self-published ebooks

creepy portrait zombie book

Zombie Books

Some say ebooks are immortal. That’s one of the wonderful things about them. Self-pubbed authors don’t have to worry that their publisher will decide to take their books out of print, to be remaindered and (gulp) pulped. Books going “OP” is just a quaint remnant of the bad old trad-pub-or-nothing era. Now, ebooks and POD print books exist as files on servers, not paper volumes produced by a complicated process involving heavy machinery. Books now can remain in “print” and available to readers forever.

That’s great, but what about the books no one wants, no one reads, no one even looks at? There they sit, unvisited clumps of electronic blips, not dead but not alive either. Unlike print books, they can’t even be used as decor or carved up into paper sculptures. In some cases, even their authors have abandoned them, giving up on whatever hopes they had as self-published authors. Those books are immortal, but effectively dead.

Books need brains, the brains of readers to take in their words, to engage with their narratives, to visualize the stories they embody. To think about their meanings, and to talk about them with others.

It’s sad to think that a portion of the enormous output of self-published authors in the last decade may languish undiscovered and unwanted. Millions of new books are born every year. How many of them will end up as zombies? More to the point, must it be this way? Do some books just deserve obscurity? How can we as authors ensure that our book babies live on in the minds of readers, rather than shambling into virtual graveyards?

cemetery, gravestones

Images courtesy of Pixabay; “digital brain” image by A. Driscoll using Canva, with elements from Pixabay and Canva.

Judging My Books By Their Covers

I admit it — the cover images for my ebooks are home-made and look it. Now that I’m approaching the end of a long process of working through my “trilogy in four volumes” with the help of my critique group, I’ve decided it’s time to plan an overhaul of the way I present my books to the world.

The first thing I will do is commission professionally designed cover images. Even if they don’t result in increased sales, they will honour my works with vivid, fully-realized visual representations. Because I’ve spent almost nothing on self-publishing so far, I am prepared to invest a non-trivial amount of money. I know I can write and even (gasp!) edit, but have neither the talent nor the tools for good cover design.

The next thing will be to completely rewrite my book descriptions. Smashwords allows for both brief (400 character) and long (4,000 character) descriptions. If long descriptions are present, they are what gets distributed to retailers such as Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc. Reasoning that short is better than long, I went with brief descriptions only, but really, it’s hard to do much with 400 characters. I don’t intend to use the full 4,000, however. I don’t like long book descriptions myself, and doubt that anyone else has time for them either. If covers get 2 seconds of a prospective reader’s attention, descriptions probably get no more than 5 seconds, so there’s no point in droning on and on.

Once all this is in place, I will add to the end of each book (except the final one, of course) the first few pages of the next book. I thought it was enough to include a link to the next book’s Smashwords page, but there’s nothing like keeping the reader’s attention when you already have it.

Then I will do a re-launch of the entire series, or trilogy if that’s what it will be after all the reworking. Maybe I’ll end up calling it a Quartet or Tetralogy (horrible, spiky word!). No doubt I’ll spend time agonizing over this issue for the next few months.

I’m getting excited about all this, and spent a long time yesterday looking at vast numbers of cover designs submitted to the Book Designer website for their Monthly e-Book Cover Design Awards. This is a great site for self-publishers, by the way — lots of useful information.

The sad part of all this is that the possibility of doing any new writing is becoming less likely by the minute. The Work has called the shots ever since I began writing, however. I just do what it tells me.