Well, it’s been around five months since I decided to self-publish a collection of my dark speculative short stories, The Hours of Creeping Night.
I haven’t been actively promoting it, so I didn’t expect much to happen. My agent actually bought a copy before he decided to offer me representation (though the offer was more about my novel). Interestingly, both he and one of the reviewers picked out my story ‘Dead Cell’ (zombie outbreak in a prison, told from the inmates’ perspective) as the best of the selection, despite a few of my beta readers not particularlly liking the story. Just goes to show how different people enjoy different stories.
At one point, I decided to make the price on Smashwords free just to get some exposure, so Amazon matched that for two months. I checked in with the figures today – and wow! Two thousand copies were downloaded in two months, ranking the ebook #41 in the Amazon.com short story Kindle chart.
Only 74 copies were downloaded from Smashwords, and less than ten from Amazon.co.uk… So I guess the US Amazon site is the one to focus on.
Out of those two thousand copies, only two people left a review, but they were great reviews!
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Decent book
May 29, 2012, By DareT0Dream
This book is one of many short story books ive read this year. I am actually taking the time to review this book, which means I liked it enough to spend some of my time. The only reason I am giving it a 4 rather than a 5, is because i feel it should of been longer, maybe 30 pages longer. I was so close on getting my fix, that when it ended it left me “unsatisfied”. But other than that great job, i dont want to spoil it for other readers but, one story in the book Dead Cell should be made as a stand alone book.
The Hours of Creeping Night is a collection of short stories that encompass the surrealism of the late hours of the night, when the coming dawn feels like an impossible dream. This 11,000 word ebook is filled with weird and morbid tales of mechanical creatures, living forests, zombies, wedigo and other monsters, while exploring the darkness of human nature in various strange fictional worlds. Read more about the stories inside…
You can buy from the following places… The pricing is a little mixed at the moment, depending on the vendor(!) Pricing correct at time of posting (18th June 12).
It is a very interesting time for publishing. A while ago, I wrote a post called Self-Publishing 101 in which I discussed why my thoughts on self-publishing were changing, and my observations on how to self-publish well, and self-publish badly.
The Catalyst of Technology
Technology is the biggest catalyst in the publishing world. The internet has never been more powerful. Bookshops are crumbling beneath the power of Amazon. In a global economical crisis, people are more likely to buy discounted books online than spend time travelling to and then searching bookshops for the same book at a higher price. The rise of social media has created an immense jump in word-of-mouth marketing, with thousands of review blogs, websites such as GoodReads and people chatting on Twitter and Facebook. It means as soon as we hear about a good book online, we’re only a few clicks away from buying it for ourselves.
As for ebooks, who knows how they will eventually change the face of publishing. In May 2011, Amazon announced that ebooks outsold paper books. The future of ebooks is uncertain. Will they continue to rise in popularity because of their (usually marginally) lower price, instant deliverability, and easy portability? Or will they fade away once they hype has gone and people miss the smell of good ol’ fashioned paper?
The Development of the Publishing House
The last time publishing had such a shake-up was probably with the invention of the printing press. Before publishing houses existed, books were printed and sold by the vendor. Before the 1960s, the book publishing industry was predominantly owned by mostly independent companies whose only business was books. Growing profits made them attractive to larger corporations, and eventually these big corporations also started buying out independent book shops. With the immense growth of a few major companies, the smaller companies vanished, and the big companies gained control over the publishing industry.
While corporate profits have increased (which is good news for the shareholders) the type and scope of books have decreased. Instead of risking the publication of new titles by unknown authors, these corporations tend to stick with known authors and past success formulas. This, of course, makes it difficult for new authors with new ideas to enter the marketplace. (Source)
Self-Publishing Over the Centuries
Self-publishing has been around a lot longer than recent years, and held a lot less stigma. At first, before large corporations rose up to take control of the publishing process, those who owned or had access to printing presses because their own publishers. Then, self-publishing became a means for self-expression without censorship.
In 1644, John Milton published Areopagitica, in which he notes that writers can sidestep the censorship of the church and government by publishing their own books. In 1843, Charles Dickens feuded with his publisher over low royalties and goes on to publish A Christmas Carol by his own means. In 1917, Virginia Woolf and her husband set up their own publishing house in their home. The famous writers’ bible, The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White was originally self-published in 1918. (Source.) There is a very long list of famous and successful writers who are self-published.
Power and Control in Publishing
But as the publishing world changes, the power shifts. Publishing houses churn out millions of professionally developed books, and bookshops liaise exclusively with publishers. Both the publishing houses and the bookshops develop the book market as a precise science, giving readers quality products in a highly accessible way, therefore making the biggest profit. This model remained unchanged for a long time, and has become ingrained in society’s mind as the normal and correct way the publishing industry should be set up. Publishers become the trusted experts of the industry, and readers are happy to put their faith in them without a second thought.
However, when you are a passive consumer and are not immersed in the industry, it is easy to forget that the publisher’s main goal is not to bring you wonderful books, it is to make money. Publishing is always first and foremost a business. When the publishers hold all the power of the book industry, and independent book shops are swallowed by superpowers, we get a network of superpowers that hold all the control. And we still accept this as the norm, as how it should be.
Diversity is a Strength
Diversity in the arts is always a strength. Freedom of self-expression is a human right. In theory, the rise of self-publishing in recent years, made possible by the development of technology and the social media boom, is a good thing. However, inevitably a large proportion of self-published work is of a much lower quality than the traditionally published work we are used to. It had not been through the same channels of quality assurance, it has not been produced in-line with market trends, it has not had money spent on promotion. This, understandably, is how self-publishing gets a bad name.
Self-publishing, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Many of the products are poor, and this taints the better products before they can be judged on their own merits. It is a shame that self-publishing has such a stigma surrounding it. However, with a good product and tactful marketing, a self-published novel can be a success. Again, it comes down to technology. Print-on-demand is often expensive, but the production of an ebook is minimal. As ebooks continue to rise in popularity, and social media and the internet continues to be the most effective way of spreading word-of-mouth recommendations (the most effective marketing tool, in my opinion), self-publishing has hope.
For the author, self-publishing brings a level of control that would otherwise be stunted by a publisher, and the freedom of expression. For the reader, it expands the market. Some may say that filling the market with sub-par material is more damaging to the reader’s experience, but I have never found myself drowning in a sea of crappy self-published material, unable to surface to the good stuff, have you? Because of the way the market is set up online, we search for things that we want to find, or are automatically recommended items via clever coding. If a product is bad, it will sink and will not be visible. But if a product is good, it had a chance to rise to the top. Expanding the product range means only that there is a wider range of material that may rise to the top, and as I’ve said before, diversity is a strength. Self-publishing expands the consumer choice that superpowers have the ability to suppress.
The publishing industry has a diverse history. Its future is incredibly unpredictable. Technology today is the catalyst for its change, but the power for that change is in the hands of the reader. To me, that’s pretty exciting stuff.
Further reading: The History and Development of Book Publishing by Dr Ron Whittaker - The Early History of Books, Puritans to Pirating, Censorship and Consolidation, The Future of Books (Part 1), The Future of Books (Part 2).
But despite my general excitement about most advances in technology (usually paired with a subconscious sense of impending doom – I’ve seen enough sci-fi movies to know that technology can be scary stuff), I’ve not really jumped on the eReader bandwagon. Mostly because of the emotional attachment I feel with worn, well-loved paperbacks that I can read in a hot bath. I can’t imagine using an eReader in the bath. The screen would steam up, it would slip out of my wet hands and plop into the water and I’d electrocute myself to death. (Note: I have yet to drop a book in the bath.)
Not only that, but they are bloody expensive.
However, I have been watching the developments with interest. This month, Amazon released a UK beta version of the Kindle. Despite the drab grey colour, it looks more compact and you can get it with free wi-fi or swanky 3G for a little extra dosh. At £109 for the wi-fi only version, it is much more affordable than the beautiful looking Apple iPad, which is not a steal at £429 – thought the iPad does a lot more than host eBooks, of course.
There is much debate about whether or not eBooks should be cheaper than printed books. When it comes down to it, the only cost saving is on the paper, which costs the publisher pennies. So technically, no, eBooks shouldn’t be cheaper. However, since the reader will have to cough up for an expensive (though now declining in price) eReader, paired with the expectation that eBooks should be cheaper, eBooks do indeed seem to be a lot cheaper than paper books at the moment. Perhaps this is why Amazon recently reported that digital sales outstripped hardbacks for the first time. Good going, I’d say, especially since I still don’t think everyone has heard of eReaders yet. My sister, an avid reader, asked me yesterday: ‘What’s a Kindle?’.
Perhaps the ‘ green’ issue will help lift sales. eReaders have been labelled more ‘green’ than traditional paper books. After all, think of how many forests are cut down for the tonnes of paper needed to print the latest Dan Brown novel? However, eReaders run on electricity and end up in landfills when they are thrown away – surely that can’t be that green? This recent article explains that eReaders are indeed more environmentally friendly, that the little electricity it takes to run them outweighs the carbon footprint of the paper book, and that Kindles are completely recyclable. Interesting.
So, eReaders are coming down in price. eBooks are cheaper. And an eReader is more eco-friendly than paper books.
I’m starting to see the appeal.
Other reasons I’d love an eReader include:
- So many up-and-coming authors provide awesome free e-content.
- Many eReaders support the use of PDF, and I’d love to try Inkspill Magazine out on them.
- Saving space on my bookshelf appeals to me.
So what about you? Do you have an eReader? What do you think of it? Do you want an eReader?