Four months ago I announced my intention to publish one e-book a month for the next year, thus launching a new publishing branch of this long-running website. I've released three Kindle books so far, right on schedule, and I'll be presenting the newest title on Thursday. Unlike your local train line, I've still never been late.
This is hard work, but it's going pretty well so far. The first of my three books seems to keep selling, and while the other two are lagging behind, my latest chapbook of selected literary essays did get a very nice review at Dead End Follies. Still, as I proceed I can't help feeling that I'm going both too fast and too slow. I'd like to explain what I mean by this.
I suppose it's obvious that I'm going too fast, because I'm publishing one book a month. Nobody publishes one book a month! I originally pledged to maintain this fast pace because I figure if I'm going to jump into the indie publishing business with both feet, I may as well do it Kerouac-style. I don't want to waste a lot of time triple-proofreading or worrying over spreadsheets. I want this new publishing venture to go, go, go.
But I'm paying the price for this fast pace, because I'm sure I could do a better job developing, nurturing and marketing these books if I gave each one more individual attention. Which leads to why I think I'm going too slow.
I'm falling short of my expectations on many fronts. I hoped to have my e-books available in the Apple store, the Kobo store and the Nook store by now. As of this writing, each of these three formats will be available "soon" (soon, they say) but the three books are still currently only available on the Kindle, and the fourth one will be coming out only on the Kindle too.
This is especially unsatisfactory for me because my fourth book is meant to bring my venture to a new level in a few ways. It's a collection of the eighteen best essays about the Beat Generation from the complete Literary Kicks archives, written by several authors, and I know this book will have long-term sales appeal. It's more than twice as long as any of the three previous books (and, based on the amount of work that went into it, I'm going to charge $4.99 per copy instead of $2.99). It features cover artwork by David Richardson, whose beautiful illustrations from Proust may have caught your attention here last year.
While the first three books in this series were designed with "quirky" in mind, this one is built to sell. But I'm not sure how to give it the marketing push that any book needs in order to reach its potential readers, and this is where I'm worried that I'm going too slow.
I'm especially disappointed that I haven't had the time to begin producing print versions of my books yet. That too is coming soon, but I know the new book would be a natural for the print format, since I think (and hope) that many readers will find it a "keeper", a bookshelf kind of a book. I expect to have the hard copy version ready by the end of the summer, but I'm worried that I'm cutting into the marketing potential of the hard copy by letting the book "trickle out" as a Kindle version first. This is no way to launch a book!
But: okay. When I find myself fretting about this, I pause and remind myself that I wanted to go fast. And sometimes going fast means going slow, because you have to frequently stop to catch up with yourself. I'm trying to find the Zen spot of indie publishing, the perfect pace, the "natural breath". I'm watching other smart companies in the emerging electronic/print web/book indie space, like Byliner, Red Lemonade, Electric Literature, Figment, Book Country, and trying to figure out what pace I can maintain (unlike all of these ventures, I am not a company and I don't have a budget or a staff) that will keep me in this game, at least until the next move.
Like so many things in life, the Zen of indie publishing turns out to have a lot to do with patience. But patience alone will not get me where I want to go. You know, I've been running Literary Kicks for seventeen years now. Patience, I got. I'm a staying machine.
But what else have I got? What else am I doing to make sure these books get into the hands of readers? The fact that I am capable of being patient doesn't necessarily imply that I'm moving at the right speed.
These are the vexing questions I'm thinking about right now, as I prepare to announce my fourth Kindle book ... other formats coming soon ... in the next two days. Speaking of time, the new book is called Beats In Time, and it's designed to capture the magical feeling of the encounter that occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the rising Internet generation discovered and embraced the inspiring model of Beat literature. It's about how a few great writers from the 1950s and 1960s found new readers, and new relevance, in changing times. As a collection of selected pieces, it represents the best of the first decade of Literary Kicks, when the Beat Generation was the site's primary focus. It includes pieces by John Perry Barlow, Don Carpenter and Michael McClure, interviews with Robert Creeley, Diane DiPrima and David Amram, and stirring, memorable spontaneous accounts of the death of Allen Ginsberg and the funeral of William S. Burroughs. I think this book is really something special, and I hope you'll check it out when it becomes available in two days.