Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Year on Scribd

*Note 9/3/10: Since Scribd.com instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. My free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.

Today marks my first anniversary of posting my free e-books on Scribd, a public document hosting site which provides free reads to everyone on the planet.

From the beginning I was impressed with how easy the site is to use, and how quickly I could publish an e-book by using their upload service. I started with about a dozen of the e-books and stories I'd already written, and in a few days created an instant virtual library.

Scribd also provided me with hard numbers in the form of statistics, such as running totals of views, downloads, global geographic locations of my Scribd readers and approval citations. When one of my documents proved very popular in a short period of time, Scribd gave me a nice reward by listing it on their Hot List, or featuring it on their home page, which brought in even more readers.

The comments and e-mail I received through the site were immensely helpful. I had over four hundred exchanges with readers interested in my print work and other writers who had questions about electronic publishing, copyright, promotional e-books and related subjects. That helped me expand my horizons, pick up some new readers, and also pass along what I'd learned.

PBW benefitted from Scribd as well. I was able to use the site to host my diagrams, workshop e-books and other materials I used to teach, which came in very handy during my virtual workshops last summer. The most popular document I have on Scribd to date is, in fact, my Novel Notebook, with over ten thousand views in nine months. NaNoWriMo'ers also stopped in by the hundreds in November to check out and download my Ten Point Plotting Template, and I hope that proved helpful to all the first time novelists out there.

The only downside to using Scribd were a few obvious troll and SPAM messages (can't escape them no matter where we go.) Some writers have contacted me and expressed their displeasure with the project, as they still believe that garbage RT published about me. What I'm doing is no different than an author who hands out free books at writer conferences -- my way is just more efficient, doesn't cost anything, and reaches a much wider, more interested audience. I also don't have to travel, pay con fees, stay in strange hotels, eat mystery chicken or have my immune system compromised while I'm at it. Furthermore, I'm not posting or handing out copies of my print work; my e-books on Scribd are all self-published, not-for-profit original content, and they're not available anywhere else. That = exclusive content readers can't buy in stores.

At the moment advertising may or may not become an issue. A couple of days ago I did ask Scribd to take down the Random House picture ad for Tess Gerritsen's novel The Surgeon that was placed on my doc page for Incarnatio, as more than a few people thought I'd put it there myself. As it happens, I've never read the book, nor was I consulted about the ad placement. I receive no compensation for the ads Scribd lists on my doc pages, nor do I want any. While I admire Ms. Gerritsen's success and wish her only more of the same, I feel it's inappropriate for her publisher to use my free e-book pages in this manner. Readers can and already have mistaken the ad as my personal endorsement of the book. I explained this all to the guys at Scribd, and as far as I know the ad has since disappeared, so hopefully this won't happen again.

Overall the problems were few, and Scribd in essence allowed me to distribute in a one-year period over seventy-five thousand copies of my free stories, novellas, novels and nonfic materials. I never had to solicit the readers or SPAM them. If the reader wanted an electronic or printed copy, they took care of it from their end. I didn't have to ship anything or purchase expensive advertising. My Scribd virtual library is self-sustaining and, once an e-book is uploaded and made available, requires no maintenance on my part whatsoever. There was no fuss with international rights or making my stories available in countries that will not import or publish my print work. People looking for the sort of stuff I write found it through site searches. They are readers all over the globe looking for something to read, which surely is the most valuable market out there, and Scribd is a direct conduit to them.

I can't say how many folks who read my work on Scribd later went out to buy my print work -- there's just no way to know that. However, last year the print books I published showed a significant boost in sales numbers. Since I continue to receive little or no promotional support from my publisher for my books (which is fine, because I've been around a long time and I have an established readership, and they need their advertising budgets to help out new writers) and I haven't done anything differently except put my e-books on Scribd, I'm going to give Scribd credit for helping to expand my readership in 2008.

Best of all Scribd remains 100% free, so readers who may not be able to afford print books right now can still find plenty to read on the site. Given the current state of the economy, we need that kind of resource. As for writers, as long as you agree to Scribd's terms of use, anyone can create an account and upload their documents. I don't think you can find a better deal than that anywhere, on or offline.

13 comments:

  1. "I never had to solicit the readers or SPAM them."

    This is the key, right here. The only sure-fire way to get new customers is to make a wonderful product and let them get it. Trying to drag them in does not work, no matter the business.

    You are a great role model for me.

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  2. *raising hand and waving*

    I'm one who found you through Scribd! I had done a search on plotting a story (I think) and found your non-fiction. Well, I of course had to see what else you had on Scribd and found the e-books. Read a couple right then and there. Went back and downloaded all of them. Read all of them. Hit the bookstore LOL

    Thanks so much! I'm truly enjoying your work.

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  3. CUrious if you're going to do a big free short story thing like you did a couple years ago?

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  4. I'll check it out as soon as I am back on high speed at school!
    ManiacScribbler =^..^=

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  5. Margaret wrote: This is the key, right here. The only sure-fire way to get new customers is to make a wonderful product and let them get it. Trying to drag them in does not work, no matter the business.

    Exactly. The other helpful aspect is that they don't have to pay for the e-books on Scribd. As a reader, I appreciate the chance to test drive a writer's work before I buy it. Teasers are okay, but giving a reader a full story allows them to get a real handle on what and how you write. If they discover they don't like your style, they're not out eight bucks, which eliminates any possibility of resentment.

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  6. Sherri wrote: I'm one who found you through Scribd! I had done a search on plotting a story (I think) and found your non-fiction. Well, I of course had to see what else you had on Scribd and found the e-books. Read a couple right then and there. Went back and downloaded all of them. Read all of them. Hit the bookstore LOL

    Thanks for investing and relating the experience, Sherri -- you've illustrated just how effective Scribd can be for a writer. Plus I get to call you one of my Scribes now. :)

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  7. Amie wrote: CUrious if you're going to do a big free short story thing like you did a couple years ago?

    Between Master of Shadows, Ravelin and Incarnatio, I think I've e-booked myself to the limit for the holidays. My next project is to finish editing Castling, one of the Ravelin stories that turned into a novel on me, and post that online.

    I want to do at least one more new Darkyn story this year and post it on Scribd, but I'd like to wait and see what's going to happen over the next couple of weeks before I plan any new projects. A lot depends on how well Stay the Night does, because there's a character I want to revisit and maybe tell a bit more of his story. This is assuming I still have a job as a writer once the economic smoke clears.

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  8. Interesting...hadn't heard of this site before. I run a (very) small publishing company that offers free e-books as well as hardcopy versions, so this might be a good way to make the e-books more widely available. Thanks for the link!

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  9. Anonymous3:33 PM

    I was bummed when you first moved there, as I don't have a working Flash player, but apparently at some point they made it so you can access the content without. Yay!

    --Josh

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  10. I can't remember how I found you, but today marks 5 months of me following your blog. I know it wasn't through Scribd, though, as this is the first time I've really heard about it. I'm definitely going to have to check it out now so I can read those ebooks you have out.

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  11. Anonymous5:56 PM

    For Christ's sake --

    "SPAM" is not an acronym or abbreviation.

    It's written "spam."

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  12. Anonymous wrote: For Christ's sake --"SPAM" is not an acronym or abbreviation.It's written "spam."

    Hey, sweetie, how are you? You must have missed my reply the last time you sternly corrected me on the proper typing of SPAM. I decided that in your honor I would always spell SPAM in caps here on the blog. For the rest of eternity, in fact.

    So, anything else going on in your life, I mean, aside all the anonymous comments you leave for Christ's sake?

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  13. Not a comment on Scribd particularly, but on your Ten Point Novel plotting. I was one of the NaNoers who checked it out, and while this isn't my first time through a novel (fifth, in fact) I found it very helpful. It's the perfect amount of pre-plotting for me. Not so little I lose track of my direction, not so much I kill my creativity (which is easy -my muse apparently gets the vapors readily).

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