Production photo from The Boy and the Wrapper
The benefits are immediate. You have a product easily available online.
by Jonathan Fournier
As some of you may have heard, I recently had my one-act Christmas romantic comedy, The Boy and the Wrapper, published… well self-published… as an e-book. After working on it for 2+ years and watching it play to enthusiastic audiences at the last Montreal Fringe Festival, I knew that putting it into a form where it could be discovered by a wider audience would be the next logical step. I did briefly entertain the notion of sending it around to publishers, but it’s very intimidating; first having to pick out the few publishers among North American publishers who accept plays, then coming to the sad realization that no one would want to publish a single one-act (40 page) play… you’d have to wait for them to want to make an anthology. I decided pretty quickly to go it alone and the booming “e-book” market makes that all too easy to do.
Once you’re confident that you’ve done everything you had to, submitting the book is as simple as a click of the mouse.
Now, I’m not writing this article just to plug The Boy and the Wrapper (though, of course that’s a bonus), I’m writing it to encourage other local writers to consider taking the leap and publishing their work online. There have been some great Montreal-born shows in the past few years and their scripts are completely inaccessible to the world outside of Montreal. Theatre-lovers are being denied the chance to read great works of art and the writers are denying themselves the chance to get wider recognition for their work. I dream of a not-so-distant future where all of our work is accessible (and, with a little luck, profiting) online and people from other theatre communities are reading them and saying “Hey, these Montrealers are coming up with some interesting stuff.”
It’ll take a few weeks for the book to be shipped to the bigger retailers (Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, etc.), but good things are worth waiting for.
The process is very simple, I used Smashwords.com’s e-book conversion service to convert my script into an e-book format (I believe there are other similar service providers, but Smashwords is the one I know and trust, so that is the one I’ll refer to). Creating an account on the Smashwords website is completely free and, once you have an account, you are welcome to submit any book or script you have for e-book conversion, which is again completely free. All that’s required of you is a few hours of prep work: there are some simple guidelines regarding fonts, margins, letter sizes, etc. to adhere to (if you don’t follow them, you’ll end up with one ugly e-book). You’ll also have to add some legal text to the front. A cover image and an ISBN number are not immediately necessary, but you’ll need to attach them if you want the book to go to Apple and other big retailers. Once you’re confident that you’ve done everything you had to, submitting the book is as simple as a click of the mouse. If the book does not have any obvious formatting errors in it, it will quickly become available to read/buy on the Smashwords website. You’ll have a link for your book and a link to your “Author’s page”; all you need to start marketing. It’ll take a few weeks for the book to be shipped to the bigger retailers (Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, etc.), but good things are worth waiting for. The online book industry is increasing in size every year and the new generation of portable technology designed for reading will only cause the trend to rise even more over the next few years. It just makes sense for us to take advantage of it.
I’ve enjoyed the journey of online self-publishing. To the writers reading this, I ask: “what do you have to lose?”
The benefits are immediate. You have a product easily available online. You have links to your book and to a promotional page about yourself that you can use for marketing/portfolio purposes. Your “Googleability” increases dramatically. You can download your play not just on your computers, but on just about any smart-phone, e-reading device, iPod, etc. Plus, it just feels good knowing that you’re a (self-)published author. As for the downsides… there aren’t any big ones. You set your own price for your work. You retain the rights to your work and can still choose to have it printed if you want. The one thing about the whole process of online publishing that I would consider a minor downside, is that you don’t have the same control over how the pages look (compared to the control you have in a printed book; i.e. the pages of an e-book look different on a big screen computer and on an iPod, and there’s not much you can do about that).
I’ve enjoyed the journey of online self-publishing. To the writers reading this, I ask: “what do you have to lose?” I say there’s nothing to lose. I view online publishing as a world of opportunities that we haven’t dared to look in before now. If you’re curious as to what the finished product might look like, check out The Boy and the Wrapper or any other play that you might find while browsing books online.
With all that said, I’d like to take this time to formally challenge the playwrights of Montreal to make their work accessible online. I’d be happy to answer any questions anyone has about the topic. I’d also be happy to give hands-on help to anyone who is interested, but feels overwhelmed by the process. We’re always debating about ways to increase awareness of our talented theatre industry. Well, in my opinion, embracing modern technology and using it publicize our work is a good way to start.
To download Jonathan Fournier's The Boy and the Wrapper, click here.
Barbara Ford will be returning with her Saturday column, Ford's Focus, soon.