Sunday, November 30, 2008

Digital publishing: gay books go al fresco

al fresco
1753, from It., lit. "in the fresh (air)." The It. al represents a contraction of words from L. ad "to" + ille "that." Alfresco also meant "painted on plaster that was still fresh or moist" (1764; see fresco). -

Imagine fiction ... gay fiction, any kind of fiction, in fact ... that was not sandwiched between covers, shrink wrapped for delivery, jammed onto shelves inside a store inside a mall in a city where the air pollution is so thick, it'd blunt razor blades.

Imagine fiction (gay if you like; and we do) that had no covers, was never shrink wrapped, never shelved, never saw the inside of a store or a mall.

What's wafting through your mind is the digital novel; and of all the new stuff on the net in the last couple of years, the concept of the digital novel is probably the one that's a) the most genuinely innovative, b) the most doable by people who are not programmers by trade, and c) the new "thing" that's the most likely to become a permanent fixture of online kulchure.

What the hell is a digital novel, anyway? Is it like an ebook?

Nope. It's a novel, sure enough ... but you don't download a PDF and read 400 pages all at once. Because you didn't buy the whole novel in one hit. In fact, you didn't buy the novel at all.

The digital novel is virtually free. It's split into 2,000 word chunks and uploaded, post-fashion, to a blog. You log on every day for the next installment ... download it to your iWhatsit, or your phone, or Blackberry, or whatever the hell you're using to read on the bus and/or train. And you're good to go. You become a collector of this serial-novel. Over the months, the whole thing goes together to make one fantastic great opus which you've enjoyed in bite-sized chunks.

The deal is, at least once, you remember the author and/or artist who's supplying your new habit, and made a donation -- the princely sum of $1.

The theory goes, maybe twenty thousand readers will enjoy the hell of this chunk-served novel, because it's FREE, and it's a great read, and everyone tells their friends and shares the fun far and wide. The more the merrier. A fantastic time is had by all, and if everyone were to click that little $1 button just once ... the writer (for example, Mel Keegan...!) would earn a hell of a lot more out of this project than would ever be earned out of a "proper" contract with a "proper" publisher.

I have to admit, this interests me strangely. I mentioned the other day, I've been wondering for a year or more about -- seriously! -- giving the fiction away and making a living on the ads. The problems with this became painfully apparent about this time last year, when Google turned homophobic --

A click on the Google Ads which appear on a gay or gay-friendly page earns LESS THAN 1c, while a click on any other page earns maybe .25c.

I write gay fiction. If I gave the fiction away via webpages, it would therefore take 100 clicks to earn me $1 ... you'd need 1000 clicks a week to earn $10!

But suppose -- just suppose -- that readers were inclined to be fair, and give the $1 button a single click in exchange for a 600pp novel ... ahhh. The whole equation changes.

AND Google didn't get to make $2.50 for some ad that was clicked, and pay the publisher (me) a penny. Adsense Ads on gay-friendly pages is a corrupt system, to which I hate contributing. If there were any other way to get the Googlebot to come visit ASAP without pasting the ads to my pages, believe me, I'd do it!

[I'm going to wander off topic for a while now ... the following is for pro bloggers, website publishers, and wannabe digital novelists, esp. if any of the above feature gay-friendly pages:]

However, every time one looks for a Google-free solution to this, one runs headfirst into trouble. About ten days ago, I tried something called Pingomatic ... ... and Google flogged me to tatters. This blog was scoring 30 - 90 visitors per day before the flirtation with Pingomatic ... Ma Goog knocked me down to single digits as a punishment for using the third-party service. I used Pingomatic for four days, of the recommendation of a web guru who swore up and down that it was A VeryGood Thing to ping the major search engines and blog search services as soon as you update your blog. Like throwing a switch, POW! The Googlebot stopped indexing me, and my "rankings" went down like a brick, meaning, only the regular readers were swinging by. There's about 30 folks out there who read Keegan every few days, but it's a (sad?) fact that 90% of traffic comes from search engines ... and 99% of all searches are via The Goog. In other words, Google owns us all. Uh, deal with it. So, if anyone reading this is trying to build up their blog traffic, either to blog professionally or, like me, to increase awareness of their product -- in my case, a book list -- take my advice: leave services like Pingomatic alone! Ma Goog doesn't like them, and she will hurt you. Big time. It takes about a week or two for your traffic to start to come back, and the whole thing is a major pain in the bum. The last time I went through this was when I had a brief flirtation with AdBrite, which pays better than Goog, for ads on gay-friendly pages ... the problem is, Google will give you a caning for having AdBrite ads -- their competitor. Your traffic just vanishes. You can score as low as 0. What good is having the potential to earn 20c per click, when you have no visitors?! Just grasp the fact that Google owns us all, and play within their rules. So: have Google ads on your gay-friendly pages NOT because they will pay you more than 1c for a click (they won't), but because the Googlebot indexes your pages almost instantly if there are ads on them ... why do they do this? Because THEY can make from $1 to $100 for every click, whilst paying the publisher as little as 1c. And don't use third party services like Pingowhatever. And just be up-front with your readers and ask for a one-off $1 donation in exchange for a serial that ran for six months with the equivalent of a 600pp novel!

So (getting back onto topic!) while ebooks as a medium are surging, with growth rates in sales that are making publishers blink ... there is an even newer innovation. The fiction is FREE. All we ask is that folks drop a coin in the box on their way out the door. Ebooks are terrific ... but they can also be expensive. Why would I want to pay $20 for a new novel, and then fry my eyeballs in front of a monitor screen?! But your free fiction, now ... that's a whole different ball game.

And if Nostrakeeganus were to make a prediction? Well, in two years or five years from now, we'll all be reading ebooks, not paper ... and the digital novel will be an old, entrenched, respected institution, where writers and readers have both attained perfect freedom: there isn't even an ebook publisher between them. Not even a download manager like Payloadz, much less a POD printshop like Just a blog to bookmark, and a PayPal button that you, the delighted reader, click one time, while you share the URL for these gratis goodies with your friends.

You gotta like this. And yes, I'm very, very interested.

Stay tuned!


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