How I Spent My Snow Day

Before we begin, you know how I said I didn't think it was possible to unsubscribe to comments once you subscribed? Well, I was wrong. You can unsubscribe very easily, apparently. When you receive an e-mail, there's a link you can click on to manage your subscriptions. However, on the site itself, if you're subscribed to a certain post, there will be a link that says something along the lines of Manage Your Subscriptions, but if you click on that it won't work. So you can only unsubscribe from the e-mails you receive, not from the website. Get it? Got it? Good.

Now, as many of you know there was something of a blizzard here on the east coast last week. Almost all businesses were closed. I got to stay home from work. Which should have been nice and relaxing, but I decided to do some writing. Only it wasn't writing, per se, but the other side of writing, if you get my drift.

Anyway, last year I posted a sf thriller novella called The Silver Ring online. It was something I'd originally written in high school and set aside to collect virtual dust until last year I pulled it back out and reworked it a bit. It's a fun little story that I revised specifically for online reading (30 very short fast-paced chapters) and I've been experimenting with it off and on ever since.

A few months back I downloaded the Aldiko ebook reader onto my cell phone. I absolutely love it. It's linked up with Feedbooks and Smashwords to download books instantly onto your phone, or you can download books (the epub format) elsewhere and then import them via a USB cable. When I first downloaded the reader, I scoured through both sites looking for books to download. The books ranged from classics to bestsellers to self-published crap. As you may know, Cory Doctorow is a huge advocate of giving away e-books for free, and so of course I downloaded three of his books. I also have downloaded issues 2 and 3 of Electric Literature. Those downloads were not free. Each cost me $4.95 from Smashwords. But I really like the journal and I think the cost is more than reasonable.

Some costs, however, are not.

The books uploaded onto Feedbooks are completely free to download. Readers go to that site knowing that whatever is there they can download without any problems. Smashwords, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. Some books are free to download. Others are not.

What's nice about Smashwords is that for each book they show you the approximate word count. It's fascinating to see just how much some writers charge for certain works. Like this e-book, which is roughly 38,000 words and costs $4.99. Then you have this e-book, which is roughly 150,000 words and costs $15.00. Or you have this e-book, which is roughly 1,700 words and costs $0.99.

It goes on and on.

The big debate right now is just how much e-books should cost. Personally, I think e-books should cost as much as they need to cost. Yes, I think they should be cheaper than the print version of a book, but just how cheap? At what point does the publisher (and author) start losing money?

I have no problem with paying for e-books, but when I do, I look at them just like I would a regular book I would find at the bookstore. Meaning, I really have to be impressed with the description to purchase it, or if I have to be a fan of that author's work, or something. I'm not just going to buy it to buy it.

And let's be honest here -- most of the authors putting their stuff on Smashwords (not to mention the Kindle Store) are not authors who have a huge following. Yes, yes, Joe Konrath is making thousands of dollars a month on his e-books, but he's Joe Konrath. You can't compare apples with oranges.

For the rest of us though -- the under published, if you like -- what is our option if we want to post something on a place like Smashwords?

We can make our books free to readers who are more likely then to download them, or we can charge some kind of fee and hope and pray that some readers who have probably never heard of us before will take pity and purchase our book.

Sure, money is nice and everything, but having people -- a lot of people -- download and read my stuff is even nicer.

The final phase of The Silver Ring experiment went into effect last week during the blizzard. I spent hours on the computer formatting the manuscript to upload onto Feedbooks. I'd decided I liked Feedbooks best, because with the epub format they actually manage to separate chapters. And besides, people who go to the site know that whatever is there is free, and they are readers, gosh darn it.

Unfortunately, after hours of staring at the computer screen, my little novella didn't seem to want to upload properly. It would upload and I could publish it, but then it would disappear after a half hour or so. I tried contacting Feedbook's support and got no real help. Then I said to myself Screw it and tried my hand at Smashwords. This worked much better and the novella was uploaded in no time at all.

As right now gaining readers is more important to me than gaining a few bucks in my PayPal account, I made The Silver Ring available at Smashwords for free. I purposely did not tell anybody about it. I did not mention it on Twitter or Facebook. I obviously didn't mention it here on this blog. I wanted to give it a week and see what would happen.

As of this moment (1:00 AM eastern time on Wednesday) The Silver Ring has been downloaded on Smashwords 177 times. That may seem like a somewhat impressive number, but remember that just because a book is downloaded does not mean that it's read. However, according to my nifty Smashwords dashboard, the novella has been linked in 5 member libraries, which is basically five people who have added a hyperlink in their library profiles to my novella. Not a big deal, perhaps, but it's still something.

Over the course of a week (six days, really, as I didn't completely upload the novella until early Thursday morning), I received a few Google Alerts about the novella. One was for this site, listing the novella as a free read. Another was for this ebook sample. Then on Monday I received an e-mail from someone who runs this website asking if I would be interested in allowing them to post a PDF of the novella to their site so their readers could download it for free.

As I made the novella free to a number of formats (that's the great thing about Smashwords, the book becomes available in pretty much every format) I decided to tweak the version I have in the Kindle Store. If I could, I would make it free to download, but as an author you can't. The lowest you can price it is at 99 cents. So I figure if people are going to pay for something that I'm pretty much giving away for free elsewhere, I should reward them with something a little extra. So I added a bonus short story to the Kindle edition. Not much, but it's something. Remember, it's not like I'm looking to make a lot of money here, and I could just delete it from the Kindle Store, but it's nice having the book linked at Amazon as it's, well, Amazon. Plus, I changed the product description around to this (not to mention made it so the file was not DRM enabled):

A young man finds a mysterious silver ring that holds extraordinary powers -- a ring that the darkest evil in the universe wants for its very own.

This Kindle edition contains a bonus short story.

(Download the novella for free at Smashwords:

Anyway, I've talked enough for this post. If you're interested in downloading The Silver Ring onto your ebook reader, please do. It's completely free, after all, so what do you have to lose?