A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Part of Ebooks Fortnight on Vulpes Libris.
Like many writers at the moment, I launched myself into ebooks due to the apparent contraction of the publishing industry in the face of the recession. With more and more concentration on genre and celebrity, less new writers being taken on and what appears to be a dearth of comedy novels either represented by agents or on the bookshelves, I decided that my previously published first novel would suit “ebookification” and set to commissioning a cover and reediting for the ebook format.
Like others before me have talked about this week, the whole experience was a fun and freeing one – it was particularly enjoyable looking at artists’ work on the internet and working on a brief for the cover. I researched covers on Amazon and wrote down various themes. Enormous close-ups of one single eye is a popular one. Or a face. And for comedy – bums. My focus on this brief was to create an interesting shape when the size of a postage stamp and for the the tones to be very contrasting so that it would reproduce well in black and white. I think you will find a small bottom in the background of my book but hopefully it is more comedy than pornographic in style and it was a pleasure working with the talented illustrator Lindsay Grime who produced the finished article.
Editing the manuscript for ebook was also interesting. I uploaded it as a pdf onto my ereader and read it as an ebook to experience it anew in that format.
I found that due to the smaller page size that the ebook suits smaller chunks and faster pace.
One of the interesting things about ereaders and how people use them are they are more public devices. You can take them anywhere. Just as it’s different listening to a radio play whilst in the car or in a busy environment than it is watching a play in a hushed auditorium – so it is slightly different reading an ebook in a host of different environments, versus the privacy of reading your book by yourself in the bath or late at night before you go to sleep. I found that I began to favour some of the bolder choices and visuals for the e-version, that I had introduced to the story when I worked on it as a screenplay. Fiction and scripts are different, of course. But I found the ebook form seemed to push me to the clearer visual choice. It also led me to remove a good 7,000 words from the original text.
When you do upload your ebook (hopefully with the help of a kindly geek if you haven’t got any geeky credentials of your own) you will find you are offered a number of free days.
These are days you can use to promote your work by making it free for 24 hours.
Having no real strategy or plan, I experimented with my first free day with no publicity or thought. I did not even realise which day it would be free for.
The experience was a huge amount of fun. I watched, heart in mouth, as my book popped up in bizarre categories like Music and Performance or Non-fiction (eh?) and started competing with the likes of Canal Boats in South East England and Telephone Boxes their History and Variety. Reverting back to the paid charts, the book was suddenly visible and the promotion worked as people started to buy it for real and in good numbers. I cheered as I finally managed to go head to head in comedy category with Les Dawson (oh the honour!) and Russell Brand.
It was a proud moment as a week or so later I topped no. 1!
However the free book thing is complicated. You are given 5 days to use in total and I blithely assumed that if I did a free day again it would be as miraculously successful as the first time. Not so. The second free day ended up with my book descending the charts. I couldn’t understand it – what was going on?
Doing a free day whilst the book is sailing up the charts doesn’t necessarily have a positive effect. Making it free at the point where people are buying can just interrupt the forward direction - as they cash in on the free download instead and fail to part with their cash. It was a hard lesson to learn but learn it I did.
I’m still experimenting with price and the effect it has on visibility and purchasing. Those really in the know work out how to pitch their product just right and manipulative the price up and down and it’s worth doing a dummy run with a short story first to work out strategies for that big novel.
And now, lastly, the final bit of the jigsaw. The part I tend to put off. The part I usually end up running away from. Blog tours, reviews on websites, Twittering and Facebooking are all part of the expected repertoire of the ebook-published. There are those that complain they can’t log on to Facebook without being inundated with updates about the position of their friends’ books on Amazon charts or the latest Twitter review. To some extent this is true (and I certainly couldn’t wait to broadcast the news as I shot past some tome about River Estuaries that first giddy Free day). But I doubt there’s many writers who enjoy this side of things. Where people used to talk about what they had for breakfast, they now talk about their 50p off promotions. Yes, it’s depressing. But isn’t all promotion depressing?
(Don’t answer that.)
The Good, the Bad and the Digital
I hope that this ebook fortnight signals the beginning of something new on Vulpes Libris and a greater engagement with this growing format. Whilst ebooks will continue to have their haters, there are real opportunities for readers as well as for writers in this brave new digital world. Anne has already mentioned the refuge digital publishing has provided for short stories, with novellas also seeming to thrive in eform; experienced midlist authors are able to continue what they love and deliver work to their loyal readership; new and original books of all genres and for different age-groups can find a home and be discovered by those that want something different; and comedy novels – that I’ve been told by so many are presently unfashionable in the publishing industry – can go boldly forth out into the world and go head to head with Telephone Boxes as no comedy novels have done before.
Ebooks may have their problems, but for the moment at least I welcome this outpouring of creativity and the chance to rediscover something writers and readers both so often forget: