I've never been a big one for giving out advice. What the hell do I know? I mean, yeah -- I can recite the Green Lantern oath and list every Tom Baker episode of Doctor Who in chronological order. But what do I know that anyone else actually wants to know?
Well, now I can tell you, because I've finally mastered something. I have become a publisher. An e-publisher, to be specific. And that's the kind to be these days, my friends. I am not now nor have I ever been a business-minded person, yet I've managed to put out electronic editions of two short story collections entirely on my own. And what's more, I expect to sell literally dozens of downloads over the course of the rest of my life.
Interested in replicating that kind of success in the brutal dog-eat-baby (yes, it's that brutal) world of e-pubbing? You know you are! So read on and get ready to watch those nickels and dimes add up...into quarters!
Step 1 on the Road to WINNING: Write a great book. This can take anywhere from one month to 30 years. A very rare minority of authors -- your Pamela Andersons, your William Shatners, your Snookis -- can even pen an entire novel in literally no time at all. It's as if the books simply write themselves! Before wasting any time on yours, give it a cool name then don't touch it. Oh, maybe do some outlining or create character bios or something. But for god's sake don't actually write anything. If at the end of two years your title and character sketches haven't magically grown into a 500-page manuscript, you'll have to face the sad truth: You are not a celebrity and will therefore have to write the book your own damn self one ever-lovin' letter at a time. I suggest starting with "T."
Step 2: Show the first draft to your most trusted confidantes, then completely disregard their advice.This is good practice for the day when your book is published and you will have to rise above the petty jealousy of your so-called "friends." Start ignoring them now. It's not like they'd have anything helpful to tell you anyway. They just read your book. You wrote it. How could they know something about it you don't? That's crazy talk. This applies to editors and proofreaders, too. "Why is your heroine named 'Susan' in the first half of the book and 'Suzanne' in the second half?" "Didn't the cop who rescues Susan/Suzanne in chapter 30 blow up in the fireworks factory in chapter 12?" "Do you know what 'spell check' is?" Blah blaw blaa. Here's a question for the wisenheimers with their fancy dictionaries and style guides and "logic": "If you're so smart, why don't you write a book? Oh? Because you're not a writer, you say? Then why are you trying to tell me how to write mine? SNAP!!!"
Step 3: Create a cover for your book. That's right. I went straight to the cover. No "Find an agent." No "Sell your book to a reputable publisher." We can skip all that now. The e-pub revolution is upon us, baby, and agents and publishers are bound for the dustbin of history. Along with graphic designers, if they don't watch out. Designer Rick Forgus created the cover for Dear Mr. Holmes: Seven Holmes on the Range Mysteries, while designer/old buddy/hipster home owner Brian Trost did the honors for Naughty: Nine Tales of Christmas Crime. And they both did terrific work that I love love love. But you know what? I had to pay them to do it. Real money! Why would I do that? I've got my own computer. (What do you think I'm doing this blog post on -- a chalkboard?) After a 30-second Google image search and five minutes in Photoshop, voila: I've got the 100% free cover that I could have used for Dear Mr. Holmes if I weren't such a rube. Check it out. That's it to the left. Maybe it's not as slick as Rick and Brian's designs, but since when did "slick" count for anything in marketing and sales?
Don't make the same mistake I did, friends. It's a DIY world now.
Step 4: Hire somebody to format your book for the Kindle, the Nook, Kobo, Gloobarfi, Phlimphlam, the Zazzmat and whatever other crazy-sounding "platforms" are out there. You know what I said a minute ago about this being a DIY world? Well, that's still mostly true. But some I's you can't D Y. Or at least I can't D them. So I paid the knowledgeable, efficient and very, very patient Steven W. Booth of GOS Multimedia to handle all the techno-crap for me. Steven's rates are extremely reasonable, but I'm still wondering if next time I should save myself a little dough. The high school kid across the street seems pretty computer savvy. Or at least he knew that they're called "Macs" not "Micks" when we were talking at the neighborhood barbecue last summer. I wonder what his rates are...?
Step 5: Slap that puppy up on Amazon and hype the crap out of it! E-book marketing can take several forms. There's the social networking approach, which relies on popular websites such as Facebook, Twitter and michigancelery.com to connect writers with readers. There's the pray-Joe Konrath-plugs-you approach, which involves sacrificing small animals and even loved ones to the Dark Lord of E-Pubbing in the hope that he will, with a wave of his black-gloved hand, take your book from an Amazon rank of #1,056,721 into the top 10. There's the popular "Marketing? What's marketing?" approach, as well as the increasingly common "Aww, screw it -- I give up" method.
And then there are the schmucks who just blog about it.
UPDATE: Good buddy and time-tested publishing industry vet J. Steven York has taken the bait and posted his response to this blog post here. Stay tuned for my response to his response. And, of course, his response to my response to his response. And then perhaps...you get the idea....