My Kindle Experiment

I’ve got several projects on the go at the moment and my Kindle experiment feeds in to them. The small group reviving the New Sun Rising: stories for Japan project needs to know how to kindle and kindle well, for it’s not just a matter of straight text. There’s formatting for poetry and pix to do. But you gotta start somewhere.

At this point I have to say that content is the most important thing; it has to be and look right. So editing, no typos, good resolution, and lots of html tips. Here I thank all those people sharing their tips on the web, because the Kindle guidelines don’t do it all. Yes, I know there are templates, but when you’re doing something special, you just have to tweak that little bit more.

Mixed in with all this were discussions at The Vandal’s blog on sales vs free, and at Aussie Writers on the need for a platform and that sales the professional make – here I’m assuming the pro has seen to it that the content is as good as it can get, at the time of format converting at least. Even if things can always be improved, there’s a lag time between revision and that may just be the period during which readers can get turned off.

Now, my take is basically that I want to be read. I want to touch you. Yes, sales would be nice, but I think they will come if and when I do touch you. I may not touch you with everything, but I might touch others with things that don’t touch you. So, get onto your platform and cast your net widely. This also applies to sales. But with short stories, the few royalties I make help out with the groceries and are soon gone. Fine, spontaneous words from strangers, though, last a long time and fire that feeling of hey! I might just be onto something. So, onwards.

So I took my first collection of stories, The Past Present, published almost as a labour of love by a young man who thought we’d do something new – eBooks and POD. This was 2000. Sadly, we were ahead of our time. The publisher went bust, eBooks of TPP soon disappeared and the only paperbacks left today from the original Lightning Source POD are the 4 or 5 with “other sellers”. But back then when I bought copies at the author rate to take to conferences and readings, sales were such that I was able to break even. The publisher, though, did place his calls for submissions in the TLS and then placed ads to announce the publication of each of his books. They were small ads, but the TLS nevertheless. And the TLS was the one lit paper I was able to find in the news agency in France “profonde” where I lived at the time. Of course, we were meant for each other, my publisher IUMIX and I.

What better training ground for kindling? And so, after about 14 hours of fiddling, correcting a few typos that had slipped through in the POD, scouring the web for tweaking tips, The Past Present went live. I agreed it could go to the Kindle Lending Library, and put it up as a free download for 5 days early March. I facebooked and twittered, but this is where it gets tricky for me. Put yourself on the other side. Do I want to be massively fb’ed and tweeted to buy something? I’m not much at ease there. I know. It’s a business. But why does business leave a dull taste in my mouth. Grow up. You’re a pro now. Take off the gloves, as a dear boss once told me – back then – to be one of the boys.

In the 5-day period, there were 161 downloads from, not including my own, 6 from, 1 from and 16 from Spontaneous comments appeared on FB and elsewhere in groups where I’d posted that TPP was available. Different readers liked different stories, but they all loved the wonderful cover, based on a b/w drawing of the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, by my long-time Viennese mate, artist Sharon Ratheiser. Sharon will have artwork in New Sun Rising: stories for Japan and brightens my stories at Merc’s World – writings. Sessha Batto generously whipped up the design and has agreed to design the cover of my next collection, Mercuryblobs, with cover art by Sharon, as a Kindle self-published exclusive. I want full control of what goes in and hope to hire the formidable Nik Perring as editor. Yes, I invest in my craft. I’m a pro, and I am very pleased with my Kindle experiment.

How will it all translates into sales? We’ll see. I’m coming round, growing up, and washing my mouth out when the taste bugs me. But at the next stop, there’ll be revving up with fresh breath, cos it’ll be for New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan.