I’ve published seven books since 2011 and will be publishing another one this year. I write every day, sometimes just for a couple hours, sometimes for eight or more. Admittedly, it feels a bit too much like work at times, but it’s an enjoyable hobby. I especially appreciate every review readers post to Amazon or Goodreads or wherever—even those that aren’t five stars. Honest reviews are how I gauge a book’s success. The number of purchases is secondary, and the money I receive in royalties doesn’t enter into the calculation at all. It’s not about the money. I’d be extremely pleased if my books made a gazillion dollars, but it’s not why I write them.
Being an indie writer, I have a lot of control over the pricing of my books. The prices for my trade paperback editions have to be enough to cover production, shipping, and handling, but since eBooks are cheap to reproduce and cost almost nothing to deliver, I’ve priced most of mine at 99¢. This is mainly because that’s as low as the big distributors will allow. I have managed to convince some retailers to offer a couple of my books free, but Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Sony, and others frown on free eBooks because, unlike me, they measure success in terms of money. Free books don’t make any for them.
There is one notable exception to the 99¢ rule. Smashwords is an online digital publisher that has almost 400,000 books available, both fiction and nonfiction, which can be downloaded in pretty much any format you need (epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt, or html). They, too, are a business and need to make money to stay in business, but they have a unique entrepreneurial flair to their pricing model. Authors can let readers decide what they want to pay for a book. If the author has selected this as an option, you will see You set the price! at the top right side of the screen just above the Buy button. This isn’t a joke or a bait and switch gimmick. You really can set the price. You’re more than welcome to pay any amount of money you wish, or you can pay nothing. Absolutely nothing, and you get the same book with the same content, in the same format as anyone else who buys it. You decide what that book is worth to you and pay as you see fit. It’s as simple as that.
All of my books on Smashwords, other than those I’ve specifically made free, have this option.* If you wish to pay for them, you may. If you don’t, that’s fine. I don’t mind. Seriously. I really don’t mind. I’d much prefer they be read for nothing than not read at all. It’s not about the money.
The Brane Skip device may allow a spaceship to skip between layers of reality, bypass normal space, and avoid the universal speed limit—the speed of light. Lisa Chang, mission commander for its first crewed test, doesn’t trust it. It seems like magic to her, and she doesn’t believe in magic, not even after the ship skips to a fantasy version of Earth, complete with dragons, orcs, and wizards.
The Scarecrow’s Brane by D.L. Morrese
You set the price! Words: 79,940. Language: English. Published: July 3, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
The spaceship Brane Child emerges from skip-space into a whirlwind and accidentally squashes the only effective protection Emerald City had against the tyrannical Red Witch of the South. Now, Lisa Chang and her crew must make their way through the Wild Lands of Oddz to convince the Blue Wizards to create a new protector for the Republic of Emerald.
The Corporation made him to observe humans and make sure they weren’t up dangerous things like inventing, exploring, or learning to read. But as the years go by and he works with them day after day, century after century, he grows to like them. Is it right to keep them happy but ignorant? Shouldn’t this be a choice they make for themselves?
A different kind of lighthearted science fiction story for epic fantasy fans. On a not so distant planet, a young, naive prince encounters reality and tries to prevent a war.
The Warden War continues the adventures of Prince Donald of Westgrove and completes the lighthearted tale of looming war, subversion, and a terrible magical weapon begun in The Warden Threat. The Warden books are a delight. They are sure to appeal to readers of fantasy and science fiction who may be looking for something fresh and different.
Amy’s Pendant by D.L. Morrese
You set the price! Words: 77,250. Language: English. Published: March 11, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Sci-Fi & fantasy
The antique pendant Amy receives for her fourteenth birthday unlocks an ancient mystery and traps her inside an alien labyrinth populated with strange robots, android animals, and a central intelligence that does not want her to leave.
Disturbing Clockwork by D.L. Morrese
You set the price! Words: 107,520. Language: English. Published: April 21, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Steampunk & retropunk, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Benkin, a brilliant but quirky inventor, stumbles upon something extraordinary—clockwork automatons. All he wants is to understand them. Snyde, a fugitive from the king’s justice, has other plans.
*I haven’t made them all free, as opposed to ‘Set your own price’, because I really don’t want to piss off Amazon (which outsells all my other distributors by about 1000 to 1). I also wouldn’t mind making some money out of this. I’d be content if my royalties covered my writing expenses. (e.g. I wore out a keyboard last week and had to buy a new one, which I bought from Amazon)
It’s Read and Ebook week on Smashwords! From now until Saturday March 8 2014, over 39,000 books are absolutely free. This includes mine. Use the code RW100 at checkout to get these books free during the site-wide promotion!
MO-126 is a dog, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. He is a construct and an employee of the Galactic Organic Development Corporation, which searches the galaxy for primitive sentient species to save from extinction and then creates colonies of them on Corporation agricultural planets where they can live happily and safely. The transplanted species survives, and its members produce some of the most expensive and sought-after food in the galaxy, which the Corporation profitably sells to developed worlds with this guarantee:
Caringly grown, cultivated and harvested by simple sentient life forms. No artificial ingredients, pesticides, herbicides, or mechanized equipment used in processing. Guaranteed 100% organic.
Of course, keeping the primitives primitive enough to ensure the Corporation’s promise of natural purity can be a challenge, especially when they’re like those it found twenty thousand years ago huddling in caves and scraping a meager and precarious existence on a pale blue planet in the Milky Way’s Orion–Cygnus spiral arm. The humans keep trying to change things.
An Android Dog’s Tale is the 15,000-year episodic story of one canine mobile observer android who must make choices about what he wants to accomplish in his artificial life. Does he accept the wisdom of his makers or does he dare to question?
Use the promo code to get your free copy of An Android Dog’s Tale from Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/378268
Prince Donald, the idealistic third son of the king of Westgrove, believes he may be the only one able to protect his country from an invasion spearheaded by an ancient and massive magical stone warrior known as the Warden of Mystic Defiance. Donald, unfortunately, is woefully unprepared. His only real understanding of such things comes from his reading of adventure stories. When he finds an ancient scroll he believes may allow him to take control of the mysterious Warden, he eagerly takes on the task. He dreams of saving the kingdom and becoming a hero like those in his epic adventure stories. To his dismay, his quest turns out to be nothing like he imagined. He finds the stories in his library seriously understate the complexities and hardships involved. He also soon realizes that the real world can be much more confusing than fictional ones, and the hero is not necessarily predestined to save the day.
Use the promo code to get your free copy of The Warden Threat from Smashwords here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/87730
The Warden War continues the quest begun by Prince Donald in The Warden Threat. His father, King Leonard of Westgrove, has been told that the neighboring kingdom of Gotrox has discovered a magical means to animate a mysterious and gigantic ancient stone warrior, the Warden of Mystic Defiance, which it plans to use it to spearhead an invasion of his country. Donald is convinced this is a hoax carefully crafted by his father’s chief adviser to bring about a war to gain control of Gotroxian resources. Donald is determined to thwart him. It will not be easy. Chief Adviser Horace Barter has resources, connections, influence, and the almost unquestioned trust of the king. Donald, sadly, has none of these. What the young prince does have is a nominal position with the diplomatic team being sent to Gotrox and the companionship of a few rather unique friends including a pair of 15,000-year-old androids, one of which is a dog — or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
Use the promo code to get your free copy of The Warden War from Smashwords here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/88548
AP https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/294488 Amy, the only child of a poor family living in the bustling city of Dolphin Point, is given an amazing and potentially dangerous pendant as a present for her fourteenth birthday. She does not know how amazing or how potentially dangerous it is. If she did, she would cherish it even more. She is that kind of girl.
Through her investigations of the mysterious pendant, she uncovers an ancient mystery—the remnants of a vast alien commercial enterprise buried beneath surface of the planet. Unfortunately, the central computer for the complex is aware of her intrusion and it cannot let her escape with knowledge of its existence.
Use the promo code to get your free copy of Amy’s Pendant from Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/294488
On a small island called Bob off the southern shore of the great Kingdom of Westgrove, Benkin, a brilliant if somewhat quirky scientist, discovers something extraordinary — clockwork automatons that can obey commands. For Benkin, this is an amazing scientific discovery, one he wants to explore; one he believes may revolutionize mankind’s understanding of the world. For Snyde, a fugitive from the king’s justice, it is something he can use…
This humorous, exciting, and charming story sees the return of several characters from the three previous novels set in this world, plus a few endearing additions. If you were wondering what happened to the thoroughly evil Snyde, or if Trixie and Prince Donald ever got together, this book provides the answers.
Use the promo code to get your free copy of Disturbing Clockwork from Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/308615
This great short story collection includes an alien spaceship, some dwarves, and a few lost souls — but mostly it has ghosts. It’s only about 30,000 words. That would equate to about 100 pages if printed as a paperback, which it’s not. You can only get digital copies and only from Smashwords, but it’s a perfect length for a lazy Sunday afternoon read. The strange tales related here have no common characters or theme, but they do share one thing. The prose in all of them is exceptional.
The collection contains the following short stories.
- A Legend of Old Sanford – A ghost story set in the 1920s. There’s a cat in it.
- The Blue-Haired Shadow – Another ghost story — of sorts.
- Lesson Number One – This is the only science fiction tale in the collection and, it’s my favorite of the bunch. Beware aliens bearing gifts, or in this case, beware not understanding the gifts. I thought this one was great.
- Like a Duck – A graduate student visits dwarves and encounters an enterprising steam-powered computer and a giant clockwork duck. I got more than a few chuckles from this one.
- Mazarvan – If you lose yourself, you might become the god of chocolate. (That’s sort of a spoiler.)
- Snake Oil – This is the strangest of these strange tales. It’s about a high priced cure for what ails the rich and powerful.
- Still Breathing – What’s left when an evil dictator gets rid of all his ‘bad’ stuff?
- Thora – A final ghost story about picking up a passenger on your way to the afterlife.
Full disclosure: I snagged a copy of this short story collection during a free promotion. I also am acquainted with the author, since we are both members of the Orlando Science Fiction Writers’ Group. It’s a self-published work and, quite honestly, could have used another round of editing (sorry, Mike), but the stories really are enjoyable.
My self publishing adventure continues. In the last five days, there have been twenty more free downloads of my first book from Smashwords, for a total of 157 since I made it available on 10 September. I find this exciting and I hope some of the people who have downloaded it will read it and write a review.
My plan was to end the free promotion at the end of the month and I have done so. The price for The Warden Threat is now 99¢. I still have seen no sales from Amazon at this price. I will let you know how this affects the number of downloads on Smashwords. I expect it will dramatically. A free novel by an unknown author is a bargain but at 99¢, not so much. Many books, especially self published books, are available at that price. Free, mine stands out. At 99¢ it does not, even as a full length novel of over 80,000 words.
So why raise the price? My primary reason is not to make money. Few fiction authors actually seem to make money from their books and I don’t expect to be one of them, despite the fact that I would like to be. My primary reason for charging for it is to give it value in the eyes of readers. In our materialistic society, we often equate value with cost — no cost implies no value. As mistaken as I think this equation may be, it exists.
My plan forward is to continue as I have with limited promotion on social media at least through the end of the year and, of course, to continue writing. The third book in the Warden series should be available in 2012.
I’ll post an update periodically to keep you updated on how my adventures in self publishing ebooks are going. I invite you to share your experiences in the comments to this blog. You are also more than welcome to sample my writing either at this blog or on Amazon. If you do, please let me know what you think.
Why I Chose To Self Publish
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode One
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Three – Building a Platform
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Four – Managing Expectations
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Five – Gaining a Following
When I told my friends and relatives I had finally embarked on my life long goal to write fiction and had actually published something, they said, “Great! Where can I get it?” When I told them, their responses were much different. You see, my books are self published and there is still a stigma about self published books. Many believe self publishing is what you do when your stuff isn’t good enough for a “real” agent or publisher. My books were also ebooks and everyone knows “real” books are made of paper. My friends didn’t even have ebook readers and had no plans of getting one. I myself didn’t have one until this year so I couldn’t really say much.
When I tried to explain that I chose to self publish rather than seek a traditional agent and publisher, I was met with skepticism. “Yeah, right.” (This is the only case I know of in which two positives make a negative.) “You chose to do this?”
But I did. When I decided to begin writing seriously rather than just as a hobby, I initially intended to shop my work to agents and try to get my books published in print. I had compiled a list of agents, what they said they were looking for, and their submission guidelines. I had draft query letters prepared using the best guidance I could find from established agents. I did my homework and I was ready to go. I wanted two books completed before I approached an agent so I could prove I could deliver but when the time came, I had changed my mind.
Maybe it’s a mistake but rather than send out queries for my first book, The Warden Threat, to traditional agents and publishers, I chose to self publish. Why would I make self publishing my first option rather than a last resort? I know many other writers are struggling with the same decision so I thought I’d share the five main reasons for mine (in no particular order).
1: I’m unknown as a fiction writer. My paying job had nothing to do with fiction, at least intentionally, although some of the reports I had done did contain things that were fairly speculative. But the point is, in the world of fiction writing I had no name recognition, no following, and no brand. I assumed it would be very difficult and frustrating trying to get an agent to even look at my work. Agents turn down 99% of the submissions they receive, and all the time the author is waiting to hear back from them is time their book is not available to readers.
2: Self publishing is easy. With the rise of ebooks, there are several places that will allow authors to turn their manuscript into an ebook and publish it. The process is fairly easy and free. I chose Smashwords and Amazon because they seemed to be the industry leaders. Smashwords is the simplest. All you need is a Word document, suitably formatted, and a cover image. Smashwords creates ebooks in multiple formats for you, assigns an ISBN and distributes your book to multiple ebook retailers. Amazon required conversion of the Word file to HTML and then to a PRC format using free Amazon software. Both processes were well within my capabilities. The hardest part for me was coming up with covers but I eventually created some that I thought were simple and eye-catching using no special or expensive software.
3: The popularity of ebooks is growing. Amazon now reportedly sells more ebooks than it does paper books and the popularity of ebooks is still growing. I don’t see paper books going away (I hope they don’t), and I would love to see my books eventually become available in paper because it means more people will be able to read them, but I feel that ebooks are the future and it is good to get in on the ground floor. I see this as analogous to what happened in the music world with the rise of MP3 players. At one time I bought vinyl albums, tapes, and CDs. Probably more than I should have. But I have since converted my CDs to MP3 files and now normally only buy new albums as MP3 digital downloads.
4: With self publishing, authors can choose what compromises to make and what ones not to. I think authors, good authors anyway, write because they have things to say. Traditional publishing is a business and publishers have books they want to sell. There can be an inherent conflict in these two goals and I have heard that authors are sometimes asked to make changes to increase sales at the cost of their intended message. With self publishing, no one will tell you, “You can’t say that.” As your own publisher, you can decide if your story the way you want to tell it is more important than additional sales.
5: Self published ebooks can be the best bargain available for readers. Let’s face it. Times are tough for a lot of us and we have to stretch our budgets. As far as my reading habit or obsession went, I stretched mine by increasing the number of books I borrowed from the public library. I still buy hard copy books from my favorite authors as soon as they are released. I just preordered the latest book by Terry Pratchett for example. But for authors I never heard of, well, I might buy a paperback if it sounds good and the library doesn’t have a copy. But now there is a third option. Ebooks are cheap, normally less than the paperback version, if there is one, and many, especially the works of self published authors, can cost less than a buck. I wouldn’t expect readers to be willing to pay eight dollars for a paperback version of one of my books if they never heard of me and I’d feel guilty asking them to. But $2.99, $1.99, or even just 99 cents is probably affordable and worth the risk. I’m comfortable asking prices like that for my works. I think they are worth much more although my opinion is hardly objective. But until or unless I obtain a following, I doubt I will ever ask for more. My personal goal with my writing is not to make a lot of money. I don’t expect to. Most authors don’t. I just want my books to be read. Making them cheap seems a good way to do that.
I am not advocating self publishing for anyone. I have no idea if it will gain readers for my books. This is my first try and I haven’t been at it long. The start of my self publishing effort began the end of May 2011 with the creation of this blog. I published a “beta version” of my first two novels as an anthology in July and got some good feedback from beta readers. After a little more editing and polishing, I updated the anthology and released the first two books separately this month (September 2011). I will provide updates from time to time on this blog and probably on Facebook and Twitter on how well (or poorly) my books are faring. You are more than welcome to check back to find out.
Please let me know if any of this has been useful to you. I’d love to hear back from readers and writers about how they see ebooks and self publishing. Have you bought self published ebooks? If you have, what did you think? Do they provide good value for the money?