Note: I'm not going to bury the lede: If you have $5 and want a non-DRM PDF copy of Sunken Treasure, you can buy it here and have it in just a few minutes.
Now, here's the story behind my decision to offer this format...
I took some time on Saturday afternoon to answer a bunch of e-mail, including a brief interview about my experience with Lulu and the release of Sunken Treasure (short version: it's been awesome. Longer version coming later this week.)
While I did this, I had Twitteriffic open, and was doing my silly Twitter thing, which, as many of you know, was the style at the time.
At 1:38pm, I sent the following message to Twitter: "Hey Twitterverse: how would you feel about a digital version of Sunken Treasure for about $5?"
I expected that a dozen or so people would be interested, but I hoped for more. Within ten minutes, over 100 different people said they were not only interested, but wanted it RIGHT NOW PLZ KTHX.
"Wow," I thought. "That was a more positive and emphatic response than I was expecting!"
I told Twitter: "Wow, so it appears that quite a lot of you want PDF versions of this book for $5. I didn't think it would be so many, honestly. Hmmm..."
Responses continued to pour in. I started making hash marks on a note pad.
A lot of people were asking about Kindle versions, Sony eReader versions, and other versions. I made a lot more hash marks on my note pad, and noticed that the page was almost filled.
I looked around the Lulu publishing options and told Twitter: "Many questions about other formats for digital versions of my books. Short answer: all I can do at the moment on my own is PDF. Still want?"
Short answer: Yes. A whole lot of people wanted it, even if it was in a PDF format.
I've always wanted to do digital versions of my books, but I've never had a way to do it that doesn't involve me manually accepting payments and sending out links or something equally complicated. My POD experience with Lulu has completely changed that. I logged into my Lulu account, clicked a couple of buttons, filled in one box with $5.00, and I was done.
I admit that I had a brief flash of doubt. "Did I just screw myself? Did I just sell one and end up giving away a hundred?"
"No," I reminded myself. "People who will steal from me were never going to support my work, anyway. You're doing the right thing. You're making it available to people at a really fair price, in a super portable format. And maybe people will like it and want a paper copy for themselves or to give as gifts."
I hoped that PDF sales would be solid ... well, they were solid, for about ten minutes, and then they exploded. In less than an hour, the total PDFs sold exceed 1/5 of the total print copies sold. People were e-mailing positive feedback, people were Twittering positive feedback, and people were starting to talk about it on their blogs.
"Okay, this is awesome," I thought. "I definitely did the right thing."
Over the next 24 hours, I checked sales every hour or so (hey, can you blame me?) and I watched total PDF sales close the gap with print sales, but something really awesome was also happening: the print sales, which had slowed to about 2 a day a month after release, suddenly picked up! It wasn't a ton, and I'm still not getting rich off of this effort, but it was still pretty remarkable. Feedback from buyers suggested that a lot of people read the PDF, liked it, and wanted a physical copy of their own as a result. Any doubts I had about the demand for this format, or the wisdom of trusting my instincts and releasing a DRM-free PDF at a reasonable price point vanished. I started thinking about other work of mine, and how cool it would be to offer digital versions in a similar manner.
I noticed that, coincidentally, Just A Geek had become available on O'Reilly's Safari Bookshelf. I also noticed that Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot's sales rankings on Amazon had climbed by several thousand points in just a day. Also a coincidence? I'm not sure, but I'd like to believe it wasn't.
I just checked, and as of 10:00 this morning, not quite 48 hours after I announced it, PDF sales of Sunken Treasure have nearly caught 4 weeks of print sales (PDF is 17 sales short of overtaking print sales, so if you get it now, you could be part of, um, history!) Print sales in the last 48 hours have been better than print sales in the last 5 days. I'm not getting rich off of this, but it's certainly answered any questions I had about publishing this way.
The best part of all of this (well, other than the surprisingly enthusiastic response) is how easy it was for me to do it. Because I already had the PDF uploaded for printing, making the PDF itself available was simply a matter of making a choice and investing about 40 seconds of effort to throw the switch.
Let me close by answering a few FAQs (which I'm going to update throughout the day, so check back if I don't answer you in comments):
Q: I have all your other stuff already because I'm awesome like that. Is there enough new stuff in this to justify the purchase?
A: Dude, thank you for supporting my work! That is totally awesome, and so are you. Now, someone who is not me is probably more qualified to answer this, but here's what I think: there are some small excerpts from Just a Geek and Dancing Barefoot, but that only makes up a tiny portion of the book. It's mostly outtakes from Happiest Days (that may or may not make it into the Subterranean Press edition), various things that I've written in my blog, and an unreleased sketch that I wrote for a show at ACME. I also reformatted and rewrote my Criminal Minds production diary.
If I paid five bucks for this, and I'd already read Just a Geek and Dancing Barefoot, I don't think I'd be unhappy about it, but I'm not as objective as I'd like to be. Hopefully, someone will address this in comments, and I can link to it.
Q: I see there's a World and a US edition. What's the difference?
A: The World edition is a slightly larger format, due to legacy printing issues. There is no difference in content.
Q: So why did you make two different digital editions available?
A: So people who use direct links instead of visiting the storefront would see that there's a $5 PDF available.
Q: Oh, that's nice of you.
A: That wasn't a question, but thanks.
Q: Can I even read it on my iPhone?
A: Yeah, it's a regular old PDF file, so it will totally work on your iPhone.
Q:How will it look on my iPhone, though?
A: I don't own an iPhone, so I can't say from firsthand experience, but I've heard from a lot of people who have read it on their iPhones, and they were very happy with the experience.
Q: What about other formats?
A: I'm looking into it. I know lots of people want it for [DEVICE THEY OWN] and I'm working on making those formats available. I can't tell for sure if Lulu makes it possible for me to sell a digital version in a non-PDF format, though, so that may be a non-starter.
Q: Why not just sell it through Amazon for the Kindle?
A: I may eventually do that, but right now I don't know if I can sell enough copies to make up for the massive cut of revenue I'd have to give Amazon. I'm happy as hell to be selling in the hundreds, but if I went that way, I'd have to either increase the price significantly, or hope to sell in the thousands. I'm not sure that there are thousands of people who a) want to read this and b) also own Kindles.
Q: If I buy this, can I convert it to a different format?
A: Sure. You can use calibre to convert it to a ton of different formats. Calibre is free (speech and beer) by the way. Incidentally, if you're one of the Kindle owners, you can use calibre to convert the PDF to a Kindle format. I've seen screenshots from some people who have done that, and it looks cool.
Q: I already bought the print version. Can I get a copy of the digital version?
A: Sure you can. It's just five bucks.
Q: I see what you did there.
A: Again, not a question, but thanks.
Q: Can I give this to my friend/husband/wife/mom/girl or boy I'm trying to impress?
A: Once you have it, I can't stop you from doing whatever you want with it, and I certainly wouldn't expect you to treat it any differently than you would a paper book. However, I hope that we all understand the difference between sharing with our friends/spouses/famies and "sharing" with an entire forum, or hundreds of people simultaneously. I'm not trying to be a dick about this, and I'd rather people read it than not, but it's only $5, you know?
Q: If I buy this, can I make my own print copy?
A: As long as you don't sell it, absolutely. If a print shop doesn't want to print it for you, show them this: I give you permission to make a print copy of this book for personal, non-commercial use.
Q: If I make my own print copy and bring it to a con, will you sign it for me?
A: Hells yes I will. That'd be pretty cool, actually.
Q: So, this is awesome and I want it now, but I'm not interested in scrolling back to the top of this entry. How do I get it again?
A: I'm so glad you asked. If you have $5 and want a non-DRM PDF copy of Sunken Treasure, you can buy it here and have it in just a few minutes.