Memory of Stone and other stories

Posted in Books, self-publishing, Short Stories.

Last July, I started republishing ebook versions of my out of print short stories. I still have fifty-nine to go, but sold Silence, and added a book to my deadline plate. Since I publish the short stories, I am unlikely to seriously tick me off if I let things slide.

I promised I would have a print version of Memory of Stone and Other Stories for my print readers. I’m grateful for the many years of support print readers have given me. This doesn’t mean that I’m less grateful for the support ebook readers give me now, but I started writing and publishing in a time when the only medium was print, and many of you have been with me since I started. Also: I have an iPad, but I still prefer reading physical books. I have two different special editions of the Lord of the Rings. I am a not-so-closet bibliophile. If I had started out reading on-line and on-screen, it might be different: I didn’t. I’m a technophile, but I’m a child of the analog age.

Today I’m happy to announce the availability of Memory of Stone and Other Stories, at Lulu.com. The cover is by cover by Jen Reese of Tiger Bright Studios.

Lulu.com is a print-on-demand service, so the book looks, physically, like a print-on-demand book, and it’s a trade paperback. Lulu has a distribution agreement with Ingram, which means the book will propagate out to on-line retailers like Amazon.com or B&N.com within “six to eight weeks”.

—–

And now, I want to talk a bit about the process. Many authors who have chosen to self-publish avoid offering print editions of their books. As a print reader, I didn’t completely understand why; having now completed one book, I do. I want to be clear that I don’t resent the work in this case, and I am happy with the finished book – but I understand why many authors don’t choose the print option.

One of the considerations in creating a book that looked like a book (to me) was not the money I could make from it. Because for the most part, there is no money in it. I will make money from each sale of the print version – but I doubt I’ll make enough to cover the costs of producing the book. In this case, the ebook sales are paying for the print version.

Let me explain.

Because I love physical books and because I read them a lot, and because I work in a bookstore, I expect certain things from the printed page. I spent several days worth of hours wrestling with MS Word, and I got more and more frustrated and felt more and more incompetent. Struggling with MS Word – for me – did not produce the results of a similar learning curve for epubs.

When my frustration had reached epic proportions, my long-suffering husband suggested that if it was important enough to me, I hire someone to typeset the book. I told him what I thought it would cost, and he pointed out that I had made that much from the sales of the short stories as ebooks. Since work in the household is not expected to be entirely revenue neutral, I considered this unfair – to the household.

But: ulcers. Despair. Various shredded printouts. And: super-stressed Michelle. >.>

I gave up on typesetting the book myself because I am not a professional typesetter and anything I did looked bad to me. I hired a typesetter. Typesetters charge by the page. It’s not a matter of simply dumping the contents of a word processing file into InDesign; they have to look at each page and at the top and bottom lines of each page for widows, orphans, hyphenation, every time the text is reflowed. They add small design elements (the title page, the front page, subtitle pages, scene breaks). If I ask to increase the font size, they have to go through the book in the same way, because the text falls differently on the page.

It’s hard to get an ebook wrong. I mean, it’s not hard to have errors, typos, etc., but it’s hard to get it wrong in terms of formatting and flow. There’s not as much choice in layout, etc.

It’s much easier to get a print book wrong. I imagine, in twenty years, it will be just as hard to do a professional job with an ebook. I’m not a typesetter, and have no visual artistic sensibility at all; I’m not a graphic designer. But elements of both skill sets are required for a print book. Or required for a book that looks – to my possibly jaundiced bookstore eye – as if it’s professional.

If you have ever wondered why authors who epublish don’t also offer print-on-demand options, this is pretty much why. It’s more work, and often that work can’t be done by the author in question; they have to hire – and therefore incur the expense of paying – someone else.

This isn’t meant as a complaint; it’s just a statement of fact. When a writer says “it is not worth my time” they mean that literally. I had the resources to afford to do a book that did not make me whimper when I attempted to read the printed page, because I have readers who were very supportive of the ebooks when they were published. Not all authors start out with my wonderful readers.

Covers for print-on-demand cost more than covers for ebooks (the designers also have to design a back cover and a spine for print-on-demand). In my case, the typsetting was 2.00 a printed page, and the cover, 300.00 for both print and ebook. I’m unlikely to sell enough print books to cover the costs of a print version. The ebook sales support the print-on-demand costs.

The print version therefore takes more time, costs more money, and brings in a lot less than an ebook version. If authors are self-publishing, it makes financial sense to concentrate on the ebooks.

Print readers often expect to go into bookstores to find books. If mine – self-published – can’t be found, they don’t buy it. Ebook readers expect to go to Amazon or B&N or Smashwords or iTunes from the comfort of their home, where my book – side-by-side with traditionally offered books – can be found easily.

This is the big advantage of going with print publishers if you want a printed book: they have a distribution system in place. They have sales reps and warehouses and shipping contracts; they can get print books into stores and grocery stores and department stores, depending. Their cost to print a mass market might be 1.00; my cost to print the trade paperback is closer to 11.00. So they have economies of scale, distribution, etc., as a way of recouping the initial investment.

These are things I can’t achieve on my own. I can possibly approach a few specialty stores and ask if they would like to carry copies – but that then leads into the question of returns, no returns, etc., etc. Publishers have this down to an arcane art.

Publishers will also have to typeset, to hire graphic designers and artists for covers, and to edit, copy-edit, proof-read. These parts of the process are parts that self-publishers are now responsible for.

If one is doing only epubs – or at least if I am – the editorial costs remain the same. The graphic designers & typesetters, however, disappear.

I looked at a bunch of different print-on-demand services, and decided I would try Lulu.com because other writers I know had used it for a variety of things (often home-done ARCs).

And then, of course, there was a problem with the formatting, a problem with the very first choices I made in how the book would be offered (so I had to delete my first attempt after several iterations and start from the beginning) and a problem with the barcode, which I didn’t realize I was responsible for, and, and, and. First time is often the most fraught.

It’s a trade paperback; it’s 300 pages long. The price is set at 17.50, because if it’s not, there’s no margin for companies like Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. They won’t carry it in-store (B&N; Amazon has no store front), but you should be able to order the book from them on-line in the next six to eight weeks. Six to eight weeks is the propagation time from Lulu to whichever company they use for Ingram fulfillment (I’m assuming it’s Lightning Source, but I could be wrong).

The Lulu.com link is here. If you order the book from Lulu, it will be cheaper, because there’s no retailer margin to worry about. But they charge shipping. I’m not sure if Amazon, etc., will charge shipping or allow the book to be ordered in the “ship for free” groupings.

ETA: Walter, in the comments thread, points out that I haven’t mentioned which stories are in the actual collection. This was not intentional on my part, and he’s absolutely right: that information should be somewhere other than just the table of contents.

The book contains the six published short pieces that take place in the universe of the West novels: Echoes, Huntbrother, Warlord, The Weapon, The Black Ospreys and Memory of Stone. They’re stories numbered 1 – 6 in the ebooks I self-published in 2011.

29 Responses to Memory of Stone and other stories

  1. Joey says:

    Congratulatuions, Michelle! Just ordered. It’ll be interesting to see how many you sell. Cat Valente went the Lulu route for her Omikuji Project stories. If I don’t forget, I’ll ask her how it did.

    While I’d love to have the Augustine stories in one volume, since you’ll either be writing more stories in that world or a novel (right?), I’ll wait until there’s more than two stories before asking again (or not). :)

  2. scorbet says:

    The cover is making me really, really want to buy this despite the fact that I already have them all in e-version and that I prefer ebooks. (They’re a lot easier to cart around).

    Thank you both for doing this, and also for taking the time to explain why making a print edition of something isn’t as easy as sending a word file to a printer. It’s really helpful to have both this and your “turning books into ebooks” posts to point people to when they are complaining about authors not doing X.

    *Returning to drooling over the cover :-)*

  3. mvictorine says:

    BOUGHT!

    Oh, and…
    “I spent several days worth of hours [struggling] with MS Word, and I got more and more frus­trated and felt more and more incom­petent. ”

    I think if you just abbreviate MS Word to MSW, it becomes a tautology. :D

  4. hjbau says:

    The cover is really making me want to buy it too and the fact that it is a trade paperback. I actually already have all of the Essalieyan shorts in print because i have all the separate anthologies that they were in initially. I don’t do ebooks. I am going to think about it, but who am i kidding, i will most likely be buying it as well.

  5. Paul Howard says:

    Good going. I’m becoming an “ebook only reader” but I still understand that plenty of people like “dead tree” books.

  6. Lovely cover – but I’m almost exclusively an ebook reader now and already bought all the stories.

    However, as long as you get Jody Lee covers from DAW I shall be buying hardcover copies of those!

  7. David Y says:

    Are there Canadian sources? Will Bakka get it for me? or that big chain of chains?

  8. michelle says:

    Thank you both for doing this, and also for taking the time to explain why making a print edition of some­thing isn’t as easy as sending a word file to a printer.

    I’ve heard the question a few times in the store and elsewhere, and I did want to try to explain why it’s not just a trivial thing. If you’re a writer who is also a graphic designer, you can probably do the print version on your own time – but most of the writers I know are like me: they don’t have that skill set.

  9. michelle says:

    Yes, Bakka will be able to get it. The big chain stores won’t, in all likelihood, carry copies though. There is no official distributor besides Ingram.

  10. mvictorine says:

    That was a complement! I was suggesting that anyone who gets in *your way* suffers. A LOT.

    …So, yeah, I probably need to go practice my dodging skills.

  11. dr susan emans says:

    I have to admit that I have not read your other books, but I wanted to tell you how wonderful it is that you took a chance, went out of your comfort zone, and wrote Silence. I am not a young adult and I love this book. It went on my favorites list before I finished it, and I am reading it again while waiting for Shadow of Night. Thank you for this wondetful book.

  12. Walter says:

    Michelle,

    I imagine I’m like most of your other readers and crave, with bated breath, any new works of yours that mght appear in any form. On the internet, I’m a lurker, I normally follow blogs and such without contributing, I dont know why that is, I’m not shy but I guess that Im more entertained by watching others than diving right in.

    However, to my point, I believe Memory of Stone is a collection of previously published works which are out of print. Awhile back, on one of the websites which list all your known works I collected the names of your shorts and where they were published and then tried to make Amazon filthy rich.

    Of course my only complaint in obtaining a copy of Memory of Stone would be the fact I might already possess all the stories contained within but how would I even know as nowhere that I could find on your current website or Lulu.com does there appear to be a table on contents listed. I know its petty but if it contains a short of yours I haven’t read then even one short story is well worth the cost of the book. Please, if I’ve managed to overlook it please forgive me but if its there, it should be easier to find. That all, and if some reason, its not, then perhaps listing the stories contained in Memory of Stone wouldnt be such a bad idea.

    Im an avid fan of all your works and hope that you continue to find joy and satisfaction in your writing so that you might continue for decades to come. So late at night I will always have something of yours to read. Thank you for your stories.

    Walter

  13. michelle says:

    I know its petty but if it contains a short of yours I haven’t read then even one short story is well worth the cost of the book.

    It’s not petty. I totally dropped that ball, and my only excuse is that I’d discussed it before, on the blog, so I knew what stories I’d said would be in the book.

    This is not actually useful, however, because no one else is reading my brain. I will add the stories on the book’s page. There are no new stories in the collection; all of the stories have been published as ebooks separately. But print readers of the West books wanted to be able to read the book in print, rather than ebook, and the six were long enough for their own print book.

    The stories are:

    Echoes, Warlord, Huntbrother, The Weapon, The Black Ospreys, Memory of Stone.

  14. michelle says:

    I have to admit that I have not read your other books, but I wanted to tell you how wonderful it is that you took a chance, went out of your comfort zone, and wrote Silence.

    Thank you!

  15. Ken says:

    Yay
    I put my order in, Now its a waiting game.

    This is great, appreciate the effort on our behalf

  16. Ralph Walker says:

    Just for giggles, I checked both B & N and Amazon sites for the book. Nothing, as of yet. I checked the LuLu site. They have discounted the book to $14.00. BUT, they charge $14.00 for shipping and handling! That is high!
    I have been blessed to have been able to obtain these Essalieyan shorts in the anthologies they first came out in. I have the eBook versions, also. However, I will order the Print-on-demand book, once B& N or Amazon offer it ( ISBN: 9781927094129). One can never have too much Michelle to read! Plus, I do prefer “dead tree” reading ( call me old-fashioned).

  17. Walter says:

    Ralph,

    Thanks on the info regarrding Memory of Stone, I was going to hit Lulu this afternoon to order a copy but I agree that $14.00 S&H seems a bit excessive if it isn’t next day ;) I’m also a dead tree reader. I read in bed late at night and drift off to sleep. I often pick the book up off the floor the next morning and so far my Velocity Cruz reader has survived the falls but its only a matter of time;) I concur, there is never enough Michelle to read.

  18. Joey says:

    Ralph,

    What I see on the Lulu website for the cheapest shipping, at least for me in the San Francisco Bay Area:

    “Mail $3.99 Delivers 5 to 15 business days after printing.”

    So the cost to ship to you seems very high.

    Joey

  19. Ralph Walker says:

    Joey,
    You are correct. The shipping price I was quoting IS for expedited ground shipping ( $8.99 plus tax).
    I must be more careful in my posts. That $3.99 shipping cost you stated is for shipping via USPS, which is not trackable.

    Thanks for correcting my error!!!

  20. Hilda says:

    All your forthcoming books were ordered yesterday from Amazon for first day delivery, in hard back.. But waiiiiiting; it’s hard. Have fun with the writing of the future others, then splitting them in two so we can enjoy more. I can’t wait to see the first chapter of the new ones. Just, please, please, tell your publisher to rush them. I “thirst” for reading “Battle”.

  21. Agustine says:

    Dear Michelle,

    I’ve just read your blog post today and the soonest I read that the ‘Memory of Stone & Other Stories’ are available in Lulu.com, I directly decided that I MUST get 1 copy! I AM SO VERY EXCITED! YAY! I’ve ordered 1 and I’ll be patiently waiting for the book to arrive. ^^

    Thank you, thank you so much for making the short stories available in print. I love books in print and yes, even though I’ve already bought some of your short stories in ebook format from Smashwords (and I love to read them), it did not quite feel that I ‘own’ a book; sorry, it’s just a matter of habit, I think. LOL. That’s because i love the feel of books in print: the cover, the paper, and how I can put a plastic cover on it and keep it in my bookshelves. I’d love to group my favorite books by my favorite authors in the bookshelves; i feel a kind of satisfied seeing them lining up together neatly in my shelves. It feels to me like I’m making a family of them; the new book that I add in the shelves is meeting their ‘siblings’ by the same author. LOL =p

    Again, thank you so much for making the book available in print, despite all the hassle, the much exerted effort, and extra expense to make this possible. Thank you so much. You’re a wonderful, brilliant author and I do hope you keep on writing for the rest of your life. I can’t get enough of your books; they’re very dear to me and I love all the characters in your books: Kaylin, Severn, Valedan, Diora, Jewel, Avandar, Stefanos, Erin, Emma, Eric, Stephen, Gilliam, Aidan; all of them! The depth of the characters in your books teaches me to see below the surface of a person; humans are complex and multifaceted and thus a person can’t be categorized into a simple ‘black and white’ category. We all have our shortcomings, and how we deal with it in order to be a better person is the most important. The choices we make define who we are; that’s one of the things I learned from your books. =)

    I’m very looking forward to receiving the book from Lulu.com.
    Have a joyful weekend! ^^v

    Agustine

  22. Sasha says:

    Thank you for going to the massive effort of publishing this book. I despaired when I saw the collection was listed as ‘kindle only’ on Fantastic Fiction – until, with a glimmer of hope, I came to y0ur website and found the printed version. I immediately went to Lulu and ordered it! I hope others have the same good luck. Maybe if the folks at Fantastic Fiction know of your Lulu version, you will get a lot more sales.

    Thank you so much for all your books. Chronicles of Elantra, Sun Sword and House Wars series especially.

  23. Jim Kellogg says:

    Michelle

    Since I have been traveling on business I am way behind and just saw that Memories of Stone and other stories was available. I tried Amazon but it is not there yet so I have ordered from Lulu. I wanted to say that I have read everything that I know of that you have written and have enjoyed it all. Sun Sword books are my favorites. I have a kindle which I have tried but just detest. I must have real books. Thank you for the effort to publish this in paper. I do have all of these stories scattered through different media but it is worth the cost to me to have them all together.

    Jim Kellogg

  24. David Y says:

    I picked up my copy today; I don’t get downtown that often.
    I’m only halfway through it now.

  25. Chris says:

    Eight weeks now and I’ve not yet seen it listed at either B&N or Amazon, but I’ll keep checking. Thanks again for making this available.

  26. Tyronne Hodgins says:

    I just received a Kobo touch reader for my 50th birthday a few weeks back. I just wanted to thank you Michelle for making those short stories available. I have downloaded them all and read them all. They are the beautiful small gems surrounding the pendant that is The House War Saga.

    I was hooked on your Elantra series and then tried the House War series – I actually lucked out and found a full set of the Sun Sword series (waiting for the e-versions) so I am up to speed but your short stories provided me with some wonderful context to fill in the blanks – The Memory of Stone in particular – Wow. Now I understand the Guildmaster’s conversation with Celeriant in much more detail.

    Thank you so very much for the endless hours of entertainment.

  27. Michelle, I usually have my nose in a book and you are one of my very favorite authors! Periodically, I log on the internet via the computer and visit various author and publishers site for an up. I still have the first digital phone the phone company force on me… My sister would tell you, the majority of nick knacks in my house are books… which I toted around with me for years; so THANK YOU VERY MUCH for acquiring and republishing your short stories, I just ordered my copy. Take care!!!

  28. John says:

    Michelle, thanks for taking the time and effort to make this available! I have not been tempted into eBooks yet, and really wanted to read these stories when I saw that they existed. I ordered the book today.

    The one difficulty I had was figuring out where to get the book. It was fairly easy for me to find a rumor that this book was supposed to exist, but when I came to your website to try and find it (not knowing what it was called) I could not figure out a way to confirm that it actually existed. It took several Google searches to find a set of key words that returned a link to this particular blog post. I took the liberty of editing the Wikipedia entry for you to add the name of this book to the appropriate sentence there to make it easier for people to find it. However, I was wondering if it would make sense for you to add an entry for this book in the Short Story section of the bibliography here.

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