Three Weeks Later

Three Weeks Later

June 19, 2015:

It’s been three weeks since I’ve taken the chance on ebook publishing with my short story, “Shell Out,” and favorite one at that, and now it’s time for a post-mortem.

My intention here is to show a breakdown of what could happen when no one outside of your circle of friends and family actually knows who you are, or what you write about, or that you write at all, and certainly whether or not you’re any good. Though, I would contend that not even friends or family would probably know that last point since they’re either impressed that you have written something, don’t care enough about reading to care about this, either, or care that you’ve written something but don’t actually have the time to experience your talents for themselves. Oh, and sometimes they will read your stuff. Many times they’re so impressed that you’ve written something, anything, that they forget to check whether you’re actually any good, which brings us back to the first point. Needless to say, it takes a wealth of complete strangers to prove whether or not you can build and sustain an audience and a fanbase, and when you’re essentially starting from scratch (because no one is reading your blogs, either), you’re in the perfect position to see exactly what kind of field you’re playing in.

So, here’s what three weeks of publication sandboxing has looked like for me:

Shell Out:

Shell Out Cover Image
Shell Out Cover Image

Price: Free

Word Count: 25,710 (11,965 devoted to story, remaining word count to future book previews and other front and back matter)

ISBN: 9781311264060

Categories: Fiction, Literature, Coming of Age, Humor & Comedy, General

Tags: money, aspiration, twenties, college age

Distributor: Smashwords

Available at: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, and everywhere else Smashwords has a distribution relationship with.

Published on May 29, 2015.

Premium Catalog Accepted: June 2, 2015.

Available at all retailers by June 4, 2015.

Uploaded update #1 on May 30, 2015.

Uploaded update #2 on June 17, 2015.

Have not changed the store’s front matter or description.

Notes:

First update fixed the NCX menu for the table of contents. One of the titles was broken due to my using quotation marks to begin the heading. Note to potential ebook publication adventurers: Don’t use quotation marks to start your table of contents headings.

Second update changed the formatting to include page breaks between chapters and sections. Also included a few very minor changes to the first section. Also updates my contact information to include Facebook and Twitter. 6/19 Note: Retailers outside of Smashwords are still carrying the older version.

Story Note: Part 3 contains no dialogue.

Current Total Downloads: 130 (120 at Smashwords)

Peak Download Day: May 30, 2015 (27 downloads)

Driest Download Day: June 10, 2015 (no downloads)

Average Downloads Per Day: 0 – 7 since June 4, 2015

Highest Downloads Since Decline: 7 downloads on June 15, 2015

Promoted on Facebook: May 29, 2015 (Smashwords); June 4, 2015 (Barnes & Noble, Apple)

Promoted on Twitter: June 15, 2015

Current Number of Reviews: None

Current Kobo Rating: #1666 in fiction & literature, humorous

Eleven Miles from Home:

Eleven Miles from Home Cover Page
Eleven Miles from Home Cover Page

Price: Free

Word Count: 12,380 (11,495 devoted to story, remaining word count to front and back matter)

ISBN: 9781311197627

Categories: Fiction, Literature, Coming of Age, Themes & Motifs, Psychological

Tags: narrative, relationships, doom, jet ski, breakups, introspective, pov, choices and consequences

Distributor: Smashwords

Available at: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, and everywhere else Smashwords has a distribution relationship with.

Published on June 7, 2015

Premium Catalog Accepted: June 9, 2015.

Available at all retailers by June 11, 2015.

Uploaded update #1 on June 17, 2015.

Changed the store page’s long description on June 8, 2015.

Notes:

First update changed the formatting to include page breaks between chapters and sections. Also updates my contact information to include Twitter. 6/19 Note: Retailers outside of Smashwords are still carrying the older version.

Changed store page’s long description to better include elements from the existing story rather than to focus almost entirely on the backstory.

Story Note: Contains no dialogue. Strictly narrative between two characters.

Current Total Downloads: 84 (78 at Smashwords)

Peak Download Day: June 8, 2015 (17 downloads)

Driest Download Day: June 16, 2015 (1 download)

Average Downloads Per Day: 1 – 4 since June 14, 2015

Highest Downloads Since Decline: 4 downloads on June 14 and 17, 2015

Promoted on Facebook: June 7, 2015 (Smashwords); June 10, 2015 (Kobo); June 11, 2015 (Barnes & Noble, Apple)

Promoted on Twitter: n/a

Current Number of Reviews: None

Current Kobo Rating: #708 in fiction & literature, psychological

Amusement:

Amusement Cover Image
Amusement Cover Image

Price: Free

Word Count: 14,790 (13,312 devoted to story, remaining word count to front and back matter)

ISBN: 9781311070029

Categories: Fiction, Thriller & Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Literature, Literary

Tags: tragedy, happy, marketing, psychedelic, cartoons, professionalism, theme park

Distributor: Smashwords

Available at: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, and everywhere else Smashwords has a distribution relationship with.

Published on June 12, 2015

Premium Catalog Accepted: June 16, 2015.

Available at all retailers by June 17, 2015.

Uploaded update #1 on June 12, 2015.

Uploaded update #2 on June 17, 2015.

Changed the store page’s long description on June 15, 2015.

Notes:

First update made some changes to the opening paragraph. Didn’t think it was streamlined enough. Other minor changes in the first section. Note: The first section was added at the last minute to give the story context. Until June 2015, the story had always started with Sammy in the parking garage claiming “he is not amused.”

Second update addressed a couple of character glitches that showed up only in the Nook app, where the accent in cliché was broken and an apostrophe in the final section was screwy looking. I’m sure both were tagged with some hidden Microsoft Word tattoo that the Nook file didn’t like. 6/19 Note: Retailers outside of Smashwords are still carrying the older version.

Changed store page’s long description to sound more polished. Didn’t like how the original version sounded.

Story Note: First section before original parking garage sequence contains no dialogue.

Current Total Downloads: 53 (49 at Smashwords)

Peak Download Day: June 13, 2015 (13 downloads)

Driest Download Day: June 16, 2015 (3 downloads)

Average Downloads Per Day: 3 – 5 since June 15, 2015

Highest Downloads Since Decline: 5 downloads on June 15, 17, and 18, 2015

Promoted on Facebook: June 16, 2015 (Smashwords, Apple, Kobo); June 17, 2015 (Barnes & Noble)

Promoted on Twitter: n/a

Current Number of Reviews: None

Current Kobo Rating: #1061 in fiction & literature, anthologies

So, how does that all translate into a career development standpoint? Well, obviously, the fact that all three books are free (and short) means that my actual paid career hasn’t yet begun. I suppose I could write up another post-mortem once I release future books and begin to charge for them.

But it’s good to note that Smashwords (the distributor) is ultimately the best resource for the newest and most accurate representation of each ebook. It reflects the author’s changes immediately, and offers the greatest number of download options. What it doesn’t offer is use of each of the other retailer’s special apps (as far as I could tell). The others are certainly good, but they may not have the most recent versions of the books. Also, I have yet to verify if those other retailers automatically update user libraries with new changes, or if the user has to redownload the book. With Smashwords, the user has to redownload. But that’s okay because once they own it, they can download as much as they want. For free books (like mine), it doesn’t matter if they have to redownload since the price is the same.

Lastly, part of my publishing adventure involved me testing e-reading apps that I didn’t previously have. This gives me perspective on what potential readers might encounter. Keep in mind that I do not have an iPhone, iPad, Nook device, or anything other than a PC. For things like phones and tablets and such, I had to look over friends’ shoulders while they downloaded and opened the books for me. Here is what I’ve discovered:

Smashwords:

Best source for anyone who wants to read off of a PC. Provides all filetypes, including a copy of the original Word document, so there is no shortage of ways to read the ebook on a PC or laptop. It is also the best resource for Android and other phones that do not belong to Apple. The other retailers seem to focus primarily on their own devices.

Barnes & Noble (Nook):

I admit that this is one of my preferred retailers, but I have yet to be impressed with the functionality of their Nook app on the PC. As I said in “Amusement’s” breakdown, the file conversion corrupted two characters, which makes the book feel only 99.9 % professional – ironic given the book’s theme. I’m also disappointed that my library view keeps trying to open the preview versions of my books (all three of mine, and another free ebook I downloaded when I was testing the app called Skip: Episode One by Perrin Briar), and won’t let me access the full versions without having to redownload them, which I can’t do because the system recognizes that I already own them. As it stands, I’d have to delete them and redownload if I want to read them. Not a big deal for free ebooks, but a huge deal if this is consistent with paid books, since deleting a book from the library is equivalent to throwing it away, which means having to buy a new one. On the plus side, Nook looks really nice. I also like that it saves your book to your onsite library, which means you could access your book on any device that lets you access your Barnes & Noble account. It’s basically cloud-friendly.

And I can’t confirm this without an e-reading device, but I think Nook is the device that actually looks like you’re turning the page when you swipe your finger across the screen. Really cool. (That could also just be a standard function of the .epub file. I’m not sure since, again, I read my ebooks on a desktop.)

Apple iTunes:

This has the largest market for readers, according to what I’ve read and heard, but given that only two of my 267 downloads came from them, I don’t yet know how to reach those readers. As far as my own experimentation goes, I cannot form an accurate opinion since I do not have a dedicated e-reading device or iPhone, iPad, etc., and Apple is the only retailer on the Smashwords distribution list that does not cater to desktop reading (on PC, at least). Basically, I can’t read any of the books I’ve downloaded from them. I’m also no fan of their search engine—seems difficult to search for authors if you don’t know they exist—but I do like very much their widget system. I think the ability to create buttons for your book page is great. If only I could figure out how to make my blog display them.

Kobo:

I actually just downloaded the Kobo app for PC yesterday, and I gotta say that this is probably my favorite of the e-readers. Reading an .epub on Adobe Editions is nice and a .mobi on the Kindle app is pretty cool, too, but Kobo does the best job, in my opinion, with navigation and presentation. If you break your book into chapters, they actually label the chapter at the bottom of the screen and display with it the current page within the chapter and the total number of pages that make up the chapter, so you always know how close you are to the end of that segment. As someone who likes to read books a chapter at a time, this is very attractive to me. I also like that they display a book’s ranking within that genre combination. The downside with Kobo that I’ve noticed, however, is that their propensity for accuracy is a little low. In its first week, “Shell Out” had shared the same ranking and category as my favorite book, Syrup by Max Barry. It’s possible that many books can share the same ranking if they’re all tied for that spot. And if that’s the case, then there are a bunch of books without current download stats ranked at #1700 in literary fiction and humor. Given the vast numbers of ebooks in existence (and likely on the Kobo site), this feels highly misleading. But maybe Kobo’s algorithm is superior to all the other retailer algorithms that factor in 500,000 other ebooks and rank accordingly. For a reader, this means nothing. For an author, it would be nice to know how well his book is really doing in the marketplace.

Unlike the other retailers, I have yet to receive a recorded download count from Kobo. As of this writing, I’m still recorded at zero downloads for all three of my books. This is suspicious given that I downloaded all three of them myself yesterday, yet my numbers don’t reflect that. It’s possible that Kobo doesn’t credit a download when the author downloads it himself. But I’m not sure what magic variables they’re using to determine that I, the downloader, am the one who actually wrote the books. I need to get someone else to download them, too, just to see if the numbers change. But I’ve promoted these books across all platforms so much in the last three weeks that I feel like if no one I can ask has already downloaded the books, then they’re not going to. Maybe I should just ask them to download from Kobo, just to be sure the numbers are getting recorded. My other issue with Kobo is that they’ve misfiled “Amusement” as an “anthology.” Not sure how that happened. It’s been almost a week since they’ve received the book, so it might be time to contact Smashwords support and let them know. I think I’ll wait until I can verify the truth behind my download count, though. If that needs reporting, too, then I’d rather kill two birds with one stone.

Oyster and Scribd:

These are subscription sites that I cannot adequately comment on since I do not have a subscription with either. What I can say is that their storefronts look very, very nice. I can’t decide which one I like better. They both scream “fancy” at whoever visits the site. I wish all the retailers looked this good.

Other Retailers:

Smashwords distributes to a number of additional retailers, such as Flipkart, Overdrive, txtr, and others. Again, I have no comment on these since I either can’t find my books on their site (Flipkart), or they’re responsible for library distributions (Overdrive), or they’re closing their doors (txtr), or they offer some other service not directly related to selling my books. For these sites, I’ll have to hear about them from outside sources.

Amazon (Kindle):

Smashwords distributes to Amazon, but Amazon carries only the higher-rated books at the moment, so I do not have any opinion formed here, either. I just know that if I want to cross-distribute with Amazon (something I plan to do later this year when I release my longer works and need a printing venue), I have to match the current prices for each book I upload there, and I have to avoid KDP Select if I want to freely distribute my book to other retailers (including Smashwords). At this point, I’d rather wait until my publishing roster is a little fuller and more profitable before I go to Amazon. Or, if Smashwords and Amazon strike a new distribution deal, then maybe I won’t have to wait until then. We’ll see what the future holds.

So, that’s my experience with ebook publishing so far. Not sure if this is normal, or weak, or exceptional. The only thing I can say is that this is my experience. Maybe yours will be different. Or the same. I’d still like to hear about it regardless.

I hope the technical talk didn’t bore you too much. I promise my ebooks are more exciting, and you should go download all of them right now. The links to their respective store pages can be found by clicking on the cover images in the right sidebar.

Ebook Progress

June 9, 2015:

Just wanted to post a note to visitors that I’ve updated my blog to include direct links to my published ebooks. If you glance to the right sidebar, you’ll see images of my book covers. Clicking on the images will link you to the book’s description page, which also contains links to retailers who carry the title.

As of now, I do not have anything uploaded to Amazon. I will do that soon (most likely when I’m ready to offer my longer stories in print). Keep checking back here for updates.

My next ebook “Eleven Miles from Home” is currently available at Smashwords and soon to reach other retailers, hopefully before the week comes to an end. I’ll post a new entry for that book once the other retailers have it in their stock.

I’m also finalizing the ebook version of my short story, “Amusement,” which is about a serious businessman who must conduct business at a theme park amid wackos, children, and cartoon characters and nearly loses his mind. Look for that in the coming week.

So, that’s my ebook progress report. If you’re following my blog, please support my ebooks, too. If you’ve stumbled on this blog while you were looking for information about weight loss, please follow me (and support my ebooks). I probably won’t be able to help you much with weight loss, even though I’ve lost 18 pounds in the last four weeks, but I still plan to blog about it and hope to entertain you in the process. I am, after all, writing to entertain. Thanks.

Starting My Slow Rise in Ebooks

June 4, 2015:

For many years I’ve been interested in making my short stories and novels available to the public, and for many years I’ve obsessed over the best method for making that happen. Like any writer, the moment I decided I wanted complete strangers to visit my brain to see what crazy characters and scenarios I could bring to paper, I wanted to jump right onto the publishers’ desks and say, “Hey, publish this, folks!” And, because what I had was so awesome, according to my own understanding, I thought that I was entitled to acceptance and permitted to make this my rite of passage into the real world.

Reality works at a different speed, however, and I’ve obsessed over the best method for getting my work published because I didn’t channel that desire into actual steps toward getting recognized. Much of my stubbornness to take chances on what I had written I had blamed on perfectionism, and perfectionism I had blamed on unwillingness to fail, and my unwillingness to fail I had blamed a lot on human nature, but also on my many failures at other things. You know, the human experience.

I didn’t want to self-publish because that was “unprofessional” and didn’t actually count as a credited publication in the eyes of publishers and other professionals in the writing business. For any writer who wants to make it in the writing industry, a “fake publication” is about as bad as “no publication” because it signifies a “secondhand publication” or a “failure’s publication” or an “unprofessional publication.” And, well, the quality of self-publishing often enforces those air quotes.

But, as ebooks have taken a sudden rise in the publishing industry, and as self-publishing is becoming a business of faster growth, greater diversity, and total creative control, I’m starting to think that bypassing traditional publishing (for now) isn’t such a bad idea. After all, I can produce books of any length and market them, regardless of whether they are 10,000 words or 250,000 words, and agents and publishers are no longer able to tell me they are commercially unmarketable. If readers want them, they can get them. And now there are e-retailers who are friendly to self-published authors, and will even post their books in their catalogs because why not? It’s only after lackluster sales that the publishers can tell me my book is commercially unmarketable now, and even then, there’s no rule saying that it can’t be rediscovered at a different time when the trends inevitably change.

So, last week, I checked my obsessiveness at the door and posted a short story I finished in 2006 called “Shell Out” as a newly edited ebook on Smashwords (I always want to call it Smash Mouth for some reason), which can now be downloaded as an epub (for Nook), a mobi (for Kindle), a pdf, online reader, and so on. And because I’ve priced it for free, anyone can get a copy risk-free. It even comes with previews for some of my future books.

Shell Out Cover Image
Shell Out Cover Image

So, that’s where I’m at today: exploring this new publishing frontier. I figure now is as good of a time as any to see if complete strangers like the stories I have to share.

If you want a copy of “Shell Out,” you can get your copy for free at these online retailers:

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/546745

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shell-out-jeremy-bursey/1122051415?ean=2940151945875

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/shell-out

Apple iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/shell-out/id1001360090?mt=11

And if you’ve found this blog via one of my ebooks or my Smashwords author page, this will probably be the best source for hearing about other releases of mine, present and future. I also hope to get set up on Twitter soon. I’m still trying to decide how I want to handle Facebook.

At any rate, check back often for news and updates on current and future books. I will file them under the category for “Published Ebooks.”

If you download and read a copy of “Shell Out,” then I want to officially thank you for your time and potential future readership. I also hope you’ll leave an honest review at whichever retailer you download it from. And don’t forget to check this blog often for information on future books.

Thanks.