Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Making of Disrupted Worlds, a guest post from Paul Little

Note: Although he's written a non-fiction book (Totally Normal: Survivors Guide to Cleft Lip & Palete! for anyone who is interested), I know Paul Little from his review site, Little eBook Reviews. I normally discourage guest posts that delve too much into the craft of writing or the business of publishing, comparing it to a tour of the sausage factory. But I thought the story of Paul's latest book project was unique enough for a factory tour.

The making of Disrupted Worlds – Anthology of Original Short Stories

The world of self publishing is a paradox. It is now so straight forward for authors to get their words out to the public that it is rather challenging to get anyone to take any notice. For authors who want to become successful there is a constant battle for attention.

My first focus in reviewing self published eBooks was to highlight the available quality, to contradict the dogma that self published books must be filled with basic errors and be fundamentally flawed, amateurish efforts. This was easy. There is originality and excellence in the self published arena. There are new and exciting authors writing imaginative new works that really should be getting more attention than they are.

It is a chicken and egg situation: to get popular you need reviews and to get reviews you need to be popular. By my estimation roughly 1 in 500 to 1 in 1000 downloads leads to a review. The numbers are probably worse if you are looking only at free downloads where not all downloads are going to be read. There are not many spontaneous reviewers out there.

Inevitably this leads to a situation where authors must organically build niche followings and hope that this fan base will develop.

When I was thinking of ways to crack this cycle, it seemed obvious to me to create a joint venture, one that could use the marketing power of multiple contributors to 1) spread the word of mouth more broadly about a single book, 2) introduce the individual authors to new readers (the fans of the other authors) and 3) to drive sufficient sales that some form of critical mass could be achieved.

During the spring of 2013 I contacted a number of authors whose work I was impressed with and floated the idea of a joint venture to generate an anthology of original short stories. The first challenge was to find the appropriate contact details for my favourite authors. It is perhaps unsurprising that authors who already have a primary day-job will choose to make themselves less obvious, but it is clear that it was not easy. As success in the field of self publishing is a popularity contest perhaps it is worth considering becoming more visible to your potential audience.

Luckily, the response I did got was highly positive. There was a lot of drive and ambition to launch into a project of this type. Rather rapidly we put together a venture with five and then six authors. Those who had to say no were constrained by those same primary day jobs and the rather short deadline. A short deadline was deliberate to focus attention; we all like to see product soon after effort and this was no exception.
Importantly, we agreed upfront the basic framework of the joint venture and the expectations that we would place upon each other. This paperwork is very important both to protect the individual but also to set expectations regarding all aspects of the work from authoring to publication and marketing to duration of the venture and ownership. A marketing plan was drawn up and stories written. There were no constraints placed upon the content of each short story, other than it needed to be original and previously unpublished. None of us knew what the final product would look like.

The voyage of adventure peaked during summer 2013 when short stories were submitted, first one then two then most by the deadline. Inevitably there is a short hiatus for the final story, we can either chose to think of that as a pain or as a delightful wait for the last unknown gift to arrive. As a joint venture of emerging authors it was incredible to see products of quality arriving so a slight wait while we enjoyed a summer vacation seems (now) to be nothing.

I say again that the quality of the stories was amazing, not just the plots and characters but the sheer craft of authors to prepare manuscripts essentially free of errors. It makes proof reading so much easier. It put a good pressure on the preparation of the final article. The authors had shown their intent and their eagle eyes for errors and inconsistencies. There was a continuous drive towards achieving the best possible most professional standard in formatting and presentation.

Six authors and one editor can generate a lot of opinions especially when it comes to tricky issues such as the all important title and cover image. A striking cover image is truly essential in the packed market place and we used a good deal of time getting that to a position where not only we agreed but we were happy. There is always a risk of death by committee in these situations, but we got through this stage neatly and the product is something that works both on a small icon and a large image. The Brownian Motion towards a book title ended up with a punchy number that captures rather well the stories inside. It was well worth the effort to get a name that we can be happy with and importantly had an available URL (ie!) for marketing purposes.

The final piece was easy, even though I thought that it would be contentious; setting a price for a book with 75000 words and the efforts of six authors you might think to be a challenge. On the contrary, my initial proposition was roundly rejected as being substantially above the level that the market would support. There was a very clear decision that we must keep a clear head and aim at a balanced price that showed our belief in the quality of the product whilst not pricing ourselves out of the opportunity to attract the audience we really wanted.

Publishing this eBook on KDP and as a paperback through Createspace initially is a first step towards attempting to get the message out there. What we really need is to attract new readers to pick up this excellent work and share good words about it. We have set the ball in motion by focusing on the quality of the publication, now begins the hard work of getting the attention of you the readers!

You can get your copy of Disrupted Worlds from Amazon US (ebook or paper) or Amazon UK (ebook or paper).

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