Tuesday, March 27, 2018

That Ebook Bastard (Why I have embraced ebooks)

One of the joys of teaching the occult, or at least being one of the louder people in the room, is that you can install all types of silly ideas into those who accidentally come within the sound of your voice. Ideas that the rest of the occult community, or at least a significant portion, will insist are really bad ideas and that the person who convinced them that these were good ideas should be flogged with an angry cat. Typically, the flogging are reserved for ideas like “Getting sponsored by a legitimate occult group is highly over-rated and may not be worth the price of having to hate the same people as the head of the sponsoring group.” No, I do not make many friends, for I am that whack job. I have made a list of things I believe that I really should not, simply because I am one of the few that feels this way.

The other day I had to add something new to my list. Not really new—it is just that I hadn’t made a certain business decision yet that puts me firmly in the “Does not believe what the majority of the occult community believes and therefore, he is really, really wrong.” Now that I have made the decision, let the flogging begin.

But long before the business decision was actually made, I was already wrong. Let me give you a quick illustration.

One of my occult writer friends recently published a new occult book and was advertising it on Facebook. I hopped over to the Amazon page to take a look. I was mildly curious, and just maybe thought that I might buy a copy to help my friend out (because I know how Amazon sales ranking works). Yet upon learning that the book was not available in convenient and more economical ebook form, I choose to spend my money on a bundle pack about a cowboy who rides a unicorn instead. (Unicorn Western—if you are curious.) Bottom line, while I was mildly curious about my friend’s book, I was not that curious.

Yes, I have become the Ebook Bastard. That bastard who likes all his class handouts to be in convenient ebook form—preferably in Kindle format, thank you very much. And who plans on issuing all his future handouts on Amazon, for those people who do not live in reasonable distance of my charming voice. The bastard who believes that printed occult books, well printed books period, have become a shrinking niche market, and not worth the effort to format unless they are picture and chart books. I would totally consider buying a pop-up book; but if it is just words and a few pictures, ebooks are now my preferred format.

It is not just price, and not having to find space on a bookshelf for another book (“Look, I just brought nine novels and my Kindle is exactly the same weight as it was before I brought those books”), it is some of the stuff that I can as an author that really makes me a supporter of ebook technology.

For those who have not seen my work, I tend to write stuff that less than a hundred people in the entire world will be interested in. The likelihood of a traditional gatekeeper publisher deciding to put my work in print is about the same as me suddenly sprouting wings and becoming an angel. And that is totally ignoring the fact that I am open about some of my opinions; you try to get a traditional occult publisher to publish your stuff when you are openly stating in your book that you are pro-pot.

The bottom line is that my stuff is only suitable for self-publication. Nevertheless, even as a self-publisher (I prefer the term “indie”), I could go the print route, as my friend did with his latest occult book. So why didn’t I? Because I can do things with ebooks that I can’t do with printed books.

(A quick aside—all the editing and support that a traditional publisher provides, or should provide, can be done by an indie directly, or paid for by the indie. A self-published book can be as good as a book that was vetted by a traditional gatekeeper publisher.) For instance, I have a couple books (really short books—articles really) that I have planned on expanding for years (code-named Bootstrap and Walking the Wheel). To do this with a print versions, I have to not only buy a proof copy (or several if I don’t get it right the first time), everyone who currently has brought a copy would have to buy a new copy to read the new material added. Now, there are some that will argue that having customers buy new copies makes sound business sense. But in my mind, it doesn’t.

First, there are things that I originally thought about putting in the book that I didn’t…because I didn’t have time to. Getting the information out was more important than getting it perfect the first time. And let’s be honest, the core information in the book would still not be available today if I waited for perfection. It was better to issue the information for the interested parties, and plan on updating later.

Second, I learned and developed the core idea over the last eleven years since I first released the currently available version or Bootstrap (likewise for Walking the Wheel, which was released a couple of years ago). The readers that I would most like to read my developments are actually those who used the information in the first place. And with an ebook, I can be reasonably sure that those who brought the ebook though legitimate retailers will get the updated material. Such an immediate updating and ensuring that it gets to the people who brought the first version is easy with an ebook, and impossible with a printed book.

Third, I consider those who have used the material from the first edition of the books to be a community. I like my little community—occasionally, people thank me for releasing the information which gives a small thrill every time it happens. These are my tribe, and I don’t see how annoying them by making them buy a whole new copy at a higher price tag would be productive. (Yes, if I add a hundred pages of material, the price is so going to be increased.) I released the information that is the backbone of Bootstrap because it was my solution to a reoccurring problem, a solution that I still believe in. Updating the existing ebook, rather than creating a whole new edition, is more supportive of the idea and the community that uses the idea than being a writer scrabbling after nickels and dimes.

(Another aside—yes, I know that there are those who believe that if I was really supportive of the occult community that I would just release the information for free and not charge a dime for it. To these critics, I would like to point out that I am a professional writer and what I am charging is far less than what the some legitimate occult leaders charge for their support. On the day that the world abolishes money and everyone gets a guaranteed livelihood, I will quit charging; but until then, I have bills to pay.)

Fourth and most importantly, by updating the ebook and not creating a new listing, I get to keep all the existing links to the books. And the work I have done over the years to promote the books (blog posts and linking to the sales pages) carries over to the new expanded versions. I don’t lose my current sales numbers, and get to add to them instead. Try doing that with a new print edition that is a hundred pages longer and is essentially a brand new book.

And that is the crux of the matter, I can do things with ebooks that I simply could never do as a writer with printed books. It does not matter that “Real books are made with paper” and that “One should not never use a Kindle while performing ritual”; what matters is that ebooks allow me to give my customers a better experience.

Because of that, I am truly that Ebook Bastard.

(And no, I am not telling which two books I am updating. If you can't guess from the code names, then you are obviously not part of the existing tribe that I am updating them for.)

Maybe if it was a touch bigger. 

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