Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

“Artificial dissemination” follow-up

Reaction to my “pay what you want” publishing experiment was supportive for the most part. It seems like everyone in the indie book biz is on the hunt for alternatives to the standard plan, i.e., jumping into the Amazon ocean filled with millions of other fish. The problem is, as at least one commenter pointed out, Amazon offers a platform where visibility is possible, if not probable. Amazon offers tools and strategies for marketing our books (reviews, promotions, rankings) even if it’s difficult to exploit them successfully.

My one-on-one approach, if it works the way I envision, would be a true direct-to-reader transaction. Someone asks me for a copy of my novel and offers, say, $4. I take the money and send her the book. If I’m lucky, she tells other readers about it, and they ask for a copy. If I’m really lucky, word starts to spread that there’s this weird writer out there who sells his books one by one to readers who happen to find him.

It’s so crazy it might just work!

A few caveats emerged in the comments. One detail that got several mentions was that the pdf format isn’t terrific for ebooks. This can be true, especially if the source file, say in doc or docx, is simply converted and dumped straight onto a Kindle. But there are things you can do to the source file, I’ve discovered, that result in a professional-looking page on the e-reader. In fact, it looks better than the typical ebook produced by the Big Five publishers. Only problem is that you can’t change the font size, so you’d have to be good with type that’s about the size in a paperback book.

I have to admit, I haven’t had as much luck with the Nook as with the Kindle. Vote above to help me figure out whether I need to worry much about the Nook n’ Kobo.

The pdf format has a few advantages I’m really happy about. Like I said, it allows easy insertion of images. The other formats, EPUB and MOBI, would require HTML skills I don’t have just yet, or I’d have to hire a formatter to help out. Changing things on the fly would be tough, and expensive.

In pdfs I can also use interesting fonts for the title page and chapter headings, as well as graphics for paragraph breaks. All in all it makes for a more printlike experience but in an ebook’s clothing.

Moreover, as I’ve mentioned, I’ll be able to inscribe each copy to the reader who buys it from me. All it will require is that I copy the newly inscribed source file to a separate pdf, then send that to the reader.

One commenter brought up the problem of piracy.

True, someone can buy the book from me for a buck and then shoot copies of it to everyone he knows. Or, if he’s really sneaky, he could try to sell copies. He’s a bad man.

The thing is, we indie writers are constantly giving our books away. It’s one form of marketing we know will gain us new readers, so the proper way to look at piracy of a book like this is as a free promotion someone else is doing for us. Hey, thanks!

But also, since I will have inscribed all the copies, the pirated copies are marked with someone’s name. Oh, the shame, the shame.

No one wants to be labeled the reader who “shared” with her whole address book, right?

Finally, a number of commenters cautioned that a lot of people who say they’ll support the book … won’t. It’s just a fact of the writing life. It’s easy to support our fellow authors with likes and follows and words, but actually pulling the trigger on a purchase is another level. Disappointment looms.

But I think, “It is what it is.” The possibility that few will take to this shouldn’t mean there’s no point in doing it. I’ll learn, and I’ll report. If it flops, well, then we’ll all know this approach doesn’t work.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know how things are progressing as I get the book in shape for “pseudo-publication.”

20 comments on ““Artificial dissemination” follow-up

  1. islandeditions
    April 14, 2016

    Your poll should allow for more than one reader … I wanted to click on both Kindle and Tablet. And then Dennis uses a Kobo for his reading. Just saying that some readers live in multi-gadget households. 🙂

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 14, 2016

      I changed the poll to include “more than one,” but it’s not showing up yet. Thanks for the idea, though!

  2. kingmidget
    April 14, 2016

    I clicked on Kindle, but missed the more than one. I also use a Tablet — but I use the Kindle app on the Tablet for books. so, maybe it is just Kindle.

    As for piracy — that already goes on. Google the name of your book and you’ll find all sorts of websites that are offering it that have nothing to do with legitimate sites.

  3. S.K. Nicholls
    April 14, 2016

    I use my iPad but with the KIndle app.

  4. curtisbausse
    April 14, 2016

    Still with you here… Disappointment may loom, but it won’t be from me.

  5. John W. Howell
    April 14, 2016

    all the best on this venture. Will you refuse to sell a book if the price is too low in your mind?

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 15, 2016

      Well, I don’t think I can honestly refuse 99 cents, since I promote at that price so often. I might round up to a buck. But below that is really kind of insulting, eh? I’ll say no to sub-$1 offers, I imagine …

  6. Audrey Driscoll
    April 14, 2016

    I voted “More than one type,” meaning a Sony e-reader (works well with Epubs) and my laptop, on which I read Epubs as well as Kindle ebooks (with Kindle for PC). One question about your experiment — how are you going to attract potential readers in the first place? And how is this different from Smashwords’ “You set the price!” option? I’ll certainly be interested in your results.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 15, 2016

      Good question, Audrey, and my thinking at this point is to start with my blog readership and hope that they’ll do some PR for me in their worlds.

      I’ve never used the Smashwords option, so I’d be interested in knowing how that works out for writers who use it. Since I’ve sold precious few copies via Smashwords, I can’t really comment.

      The difference is, you buy my book directly from me, so there’s an automatic relationship.

  7. Exile on Pain Street
    April 15, 2016

    I am a philistine. I will never pick up an eReader. I used to be indifferent towards them but I’ve recently achieved an outright hostility. Bookstores were such a big deal to me and that’s all been taken away.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 15, 2016

      I admire you for that. I resisted for a long time, thinking this was a fad I didn’t want to participate in (like I refuse to own a smartphone …), but it was the most efficient way to test self-publishing with Yesterday Road. Now I buy a mix of paper books and ebooks.

      We moved to a new house last year, and I wished I’d bought an e-reader earlier. Boxes and boxes and boxes of books …

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This entry was posted on April 14, 2016 by in Publishing.
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