Tag: on a red station drifting
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?
In which John DeNardo was kind enough to let me ramble on and on about the importance of food: read it here.
(still swamped, in case you had doubts. What little time I do have is spent napping…)
Aka the shiny… Art courtesy of Nhan Y Doanh, and cover layout thanks to Janice Hardy–thanks to both of them for putting up with my (short-term) deadlines and producing such beautiful things. (MC is Linh; the older woman in lower right-hand corner is Quyen. Slightly more detailed view of the original watercolour is here if you’re interested, since Doanh had to cut bits of it off to fit the cover format).
The ebook should be live on amazon within a day or two if I didn’t screw up the Kindle upload…
(and remember you can still get the limited edition hardback with Melissa Gay’s artwork direct from Immersion Press, while stocks last…)
-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).
Over at the Kirkus blog, Ana and Thea from the Book Smugglers kindly review On a Red Station, Drifting. Aka wow.
This is an extremely political story in every sense of the word: on a macro scale of fighting for one’s beliefs in impossible situations and within the microcosm of the domestic, the individual—this dichotomy not really a dichotomy at all, as the micro and macro often intertwine in an inextricable tangle.
This is a beautifully realized story and the characters, plot, theme and writing are expertly crafted. My one regret is that I did not read it before we sent out our Hugo Award Nominations.
So, some of you might remember that I repeatedly said (on twitter and elsewhere) that my Immersion Press novella On a Red Station, Drifting, published by a small UK press, was not eligible for a Nebula and that it wasn’t worth voting for it?
Fast forward to yesterday evening, when my phone rings in the middle of my chopping potatoes–I pick up, and am somewhat surprised to hear the lovely Kate Baker, who asks me whether I want to accept Nebula nominations for “Immersion” and On a Red Station, Drifting.
My second or third reflex (after the “OMG OMG ” stage) was double-checking to see that the novella was indeed eligible and that this hadn’t been a horrible mistake somewhere (yes, paranoid. Why do you ask?). That was when I realised that what mattered to the Nebulas (as confirmed by the Nebula Awards commissioner Tom Doyle) was territory of sale and not location of publisher. And that, since the book was on sale everywhere including the US, it was indeed eligible for the Nebulas.
At which point I naturally felt very very silly, and very humbled that in spite of my shooting myself in the foot, people had kindly voted for the novella…
So thank you very much to everyone who voted for “Immersion” and for On a Red Station, Drifting; and to my editors Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace at Clarkesworld, and Carmelo Rafala at Immersion Press, as well as to everyone who helped me writing those and who tided me over during the long dark teatimes of the writerly soul.
Meanwhile, I’ll be off recovering from massive shock…
(full list of nominees here–congratulations to all my friends on the ballots, but especially happy to see Ken Liu taking over the world once more, and Helena Bell getting well-deserved recognition for her awesome short fiction)