The First Twenty Steps
a novella by Michael D. Smith
available as an eBook for $1.00
Placing this novella for sale on Barnes and Noble’s PubIt site is an experiment. I want to see how e-publishing works and I regard this short work as one of my best plots. I’m not intending to self-publish all my novels in this manner, but I do want to put this contribution out there and see what happens. I want to experiment with e-publishing formats and processes, and to offer some sample work.
And since the PubIt site asks me to name my “publishing house,” why naturally I settled on Sortmind Publishing.
The First Twenty Steps is 25,730 words, 96 pages in Word, and 60 pages on the Nook or the free “Nook for PC” app. (Nook owners will recognize that there are a lot more than 60 screens of text.) The novella is not available in print (yet!) but that’s the whole point of PubIt, which offers only eBooks.
Harry, the novella’s hero, is an ex-convict, just released from prison in the afternoon, who later that night finds himself mixed up with a motorcycle gang’s plan to steal a supercomputer from the dreaded Dataflux building. He finds a kindred spirit in Roberta, who’s in thrall to the gang’s passive-aggressive tyrant, Alexander. Falling in love, Harry decides he must help her by infiltrating himself into the gang and eventually escaping with her. But when Alexander announces that the gang will commit a major crime this evening to pay back favors from the corrupt city council, Harry realizes that their plan was doomed all along, that he and Roberta have compromised themselves by their contact with Alexander’s evil. And then the motorcycle attack on the Dataflux computer building turns terrifying and surreal …
The First Twenty Steps came from a decades-old dream in which I was a member of a ruthless commune swooping down from helicopters to attack and occupy a fifty-nine story office building deep in the city, deep in the night. Yet I’d always thought of “59” as unwritable. It was a buried dream, plotless, wordless, full of power, recalled only months or years after it actually took place. What on earth were we doing attacking that building? And … who were we?
Feel free to write a review on the PubIt site, or as a comment on the blog. I was trying for as flawless a manuscript as possible—if you find any typos, please let me know! The beauty of the eBook is that you can keep correcting it.
So How Do You Get It?
For Nook owners, you can download 20 Steps, once purchased, like any eBook. But there’s also a free Nook for PC app you can download to your PC. Here’s the link for it:
The Nook for PC application allows you to read the eBook on your PC. Once downloaded, the app and any downloaded books reside on your computer like a “virtual e-reader. You don’t need to be on the Internet to read it.
Nook owners can synchronize their reader with this app. When you connect your Nook, the app displays a simple panel for copying the desired book or books to the Nook. I haven’t tested this with other e-readers; “more research is needed.”)
There are also free Nook apps for iPad, iPhone, and Android on the B&N site under “Nook.”
I shot the cover photo, a digital close up of wrenches and marbles. As far as I can tell, the cover appears only on the B&N product page. Another view of the 1275 x 1650 pixel original is at:
Mysteries of the In-House EAN – and Copyrighting
The product number could be an ISBN, but in my case is an EAN, 2940012097644. B&N assigns this “in house ISBN” if you don’t buy your own ISBN. Which I chose not to do after visiting http://www.isbn.org/ and discovering that one ISBN is $125! (BUT you can get 10 for $250, or 1,000 for $1,000!) The EAN is a retail barcode system, the acronym originally standing for “European Article Numbering” according to … the Internet!
But while I may not have been willing to pay $125 for an ISBN, I have registered the copyright with the Copyright Office for $35. Reviewing the copyright site and then e-registering was a sort of benevolent nightmare, a weird mixture of literary and legalistic sensibilities. It was quite an accomplishment (and a web learning experience!) to get through that thing.
In addition to figuring out the steps necessary to get The First Twenty Steps uploaded to PubIt in an .epub version, I treated the entire process much the same way I do for preparing novel queries and submissions. I made several synopses, ranging from the master double-spaced seven page present tense narrative explaining every plot point, to the compact one page single-spaced overview, as well as the one sentence pitch, the three paragraph synopsis, and a marketing plan. Not only were these good for composing the novella summary on sortmind.com as well as the one on its PubIt page, but the process of organizing my thoughts about my fiction is always beneficial. And of course I may want to submit 20 Steps to other publishers at some point, so it’s important to have all this nailed down.
Other Novels Not Being Considered for PubIt
Meanwhile I have five other medium-sized novels I’m sending off to publishers: The Martian Marauders, Nonprofit Ladies, The University of Mars, CommWealth, and Jack Commer, Supreme Commander. I’m not thinking of putting all these works on PubIt. I still want to pursue royalty publishing in the eBook sphere, and keep these five novels in the mix. 20 Steps is an experiment in putting some writing out there, and I might do it yet with a few other novels, but I’m not thinking PubIt is the final answer, either. Just one more path to explore. A bit of sample writing to shove out the writing helicopter.
Two others novels are finished, Akard Drearstone and Sortmind (the novel), and another one, The Soul Institute, is on its last draft. But these three are very long works and I’m holding off on querying about them for right now.
Another reason for putting 20 Steps on PubIt is that a novella is often an awkward length for most venues, too long for a short story in a magazine, too short for book publication.
Why am I querying/submitting so many novels all at once? This could be the subject of a new post. A few years ago I took a look at a bunch of my older works and saw how I could rewrite them with new insight and maturity. Over the past few years I took a break from new fiction and rewrote every older work that deserved it, bringing them psychically up to date, and confining the rest to the desk drawer. Having finally completed that task, I’m now quite happy to be starting a fourteenth novel.
Of my thirteen completed (or about to be) novels, eight could fly, I believe. I would not be seeing publication for any novel I didn’t think was high quality and publishable. Seeking publication is VERY time-consuming, even when (or especially when?) sending out five at a time.
eBooks in General
I also want to experience the eBook process in case I want to start my own publishing e-press someday. (Although it sort of looks as if I already have done so with PubIt …) The former stigma of self-publishing appears to be lessening, and we’re beginning to see some benefits from this direct approach, in that authors can bypass the slush piles and the closed-off major publishing houses and see if their work can find some readers without the middleman. I’m not worried about self-publishing dumbing down our culture. The poor quality stuff is ultimately just not going to fly. There is a lot of valid new experimentation going on, and it feels great to be part of it. “Discover emerging authors & their new releases,” as the PubIt site puts it.
It could be that one day Sortmind Publishing will expand into a bona fide publishing concern, who knows? I have quite a lot to learn about the epub document format and e-publishing in general.
copyright 2011 by Michael D. Smith