Tag: self-publishing

The super-short e-book

I have a theory that people would read more if books were shorter, say like 10 pages or less. If that sounds ridiculous, wait until you hear me out.

In a year of study, I’ve found people really don’t read books. They hate the idea of reading books for one reason: it takes too long. People will binge watch a TV series for six hours, but will say reading a book takes too long. People will watch movies for two hours, even if they are bad movies. People even seem to take pleasure in watching bad movies and critiquing them afterward with friends. Nobody wants to wade through a bad book, however, and fear of doing so prevents people from even picking one up.

The key to being a modern writer is to come up with a format of reading that would allow people to read bad books and not mind.

To think in purely economic terms, as opposed to artistic, we are talking about consumers and their tendencies for purchasing stories. People need stories of some kind. They literally can’t live without them. By far the most popular way to consume stories is through video. No matter how much you tout a book, most people would rather get the story through their TV.

What if books were super short? Would people want to come home on a Friday night and read a 10-page story? My history of blogging has proved that people do like to read, as long as the reading doesn’t take too long.

I have released a super-short e-book as a test. You can read it for free this Friday through Sunday. It is called The Secret, by JJ Petes. It is available for 99 cents on Kindle or can be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription right now.

I expect nobody to read this super short e-book and I certainly have no intention of making money from it. I only want to test the theory. If even a couple of my small number of followers gives the book a try, maybe I’m on to something. Super short might be the only way to go.

 

 

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The greatest compliment

I usually don’t get past the first page or two of most books, so the greatest compliment I can give any book is to finish it. I sample a lot of books and it’s a pretty decent compliment if I pass the first chapter. I found a random book yesterday that lured me beyond the nine percent mark on Kindle. The book is Deadly Messengers by Susan May.

I plunged right in without reading any blurbs and found the general writing style to my liking and the story intriguing enough. I will continue reading it today and see how far I get. The beauty of reading on Kindle Unlimited is I can quit the book anytime.

If I make it all the way through, I may even take a stab at writing a short review for this blog. I promise to keep it short to increase the odds that you will finish it.

 

The Kindle Scout program

Today I discovered the Kindle Scout program, a system which allows amateur readers to read amateur works and decide which e-books are potentially publishable. This is not exactly how the system is described, but that’s exactly what it is. For the official description of “reader-powered” publishing, click here.

I sampled a couple of the books available and they were not worth recommending, but the Kindle Scout program is worth noticing. It marks a corporate embrace of a self-publishing world in which all the dirty work is done by the self-publishers for free. Somewhere an agent and perhaps an editor are looking for a new line of work, if they think reader-powered publishing stands a chance at success. Could the days of sending manuscripts to agents be ending?

What is an agent, but just a person with an opinion about a writer’s submission? Does an agent really know which books will be a big hit? Maybe the really good agents do, but what about those worker-bee agents who are essentially glorified readers, combing the desert for the next Harry Potter?

Maybe I’m way off base. Having only met one agent in my life, perhaps the publishing world doesn’t work the way I think it does. Still, the Kindle people appear to be pushing the future of publishing to a new level. The idea may ultimately fail due to lack of readable content, but Amazon is powerful enough to take the chance.

As a reader, I am thirsty for some great writer to get my attention, but am I willing to wade through a bunch of random writing in hopes of finding something brilliant? Am I willing to become the worker-bee agent for free? No, I am not. So, who is?

What kind of person would be reading a submission of mine? Is it someone with a refined taste for modern literature, or a bored teenager seeking a few laughs?

Kindle Scout presents lots of questions, while forcing a modern reader and writer to ponder what the system is creating. Maybe I can submit a work to be read by “scouts” and at least know somebody gave it a chance. I can’t always know that about submissions to agents. Perhaps it is a good thing for submissions to be read by regular people instead of paid agents.

I guess the biggest conclusion I draw from exploring the Kindle Scout system is that Kindle is continuing to innovate in ways that other booksellers are not, making the survival of Kindle more likely than the survival of Nook or Kobo or iBooks. Kindle is turning into a bit of a writer’s community, much like WordPress, but for books that writers can theoretically sell for actual money.

 

 

 

What if word of mouth was all you had?

A writer can wake up each morning and ask the question: what should I write? Whatever the writer decides to write, the next question becomes: How will I get read?

In today’s modern world there are more options than ever for getting read. A writer can start a blog and perhaps generate a few readers. A writer can post their work to social media and beg their friends and acquaintances for a moment of their time. A writer can save the morning composition and collect it as part of a future book, in which might be their ticket to stardom and riches. 

What if there were no publishing houses with advertising and marketing at their disposal? What if you were left with one method of promotion and that was word of mouth? 

Advertising professionals are little more than carnival barkers pulling a fast one on the consumer, saying anything to make a fool part with his money. Yet, they are a necessary part of the entertainment world. Without them, consumers wouldn’t know what exists. 

Professional marketers and advertiswers are often good at their jobs and their methods are effective, but pretend for a minute that the world of advertising doesn’t exist. All that exists are writers and readers and the only way to get read is through word of mouth, perhaps the most honest form of advertising.

Would you choose to write something different today? 

Is browsing in bookstores still a relevant source of sales?

If your town is similar to mine, few bookstores exist. As far as corporate chains, or large, recognizable book-selling brands go there is only one such store in my town. In the past few years, I’ve set foot in that store twice, both around the holidays, in search of gifts for family members. 

So, if my patterns are similar in any way to the masses, which I would guess they are, few people browse in bookstores anymore. I’ve read reports that print books made a comeback in recent years, that people are choosing to hold a real book in their hands over a tablet, but are they going to the bookstore to purchase those books? If print books are really making a comeback, will we see bookstores make a comeback? 

This is an important question for aspiring writers, because one has to decide if potential readers are going to find their book in a real bookstore. If a writer decides he or she won’t find a large number of potential readers within a bookstore, that means the readers will more likely find an author’s writings online or in a digital bookstore. If you wrote a book in the past decade, there is little to no chance I have seen it in a bookstore. 

If you wanted to get my attention and sell me a book, you would need another advertising vehicle. I can’t remember the last time I saw an advertisement for a book, but I see plenty of ads for movies that say, “based on the book.” I’ll admit to reading a few of those. The only other way I come across books is by browsing online or by recommendation from friends.

I can count recommendations from friends on one hand without using all five fingers and not one of those recommendations led to a book I liked. The only book I liked in the past decade from browsing a bestseller list was Gone Girl. I’ve struck out with so many books using the browsing method that I am unlikely to keep browsing, so where does that leave me as a reader?

I see plenty of blogs advertising books written by independent publishers, but not one has convinced me to buy their book. Unfortunately, if you are trying to sell your book with a blog or social-media account, you come across as amateur and nobody wants to buy a book from an amateur. 

As a reader, I am often left reading classics that have passed the test of time and are known to be good reads. That way I don’t waste my time on some random book. The independent modern writer is not reaching me, the modern reader, with books of print or electonic variety. 

I don’t know what that means for the modern writer, but it is possible that the traditional idea of a book is dying, even though readers are supposedly returning to print books. Give me all the stats you like, I see no evidence in my daily life of people going into bookstores or talking about the latest Kindle read. 

Discovering an independent writer

Getting on with the never ending story search and in keeping with today’s fascination with super-short stories, I stumbled onto an independent writer who has published a bunch of short works.

Eduardo Soliz is a tech guy by day and writer by night, or so his Amazon bio says. His seven published e-books bear the mark of self-publishing, which is always a detriment when compared with the flashy cover designs of the professionals.

It’s funny how I can create a cover for my own e-book and think it looks decent or passable, but whenever I see covers of other self-published authors they serve as a deterrent for purchase. This tells me my covers are also a major draw back and mark of amateurism.

We all judge books by their cover more than we like to admit, but I’ll look past it and try sample some of Soliz’ work today. I’ll come back with a short review later.

Do super-short stories have a place?

The number one complaint about reading from everyone is lack of time for the hobby. One of the first questions asked about a reading assignment, by every student I ever knew was, “How long is it?”

If I buy a 500-page book, I am not expecting to finish it in a weekend. It might take me as long as a year to finish, depending on how busy I get and how good the book is. The fastest I’ll probably finish it is about a month. It is even more likely I’ll never finish it. Failure to finish happens when the book isn’t enthralling enough, generally.

So, are super-short stories of any value? I’m tempted to say no, but I’m curious enough to say yes. If you are curious enough to see what you will do, click here and check out the six-page book I published.

The cover is rubbish and I’m not claiming any prizes for the prose, but it’s a decent enough little story to run an experiment with. I’m betting nobody will be willing to pay the 99 cents to read it, not because it isn’t worth 99 cents, but because people aren’t used to buying such a short book.

Usually short stories are published in collections, which are often too long as a whole. In recent weeks, I’ve done a lot of book shopping and repeatedly come to the conclusion that books are too long for our modern age. They don’t fit into a modern life’s window for entertainment.

So, I’m trying something different to see what happens.