Thursday, February 18, 2016

Getting an E-Book Out There : My Experience With Publishing

My book available on the kindle for the video game, Game of War : Fire Age by Chris Gardiner www.cgardiner.ca
I wrote a book and it's available on the Kindle! 

Being a photographer, you get pretty darn proficient with a computer. We have to use all sorts of programs, communicate with all sorts of people and businesses, and basically use electronics all the time. As for myself, I tend to get bored easy so thats when I love to try something new. Let me tell you about this experience I've had with stepping out my comfort zone into the world of e-publishing, and all the surprises that followed.

So here's some background first, and its not an entirely happy story, but it does have a happy ending…

Near the end of 2013 I lost a close family member, and I don't know if I was depressed after, but I certainly wasn't feeling myself.  I neglected my work to a degree and ended up spending more time than I should have playing iPad games.  One such game - a game that effing hooked me was a strategy game called "Game of War : Fire Age" by Machine Zone.  It's was so engrossing that it pulled me away from my work, the work I normally loved doing.Now I look at GOW the way Hunter S Thompson described  Ether in Fear and Loathing;
Ah, devil ether. It makes you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel […]  Which is interesting because you can actually watch yourself behaving in this terrible way, but you can't control it. 
I knew I was wasting my time on something meaningless but I didn't seem to mind.  If I am making GOW sound like a fun game - its not, don't play it, don't download it. To quote the Anti-Meth billboards of the USA - not even once.  Despite all the benefits I've gained by leaving, can you tell I still resent it in some small way? hahaha.

In my time playing Game of War, or "GOW" as the gamers call it, I, like everything else I do, found workarounds, hacks, all sorts of stuff - I always fancied myself a strategist in one way or another and this was no different.

So how does the ebook tie in? Well the above anecdote was included strictly to illustrate the fact that a) I spent enough time playing to become a bonafide expert, and b) I wasted enough time playing it that I needed to find my own recourse.  And thats how I got onto the idea of an ebook.

There were a few major things to consider when you're about to undertake an ebook project;

  1. Your Market. Do you know them, do you know what they want, or what is missing in their life? 
    • in my case, yes, I knew them as intimately as you can know strangers you chat and game with on the internet. They were all real people, adults with jobs they too were neglecting. 
  2. Do you have something they want?
    • Yes. I had strategy. Butt-loads of it. I knew this by measuring my in-game success against the other players. 
  3. Research the Market Competition
    • If you have something your market wants, does anyone else have a similar offering to compete with your own? In my case - the competition was ebooks of 5 to 20 pages, and judging by the reviews on Amazon, they were hardly to be considered competition at all. 
  4. Do you know how to publish an ebook? 
    • In my case, nope! But I wasn't closed minded to trying! It was actually the easiest part. From inception, to writing, to cover design, to publishing, I produced my book of 20,000 words in 18 consecutive hours.  In fact, the ebook was partly motivated by the amount of "Need Someone to Format my E-book" job postings I found in an online job marketplace. I wanted to get in on that market, so what would be a lower consequence way to gain those skills than practicing on myself?
With a clear plan in mind, I started writing.  As it turns out, when you're so fully immersed in a subject, any thoughts you have on it can be translated to words on paper, effortlessly. So I spend one day head buried in my iPad - my photo editing workstation doesn't have a word processor - typing away.  Twenty thousand words and 18 hours later, my idea was realized. 

I used Apple's 'Pages' which came included on my iPad air - the same iPad I gamed on, and conveniently, it can export documents as an e-pub.  You can build the content of your book sitting on the train or in front of the TV with your iPad if you really wanted. 

On the topic of knowing your market - the game is all in real time versus real people, so when time is of the essence, the gamers become 'shorthand writers. That was a benefit in the way that I knew if I was formulating full sentences that had punctuation, I was already more grammatically correct, and understandable than most of the other stuff they were accustomed to reading in-game on a daily basis. So proof reading? nuh-uh. I didn't even re-read. The book that still sells today is both the first and final drafts. haha. Normally I wouldn't say thats recommended, unless it is in tune with your market.

Also on the topic of knowing your market, in this game, players drop a lot of cash. Its a free game, but its under one of those 'freemium' models, where sure you can play for free, but you can pay to play better.  I'm not talking tens and twenties, I mean people regularly dropping hundreds and thousands in the game. This was a hint for me that there is money there, and I just need to figure out how I can get my fingers in it.  Turns out if you are marketing a book to people who regularly drop hundreds of dollars on an 'in-game experience', they're not even going to think twice about spending $2 on your e-book! 

So, I mention part of my motivation for writing was developing experience in e-publishing, and hey, making some money on the side isn't so bad either, but it was also sort of like quitting smoking.  When I quit smoking years ago, I didn't just blow through a pack in that day, I blew through it in like.. 8 drunk hours of a St. Patty's Day if I remember. I felt like crap, but it was certainly all out of my system. Thats what this was like - writing was a a detox if you will, flushing every last bit of game related data stuck inside the ol' noggin onto paper, never to return again.  Although given the rate at which I wrote it, it probably more closely resembled dysentery than a detox. haha. Ok that's gross. Sorry, moving on.  Writing the book was only part of the cleanse, the other part was selling my character or player to some other miserable chap who had yet to free himself of the games chains.  

I released my book on Kindle strictly. I really wanted to get it into iBooks, but when I was signing up for an author account, they apparently had a problem understanding my home address, and by the time we got it sorted - it just didn't seem relevant.  It's really not that much more complicated to release on iBooks, but Kindle is certainly the easiest route you can go. 

There are so many new technologies, new games, new subjects of discussion that explode into this digital world that monetizing one of those subjects is basically as easy as a) being an early adopter, b) doing your research and c) compiling what you've found

So there you have it, if you look past all the details about this game which I don't recommend you play, you should see that writing an ebook is a very real opportunity for just about anyone who has something to say and the only thing that is holding you back is probably your own lack of motivation to do so.   For the longest time I debated whether or not I would share my story about my first e-book publicly.  So for the longest time, I didn't. But now almost two years after I published it - I figure hey, why not? Its not that embarrassing… Well, actually its a little embarrassing to be an adult who's good at video games, but the pay checks from Amazon have helped me come to terms with that fact. haha.  

Plus, I figured if sharing my story can help inspire someone to get motivated enough to start, or finish their own e-book project, then that would be a greater reward than what I've received already. 


If you're curious; here is a link to the book on Amazon. "Game of War : How to Win" a Kindle E-Book by Chris Gardiner.  Regardless of the subject matter, and the minimal effort I put into it, I am actually quite proud of it.  It's surprise success has inspired me to start a few more ebooks since then. I have a fictional novel in the works, and two other, more informative non-fiction pieces on the way.  If you do hit the Amazon link above, and check my author page, you may see there is a second book - I tried to do a children's picture book about animals, but quickly realized Kindle is not the best means of conveyance for a children's picture book, nevertheless - it's there. haha.

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