Friday, February 20, 2015

Spreading the Nets: Passive Discoverability

And now we sitz and waitz.

Louis Shalako

Here at Shalako Publishing, home of Long Cool One Books and Larga Fresca Uno Libros, our latest project is to get our books and stories uploaded in (or on) a few more online bookstores.

The basic premise is that the whole package has to be free, and the service provider must have their own bookstore. Additional distribution channels are a bonus if we can find ones we don’t have access to already. This all goes to extending the reach and the impact of passive discoverability.

The interface must be easy to use, accept our files, have provision for using our own book covers, and other considerations.

For this experimental addition to our digital publishing machine we will be looking for provision for Canadian and overseas authors to sell ebooks and PODs without withholding tax.

That being said, in some circumstances we may be willing to accept a penalty of thirty percent withholding tax, if we think the website will grow, succeed and eventually be able to provide this service. Any additional sales are significant. We will be looking for maximum flexibility from all platforms, free analytics, site appearance, ease and quickness of problem resolution, questions answered, etc. Assuming we made a hell of a lot of money, which doesn’t seem very likely, at some point in the future it would make sense to do U.S. income tax returns and get a refund.

Hell, if things go really well, I've always wanted to live in the southwestern U.S. anyway. 

I might even immigrate, ladies and gentlemen.

It might take a few days, in terms of the man-hours required to upload a hundred and thirteen titles to some new bookstores and aggregators. This is the sort of work that doesn’t pay off immediately. It pays off in the long run, which is why we say we are playing the long game.

If passive discoverability really does work, then being an early adopter of any platform might pay off at some time down the road. If it doesn’t work, then each and every site will need some degree of promotion.

This is the sort of experiment where a couple of initial sales might impress the author, however it is only over time that we can really get a good idea of which sites work for us and which sites don’t.

So we’ve gotten into Kbuuk, with three titles published so far. Here is Heaven Is Too Far Away, with a cover using a pro marketing image and designed in Microsoft Word.

Each site is of course a bit different in terms of operating details, and each site represents a new learning curve. For example the Kbuuk cover system looks a bit iffy unless I can fiddle around in there a bit and find some adjustment in the cover field. Designing a cover for each site for each book looks like a big job.

In terms of learning curve, Booktango wouldn’t accept Epub at first go, so I simply used a .doc and it went.

However, the Booktango system kept giving me error messages. I find it hard to believe that the original file had many, many hard returns in the middle of the line. The Smashwords system might introduce one hard return as it converts your original .doc file into what is presented as your original file. I say that because I check every book, page by page, using tools like the Amazon Kindle previewer, Nook for PC, Kindle for PC, etc. I also have Adobe Reader, the latest version. When I couldn’t find the original on my PC, I have used the SW original file and that’s when I started finding the odd hard return in the middle of a line.

There is no way that I’m going to spend hours fixing errors introduced by a system that obviously has different requirements. For example in the case of this document, the thing doesn’t seem to like three spaces or even two before the next chapter heading. That’s one reason I think it is an artifact of the systems involved. Also, at this exact moment in time, I’m not prepared to make a table of contents for a dozen novels. All of the short stories and novellas have them, but those books were written and formatted at a later date, when it was a requirement for iTunes distribution through Smashwords. A simple solution is to upload anything that already has a TOC and not worry too much about the novels for now.

Initially, I started off by searching ‘free ebook aggregators’ and similar searches. I began last night. 

What has been accomplished so far?

I’ve taken a few off of the list, including Booktango, Bookbaby, Fastpencil, Blurb, Indiebound, Lightning Source, (ebooks and PODs) as well as taking a look at Lulu, where simple .pdfs in their store might generate a bit of revenue over the course of time. It's either that or learn how to embed fonts! But we don't need their extended distribution anyways.

We couldn’t find a way to get into Versent, for example, so some of the other links we found were quickly written off.

Just one minor point might put us off. If someone charges $49 to set up each title, then that’s quickly going to run into a lot of money, with virtually no idea of the sales potential is.

If it ain't free, I move on rather quickly these days.

Other than that, I’ve got a handful of titles up on two or three platforms, all for free, and all using the simple tools provided.

As for the question of whether it sells books or not, we won’t know that for a year or two!


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