I’m experimenting with different marketing approaches. First, of course, is Amazon KDP Select. I’m going to do a free day on Monday, August 26. This means the book is “on vacation” from BN Nook and Kobo. It’ll be back on sale there in November. In the meantime, if anybody needs an EPUB or PDF version, let me know in the comments.
We’ll see how effective this is.
Even back in the 1970s, when the ISBN was invented, bookselling happened person-to-person. People had to walk into stores and find books, and chances are a bookseller helped them.
The ISBN was invented to handle issues that arose from the installation of mainframe computers – in warehouses, bookstores, and publishing offices. These communications were pretty simplistic. “Is this book available?” “Yes.” “I would like to order 20.”
By 1998, when development on ONIX started, communications had gotten more complex because computers were interacting over networks, and the book information was ultimately being viewed (and used) by the consumer. ISBNs were critical then, even though Amazon did not require them, because of the rapid changes in the market – an ISO standard gave publishers a number on which to hang ONIX data, and they could be reasonably assured that because it was attached to a standard, that data would be accepted anywhere.
15 years later, communications amongst computers and networks have not gotten any simpler. They are more reliant on identifiers and metadata than ever before. In 1998, we had 900,000 books to communicate about. In 2013, we have 28 or 32 million (depending on how you count them, and I’m only supposed to use the 28 million number publicly) that we know of, and many more that we don’t know of. And when was the last time you walked into a bookstore and a bookseller helped you? (When was the last time you walked into a bookstore?)
Dozens of millions of books, over many many networks, are ultimately viewed by more consumers than ever before. And yet there is a vocal group arguing that standardization of information (and the ISBN in particular) is antiquated. “Print-related.”
The ISBN was invented because of digitization. To argue its demise due to ebooks is short-sighted. The media environment – books, newspapers, movies, television, radio and the music industry – is volatile right now. Companies are merging, and strange, inexplicable acquisitions are being made.
A movement away from standards – particularly standards that were created to deal with digitization – may be bucking the system. But the system isn’t always going to look like it does now. Standards at least give some continuity in a shifting market.
The Place Where I Come From is available from the Kindle Store at Amazon – and each of the stories in the cycle is available separately as well! So plenty of Delaware to immerse oneself in. Probably more than any sane person would want.
I’ve also set up an author page on Amazon.
This has been a tedious process – Guy Kawasaki is right when he states that using Word is the way to go. It proofs and spellchecks, to a degree – I’d missed a lot of typos due to scanning. I pasted the cleaned-up stories into Pressbooks, and then exported mobi and epub files.
Now on to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple. It’s hard work, and boring, but ultimately rewarding. I think. Meanwhile, here’s a taste from the first story in the cycle:
We drove through New Jersey, through Philadelphia and Wilmington. The land got flatter and flatter, more and more sandy. As we headed south on Route 13, the houses and shopping malls gave way to fields of soybeans and corn. We were almost out of Delaware when the fan belt broke.
“You had to make this trip,” Stephen said, as we pulled into a gas station near a sign that said, “Milton: If you lived here, you’d be home now.”
“It’s an old car,” I said. “We’re lucky it didn’t break down completely.”
“Then at least we could’ve gone home.”
“You can still go,” I told him. I went over to the gas station attendant.
“Is there a hotel here?” I said.
He pointed to a sandy lot across the highway, behind which was a very unimpressive weatherbeaten one-story building with a dingy sign next to it: “Milton’s Sunrise Hotel.”
I picked up my bag and started over. A few steps behind me, Stephen was snarling to himself. When we checked in, I took a shower and put on a dress. “I’m going to get something to eat,” I said. “You coming?”
He shook his head. I shrugged, slammed the door as I went out.
I walked downtown, past three churches and a factory, to a place called the Red Rail Lounge. The parking lot was filled with pickup trucks, and inside the restaurant were men in tee-shirts and dirty jeans, most of whom leered at me when I came in. I frowned back at them and got myself a burger and a Bud. A couple of guys tried to get me to dance, but they were greasy and sweaty, soaking through their tee-shirts, and most of them hadn’t shaved in about three weeks. I left before anything terrible could happen, and it was only ten o’clock whenI got back to the motel. I took another shower and got in my bed.
After decades of giving advice to both publishers and authors, I’m eating the dog food. My book, “The Place Where I Come From,” will be released shortly. Here’s its description:
‘We drove through New Jersey, through Philadelphia and Wilmington. The land got flatter and flatter, more and more sandy. As we headed south on Route 13, the houses and shopping malls gave way to fields of soybeans and corn. We were almost out of Delaware when the fan belt broke.’
Milton, Delaware – a town at the Southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula – is very flat, very sandy, and very small. “The Place Where I Come From” portrays the lives of small-town inhabitants just before the Internet became prevalent, in the 1970s and 1980s.
Influenced by Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg Ohio“, “The Place Where I Come From” is a precise depiction of a particular place in a particular time – when isolation and stillness haunted the lives of a small, rural town.
I wrote it many years ago, originally, as my college honors thesis. I added stories to it in the years after I graduated. And it’s just been sitting around – part of it in the Mount Holyoke College archives, the rest in various literary magazines.
To answer the obvious questions:
1. Yes, it has an ISBN for the epub version.
2. I am not publishing it in paper form quite yet – just digitally.
3. I used Pressbooks.
4. I received my thesis back as an image PDF from the college archives; I enrolled in a trial for Adobe Acrobat and OCR’d the file, and then edited it. I scanned the additional stories myself, OCR’d the files, and edited those. No part of this book has ever seen a Word document – that was not on purpose, but only because Word was never necessary.
5. Cover design by Vook, except for the Amazon version, where I used their cover generator.
6. I’m doing KDP, Nook Press, iBookstore, iTunes, and Kobo. I enrolled today and am working out the kinks on the vendor side.
7. None of this was hard, but that’s only because I understand the book industry from the inside out and knew exactly how to make a book.
8. If you are from Delmarva, or associated with it in any way, you might like this book. If you like Shirley Jackson, Alice Munro, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Sherwood Anderson, Stephen King, or William Carlos Williams, you might like this book (only because those are the book’s influences, not because this compares to ANYTHING they’ve ever done). If you are a teenager or college student, you might like this book.
9. Yes, I am experimenting with metadata. WE SHALL SEE.
UPDATE – the Kindle version has gone live here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E3EO8I4
So, this blog has been sort of fallow these last 2 months because I’ve been working like crazy on another one. As part of my product management duties at Bowker, I’m heading up this new website: SelfPublishedAuthor.com. I’ve been writing like crazy for it – you’ll notice that, so far, all the content is mine. So this poor blog has been neglected.
It’s a cool project because it’s meant to be informational/educational, and just genuinely helpful. I’ve been talking with a lot of other organizations about ways we can work together, and the possibilities seem sort of endless at this point. At any rate, head on over there and let me know what you think! Comments on the site are not enabled, because…it’s a corporate site. But you can comment here. I’m building pieces of it every day, and it’s pretty exciting.
As usual, some themes grew out of this TOC conference – this seems to happen every year. And of course, it varies from person to person, so I can only speak from my own perspective, and perhaps there’s a little wishful thinking there as well.
But the fact that the World Wide Web Consortium not only had a concurrent conference about the Web and ebooks, but W3C members also attended regular TOC sessions (and gave a keynote) spoke very loudly to me. And it was a one-way conversation.
I do not see very many book industry people approaching the Web. But the Web is certainly approaching the book industry. It’s not enough to digitize text, wrap it in DRM, and sell it. The Web demands more than a silo’d experience. It demands interconnectivity. Links. Since the inception of the Web, content of all kinds has not simply been digitized, but contextualized by open-ended conversations with other content. An ebook is a closed system. The Web is open – and when it encounters a closed system, it tends to find ways to open it.
The question is whether that opening happens with or without publishers. And that is the elephant in the room.
That elephant was very firmly in the room during my “Open Book” presentation on Wednesday. It was a short talk, making some short points – that there has been explosive growth in published text over the last 14 years. That putting all that text on paper is not scaleable as a business. That digitizing it is scaleable, but invokes the problem of discovery. That discovery is best enabled by interoperability and structured markup. And if publishers are not making their own texts discoverable, someone else will.
Presumably publishers are publishing because what they are publishing has value. The fact that someone else perceives that value and makes the content more valuable is – again, presumably – a good thing.
The implication, however, is unnerving to traditional publishers. Opening up content – willingly or unwillingly – means a lack of control of that content. And dialing back “control” to mere “participation” is an idea that’s extremely tough for traditional publishers to get comfortable with. For 500 years, publishers have been broadcasting, not conversing. But the Web is a conversation.
The response to my talk was indicative of this discomfort. In a way, I was satisfied with the response because it confirmed for me the difficulties that traditional publishers are having. I was also saddened by it, of course. But those emotions don’t get us very far. What does get us far is simply putting one foot in front of the other, and continuing. It’s not romantic, but it’s movement. And it’s how real progress happens.
Why, yes, that is my Scamp sitting next to me. She stayed throughout the entire event, despite the fact that she had two weeks’ allowance burning a hole in her pocket and we were in Soho. And she had quite a bit to say:
Scamp is of the opinion that book publishing is now unnecessarily complicated. #Book2
— ljndawson (@ljndawson) February 10, 2013
— Kate Pullinger (@katepullinger) February 10, 2013
Things really got kicking the next day in the W3C Ebook conference, which I will write about in a bit. What really struck me about W3C’s involvement is this: Whether book publishing plays along or not, the web wants books. I felt very heartened after leaving the sessions on Monday.
Tuesday was Author (R)evolution Day – Kristin McLean’s all-day workshop helping authors understand the traditional publishing landscape as well as some of the disruptions the landscape is experiencing. I was really struck by the incisiveness of the questions – it’s apparent to me that authors have been kept in the dark about how publishing works for far too long.
On Wednesday, I gave a presentation about marking up ebooks with semantic tags, just to introduce the idea to the book publishing community. Amazingly, Ivan Herman, who directs the W3C’s semantic web efforts, attended – both he and Tzviya Siegman of Wiley were phenomenally helpful. Last night, Tzviya sent me a TOC photo, which India Amos immediately turned into a LOLLaura:
It may be the weekend before I can digest all my takeaways from this conference, but it was phenomenal this year.