Monday, May 2, 2011

Wanted: Ebook Advice

Keith here.

Remember when you used to write "e-mail" with a hyphen? Then it got so ubiquitous that you dropped the hyphen and typed "email." Well, I remember when you inserted that hyphen in ebooks, too, but now it just looks old-fashioned, like you haven't gotten aboard the train before it left the station. The NY Times is running ebook bestseller lists. My compadre Barry Eisler eschewed a $500K advance for paper-and-pulp books to go the ebook publishing route. And I'll bet it can't be long before Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers add a best ebook original category to their awards to go with the best paperback original.

I live in Silicon Valley and have been on the cutting edge on some things like cloud computing and the Luddite fringe on others like smartphones. I guess on ebooks I'll be somewhere in between.

My agent is currently circulating a manuscript of mine for paper and ink publication. I have the rights to e-publish one of my books now on bookstore shelves in trade paper (Smasher), and I have another manuscript sitting on my hard drive. It's called Drop by Drop after this quotation by Aeschylus: “And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart....” In Drop I draw upon my experience as counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee overseeing spying and other covert activities conducted by US intelligence agencies. I loved writing the novel and friends who have read it have been nudging me, so I want to get it out there for others to read.

Paul Levine gave me advice on where to go to get the manuscripts formatted for Amazon and B&N and to get covers for them. (The one on the left above is just a mock-up I did myself.) But here's what I don't know, where I'm lost. When Smasher came out in paper, I went to BEA and signed books, and then visited bookstores and signed even more. The publisher sent out galleys to newspapers and magazines, which followed up with reviews. I was interviewed by print reporters and even on TV. But how do you do all that with an ebook? How do you send reviewers a copy? (It probably doesn't matter since they won't review an ebook original anyway.) I can't go to bookstores, for signings -- there's nothing to sign.

I had a great set of blurbs for Smasher, but what about blurbs for an ebook original? Is there even room for one to be legible on the front cover? (There is no back cover.) Is it uncool to ask for a blurb that would just be used on the Amazon, B&N, and Smashword download sites?

So I have to come up with a new launch strategy, don't I? I guess I can tweet and blog to my heart's content. But beyond that, how do I get the word out there? I'd be grateful for any ideas you have or experiences you've learned from. Thanks so much.


P.S. I'll let you know when the books are available for download and how it goes in a future posting.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

For the reviewers, you 'gift' them (ugh...nouns that turn into verbs. But I think that's the term Amazon uses...) a free copy for their Kindle through Amazon. Pretty easy and beats shipping. :)

Let us know when you launch!

Keith Raffel said...

Thanks, Elizabeth, for the tip. Makes sense. But you can't really gift them thru Amazon with an electronic galley that precedes general availability, can you?

Darrell James said...

Keith- You pose all the right questions. We're all trying to feel our way through the changes that have come to our book world.

I understand someone is working on a way for authors to "electronically sign" their ebooks. I don't know how this will work exactly. I just spent two days at the LA Times Festival of Books, and it seemed to me that most readers were interested in having the author "sign the book personally for them" as opposed to simply having a book that was already signed by the author. This seems to suggest to me that readers still like to meet the author in person. (a challange for ebooks.)

Just one aspect of a multitude of considerations.

Mike Dennis said...

Good post Keith. Unfortunately, however, the Mystery Writers of America will never add a "best ebook original" category to their awards slate.

The MWA has very stringent rules for membership and one rule near the top of the list is NO SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS ALLOWED. You know, as if your material is contaminated or something. In fact, even if you're traditionally published, you're not allowed in as a full member unless your publisher is a "real" publisher (read: not POD).

That organization is going to have to go through a mega-shift in attitude before they ever recognize ebook authors as "real" authors.

Keith Raffel said...

Darrell, thanks for putting your finger on the problem. How do you go to the LA Times Festival of Books if your book is an ebook only? What's the forum where you meet readers?

Mike, I think MWA knows there's an issue to grapple with in re to ebook originals. I think one problem generally with self-published books is that if they were eligible for Edgar awards, the judges would be inundated with material. It would be impossible to put together a panel of judges. OTOH, with established authors like Barry going the ebook route, I think MWA is going to have to figure out how to include ebook originals as eligible for Edgars. We'll see.

Shel said...

Well. I started to leave a comment last night; but decided against it. However, I do have a solution for the autograph conundrum. Keith, I have had authors sign both my netbook (which is what I was reading on at the time) and my Sony 950, which supports handwritten notes. Anyone who has a device that supports stylus input can have you sign it; and that's what I do. Other people I know that don't have devices with that capability are making autograph books for authors to sign for them. I still love author appearances, still love getting books or devices signed. The venue may have to change - bookstores may not want a signing that doesn't bring them any extra business - but the demand to meet the author and have *something* signed is still there. As for MWA I'm sure they'll adapt. Being on the cutting edge of something is never completely easy.

Keith Raffel said...

Thanks, Shel.

Does anyone have a comment on my ginned up cover?

Lisa Bork said...

I like the cover, Keith. It's eyecatching.

Sheila Deeth said...

My husband says he prefers it when I review ebooks since we don't have to buy more bookshelves. Reviewers can read pdf arcs too. And once I even reviewed an ebook with a signed cover--no idea how the author did it.

Deborah Sharp said...

Good luck with the ebook process, Keith (happy to know I don't have to hyphenate anymore!) Not sure about how to entice traditional reviewers, but I do know that friends who epublish (ooh, going hyphen-free feels racy!) spend a lot of time on the Kindle ''boards,'' and also seek out reviewers who write for those.
Cover looks good, maybe a bit less liquid-y, more viscous?

G.M. Malliet said...

"Ginned up?" A play on words? Anyway, I like the cover and assumed it was for real.

Keith Raffel said...

Lisa, Deb, thanks for cover comments. Sheila and Deb, thanks for the advice. Sheila, will get you a copy for review. (Let me know if anyone else wants one for review.) Gin (from in slang phrase gin up "enliven, make more exciting," 1887, probably from earlier ginger up in same sense,

Jody said...

Even if you can't sign the book, you can always have bookmarks available & sign them. I have quite a collection from authors & I use them!