Decisions, decisions. Not having found a website creator whose services or procedures made sense to me, I started thinking about doing it myself. I already have an amateur, hand-coded site, but maybe with WordPress — which most of those site creators use anyway — I could do something that would look professional.
First stop, wordpress.com, which hosts the very blog you’re reading. They will indeed let you create a site using templates (a.k.a. themes) and your own URL. But a little scouting around for information led quickly to the conclusion that the wordpress.com service is rather limited.
The wordpress software itself, however, is free and open-source. How about downloading it and creating the site right here on my desktop? This turns out to be more of a techie hassle than I want to deal with. I would have to set up my own local server and install mySQL and PHP on it. I could certainly do this, but we’re talking days of headaches.
It turns out there’s an intermediate path. Right now I’m looking at a place called SiteGround. I also looked at Wix, but their site designs are too glitzy and too graphics-intensive for me.
SiteGround hosts the site (for $4 per month) and provides some support. As a client, you then choose a WordPress theme, customize it, and create your own site directly on their server. The comparison between $4 per month and a $2,000 up-front fee is fairly compelling. Some authors are, I’m sure, not techie enough to want to do it this way, but I should be able to manage it. I hope.
The savings I can pass on to a cover artist to do illustrations. I actually have two cover artists on the job at the moment; they don’t know about one another, but that’s okay, I’m not going to stiff either of them on the payment. One is doing a cover using stock photos, the other is doing an illustration. Heck, I can try the same book with two different covers and see which of them sells better (if either of them sells at all).
Once I have a cover in hand, I’ll have to think more deeply about Smashwords. Their service is, you sent them a properly formatted .doc of your novel, and they format it for ebook to sell on iBook (Apple), Barnes & Noble, and so forth. They take a small cut of your royalty payments and send the rest on to you. They don’t, however, upload to Amazon, so I’ll have to do that myself in any case. This is not terribly difficult — the tools, such as Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions, are free.
Here’s what worries me, though: What would happen to my royalties if Smashwords went bankrupt or was bought out by a conglomerate that decided to unilaterally raise their rates? Would it be possible for me to withdraw from the Smashwords contract and tell Apple and B&N to send payments directly to me? If that were possible, Smashwords clients would be able to rip off Smashwords! But if it’s not possible, clients stand to get screwed in the event of a business shakeup.
The details could be spelled out in the client’s contract with Smashwords, of course — but why would Apple or B&N pay a bit of attention to such a contract? They wouldn’t be a party to it! Their contract is with Smashwords, and I do not want to sit here and read through an entire contract drafted by two teams of corporate lawyers (even if they would send me a copy, which they wouldn’t) in order to figure out how my rights were being protected.
The alternative is, I ignore Smashwords. I upload to both Amazon and iBook myself, and possibly B&N too. Eliminate the middle man. It’s more work, but more money and more reliability too. I’ve asked Smashwords to clarify this question for me; we’ll see how they respond. It’s probably not the kind of question they want people to ask.
What I need in order to upload to iBook myself is access to a Mac with OSX 10.11, because the iBook conversion software only runs on Mac, and I’m a Windows guy. (Pause for a cheerful round of, “Fuck you, Apple.”) My elderly MacBook Pro has never been upgraded from 10.8.5, and also it doesn’t really talk much to the wireless router anymore. Downloading a new OS just ain’t gonna happen on that machine. I’m sure I can find a friend or two with a Mac, though, so that’s probably not a huge problem.
Not to leave you feeling glum, here’s the fun bit: The artist who is doing my first cover illustration asked me for some action scenes from the novels so he could think about what type of image would work best. And what I’ve discovered is that it gives my spirits a real lift when someone else is reading my story (even short excerpts) and responding.
That’s what it’s all about. It gives me enough energy to dig in and finish the final edits today. Of course it’s been almost a week since I did any editing. Now where did I leave off?