Post-Launch Pandamian

It’s been a week since we launched Pandamian, and I’ve got a few quick notes on how we’ve fared.

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User Feedback

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.

Miladysa's Tweet on Pandamian

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. )

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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:

  1. Adding multiple books per author
  2. 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)
  3. Theming
  4. Feeds
  5. 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.

Press Coverage

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.The Cathedral And The Bazaar Customize 1298918901280The Cathedral And The Bazaar Revise 1298918894599

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.

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Category: Pandamian
  • http://www.dreamfantastic.com Alexander

    I almost feel guilty asking this… What are your opinions on someone who is currently hosting a story elsewhere, then (when its available) posting to pandamian in order to take advantage of the ebook tool.

    On second thought, screw that. Once the tool is up and running, would you be willing to license its use? (big grin)

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    We have absolutely no problems with someone doing that. (After all: if it makes their lives easier, why not?) But I should add that there’s a host of other things that would be useful and tied to the Pandamian publishing platform itself. :)

    (Think: comments, suggest-an-edit, annotations, quotes, etc etc tooearlytosayI’mnotsureifwe’redoingallthat)

    As for licensing … maybe, maybe not. (It’ll take too much time to write the API).

  • http://roydss.blogspot.com Miladysa

    Congratulations, Pandamian is a great site even without all the planned extras in place.

    Admitedly, it would be a bonus to browse the books published there – with the approval of the individual authors of course.

    Pity there is no way of combining/linking Pandamian and the Web Fiction Guide in some way. Or is there?

  • http://gavinwilliams.digitalnovelists.com G.S. Williams

    I really like the format so far, as Eli and I have discussed at length. :) I think everyone should definitely give it a look.

    I’m even more interested in the epublishing feature after reading about the young lady selling 900 000 books on Kindle without a publishing contract — I checked out their site and the “publishing guide” is a series of forum documents on “how to” and it certainly doesn’t look easy — right now I’m debating on how long it will take me to slog through that process and whether that will be faster than waiting for Eli to perfect this method.

    I have three kids so I’m hoping you guys are fast. :)

  • http://lleelowe.com Lee

    Is it possible to upload an entire book at one time or must it be chapter by chapter? Perhaps I’ve overlooked something.

    Amanda Hocking may be a successful writer, but she’s hardly an amazing one.Someone like Hilary Mantel or China Miéville or Philip Roth is amazing. I want to plead, yet again, that at least some of us try not to churn out a seemingly endless supply of marshmallow fluff.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    It’s not possible to upload an entire book at the moment, Lee. That’s a fairly difficult feature to implement.

    As for Hocking being amazing: I think she is. She’s worked incredibly hard to get where she is today, and it’s no stretch to say that whatever luck she’s experienced is the result of a crazy amount of hard work.

  • http://lleelowe.com Lee

    The more I think about the Hocking phenomenon, the more it depresses me. If this is the sort of writing that spells ebook success, then I’m not sure if there’ll be anyone left who will spend his time on craft rather than product. Hocking may have worked hard, but she’d have done better to work a little harder at her writing. Have you read any of her sentences? About as hackneyed as it gets.

    As I’ve said before, I don’t begrudge Hocking her success as such, but I do feel it doesn’t bode well for the future of self-epublishing.

  • http://roydss.blogspot.com Miladysa

    I have uploaded 30 chapters onto Pandamian so far with very little effort. Much easier than using Smashwords. I plan to upload the remaining chapters soon and use the site to finish what was Volume 3.

    Meanwhile, I have removed the ebooks from all other sites and will wait patiently for Pandamian to develop further. When that time comes, I plan to publish the completed story through Pandamian as one ebook.

    What I like most about Pandamian is the passion of those involved in its design and development which I feel is evident throughout the site itself. I wanted to play my small part in helping to support this marvellous effort.

    The layout and design is easy on the eye and this will appeal to readers who may prefer a simpler look to the theme I have on my own site.

    I did have a few concerns at first that in making the story available to read at Pandamian, I may be losing visitors to my own site. I quickly came to the conclusion that I could also gain readers, possibly a few comments too.

    Now the book list as been added to the Pandamian blog, I am hoping to discover, or rediscover, some great web fiction :)

  • http://criminalwisdom.com/ Nathanial Hoodrich

    Nice layout. Readability.

    I’m signing up.

  • http://inmydaydreams.com Jim Zoetewey

    I don’t know if you’ve thought about it, but the thing that comes to mind immediately to me is this…

    Even though V.J. Chambers doesn’t find that it makes a difference for her, many people are going to think that making a story available on the web lowers their chances of selling the ebook. As such, they’ll probably want to keep the book private, and use Pandamian to publish the Kindle/ebook files.

    It’d be cheaper than hiring someone to do the same.

    Any thoughts on that?

  • http://www.iwritereadrate.com Adam Charles

    I totally agree with this article. I’m all for democratising, helping writers on their journey and finding their readership. Think we have a lot in common, glad I found you. Maybe there is some way we can join up?

    Kind regards

    Adam

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    @Jim: I’ve thought about it, and I must admit that I don’t have any problem with writers wanting to keep their books private, and using Pandamian just for the ebook conversion.

    There are a number of ways to respond to that: one is to charge them for making their books private. (Say – a small monthly fee, like how Github has private repositories for a fee.) The other method is to put a limit on ebook conversions so the feature isn’t abused, with the option to do several things to increase the number of ebook conversions available (like how Dropbox is with space).

    But it’s too early to tell – all I’m saying that we’re aware of this, and have given some thought to how to respond. But we won’t need to decide either way right now. Incidentally, we’re planning on adding a couple of features that really enhance the publishing experience if and when you decide to keep your book open – so it may change the dynamics of this when they’re out.

    We’ll see, I suppose. :)

    @Miladysa: thank you so, so much for your kind words!

  • http://lleelowe.com Lee

    Will there be a feature for audiobooks/podcasts? Mine seem to be popular, sometimes more so than the e-books.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    No such plans at the moment, Lee. But I’m curious: how would you imagine such a feature to look like?

  • http://lleelowe.com Lee

    I just use conventional podcast software (courtesy of Chris Poirier!) so I suppose something along those lines which makes it easy to upload an MP3 recording. But I wonder if it would be possible to provide the actual recording software too. Let me ask my daughter what she thinks. She’s directing now but trained as a sound designer.

  • http://lleelowe.com Lee

    I should add that a number of people have told me they use their Kindles to listen to episodes/chapters while they drive, so basically I’m thinking of a way to make it as easy as possible for writers to integrate the whole process. It took me quite a while to figure out how to get the podcasts recorded properly – though I’m admittedly a slow tech learner…