Ebooks: Born to Click (1 of 3)

At the end of this post are notes about me, my experiences and my books. Disclosure: I am a member of Noveltunity and my books are featured on uncovered books and Jellybooks.
With this essay I am sharing experiences, thoughts and information. If there is interest, I may continue to work on it as a commercial product. My feeling now, however, is that this informal essay is my way of marking the end of a certain era in ebook history. It’s part snapshot, part reference materials, part journal.
Thanks to Doug Rolph for his insights on economics, Eric Hellman for his input and my dad for having taken care of our family by selling books.

το πνεύμα του Ιανού

After I finish writing eight books, I will begin marketing. Until then, I’ll probably study the ebook world less and hopefully do more writing, arting and engaging with Life. When it does comes time for me to contribute to the marketing conversation, I hope I have something to say. For now, I present the following notes, quotes and thoughts as a means of punctuating a phase in the development of ebooks as I have seen and experienced it.

This is an exciting time. The ebook delivery platforms are finally stable, self-publishing has proven to have great value and a number of services have recently appeared that shorten the distances between readers and authors. It seems to me that indie ebooks and ebook marketing are about to enter a new era.

This blog post makes little mention of traditional publishing. This is simply because, as much as I would like to enjoy the benefits of being a Big 5/6 author, that fruit is not now within my reach. I am however, considering joining the Author’s Guild.

Although I’ve done almost no marketing, I have studied the environments in which ebooks are created, presented, bought and sold. Some observations:

1. Except for uploading, nothing about ebooks is easy.
Writing is the anti-social social media, full of long, long hours of pressure-filled solitude. Assembling an error-free book is never simple. The social part, finding an audience, is an immense challenge. I respect all of the authors mentioned in this post for they have successfully met these challenges and more.

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.
Stephen King

Based on my experiences, the work breakdown of an 88,000 word novel looks something like this: 1000 words a day (88 days) or, more likely, 500 words a day (176 days). Call it 200 days to prepare something for a proofreader. Two months for corrections, art, and ebook conversion. So, a book takes about 300 working days to finalize. About…
And then there are the thousands of actions needed to connect with readers… The title of Guy Kawasaki’s excellent book says it all: APE, meaning Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

This document, by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, is a data-based analysis of the ebook market. Highly recommended, it covers topics important for newbies and veterans. It touches upon issues like word count, pricing, marketing and more. For instance, his research shows that the average bestseller on Smashwords is 100,000 words, and the average romance is 112,195 words. (There are more links to resources at the end of this post.)
Very few traditionally published authors became bestsellers; the same is true for ebook publishing. My goal is not to become a bestseller, but to connect with the largest possible community of people who enjoy the art of reading.

2. A great writer or a great marketer…
….or, the frustration of being caught between not doing enough writing and not doing enough marketing. A writer writes, a salesman sells.
Self-publishing does not equal self-marketing. Spending money wisely on promotion money means income and time to write. (See the links below)
Twitter, Goodreads, FB, LinkedIn and blogging? All have their advantages and disadvantages…

3. There are no independent, hugely successful ebook-only self-publishers.
Note: Two days after this post went up, I became aware of this great piece by Dana Beth Weinberg on Digital Book World. Thank you Jacqueline Church!

Amazon is huge, Apple is huge, Kobo and Smashwords are very big. Unless you are selling from your own website or the back of your car, you’re not truly independent.

OK, A bit of an attention grabber there…but the author’s need for a partnership with Amazon and ebook distributors is a dependence that cannot be overlooked. These “automatic partners” will always protect their interests first. They call the shots. Amazon is a business, not an author.

Amanda Hocking is a hugely successful author. At one point, the average daily sales figure of her self-published ebooks was 9000. Again: average DAILY book sales: nine thousand! Her success was based on hard work, technological first mover advantage and an indirect tie-in with Hollywood.
-the successful and pioneering integration of ebook readers into tablets and mobile as well as the launch of the Kindle (2007) and the iPad(2010)
-the large demographic of young women who bought readers and tablets
- the fact that, having written many books, Hocking could quickly provide a new and large market with a variety of new titles
- writing books about the paranormal when Hollywood is pushing the same cannot hurt. Twilight, the hugely successful series of movies about teen vampires began in 2008. Hocking’s first book, My Blood Approves, began selling in 2010.

E.L. James’ book phenomenon began in the fan fiction chat rooms for Twilight. The characters in Fifty Shades of Grey were originally the characters from Twilight. Could Master of the Universe, as her series was originally called, have achieved its success without an existing network of thousands of Twilight fans?

These two women made their mark upon society in two different ways. As shared, collective book-based experiences: WOW!
However, the writing is…”not terrible” or worse

I remember SF/F authors complaining (back in 2011) that their readers hadn’t switched to e-books yet, casting jealous eyes at the outsized romance audience. But as readers did move across, we saw people like David Dalglish and BV Larson breaking out, and the rest of “genre” fiction soon followed.

There are “indie success stories” about authors who “rode into town” on the backs of traditional publishing. Funded by Big 6 money these “indies” were advertised and publicized, sent on book tours and given things like business cards. Possibly, audiobooks were made. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their books were given away, many to reviewers.
As the ‘first mover’possibilities of the ebook market became clear and realistic, these authors, knighted by the Big 6 and armed with credibility and connections, rode onto a battlefield with little opposition… Undoubtedly hard work was involved, but to label them as indies brings to mind the quip about George Bush: “…was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”

There certainly are “ebook only” indies connecting with many readers and enjoying sales. I just don’t know of any.(FOUND SOMEONE: LINDSAY BUROKER Please tell me about others! them! Somewhat related to this, are there any “ebook only” awards?

4. The ebook world evolves to reward the reader; the prepared author benefits from this.
Fan fiction. Goodreads. Ebook readers on mobile phones. The mashup between big data and metadata. Entrepreneurs with vision who see ways to connect authors and readers in a new ways.

It is an exciting time.

(check elsewhere on this blog for Ebooks: Born to Click II and III)

Why Do I Want to Give Away 1000 I Ate Tiong Bahru ebooks?

Unlike anything else I’ve read… funny quirks yet balances the political undertone perfectly. The book involves history, humor, culture and most importantly, food (or rather, taste).
-Barrett Books (@Thea_Books) 

1. There are many people I want to thank.

2. I  want to share my written thoughts with anyone who wants to read them. The book is about Tiong Bahru, a community in Singapore, but the stories are universal. TO GET YOUR FREE ePUB file of I ATE TIONG BAHRU,
send a blank email to bookmerah@gmail.com
(You will receive an epub file, unless you ask for a Kindle file. Epubs are the standard for ebooks and you probably can read it easily. If you  have trouble using the file, let us know.)
3. If someone enjoys I Ate Tiong Bahru, they may be interested in Obama Search Words, Furikake, Contact With Shadow, Bus Stopping, The Font Detective, Bali Wave Ghost and Halus: Portrait and Landscape .
4. Although I Ate Tiong Bahru is about 5 dollars on Amazon, free ebooks are the future.  One of my other books, Contact With Shadow will soon be in an unglue campaign.
Contact With Shadow was probably the first Singapore-based project on Kickstarter. Click here to see a video which describes the book.
5. I don’t know what will happen.
6. When I began writing books I decided to do no marketing until I’d written eight. By doing this I hope to connect with readers without spending the time and money that marketing requires
7. Perhaps some people will be interested in  these printed books:
8. The more readers, the more feedback. This will help me finetune the sequel, To Eat Tiong Bahru, which is on track to be released next year.
I Ate Tiong Bahru is a must-read for gourmets, architects, historians and just about anyone who wishes to learn more about this evolving neighborhood.
5 star review on Amazon 

Most of the ebooks have been sent out within 12 hours of receiving the email.

3how videos

Although I look terrible, this is a beautiful video…. I went to LASALLE College of the Arts one morning. I hoped to meet someone, anyone,  with a phone, someone who could upload a very very brief interview. Simple, quick and spontaneous, like the spirit of 3how. I approached Miss Cindy Wang, introduced myself and asked her if she had a phone that could record an interview. She said she did and she also said she could interview me once her class was finished.

Her class ended, we sat down and the interview happened. However, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that she put quite a bit of work into it, adding music from the CD as well as Chinese subtitles. Thank you Cindy Wang!

The Riverwalk Session, coproduced my myself and Amith Narayan, is here:


This was a blast: the first 3how session, that happily included the Banyari band, the roving musical gypsies who roam around Asia.

Twice, 3how presented a “rock opera”. The premiere was at The Goodman Art Centre. Our lead actress, Joy, read her script for the first time about 30 minutes before we began. It was also the first time that the production was performed in its entirety; before that we’d worked on sections, but never had a complete run through… The second time the piece was performed was at The Substation, as part of the Night Festival.

A love story about a shipwrecked pigeon in the Singapore of the Eighties, the musical is entitled Big Homer.

if you pause the video a few times, you can learn more about the other music projects of Amith Narayan and Bani Haykal.

Bus Monet (photographic series)


The revision of the Agaricus blazeii Murill Notebook (gourmet and medicinal mushroom)

This year, I will restart research for a new edition of the Agaricus Blazei Murrill Notebook. ( I do not know why that person is selling those books at that price. If that is a typo, it is a very strange one.)

The ABM Notebook was completed in 2002 but right after publication I discovered that some of the reported studies were not reliable. There was also a taxonomic issue, ie agaricus subfrescens and/or agaricus blazei brasiliensis. Rather than take risks , I decided to not promote the book. Once the contract with the POD publisher expired, the book went into limbo.

I am looking forward to finally revising this book, this time emphasizing personal stories rather than medical research. The stories will be from growers and those in the industry. Especially important will be interviews with those enjoying ABM as a gourmet mushroom. Finally, of course, there will be stories from those  who have had positive experiences with ABM in regards to wellness, especially cancer.

A few months later…

A lot of talk with traditional Chinese medicine doctors, but have yet to connect with anyone involved with ABM. Years ago, however, I was very fortunate to listen to Paul Stamets and briefly spoke with him.  Go to the 9 minute mark of this video if you want to see why I am so interested in mushrooms. Here Mr. Stamets is talking about turkeytail  mushroom extract…

The future is fungi. Indeed. He also has a plan to help Fukushima with mushrooms.

If you are involved with ABM in any way, do feel free to get in touch.


Littlerature seems to be sleeping now, but the following links still work. The site showcases works composed of 1064 words, the number of words which fit into one piece of A4 paper.

Here are the pieces they ran:

The Greatest Music of All Time

A Knife, an Orchid and a Boat

Coasting and Building

A Star is Born or Something






3how album cover

3how was started by Amith Narayan and myself. The image above is the cover of the Riverwalk Session, which featured Amith, Curtis King, Wilson Goh and Bani Haykel. The music: difficult to describe. Listen for yourself. The recording is remarkable not only because of the musicianship, but because everyone met for the first time at the start of the session. Nothing was planned in advance.

3how projects are based on spontaneity and improvisation.

The members are rarely the same.3how at domain

3how at the Depth Show at Domain Gallery. Siva Saravanan on drums, Vocalist Wilson Goh, Justin Bannister on keyboards and Amith Narayan on mandolin and guitar. In Bali, where the connection is now so slow that I cannot even get Gmail to work..Will update this in Singapore… Inside of the meet and produce document are links to the musician’s projects and recordings. I will add those and more…



fires cover


More info soon.

Cyril’s Wikipedia entry is here and his homepage is here.

An interview with Cyril, featuring my portrait of  Cyril. And no, Alex Pander is not one of my pseudonyms…

Fires on Amazon.

Furikake (the most unattractive cover on Amazon)


To better understand this unattractive cover, see page 11 here.

To read a five star review on Kindle, click here

Obama Search Words

Obama Search Words

OK, so far so good with my New Year resolution to put some energy into this blog. Check the dates on the posts and you’ll see about one  ”nonfluffy” post a day has gone up since Jan 1. As for  OSW, I really am looking forward to explaining the reasons why I wrote this. But to phrase things properly will take time that I don’t have at the moment. For now, let’s just say I am not a political person, I enjoy research, Obama lived in Jakarta, he and I were in NYC at the same time in the early Eighties and the book ends with his first Inauguration….

FWIW, OSW was probably the first Kindle project assembled in Singapore…that is another side of the story…here it is on Amazon

The  campaign to unglue this book was derailed because of Hurricane Sandy. This video was made.

Final bit of OSW trivia…a handbound, custom printed copy was sent to Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue…no reply, not a mention that it was received. Was sent certified, so it arrived…