Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
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.”