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What’s important in free fiction?

I’ve been reading a lot of it over the last couple of months with the eFiction Book Club, and now that I am preparing to get this novella out into the world it’s made me stop and assess the things that are important.

Obviously the basics: easy to read font/layout.  Has been checked for errors in spelling etc. I prefer PDF’s to reading on a website, though I think that’s definitely down to the individual. I also like covers, I guess because it makes it feel more finished to me.

What is important to you though? I would love to hear your opinions because this is most definitely a learning curve for me.

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14 thoughts on “What’s important in free fiction?”

  1. I’m a big fan of stories on the web versus in a PDF. Makes it feel like it fits in with what I’m doing on the web rather than being a separate entity. Then again, I spend nearly literally all my time on the web.

    guess that, to me, online fiction needs to feel like it’s part of the web, not something “finished”. To me, “finished” is antithetical to the philosophy of the internet. Or, at least, the way I experience the internet. I want to be able to comment on a story, to have some feeling of community with other readers. You don’t get that from a PDF.

    1. I agree completely! I tend to read PDFs of finished ebooks, more like a traditional book, but serials especially have that wonderful community around them which makes them so much more pleasurable to enjoy, because the internet revolves around community.

  2. Good point about the covers; I do enjoy them, but seeing as I read mainly ongoing serialized fiction, they aren’t actually finished. If released as an ebook, yes, I’d expect a cover image!

    I like small details, too. One of Skyla Dawn’s ebooks, about a werewolf, had chapter breaks made of little paws – something which adds to the overall feel of the book.

    Other than that, it’s the basics that matter most. Layout is a big factor to me, and being easy to read and navigate, and (relatively) clean of typos. Just because something’s free doesn’t mean the author shouldn’t edit!

    I’ve been reading a lot of web fiction, and the things that turn me off most tend to be errors in the writing.

    Can’t think of anything else at the moment. 🙂

    1. completely agree, I certainly don’t expect serials to have covers, but they normally have pretty cool banners.
      The more I think about putting something up, the more nervous it makes me feel! lol

      1. I can’t wait to see what you put up; I’m sure it’ll be great.

        And yes, good point about the banners. When I first started I didn’t have any art/pictures at all on the site: makes it feel quite bare.

        But there are those that go overboard on pictures, too.

  3. Right off the bat I would have to say the formatting. Completely ignoring the format question you didn’t raise (and ePublishing is rife with different formats), the actual layout of a work is crucial to my enjoyment. The font, any images within the text, the (redundant) background colors used by some (please don’t use picture backgrounds) and the size of the document all play a part in my choice…

    There is a lot of different ways an eBook can fail my initial inspection, but a terrible cover image is one of the most obvious. It doesn’t cost much to get a cool image, and it is a way to show that you are as concerned with the presentation as you are the words inside. I guess the simple way to say it is thus:

    Make every aspect of the document shine.

    Taking the time to get every little detail just right is probably the best thing you can do. Even if it means sitting on the story for a week or so til you have assured yourself that there is absolutely nothing that can be improved upon, you have to be completely satisfied before you can expect others to feel the same way.

    As far as I feel about covers… Well… I have to say that a bad cover is worse than no cover, because it betrays a certain level of amateurishness (damn, did I spell that right?). It’s like the kid who makes their own comic-book and staples together a bunch of them, before pestering the folks outside the local corner shop for a few bucks for their ‘masterpiece’.

    Have a look at copyright-free images, and get used to Adobe Photoshop, ’cause you’re gonna need to get the right font and layout for the cover. Like I said, take your time before rushing into the electronic publishing game. If you are dismayed at the choice of fonts on your computer, then hit DaFont (or some other free site) to get a range of unusual fonts, because it will make your work stand out.

    Under no circumstances use Comic Sans.

    That should cover my views on eBooks… Maybe… If you have any questions on specifics, then feel free to ask.

    1. Thanks for your input! Was great reading. I totally agree with you that no cover is better than a crappy one – if your serious about stuff you should definitely take the time to make sure it looks good and you’ve done the best you can with everything.
      lol at the comic sans comment, lol no way on earth I would do that! There are a lot of wonderful fonts around, so there is no excuse for using a bad one.
      Thanks again, I may well hit you up when i get further along in the process

  4. Honestly, I’m mostly interested in the basics. I want a good clean font, well laid out pages and good proofreading, and I’m also a fan of covers. If you don’t already have photoshop, check out GIMP instead – it’s free and every bit as good.

    I prefer a pdf, because I like something that mimics a hardcover book in the sense of having actual pages, and because I speed read I like to be able to scroll through the whole thing rather than having to scroll-click-scroll. I like a lot of the trappings of a regular book – page numbers, page headers, and some sort of understated decoration round the chapter headings.

    However, and this is where I get on my soap box, I’d encourage you to release it as both pdf and html, because the latter allows much more flexibility in how the reader views it, which is particularly important for people with some disabilities. Smashwords is completely awesome in this regard, because it provides an on site way of changing the text and background colours, but a regular site isn’t too hard to adjust with a Firefox extension.

    1. I like PDF’s for the same reason, and it means I don’t have to be online to read through. I can just open, hit in the page number I was on and I’m there.
      I guess I too like the trappings of books as well, though I hadn’t thought about it like that.
      I didn’t know that Smashwords had those capabilities so that is definitely something I’ll have to look into – thanks for that! And it would allow those who like books and those who like ‘web’ to both be happy too I guess 😉

  5. Consider offering a PDF as well as a HTML-based format, so people have a choice. I don’t know about other formats, and I don’t know about NZ, but in Australia, you can’t actualy buy ereaders, so you’ll need something that’s universally useable.

    I would totally go against using fancy fonts. I’d stick with a basic serif font that has an uncluttered look. Don’t use Georgia – it’s designed by Microsoft to be economic on screen, but it’s dreadful to read in long stretches. I’d also go against using a sans serif font (like Arial or Helvetica). I often find it hard to distinguish between the small letter i and l, and between rn and m. That’s kinda OK for short messages (since sans serif fonts are more space-efficient), but it’s hard on the eyes for long stretches.

    1. thanks for stopping by Patty 🙂 I agree about sticking with an easy to read font, lucky there are plenty to choose from.
      We’re the same over here – most people read on their laptops (know I certainly do), so I will definitely be looking into multiformats I think.
      gee, who knew this could get so complex 😉 I’m really glad I asked for opinions though!

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