The pros and cons are oft debated; which is better? An ebook or a physical book? Usually the list looks something like this:
Paperback -Infinite battery life
-Can take in bathtub
-Easier to lend/resell/buy used
-Can display as art
-Nostalgia for feel & smell
Well, now you can add another pro to the ebook list. With interactivity, ebooks blow paperbacks out of the water. With my “Click Your Poison” series, I’m often asked how an interactive ebook works on the Kindle. So I made this video. Enjoy!
First, I’d like to address the issue of piracy. If you’re not too concerned with reading Part One, here’s the context: Someone has ripped the ebook version of INFECTED.
I know that movie studios have a hell of a time dealing with piracy, but this is for something self-published so I’m kind of on my own. Let me reiterate: No guild, lawyer, etc. I’m a small independent ship out on the seas. No guns with which to shoot pirates.
Here are my options (as I see them):
1) Look into sending a DMCA Takedown Notice and start the game of virtual whack-a-mole. They put something up, I tell them to take it down, repeat.
2) Post a comment on the page. “Glad you are interested in INFECTED! If you really like it, I ask that you support an indie author and tell ten friends to buy it, leave me an amazon review, and (if you can spare it), fork over the $3.99 to buy a legit copy.”
3) Shut up and be happy that people are noticing my book.
I realize that some high-profile self-publishers think piracy may actually help sales, but I can’t say I agree. Right now, there are 2-3 illegal downloads of my book per day on this piracy site. Compare that with the 1-2 legitimate sales I get each day (which I am eternally grateful for–thank you, readers!). As one friend put it, “Well, definitely not number three. Maybe if you were typing this in your mansion. That sucks.” So I think I can cross #3 off right away.
I will say, however, that it does feel like fighting back would be akin trying to punch a school of fish. And after looking into it, I see that the website is hosted out of Poland, so #1 is off the table. As I understand it, US law (DMCA) only applies in the US.
So, how about #2? I believe most people who pirate TV or movies seem to mainly be impatient. Take, for example, the fact that Game Of Thrones was the most pirated TV show last year and many say that if they could pay for HBO streaming without getting cable, they would. My book is already published and (was) widely available, so my particular crowd of pirates must just be cheap. Therefore the chance of lost sales is pretty low…
I tried to post in the site’s comment section, and that probably would’ve been the end of it. But (surprise, surprise) comments appear to be disabled. So I sent the host site a nice message, hoping they’d take it down (they haven’t yet, nor have they replied). I also flagged the URL to google, so hopefully that will kill its SEO rating.
I had to do something. In the end, I couldn’t justify the piracy in my head. If I wanted to give the book away for free, I would, but the choice should be mine.
In fact, now that INFECTED is only available as an ebook through Amazon (the paperback is still widely available), you can get it for FREE if you’re an Amazon Prime member. If not, it’s still cheaper than a Subway footlong.
Last thought: For the time being, if you don’t see this, it is most likely a pirated copy:
Now then. Let’s round off this post with a positive thought.
Yesterday I was approached by my first ever twitter fan account. I’m flattered, of course, but it was also a much needed reminder. A reminder of what? That when I put in the extra effort, my readers notice.
Other authors I’ve talked to seem to think the best idea is to split apart a traditional novel into bite-sized chunks: maybe three books at 30k words each. This way you can sell them each separately, and you’ll be noticed more since you have a series and not just one book.
I’ve been called crazy for making INFECTED three books in one. It’s somewhere around 115k words and easily could have been INFECTED: Part 1, 2, and 3. But I believe that readers will appreciate not being manipulated and that (eventually) a superior product will rise to the top.
It appears to be working. Now I need to get back to writing Click Your Poison #2 before all this fan love goes to my head.
Okay, so last week I posted about my move over to Amazon. It’s currently in progress, but some of these sites take a couple of weeks from when you edit your book to respond. Which, really, is a major indicator that Amazon has their stuff together way more than the other retailers. If I make a change in price, or an edit to the manuscript, Amazon has posted the new information within a couple of hours, 24 hours max. The other retailers, I’ll remind you, take a couple of weeks. That’s ridiculous. If the other retailers moved as fast as Amazon, you could do your low-price promotions without going exclusive. But trying to wrangle them into appearing all at the same time (a pre-announced time) would be a bit like trying to herd cats. Good luck with that.
Now then, the results of my giveaway trial for “Corporate Zombie” using KDP Select. Prior to the giveaway, I had the story available for free on my website. Then I moved it to Amazon in August of 2012, to prepare for my future as a published author. I’ve sold a total of 27 copies at $0.99 since August. Last Tuesday-Friday, I gave away 128 copies for free in 6 different countries.
Three days after the end of the giveaway, I’ve not yet had any new paid sales. HOWEVER, you can see that my numbers are tiny. In a “real” giveaway, you need to give thousands of copies away in order to see a difference. I only spread the word on facebook and twitter, and even then using only casual posts. So — lesson learned #1 — you have to advertise your giveaway. Yes, you need to pay to spread the word about your free book. It’s counter intuitive, but it works. I’ve seen the numbers from other authors.
During the giveaway, I recieved a new 4-star review on the story entitled “Great short story”:
A great little short story that is a real page turner. A refreshing variation on a zombie story, from the corporate side. I don’t think a 6-page story is worth $0.99, but as a freebie, a very good read.”
First this, then lesson #2:
Alright, off my soap box. Lesson learned #2: Most readers don’t value individual short stories. I already knew this based on my previous sales, but the event & review confirms it. So, if you have short stories, go with an anthology. I hope to “replace” my individual shorts with an anthology some time around this summer.
I also haven’t seen any sort of boost in my other titles. Which, I realized a little too late, is lesson #3: Link your other titles at the end of your books. Don’t expect the reader to find them on their own.
Silver lining: There are 128 people out there who were introduced to my work. Though I love this story, I haven’t had a sale of “Corporate Zombie” since November. So I don’t really feel like I “lost” anything.
Recap: Advertise, Anthologize, Link-ize.
Now for the fanfic and pirates.
While googling to see if INFECTED had disappeared from other e-tailers (see what I did there?), I found out that I’m much more on the cusp of “making it” than I realized. I’ve been content thus far with relative obscurity. People read my book, like it, tell me so, I feel good, and I write the occasisonal blog post that maybe 10-20 people read. But now, I’ve been noticed: someone wrote INFECTED fan fiction, and (unrelated) someone has pirated the book.
For the fan fiction, I don’t want to embarrass the author too much, but sufice it to say that it exists. I’m flattered. If you really want to see the link, I posted it on my facebook page.
The piracy, however, is a different matter altogether. There’s a website offering an INFECTED .doc, .pdf, and .epub rip at the low, low price of $Free-95.
Yes, I realize the irony that once I’ve considered book giveaways I discover that someone else has beat me to the punch.
But, obviously, there’s little benefit to me on the piracy site. According to the website, the book has been illegally downloaded almost 200 times since January 24th. Which is more than I’ve had in paid sales over those last two months. The wound is still a little fresh and has left me dazed. I’m unsure what I can or will do about it, but if there are any of you out there with experiences in this arena, I’d love to hear them. I’ll do some research and make another update in the next few days.
I am a self-published author, an indie author, DIY writer; call it what you will. And as such, I know the power of reviews. So when I received this email from a major reviewer — The Midwest Book Review — through my PR rep, I was delighted.
Thank you for your information. Please send two copies of the published book for review, accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity or press release, to the attention of:
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
As my book has no hard-copies, I quickly replied:
Good afternoon! Abby forwarded your request to me so I could handle it personally.
The book is published only as an ebook, due to the unique storytelling where you click embedded hyperlinks to make your choice and progress through the narrative. I can send you the book as an Amazon gift or in whatever format is convenient for you.
Thank you for your interest in INFECTED: Click Your Poison #1. I look forward to hearing from you.
This is where the delight ended. In the interest of transparency, I’ll post the response I received in full:
Thank you for your information and offer.
There is a charge of a $50 “Reader Fee” for reviewing ebooks, pre-publication manuscripts, galleys, uncorrected proofs, ARCs, and pdf files. If you wish to purse (SIC) this then let me know and I’ll send you the name and email address of the assigned reviewer. The check would be made out to the reviewer who would also tell you what information would be needed along with a copy of the title to be reviewed.
The reviewer would provide you with a copy of the review and you would have automatic permission to utilize the review in any manner you deem useful to promote and market the book. I will also be provided a copy of the review and it will run in our book review publication “MBR Bookwatch”, be posted on the Midwest Book Review web site for five years, and published in “Book Review Index” which is distributed to thousands of academic and community libraries throughout the United States and Canada.
Published books in a traditional print edition (paperback or hardcover) are reviewed free of charge.
Please let me know if you’d like to proceed further.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
Here’s what stuck out to me: “ebooks” was listed right next to “pre-publication manuscripts” and “uncorrected proofs,” and they didn’t want to charge for a “traditional” book. This was my response:
I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in paying for reviews. Furthermore, I challenge you to reconsider your stance on ebooks. Lumping them in with other “incomplete” publications is insulting to authors, and ultimately short sighted. Ebooks are the future. Many authors (myself included) put considerable time, effort, and money into making their ebook a professional product. I believe your organization legitimately wants to help authors, but this policy flies in the face of that goal.
.Thank you for your time.
As of this post, I haven’t seen a response. This is not meant to be an attack on Mr. Cox or his group of reviewers, though it is an attack on his policy.
What do you think? Should I have paid the $50, happy to get whatever press I can, or am I right to be outraged? What would you have done?
Posted October 2, 2012 by Daniel Flatt in Paranormal
If you’ve ever known the thrill of choose your own adventure books that were popular back in the 80’s and 90’s, then you’ll be familiar with the concept behind INFECTED. You are the main character and it’s up to you to put all your pre-made zombie apocalypse survival plans you made with your friends to the test. As you make your way through the story you’ll be asked to make choices at certain junctures that will change your overall plot within. The book is a more adult take on the idea though, your character will meet bloody and violent ends throughout the experience with a wrong decision. Most importantly and complimentary to the author, your choices never feel too forced with more sweeping impacts to the narrative than most choose your own adventure books.
Three unique overall storylines are presented throughout the book to mixed results. Each of them are pretty well written with the author’s previous military experience peeking through in certain points and legitimately witty references to pop culture throughout. However there are elements that just aren’t up to snuff pacing and plot wise to the rest of the book. In addition, characters often come off as one sided caricatures, which honestly in this type of book I’m not sure how much more development they could have seen with so many different balls to juggle. Both these issues add up to my one real problem with the book. Throughout the experience, in most cases, the narrative feels slightly rushed and you’ll go from in danger to saved or dead within the space of a good night’s reading. At times the swift pace is certainly appreciated and there are moments that will legitimately get your blood pumping, I just wish there was more time I could have spent with every story.
Honestly, that’s a compliment in and of itself as I just wanted to spend more time reading and making choices in this setting. The book, while perhaps not the next Lord of the Rings, is immense fun and can be enjoyed time and time again due to the variety of endings and branch offs that explore different facets of an overarching narrative. Some of the multiple narratives even weave in and out of each other and you often see hints of one story in another. Death scenes, usually a sentence or paragraph in most of these types of books, are well written and usually leave you wondering up till the last page if you’re going to meet your end. Impressively enough, even though the characters aren’t the most fleshed out, you’ll find yourself caring more about them and even more so your fate, simply because you are more invested in the story. I can proudly say that my first read through was met with unmitigated success as I survived the zombie apocalypse without dying once, and with my morals mostly intact. Maybe not so much the second time.
Even more impressive, and I never thought I’d say this with a book, is the fun you can get by adding in more people to the experience. I’ve read this aloud with friends and my wife and it’s simply a blast to play through together and make choices. There’s even a drinking game featured on his website that entails ways to turn the book into a real party experience and, though I don’t typically enjoy that sort of thing, it certainly seems like it would be lots of fun.
As a gamer I doubly appreciate the interactivity and re-playability (re-readability?) that this form of writing brings to the book. Before now I’d almost forgotten about the appeal of choose your own ending (or in this case called click your own poison), but it was back in full force with this book, and with the more mature themes, was even more impressive. It’s worth noting that the addition of using an E-Reader means you can click through the choices and go directly to the consequences of your actions instead of searching for a page; something I never would have thought of myself before this, but that makes the experience even easier to enjoy. I’ve gone through all three storylines now and comparing my stories to my brothers, who read through at the same time. Even though we saw some of the same storylines, ways we navigated them were different and we got to know more about certain characters or see more aspects of the full plot because of our choices. There’s even a website you can share zombie apocalypse survival stories with other readers if you so choose.
INFECTED is quite simply a welcome evolution to an old format that just begs to be enjoyed. The zombie apocalypse is an instantly identifiable and enjoyable setting to many, especially us gamers who have spent hours in conversations with friends about the topic. With the internet being leveraged to share stories, the e-reader bringing even more accessibility, and the more mature theme; James Schannep has truly managed to bring choose your own adventure into this generation. The future looks bright for this subset genre of books and I can’t wait to read more from this promising author, in this format or any other.
If you’d like to purchase this book you can do so at this link.
Okay, I haven’t posted in a while. Sorry about that, but I’ve got two really good excuses:
1) I’ve been busy scrawling away at my breakaway novel.
2) I’m getting married in… (let me check the calendar)… 7 days.
So, I’ve been a little busy. However, In keeping that this is a professional blog, let’s focus on #1.
Over the last five months, I’ve worked nearly every day with the goal of at least 1000 words. Looks like I averaged around 740–not bad considering I drove across the country, spent two months away from home, and was busy planning a wedding. Okay, to be fair, my fiance planned most of it.
Still! For the first time, I’m going to be a published writer. This is a certainty. Not because I’m sure I’ll woo an agent and a publishing house, but because I’m not even going to try. I’m self-publishing. I have a story that those in the biz (and people like me who want to be) call High-Concept. This means as soon as I tell you what it’s about, you’ll want to buy it. No matter that you’ve never heard of me and I have no track record; it’s that compelling. Scout’s honor.
It’s a zombie apocalypse story, I’ll say that much, but I’m not going to tell you what makes it so compelling just yet, not until the press release. Sorry.
Instead, I can tell you what to expect from here on out. 1) Updates about the progress of the book’s editing, cover development, and release schedule. There is still much work to be done before the release. If you want to subscribe (over on the right), you won’t miss a thing.
And 2) News on the short stories I’ll be publishing as ebooks in the upcoming weeks and months as well.
But you’ll probably get neither until after the wedding.
Here we are at the start of a journey. I’m glad you can join me!