I’ve recently had more test results back following an operation and found out that the thing that’s kept me busy all summer wasn’t cancer, merely something that could easily be mistaken for cancer. I feel exhausted. In an ideal world I’d now have a month cruising between island paradises in the South Seas, or at least a holiday that could easily be mistaken for a cruise around the South Seas. In reality I’ll be using November to catch up on work that I haven’t done in March, April, May, June, July and August.
One thing I’ve meant to do this year is write an ebook and November is AcWriMo, Academic Writing Month. I’m using this as the hook to write the first draft of a quick introduction to archaeoastronomy. There’s a few reasons for writing the book.
1. I’m lazy.
Every so often I get an email asking how the Sun or Moon moves in the sky, or else how to measure alignments at a site. Currently this means sitting down, sometimes for a day, and writing a bespoke response. 90% of what I get asked could be covered with the same text.
2. I’d like other people to do it too.
There’s lots of people who could write interesting things. Many academics do. Then they’re published by an academic press who print 250 copies at a massively high price so hardly anyone can read the book. The work in making the book, producing camera-ready copy, getting print permissions etc, is the same as in making an ebook. It’s the short run cost that pushes prices up and — I suspect — the willingness of 250 libraries to pay such high fees for a book.
3. I need the practice.
I’m out of practice writing. I need to get back into the habit of sitting down and writing for a stretch. It should be simple, just putting one word after another and sprinkle punctuation to taste. And a marathon is just a case of putting one foot in front of another till you reach the end.
What I haven’t exactly settled on is how I’m going to do this. One way would be to write as a series of blog entries. I could do this, but this will be rapid writing and first draft material. I’m not keen on having this draft indexed by search engines and effectively being immortal. On the other hand, completing the draft, talking to a freelance editor about the cost of editing it, balking at the cost and putting it up online for feedback is a slow process that’s easy to stall on. Ideally I’d like to put something up every few days to keep myself on track and on target.
What I’m thinking of doing is uploading the text as an ePub (and mobi?) file every few days. The ePub is readable by Kobo, iPad and other readers. A mobi file would be twice the size of the ePub but would be readable on a Kindle. I’m wary of providing in progress mobi files, but I can do if there’s demand. While I’m writing the next section you can comment on the previous one. I doubt I’ll have time to make immediate changes in response, but I can certainly make changes in responses to the earlier sections after the first draft is complete. Does this sound sensible, or is it HTML or nothing?
Once I have the finished work, I’d seriously like to see about taking it to a freelance editor. It’ll cost, but I think it will improve the draft. The final file will then be uploaded for sale on Amazon and Kobobooks. The target price is $2.99. For Amazon, the size of the file means that $2.99 will be the minimum price they allow at the lower royalty rate. Kobo’s self-publishing system might mix that up a bit, but the pricing systems are complex. It’s better to have the book finished before getting lost in that. As far as making money goes, hah! It would be nice to make enough to pay for the image licensing fees, but the idea of selling enough to pay for the editing of the book too is a pipe dream.
Both shops allow for DRM-free distribution, meaning you could take the file, convert it and read it on another device.
So that’s my plan for November. If you’d like to follow along and don’t have a mobile ereader, you can download Adobe Digital Editions as an ePub reader.