I’ve finally uploaded my ebook, “Drasmyr,” to Amazon. Like I’ve said before I have the business sense of a stone. It took me a while to figure out that it might be a good idea to put my work on the web-site with, oh about, 70% of the market share for on-line books, or whatever it is. Anyway, its up and available for those looking for a good read. From my understanding, Amazon doesn’t do free ebooks, so I had to sell it for a price: I decided to go with $2.99 for now. The book is still available at Smashwords for free.
On a completely different tangent than my usual posts, I figured I would relate the following mishap I had.
As most of you know, I self-published my book Drasmyr through Smashwords. They distribute ebooks to Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobi, and elsewhere. They are currently working out a deal to distribute to Amazon. However, at the moment, my ebook is not available on Amazon. One of the comments on this site (I’ve looked for it, but I couldn’t find it to give proper mention) wondered why I didn’t publish with Kindle Direct. I guess my real answer is that I’ve got the business-sense of a stone. Actually, I thought there might be copyright issues if I published at both Smashwords and Amazon. Smashwords says there isn’t. I’m going to do the research on Amazon to find out if they agree. Then, I’m going to publish on Amazon.
Which brings me to my little incident.
Yesterday, I was set to work on getting my book published on Amazon. First thing to do is to get it in the right format so it uploads properly to the kindle. No problem, or so I thought. I’m looking through the information Amazon has; they’ve got everything condensed in a short book on the topic, “Building Your Ebook for the Kindle” or something like that. And it’s free. Great, I’ll just download that. For some reason or other it doesn’t want to download into my phone. Okay, fine, I’ll do it the roundabout way. I download the Kindle for the PC to my PC—much like its name implies, that is just kindle software that works on your PC. Then I download the ebook to the Kindle for the PC on my PC. So far, so good. Next, I hook up my phone to my PC via USB cable. I was thinking I could just copy it over like I had done with every book I had gotten through Smashwords. No dice. It doesn’t work. Hmmm. Let’s try the Sync function. Big Mistake. The stupid software “erased” my access to every non-Amazon book on my phone. So, basically, my phone went from storing 11 books on it, to storing 7. I lost four books. But not really. I could access them on my phone via my computer, but not via the phone. So, I copied them into the Kindle on PC. For some inexplicable reason, this actually worked. Then, I started the gruesome, and I mean gruesome, process of getting the books from my PC onto my phone.
Four and a half hours and five tech support conversations later, I finally did it. And I learned something in the process: web pages are a big pain in the tuckus to navigate through. There is so much information on every page of a big site like Amazon, it’s enough to drive you mad. At one point, I had like five different Amazon pages open on my computer, each one containing some tiny, but vital clue to the problem. Those web pages are not user-friendly and they are becoming less-so by the minute. First, Amazon and most other big sites hide their contact information because they want you to use their FAQ pages in lieu of human-to-human help—so you don’t waste their time with easily solvable problems. Well, my time is valuable too, you know, and I don’t like wading through page after page of FAQ support, looking for the correct question. They have search algorithms to find the question for you, but it didn’t work very well in my case. I had to contact them. So I did. Several times. The first guy tried a couple things, but they didn’t work. So, he told me to email the files to the special kindle e-mail address. Tried that. Managed to get my books uploaded to my Amazon account, but couldn’t get it from there to my phone. So, at this point, I have the books at every conceivable location except where I want them! Called back. This time, they tried to refer me back to Smashwords and said it was their problem, because that’s where I got the books from. I went to Smashwords sent them an e-mail, but their help desk was backlogged for the next 10 days. Yes, 10 days. Anyway, eventually, after a couple more calls to Amazon’s tech support, I finally got the books downloaded to my phone. I was elated when it finally happened. Could have kissed the guy through the phone. Well, maybe not.
Anyway, that’s my story. At least they gave me a blog post. J There is one final point to stress, though. According to Amazon, the latest version of kindle does not allow you to copy files from your computer to your kindle app or device. That was the method that Smashwords suggested. Now, it doesn’t work. I e-mailed Smashwords to let them know, but that puts a pretty big snag in the Smashwords business model. At least for now; I assume they’ll figure something out.
The dark fantasy novel, “Drasmyr” is now available for free at Smashwords until Friday, June 22nd with the coupon code: DR66V.
When I first started my blog several months ago, I was dead set against giving my e-book away for free. It seemed so counterproductive. Indeed, I am still somewhat hesitant to do so; the book represents several years of labor on my part. I would prefer to earn some kind of financial reward for my book, but let’s face it: I have very little name recognition. Matthew D. Ryan… who’s that? Between twitter and my blog, I have about one hundred followers to date. Which is good—it’s certainly better than ten, or say, zero—but I have to grow a little faster. Sales are sluggish, partially because of the lame economy, I’m sure. Anyway, now that I’ve been at this a few months, I can more clearly see the “reward” inherent in giving the book away for free. Basically, it helps build name recognition, something a beginning writer desperately needs.
So, given that, I’m going to run a little experiment. For the next few days (until Friday, June 22nd), I’m going to give the book away for free at Smashwords. The coupon code is: DR66V. I will see if the increased number of sales is significant enough to make this a more permanent retail price. If not, then I guess it’s back to the drawing board. But, well, we’ll see…
In celebration of my recently completed blog tour, I am putting my book, “Drasmyr,” on sale until Wednesday, June 13th, 2012. It will be available for $0.99 at Smashwords with the appropriate coupon code. The code is: BK75E. Hope you enjoy the read!
I’ve written previously on this topic, but I felt inclined to revisit it today.
The writing industry, like many other industries, is in the process of being transformed by technology, specifically the Internet. Technology is having a variety of effects on the written word, many of which are detrimental. First, the English language (and most probably all the other ones) are disintegrating beneath an avalanche of abbreviations. Dn’t u think so 2? The art of writing still exists, and there are a select number of individuals who can still make a living at it, but a new threat is rising. The ebook.
The ebook is, basically, a digital book. As opposed to the standard paperback or hardcover, the digital book can be copied almost endlessly, and transferred over wires and through the air. This leads to a few difficult issues, such as copyright problems, and perhaps even easier information theft, however, the ease of production and copying has led to a reduction in prices (excepting where a few monopolistic concerns are involved) and increased availability. If one visits a site like Smashwords one will find a host of books under $5 or even free, a far cry from the typical $10 or $12 normally required for a traditional book. A search on Google for “free ebooks” leads to a whole page of options where one can be entertained for free. One takes a risk, though, with a free ebook—because it is so easy to produce one, quality is not guaranteed. What has happened is that all the books which would normally make up the infamous “slush pile” at a traditional publishing house have found their way on-line. The result is a hodgepodge of books on everything under the sun, written at varying levels of ability.
It is the free ebook that I worry about the most as a threat to the writing industry. Whether intentionally or not, they may drive the more traditional publishing houses out of business. I could be wrong. I hope I am. But the problem is twofold: as the literary skills (dn’t u think so 2?) of the general population decline, the literary ability required to satisfy them will also decline. Combine this with an enormous influx of free ebooks, and the traditional book industry might have a serious problem. Why spend $12 on a traditional book, or $6 on a traditional book houses’ ebook, when one can get comparable entertainment from a free ebook? Taken together these factors may spell the death of the writing industry.
Perhaps I’m being paranoid. The writing industry has survived other technological upheavals in the past; perhaps it will survive this one as well. I hope so.
Oh, I almost forgot. This is “Read an Ebook Week” on Smashwords. I decided to join in and am offering my vampire/fantasy novel Drasmyr for 50% off (about $1.50 USD). The offer is good through March 10, 2012. The coupon code is: REW50.
We vampires do not make easy prey. Our weaknesses are few, our strengths many. Fear is something we do not know, and death but a distant memory. So tread softly, pray to your god, and gird yourself with silver when the moons arise and night’s dark prince awakens. We fear not the wizard, nor the warrior, neither rogue, nor priest; our strength is timeless, drawn from darkness and we know no master save the hot lust of our unending hunger. We long for blood, your blood and no blade, nor spell, nor clever artifice, can keep us long from our prize. Feel our teeth at your throat, your life ebb from you, and know as darkness comes to claim you that the price of your folly is your everlasting soul.
All right, I was going to write about something else today, but I stumbled across an e-mail from Mark Coker the Founder of Smashwords in my inbox. For those who don’t know, Smashwords is an independent author ebook publishing site. They serve some 30,000 + authors and help produce a boatload of ebooks. Here’s the problem: Paypal, a subsidiary of Ebay, recently gave Smashwords a surprise ultimatum: remove all titles containing bestiality, incest, or rape, otherwise Paypal will deactivate Smashwords’ paypal account. The problem is, of course, censorship.
Do I support bestiality, incest, or rape? Of course not. But I want writers to have access to the tools they need to tell their stories. To be fair to Paypal, the e-mail I read said nothing about “being shown in a positive light” or not. So, perhaps, Paypal is willing to let negative portrayals of rape, bestiality, and incest pass. If not, however, that is a serious problem. Let’s take rape, for example. Crime novels, where the crime is a rape, would fall under the wide brush of Paypal’s censor. That could seriously decimate the number of crime novels that would be permitted on Smashwords’ site.
But even if Paypal is only against “positive portrayals” of rape, incest and bestiality, I still think they should back off. What about a crime novel about a rapist that tells the story of a rape from the criminal’s point of view? If Paypal is against portrayals of any and all rapes, then this should be censored out. If they are just against “positive portrayals” of rape, then the issue is a little bit muddier. In the context of the entire book, it’s a given that the rape will be viewed negatively. But in the context of the isolated scene, the author will do his or her best to get inside the head of the rapist. Suppose he was abused as a child? That doesn’t justify the crime, of course, but it might soften the tone. I would be hard pressed to imagine a serious “positive portrayal” of rape or bestiality or incest—well, okay, rape I can’t imagine at all, but as Mark Coker himself pointed out, what about all that teenage-werewolf love that’s going on? Is that bestiality? And incest? What if I want to tell a story about the Pharoahs of Egypt? That wouldn’t fly either. The problem is that the lines of demarcation for such things, particularly in fiction, can be very blurry. Trying to prevent one fictional occurrence from happening will likely blot out a great deal of good fiction.
As a general rule legal forms of censorship are a bad idea. Most of the time, the brush is too broad to serve its goals effectively. For myself, as an author, I would never even consider portraying rape, incest, or bestiality in a positive light. But I have, in the background of a character here and there, used rape in the character’s development. And I don’t think I should have to deny myself access to other similar tools if the situation calls for it. I’ll probably never use them. But who knows? If it can occur in reality, it just might occur in fiction.
In the e-mail I received from Mark Coker, the Founder of Smashwords, he said that the push behind the effort was coming from the credit card companies. I don’t know where the financial service companies get the idea that they know enough about literature that they can set themselves up as censors, but that’s the way this is evolving. Anyway, here is a list of links (also provided by Mark Coker of Smashwords) for those of you who wish to let the credit card companies know how you feel about the topic.
Ebay (owns PayPal):
And with that, I bid you adieu.