Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: independent publishing

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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Self explanatory, isn’t it?

Over Christmas, I tried the free thing and saw stories and essays get downloaded more than 1200 times.

I’m interested to see what will happen with a novel.

For anyone new (as I’m hoping such a promotion will attract), The Prodigal Hour might well be the world’s only pre-/post-9/11 novel. It’s about time travel and alternate histories and trying to change the world one moment at a time.

For anyone not new who hasn’t yet picked it up, now’s the time. Hope you enjoy it.

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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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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After careful consideration, I’ve removed my collection from Smashwords and enrolled all my books in Amazon’s new KDP Select program. I did it for both professional and moral reasons that disagree with most everything else people say about Amazon, so I thought I’d tell you about why, but first I wanted to mention that one benefit of doing so means that, for a very limited time (until December 27th, in fact, so just five days including today), all my short stories, essays, and collections will be available free.

Totally free. No catch. No caveat. You don’t have to be a Prime member.

You can find them all right here.

Now. Why am I going Amazon exclusive (if only for 90 days at a shot), when most people in the publishing industry are decrying the evil of the Seattle corporation–even though that’s kind of ironic, given that pretty much everyone who’s called them an evil corporation is either a corporation or deeply associated with one (or many)?

Because I don’t see them as evil. I’m a reader, first–I write because some of the books I want to read haven’t been written yet–and Amazon has done more for me as a reader than anyone else ever. It’s also done more for me as a writer than anyone save my editrix.

But let’s talk about Amazon. And evil. And corporations.

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I’ve been sitting on some news for a while, but now that some books are up and things are moving forward, I feel more comfortable making a formal announcement: I’ve officially founded Exciting Press, a new independent digital publisher, and as director have signed bestselling author Nick Earls to a major digital distribution deal.

For a lot of years, I was pursuing what’s now called a “traditional book deal.” I wanted an advance and book tours. It was always my dream.

And I mention that because this feels like my dream come true even though it sort of isn’t. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this venture, and how deeply honored and humbled I am to be working with Nick, who is both a truly accomplished author and a truly cool guy. His agent, Pippa Masson of Curtis Brown Australia, has also been terrific to work with.

So what does it mean to found a press?

A new website for one. There will be more to come on the site.

For now, being a small start-up, I’m working to focus on Nick’s work–which at this point includes more than a dozen books. Our plan is to release them over the spring and summer of 2012, but we’ve also managed to publish a few in time for the holiday.

We’re going to work to make it all easily accessible; for now, the best way to find the work is to search for “Nick Earls” in the Kindle store. But a couple of stories might get you started:

“Problems With a Girl & a Unicorn”

“The Secret Life of Veal”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve encountered several essays in which authors have enumerated reasons not to “self-publish.” I think that their use of the phrase implies some prejudice already–no lesser a source than Hachette (one of the big 6 publishers) notes in a leaked document that “Self-publishing is a misnomer.” When one major corporation acknowledges the phrase is misleading, another is tries to pawn off vanity services as “assisted self-publishing,” and more writers are discussing all the reasons not to do it, one possible implication is that it has become more viable.

That’s because it has.

Which means the big question is whether or not you should do it.

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Just received an email that Amazon has made a special KDP Select option available on its Kindle Direct Publishing platform, which what many authors–including me–use to publish our work for Kindle. Which is awesome. I know a lot of corporate publishers, literary agents, retailers, and authors are wary of Amazon, its continued growth, and its possible dominance, but for many of us–again, myself included–it’s been uniquely empowering.

The new Select option is interesting; authors who agree to digital exclusivity with Amazon can both make their books available as part of Kindle’s new Lending Library and take advantage of free promotions.

I decided to try it out to see what I could see. I went ahead and enrolled “Jamais Plus: Explorations in the Curious Case of the Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe”, while at the same time increasing its “normal” price to non-promotional level (and taking advantage of that free promotion). “Jamais Plus” is a choose-your-own-adventure noir, a twisting-winding throwback to the adventure novels so many of us grew up on, in which C. Auguste Dupin investigates the death of the man who made him an infamous detective. It required substantial and specialized coding to make it work on Kindle, and it’s sort of even more a reading experience than a story.

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So what might a writer learn from Locke? You’ve written a “good enough” novel–whatever you’ve decided that means. Maybe you just finished it for NaNoWriMo (and in which case, congratulations!).

Maybe you’re an experienced indie author still frustrated when you see other authors selling crazy amounts of books while sales of yours trickle in.

Maybe you’re an author who got a corporate deal–advance and all!–but your publisher never really got around to marketing you. Maybe you signed with Simon & Schuster, and they’re too busy with uploading and then deleting Snooki YouTube videos.

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In discussing Locke and How I Sold (as well as Hocking and Eisler et al.), I think one huge caveat that must be enumerated, and can’t be mentioned often enough, is that: there is no magic bullet. What’s worked for one writer might not–and probably will not–work for others.

I’m sure someone could make the argument that people don’t discuss that bit because it’s understood, but I don’t buy that.

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All the “versus” debates floating around recently have made me think about debates in the first place. Binary thinking.

Conceptual versus linear thinking. Which, of course, one could argue is just as binary.

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Last week, I caught a post by Angela Perry, in which she mentions she’s considering “self-publishing” but ultimately moves on to discuss writers and tone. I honestly think that tone is at the heart of why people think a “debate” exists, and why there are two sides to it. Some of the rhetoric recently used has been hyperbolic and not-so-helpful, but I’ll be honest: I can, in ways, see why it’s been used. Why some loud, brash independent authors have resorted to using somewhat shocking language.

Publishing never used to be so divided, but then, it was never really so conglomerated, either.

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After debuting at $2.99 and having a 99-cent pre-/post-9/11 sale, The Prodigal Hour is now on sale for $4.99 at Amazon.

Now that Kindle’s Direct Publishing platform has allowed so many authors to bypass both literary agents and corporations’ acquisitions editors in favor of connecting directly with readers, many conventions long simply rotely accepted are being questioned.

One is pricing.

In a corporate-type situation, it’s not difficult to determine pricing. Probably due to a confluence of complicated factors too boring to really contemplate, we all know about how much a trade paperback costs: usually between $12.99 and $14.99, right? I think that’s about the upper limit. Hardcovers are, what, $27-ish? Maybe $30?

(Which prompts a question: who pays full price for a hardcover? Don’t all hardcovers [and most trade paperbacks, nowadays] come with some discount or other? Back when I was a proud carrier of a Barnes & Noble card Members Receive An Extra 10% Off books already discounted by 30% or more.)

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Over at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds site, the resident penmonkey extraordinaire was kind enough to chat with me and introduce me to his readers.

We discuss some thoughts about indie versus so-called “self-publishing,” but we also chat about writing advice, motivations, and beverage of choice.

Check it out.

Also, I’d be remiss not to mention Chuck’s Irregular Creatures, a short story collection. He’s got two collections of writing advice worth checking out, as well.

Happy Fourth of July!

On July 4th, 1776, the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence, a formal explanation of why it had declared itself independent of Britain on July 2. It was widely distributed and, most historians believe, fully and formally signed nearly a month later, on August 2nd. It is not the key document in the formation of the US; that distinction belongs to the Constitution, which formally founded our government, but it is arguable that the Declaration made the Constitution possible. It was issued near the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, which would last another 7 years.

Independence is a wonderful thing. And it should be celebrated.

There’s a new revolution in independence occurring, this time around in media and culture. The Internet has made possible instantaneous and widespread distribution of information, an unprecedented degree of sharing never before imagined. It’s a glorious thing, and many people are taking terrific advantage of it.

I’m one of those people, but I am not the only one.

This July 4th, I’ve made my novel The Prodigal Hour available on Amazon. It’s the world’s first pre-/post-9/11 novel, and Elizabeth Eslami, author of Bone Worship, called it “A thrilling head rush of a book.”

It’s right here.

Again, however, I’m not the only one. This isn’t about sharing one novel. It’s about independence, and it’s about tellers of stories and makers of films and players of songs, all of whom are doing so because they love it and want to share it with the world. So it’s about helping to share those stories and films and songs. It’s about the beginning of a revolutionary new era, and one that can only be made better with support from each other.

So share this. You don’t have to buy anything; this isn’t about money, or destruction, to allude to the Beatles. Just tell your friends. Tell everyone about the most recent indie movie you saw. Tell your family about a new indie novel. Go to a bar and listen to a new indie band.

I’m Will Entrekin, and this is my declaration of independence:

When in the course of telling stories it becomes necessary for one author to eschew pursuing engagement with corporations and to assume among the powers of the word the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Stories and of Written Words entitle him, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind require that he should declare the causes which impel him to that decision.

I hold these truths to be self-evident: that all books are not created equal but deserve an equal chance among readers; that they are written by their creators with certain inalienable hopes; that among these are dreams, passion, and the pursuit of ideas.

I, therefore, but a single author among legion, do independently publish my work.

What’s yours? Feel free to share your work and link in the comments. In addition, I created a Facebook event page; feel free to attend it and share it among your friends.

Consider so-called “self-publishing” for the past several years and you’ll find that every year, someone writes that its “stigma” is disappearing. Perfunctory research dug up this 2002 Wired article, and articles every year following up until now, including this one at the Washington Post. What’s odd is that extensive searches for stigmas associated with either indie filmmaking or indie music-making yield no such results—in fact, the closest I came when Googling for any stigma associated with indie filmmaking were results lamenting the difficulty of an NC-17 film-rating. I thought, at first, I might be using invalid search terms, so I tried “independent”—rather than “indie”—filmmaking; ironically, I found only this Yahoo! question-and-answer post regarding the distinction between the stigma associated with self-publishing and the lack of any associated with independent filmmaking.

What’s interesting about that question is the response thereto: the poster proposes that the distinction is that, when considering writing, often the author is the only person associated with the work (say, a novel, or memoir, or book of poetry). The general thought seems to be that filmmaking can only be collaborative—with a producer and writer and director and actors—while a self-published novel’s creation is isolative—just one writer, in one room, with one keyboard and one screen.

If that is the case, however, wouldn’t it be true that, except in very rare circumstances, neither filmmaking nor music are ever truly “independent”? How often does one encounter a movie written, produced, and directed by one actor in one room? And that doesn’t even mention lighting, sound, and crafts.

Really, sounds like those self-shot YouTube videos one sees, in which users turn on their webcams and talk/rant at it for a few minutes.

(Regardless of your feelings concerning authors who have published their own books—through whatever means—it’s simply not equivalent to ranting at a webcam.)

What it comes down to is simple: for some reason, people respect independence when associated with music recording or filmmaking but not writing, even though writing is the only endeavor of the three that is ever actually accomplished independently.

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You’ve known it’s coming.

I hope you’ve prepared.

I just went over the proof myself, and just handed it to my editrix, who’s informed me she’s attacked it with her red pen.

This summer, I’ll be releasing it to you.

I plan on a similar schedule as with Meets Girl, with some differences, the most notable being that The Prodigal Hour is a vastly different book with a vastly different structure, and I intend to post through to the end of the second act. That’ll be 30 chapters.

You won’t have to wait for each one, though.

I’m aiming to make it available in time for July 4th weekend. The Prodigal Hour has always been my huge, mainstream, uber-commercial, blockbuster of a time-travel novel, and with that in mind, at what better time to make it available than over a big summer weekend?

And for an independent author like myself, what better big summer weekend to do so than the one that celebrates independence?

To celebrate, I’m releasing the first teaser today:

This week, two publishing deals made big news, each for very different reasons.

Early this week, in an interview with Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler revealed he’d declined a six-figure deal from a major publisher. Instead, he will publish his books independently, on Kindle.

On the other end of the spectrum, Amanda Hocking scored a seven-figure deal with Saint Martin’s Press. Hocking made a well-recognized name for herself by publishing low-priced Kindle-exclusive novellas and novels. Recently, she’s mostly known for having sold more than one hundred thousand books in January, which isn’t surprising given that she published eleven books since, like, April of last year.

I’m sure many of them were in a trunk somewhere, and she didn’t write them all in eight months.

Actually, considering their quality, I’m not sure of that.

This particular pair of writers has created a total binary in terms of discussion with regard to so-called “self-publishing.” It’s an easy black and white to paint.

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