Hurray! Gnaw is finally available for pre-order on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. What? PRE-ORDER? Not for sale? Yes! Anyone who knows ebooks knows that pre-order is a beneficial phase of title delivery. It was the root of all that palaver between Amazon and a certain major publisher a year or so back. Of course, I could release Gnaw right now, it’s ready to go bar some irritating table of contents issues, but ‘pre-order’ is concept linked to algorithm and a concept in online publishing that, like SEO, is an asset for visibility. In short, the more pre-order click-through the better chance of being pushed up the algorithm and therefore being better placed for an incidental search by a potential customer anywhere around the world who does not know me or my book but is searching for literature in the categories and keywords (metadata) I have selected. In short? Metadata + pre-order = better chance of being ‘seen’ amongst thousands of other titles ahead of street date which is, by the way, 30 June 2015.
All of this — SEO, metadata, algorithm — is the area that fascinates me most currently in digital publishing. It’s where science meets art, and let’s face it, luck too. That’s an edgy combination, an irresistible playground that runs eventually into data and analytics; another growing element in digital publishing.
One of the joys of digital for me is the realisation that computer science has as much to contribute to a project as editorial, production and marketing/sales skills. Not just in the areas mentioned above but in the actual structuring of the content itself — decent xhtml mark-up, paragraph styling, semantic tagging, all plays into SEO eventually, digital is content organisation in a world of potential chaos where content can stand up and be counted as it should be. Every word potentially has a ‘home’, a taxonomy even, and you can be very comfortable with that as a publishing person or full of dread. Why am I very comfortable with it? Is it from hanging out as a kid with my dad doing type-in programmes for the Sinclair Spectrum seeing the beauty of an idea take shape from line commands and exacting syntax? Or is it a desire for perfection, tone, structure, a need for publishing to ‘measure up’ and move towards a bigger discipline? Or maybe it’s years of finding out in exam situations how detrimental badly edited text can be for learning and communication? Digital practices must be the nemesis for idiosyncratic editors and disorganised publishers. I can see why. All this rigour can seem distant from the art publishing likes to be.
But digital sorts the men/women from the boys/girls when it comes to actually knowing how to handle content itself. It should be an editor’s dream, it certainly is a producer’s, but xhtml workflows are still struggling to be adopted outside the scientific, technical and financial world of publishing and my little indie stretching exercise Gnaw in all its simplistic production with no images, tables, maps, toned boxes, footnotes is a perfect beginner’s grind for hands-on technique. What I loved the most about producing it? That beyond the magic I hope is in the writing itself, there’s another alchemy at work behind the headings and paragraphs, one that has meaning in another world, the online world that is, where, whether we like it or not, people live, shop and go to hopefully for good literature.
Over the next few weeks…
I’ll be creating my author page on Amazon, doing up a newsletter, looking at strategy for promotion and no doubt making last edits to the content and conversion itself. I’m extremely time poor at the moment due to industry training (Diploma in Web Technologies), job and kids but I’ll be trying to post about progress and on vending decisions taken (Amazon vs rest of the world), the conflicts of being author, publisher and entrepreneur, the ramifications of being cash and time poor on this project, but there is just too much to put in one post! I wrote this at 3 am, if that is not love what is?