Checking Out The New eBookPlus Self-Publishing Platform

I found a curious email sent to my business email account, which is different from my author email account, about a new self-publishing ebook platform called eBookPlus. Their business model: Free ebooks with advertising at the start of every chapter.

My initial reaction was: FREE eBooks + Advertisements = SPAM!

The email, however, didn’t land in my spam filter, being sent out by a professional marketing company with a clear reputation to skate by any spam filter.

I started looking into eBookPlus and liked what I saw. This tag line in particular drew my attention:

Did you know that free ebooks are accessed a hundred times more often than ebooks priced at 99 cents?

My business model is SHORT ebooks (i.e., short stories and essays) aimed at the impulsive buyer looking for a short-term reading fix under a buck. From my sales numbers over the last six months, my FREE ebooks are flying off the virtual bookshelves. Not in the hundreds, but in the thousands.

Being a new ebook retailer, eBookPlus is looking for users and content to beta test their platform. The classic chicken-and-egg problem for startups: you can’t attract new users without content, or attract new content without users. You need both to avoid having an empty platform.

There are four account types when you sign up, each with a different focus.

  • The reader account doesn’t have much to read at the moment except for a one-page sample ebook that demonstrates the web interface, which looks like a lite version of the Amazon cloud reader.
  • The author account allows you to upload your ebook in various formats (i.e., EPUB, DocX, PDF and HTML).
  • The advertiser account is for those who want to advertise their stuff while readers are reading your ebooks.
  • The artist/book professional account are for illustrators, photographers, translators, audiobook narrator, editors and designers who want to offer their services to ebooks made available by authors.

When eBookPlus is ready to open the floodgates, readers will get a notification email that the FREE ebooks are available and where to download the mobile apps.

Being able to find a translator to translate my short stories into a foreign language might be the most useful part of eBookPlus. You hire a translator to translate the ebook and another translator to check the translation, splitting future ad revenues or paying a flat fee. I hope this service will allow the translated ebook for publication elsewhere besides eBookPlus.

I’m going to upload all my FREE ebooks to see how this works. I might upload my PAID ebooks later, which are available at an advertiser-supported discount or full price at a 70% royalty rate. When the ebooks are available on eBookPlus, I’ll be adding another sales link to the ebook pages on my author website.

This is becoming a new trend where I make my work available to help establish a new market for everyone else, like Plan B Magazine from a few weeks ago. The more choices readers and indie authors have, the more everyone benefits.

Cross-Editing With Microsoft Word & WordPress Jetpack

The biggest complaints I’ve gotten from readers of my ebooks over the last few years was that my grammar sucks. That always confused me since I wasn’t sure how to fix it. The grammar checker in Microsoft Word flags any issues that I need to fix. With a few exceptions between fiction and non-fiction, my manuscripts were clean as a whistle when it came to grammar. If I had a problem with grammar, I wasn’t seeing it.

Six months ago I updated my writing blog with the WordPress Jetpack plugin to replicates the functionality that most users get from hosting their blogs at the WordPress website and replaces a half-dozen or more plugins that do the same thing. One neat feature updated the Proofread Writing button with a passive voice checker from After The Deadline. I’m revising my blog postings to use the active voice and learning the differences to avoid writing in the passive voice.

I didn’t make the connection to use Word with Jetpack until I started putting together my blog postings into ebooks. With the older blog posts requiring more revision, I was going back and forth between Word and Jetpack. Both have their own set of idiosyncrasies when it comes to checking grammar. If the two were in a conflict, I always lean towards Word. If I know Word is being idiotic (i.e., flagging both the error and the correction), I go with my judgment on what is correct.

The complaints from my readers weren’t about grammar but usage. When I started copying and pasting the texts from my oldest ebooks into a blog post to check against Jetpack, passive voice and awkward construction was the rule and not the exception. Recent ebooks have fewer issues. I’m in the process of cross-editing my older ebooks and everything else I write with both Word and Jetpack.

Plan B For The Plan B Magazine

While sending out some older short stories as reprints to face a cruel world of rejections in the slush piles, I sent “The Uninvited Spook” to the Plan B Magazine that Duotrope listed as a fledging market (i.e., less than six months). The premise for this new online magazine is to publish a mystery short story each week, pay semi-pro rates of one-cent per word and publish an anthology ebook every quarter. My spook-spying-on-spooks short story got accepted for publication—with a catch.

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The semi-pro rates are dependent on the crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo to raise $3,500 USD, which has less than 10% of the minimum amount raised and 11 days before the campaign ends. Unless contributors start pouring out of the woodwork in a hurry, there will be no funding for the semi-pro rates and all the accepted short stories will revert back to the writers.

Why anyone would need $3,500 USD to start an online magazine? A domain name and web hosting for a year doesn’t cost much these days. The amount was too small for the editor to live on. That number didn’t make sense until I re-read the writer guidelines on the payment structure, where the maximum payout is $50 USD for a 5,000-word short story each week. The funding goal represents a year or more of payments for short stories, depending on the word count of each short story.

Indiegogo is similar to Kickstarter that you can set up a project with a minimum-funding goal and offer various incentive levels for contributors. Indiegogo offers two interesting choices if the minimum-funding goal isn’t met: return the money or keep the money. Depending on your project, this offers some flexibility. Plan B Magazine will return the money if the minimum-funding goal isn’t met.

I’m thinking about putting together a full-length collection of my speculative short stories as a print book. if I put together a print-on-demand (POD) book, I could take pre-orders on Indiegogo and keep the money to order the books without worrying if I set the minimum-funding goal too high. The difference between a successful and unsuccessful campaign is on whether or not you have an audience.

The alternative for Plan B Magazine—let’s call it Plan B—is to provide writers the option to have their short stories published online for FREE to help build up the new magazine so that it could semi-pro rates someday.

Although I would rather see the money (one-cent per word is better than my usual 1/4-cent per word), I’m more interested in seeing this new market establishing itself. Since “The Uninvited Spook” was first published in a print-only magazine in 2008, and published as a short story ebook in 2010, I don’t mind it being reprinted for FREE to help expand my reading audience and grow a new market at the same time.

UPDATED 02/23/2013: The editor announced that the funding campaign at Indiegogo has failed and she is switching to Plan B to pay out of her own pocket. Twelve short stories—including my own reprint, “The Uninvited Spook”—will be published bi-weekly for six months, collected into an anthology ebook for sale, and all the writers will get paid their one-cent per word rate. We will see if this online mystery magazine can fund itself after six months.