It’s been a week since we launched Pandamian, and I’ve got a few quick notes on how we’ve fared.
There’s this mantra in startup-land that applies to product launches: you know you’ve launched too late when you’re not embarrassed by your product.
By that metric, I suspect that we’ve taken far too long to launch. Our early users are rather happy with what we’ve built, and (surprising – to me, at least) most of them are understanding that we don’t yet have feature X or Y.
And I’m not complaining about that. Most of them have made it clear that they’re expecting a host of new features, and every other day or so we get tweets or emails asking us about feature X, or bug Y, or how to do Z.
(I also suspect that the writers who are currently moving their work to Pandamian are doing it because we’re working to add ebook conversion. And maybe that’s a good reason to have your book on Pandamian. But at the same time I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t ready for the launch. )
What’s taken me most by surprise, however, are the number of requests for a directory of Pandamian books. We’d built Pandamian with the writer/publisher in mind, and so the idea of a browsing tool was a little … startling, to say the least.
I’m for building a Pandamian directory, but I also think we should delay implementing it immediately. After all, we’ve yet to complete:
- Adding multiple books per author
- Adding the ability to upload and use cover-art (which is really a nice way of saying: set up a method to handle static objects like images)
- Complete ebook conversion
And several of these features are non-trivial to implement. (Also: remember that a directory is itself a non-trivial thing to build, if we’re to do it right). And so I think we should put up a crude, stop-gap solution to this, and come back to fix it up properly in the future. Probably better to focus on one thing at a time.
We’ve not publicized Pandamian as much as we could, and that’s exactly the way I like it. Right now the really tricky thing is to build something people would use (or really: that writers would love to use), and we only need about a hundred users to source feedback from.
Which, by the way, we have.
I think it’s important to take the time to get the software right, before scaling it up for people. Quantity is easy to scale; happiness is not. And so it’s a better idea to maximize the latter at this stage, before thinking about sheer numbers.
Why We’re Doing This
I think it’s worth revisiting why we’re building Pandamian, just to put the hectic programming of the past week in perspective. I recently wrote about Amanda Hocking, this amazing 26 year old writer who’s found success on the Amazon Kindle store. What people tend to forget is that she spent a hellish amount of time researching ebooks before publishing to Amazon, that she did all the book-covers herself, and she took a significant amount of time to study J.A. Konrath’s publishing blog.
I’m encouraged by her story, but I also realize that for the majority of writers, there remains a rather formidable technical learning-curve to publish to the web. (I spoke about this challenge at the Internet Archive late last year). We’ve seen our fair share of writers struggling with blog engines, and web design, and site templates, here in the web fiction community, and it’s never nice to have to stop writing to deal with tech.
My contention, however, is that it’s necessary to make publishing easy and available to everyone, and it is the fastest, most efficient way to force publishers to change.
If we can make it possible for writers to publish without ever worrying about the underlying technology, and we can make it such that they really, truly own the distribution of their own books; then – I think – we would have accomplished something meaningful.