(Yes only brave and new to me, I know).
The publication of my novella Scale-Bright is slightly interesting in that Immersion Press is in charge of the limited hardback edition (which I, as always, recommend! physical books are nice and we should support small independent presses!), but the digital edition is mine alone to work with (or badly mess up!). Since it is frequently a thing to discuss your ebook publishing process, I thought I’d give it a try. I do think having a hardback available is a huge advantage, as plenty of folks – like me – enjoy having a physical object, and reading lengthy things on the screen can cause some eye strain.
Formatting, cover art, and things
Possibly the most difficult part is the cover art, generally, but Immersion Press kindly put me in touch with the artist for the cover for the hardback – so both editions have the same cover! The artist, Richard Wagner, was incredibly helpful and prompt when I contacted him asking to license the cover design. Hooray! We have a cover, and what a lovely, elegant one it is too. (´▽`ʃƪ)
The next step is formatting the manuscript into an ebook – there are lots of guides for it around the Web, so I won’t go into that, suffice to say that I didn’t find it very hard despite being completely inept with technology! I was aiming first for a serviceable ebook but realized that if I was going to ask people to *pay money* for it, serviceable wasn’t going to be enough. Sigil is good, easy to use, and fairly foolproof. I may have spent days on formatting where most would have spent, um, hours. Or minutes. ‘Fairly’ foolproof, as I said.
Picking genre categories for the book is interesting. It’s currently filed under urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and new adult on Amazon: all categories that I think fit it fairly well. It was filed under ‘gay and lesbian’ at one point, but I’m not sure that best describes what it is – SFF categories work much better for my fiction than others. ‘Folklore, legends and myths’ was also a category I considered, but that seems to be mostly non-fiction. Altogether I have no idea how categories affect anything, but filing them under what fits best can hardly hurt!
Retailers and uploading process
I think it needs to be said that, for all its flaws, from my end Amazon is the easiest to work with. It’s prompt, and once you can whip your book into a nice shape uploading is quick. It also offers two features that can’t be found elsewhere – preorder and Kindle Matchbook, where Matchbook lets you set up discounts for your digital edition when a reader has purchased the physical edition. In my case, I made that free! It just seems a nice thing to do if someone has already shelled out for the lovely hardback, and for readers who both like physical objects *and* ebooks there’s no need to choose between the two or pay twice. Extra: the ebook contains related short stories (available online freely, but put together here for convenience), so I hope this is attractive for hardback purchasers in that they pay for one thing and then get all the extra things. Matchbook has the advantage of being a thing that ‘just works’, though some readers *have* contacted me to get their free ebook copies, so that’s nice!
Smashwords is nice in that it also distributes to Apple iBooks, B&N Nook, Kobo, and a bunch of other options I’m not sure anyone actually uses. Importantly, iBooks, Nook and Kobo also let you put up a preorder… if they actually distribute your book at some point. And only after you’ve qualified for Smashwords ‘premium catalog’.
This was unnecessarily infuriating. I’ll break it down step by step.
- Smashwords has arcane formatting requirements. There’s the whole autovetter process that is unfathomable. They recommend that you upload as a Word file that they then convert to other formats. The result from this looks – and is – *appalling*. My well-formatted ebook uploaded to Amazon didn’t pass autovetter many, many times; it took a lot of fiddling with this and that, and that other thing… and those other things….
- Hooray! It passes autovetter! It will now be reviewed by humans. This takes several days. I get an error about different font sizes. Hm. I corrected that, or thought I did, and submitted again. Got the same error back. Augh!
- It takes several more days before Scale-Bright is approved for premium catalog. Now it will ship to places that do preorders! Yay! Victory?
At this point in time I have no idea whether uploading a new version of the novella might cause the book to go through the entire autovetter and premium catalog review process again and then I break into hives. Not beehives, people-hives. Erm. Skin hives. Those. I am more than the bees of my parts.
I started checking iBooks, Nook and Kobo to see if my novella is available. It turned up on iBooks very promptly! Nook and Kobo mysteriously refused to stock it, even though The Archer Who Shot Down Suns is up both places. I waited a week, Scale-Bright is still not up. I fiddled with Smashwords channel manager, and a day later it’s up on Nook. Kobo took several tries of fiddling and poking; it only went up just a day or two ago. Ah well. Part of this was my fault – I didn’t realize preorder was a thing you could do through Smashwords, so I was late in getting it set up.
Amazon took an aggravating amount of time to link the hardback and Kindle editions, but this was resolved before release date, so that was helpful! (•̀ᴗ•́)و ̑̑
The first few days, Amazon stuffed ‘customers who viewed this also viewed…’ with self-published things that have, erm, unfortunate covers. A while after though, it began filling this up with very great things, in whose company I am entirely unworthy! It’s also ‘who bought this also bought’ instead of ‘viewed’. Hooray! Science! Algorithms! Not shown here: Ancillary Sword, We Have Always Fought and The Mirror Empire.
And lots more! Books books books! I’m skimming from the first page of ‘also bought’ off Amazon and Amazon UK (I spotted The Rabbit Back Literature Society in there somewhere, to my eeee and exclamation marks). I realize this doesn’t *necessarily* mean much, but it makes me feel like a real writer. A real writer! Some of these look super compatible with my interests, so I’m using this partly as a recommendation engine. Books books books. One must make room for a multitude of books in one’s life.
I’m not going to discuss the numbers, since that feels really weird! However it’s been slightly terrifying in that the numbers exceed my expectations by a lot: it’s a small project, I’m unknown. However number two: my expectations were ‘sell 20 copies’. Community support, as I’ve said before, has been mind-bendingly glee-inducingly joyously staggering. If anyone is interested, Amazon (obviously) pulls in the bulk of sales, followed by Smashwords, Nook, and iBooks.
Would I do this again?
If I have something to do it with, sure! I’ve learned a lot and it’d be fun to apply them again, more effectively next time; there’s a specific type of glee in getting to freely tweak all the things related to your book-shape. Do you know how many times I changed the book categories? No? You don’t want to! Being able to watch your sale graph in nearly real time is entertaining (I do mean it – I’m doing this stress-free, so it’s entertaining rather than horrifying). I have a space opera novella on the backburner centered around allegiance, brutal subjugation, combat trauma, and this intense dysfunctional relationship between a soldier and the demagogue-provocateur who comes to liberate her people by main force – but that is another story, and I won’t necessarily look to digital self-publishing as my first option.
But having it as *an* option and having learned how to go about and manage it is a fantastic thing to arm oneself with! As it turns out? Chuck Wendig was totally right.
Scale-Bright is a Chinese urban-mythic fantasy of interstitial cities, mortality, and demon ladies. Now available as a limited hardback from Immersion Press and as an ebook. Buy from Amazon, B&N, Amazon UK, Book Depository or Smashwords.