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Let's Talk About Ebooks of My Poetry - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Let's Talk About Ebooks of My Poetry
Recently I posted a list of planned donor perks for 2012 in the Poetry Fishbowl project.  haikujaguar raised the idea of printing the poetry collections through Createspace or Lulu, which I have considered as a possibility for later if there get to be a LOT of them needed.  natf also asked about that, and wondered if it would be possible to buy  a copy -- or preferably, an ebook.

So I'd like to open the floor for discussion.  Some considerations ...


* Right now, the donors get access to some material that nobody else gets to see.  For instance, there are the donor perk-posts, listed on the Poetry Fishbowl landing page, which all donors can read through the "donors" filter and tag.  (There are other perks too.)  The full-year collections that I've done thus far were the k-fan perk in previous years, reprinting in hardcopy what was published here in my blog; but I also did something new at the end of 2011 when I assembled a collection of "Path of the Paladins" including both its published and unpublished poems.  (The k-fans are folks who spend $100+ in a year on this project.)

On the one hoof, if I release more material for purchase, it might make the donor perks seem a little less special.  On the other hoof, it would mean more people could see the cool stuff and potentially expand the audience.  There are also ways of keeping some aspects of coolness for the donors.

* While some folks enjoy ebooks and paper books equally, many people have quite strong  preferences and read mainly or only one format.  Offering some of this material in ebook format would make it available to folks who wouldn't be interested in the hardcopies. 

* For those who prefer hardcopies, conversely, I have plans to release the popular series as paper books eventually.  "The Origami Mage" is nearly complete; finishing it is on my goal list for 2012.  "Monster House" is also chapbook size, though not as fully plotted.  angela_n_hunt at Hunt Press is interested in publishing both of those as paper books.  I'm also likely to release other thematic collections, like what I did with From Nature's Patient Hands (nature) and Prismatica (science fiction) earlier. 

So I don't want to undercut those possibilities, which may affect whether or what kind of ebooks I might publish.  One option would be to make the sale editions 'lightweight' ebooks -- just a title page, table of contents, and the poems -- and then if there's a later edition released in dual hardcopy/paperback format it would have all the extra stuff like an introduction, publication history of the poems, any supporting essays, professional cover art, etc.  If I were to do series collections like this, the public version would only have the published poems, not the unpublished ones that the k-fans would get; all in series-chronological order.

* If I were to do ebook poetry collections, I could offer k-fans the choice of paper or electronic copies.  So far, I've been printing out the k-fan collections at home and binding them in presentation folders, which means I can include a flyleaf page of fancy scrapbook paper and a dedication letter with the recipient's name, so that no two copies are identical.  It's something you can hold in your hands, rather than just words on a screen.  I think those are significant benefits, but there's also something to be said for the convenience of ebooks (resizable font, compact storage, lightweight ereaders, etc.).  Also, self-publishing is on my goal list for 2012 and releasing an ebook would count.

* There are places like Smashwords where an ebook can be uploaded for sale without the author having to do all the handling.  I'm also on the betatesting for PressBooks, which is a place for authors to post their books.  If people are interested in the idea of poetry ebooks from the fishbowl, I could investigate such options in more depth to see if they're something I could really use.

* A possible compromise between donor exclusivity and audience access is something I've been considering with the donor perk-posts and just haven't gotten around to yet: reserving the current volume(s) for donors but releasing "back issues" for sale to everyone.  For example, there are donor perk-posts and poetry fishbowl full-year collections from 2007-2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.  The 2007-2008, 2009, and 2010 volumes would be back issues available to the public, once I got them into whatever arrangement might be needed for release.  The 2011 volume just came out in December, so it would become available in January 2013, shortly after the release of the 2012 volume in December 2012.

* Pricing is a bit challenging.  This material would consist of reprints, generally valued lower than new publications.  It would be electronic, generally valued lower than hardcopy; in particular, people are more likely to buy an electronic edition if it's really cheap, and many successful ebooks are going for $.99 or $2.  On the other hoof, it's going to take me a fair amount of time to put this stuff into a marketable format -- the poem files are already collected, but I'd have to look at the different release services to figure out which might work best and what they want a manuscript to be.  So I need to make enough for that to be worth doing, which also means this is only feasible if there's enough audience interest.  If a bunch of people would like poetry ebooks, I can probably make it happen, but not if it's just one or two.


What do you-all think?  Do you read ebooks?  Would you be interested in ebook collections of my fishbowl poems and/or the donor perk-posts?  Would you appreciate being able to buy ebooks as gifts for friends to introduce them to cool poetry or show them what you've been sponsoring?  What do you think about the time delay?  Do you think ebooks like this would prevent doing hardcopy poetry books later?  Are there other pitfalls or possible solutions that you'd like to suggest?

I am especially interested in hearing from my k-fans and my frequent prompters -- all the regular enthusiasts who make the Poetry Fishbowl project work.  I'm also open to input from anyone who's done ebook collections of their crowdfunding material and how that worked for you.  The last linkback perk poem from the 2011 Winterfaire was "With Mortal Flesh and Iron Will," which has 10 verses remaining.  For each person who makes a meaningful comment on this discussion, I'll post a verse.

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37 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: January 3rd, 2012 02:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I read ebooks, and I'd definitely be interested in buying ebooks of your poetry. Generally, I would be highly likely to pay up to $3 per book, and might go as high as $5. You might also consider releasing them in pay-what-you-will format; that has worked very well for some people.

I don't think ebooks really compete with hardcopy books. One is for consumption (I spend less time at the library now than I used to), the other is for keeping. Poetry, especially, lends itself to wanting the latter even when you have the former.

You might have to do some creative thinking to make donors continue to get something extra special, but I don't think that ought to be a dealbreaker; it's important to keep evolving (and INvolving), anyway!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 3rd, 2012 02:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I have posted your perk verse in "With Mortal Flesh and Iron Will."

>>Generally, I would be highly likely to pay up to $3 per book, and might go as high as $5.<<

Thank you, that's helpful to know. I'm likely to base price at least somewhat on size; for instance, if I do both the perk-posts and the poetry collections, the big poetry collections may cost more.

>> You might also consider releasing them in pay-what-you-will format; that has worked very well for some people.<<

That's a possibility. Do you know which if any of the ebook selling venues allow that as an option?

>>I don't think ebooks really compete with hardcopy books. One is for consumption (I spend less time at the library now than I used to), the other is for keeping. Poetry, especially, lends itself to wanting the latter even when you have the former.<<

Fair enough, I've heard that before.

>>You might have to do some creative thinking to make donors continue to get something extra special, but I don't think that ought to be a dealbreaker; it's important to keep evolving (and INvolving), anyway!<<

I'm always open to more ideas for perks. There are time/budget constraints on what I can do, but sometimes people come up with really good ideas that I wouldn't have thought of myself.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: January 3rd, 2012 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)
How are people purchasing a book or ebook of poetry different than donors sponsoring poems?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 3rd, 2012 05:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

When donors sponsor poems, that changes unpublished poems into published poems. When someone buys a book or ebook of poetry, that doesn't happen.

Also, it is a lot cheaper to buy a book or ebook than to sponsor as many poems as would be in there. The collection consists of reprints in a form that is more convenient than, in this case, scrolling through the hundreds of poems in the "poem" tag on my blog.
ankewehner From: ankewehner Date: January 3rd, 2012 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Smashwords offers a "pay what you want" option, if they haven't changed things in the last few months. I'm not sure if you wouldn't get a lot of people downloading it for free.

I think the idea to put of making something available for sale for a year to keep it special for the donors is a good one.

The reasoning haikujaguar used for publishing ebooks before hardcopies, that formatting a hardcopy was more expensive and ebook sales had to pay for it first, made sense to me. I'm not sure how yearly or whatever collections would interact with volumes collecting one series, though. Might depend if the collection is sorted strictly chronologically, or by series.

If it's not too expensive (same parameters as jenny_evergreen) I might well buy it to see if I like poetry, after all.

A while ago I collected this link which might be of interest: Formatting Poetry for Small Screens
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 3rd, 2012 07:34 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I've posted your verse, so "With Mortal Flesh and Iron Will" is 5/12 visible now.

>>Smashwords offers a "pay what you want" option, if they haven't changed things in the last few months. I'm not sure if you wouldn't get a lot of people downloading it for free.<<

That gives me an idea, actually. I might post the oldest volume for free, one(s) in the middle as pay-what-you-want, and the most recent one or two at a fixed price.

>>I'm not sure how yearly or whatever collections would interact with volumes collecting one series, though. Might depend if the collection is sorted strictly chronologically, or by series.<<

The full-year collection is organized by month, so all the January poems appear together (alphabetized withing the month). A series collection has the poems in my best estimate of series chronological order, rather than publication order, and may contain poems from more than one year. That's far more convenient if you want to read that series -- even if the same poems are all in the full-year collection.

>>I might well buy it to see if I like poetry, after all.<<

That would be cool. There are free samples under my "poem" tag, though, if you just want a taste -- and the fishbowl will be open Tuesday, January 3.

>>A while ago I collected this link which might be of interest<<

Fascinating! I have bookmarked the article. That level of detail, however, I will leave for full-scale publication. It's more finicky than something I could do myself.
natf From: natf Date: January 3rd, 2012 06:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
(copy/paste of my comment from elsewhere)

Sadly we cannot afford even $1 per month right now. I am forever grateful that you allow us to read your poems for free or once someone else has sponsored them. Also, I find reading on paper very hard and so would prefer to buy an eBook/PDF with gift money now and again. I will try to chime in over on the other thread.
natf From: natf Date: January 3rd, 2012 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Also you could maybe release a series as an eBook or n months of fishbowls as an eBook where n = anything from 1 to 12. Just brainstorming to be honest because I am not even sure we could afford these!
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: January 3rd, 2012 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Since getting an e-reader last year I read mostly ebooks, at the same time I've turned into a paper-book collector, in not a few cases (my favorite authors) I have an electronic copy for actual reading and a paper copy as something I like to appreciate the beauty of.

>the poem files are already collected, but I'd have to look at the different release services to figure out which might work best and what they want a manuscript to be.<

I'd recommend Amazon (that's what I'm looking into for myself). The Kindle is very popular (for very good reasons),you can change your price at any time and if you publish from Amazon.com and set 'worldwide' your books will be avaiable also on the other national sites that have a kindle store (UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain).

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2012 05:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>Since getting an e-reader last year I read mostly ebooks, at the same time I've turned into a paper-book collector, in not a few cases (my favorite authors) I have an electronic copy for actual reading and a paper copy as something I like to appreciate the beauty of.<<

Come to think of it, I've heard other people mention a similar tendency.

>>if you publish from Amazon.com and set 'worldwide' your books will be avaiable also on the other national sites that have a kindle store (UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain). <<

That's really useful to know. I have quite a few international fans in my audience.
siege From: siege Date: January 5th, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I haven't been able to donate, even though I've wanted to pay for a poem or three this past year. As far as ebooks go, I don't mind them, but I don't read them much; mostly, I think, because I don't have a specific device for them, and what I do on my laptop is not as much book-oriented when internet service is available to me.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2012 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I've posted your verse of "With Mortal Flesh and Iron Will."

>>I haven't been able to donate, even though I've wanted to pay for a poem or three this past year.<<

I can sympathize. If our household budget were in decent shape, I'd donate to a lot more projects.

So I've focused on non-cash methods instead, which I'm quite good at. As a creator I know how valuable they can be, and welcome them from my own fans.

>>As far as ebooks go, I don't mind them, but I don't read them much; mostly, I think, because I don't have a specific device for them, and what I do on my laptop is not as much book-oriented when internet service is available to me.<<

Fair enough.
laffingkat From: laffingkat Date: January 6th, 2012 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I *really* like the idea of being able to buy ebook collections of your poetry. That would be great for getting past years that I don't have, or series collections, or any future years when I might not qualify for your perk copies. Or possibly as gifts for friends who prefer ebooks.

I find that many people have strong preferences one way or the other, so I don't think that ebooks and hard copies actually compete much. Personally, I still enjoy having physical books, but I'm seriously pressed for space and am becoming increasingly fond of the convenience of ebooks. And I suspect that free or inexpensive ebooks (particularly on Amazon) are much more likely to attract new readers than physical books. If you had at least one really inexpensive book, you could charge more for the others. As you gain positive reviews, it might be a nice little source of extra revenue after a while.

Formatting an ebook of poetry might be tricky, but I bet you know someone who could help, or at least offer advice.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 6th, 2012 06:34 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I *really* like the idea of being able to buy ebook collections of your poetry. <<

This is useful to know.

>> Or possibly as gifts for friends who prefer ebooks. <<

I'm hoping that people will think of doing this.

And I suspect that free or inexpensive ebooks (particularly on Amazon) are much more likely to attract new readers than physical books. If you had at least one really inexpensive book, you could charge more for the others. As you gain positive reviews, it might be a nice little source of extra revenue after a while.<<

*nod* If I can manage to create multiple volumes, I want to step the prices from free to pay-what-you-want to a standard price. I believe in the long tail of small sales adding up, and I'd also like to put the material I've already written into a place where it can continue to work for me.

>>Formatting an ebook of poetry might be tricky, but I bet you know someone who could help, or at least offer advice.<<

Formatting poetry can be a nightmare. I need to look at some of the services available, then think about what is required to turn poetry files into something resembling a book. I don't have the skill or time for line-by-line editing of ebook poems, though. I'm hoping to find a way that I can do this with copy and paste.
eseme From: eseme Date: January 11th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I know this is super late - I am trying to catch up on LJ - I'm just not online as much now as I have been in the past.

I would love collections of poetry series - all the Monster House poems, for instance. I'm not sure how you decide when a series is completed, but that is a personal preference for me.

I don't buy a lot of ebooks, but I have bought some, and read them on my laptop when I have time. I prefer paper books, but when something is just an ebook, that is how I buy it. I am considering an ereader at some point in the future to make reading ebooks easier.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 11th, 2012 08:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I would love collections of poetry series - all the Monster House poems, for instance. I'm not sure how you decide when a series is completed, but that is a personal preference for me.<<

I appreciate the input. I definitely plan to release collections in some form or other. Telling when they're done varies by series. Some have a clear plot arc (The Clockwork War, The Origami Mage) while others are open-ended (Monster House, Fiorenza the Wisewoman). With Monster House I may look for "phases" in the family and release the series in volumes as enough poems build up to make a chapbook. There are a lot for the early family life already.

>>I don't buy a lot of ebooks, but I have bought some, and read them on my laptop when I have time. I prefer paper books, but when something is just an ebook, that is how I buy it.<<

That's useful to know.

>> I am considering an ereader at some point in the future to make reading ebooks easier.<<

It's a good idea if you like ebooks well enough to read them, and think you'd read more if reading them was more convenient.
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