Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Viva la Revolucion! Ebooks...what?

All right, I've been thinking something over lately. Since the creative part of my brain isn't working very well tonight (see meandering progress on the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum), it's time to try something else. I'm not going to sit here and drill through my temple while trying to force my way through a short story.

So, a blog post it is.

If you've been following the publishing industry at all lately, you know it's not all wine and roses. It's far, far from it. Borders is closing a bunch of stores, mid-list authors will likely get the shaft, and agents are less likely to take on new clients. It means that a stop at your local bookstore (if you actually have one to go to) will be chock-full of books from James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Dan Brown, and Patricia Cornwell. These are familiar authors who generate sales and with the current economic climate, bookstores will lean on them.

Where does that leave someone like me? I mean, heck, I'm barely an author. I've had my novel soundly rejected by several agents. I've had a few short stories published in admittedly obscure places. I have little to no web presence and 26 followers on Twitter. I'm fairly certain 14 of those followers are fake Ukrainian smut-mongers. The other 12 are my brother's various web-based alter-egos.

In the past several months, I've really re-focused the Flying Trapeezius. I've generated content on a consistent basis. True, some days it's just "I wrote 1,300 words today, here's a graphic featuring Reggie Miller." Other times, I try to give people an insight into my projects or share a triumph publicly, such as the publication of one of my short stories. I attempt, with limited success, to offer advice on writing technique and craft and the business side of things.

The numbers in terms of page views just aren't there, which is fine by me. I'm not trying to make money off this blog; it's really more of a mad science lab than anything else, a place for me to vent and write and put my ideas out there. I know I can and must do a better job of attracting readers. TFT is a place for me to write about writing while adding occasional flavors of the Colts or Star Wars into the mix. I'm proud of my work here.

Lately, I've been wondering about ebooks. You know...those things you can buy and read on a Kindle or Nook or iPad. The royalties are pretty good on these things...authors get 70% for each sale. It has seriously crossed my mind to take one of my books and send it into the ebook marketplace to get poked and prodded. Specifically, I would take one of my "lesser" works...one that I don't know if a publisher/agent would be sold on...and put it out there. I have a specific project in mind that I think would be great for this experiment.

However, I'm not sure this is the time to do it. I'm starting to feel like I'm gaining a little bit of traction as far as my work goes and I don't want to damage that. In addition, justified or not, there remains a stigma that self-published work is of inferior quality. This is a perfectly logical line of thinking; after all, books from the big publishing houses go through several rounds of edits. If I were to put one of my books up for sale, I'd be the only de facto editor. And while I'll try very hard, the possibility remains that I'll misspell a word or have some great logic gaffe that kills the entire story.

Yet, despite those issues, I want to be a forward-thinking author/entrepreneur. I don't want to be shackled by the bonds of major publishing houses that say only their books are of high quality. No one will ever get to read my work if it remains on my hard drive. Wouldn't it be nice to share it?

The argument keeps ping-ponging back and forth in my head...and I don't know what to do. However, I do know the following things.

I need beta readers. If I were to try to turn my book into an ebook, I'd need several beta readers. These would be people of varied expertise whose insights would prove invaluable toward refining my work. I'd need some adept at grammar, others tuned into plot structure, some good at both, and a few unafraid to unapologetically rip the work the shreds.

I need to make sure I don't rush it. The last time I rushed a book edit, I mangled my manuscript while trying to give it a "quick coat of polish" and ended up making the kinds of mistakes seventh graders are famous for. As you can imagine, the agent rejected my book. After re-reading my efforts to "improve" the work, I can see why.

I need a good cover. I'm not a trained graphic artist. Even though I enjoy playing with Photoshop, I'm not sure my designs would do the trick. I would need professional consultation or one heckuva great "group think" to come up with something eye-catching.

I need an actual marketing strategy. Turning my book into an ebook and placing it on Amazon.com won't instantly sell a thousand copies. Heck, it probably won't even sell five. However, if I keep investing my time on getting publishing credits, maybe I can start to build an audience. Maybe I can figure out a way to get "buzz" or go "viral" (yes, my stomach turned after writing both of those buzzwords). The Super Bowl comes to Indy next year (maybe). Let's just drop a bunch of t-shirts from the sky!

I need to learn more. I've been doing a bit of research on ebooks lately, but I don't even own a Kindle. The device kick-started this whole ebook thing...and now it's starting to take hold, especially among publishing professionals. How can I understand the impact of the Kindle/Nook/iPad/Sony E-Reader/Insert Another Ebook Reader Here if I don't have one of my own? What works and what doesn't when it comes to ebooks? How do you format them? What price do you sell them at? Research, research, research.

I need to stand out. There are thousands of authors out there...and that estimate is on the conservative side. Go to a bookstore; you'll find an author behind each and every one of those books on the shelves. The ebook "revolution" now means even more people can publish their work. This crowds the marketplace, dilutes quality, and makes it harder for the cream to rise to the top.

I need to step back. Writing a story is a euphoric experience for me. Every time I start a new project or read something I'm working on, I get excited. I think that shines through in every piece of writing I work on. The excitement sometimes gets the best of me; I want to do things now, not later. Later sucks; later is stupid. But later can also be smart.

Wow. Another late night...and I'm so full of questions.

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