Tag: on a red station
In related news: there will be a print edition of On a Red Station, Drifting, published through Createspace. I haven’t publicised it because I’ve been sorting out admin stuff, but here’s the cover, courtesy of Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein (and many many thanks to Colin F Barnes, who in addition to giving me tons of advice on self-publishing, covers and print publishing, also did my interior design).
Hopefully by MIRCon I can sign copies of it ^^
Pleased to announce my Xuya short story “The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile” has been published in Subterranean‘s Winter 2014 issue. It’s also a sequel of sorts to my novella On a Red Station, Drifting, with a cameo from one of the characters (and a mindship).
I’m inordinately pleased with this story, which was inspired by the animal guardians of the four cardinal directions in Vietnamese mythology, and typed while the snakelet was 2 weeks old (an achievement in and of itself ). You can read it here.
So… I thought it might interest people to share my experience with epublishing my novella On a Red Station, Drifting. What follows is a few disjointed thoughts on what I did and how I did it.
-Why: the original edition of On a Red Station, Drifting was a paper, limited edition hardcover with no ebook edition planned; I got lots of requests for an ebook edition, especially from readers not in the UK. I figured that since the market for novellas was so freaking limited, I might as well dip my toes into the world of self-publishing and see what happened.
-Cover art: I decided to get new cover art for the ebook version, to differentiate it from the paper one (which was a limited edition, and whose cover also had the slight problem of being far too busy to display at low resolutions, a definite handicap when dealing with buying ebooks). I browsed a couple things on deviantart (seriously considered using a couple existing pieces, but one was too dark and the other one at a large horizontal format and therefore quite unsuitable for an ebook cover no matter which way I turned the problem). I ended up commissioning Nhan Y Doan , whose work I had long admired, for a watercolour with the two main characters on it.
It’s a bit scary to commission an artist; many thanks to Colin Tate, who gave me pointers for navigating the entire thing. Basically I described what format I wanted; and the “feel” of what I was going for by showing the artist a few covers in genre with a predominantly red/orange background (I wanted red for obvious reasons); can’t remember everything I used, but one of them was Ian M. Banks’ Against a Dark Background. I also put in an excerpt from a scene that showed the interactions between the two main characters, and provided a summary description of both of them and their clothes, again using pictures as references. I was a bit scared of how it would turn out, but the end result was fabulous.
The cost of the commission was a little over 130$, to which I would have added lettering (which the artist didn’t provide)–except that the fabulous Janice Hardy very kindly did it for me, offering me several choices of fonts. I went for the one that most clearly appeared SF-esque, in order to counterbalance the soft watercolour design, itself an unusual choice for an SF novella.
-Conversion to ebook format: after much trying around, I used Scrivener for Mac plus the kindle converter KindleGen, which you can download on the amazon website. I found the instructions here useful, though I did end up having to fight a bit to get my part labelled as “book 1” and not “chapter 1”). For EPUB, same thing except no need for KindleGen. The files produced are pretty clean; I ran them past people with a Kindle (huge thanks to Stephanie Burgis), and on my own Kobo Glo, just to make sure that it generated OK.
-Pricing: after much dithering, I priced the book at $2.99, and a similar amount in the other Kindle stores. I wanted to take advantage of the royalty rate at 70% on amazon, and also didn’t want to sell the novella too expensive or too cheap–I had a look at similar books on amazon and found that they were all at slightly higher prices than this (or much higher in the case of Nancy Kress’s Before the Fall, After the Fall–except I’m not Nancy Kress!).
-Publishing: I published on Kindle Direct Publishing because, let’s face it, it’s the biggest ebook market. At the same time, I wanted to give people a chance to find the book through other distribution channels, so I went through Smashwords in order to complement publication on amazon (Smashwords takes a percentage of sales, but has the advantage of distributing across the board to Apple, Sony, Kobo, etc.–at the time I signed up for it back in May, it wasn’t possible for me to sell on B&N, for instance, because I wasn’t based in the US).
Gotta hand it to Amazon, it’s pretty simple to open an account and upload your book file once you have everything. I can get paid via bank transfer, which is handy (but I understand this isn’t possible everywhere, and that this can be a pain in the %%% when you don’t sell enough books to reach the minimum amount necessary for them to issue a check). Smashwords is also pretty simple, although what I did was upload the EPUB file direct without trying to format a compatible Word document, which I’m given to understand is more of a headache (I did end up fighting a bit with their uploading system, which flagged non-existent errors and wouldn’t let me publish).
Cheryl Morgan also very kindly offered to publish the book on her Wizard’s Tower Books ebookstore, which puts me in fabulous company as well as giving me a more targeted market.
The split from my sales so far is: 89% sales through amazon (all Kindle stores conflated), 8.5% through Smashwords (about 1/3 of these are direct smashwords sales, and the rest is a conflation of other retailers like Apple, Kobo…), and 2.5% through Wizard’s Tower Books.
-Stuff I wish people had told me before: the tax withholding from Amazon and Smashwords if you’re not a US resident. I didn’t know that 30% withholding was the norm, and that you had to fill forms to get them not to do that anymore (see here for handy guidelines if you’re not a US citizen and not living in the US)–and that it took up to 1-2 months for this to be taken into account.
-Accounting: Smashwords is great, they pay you at the end of a given quarter via Paypal and that’s it. Amazon is… odd. I still haven’t quite worked out their payment logic. They also account separately for every store and every royalty percentage (I get 70% within some countries and 35% within others), so reading the sales files can rapidly become a headache–not to mention the fact that for stores where I don’t sell a lot, I basically am not seeing any money for months. Well, I guess at least I do get paid at some point…
-End results: obviously the experiment is still ongoing, but overall I’m pretty pleased. I published in the leadup to the Nebulas, at the time the novella was announced as a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards, which considerably helped visibility. I did a couple promo items (on SF Signal and other places), though due to pregnancy fatigue plus the headaches involved in selling our house plus buying a new one I wasn’t really aggressively marketing, and more relying on word of mouth. The first payment from amazon basically went into paying for the cover, but from now on it should be all profit (the kind of fabulous profits that will allow me to book my dream holiday to Mũi Né–hahaha wait, maybe not).
So, that’s my experience with ebook publishing–what about you? Have you done it yet, and how has it worked for you?
Apparently “Immersion” and On a Red Station, Drifting are both finalists for the Locus Awards (best short story and best novella, respectively).
I’m on a freaking shortlist with Ursula Le Guin. *faints*
Congrats to all my fellow nominees, and best of luck to everyone!
(I won’t be at the Awards ceremony, sadly. End of June is way past the time when I’m allowed transatlantic flights, so I’ll be content with cheering everyone on).
In other Red Station news, I can confirm we’re on track for a release of the ebook at the end of May (maybe earlier if I can tackle it before I leave for the US, but not guaranteed). And I have seen the new cover sketches and they are awesome.
-Damien G Walter very kindly names me as one of 20 most promising young novelists in this Guardian article. The company is kind of… impressive, to say the least.
-Over at The Shake, Zucchini Bikini reviews On a Red Station, Drifting::
All in all, I highly recommend this book, both for itself and for what is represents – a different way of writing hard sci fi, a way that includes and magnifies stories and pasts that haven’t been represented well in this genre before.
-Calvin N. Ho on “The Stigma of Immigrant Languages” (a phenomenon I would hazard is not limited to the US).
For everyone who missed it yesterday on twitter, I can confirm there will be an ebook of On a Red Station, Drifting, for sale on amazon (and on other platforms if I work out the principles of the thing. Have only ever done Kindle for Scattered Among Strange Worlds).
The e-edition should have a different cover than the paper book, and Immersion Press will continue to sell that as a limited edition hardback (just as a reminder, there were only 200 copies of those printed, and they’re going fast, so if you want to grab one, head over to their website). It will be a self-published edition; release date will be May or beginning of June, depending on how much energy I have and how soon we can get the new cover done.
Watch this space for more news as I have them.
Of the selfish variety…
-Ian Mond reviews the Nebula-nominated novellas, which includes On a Red Station, Drifting
More then just being an insight into a culture and tradition that I know bugger all about, Red Station is written with a delicate intensity. It’s not an easy read, because the novella doesn’t provide us with a set of sympathetic characters that we can cheer on. Rather, through some gorgeous writing and the complexity of the world building, each character earns our respect. And that makes the ending all the more powerful.
–MJ Starling on On a Red Station, Drifting
(…) a great, harsh, messy, human book that deserves every vote it gets.
Very quick post as I’m still at Eastercon and the hotel internet is a bit overloaded…
Delighted that “Immersion” and On a Red Station, Drifting are both finalists for the Hugo (for best Short Story and Best Novella, respectively). The full list of nominees is below; among the many many friends I have on the ballot, I am utterly delighted to see Zen Cho is up for a much-deserved Campbell Award, that Ken Liu continues his unstoppable march to world domination, and that Strange Horizons , Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Clarkesworld are up for the award, which is awesome.
Not sure “delighted” is the word, actually. More like serious-time flabbergasted. I suspected something about “Immersion” due to the strong buzz , but I have to admit the second nomination was completely unexpected (and I’m still dazed that people actually read the novella–in a good way!). Many thanks to everyone who voted for them/mentioned them/reviewed them. I sadly won’t be at Worldcon because it’s way too close to my due date (and I strongly suspect the Nebula Awards will be my last transatlantic con for a bit–I have nightmare images of long-haul flights with young children ). But wow.
(yes, still in shock, why do you ask)
(complete list of nominees below)
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