The iBookstore is now Symmetry-cal

Yes, that was the best headline I could come up with on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. It took a week, but someone at Apple has finally run over to the iBookstore and breathlessly handed the shiny new Silent Symmetry EPUB file I uploaded last Sunday to the iBookstorekeeper, who then lovingly placed it in a prime spot on their shelves while wearing white kid gloves.

This is an Apple-esque screenshot. I must now go outside and enjoy the sun with my kids.

iBookstore screenshot

Koboed Symmetry

Is “to Kobo” even a verb? Well, it is now because I’m a writer and I just wrote it. (It’s one of the perks of the job, you know!)

What this means is that my Young Adult novel Silent Symmetry is now available in the Kobo online store here: bit.ly/SilentSymmetryKB. Kobo is a very popular eReader in Canada and other countries, so I’m looking forward to seeing where sales originate. Speaking of which, I received this cutesy email from Kobo yesterday afternoon:

Kobo email

Of course it wasn’t my first book sale, but it was my first on Kobo, so I probably will remember it until I get super senile. And thanks to their beautiful, user-friendly dashboard I can even see that the sale came from… Canada! This isn’t exactly NSA Prism levels of tracking, but it’s a step beyond Amazon’s rather dry KDP reports.

So self-publishing on the Kobo platform has gone about as smoothly as it did on Amazon. I wish I could say the same for Apple. The only positive I took from yesterday’s teeth-grinding experience uploading my book to the iBookstore was the speedy email response to a support question I had. But… why, oh why does Apple insist that writers download Mac-only software to upload a book, while Amazon and Kobo (and I think Barnes & Noble) use a simple, intuitive browser interface? Not only did I have to co-opt my cover designer’s sleek and lovely Macbook Air for several hours, but the process itself was fraught with issues that didn’t seem to come up when I published for Kindle and Kobo. (Example 1: Instead of simply writing my own genres or keywords, I had to go through a series of incredibly long drop-down menus of pre-approved labels. Example 2: Specifying that the book is for sale worldwide was clunky at best. Example 3: Several other steps.)

The upside of my struggle to get Silent Symmetry into the iBookstore was that I started drinking wine at 5 pm. The downside was pretty much the entire experience, including the fact that I don’t really know whether my efforts were successful. Steve Jobs used to say when presenting a new iDevice: “It just works.” Honestly, that’s what I would say about self-publishing on Amazon and Kobo. As for Apple, “It just about worked. I think.”

Yesterday FREE, today free!

It’s a subtle, but important distinction. Yesterday was Silent Symmetry’s last FREE day on Amazon, and today the book is free to be downloaded in other formats on Smashwords here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/334979. So just to recap: it’s free, but you have to pay for it.

I’m putting the finishing touches to publishing for Kobo, and it will hopefully be available shortly through Apple and Nook (Barnes and Noble). I say “hopefully” because Apple makes content creators jump through several Apple-shaped hoops that the other vendors don’t, while B&N seems to not want me to enter my bank information because it’s in Canada. Worst case scenario, I use Smashwords to distribute there too.

SSSmashwords

Here’s what part of the Smashwords Silent Symmetry page looks like. The only drawback to buying through this site is that you have to register, which some people are wary of because Smashwords isn’t a humongous corporate behemoth like Amazon, Apple and B&N that they “trust”. But you have to register on those sites too to be able to download books, and the kicker is that I get a higher commission per book sold through Smashwords. So go ahead: Rage against the capitalist machine! Buy through an indie site! Make me rich!*

Seriously, it doesn’t really matter to me where you buy Silent Symmetry as long as you open the book and start reading it. I’ll keep you posted on the Apple and B&N shenanigans.

*I probably make about 25 cents more per book through Smashwords, but that could buy a starving author like me extra foam on his latte or something.

Silent Symmetry’s final Amazon KDP Select free promo

Tomorrow marks the 180th day since Silent Symmetry was published on Amazon. In that time I’ve used eight of the ten KDP Select free days allowed by Amazon to get the book into the hands of about 6,000 targeted readers. As I wrote somewhere else, for an unknown novel by an unknown author, this is the equivalent of major radio airplay. Is it translating into sales? Slowly but surely. And as the first book in the Embodied trilogy, I’m looking at the long-term picture in terms of building an audience.

summer-sound-large-view_l

Summer sounds of Silent Symmetry

I’m using the last two free days today and tomorrow, so we’ll see how many new readers will come on board. I’ve also taken the first steps towards publishing Silent Symmetry for Apple iPads and iPhones, and for the Nook, Sony and Kobo ereaders (I have to wait till at least Thursday to publish according to the KDP Select agreement) so I’m excited to be able to get the book into the hands of a bunch of people who might have been missed so far.

It’s all about the readers. And the ereaders…

Photo credit: Brandon Christopher Warren / Foter / CC BY-NC

If an ebook soft-launches in the Amazon forest, does it make a sound?

My YA novel Silent Symmetry is ready to go out into the world. It will soon become one of a million virtual maple seeds spinning to the forest floor. Will it take root? Will it grow? My research has shown that the ways of ebook marketing are a mystery to writers everywhere. No one knows what works. No one has the magic formula or the secret recipe. Okay, I’m out of metaphors. Oh wait, here’s another one: it’s a crap shoot. For every poorly written 50 Shades that hits the big time, there are probably thousands of great books that never quite take root. Ah, the forest metaphor returns…

A future book.

A future book.

All this woodland imagery is no accident. Whether you think of it as the world’s biggest jungle or river, Amazon is also the world’s biggest ebook store. Although its competitors (particularly Apple and Barnes & Noble) have made advances in the last couple of years, something like 75% of all ebook sales are through Amazon. There is a positive and a negative aspect to this situation. The plus is that if an author gets any kind of visibility on Amazon, they have a good chance of selling their book. But the problem is that Amazon has also found ways of controlling the market. One way is the company’s KDP Select program.

In a nutshell, Amazon has set up a fund for KDP Select titles so that an author receives a royalty when their book is borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. In exchange, the author has to grant Amazon a 90-day distribution exclusivity period. Not all ebook authors are happy about this, and with good reason. Any author with a book that’s selling well in the Apple iBookstore would be crazy to withdraw it for three months on the off-chance that it will be borrowed a few times. But for a new work, there’s very little downside and one huge upside to enrolling in KDP Select: five days of free giveaways, scheduled whenever the author desires.

Amazon doesn’t normally allow authors to price books at $0.00. However you might be thinking, why would an author give away all that hard work for free? The answer is promotion. Many websites and blogs feature free ebooks. The key to visibility in the dense Amazonian jungle is twofold: positive reviews and sales ranking. So telling review sites that your ebook will be free for two days next week means that there’s a chance they will feature and review it. Regular readers also trawl Amazon for free Kindle books, so they may also download the freebie. Although this might seem like a lost sale, it isn’t really. I think it’s similar to the radio/record store model of content distribution. It’s like you’re broadcasting your book in the same way that a radio station plays songs. For an unknown artist, this visibility (Really? visibility on the radio? Bah, I can’t come up with a better word!) is priceless and should translate into in-store sales. And it’s the same for an ebook.

eBooks ain't noise pollution.

eBooks ain’t noise pollution.

So the idea is that you build an audience through the judicious use of these five $0.00 KDP Select days in combination with reviews and being featured on free eBook sites. Then when the freebie period is over, some people who are prepared to pay for your book will actually see it on Amazon and be able to read reviews. If the book is any good, this should start building a market for it. And once the KDP-exclusive 90 days are over, ship it out to Apple and the rest and hope that your book’s new-found readership spills over by word-of-mouth (or word-of-web) to create sales through those lesser, yet still significant, distribution channels.

I finished the final coding of Silent Symmetry today. The formatting is good, the Table of Contents works and the copyright page is written. I’m going to soft launch it on KDP Select this week with a placeholder cover. The real cover should be ready in a week or two and uploading it will just take a few minutes, but it’s worth me rushing the book onto Amazon because I want to the KDP 90 days to start right away. The sooner they start, the sooner they end.

It’s quiet in the forest. So quiet you can hear a young leaf unfurl. Shhh…

Photo credit (tree): arielmatzuk / Foter / CC BY-ND
Photo credit (radio): bricolage.108 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA