Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Bearing Fruit

If the only thing keeping you from reading The Three Towers of Afranor has been the fact that you absolutely had to read it on an Apple iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), then I have great news for you!

My second novel is now available in digital form on Apple’s iBooks Store. If happen to be reading this with an iOS device, then you can find it online, read a sample and/or purchase the whole book by clicking on this here link right here. There is also a link over on the right side of this page, if you prefer to click over there for some reason.

And my first book Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead continues to be on sale on the iBooks Store. There is still a link for that over in the right-hand column. Or you can click here on this string of words, if that is easier for you.

I should note that the links on this page are for the iBooks Store for the United States. If your iTunes account is for a different country, hopefully the app on your device will forward you to the right place without too much fuss. If not, just do a search on the titles. Both titles are pretty unique search-wise. Since the books are on sale in iBooks Stores for 51 different countries, so it would be a bit unwieldy to try to list all of them for you.

You might wonder why The Three Towers of Afranor is only now showing up in the iBooks Store when it has been available on Amazon, B&N Nook, Google Play and Kobo for well over three months. Well, that is quite a story—if you want to stick around and read it.

A lot of authors use aggregators (third-party businesses) to get their digital books to the various online sellers. I don’t. I prefer to upload them myself. On the whole, this is surprisingly easy—at least compared to the writing, editing, formatting and press prep that has to be done before you get to that point. Once you have all your work done, you just go to a web site and click a few buttons and fill in a bit of information and—presto—your e-book is magically published. The exception is the iBooks Store. You cannot upload your book to Apple via your browser. You have to use an app called iTunes Producer, which is available only for Mac computers. I don’t happen to have a Mac, and it’s not really worth it to me to buy one just to upload a few files every year or two or whenever I have a new book. My neighbor Brendan, who does have a Mac, bailed me out with Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead, which was really nice of him, but it wasn’t exactly ideal. I don’t want to have to bother him every time I need to make a correction or an update.

Then recently I discovered that there is another tool for uploading files to iBooks. It can be run on non-Apple computers but only by using a command line console. (Kids, ask your grandparents about MS-DOS.) This was good news because command line stuff is not a problem for someone like me who cut his teeth on UNIX in the 1980s. It did, however, require that I install Java, a programming language that I had banished from my computer sometime ago. Not only that, but it had to be an outdated version of Java, which meant registering as a software developer with Oracle to be able to download the old Java. Then followed a whole lot of trial and error since the available documentation was not the most user-friendly. Particularly tricky was creating an XML (Extensible Markup Language) file with all the book’s info, including some things I hadn’t heard about in decades, like checksums.

To make a long story slightly less long, I eventually figured it all out and got The Three Towers of Afranor uploaded successfully and on sale in 51 countries. And, if I need to make any changes or updates (or if I ever finish another book), I am all set up to handle them from my very own laptop. For me this is huge.

So if you have any interest in reading my humble little book on your iPhone or your iPad, I heartily encourage you to go to the iBooks Store right now and download it. And tell all your iOS-using friends to go download it too. Don’t just do it for me. Do it for Tim Cook and the gang at Apple. They need the money. As you may have heard, they have a pretty hefty back tax bill to pay to Ireland.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Roiling the Market

At a family event on Saturday, my wife’s Scottish brother-in-law cut to the chase.

“How many of those books have you actually sold?” he wanted to know.

I actually didn’t have a clue. I am not very good at keeping track of what’s happening with all the various sellers who carry my two titles. Their web pages are equipped to generate whatever reports I might like about books sales, whenever I might like them, but I always seem to have more pressing things to do. Counting up my sales always feels like time I should be spending on marketing my books. Marketing my books always feels like time I should be spending on writing the next book. It’s an endless cycle.

I wish I was as good at marketing my books as Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams is at marketing his. He has had a book out for the past twenty months or so called How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. He also has a blog, where he posts something just about everyday. These days he usually blogs about Donald Trump. I do not blog as often as he does but, on the positive side, I put my comments about Donald Trump on my other blog because I like to think that people interested in my books already know as much (or more) as they want to about Donald Trump or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton.

The clever thing that Adams does is that, at the end of every blog post, no matter what he happens to be writing about, he always adds a random-sounding non-sequitur line pitching his book. They are usually quite humorous, like this one: “Everyone is talking about my book. I hope we don’t run out of Kindle versions before you get yours.”

That is funny because I don’t think anyone has ever ordered a Kindle book from Amazon only to get an email saying, “This title is temporarily out of stock. We will ship your Kindle book as soon as it becomes available.” Adams’s line about the Kindle book made me smile because it reminded me of one of the reasons I like e-books. If they are for sale, they are in stock—always.

Another reason I like Kindle books is that is the format apparently preferred by most of my readers. No less than 68 percent of my books’ sales revenues are through the U.S. Kindle store. (After my weekend conversation, I went home and checked.) Another 12.5 percent are from Kindle sales through Amazon’s non-U.S. sites. Four percent are from other e-book formats. The remaining 15.5 percent come from books distributed on good old-fashioned paper.

I wonder if that is typical. I have no idea and, apparently, it is difficult to count e-book sales as compared to paper book sales. Earlier this year an article in The Guardian estimated that 26 percent of e-books sold on Amazon in the UK were by self-published authors. By comparison 31 percent were sold by the UK’s five biggest publishers (Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan and Simon & Schuster). So my guess is that my statistics may not be atypical for many independent authors.

Many self-published authors sell exclusively through the Kindle store and do not even bother with paper books. When I first started, I was not sure if I would release paperback versions of my books. Now I would not consider doing a book release that did not include a paperback version. People who prefer that format really do prefer it. And, if nothing else, paperback books make handy birthday and Christmas gifts for my relatives.

Okay, now’s the time to try a clever Scott Adams-style kicker. Here goes. If you like eating sushi in September, then you might like my book. It has no Japanese words.