It’s been a tiring few days, but I think it’s been reasonably productive.
I’m happy with Smashwords and the response so far. At this point, the combined sales and sample downloads have doubled what I had through this blog alone. The sample downloads of the first 30% are at least giving it a chance; if someone tries that much and dislikes it, fair enough, but I’m hoping at least some will get that far and want to see what happens. Whether I make any money off it is irrelevant; the whole point is simply to be more visible. I do find it interesting and amusing that a number of friends and family who had no interest at all while it was simply here and on my other site, suddenly want copies of exactly the same text that has now been uploaded to a self-publisher.
To be released in some venues, books need an ISBN, an international serial number that is unique and will identify it anywhere. These are available via Smashwords, the publishing platform I’m using, for free; this is a very good thing for many people, because in most parts of the world, one has to pay for one otherwise, sometimes a substantial amount. However, here in Canada, a branch of the government handles it, and offers them for free, to encourage Canadian culture. Having thought about this a bit, I decided to get my own publisher account and handle my own numbers.
I applied on Friday for an account. The application for an account can take up to ten days to be manually approved. Mine cleared yesterday (Tuesday). I now have my own publisher prefix, the first part of the number, and can generate full ISBN numbers to attach to my books. The instructions, oddly, are genuinely step-by-step, even though it’s a sub-branch of Collections Canada, the tax and revenue agency. I created an ISBN for Yin-Yang and updated Smashwords’ data, and now Yin-Yang can ship to a couple of places that couldn’t accept it before, including SW’s own Library Direct program that sells in volume to libraries.
Given that I’m a Canadian author and publisher but using a US platform, I’m unsure whether I’m legally required to send a copy to the National Library of Canada, but it doesn’t matter because I’m perfectly happy to send them one anyway (yes, they do include ebooks).
Even before the ISBN, Yin-Yang began to trickle through SW’s various retail partners. It still hasn’t reached all. I’m finding this process a little confusing and suspect the documentation is a bit outdated, since it says that for many of them, they “ship” daily on business days, yet I published Yin-Yang last Friday and it still isn’t marked as shipped yet to several – and they aren’t the ones that needed the ISBN. It has shipped to a few that haven’t yet processed it and made it available (Kobo, which I believe also powers the UK’s WHSmith and possibly others but I can’t find the reference again; Blio). It is certainly available through Apple’s iTunes store and I believe it’s available via several Android apps developed by Page Foundry. It’s also, for some reason I can’t figure out, being offered at Barnes&Noble’s Nook store. That last one worries me, because having decided on a price of “Reader sets price” at Smashwords, the documentation says in multiple places that B&N will not accept it, period. Other retailers accept it but you have to set a separate price (.99 for mine). For no readily explainable reason, Yin-Yang shipped to B&N and is available there, at the .99 retail price. Even more oddly, in my back-end stats, first it told me it had shipped (which is why I looked for it) and now it says that it hasn’t. So, I emailed support, and got a very friendly personal (not auto-generated) email back in less than 24 hours, letting me know that he wasn’t sure but would have the tech department look into it and will get back to me. I don’t particularly want anyone buying it and then having it evaporate – that isn’t going to reflect well on me. Other than that, all’s going well. I won’t know about hits or sales on those sites until the next batch update, which happens at various intervals with various retailers.
GoodReads and sociability:
On the suggestion of a friend, I signed up for an account at GoodReads.com. They already had Yin-Yang listed (yay!) so I went through the steps to have the author page for that linked to my own profile. Despite the warning that it might take several days, it took about an hour. I’m unsure how active I’ll be there, or more precisely, how proactive – I’ll certainly respond. I was, however, following their suggestions and looking around in the discussion groups, and almost joined one. Almost. Just before I did, something clicked.
I’ve said before, repeatedly, that I’m not good at networking and promotion. I would much rather be writing than doing just about anything – including discussing what books other people are reading, even if I like the books themselves. It’s a bit narcissistic, but talking about my own tends to feel like an extension of writing, since I generally absorb it and make use of it the next time I’m actually sitting in front of a page full of words. Do I like this aspect of myself? Well, I’m not proud of it, but I strongly suspect that the obsession with my own worlds is an immense part of why I’m still writing large volumes, 25 years later, with extremely limited feedback, and without it I would have given up and found something less isolated to do. Proud of it or not, it’s there, and I’m aware of it. It’s rude beyond words to steer every conversation back to your own work, and while I may be rather self-absorbed sometimes, I do try not to be rude. The majority of the time I spend in most social venues, real-life or online (with one wonderful exceptional community), I’m generally thinking about what I could be writing and how quickly I can tactfully escape (sometimes, in RL settings, it isn’t so tactful – I do very poorly in crowds), punctuated by brief moments of genuine and sincere interaction. Truthfully, I rather identify with the Bronte sisters in ways (Wikipedia, relevant sections on Charlotte and Emily – Anne as well but I don’t see an equally appropriate place to link to): there’s a vast gulf between being able to weave words together on a page, and being stimulating company in person. Or with Emily Dickinson who preferred to be alone but had close friendships by correspondence (I wonder what she’d have thought of the Internet?). What it comes down to is, as I’ve said elsewhere: the drive to share what I write with others and bring it to their attention is in constant conflict with the drive to be writing more, and there are only so many hours in the day. As well, I tend to find the former exhausting while the latter is recharging; living with chronic depression, energy levels are always something to keep an eye on.
On a related note, I’ve spent more time since Friday working on things like creating a Facebook author page and my GoodReads profile and the like than I have actually writing. While this may be necessary short-term, it needs to stop. What’s the point of any of it if I’m not writing more novels? I am, however, considering whether Google+ would be a useful approach as well: I do have a Google account, as prysmakitty, but I rarely use it. Would anyone be happier following what I’m doing there? I haven’t the foggiest, since I’m also unsure how many people are following anything I’m doing anywhere else. Should I try Twitter again? Been there, tried it, was disgusted by the “support” (two weeks for a form-letter response to a problem that kept me from using it to get into the conversation I’d created the account to join) but maybe worth it… I don’t know. But I do know that all this social media stuff needs to be kept very firmly in check.
Right now, I’m going back through “Lamia” ruthlessly to clean up small grammatical errors, a few typos, a few badly-chosen phrases, and a few inconsistencies and things that were never really explained. Once I finish that, I’ll be looking for test readers and collecting their feedback, giving it one more reworking based on that (I don’t use everything suggested, but I do consider everything seriously), and then release it onto Smashwords as well. While I’m waiting for my test readers to get back to me on “Lamia” I’ll probably start doing the same with “BlackWolf”. At some point I need to decide what to do, if anything, with “Renegade” (the first Jordans novel) and the Moonblood stories; I’m really rather pleased with “Renegade” and would like to share it, but there are a couple of small issues that I’m not sure I can truly fix, and while I could see perhaps, after at least three or four more stories, cleaning up the Moonblood stories and putting them together, I’m unsure about pushing them individually. We’ll see. As well, there are entirely new novels on the go, and the tricky bit there is going to be writing them the way they want to be written without allowing that “What would people like?” voice to gain any traction.
Even a little bit of recognition is a wonderful but addictive thing. Keeping everything in balance is going to be the next big challenge, I think!