Last week I had an idea. (Dangerous, I know.) There’d been a lot of Me, Me, Me thanks to Mousetrapped’s birthday week (I know it’s my blog, but still) but yet everyone seemed pretty interested in e-books. So why not get some other self-published e-book authors to talk about their experiences, their books and their success? A few e-mails and it was all arranged: an e-book themed Special Guest Star week. This afternoon our final guest poster is Rebecca Brown. Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Rebecca!
Hi Catherine, and thanks for having me on the blog!
So, I decided to go into self-publishing an ebook because traditional publishing is guarded jealously by antiquated ogres and printed books went out with the dinosaurs… er, no!
I had really loved the idea of chapbooks; those little pamphlet-type books that nowadays mostly poets produce but have been used in the past for any type of writing. It seemed like a really brave thing to do, just putting your stuff out there. The same way I have so much respect for people who self-publish a full-length book (and do it properly…). I had also been totally inspired by Catherine’s journey with Mousetrapped.
It seemed to me that this is the perfect time to get into ebooks, especially those of a chapbook size. People want to read stuff, they want it quickly available and if you believe the doom and gloom, we’re developing the attention span of a gnat and need our reading material in short, sharp bursts. I don’t buy into that, but I do think that having technology available such as smartphones and ereaders is great for giving people the chance to read something short and sweet in a pause in a busy day and save the longer stuff for a good sit down time. If anything, I’d say having good quality short works readily available would make people more interested in reading, not pander to hyperactive, 21st century brains. Rant over. Er, where was I?
Yes. So, I have been playing around with short stories for a little while, and had my first short story published with a mobile publisher, Ether Books, with some success; My Beautiful Game was published a month ago and is still one of their bestselling stories. The fame of course instantly went to my head and I decided to try my hand at my own e-chapbook.
Some Life Somewhere is a collection of seven short stories told in dialogue, asking the big questions about life that we’ve all asked at one time or another. There’s life and death and the tricky bits in-between. I had an idea for a title and a cover and took it to my very clever and talented cover-designing husband who said “That’s great, but how about this…?” and did a far better job than I had come up with! I do words fine, but design? Not so much. Just a note to people thinking of publishing an ebook – covers need to stand out, and not just in a lovely big jpeg on your blog page or even in the Amazon listing. If you look at a Kindle or an e-bookstore on a mobile, the icons are tiny and often a grainy black and white. A beautifully detailed picture that works well in print can just get lost and that’s a real shame, so it’s worth making allowances for. Catherine’s book, for example, has that great white band with a big, clear title and it’s easily recognisable. That’s just my tuppence of advice.
The mechanics of it were pretty easy but painstaking. I followed Catherine’s advice from her blog and the Smashwords style guide. It’s a fiddly job, but it’s so important to do properly. Another bit of advice from me? If you know you’re likely to e-publish, do the formatting from the start. Or strip of all formatting until you’re finished and ready to edit. My book was short, and it took a fair bit of time; a full-length non-fiction or novel will require copious amounts of caffeine and cake. Actually uploading the book to Smashwords and Kindle was surprisingly easy, and it really is a huge thrill to see your book listed on Amazon. Especially if it starts climbing the charts…
Because my book wasn’t a long-term project or a full-length book, I didn’t put lots of time into marketing it and pushing it. I made a blog announcement a couple of days before it was published and ran a giveaway on my blog and facebook page. I plugged the book on Twitter a few times, especially in the first few days, and changed my Twitter avatar to the cover. This is when I really saw what a fantastically supportive bunch of people I’ve met on the Internet. Despite my lack of marketing my book did really well in the first couple of days, going up to number 14 in its category’s bestseller chart and has three five-star reviews. That really does give you a BIG happy moment. We’re not talking loads of sales but it does make you think “Ok, so maybe I’m not so bad at this writing malarkey after all.” It also makes me feel vindicated for spending so much time, er, networking on Twitter…
I am definitely going to do another ebook; probably a novella or maybe even a novel. I have plans for world domination…