Just released from six years in prison, unsure how to meet basic needs, biker Harry finds a kindred spirit in Roberta, in thrall to a depraved motorcycle gang. But the passive-aggressive leader of the Cerberean Knights leads them into a major crime this evening as he seeks to pay back favors from the corrupt city council of One-West. As the motorcycle attack on the Dataflux computer building turns terrifying and surreal, Harry and Roberta find themselves outgunned by another biker gang belonging to a mysterious billionaire who intervenes to protect his secret hyperspatial supercomputer.
I recently discovered the eBook self-publishing/distribution site Smashwords and decided to continue the self-publishing experiments I began with my novella The First Twenty Steps, which I first self-published January 2011 on Barnes and Noble’s PubIt site (recently restyled Nook Press) and then June 2011 on amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. My original goal was to offer some sample work and to experiment with different e-publishing processes, and this year I decided that Smashwords’ approach was also worth pursuing. Though Smashwords also distributes to Barnes and Noble and amazon, I decided to opt out of using Smashwords to distribute to those two, and to leave the original PubIt/Nook Press and Kindle Direct Publishing processes in place, so that I can keep up with three different methods.
So The First Twenty Steps is now available at:
- Smashwords (and the various sites it distributes to, like iTunes, Kobo, and Sony Reader Store)
- Barnes and Noble (Nook Press)
- amazon.com (Kindle Direct Publishing)
This new version isn’t really a true “second edition,” though it now has a free ISBN from Smashwords. The text hasn’t changed, but I spent a lot of time upgrading the cover, which I also sent to Barnes and Noble and amazon. I’m just curious to keep experimenting with these processes and to see how the novella fares out there. I’ve long regarded The First Twenty Steps as one of my best works; I always found it difficult to know how to market it to publishers, due to its length–too long for a story and too short for a novel. But it seems an ideal size for formatting experiments and different self-publishing processes.
I’ve been interested in Smashwords’ approach since reading owner Mark Coker’s 12/21/12 blog post and his free eBook marketing and style guides. Formatting the MS. according to Smashwords’ style sheet proved easier than I’d thought it would, and I learned much from the process, including discovering a way to turn off Word’s annoying profusions of unwanted styles, and how to create an extremely cleanly formatted manuscript. I had no trouble with the download or with getting the book certified as a Premium Edition, meaning it gets distributed to the various sales channels Smashwords contracts with. The finished product looks great in EPUB, HTML, PDF, and MOBI (Kindle) formats. There are other formats; I didn’t test them all. But if you obtain the novella from the Smashwords site itself, you can pay once and then download the book in all the formats you would like.
The ease of dealing with Smashwords, along with its distribution reach, makes me consider trying some other works as well. One thing I have vowed, however, is that anything I either submit to royalty publishers, or self-publish, has to be my best work. There has to be a feeling that a reader you’ve never met will find some benefit in your contribution. You don’t put your crappy backlog out in the self-publishing arena just because you wrote it and your ego thinks it deserves publication. Your novels are not just “your babies” which you connive to get into the finest, most prestigious school.
Yes, I no longer think Akard Draft 1 would look cute up there on amazon.com! Coker emphasizes quality of the writing even above “marketing,” and that’s exactly what I’ve been saying for years now–but not quite believing it was enough. But it is enough. A good book will somehow, eventually, find its way. And consider that there is nothing really preventing The First Twenty Steps from lingering in cyberspace for decades after my death–so it goes into the public domain at some point, but maybe gets discovered in 2071!
From a purely practical standpoint, if you have four novels up for sale and two are great and two are crap, what happens when someone buys your crap novel, feels ripped off, and posts a well-deserved negative review? Answer: it hurts your reputation and wrecks sales of the two great novels.
I used to describe certain works of mine with the concept “publishable novel,” meaning they were professionally enough done to at least equate with what I saw being published in print. But I still wasn’t putting myself in the position of the Ideal Reader and asking what real worth these novels had to another human being. I’ve read more than enough “publishable novels” to realize that some really bad stuff not only gets published but sometimes even gets major awards! Yet these books insulted the Ideal Reader from page 1.
So, the ever-clearer realization is that I will not self-publish anything less than my best–even if some of it is an experiment to see what happens. That is a major guideline as I consider what to do next.
copyright 2013 by Michael D. Smith