Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Did You Hear That?

There's a sound that Apple programs make, a chime of three ascending notes, that signals that something has been successfully brought to completion.  It's the sound you hear when a program has finished installation or a CD has been fully uploaded to iTunes.

I never knew that sound could be as delightful and terrifying as it was when it rang out to inform me that the upload of my book for purchase via iTunes had gone through.

I resorted to using Pages to translate my words into EPUB format, which was a touch more aggravating than I would have liked and forced me to relinquish a great deal of control over how I wanted it to look.  But once I relaxed and put my emphasis on the words I wrote rather than my font and formatting choices, it fell into place a little more easily.  I can only hope that those willing to lay down the ninety-nine cents to purchase this wee book will be forgiving of any lingering twonkiness in the layout.

I'm guessing that the folks at Apple will be giving the thing one more spot-check before offering it for sale via the wonders of iTunes.  Once it's gotten past that hurdle, I'll officially declare the thing finished and make myself some baked salmon with lemon to celebrate.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Breaking Into the Walled Garden

Catbooks and Other Methods has sold a handful of copies on the Kindle but I've been putting off doing any serious promotion of it until after I'd gotten the EPUB version up and running in the iTunes Bookstore.

Unfortunately, I've also been putting off the "getting the EPUB version up and running" part as well. Part of it is my usual procrastinative tendencies but the main reason is that Apple is the opposite of Amazon in terms of ease of publication.

Publication for the Kindle can be summed up in three steps:

1. Write a book.
2. Set up a Kindle Direct Publishing account.
[Steps one and two can be done in either order, to be honest.]
3. Upload your book.

That's all you have to do. This is both good news and bad news, as this means that the book you spent ages perfecting is sharing space with the sorts of manuscripts that would normally be languishing in a publisher's slush pile and the ebook equivalents of SEO spam. It takes a lot of external effort to raise your signal above the noise.

Publication for the iPad can be summed up in roughly the same steps, but those steps are far more complex. Setting up a Kindle Direct Publishing account requires an email address, a bank account to send payments to, some kind of tax ID number (EIN or Social) and that's about it. Apple asks for an email address, a bank account, tax ID number, an ISBN for each book and the names, job titles and phone numbers of the individuals in charge of Senior Management, Finance, Technical, Legal and Promotions. Even though I'm doing this through a small enough operation that these questions are easy enough to answer, it's still pretty damned intimidating.

I've also discovered, as I attempted to upload my work today, that the EPUB that plays nicely with my iPad will not play nicely with iTunes Producer and I'm going to have to take a step back and figure out how to convert it into a form they find pleasing. Fortunately, it's a short and simple enough book that it won't be a massive effort that it might be if I decided to inflict my first novel on the world.

I don't resent these obstacles, though. In a funny way, this is the legacy of the late Steve Jobs--acceptable was never good enough for the man, he wanted things to be "insanely great." I'm not sure if my book is up to "insanely great" standards, but Apple's standards certainly force me to take what I do that much more seriously and I can hardly complain about that.