Last week I was on vacation and as an attempt to save myself the self-hatred and directionlessness that I feel while on vacation I made it a goal to finally finish and publish an ebook. I’m proud to say I’ve accomplished this but at the same time any actual “victory” seems to not be much of a victory at all. While I’ve finally published a book, it really doesn’t mean much in the long run and surely isn’t an instant ticket to success even though I wasn’t really expecting it to be.
What did I write about? I wrote about Facebook. I elaborated in a few recent blog posts about how I was thinking of collecting my Facebook Sucks posts into an ebook: it would be easy to do and I wouldn’t have to feel any pressure for it to be perfect. Perfection is always a hurdle when doing anything for the first time. For my first ebook why would I want to spend months or years making it perfect when it would surely end up as trash and not sell? By gluing blog posts into a book I wouldn’t be making a masterpiece but I could take the first step needed to actually be a writer.
I want to cover two things here: how it was actually writing an ebook and how it was publishing that ebook. Luckily (for this blog at least) each aspect sucked giving me plenty of content to write about!
You’d think that gluing individual blog posts into a book would be really easy but it wasn’t. Each blog post was written as its own stand-alone format; when you try to smash them together as “chapters” in a book you’re left with a really disjointed book. It sounds like what it is: a bunch of shit just tossed together. While most of the content was already written I still had to reread and edit all the posts to be “chapters” instead of “blog posts.” This wasn’t really difficult but wasn’t exactly as easy as I thought it would be. I also had to give some thought as to the general flow of the book, how the chapters would fit into the entire project, and edit them accordingly.
And obviously you can’t just slap a handful of blog posts into a book and call it day either! You need to make it, well, like a fucking book so I had to write an introduction and a few more “body” chapters to ease into where the blog post chapters were taking me. As before this wasn’t exactly hard (mostly as bitching about Facebook comes as naturally to me as breathing or eating does) but it was something I didn’t expect to be as laborious as it was. In fact I think previously written blog posts made up less than half the book; I tired to write an “easy” “blog-based” book and ended up writing a book that had a few blog posts for chapters. Most of the book was totally new content so that was more work than intended.
Then there’s editing the damn thing! You have to pour over the entire document proofreading for proper spelling, punctuation, grammar, as well as making sure you don’t sound totally fucking stupid in your writing. This part could’ve been avoided by finding a “proper” editor instead of doing it myself; that entails its own list of bullshit like being social and actually talking to people. While I wanted to finally write an ebook I wasn’t trying to be social or anything and wanted to rely on others as little as possible.
Along with everything else, actually publishing wasn’t too difficult but still tossed up its own unexpected troubles here and there. My book was ready to go but was there anything else I had to worry about? Yes. Consider a book cover: this is the first and usually only thing people see about your book. If you fuck it up the cover one will think about reading it. It could be the next Great Gatsby but no one will read it because the cover is shit. I felt immense pressure trying to make a decent cover and while I think I did a decent job it still looks unprofessional. If you totally forgot the fact that your book needed a cover you’d be in a difficult spot trying to publish a book.
Kindle Direct Publishing throws a few more immensely important tasks at you beyond the book cover. What is your book’s keywords going to be? This is how Amazon relates search terms to actual products so these have to be dead on accurate. Even worse is you only get seven terms to use. Each one has to be near perfect. The same is true for your book’s category: it has to reflect what the book is about. Plopping a fantasy fiction book in the “technical writing” section of Amazon simply won’t do you any favors and I ran into trouble at this point. Was my incessant ranting about Facebook a “social science” book on the effects of social media, or was it a commentary on internet and computer culture? I still feel bad about the categories I selected because they don’t seem to reflect the book at all. Hell, I don’t even remember what categories I slapped my book in.
You also have to write a “summary” of your book which, after the cover, is the second most important thing people use to decide when purchasing a book. After going through the exhausting process of writing and editing and making a cover you probably don’t want to write more in a desperate last-minute effort to summarize your book. If you’re thinking of publishing write a fucking summary ASAP. At the very least have an idea for one in your mind.
After dealing with all of that intense decision making you upload your book (in a .doc file or whatever) and check out how it’s formatted. I didn’t have any issues here. The rest is pretty simple: pick a price for your book and all of that shit. After a 24 hour(ish) period your book appears and, well, you’re now a published author. Congratulations! But you probably don’t have long to feel accomplished because you probably won’t actually sell anything…
I shared my book to the Everything Sucks Facebook page as well as my own personal page. I figured at least a few of my friends would check out my cheaply-priced $2.99 ebook because they were curious or felt some sympathy for me. Even a week later my sales stand, pathetically, at zero. Check this out:
It’s hard not to feel like shit over this, especially after doing all the work to actually write a book. I recall when one of my Facebook friends made an ebook (it was a single short story too, not even a real fucking book); I paid the 99 cents to support him because I’m a nice guy like that. Of course a bunch of other people also supported him and he was just amazed at the positive feedback his book received! I figured I could count on selling at least a few copies out of “support sympathy” or whatever you want to call it, but nope. The goddamn book only got two likes on my personal page. Fuckers.
I guess I don’t want to bitch about my friends not buying my book because you can’t be a successful author limping along with your only reliable readers being your friends/family. But I do want to bitch about the fact that doing anything is fucking hard. And, once again, doing something for the first time is the hardest. Doing anything for the first time usually involves the greatest amount of effort because you don’t know what you’re doing at a time when you have zero self-confidence keeping you motivated and focused. When you do persevere and accomplish your “first” the reception is usually either luke-warm (or nonexistent) and this can totally crush any self-confidence you’ve accomplished at achieving your goal. This is a really risky and dangerous time because if you’ve busted your ass to make progress and have had no success afterward, why would you want to continue?
Luckily I don’t think I’m dumb enough to fall for that trap again and am already working on a second ebook because who gives a fuck? Sometimes I think the real measure of success is just chipping away at something because you don’t actually care if it’s received well. I could stress out constantly over the fact that no one will probably read anything I publish and hate myself for it, or I can say “Fuck it. I’ll publish another one.” and shrug it off. What else is there really to do except make progress? So while I’ve accomplished actually publishing, had it be recieved anticlimactically, and feel kinda shitty about it I know that I need to keep moving forward because the first of anything is usually shit. So, yeah, publishing (and selling) an ebook kinda sucked.
If you want to actually check the book out here’s the link. It’s only $2.99 so it shouldn’t break your bank account.