you’re ever going to get it done. I’ve been there! I know!

Because – as every writer knows – writing a book is hard enough, even if it’s something you enjoy doing. In writing a book you’re forced to make a million decisions. Question after question after question. What happens next, who is the narrator, why is this conveyed in dialogue and not description, what’s the title, how should this chapter end, is this character a stereotype, is that phrase a cliche, is this too long, is this too short, why this word, why this comma. Exhausting!

And then you’re faced with building the rest of the book and you think: how am I supposed to do the rest of this? Editing? Beta readers? What? Cover design? ISBN? Kobo? Mobi? EPub? Kboards? Huh? What?

You know how this feels!

You’re overwhelmed by the idea:

Maybe I can do this – but how am I supposed to know how to do it right?

It’s like redesigning a kitchen. Maybe you’re good at that and relish the prospect. Or maybe you’re like me and spend six weeks picking out a color for the walls and think, “This is just the first of many, many decisions” and you find yourself deciding that living with your tiny kitchen with the gravy-colored walls is okay after all.

Don’t do it! Don’t live with your tiny kitchen!

Here’s the secret to How To Get It Done: others have already done the thinking for you.

These are the early days of self-publishing for e-books, but you’re not a pioneer. There are other people out there who have gone through this, and who have talked about it, and whose example you can use. And I’m not just talking about how-to articles, although those are often very helpful. I’m also talking about using them as examples. What did they do for their own books? If you find the right person to use as a model, you’re all set.

For me, it was the fabulously helpful Joanna Penn. You may find someone else – there are many others to choose. But for me, every time I was faced with a tough decision, I would traipse back to Joanna Penn’s site to find out what she had decided to do. She’s wrestled with all these decisions, she has good judgment, she talks to a million people, and she has experience with what works and what doesn’t. I’m not writing in the same genre as Joanna, so I adapted a few things here and there, and I tailored some other things based on what seemed to make sense for me. But in the end I figured that if I kept moving forward, and basically followed her lead, I could get it done.

And I did.

And so can you.

(Thanks, Joanna!)

Image credit: http://www.aveleyman.com

The Case for CodeX

Ed Finn and Joey Eschrich argue for the need to replace the word “ebook”:

We need to embrace digital reading as its own medium, not just a book under glass. That means imagining a new language for reading as an experience, starting with a new word to use instead of book.

Their solution comes from “a crack team of novelists, journalists, and publishers conducting a gonzo experiment in the future of publishing”:

With some trepidation, we would like to nominate codex, a word with a rich history that most of us don’t know anything about. Codex, derived from the Latin caudex (meaning “trunk of a tree”) even happens to contain the English word code, which will be central to the future of reading in a variety of ways. The things we’ll be reading in the future will not only involve a lot of programming; they’ll also require readers to decode complex, multilayered experiences and encode their own ideas as contributions in a variety of creative ways. Since standard printed books are technically codices, we propose (with significantly more trepidation) to distinguish our variant with one of those annoying midword capitals: codeX, to remind us that these new things involve experience, experimentation, expostulation … you know, all those X things.

They go on to refer to X-Men and the X games and make other arguments.

I’m not sure I agree with all the reasoning here, and I’m not even sure you can improve on the word ebook, which to my ear conveys a notion of these things being booklike but slightly different, with the e as the subtly perfect stand-in for the difference. How many calls for renaming email have you heard lately?

That said, I do like the nod to the old texts that you get with codex. Now that I’ve gone through the process, I feel like there’s something very monklike in handcrafting your own book.

Image credit: monstrousbeauty.blogspot.com

Movellas: An Update

Since the primary distinguishing characteristic of a novella is length, it occurs to me that our quest for the greatest novella-like movie may need to consider runtime as one of its qualities. I will somewhat arbitrarily say it needs to be longer than 60 minutes (to distinguish it from television episodes). Ninety minutes feels like the right cutoff, and I’ve already proposed two that were below that. (Woody Allen’s Zelig and John Huston’s The Dead.)  I see this particular quality (sub-90-minute movies) has been explored.

Rope is a good addition.

Also Before Sunrise (which I mentioned before). City Lights? I’d have to watch that again. Purple Rose of Cairo – well, maybe, but it is almost like a long short story. (Again, I’m basically reduced to going on feel.) Several of the Godard films work, and maybe the Bergman, although those are almost like short novels more than novellas.

Have a favorite movella? Let me know!

Self-Publishing Update: Rocking Digital Marketing

Another great podcast from Simon over at Rocking Self Publishing.  This time it’s an interview with Kevin Leigh, indie author of Gollup the Woods, Twin Power, a book for young adults based on stories his father used to tell the family about Ireland. In his real life Kevin handles digital marketing for a chain of auto dealerships, and he’s leveraged some serious marketing know-how into his promotional work for his book. The whole episode is filled with great advice.

A couple of key points for me from this one:

Point Number One: Don’t Panic

As is often the case, as I was listening I began to get a little overwhelmed by the number of different things you can do to promote a book (and the thought of how much time and effort it would take to get each of them up and running). I think the best approach is probably to absorb it all, then set out to try at least one or two that seem like they make the most sense for you.

In my case, I was not so thrilled about sending an email to my Outlook contacts via Mailchimp. However, I did like the idea of using Google’s shortlinks to help me track the traffic to my blog, so I’m trying that.

I’m also intrigued by the idea of using a digital text reader to help with the editing, so maybe I’ll try that as well.

Onward and upward!

Point Number Two: About Simon

Simon is not an author but an audiobook reader! His podcast comes from an interest in self-publishing and a desire to put his recording equipment to good use. What a great idea – people who listen to the podcast will surely get a great sense of how their book will sound with him as the narrator.

But Simon, why not put some information about this on your about page? Your modesty in this area seems at odds with all the good marketing advice you and your guests have been providing!

Self-Publishing: On the Dignity of Small Audiences, Part II

Previously we wrote about the small readership Alice Munro had for the first fifteen years of her publishing career. Next up: William Carlos Williams (of “The Red Wheelbarrow” fame) whose 1935 collection of poems An Early Martyr sold just eight copies its first year.

Recall my modest goal for my novella (available now!): just ten copies to break even and launch me to Level 5 on the Ladder of Success.

And if I achieve this goal within a year I will be doing better than William Carlos Williams. Doing better in quality? Doubtful. In finding readers? Demonstrably!

Onward and upward!

Image: William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963 / Hugo Gellert, 1892-1965 / Crayon, ink and pencil on paper, c. 1930 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution