October 26, 2013

Anatomy of an eBook:  Sinner Man: A Short Prequel

I tried an experiment and announced my first-ever ahead-of-time publication date for a prequel to an upcoming novel, that date being yesterday, 10/25/2013.  I learned from Amazon that books have to be uploaded according to Pacific Time to prevent them from back-dating the pub date to the previous day (I'm sure no one even notices this, much less cares, but matching dates are one of those little things that irk me. Its roots are probably in my days of being traditionally published, when eBook pub date and on-sale dates were one and the same). So, after publishing the changes I'd made to my website that afternoon to reflect the links for free downloads at midnight, I snoozed for a couple of hours and got up at 2:30AM to begin the upload process to eTailers.

I went to Smashwords first. After a few mishaps with the copyright page wording to meet their specs, it went live. I priced it at free and got an ISBN to possibly get into expanded distribution. So far, so good.

Barnes & Noble was next. They told me my cover was too large. I initially thought I would have to have a special cover designed for them (my cover designer has informed me that it's a matter of toning down the resolution) and all to aware that I've had problems with them since they changed from Pubit to Nook Press--I simply crossed them off my list. It's not a big deal; a free ePUB formatted eBook is available both at my site and at Smashwords.  Although my cover designer will take care of this for me, I admit to not being in a hurry to get it uploaded to them.

Finally, to the behemoth that is Amazon. I had earlier set up a dummy product page, where I uploaded both the cover and the text and previewed it so I could detect any possible problems ahead of time, of which there were none. It was a cinch to set up the real thing and once again preview it. I priced it at 99 cents, the minimum (my hope was for the prequel to get to other retailers through Smashwords and that Amazon would eventually match the price). I figured it would take from four to six hours to go live (between 7AM and 9AM), so I went back to bed. 

When I got up later this morning, lo and behold, there was an email from Amazon: "Congratulations, Your eBook is Live in the Kindle Store!" I happily clicked on the link they sent me...only to have it lead to a 404 error page. I immediately emailed them to make them aware of this, since obviously no one bothered to check the link before they sent it to me (it might take until Monday for them to tell me what the ?#!! they did with my book, which will cause a delay in my advance reviewers posting their opinions about the prequel).

Update:  I stayed offline for the next seven hours or so to tend to other stuff and noticed upon my return that Amazon apparently found where they dumped my book...Sinner Man: A Short Prequel is now available through Amazon...with a publication date of October 24th...one day earlier than the date I requested.  So much for getting up in the middle of the damn night.  Looks like I'll be sending them yet another email.

The moral of the story: Either A) stick to the rather haphazard now-you-see-it-now-you-don't method of e-publishing that indie authors have been relegated to (uploading whenever you have it ready, waiting for it to be processed, doing no promo or announcements until after it's available), B) announce a pub date, but upload your book five or six days ahead of time to give Amazon a chance to locate the black hole they put your book in or resolve other issues), or C) have a backup plan, like your own website...because you can't count on eTailers, but you can always count on yourself. 

Will I continue to announce pub dates for my future releases? Yes...with a caveat that it is guaranteed to be available on the promised date only at my eStore, not at other eTailers.