Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Category: publishing (page 1 of 6)

What’s So Interesting About Kindle Unlimited?

Big news today: Kindle Unlimited.

Ten bucks per month for unlimited access to any Kindle book in the program, on any device.

Who’s got two thumbs and started his free trial within ten minutes of the announcement? Yeah, this guy.

Let’s be honest: from a reader perspective, this is awesome. Ten bucks per month? Hell, I’m lucky if I don’t spend three or four times that every first of every month on the Kindle Monthly Deals.

From an author perspective? A publishing perspective?

Look, I’ll be candid: of that I’m not sure yet. For quite a while, Exciting Press titles were in Kindle Direct Publishing Select. They were exclusive to Kindle, could only be bought from Amazon. We publish without DRM — always have and always will — so readers could convert their books for whatever device they were using, but let’s be honest there and note how tedious that is (if you even know how to do it in the first place, which a lot of readers may not). But if I may be further honest here I would argue that Amazon’s gained dominance in the ebook marketplace simply because its experience is so superior for readers, and I think that makes a difference.

According to my KDP page, by enrolling in KDP Select, my books can be part of Kindle Unlimited. And when a reader reads 10% of my book, I’d get paid. It’s not clear how much, but my guess is that, as with the Kindle Owners Lending Library, authors get an equal share of a fund dedicated to all participants eligible to get paid.

Is that more or less than I get from the 70% I get now? I’ve no idea. It may be less per book but ultimately more overall, depending on the success of the program and my hypothetical book’s performance within it.

I’m not here to tell you it’s awesome or terrible. It may be both, depending on your perspective. Who knows? Arguably nobody writing about it today, or yesterday, or the day before.

But I did want to highlight why I think it’s interesting. Because every article I’ve seen about the idea in general– that of streaming ebooks, basically–compares it to Netflix. The shorthand is it’s “the Netflix of ebooks.” It’s “Spotify for stories.”

What I think is interesting, though, is it seems like it’s precisely the opposite.

Netflix? Spotify? They worked with studios and labels to get the content their platform would use. Which I think prompts a question, and maybe a couple: How much do the artists get paid? How much do the labels get paid?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I’ve heard that it’s a low number–for some reason, 11 cents sticks out in my head. But I may have just made that up.

Point is, though, in the case of Spotify, authors make their royalties based on their agreements with their labels — whom Spotify pays.

You probably see where I’m going with this.

What’s brilliant about the way Amazon did this is they didn’t have to talk to anyone beforehand. They didn’t have to go to the corporate publishers. They spent years building this awesome digital reading platform, and then they spent more years attracting some terrific authors, and offering incentives to those authors to go all-in with them. “Let us be the only place people can buy your ebooks,” they said, “And we’ll make it worth your while. We’ll give you free promotions. Countdown deals. We’ll let people borrow your book.”

“We’ll make you part of Kindle Unlimited.”

For authors who are already in KDP Select, they are automatically pulled in to Kindle Unlimited. I’ve already heard people complain about the opt-out versus opt-in system (I think it was more efficient than anything else. They were authors who were already exclusive. Now they get access to this really cool program a ton of readers are going to sign up for).

Now, I don’t know for sure they didn’t talk to the corporate publishers, but I do know they didn’t launch with any.

That’s huge.

This is the number one online retailer of both print and ebooks. Amazon accounts for at least 60% of the market, and I’d posit that’s a gross underestimation there. They built the best digital book experience — from shopping for them to reading them — from the ground up, and when it came time to offer its customers a method by which they could spend $10 per month for unlimited access to ebooks, they did so without having corporate publishers’ titles in their libraries.

This may just be the largest endorsement of independent authors and their work . . . pretty much ever.

Those 600,000 books? There are some from publishers, small and somewhat larger alike. Open Road Media is there with some Michael Chabon titles. There are a few other big names from popular presses. But the vast majority of them are by independent authors. There are 55,000 books in fantasy and science fiction alone, and most of those titles appear to be independent.

Amazon believed strongly enough in the quality of all that work to launch Kindle Unlimited without the support of a single corporate publisher. And it didn’t just believe, mind you; it likely has all the data it could possibly want to bear out that this was a good move for them.

Independent Editing

Growing up, I was always a huge fan of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Michael Crichton–as authors went, those guys wrote the books and had the careers I wanted. Later, that list grew to include Neil Gaiman and myriad others. By then I’d grown serious about wanting to be a writer–even if I wasn’t yet serious about writing itself–and I’d begun to learn more about publishing. I’d begun to pick up writing magazines like Digests and Journals, and by the time I was a freshman in college I’d started submitting queries to literary agents. I didn’t know much about what publishing meant or what a contract might be, but I understood that, at least at that time, getting an agent was the first step in a long process that would hopefully ultimately culminate in a “very nice” publication contract, which means one for go-jillions of moneys.

Interestingly, as digital publishing has become a force of disruption, a lot of that is no longer true. If you want to get a book to readers, you can now, at least digitally, go through Amazon and Apple and Kobo to deliver ebooks to their stores. For that, you no longer need an agent. You no longer need a publisher, whether a huge corporation or a smaller press–you can do it yourself. Provided, if you want to get your book on shelves in a bookstore, you do for the most part still need to get an agent who will submit your manuscript to publishers, but at this point, it’s almost smarter to go to Amazon and Apple and Kobo and everyone else first. By publishing independently and getting books out there, you start to build a reputation (a name, a “platform,” a “brand”), and while the reputation you build may or may not lead to the sort of arrangement that gets your print books to bookstore shelves, who knows if that’s necessary?

The interesting thing to me is that the single most important element of publishing, whether with a corporation or on your own, remains, even if it’s the single element some people never even really consider, and one of which I wasn’t even aware until I started putting together a collection.

I’m talking about editing. And I wondered today if editing is going to change as much as publishing has–and if that may be one of the best aspects of all.

Let’s be honest: there are a few examples of editorial relationships that have become almost mythical. The most major is F. Scott Fitzgerald and Maxwell Perkins, which was perhaps a fine a partnership as could be, and which produced The Great Gatsby from Trimalchio in West Egg. There’s also Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish, which you can read more about here, at the New Yorker, as it discusses how Lish made “Beginners” into “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”

It’s certainly a better title. Better story? Unsure. What’s “better” mean? Is there such a thing?

That’s digression.

Editing is a nuanced beast. I used to be an editor, of two clinical nursing journals, and I totally sucked at it. My red pen was heavier than the stock on which the journals were printed. I changed authors’ words without regard to their voice, always confident that, regardless of what they were trying to say, I could make it better. I think, for a long time, too, my lack of skill at editing made me think it wasn’t as necessary as it certainly is.

And then I realized, when I went to USC, that besides wanting to get published I could be a better writer.

When I published a collection of stories, essays, and poetry back in early 2007, I asked one of my classmates to look it over, in exchange for dinner and drinks. She agreed, and gave me some great notes on how to improve the collection. I sheepishly admit I didn’t take all her changes, but the changes I did make made the work better. If I’d been less insecure at the time, I might have realized that.

That same classmate–who’d since become my friend, and then my fiancee, and who is now my wife–edited Meets Girl, nearly four years later. By then we were living together, and I’d just gotten a Kindle and realized I could make this digital thing work, as I knew a little about html and coding. So she did, and there I took all her advice, and Meets Girl is way better for it.

Along the way, I’ve actually become better, myself, at editing, though I don’t edit my own work. I mean, I read over it and polish it as much as I can, but in the end I agree with the general sentiment that we writers are too close to our own work to effectively either see its flaws or understand how improve them. I’ve worked with a few of the authors Exciting has signed, and in so doing have preserved their voices and helped them make their books fulfill their vision, and I think that’s way more important than making them “better.”

Corporate publishers and those associated with them often claim the books produced by their process are better. They are the keepers of the gate through which they will not allow riffraff to pass, after all, and they claim that the work they do is essential to “literature” or “culture” or just making the reading experience as good as it can possibly be.

I don’t think they are. I don’t think corporations or agents are really necessary.

I think editors are, and sometimes I think the best editors are no longer tied up in that system.

We’ve all heard horror stories about that system. The author whose book is acquired by one editor who leaves for a different publisher just a couple months later, so the book gets passed on to another editor–and oftentimes these editors don’t actually do the hands-on work. I worked with a managing editor on those journals, and that editor often lamented to me that the time she got to spend actually editing had decreased as years had passed. A lot of editors at corporations are too busy attending meetings with marketing and promotions and managing profits and loss sheets to actually spend their time with the words. Not all, mind you, but a lot. And when that happens, they delegate the editing itself to their assistant, or maybe give the new intern a chance, or frequently they have a roster of freelance editors they use fairly often and they send the manuscript to them.

As publishing companies have incorporated and then become parts of conglomerates, their focus on great writing has declined while their focus on profits, revenue, and the bottom line has increased. That’s just the nature of operating businesses like they are.

What that yields, though, is an opportunity for authors and editors alike: independent editing. Independent authors need independent editors. Maybe even the same independent editors who make up that roster of freelance editors I just mentioned. Maybe that’s a great development, too, because maybe an author has a better chance of developing the sort of relationship that makes Trimalchio in West Egg into The Great Gatsby with an independent, freelance editor.

Why Does Independence Become Different in Publishing?

The other day, I caught a post by Natalie Whipple: “A Formal Apology to All Self-Published Authors, and her post and apology are so sincere I forgive not only her behaviors in general but even her use of “self-published.” I’m a Taurus very often so set in my ways as to be frustratingly so–just ask my wife–so I know how difficult it can be to not only publicly admit you’re wrong but to do so after reversing on an opinion. It seems that Whipple was set in a mindset too common among the corporate publishing industry–that being an indie author is somehow lesser. That the only real point of uploading a novel to Kindle Direct Publishing is to hope that one day it might gain you the attention of a corporate publisher who might offer you a real, live deal and make yours a real, live book–even one that’s got no pages.

I complimented Natalie’s post via Twitter. I’m glad she came around.

I wish others would.

She mentions that she understands why indie authors might feel a bit defensive. Me, I’m not sure “a bit” covers it. It sucks to be defensive, but what sucks worse is what Natalie is apologizing for, which is engaging in behaviors and possessing attitudes that are, unfortunately, not uncommon in the corporate publishing world.

It seems odd, because the beliefs about indie publishing or “self-publishing” held by the publishing industry is so different from those held by other industries. Musicians who press a few hundred copies of their CDs to sell out of their trunks while they play dark bars for a cut of the door and all the merch fees are seen as hardworking and paying their dues. Sure, many do so in the hope of being discovered by some attending A&R guy, but many more just keep writing new songs, cutting new tracks, selling new CDs and tee shirts.

The musicians who “made” it? Who signed up with labels and got big advances and huge tour budgets? Their managers? Their accountants?

They don’t tend to look down on that first group. Oftentimes they remember that they were there, too, once upon a time. Sometimes they even respect that first group more, making the music they love, damn the “man” and the industry and the label.

I’m thinking of films, too. We know the Hollywood industry. We hear so much about the suits and their notes to directors. But we also hear about the films made outside that studio system. The low-budget or no-budget flicks that play to smaller audiences in a handful of theaters. The ones that squeak their budgets back (sometimes barely).

Directors and casting agents and talent managers don’t look down on those flicks. They don’t think those movies are worth less than the ones with big-name stars and huge budgets. And, in fact, those studio movies with big stars and giant budgets often compete against those tiny movies when it comes to awards seasons. Alternate means of distributions and release are adopted and embraced with terrific frequency; just consider that Netflix’s House of Cards is already competing for Golden Globe awards against shows that have appeared on television.

Maybe it’s really just a matter of time. Maybe indie publishing will become something that everyone has done, at some point, and will stop being regarded as the bastard stepchild of publishing. It’s nice that the major awards are already open to them; the Pulitzer committee doesn’t care who published a book, and the National Book Critics Circle already recognized Dave Eggers for one of his novels (published by McSweeney’s, a company Eggers founded and runs. Indie publishing at its best). Sometimes I have the feeling that major media’s books and reviews sections will die long before they start covering indie titles, but then, maybe reviews are moving away from periodicals anyway. The mostly highly regarded among them, the New York Times, cited an indie non-fiction book as one of its best last year, which is definite progress. I don’t even remember if they noted that it was “self-published,” and that’ll be the most progress of all. And maybe the “self-publishing success stories” the media reports will expand to cover not just the authors who sold a bunch of books and signed with a corporation, but other stories and other successes, as well.

I’d like to see more authors, agents, and editors read Whipple’s post. Maybe it won’t change their minds completely, but at least it furthers the progress.

And Natalie, if you read this, I can’t speak for all indie authors, but I forgive you and wish you the best with your own novel, and I thank you for being so candid and sincere.

Somebody Put Me in Charge

Via the amazing iOS app Zite, I caught this post from Hugh Howey yesterday, about what Howey would do if he took over a publishing company (in this case, Harper Collins).

I love that authors are thinking this way now. Just a few short years ago, the prevailing wisdom was for authors to sit quietly in the corner while the grown-ups did the grown-up work of publishing. Marketing campaigns and career strategies and pricing and . . .

Hush now, they told us. We’ll worry about those things. You worry about your art.

This has never been less possible than it is now, and more authors know that, and that’s a great thing.

The tone of Hugh’s post is tongue in cheek even as he makes some insightful points about what a publishing company needs to do nowadays.

The main thing I liked about the post? Many of them are things I’m doing via Exciting Press, so it’s nice to think that I’m on the right track here, and that this model I’m using and building seems to make sense. This strategy I’ve carefully planned in my head over the past couple of years? Seems like some really smart authors who are very aware of what they’re doing and very knowledgeable about their business agree that this is the sort of strategy that could work.

Hugh’s first two points regard building a community and spending time in “self-publishing” forums, particularly KBoards are ones I haven’t dedicated much time to yet, though Hugh seems to think they’re most important, but there are two reasons I haven’t done so, and they’re both related:

1) One can’t simply “build a community”–a community forms around something, and that something must be present, first. Hugh built a community of readers around the first installments of Wool; that’s a powerful thing.

2) Marketing to other authors is only so effective. This is something I’ve noticed a lot about the indie community; there are a lot of authors talking to each other, which is amazing, but there are also a lot of authors who, amid talking to each other, are also talking at potential readers and pitching to the internet in general. Yes, authors are often among the most voracious of readers, and yes, it’s great to support each other, but I think it can become a bit of a feedback chamber at times.

I’m not going to address Hugh’s points regarding print books and formats, as I’ve focused Exciting Press elsewhere. I don’t read print anymore. I’m not interested in the print versus digital debate anymore because for me, it’s moot; when I buy physical books to purchase anymore, it’s to get them signed and put them on my bookcase. When I want to read, I break out my iPad. When someone asks me about reading something, I go out of my way to ensure I can read it digitally.

I was thrilled to see Hugh mention finite licenses, which is basically the foundation of Exciting Press. I built a publishing company as an author, so I wanted to make it the best I could for authors. A couple of my own books are on our list, and so, when I was deciding how our business model worked and what our agreements should look like, I wondered what sort of agreement I’d want to see as an author, and I built it from there. Limited licenses, higher royalties for authors–that’s what it comes down to. No advances against royalties–if Exciting Press had the capital to do so, we’d offer signing bonuses instead. No more of this “Here’s $5000 payable in 11 installments which we’ll invoice your royalties against.” Makes no sense. I’d like to eventually offer modest signing bonuses, but what I’m most concerned about is that authors start making money from the first sale, which comes as soon as it can (as Hugh notes, no staggered releases. Exciting Press is putting out titles as fast as I can prepare them).

The funny thing is that Hugh titled his post “Don’t Anyone Put Me in Charge,” but the great thing is nobody needs to anymore. We are in charge. Just a little while before the post in question, Hugh predicted that big corporate houses would start trying to make their books look independent, but I think this one hits at a more powerful truth; the big corporate houses are going to have to start operating more independently and using more author-friendly models.

Former USC classmate and fellow indie author Danny Gardina–author of the novel The Last Night and the collection The Lookout and Other Stories and founder of Kings Men Press–wrote in with a question about my last post, and LLCs, and how to set one up.

The easy answer: go to a lawyer.

No, really. I’ll tell you a bit about what I did (as I understand it), but ultimately, get thee to a lawyer. I’m not advising you to do anything (besides go to a lawyer). I’ve heard of people doing it online, clicking a button and paying $99, but I wouldn’t recommend it, mainly because a website can’t listen to your goals, understand your needs, and advise you accordingly. It’s obviously cheaper than going to a lawyer, but, well, as with so many other things, you get what you pay for.

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Lately, I’ve been trying to focus my energies less on discussing disadvantages of the corporate system and more on taking fuller advantage of being independent. I’ve been focusing a lot on Exciting Press–trying to fill readers’ Kindles and iPads and Android devices with the very best stories we possibly can.

Which is why, last night, when Bibliocrunch’s Miral Sattar highlighted last evening’s Twitter #indiechat with Bowker to me, I intended to avoid it. Miral and Porter Anderson both highlighted Bowker’s product manager, LJN Dawson, as well as touted Bowker’s new “self-publishing services.” I saw some of it–I was on Twitter, decompressing–but didn’t figure to participate until a tweet from the Bibliocrunch account pulled me in. No one had yet mentioned that authors no longer need ISBNs. No one had mentioned how incomplete Bowker’s tracking data actually now is.

So I thought I would. Long and short: as an independent author publishing digitally, you’ll do better ignoring any of Bowker’s offerings–including its “self-publishing services” and investing instead in founding your own small press as an LLC and legal entity.

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First: apologies for the headline. It’s totally a grab for attention. If you want to bail now knowing I was attempting deliberate manipulation, no one would hold it against you, but before you go, consider that’s what everyone else is doing lately, and know that, for the record, I would state that there is no “one true way” of anything–nor that I’ve ever read anyone else make that claim about independent publishing (or “self-publishing,” as corporate publishing and those associated with it tend to call it). I’ve read independent authors note that they’ve had positive experiences with places like Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords, and even encourage others to do so–often while noting the disadvantages of signing that corporate contract that so often gives away so many rights with little in the way of remuneration or benefit.

I think, sometimes, that such authors focus so much on being positive about the experience that others feel they have to highlight the disadvantages of not having corporate support for one’s book, and that’s fine. But sometimes I think that goes overboard, or maybe doesn’t consider the entire situation, and I think it’s important to.

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When publishing is a button, pretty much the only thing you really need to buy for access to that button is a computer, and chances are you don’t even really need a great one at that.

I published my first book, a self-titled debut collection no longer available, in 2007 during my first full year studying writing at USC. Back then, I had a Hewlett-Packard laptop, and I wrote the entire collection and laid it out in Microsoft Word. I used Photoshop for the cover.

I’d already had experience publishing by then; for the three years before, I’d been assistant editor of two nursing journals. I’d used programs like Quark Xpress and Adobe InDesign. Working knowledge of those two programs was not just helpful but integral to making that book back then.

That’s no longer true, because publishing has changed so much. Honestly, I can’t imagine why anyone would want a PDF for digital publishing, which means several of those programs are no longer useful (a PDF is arguably necessary for CreateSpace, which I think is the best POD service available).

So you want to publish. What do you need?

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Over the past week, I’ve quietly updated two Exciting Press titles, my short stories “Blues’n How to Play’em” and “A Song for Bedtime,” the latter of which began its life as “Struck by the Light of the Son.” Both had been included in the Sparks anthology I published with Simon Smithson in December 2010, and both later became the first standalone stories published by Exciting Press.

Both have taught me a lot about the market for short stories, and why Kindle might just be the best way to target that market.

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It’s amazing how much a simple sentence can change. Nine words. Nine simple words. How much and what it has changed . . . well, those things remain to be seen. But they’re the words that made me a no-longer-just-“self-published” author, and they’re the words that brought one of my favorite novels–as well as several others by its author–into the digital realm.

They’re the words that ended my review of Nick Earls’ Perfect Skin, and, in some part, they’re the words that are the reason I can link that title to the page on Amazon where you can purchase Perfect Skin for your Kindle (at the time of this writing, it’s still in process at Barnes & Noble, but you’ll soon be able to purchase it for Nook, too).

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When the free promotion for The Prodigal Hour translated to decent sales, I was impressed. Enough that I started to consider free promotions more strategically with the desire to use them both better and more deliberately, and I think that doing so is increasing sales.

In fact, I’m sure of it. Sales have increased, bit by bit, every month. Not by a whole lot, yet, but considering where they started, they’re building steadily and seem on pace to continue to do so.

So how?

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The other day, I talked a bit about my experiences using KDP Select as both an author and a publisher. I noted that I didn’t think timing made much difference and noted some things that hadn’t caught on in the way others had, but I’ve noticed some things I think do, and have some theories about some other elements besides.

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This past weekend, my novel Meets Girl was free at Amazon. I shared a link on Facebook and tweeted about it late last night, and in both posts I’d mentioned I’d previously forgotten to, but that was only mostly true. I did, in fact, forget to mention it on Saturday morning (I was getting ready for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s 2012 Hat Luncheon, which was a blast). I remembered it later that day, but by then I’d realized it was a good opportunity to conduct an experiment.

I see a lot of authors, and especially independent ones, participating in Amazon’s KDP Select program and taking advantage of the five free days the 90-day period of Amazon exclusivity grants. The two most important participants in publishing are writers and readers, and I think the program is great for both; readers get access to a ton of free books by authors they might not have heard of before or tried, and authors get new readers.

I see enough authors doing so, in fact, that it seems like free books are no longer news. Every day, my Twitter stream is filled with another author linking to a free book. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes all they tweet, ever, but that’s another issue entirely.

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This week’s free poetry collection celebrating National Poetry Month is Soliloquies & other poems. As I note within the text following the title poem, I got the phrase “I am but a poor player” lodged squarely in my head.

Which, of course, set me in pursuit of the Bard.

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I think “The Italian Job”–right now free–was the first Nick Earls short story I’d ever read. And I did so as his publisher.

I hadn’t been able to read much of Nick’s short work. I’m in America, and quite a bit of Nick’s work just hadn’t made it state-side, or, if it had, had gone out of print by the time I discovered his work via Perfect Skin. I’d managed a few of his adult novels–Zigzag Street and Bachelor Kisses, for two–but several others, including The Thompson Gunner, had remained elusive even through special, dedicated channels like Amazon’s marketplace and ABE books.

“The Italian Job” and The Thompson Gunner share a character, Meg Riddoch. I hadn’t been able to read Meg’s story until I started coding The Thompson Gunner for publication through Exciting Press–at which point the novel took on a new name, Tumble Turns. The story and the novel might share a universe, too–on that point I’m not entirely certain, given the ways Meg’s timeline in Tumble Turns digresses and flits back and forth.

You can read about how Nick conceived both novel and story right here.

Mal’s penile implant isn’t really as central to the story as his relationship with Meg, and the connection they build as he drives her around Australia, possibly at the tail end of her Tumble Turns media tour. Or maybe a different tour altogether. But I think it’s one of the first stories I ever read that used the verb “detumesce,” and for that alone it’s worth reading.

So do check it out. And wonderfully, Nick and Nick’s agent and I have arranged it that “The Italian Job” is one of five stories available globally, without restrictions with regard to territory. So no matter where you are, be it Canada, Australia, America, or Italy, if you have access to the Kindle platform, you can read the story. We think that’s pretty great.

It’s a way to help readers find new books.

Today, in keeping with celebrating National Poetry Month, The Inevitable Decay of Francis “Fitz-Pack” Fitzgerald is free, and will remain so for the week, but given that Exciting Press has more than 25 titles–at least 23 of which will be enrolled in free promotions over the next several months, and hopefully indefinitely, as well–it’s not really news that there’s a free title. Our hope is there will always be one, from here on out.

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Beginning today, every day, some title from Exciting Press will be free.

We’re doing it with a schedule. For each title, Amazon allows us 5 days out of 90 to for giving away. With the right amount of titles and some advance planning, we can manage it every day.

So we are. But why, you ask?

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As promised, ReGeneration & other poems is free today to kick off celebrating National Poetry Month. Every weekday in April, Exciting Press will have free, four-poem micro-collection available; next week, we’ll see The Inevitable Decay of Francis “Fitz-Pack” Fitzgerald & other poems.

But that’s not all. It’s not even the biggest. Our very own one more thing:

Exciting Press is totally thrilled to be able to offer five stories by Nick Earls . . . worldwide!

Because he’s an international bestseller, Nick’s got several sets of people and titles and publishers to juggle. He’s worked with all the giant names in publishing. Saint Martin’s Press. Penguin. Random House. And he’s worked with them across multiple continents in myriad regions. Here’s a guy whose novel Perfect Skin became an award-winning Italian motion picture (as Solo un Padre. Distributed in Italy by Warner Brothers). We’ll be publishing Perfect Skin in May in several territories, but excluding Australia and New Zealand because the e-book market is very different there, and Nick’s got a lot of options. To date, all the work Exciting Press has done with Nick has excluded his home region.

Until now.

Now we have five short stories, one of which is live in all territories, with the others hopefully following its lead presently. All are just a dollar, and, even better: if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow them all for free through the end of September. Up first we’ve got “Headgames.”

And to celebrate this new global reach, we’re also offering “Problems With a Girl & a Unicorn” free. It appears it’s going to take a few hours for the availability to hit Australia and New Zealand (sorry to all Nick’s fans over there. We appreciate your patience and apologize for the delay. Write us if you have any problems and we’ll make it up to you).

We hope you enjoy these.

Back in February, using a free promotion through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Select Program, my novel The Prodigal Hour attracted more than 8,000 downloads in a mere three and a half days. Enough to steadily climb Amazon’s rankings until it was the number one free science fiction novel on the site. And in the top five action & adventure novels. (You can get it, or any other title from Exciting Press, right here.)

Now, this was when it was free, but even after the $4.99 price tag returned, it stayed in the lists. Not as high, of course, but it sank rather slowly out of them. Moreover, its current ranking on Amazon is a couple hundred thousand higher than it used to be. More people have bought and borrowed it in the past month and a half than ever. The numbers aren’t astronomical, but they’re growing.

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As many readers probably already know, April is National Poetry Month. Wikipedia notes:

National Poetry Month was inspired by the success of Black History Month, held each February, and Women’s History Month, held in March.

Neglecting for the moment that conflating poetry, as a genre, to either race or gender seems a little, well, off, celebrating poetry seems like a great idea. Perhaps due to its brevity or the fact that quality within it varies so greatly and is arguably so subjective, poetry is a difficult beast. Lots of people write it with varying degrees of success.

Like me, for example.

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“For Cynthia,” the first story from my now-no-longer-exists debut collection Entrekin, is, today, free.

God, I love Kindle Select.

I know not everyone does. Barnes & Noble and IPG and the SFWA all have all used various methods–refusing distribution and bowing out of contract negotiations and, er, removing links to Amazon titles except where those titles are available only through Amazon, apparently, respectively–to express their distinct displeasure with Amazon and Kindle, but me, I’m a reader and a writer and a publisher and, to paraphrase a former colleague copywriting for one of the most famous advertising campaigns in history, I’m loving Amazon and Kindle Select.

But let’s focus on “For Cynthia” for the moment. When I was younger I always liked to read authors’ commentaries on their short stories, accounts of their geneses and executions. So here’s a bit about “For Cynthia.”

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On March 1st, 2007, five years ago tomorrow, I published Entrekin, a self-titled debut collection of short stories, essays, and poetry. If you’ve ever been interested but put off picking up a copy, now’s the time to do so, as it’s your very final chance. I said that once, back when I pulled it from Lulu, but then Kindle made it more viable. And now, Kindle’s made a lot of other things more viable, too, which is why I’m pulling it from there, as well, finally. As of a few hours from now, Entrekin will no longer exist.

The stories and words, however, will. In new form.

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Last week, after having enrolled several books in the Kindle Select program and taken advantage of a few free promotions for essays and short stories, I decided to see how my novel, The Prodigal Hour, would fare. And fare well it did, hitting high ranks, breaking into the top-1oo Kindle Bestsellers, and so far, at least, it’s been maintaining more sales than before. You can find it here, for $4.99.

In fact, it went so well Nick Earls and I decided to do something Exciting.

I’ve been thrilled to work so closely with Nick, an internationally bestselling author, and not just on the Kindle store. Nick’s books have hit many lists in more countries. He’s had books published by Saint Martin’s in the US and Random House in Australia and several other houses and publishers besides.

Now he’s partnered with Exciting Press to bring stories, novellas, and novels to Kindle. Today marks a new publication of a story, “Cabin Baggage,” and a new option:

For the first three days of its digital existence, “Cabin Baggage,” will be free. In addition, it includes a free excerpt of Nick’s novel Monica Bloom, which in its turn, and for the next week only, includes a bonus novella, Grass Valley.

And that’s not even all.

I know! A free short story from an international bestseller! For any other publisher, that’d be enough, wouldn’t it?

Exciting Press isn’t any other publisher, is it?

Well. We’re hoping not to be.

Which is why we’re also offering Meets Girl free, also for a limited time.

Two exciting stories. One lower-than-low price.

This Valentine’s Day, make romance Exciting.

At the time of this writing, The Prodigal Hour is free on Kindle and has, in a day and a half, been downloaded more than 2000 times, and it currently ranks alongside George R.R. Martin’s latest novel atop Kindle’s list of top science fiction.

And me? I’m stunned.

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Hey, right now, my pre-/post-9/11 time-travel novel, The Prodigal Hour is free for Kindle.

I have to be honest with you: I have absolutely no idea how to feel about that.

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I’ve noted several times how much I dislike the phrase “self-publishing,” even going so far as to note there’s no such thing. I’ve spoken often enough (arguably too often?) against corporations and conglomerations and the oft-neglected complexity that has come to color storytelling and writing. I’ve noted that people who call the late-twentieth century business model of publishing and distribution “traditional” are badly misusing the word. I realize, however, I’ve never really talked about what independence means to me, or how I’ve come to it, or why. I thought I would.

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Over the weekend, The New York Times ran a long article on the current state and possible future of Barnes & Noble.

It’s an interesting article with a strange, near-defeated tone. It goes out of its way not to lament the current state of affairs that is the bookselling business and the late-twentieth century distribution model of the corporate publishing industry, but it holds an undercurrent of resignation from paragraph to paragraph, as if its author isn’t quite certain whom she is trying to convince but knows she can convince herself least of all. It portrays Barnes & Noble as a compelling candidate for its own adjective: an honorable enterprise begun by one man selling used books in a great city that grew humbly until the late-1970s, when a young entrepreneur bought it and fueled growth and revenue.

It doesn’t mention the scores of independent bookstores that collapsed based on Barnes & Noble’s discount practices and corporate publishers support of them. It doesn’t mention the once-quaint shops who shuttered their windows because selling a book for list price could no longer attract foot traffic from anyone but the most dedicated of shop patrons; most readers were happy to spend the money the saved buying inexpensive hardcovers on coffee or cheap tchotchkes like bookmarks or novelty pens or sparkling journals. It doesn’t mention predators and their prey, and the collateral damage experienced by those caught between the two.

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The other day, Inside the Outside author Martin Lastrapes asked me about Kindle Select (or Kindle Direct Publishing Select, or KDP Select, depending on the day and who’s typing, it seems). I’m now several weeks committed to being a Kindle-exclusive author, and I thought I’d share some of my experiences.

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Last week, in an event specified as education-related, Apple announced new software that enables authors to more easily create and publish media-rich digital content. They’re calling the sales app iBooks 2 and the creation app iBooks Author, but they seem to be making a very marked distinction that what has generally become known as an e-book is not what Apple has in mind when it talks about iBooks.

A lot of authors—especially independent authors—and other people in the publishing industry have been writing about the agreement that comes with the software, and complaining about how restrictive and evil it is. I’ve read the agreement in question, and I think that all the discussion around it is based on simple misunderstanding.

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End of the year means time for lists. I’ve seen lots of book lists over the past few weeks, but they’ve hewed to conservative choices like the new Stephen King time-travel novel or Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding. I’ll be honest: I tried both before I got distracted (Kindle’s make it easy to get distracted by another book. Just a few pages that don’t grab and suddenly button-click I’m back to my home library with all those other books I wanted to read . . .).

I’ve also seen lots of discussion about the top-selling indie (or “self-published”) books of 2011. Notable: two of the top ten bestselling books at Amazon this past year were independent novels (and fine books to boot).

But I haven’t seen any lists of terrific independent novels–and by independent, I mean what people with corporations would call “self-published.” And I thought, hey, I’ve read some great independent novels this year. Why not talk about them? Of course, I probably should be less declarative and more accommodating and title this something more generic like “My Favorite Indie Reads of 2011,” but none of the other lists I’ve seen have done so, so I figure why not?

I don’t really think in lists, so I’m not going to make one, but here are some independent books I thought highly of. A caveat: through social networking, I’ve “met” a lot of the authors on this list, as we run in the same circles, but they’re not here just because I follow them on Twitter. I follow them on Twitter because they’re here.

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