Part 2 – Setting Up Your Online Shop

We’re onto Part 2 of our exciting adventure. The amusing header image here is courtesy of http://onlyhdwallpapers.com

Time to Build a Shop

By now you should have a handful of short stories converted into .epub, or at the very least one short story, from Part 1. If not, that’s cool, too. Stick around, and, uh, make yourself at home.

I looked around at several online store options, but most of them cost around $10-$15 a month for the basic plan (eg. Shopify.com) and that is just for a minimal plan of 10-20 items. You can fill that up pretty quickly. Frankly, I don’t expect to make that much in a month, certainly not to begin with.

What to do, what to do?

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Part 1 – Dance with me: Converting a Word .doc into clean HTML for ePub

Well, how could you resist an article with such a sexy, non-technical title?

Part 1 – Converting a .doc file into clean HTML

To go back to the main article, click here.

Introduction

The first part of our walkthrough is the hardest: finding a story you can sell. I’ve chosen to sell only previously published stories, which requires me to make sure that I have the rights to reprint them. Usually when you sell a story to an anthology, you are not allowed to reprint or resell that particular story for a given period, generally a year or more. You should check your individual contracts.

Of course nothing is stopping you from selling your unpublished work right alongside your published work.

I’ll explain my personal process here, which you can choose to ignore. This tutorial will help you just as much, regardless of your approach.

I will be alternating between Windows and Mac version of the system, as I’m writing this article on different computers. Hopefully it won’t be too confusing. Most of the steps are the same.

This is a long article, and I hope it mostly makes sense. Ask away in the comments or on the social media provider of your choice (that I am also on), and let me know what works and what is confusing. There’s a lot to go through.

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Selling Your Shorts All By Your Lonesome

And no, I don’t mean pants. People! Honestly. This is a serious blog. I use swears sometimes.

Introduction

Books are complicated beasts. Books need legitimacy, and legitimacy is an ISBN. That’s a way for people to order your book. It files you in the Great Big Library in the Cloud.

There’s no such unique code for short fiction, and short fiction (in my inexpert opinion) languishes in the digital era. Amazon is making a push for it with their StoryFront imprint, which assigns each story an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number), a number which is of no interest or use to anyone else. Worse, they treat short stories like novel length works, providing tremendously useful information such as the number of ‘Print Pages’ for each story. Amazon doesn’t take this shit seriously and I’m tired of it.

Anyway, since I’m nobody, I decided I would simply take my own published fiction for which I had publishing rights, and produce the stories as ePubs. (This would work for poems, too, to an even lesser degree. Depressing, when you think about it really.)

Having taken on this burden, I began an exciting journey, one I have chronicled here for you in many parts. The first part begins here.

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eBooks: When the container has no value, what are you actually paying for?

I recently stumbled into a conversation with the lovely @Virginia from Booki.sh, on twitter. I’d waded into some discussion about the excessive price of ebooks in Australia vs Amazon’s pricing (for non-Agency pricing, obviously).

@PnPBookseller @fangbooks I’m yet to understand (as a reader) how an ebook is worth $15+. I get costings etc, but as a _reader_ it’s crazy.

@PnPBookseller @fangbooks personally $10 is the utter maximum I’d pay for a non-DRM book. $5 would be reasonable. #themarketdoesntlikeittho

Twitter is a great medium for forcing you to refine your point, but subtlety is often lost. What I meant is that, purely from a reader/consumer perspective and disregarding any production costs of an ebook, $15 is a ridiculous price to pay for a digital file. Virginia challenged me with:

@Cacotopos But as a reader, you’re used to paying $30 for books! And most of the enjoyment is derived from the words, is it not?

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My Curse (of Art and Artists)

This brief post is too long for twitter. It’s about artists who are douchebags.

I have this annoying habit that if I discover that an artist is a douchebag, my opinion of their art is affected. If they’re lucky, the art is so good that it doesn’t matter enough that I won’t buy it. If  they’re unlucky, their personality (or at least the perception of their personality) tips the balance.

A good local example is the writer John Birmingham. I’ve never read any of his work, not even Falafel, though I am familiar with some of the people who inspired several of its stories. Nonetheless, his apparent congeniality and positive attitude towards his fans strongly tips the balance in favour of the art that he produces.

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It is time to opine. Today we talk digital publishing.

Let’s begin this with some manner of controversial statement. Specifically:

The trade paperback is dead.

I attended an excellent talk about the future of the digital book hosted by Kate Eltham (@Kate_eltham) and Richard Nash (@R_Nash), and it crystallised many of the thoughts that had already been coalescing in my mind and bumping into each other to create ill-formed monstrosities.

To whit: it is important to separate the book as container and the book as content. I won’t delve into these insights as Kate did a far better job and I would only be paraphrasing her poorly. The point is, separating the container from the content gives us a perspective that will allow me to clarify my earlier statement: the paperback book is dead.

Let us ignore the faux-hardcover volumes that have been polluting the Australian marketplace for years. These are books that are the same proportion as hardcover books, and attract a similar price, yet have none of the quality or durability of the originals that they so poorly shadow. I’m referring more specifically to the trade paperbacks that I grew up with and of which I have several shelves full.

Trade paperbacks exist because there was a market need to provide content as cheaply as possible. They have no artistic or other merit; they clutter your shelves but add no aesthetic or collectible value. Unless you read them carefully (as I do) they present a vista of crushed, flaking, discoloured spines to your visitors. They exist only to get the story into your brain as cheaply as possible.

Clearly, digital books done right are superior to trade paperbacks in every way, except that of providing an eyesore and filling your shelves. At this time (July 2010), and especially in Australia, the digital publishing industry is lagging approximately 10 years behind the music publishing industry, and seems doomed to repeat all its many mistakes, even while authors such as Scott Sigler, Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross are reaping amazing rewards from their approach to digital distribution. Of course, digital files still need to be affordable, unlocked, and in a standardised format (at this stage .epub seems the best, but I am no expert), before they are any threat to paperbacks, but the cheap unlocked digital book is an inevitability, given market forces, so I won’t rant further about that at this time,

A digital book, even in its most simplistic form as plain text in digital format, allows us to enjoy books like we enjoy movies: an on-demand access to our entertainment. Plain old digital books allow us to download a book each time we want to read it, instead of acquiring it and storing it in the interim. Remember, for the vast majority of the time that you own a book, you are not reading it. It makes more sense to simply pull the digital file out of storage when, every year or so, you get the urge to revisit a narrative you remember fondly.

What we are left with then, to offset the purely digital, disposable future of books, is a resurgence in the value of the book-as-container. As I said earlier, most of your time with a book is spent not reading it, and the quality-bound, beautiful, durable (and sometimes collectible) container has a new lease on life in this world; it serves an aesthetic purpose while it’s not being read.

What all this rambling is trying to show is that hardcover books are a better container than a trade paperback, and a digital file is a cheaper medium for content than a trade paperback.

The trade paperback no longer has a purpose in the publishing world. The trade paperback is dead.

Opinions and counterarguments from people in the actual publishing industry who have an actual clue about it, as opposed to my ill-informed rambling, are very welcome in the comments section below.