Category Archives: Discussion

This is where general thoughts about the process of writing may go, including reviews for various books on writing.

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.

The Birth of Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm

Originally posted to Blogspot on:

November 6, 2005:

Well, I’ve known about this blogging thing for awhile, but since I don’t journal that often, I haven’t really done much to take advantage of it. But for some reason in my half-awake state (at 1pm on a Sunday), I feel like doing something different. Maybe it’s just the fact that I still don’t have any new emails to appreciate, or that the other site I visit from time to time hasn’t had much activity in the last couple days–I can’t really blame it on boredom because I haven’t been up long enough today to blame it on boredom. But, whatever the reason, I thought I’d look up some information about setting up my own webpage (which I also have been meaning to do for the last year or so ever since I put my first book online for preview purposes), and somehow I came across this again. Probably a strange time to all of a sudden decide to take a look at how this thing works, but then I think there’s enough to think about lately that it’s worth writing it all down.

The first thing I discovered just now is that highlighting any block of text on this site while I’m typing is bad. Evidently when I press any directional key while a word or segment is highlighted, it deletes it. Good thing I know how the copy function works (Ctrl+C to copy, Ctrl+V to paste for those who are savvy enough to write a blog, but not enough to know about the copy and paste functions). So, just thought I’d mention that.

Well, now that I’m starting to wake up a bit from this caffeine shot, maybe I can start writing about some pertinent issues–at least enough to get me to the point that my sister will start bugging me for the telephone (I’m still on dial-up). Something tells me that won’t be long from now. She’s 13.

The biggest thing I’ve been thinking about lately is the issue of prioritizing. A few months ago I listed a series of projects that I would like to finish over the course of the next three years, and listed them in such a way to give old projects priority over new projects. I decided I had to do this because I just kept adding too many new things to my already extensive plate, and I just wasn’t getting anything finished. So, now that I’ve written out this planner (back in April), I’ve already finished some outstanding projects that I started way back in 2001, though there are others still on the waiting list.

So far the plan had been working out nicely, but then something happened around the third week of September. An outstanding idea came to me for a novel, and I thought it was something I had to write now, not at the end of my list. The idea was too fresh, and too important to let it sit, so I knocked everything else on the wayside and started working on this novel…about panhandlers.

Yes, I’m writing a novel about panhandlers. And it’s important. I’m not going to discuss the book itself any further because I’m only on Chapter 9, but it’s something that I can’t wait three or four years down the road to write–especially with my ten-book epic in the planning stages. Once I start working on the epic, that’ll be my writing life for the next several to many years, so I’d rather get my other stuff finished first.

But back to the priorities–the hardest thing about keeping them is knowing that new ideas keep filtering in, and somewhere along the line I have to cut the new ones off and keep whittling away at the old ones. That can get a bit unnerving when it means going back to projects that I haven’t touched in several years. Figure, the spirit behind my reasons for writing them in the first place had changed over the break period, and I’m not sure that I can go into the stories with the same heart that I originally began them with. Sure, I can finish the stories with some feeling, but after three years the risk is higher that they’ll be more objective. That doesn’t mean they’ll ultimately suck, it just means that they’ll be different than what I probably intended them to be.

But that’s all up for debate I guess.

So, what am I doing now, now that I’ve put my planner on the backburner (which I suppose defeats the purpose of having a planner)? I’m typing in all the handwritten content I wrote for my book during the massive power outage we had a couple weeks ago. Before the power went out Monday morning at 8am on October 24, I had written up to the 4th page in Chapter 6, which scaled down to book size will equal page 7. Pretty sizable accomplishment given that I just started the thing about four weeks earlier. Once the power went out, I stayed awake for three hours watching the news on a battery-powered television, and then I fell asleep about ten minutes after the eye of Wilma passed through and slammed us with the back eyewall, which kicked up our winds from about 15mph or so to more than 100mph in less than 30 seconds. For those who have never experienced that, it’s pretty cool (I’ve always imagined the Rapture to be something like that). But obviously the sudden increase plays havoc with your backyard, and the turbine on your roof will eventually fly off after the plastic bag covering it (to keep the rain out of the attic) rips apart. And that’s after you decide to bring in the stray cat who had been riding out the first half of the storm underneath the metal desk that you used to have in your bedroom before you picked up a better wooden desk with a hutch from Best Buy a little more than a year earlier, because the back side of the storm will bring in winds from the opposite direction, which would ultimately mean smacking the poor helpless feline right in the face with 100+mph winds, and no stray cat wants that, and neither did we. So we had our turbine fly off and we brought in a stray cat. But that’s derailing the point that when I woke up to the gentle cold front that followed the hurricane, and after I took my pictures of the damage (which I did after Charley and Frances last year, but not for Jeanne because I really didn’t know which damage belonged to her and which belonged to Frances), I ate a nice cold meal, read a few chapters of Douglas Adams’ s last book called The Salmon of Doubt, and then went on to write by hand on line-paper my own chapters. Over the course of a week I managed to write 55 pages stretching from the 1/3 point of Chapter 6 all the way to the 1/3 point of Chapter 9. Then last Tuesday I went to have a family dinner with friends of my mom’s, and managed to start my lengthy typing session over there, which thankfully I was able to resume in my own house the next evening when our power finally came back on. So now, after several days of hunching over my computer keyboard, I’m finally at the point that I can transcribe Chapter 9, which means I’ll be back on pace with the novel by the end of the day today. And that’s good to know because I hate having to write the same thing twice, especially when it involves nearly 20,000 words.

On another note, I just discovered that if you click an area of the page with your left mouse button after highlighting your text, you can save what you wrote. Interesting.

So, that’s the start of this blogging journey. I don’t know how often I’ll keep up with it because I don’t journal often, and I hate having to combat for the phone, but I can see why people are addicted to this, so I don’t know. Maybe next time I can talk about why I liked the new Batman movie way more than the last four. I don’t know…we’ll see what happens. I just know that I need to get a website soon so that I can showcase my books, so that people might actually want to buy them. That would be nice too.

Well, here I go back to the typing thing.