I've gone Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs... over the Kindle.
You read that right... I take my little "electronic book" with me everywhere, right in my purse, reading more today than I have since I was the kid who got kicked out at closing time from the public library.
Much to my surprise, I've purchased more books in the past couple months... and read them... than I have all year.
A Kindle is... a wireless reading device. It looks like a book, but it's an e-book reader, where you electronically "flip the pages."
Why is the Kindle so attractive?
Number one, it's instant gratification. If I see a title that strikes my fancy, I can download a sample of it, FREE, in ten seconds.
Then, if I like what I read, I can click "buy" and for a few dollars— much less than a paperback— and the e-book immediately appears on my Kindle.
And reading it? —Like butter, people. Or perhaps I should say, like reading a lovely printed book about butter. It's beautiful, clear, large-text reading. The battery lasts for a week, unlike my computer or cell phone.
Instead of cramming my knapsack or suitcase with ten books to read on the train, I put the feather-weight Kindle into my bag, and I have as many hours of reading as I want.
AND! It's got an Internet connection, via the phone lines... you don't need WiFi. Or a special bill from the phone company. It's "free," with the book. So you can write email or browse the web if you don't want to read a book. Yes!
So why doesn't EVERYONE have a Kindle already? Well, first, it's so weird. It's not TV, it's not a Gameboy. It's for people who LOVE TO READ— what a concept.
It's "something completely different." And, it's pricey... $359 for one of these babies. But given the amount I read, and how much I use it, it's the cheapest, more value-laden gizmo I've ever purchased.
I find myself trying all kinds of books I wouldn't have bothered with before because it's so cheap and impetuous. I am reading movie star tell-alls I wouldn't have let myself splurge on. (Let me tell you about Eric Clapton's sex life!) But I'm also reading political tomes I would've thought, "Oh god, no, it's too thick." Nothing deters me now!
Plus— I love this, as a writer and reviewer— you can electronically "bookmark" anything on the page with one click. You can add your own notes with the keyboard. This allows you to quote or refer to some favorite passage without fumbling or searching for a second. It's better than post-its!
Your friends and colleagues can send PDF files to you Kindle, by using a Kindle email-address that comes with your "book." So when authors tell me they have a new masterpiece coming out, I say, "Would you mind sending your galleys to my Kindle?" No more sending pounds of paper to my mailbox that end up in the trash!
Here's how I got hooked: I had NO interest in e-books as a consumer; I was simply a starving author trying to figure out how to make a dime out of the "new technology" that has largely brought our old-school publishing model to its knees.
As I started researching the matter, I realized I needed to READ a book on a Kindle to see if it was a pleasurable experience. What if it was a bad joke on bookworms? I didn't want to put all the effort into transforming my old books into digital miracles only to be ashamed of the final result. (More on that later.)
I didn't know a single friend who owned a Kindle I could sneak a peek at. So I decided this was a work-related tax expense if there ever was one, and placed my order.
It took me two minutes to realize that YES, I wanted to turn all my work into ebooks— YES, I would be able to make a decent royalty for once in my career— and WOW!— This was so darn fun to use! I started calling my leather-clad Kindle baby names by the end of the first day. (Those are too embarrassing to tell you about).
My New E-Books on Kindle
I have four books you can read on the Kindle, if you're looking for something yummy to start out with, with some of the stories I'm most famous for:
SexWise: Interviews and Obsessions with The Black Panthers, Madonna, Paglia, Kitty MacKinnon, Stephen King, Dan Quayle's Cock, the GOP, and More...
Mommy's Little Girl:Sex, Motherhood, Porn, & Cherry Pie— Polyamory, Raising Kids, Sex Gurus, and Wrecking Your Sex Life in a couple easy steps...
Sexual Reality: Egg Sex, Rape "Scenes", Story of O Birthday, Strip Tea Party, and Being BlindSexual
Susie Sexpert's Lesbian Sex World: My classic stories on Vibrator Everything, the G-Spot, Fisting One and Two, and Why Straight Women Drive Us NUTTY.
Kindle Madness.. A Short FAQ:
"I'm e-phobic. How do I learn to use this thing without some awful learning curve?"
Watch a video demo here.
Then get a copy of the book that became my Kindle Bible: The Complete User's Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle.
* Holy smokes, I just went to Amazon's Kindle page, and they're sold out and taking names on a Kindle Waiting List. Get on it! Used models are also for sale...
"I hate the Kindle for "x" Reason. Can I get your e-books elsewhere?"
Some of you already have PDAs and PCs, where you already enjoy e-books without a Kindle.
No problem, you can get my books on the Mobipocket site, same nice format and price. Go for it!
For Mobipocket ONLY:
"Why can't you just send me the PDF file?"
Because I don't have an easy way to protect my work from pirate copies— and, I'd like have Amazon or Mobipocket handle the order fullfillment and tech support.
"I want a Kindle but it's too expensive."
I know; it's daunting. I hope that changes with popularity. What I can say to encourage you, though, is this: if you read voraciously, if you are an author or editor or journalist— you need one. So start up that lemonade stand!
"Does this mean you hate real books now?"
Good grief, no. I am a book fetishist. In fact, I feel more drawn to the extremes now— I collect old books of all kinds, and I relish every production detail. Paper gets me high— don't even get me started on letterset printing.
Now that I have the Kindle, it's like having one of the first transistor radios; it's a new medium. It's perfect for when I need to read quickly, cheaply, and voluminously.
But for long lazy afternoons of book wanking, I'd rather linger in an antiquarian bookshop!
"The browser and buttons on the Kindle are dorky."
Yes, the interface is no iPhone. It's easy, but it's not "elegant." It's not a touch screen. But it's perfect for people who've never used a computer before... it's got a simple dumbness that never leads you astray. If you want Grandma to use a computer, this might be the one that she loves. LARGE print rules, baby!
"What if I'd like to read those books of yours...on paper?"
I'm honored to be read in any form. I'd rather you read me anywhere, anytime, than not at all. Ask your library to order more copies!
However, if you're interested in supporting an author financially, check it out:
If I can sell you an ebook, I will receive income... but my out-of-print paperbacks that are still in circulation are all used copies, and the author doesn't get a cut of "used" sales. I don't make a royalty on any of those OOP books. (My paperback royalty would typically be 7.5% per title on full retail price).
With e-books, even though they're very cheap, I make a bigger share of the income, every time, in perpetuity— because I'm self-publishing the title. I share the profit with the distributor.
I plan to make my own copies of "print-on-demand" paperbacks in the future, too, for my OOP titles. Stay tuned!
"Amazon is a cruel behemoth, and I don't want to support them."
I agree!— but then I guess you didn't know my last seven "ex-wives"— I mean "publishers and distributors." ;-)
American authors have been waging "David vs. Goliath" death matches for their entire careers, long before Amazon came around. Except we're not usually as victorious as David.
"I'm an author and I want to know if I can get rich doing Kindle editions."
Then you better click below to get the second page! This is for "authors only." Proceed at your own geeky risk!
For Writers Who Want to Know about Selling Their Books on Kindle:
If you think digital books are a way to survive as an author—you're right.
I'm not going to spend time trying to convince you, because it's downright Darwinian out there. Working writers cannot afford to take a pass.
If you own the digital rights to any of your work— i.e., you didn't sign away the digital media rights to another publisher— then you can publish your work as an e-book, and make a far larger share of the income than you ever have before. You make the majority of the profit, and the distributor takes a smaller cut.
(Amazon also owns Mobipocket, and preparing e-books for them is basically the same process as the Kindle routine).
How do you know if you own the rights? Look at your contract.
(If one of your publishers owns the e-rights, tell them you'd like to have them exercise those rights, pronto, or transfer them over to you. If they get your book on Kindle, you'll make money that way too... just less than self-publishing. It still beats used copies that don't make money for anyone but the retailer).
Or, write something new! It doesn't have to be long... little books are great for electronic projects.
In my case, I had several titles from the "pre-computer" age that I knew I owned the digital rights to, because there was no such as "the Internet" when I signed the contract. Hooray for being old!
Next, you have to format your book into a Microsoft Word doc. Lucky for you, if you have those files. I didn't, and that was the most time-consuming and expensive part of my e-book production.
If you have an old school book that was written on a... gasp... typewriter, you have two choices. You can scan the book, perform OCR (optical character recognition software) and then go back and correct the hundreds and hundreds or weird errors where the software couldn't understand your script. It's different from human typos.
Or, you can type the whole manuscript from scratch and proofread the typical human error factor.
I tried both— and guess what? With an expert typist, and an expert OCR tech, they both took about the same time, and cost the same amount when the proofreading was done. What a pain in the ass. Let's hope there's some technological breakthroughs soon.
The big step is to set up an Amazon DTP (Digital Text Platform) account and "convert" your Word doc to their specs. They give you a "how-to" manual and community forums to consult with fellow book entrepeneurs.
However, I realized I couldn't do every last thing from soup to nuts, so I hired a freelancer to convert my text to Kindle-ready material. I used "ebookconversion.com" (ask for Bob!) and they knew exactly what to do. Worth every penny.
The most expensive thing I took on was creating new book covers. You can't rip off your old publisher's cover art, obviously. And I am picky. So I hired a designer and we came up with three new originals.
You could also go ahead with something very simple, and slap down some black Helvetica on a red background! I love my new covers, though. For every author who's died of embarrassment over their publisher's choice of cover art, it is quite cathartic to DIY!
The last part is easy: you load up your Kindle-ready file and fill in a few details about how much you want to charge, key search terms, etc. Then the fun begins!
Depending on how much you farm out, you could make a Kindle-ready ebook for a couple hundred to a thousand dollars, easy.
That's a shocking amount for an author-turned-new-publisher, but compared to old-school printing and production, it's peeee-nuts. When we used to publish On Our Backs magazine, with a lousy 48 pages, it cost us almost 10K to pay the PRINTING bill. I don't know how we did it.
I've been an author for 30 years, so a couple thousand bucks for four titles seemed well worth the money to me. And this way, I have something to leave to my daughter that won't ever dry up and blow away. I get choked up talking about it!
But back to basics...I got to know my Kindle, and learned the concepts of ebook publishing, by buying The Complete User's Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle. You can buy a paperback version of it, just to get your brain used to the idea!
Then, read The Complete Step-by-Step Guide To Publishing Books, Articles & Other Content for the Amazon Kindle, which gets into the nitty-gritty.
There's your first $18 investment!
Obviously, the proof of the project is selling your books. You have to market them— that's a lesson for another day! But having something in your basket to sell is the first act.