One of the assumptions I run across very often about self-publishing is that you do it on your own. That is SO not true. I will fully admit that I have done nothing on my own. My friends have been with me every step of the way. It’s difficult to list all of the things they have done for me since I decided to publish and the things they’ve done for me over the years by just being there, sharing their stories and playing a game with me. They’re like a support group for people who hear voices and have wacky ideas, and I’m very blessed to have them in my life.
Especially because if I didn’t, I don’t think this blurb would have gotten done and this cover wouldn’t look nearly as good!
I’d like to announce the next release, The Two Brothers, the first companion novella to Ruin.
Cover art by c.r. Favre.
Thirty years ago, there was a Revolution. Born in the aftermath, Jimmy was the first child from a human experiment to demonstrate unnatural abilities at a very young age. In the same incident that tore his family apart, he found his salvation and surrogate father in the tribe’s leader, Henri Smith.
Now Henri’s daughter from the Neutral Territory has arrived in the Southlands, stirring up memories of a girl Jimmy once worked to protect– memories tied to another child of Henri’s whose arrival precipitated an event that would define his adult life.
The Two Brothers is the second story released in the Ruin series, a web of interconnected stories where the lives of the people are as important as the world they live in.
This book will sell for 99 cents starting December 20th and will only be available as an ebook– for now.
I gave it a try. There are plenty of people who vilify the .99 cent price point and others who praise it. Per my nerd girl directive, I wanted to test it out. Here were the questions I wanted answered and the answers I got:
How easy it is to do a sale by changing the price?
I had already hypothesized the answer to this one, and I was right. Not very. I don’t think that changing the price is a good way to go unless you’re going to leave it this way for a very long time. The issue is that it takes a while for distributers through Smashwords to update their prices. In the mean time, even though the prices have been raised elsewhere, like on Barnes and Nobel, Amazon will still be price matching the other distributers (but not Smashwords).
I think it is much better to offer coupons through Smashwords. (This is just my opinion.) For one, Smashwords lets you see stats like how many people visit your book page. This does sound a little obsessive, and I hate what I’m going to say next, but it is something I think about. You can sort of guess, using these stats, if some action of yours is having a direct effect. Are people looking? Are you reaching anyone? Are they downloading samples? This is stuff I do think about in the back of my mind, especially now while the numbers are low and I can easily compare spikes in the data to any effort on my part.
Does a low price for a very limited time lead to more sales?
I had a lot of people interested in the first giveaway, so I thought I would try to encourage any of those people I could with the sale. I made it a clear after giveaway sale, mentioned it on Goodreads, and put text mentioning the length of the sale in the book’s description and on the website.
I did get a few more sales than normal, and since it is still .99, I find I’m still getting sales. But I can’t be sure that’s because of the price point. Any number of things could have happened. In the end, my sales are actually too small to acurately get any data.
How did it make me feel?
Not good. While it was nice to see sometimes two books a day move, I still felt I was under valuing my own story. In my head, $2.99 is cheap. Unless you’re making $6 an hour, $3 is not even half an hour of work, and for $3, you get hours of entertainment. (With a dash of the writer’s blood and soul to boot, let’s not forget, so that has to be worth a few pennies.)
At $2.99, I’m getting close to $2 per ebook sold. Doesn’t that seem fair in a non-greedy sort of way for a newcomer? But at .99, I only get .35. That doesn’t look poor enough, let me type that out. I only get thirty-five cents.
(Oh man, if you all could see your faces. If I could only see your faces too.)
I know that there are authors who make a living off of .99 cent books. I’m not here to judge. Everyone has a different spot they’re comfortable at. It’s just that .99 is not for me unless I’ve purposefully written something out that is meant to be short and cheap– like the next story coming up. I’m going to sell it for .99 cents, not because I think it’s bad, but because I think that is a worthy price point for it. The story will be short and able to be read in a day, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a good one worthy of that dollar.
A limited time sale is awesome. I have picked up books I’ve loved at .99 and discovered some new authors that way. But I feel it is also important to note that if I’ve already discovered an author I know I like (as in one whose stuff I have read before and loved), a sale will actually discourage me from purchasing and I’ll wait until the book is back at its regular price.
So I guess I won’t ever say that I’ll never try this again. I have the next few releases in this series planned with other ideas emerging for future books and stories. Plus I have stuff in my head that has nothing to do with the series I’m working on now. Anything is possible. I’m all about experimenting.
So I’ve been in my cave fixing up the next story. It involves (as always) a lot of chocolate, some cheeseburgers, and plenty of rolling around and moping. Editing is a pain in the ass, but there’s no way around it. I’m going to have to read and re-read this short story until I’m absolutely sick of it. The hope being that I will get this thing closer to what it’s meant to be in comparison to the Beta version, which was just a structure made out of straw. (Appropriate considering that one blog post.)
As I’ve been working on the story, it occurred to me that there are stages to editing that seem to occur every time I start this entire process. So for your entertainment, I present to you my stages of editing.
Stage 1. Denial
*looks over suggested edits* “What? That? No, I can’t change that. That’s genius. They just didn’t understand that bit. I’ll fix it.”
Note: Be careful writing email responses in this stage.
Stage 2. The Turn around
*still looking at edits* “Yeah, I’ll fix it. This thing over here wasn’t clear, and this thing, why the crap do I keep saying that?”
Stage 3. The Dead Stop
*looks at project again* “OMG, did I send this out? To people? To read? This is horrible! Who said I could be a writer? What possessed me to think this was something I could do?”
Note: I wonder if this is where people just flat out stop? At this point, writing and fun no longer co-exist. There’s nothing but a huge gaping hole where the ego used to be. It’s very lonely at this stage.
Stage 4. Burgeoning Hope
*looks at project and edits side by side* “Hey, you know, if I do this, and then that and end with this, it might not be so bad. Let me try this.” *grabs something fun– like scissors, colored index cards, a white board– and starts a new project*
Note: I think this is where writers fails at failing. It must get fixed– if possible. And in that crazy writer’s brain filled with voices and images of another world, it totally is possible.
Stage 5. Acceptance
“Okay, so maybe they were right about this and this. And this and this and this. Also, I seem to have an issue with commas, hyphens, and paragraphs which still make me question myself, but I can do this thing.”
To everyone out there editing a story, hats off to you! Know you’re not alone.
Also, have I mentioned that Great Minds Think Aloud is having a giveaway? Yes? Well, I’m mentioning it again. Enter using this contest form. Lots of free books to be had. There are other book giveaways going on as well, so be sure to check it out.
I have a clear vision of what I want to do and what I mean to do with my stories. My idea is different from almost anything I’ve seen or read– at least book-wise. I think the only thing that comes close are the various anime and manga stories called A.D. Police which is connected to Bubblegum Crisis. Even that’s not exactly what I’m doing here, but it’s pretty close.
This is why I chose to self-publish– because the idea behind this “series” of stories crossing-over, yet standing on their own, is sort of a strange one. There are a lot of complex character relationships and these relationships spread out into other stories. There are events which are out of order. Some events you may learn the outcome of before you read about the actual event. My hope is that I can make an engaging story that stands on its own and hints at more in other stories.
It’s a crazy idea, and I need my beta readers and my poor unpaid editor to tell me what they honestly think. But what happens when the suggestions received make me question my vision? How do I deal with the edits and suggestions without becoming a prima donna? (“You just don’t understand my vision!”)
1. Respect the opinion. If someone is nice enough to share their thoughts, I listen. I’m terrified to hear it, but another view is always helpful.
2. These are just suggestions. The final decision is always mine, and I own that decision. If the experiment goes down in flames, then I’ll stand off to the side with a shrug of my shoulders and be thankful it wasn’t the house. (If it wasn’t the house, that is. Oh crap, it was the house?)
3. I’m not perfect. This is something I’ve come to accept in recent years. In school, I’ll admit I was used to being one of the best, but the bar was set pretty low. All you had to do was show up, be the weird quiet girl, and everyone pretty much assumed you were smart. But now I’m having to actually work, and it’s really difficult. Plus, I’m lazy.
I feel like I should add a final thought here. Something wise and insightful about how you have to trust yourself and your vision and also trust the people whose opinions you’re asking for. Also, if you do set the house on fire, own it.
Amy Rose Davis has this wonderful post on confidence. I love that she looks within her family to try to understand the issue. Because when it comes down to it, I do think it is partially a personality thing. Like my niece. The girl has the most shining personality that just draws people to her. She’s beautiful, but I always make a point of telling her that her beauty is so much deeper than her skin. She never judges people or talks bad about them. She also seems to have an innate sense that she is awesome without ever having to say it.
That’s not to say she won’t have bad days. But her natural state seems set on, “Yeah, baby!”
Confidence is a strange and slippery thing. It’s important and at the same time it can be dangerous. Too much and it’s a turn off, too little and you get run over by anyone willing to take advantage of you. Overall, I think confidence is necessary in anything you do. If you aren’t feeling confident about something, then it’s a good idea to figure out why. Is it just you or is it what you’re doing?
I started out this post by saying that I’m awesome. Today, I really believe that. I wish I could explain how that comes to be. It’s sort of always been that way with me and also not always been that way. I suffered through a strong lack of self-esteem for a large part of my life, and yet I still can write this post.
At some point, my gut just takes over, like it has a mind of its own. When I hit on something I feel is the right path for me, I know it, and I hold on and don’t let go even when the doubts hit and I start to wonder what the hell I’m doing. That’s happened to me already with this first book. Sometimes I’m scared to look at it, but I’ve also said that I read through it and found it to be exactly what it needed to be. So I just continue pushing forward, doing what comes next, letting my gut lead me.
So here’s my secret: I really have no clue what I’m doing. I have no credentials, no writing degrees or business degrees, no real business experience (unless you count working on the sales floor which I kinda do), no publishing experience, no attempts at publishing. What have I got? I started a blog and shared stories and got a small readership and some great friends. So what makes me think I can do this?
I don’t know, but I know I can. I believe in the story more strongly than I believe in myself. Maybe that’s the secret? Focusing on the specific aspect of something rather than looking at the entire picture? So instead of seeing me + the book + my efforts + my marketing + whatever else goes here, I only see The Book and soon, The Books/Stories, and I latch onto those and decide to believe in them no matter what anyone can tell me. So far, I haven’t really been put to the test. No one has come along and said, “UR DOIN’ IT WRONG.” I’m waiting for that so I can go, “Maybe, but I’m doing it my way, and my way feels right.”
The one thing I love and hate about indie publishing is reaching out to artists.
It’s sort of like dating, and I never went on very many dates. (The ones I did go on were so awkward because I’m an awkward person.) A piece of art catches the eye, or maybe a whole gallery, and I think, “Man, they’d be perfect for this book.” Then I have to contact them, and start whatever little game has to be played. Will they like me? Will they want to work with me?
So far, all of my contacts with artists have been very positive. Even the one who told me she charges $1,000 for book covers. If everything goes well, then I’m dependent on the artist to come through for me and produce a stunning piece of art for me before the due date. The last thing I’d want to do is hold off on publishing because I don’t have a cover. I tried to think of ways around such an issue, like a temporary cover, but I quickly shot that down.
Friends have asked me how I’m going to tie together the Ruin book series. Traditionally, the title is used to distinguish a book as part of the series. I’m not doing that. Not on the front covers anyway. My tie will instead be the cover art– each piece a vision of a character from Ruin as unique as the artists themselves.
So far, I’m two for two. The cover, for Ruin, is a stunning first vision. Sarah Ellerton really came through for me. This next cover, I just got the rough colored art from the artist for approval, and it is absolutely perfect. I can’t wait to see the finished piece and start touting that around!
I’ve already gone over my reasons for why I went with illustrated cover art rather than stock cover art. It’s just that as I work with more artists, it becomes clearer to me exactly why I want artists for this project which is so important to me. Good art forms a bond with the reader before the book has even been read. People get excited to read a book with great cover art. (Of course, this puts a little pressure on me. I better deliver, lol. It’s like my little relationship with the artist plays out in public.)
To make this post useful, I’m going to include some tips I think make the process a little easier.
1. Be open, but short on a first contact. If it isn’t clear if their commissions are open, I just email them and ask if they are. At the same time, I ask how much they would charge for a book cover for print and ebook. It’s important to get that out of the way first.
2. Always be honest and direct. If they’re out of a price range, either let them go or see if they’ll work within your budget. Maybe if they like the project, they will.
3. Be specific with the details. When an artist agrees to do my cover, I get super excited and want to share the story with them. They don’t need that. They just want to know specifics- what do I see on my cover, what does the character look like, and usually, a few words about their personality. This is tougher than it looks. The last thing anyone wants, especially a busy artist is a long email that wanders all over the place. So I actually write this in advance and work on keeping it brief but filled with details. Then I rewrite it when I have an artist interested.
4. Give lots of time, and at the same time push up the date needed by. Okay, you know how us artists are? Since school, many of us have probably waited until the last minute to get something done, right? Chances are high you’ll meet other artists like this. For this reason, I say never give an artist the actual due date. Give them a date that falls before the real date you need it done. This will help you not freak out when the due date is near and they haven’t even started yet. Also, remember to give artists time to get their work done. I’d say a couple of months, so I’m starting to request things ridiculously early and push up the needed by date.
5. Know how much you can spend and refuse to spend more no matter how tempting. Man, that one artist who charges $1,000 per cover looks so good I’d be willing to throw down money to get her. But the last thing I want to do is go that far in the red. Plus, for that price (less than that even!), I’m going to get about four covers done which will carry me through the year for this book series.
That’s what I could think up off the top of my head. I’m sure I’ll have more the longer I do this and the more artists I contact. (Sometimes I have to just shut my eyes and hit send, which is hard to do with your eyes covered. That button is small.)
Anyone else with tips? I know there are other artists out there.
I have not done much in the way of promotion.
This is something I continually run against when I’m out and about reading blogs. Others say how much hard work goes into self-publishing. They say the writing is not the hard part, the promotion is the hard part. You need to work hard to get your name out there and get your book visible over the crowd.
Well, having lurked on the Kindle Direct Publishing forums and being on twitter where I can see some authors in action, I am beginning to think that over-promotion is another sign of an absolute rookie.
Don’t get me wrong, some advertisement is normal and reasonable. Contests, blog hops, offering free ebook files, and signing up for reviews– this is all a normal part of the process. I’m talking about those writers who do nothing but flog their one book everywhere, then can’t understand why it hasn’t sold.
As of right now, I’m selling very weakly, but still somewhat steadily, and I haven’t done much of anything to say, “buy my book!” So far, all I’ve done is put a sample on Indie Snippets, posted a little something on Indie Books Blog, and done a couple of #novelines on twitter. I’ve sent out two emails to reviewers, but that takes a while if they decide to do it at all.
All of my promotion is saved for the weekend or off hours. They’re things I can do while I’m watching TV or when I have downtime at work. It isn’t something I’m working incredibly hard at, and you know what? The book really is selling itself. Actually, the readers are the ones selling it.
Now reviews on the book page do not always sell a book. Readers don’t trust those, and I don’t blame them because so many authors swap reviews. On the forums, I’ve seen people complain about bad reviews and ask others to vote them down. That has gotten me curious, so I’ve done the “look inside” on Amazon and read a portion of this supposedly awesome story that wasn’t worthy of a one star only to find that this story with tons of four and five star reviews has some very clear issues. (At this point, I just back away, having learned all sorts of valuable lessons about my fellow “indies” and how some of them roll.)
But I will say that when I get reviews from people I don’t know, my sales spike. So far, I’ve gotten got two reviews from people I am sure I don’t know that were positive. I then had a few extra sales. I imagine that on my own, the book does one or two sales a week. But last week, when I got a review, I sold about four. That is probably the effect of the reviewer telling someone, “You have to buy this!”
So what’s my point here?
Books are not like movies. Publishers have sort of twisted the business model until we’re using the same one that is used for summer blockbuster movies. If you don’t sell a lot right out of the gate, you’re doomed to failure and your book will disappear. This is something I think that authors have adopted, and so the over-promotion is an attempt to not fail.
The best promotion is just being yourself and doing your thing. There are a lot of ways to passively advertise yourself and your book without actually doing so– like putting links in bio pages and in forum signatures. Don’t bother hanging around writing forums. Do you like video games, painting, taking pictures of abandoned buildings? It helps if your extra hobby is something that’s inspired your writing, but it is not required. People will check on links if they’re engaged by the person.
And as always, trust the reader. I dread the day I get a bad review. While I know I’ll probably be red in the face and needing a lot of chocolate, I am going to read it. This doesn’t mean that I have to accept the review. I can choose to use my own judgment and ignore it just like when I get back suggested edits.