The Experiment: Chapter One

A couple of weeks ago, I was about to dip my toe into the strange, self-publishing experiment Leanpub. The motto of Leanpub is, “publish early, publish often,” and the basic idea is that you publish a book as you write it, and people who buy the book can influence it in terms of what happens next and what changes you need to make to the existing manuscript.

I’m not going to recap my doubts and fears regarding this kind of assembly-line publishing. But I am going to discuss my thoughts regarding leanpub now that I have published the first chapter of Predestination.

1. User Friendly? What’s that? Leanpub seems built more for people who want to buy books than those who want to sell them. The site doesn’t have obvious tabs from which I can access my work in progress. If I go to the dashboard I can see my earnings, the books I’ve bought, and the books I’ve sold, among other things. At the moment, that means nothing to me – I haven’t even published my first chapter yet! Every time I’ve tried to access my work in progress, I’ve had to go through a maze of other tabs until I have finally stumbled upon the tab I want. In short, the website’s design is poorly thought out. It’s true, I’m slightly technologically illiterate, but let’s be honest: web sites should be made with the knowledge that idiots like me will be trying to navigate them.

2. All those text editors you’ve got? RUBBISH. Leanpub has put all its chips behind the text editing program Markdown. They claim that all other editors are insufficient. I have to say, I don’t think it’s very clever to back only one horse, and a horse that doesn’t seem too popular, at that. As far as I understand it, Markdown is intended to be a platform that helps people publish e-books in a way that means they don’t have to spend as much time formatting and messing around. Which brings us to the next point:

3. Our auto-formatting is AWESOME! No, wait…It’s not. After following the instructions on the leanpub page regarding the publishing of my first chapter, I previewed it. I ended up with three superfluous sections that I hadn’t asked for in my book. After tweaking it, I ended up with the content I wanted, but under the general heading ‘contents’ and an extra page that said, “CONTENTS” and nothing more. I finally got it to do what I wanted by copying my manuscript into Markdown – though of course, it didn’t format correctly and I had to go through it again to make paragraph changes.

4. Fiction is Fiction, Right? I was more than a little surprised to see that there are no subgenres of fiction. No romance, fantasy, sci-fi, comedy, thriller…As a reader, this seems like a really bad idea to me. It’s like handing someone a basket full of books and saying, ‘see what you want to pay for.’ If leanpub wants to cater to a large market, then they need to sort their fiction section so that we can look for what we want. It’s also annoying that they don’t list prices.

So far, to say that I am unimpressed is rather an understatement. I put Predestination up on Wattpad and it took me ten seconds. My suspicion is that leanpub, which sells a lot of books on navigating various computer languages, is striving for an audience that it doesn’t fully understand. If the company is going to make it with this novelty publishing method, then they’re going to have to make things easier on us. Otherwise, their writership will never grow.

Of course, I will love you forever if you go check it out – this is an experiment, after all. Or if you prefer, you can find it on wattpad.

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7 thoughts on “The Experiment: Chapter One

  1. bwfoster78 says:

    Lillian,

    I checked out the description of your book, and it sounded interesting. I’m not sure, however, why anyone would want to pay for a book chapter by chapter.

    I hate even waiting for the next book in a series to come out.

    The description almost sounds like the readers are paying for the opportunity to become beta readers.

    Please keep us updated on how this goes, though. I’d love to know if this method is worth the effort.

    Thanks.

    Brian
    http://www.brianwfoster.com

    • forgingshadows says:

      Hi Brian, thanks for commenting. I had the same exact thought when I saw this platform – which is kind of why I decided to experiment with it. I think that leanpub is going off of a fanfiction type of idea, which I think I’m going to write about later.

      Because I don’t believe in paying for something before I know its value (i.e., the first chapter of a book when I can’t be certain that the rest of the book will be good or will even appear), I put Predestination up on leanpub for free. I’ll keep posting, probably with each chapter, regarding my thoughts on leanpub and this different type of publishing. So if it’s something that intrigues you, check back as I go along!

  2. MishaBurnett says:

    If I am going to buy a book, I want to buy a book that is finished–written, edited, formatted, cover, table of contents, all of it. There are plenty of writers groups where you can read works in progress.

    • forgingshadows says:

      You have a point, and that’s one of the reasons I wouldn’t feel comfortable charging for it. It’s also one of the reasons that I’m putting the work up on some of those other platforms, to see whether it fits better on them and how it all interacts. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I’ve been a Wattpad user for quite some time now and have enjoyed it immensely. There’s just something entrancing about anticipating what happens next in a book and being able to interact with the author about your thoughts about it. Though I agree that the fun would probably fade if I were to have to pay for each chapter. I’ll definitely check out your work when I have time 😀

    • forgingshadows says:

      Thanks very much for the comment, and for the read in advance! What’s your wattpad username? I’ll come see what you’ve got over there, if you don’t mind. I’m quite new to wattpad so I’m on the lookout for friendly faces.

      • My username’s Archleone :)) I haven’t been active for a few months now though but I’m trying it out again. Haha. Feel free to message me. A lot of the people I used to know aren’t around anymore but some that stuck include SecretKeeper, SidneyArden, and TheOrangutan. Wonderful people with impressive works. You might want to check them out sometime 🙂

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