Being a compilation of notes and particulars as to the publication of City of Roses Vol. 1: "Wake up..."

Some context, methods, & software.

The overall work is intended to consist of 22 episodes of roughly 14,000 words each, as self-contained as any given episode of a strong, arc-driven television program. 15 chapters have been completed to date, and the full contents are available for free online in HTML form. But enough people (two? three?) had expressed an interest in reading it on a Kindle or iPad or smartphone, or had expressed a dislike of reading it on the web, that I decided to bite the bullet and prep an ebook. I've resisted for a while, disliking the hodge-podge of formats and the utter crapshoot that is the final product in all the places it might well end up; finally, working with a reasonably recent build of Sigil, I was able to generate files I could live with. I decided to rather crudely break the overall story exactly in half, so that volume 1 would consist of 11 episodes, or roughly 150,000 words; even though it breaks on a nasty cliffhanger, that felt better than breaking the story into halves of 9 and 13 episodes, or 12 and 10. —The text is composed in Scrivener; Tex-Edit and Dean Allen's HTML markup scripts are used to prepare the text for web publishing (a very old step from previous workflows; I should really take the time to teach myself how best to export straight from Scrivener to HTML, since that's one of its strengths); the text is then typeset in InDesign for the paper chapbook versions of each installment. (So the final text is live in three places: Scrivener archives, the website, and the InDesign files. Makes late edits fun!)

To generate the EPUB, I took the HTML from the website versions and flowed that into Sigil, then tinkered with the results until I had something workable. (I've tried InDesign's EPUB generation tools and was not impressed at all. I haven't yet tried Scrivener's export to EPUB function.) I then used Calibre to convert the EPUB to a MOBI for the (blasted) Kindle, and later in the process ended up with a "pretty" PDF; all three are hosted as separate Google docs, and purchasers through the website receive an email with the relevant links to download any or all versions for a single price.

Pricing and sales channels.

I decided to price the ebook of 11 chapters at $3.00, following the logic of Nick Mamatas: the price of a used book, which is about the clearest signal we can get as to the pricing of the contents of a book minus all the physical accoutrements, should be used to suggest the price of an ebook.

I then took the initial EPUB and ran it through Barnes and Noble's PubIt and Lulu's ebook publishing mills, got it validated at both locations, and priced it identically. (Lulu has since indicated that the EPUB isn't valid for its premium listings; since there's nothing wrong with the EPUB itself, I can only assume it has something to do with the listing, or something, but I only just discovered that today, and haven't had time to poke. —When I say "indicated," I don't mean "sent an automated email," I mean stuck a graphic next to the title on a report generated at the website which if noticed and clicked would then take you to a page which merely told you it was invalid, not why. Not big on communication, these folks.)

Then it was time for Smashwords. My lovely, rigorous EPUB wouldn't do there; I had to take the text of all 11 chapters, strip out all formatting, flow it into a plain Word doc, and then put all the italics and chapter headings back in by hand, and build the ugly table of contents Smashwords needs to generate navigational links for its more abstruse variants. So that took a while, and it took a while longer for the resulting ebook to be validated for the premium sales channels (iTunes, Scrollmotion, Kobo, etc.); Smashwords finally went live in July.

While I was waiting, I figured out that Smashwords' pending integration with Amazon was perpetually pending. I'd resisted publishing to the Kindle directly myself, because the MOBI format just annoys the hell out of me, but I wanted to have an ebook listed on Amazon, so decided to take the MOBI I'd built earlier and publish that through Kindle Direct, which went live in July as well.

And finally, having done all this, I decided I wanted a paper book as well. Dammit. I started trying Lulu, but despite claiming to offer a mass-market paperback trim size (they even offer a Word template for it), that size was utterly unavailable when it came time to try and build the book itself, so I went with CreateSpace instead. They didn't offer a mass-market size, but the 5x8 trim size they had did exist, so I went with that. I took the InDesign files from the paper chapbooks and flowed them into a new InDesign document, then printed a PDF from that. Hey presto.

So! That was how I spent my summer: most of May, June, and half of July. Ebooks and a POD option available through a shotgun blast of sales channels. The results?

Results (to date).

Yeah, so. Fame and fortune, just around the corner. Right?

A conclusion?

Well, actually, first there's an enormous piece missing, the magic bullet, to wit: marketing.

So then: press releases and review copies to local and genre media outlets; modified press releases, review copies, requests for review, etc. to book bloggers on a rolling basis as I find them; author pages on LibraryThing, Goodreads, Shelfari, and Amazon; a LibraryThing giveaway of 10 copies for review; a minuscule amount spent on ad campaigns through Project Wonderful (~$70, 1.3 million ad views, 465 click-throughs); the generous allotment of a month's worth of advertising here, for which many thanks, and to which at least one of the website sales of an ebook can be directly attributed (you know, I presume, who you are); and tabling at the Portland Zine Symposium, where I sold the three in-person copies of the physical book (all to friends or acquaintances), and, not incidentally, made almost half the $34 in profit noted above. —As well as that, of course, the history and name I've built over the years publishing in the webfiction community.

All of that work, then, on top of most of May and June and half of July and of course the uncounted and God willing uncountable time spent sitting at the desk typing the words into Scrivener in the first place: for which the sum of thirty-four dollars. —If nothing else, seeing it all laid out like that makes one appreciate the ego and sheer bloody-minded fuck-all stubborn-as-a-God-damned-mule mindset necessary to do whatever it is this is.

The upside? At least the publisher isn't going to kill the book just because it isn't selling well. (Cue bleak, obviously canned laugh-track.) —Boiled down to a takeaway, though it comes out something like: it is difficult to sell unless one is known; it is difficult to be known, unless one has sold. Which, I mean, ain't nobody on the planet doesn't have that problem.

I'll be focusing for the next little while on trying to get a review, any review (I think it was Messr. Macdonald who noted the slushpile's moved on to the reviewer? Well here I am, shoveling slush) in the hopes of a mention, any mention, to drive more holy traffic, and of course for the egoboo that comes when one is read, or at the very least noticed. —And also writing; more writing. If I can stay on schedule, Volume 2: The Dazzle of Day will just about be done this time next year, which means I get to do this all over again...