It’s a relief to see Feedbooks hasn’t lost its edge. My latest book La Maison Du Lac’s been on there for about three weeks now, and it’s still attracting roughly fifty downloads a day. This won’t last of course; judging by my experience with the other stories I’ve put up there, it’ll gradually tail off to around five or six a day, but this is fine. It contrasts sharply with all the other e-book sites I’ve tried – Smashwords, Obooko, iTunes, and Wattpad – all of which seem to have a way of burying your books so no one can find them. Indeed you might as well have left them on the hard drive for all the visibility they achieve.
With Feedbooks though even my stories that have been on there for three years are still nudging up the hit-count, and most importantly, for an independent amateur writer, still being read. If you’ve got a bottom drawer full of stories rejected by mainstream publishers, and you’re wanting to try them out on an unsuspecting world – and you don’t mind giving them away – I can still highly recommend Feedbooks.
I’m actually in the process of revising La Maison – yes, already. I downloaded it from Feedbooks to my iPad, and began to read it as a “reader” instead of a “writer” – that is away from a keyboard – and straight away I began to notice typos, eccentric formatting and spurious commas – even after countless scans through on the word processor. So, it’s been going offline in the evenings (UK time) while I tidy these things up yet again. To the seven hundred and fifty of you who have downloaded those imperfect copies, I apologise. The newly revised version won’t be perfect either – I can almost hear all you teacher-readers out there clicking your red pens – but hopefully it’ll be better than it was.
The free indy scene relies on the presence of visible and vibrant download sites that link writers to readers. Your work has to be available in a range of formats: PDF, EPUB, Mobi (Kindle), for direct download to a reader’s device – whatever that happens to be – iPhone, iPod, iPad, Kindle, Sony, Android,.. whatever. Sites that insist you read stuff online – i.e. onscreen – are seriously out of date now, and if you’re a writer, you can safely avoid them. Books – even the electronic variety – are back where they belong – in your pocket, in your bag, by your bed of an evening, or the garden on a lazy summer’s afternoon, accompanied by birdsong, and a nice cool glass of Chardonnay.
In this respect, Feedbooks ticks all the boxes. It’s currently building up a paid content section as well which will hopefully keep the site afloat and keep it sharp. And maybe the millions of people who poke around in its free section will now and then be persuaded to browse the paid stuff too. It’s a good model – easy for the writer to get going with, and easy for the reader to get at the books.
The only downside to Feedbooks, so far as us indy writers are concerned is it’s on its own at the moment. We need other sites like this with similarly successful models, sites that appear in the ebook catalogues under the heading “Free Ebooks”, which are directly accessible from your reading device and, by virtue of a truly global reach, guarantee every one of us indy hacks reassuringly steady download figures
But why self publish? Well, why not? What have you got to lose? I know, there’s still something of a stigma attached to the subject. “Obviously you’re giving your stuff away because you couldn’t get it published properly, so it must be crap, right?” Well, there’s also a lot of stuff that’s been published the hard way that comes under the heading of crap too. But the same rules apply to self publishing as to the conventional variety, and if your stuff really isn’t that good you’re not going to impress anyone.
The truth is most writers struggle to break into print. They have day-jobs – tedious, unglamorous things – to pay the bills, so they can write at night, pound out their stories, polish them up and send them off hopeful of acceptance by a magazine, or a big name publisher. Some of them make it, but the formula for success isn’t an easy one to work out, and there’s more involved than simply having a decent story.
I have a dark fantasy about all those writers down the ages who never made it, yet who spent their whole lives writing in the hope that someone would like their story. I imagine their spare bedrooms or their garden sheds stacked high with dog-eared manuscripts that their families finally throw out with the rubbish when the author pops his clogs. How many great works were lost like that? The known writers of every age are just the tip of an iceberg, and for every one whose name is known, there are tens or even hundreds who have laboured on in obscurity, never to be celebrated, never even to be read.
We have the potential to change all of that now. So don’t keep those mouldy, dog eared manuscripts in your garden shed, or the spare bedroom. Blow the dust off. Get yourself a Feedbooks account and offer them up for posterity. And you, dear reader, get rummaging among the free stuff. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry – and that’s just at the grammar – my own included – but now and then, you’ll find a book that really touches you. The future of the indy scene’s a bit rough and ready, a bit anarchic, but it’s free and it’s interesting, and it’s on your Kindle.