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Self-Printed Splash Special Guest Star: Mel Sherratt

25 Oct

The #selfprintedsplash weekend* continues with a very special guest appearance today by self-publishing superstar Mel Sherratt who after a truly stellar rise through the Amazon bestseller ranks – well, really it wasn’t exactly a rise, more like she burst onto them at the top and then stayed there! – secured a deal with Thomas & Mercer, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, and was one of the first Amazon Publishing authors to see her paperback books not just for sale online but in brick-and-mortar bookstores too. I’ve “known” Mel now for a few years (we’ve never met in real life but I feel like I know her!) and have watched in awe as she grabbed her self-publishing opportunity with both hands and went for success – and [whispers] seeing as she’s a one-woman Self-Printed sales team, you could infer that Self-Printed helped her along the way. *smug*

So, over to you, Mel!

“Back in the good old days, I tried twelve years to get a traditional publishing deal before I took the plunge and self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing. During that time I must have written off well over a million words. I went through two agents (and have now found a fabulous third one.) I was constantly being told that my books in The Estate Series were cross genre – a mix of women’s fiction and crime thriller. They were, I agree, but there was no market for these kinds of books so no publisher could ‘slot’ me into a niche anywhere.

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I changed tack and wrote a police procedural called TAUNTING THE DEAD. It’s actually part psychological thriller too as I like to get inside the head of good and bad characters. This was turned down too – mostly then for being too much like Martina Cole and Lynda la Plante. Granted I’m a gritty writer and not everyone likes my style but I had some ‘positive’ rejections, a lot of near misses and even one or two books going to acquisition meetings but falling at the final hurdle.

Had I not become friends with author Talli Roland, who told me in the summer of 2011 to try self-publishing on Kindle, I might not be working for myself as a full time author. It was meeting people like Talli who helped me to get where I am today.

It’s also thanks to Catherine that I am able to do this too – because she gave me a virtual helping hand, firstly in the shape of this fantastic blog and then with her book, Self-Printed. By sharing her journey, offering hints and tips along the way, telling us of her ups and downs, very honestly, she gave hope to lots of other writers as well as guidance, all in a quirky style that I loved reading. Without realising, she gave her time generously to help other authors.

I self-published TAUNTING THE DEAD in late December 2011 and it has since sold over 100,000 copies.

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Now I have five books out in my own name, plus a box set and a diary on The Estate. For my publisher, I have one ready for publication in February 2015, and am writing the next for publication in summer 2015. These two books follow on from TAUNTING THE DEAD as I am making that into a series now too. Plus I will be self-publishing book four and five of THE ESTATE Series next year.

My writing journey was very much a labour of love. After writing five books during those twelve years of heartache, near misses, rejection, giving up and starting again, people often think I was an overnight success, for want of a better phrase. I admit my journey to publication was a long one but I just felt compelled to write. I still do and until I don’t, I am grateful to anyone who has read and enjoyed a book of mine, or indeed anyone who has helped me along the way.

So if you had told me three years ago that I would get to do all this:

  • Be working on my tenth book
  • Land myself not one but two two-book deals with a publisher
  • Appear on panels at London Book Fair, Crimefest, Stoke Hot Air Literary Festival and Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival (the largest crime festival in the world)
  • Be quoted by the Mail on Sunday – ‘Sherratt is a unique voice in detective fiction.’
  • Appear in numerous newspapers, radio shows and magazines
  • Have more than 1500 4 & 5 star reviews across my books (that’s 84% of my reviews)
  • Have book sales totalling nearly 300,000 and have even met a few authors who have self-published MILLIONS of books
  • Recently be long listed for The Crime Writer’s Association Dagger in the Library Award!

Well, you know what I would say?

Poppy cock.

There was a LOT of hard work to get to where I am but it’s mostly been enjoyable. There are days when my messages through social media go mental when I get some good news to share. There are days when I could literally pinch myself. There are days when I think ‘did I really do all that?’

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Like any job, it has its ups and downs. There are days when I am in tears when someone rips in to me with a one star review. There are days that I have so much self-doubt that I can’t write at all. But I keep at it because I know I can get through it.

I’ve appeared on Catherine’s blog a few times during these three years but we have never met in person. Every time she has been coming over to London, I would be there the day before or the day after. One time we were even there on the same day but didn’t know until afterwards – the person I was meeting was the one she had just left! I recommend her book everywhere I go, not because I know her, but because it’s really good. So I’m not writing this post because she is someone I know. She is a friend, so be it a virtual one, but I read her blog first and then from this found the book.

Now I’m proud to endorse Self-Printed for her.

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About Mel

Mel Sherratt self-published her first novel, a crime thriller called TAUNTING THE DEAD, in December 2011. It went on to be a Kindle #1 bestseller and a 2012 top ten bestselling KDP ebook on Amazon.co.uk. She has since released three psychological thrillers in a series, THE ESTATE, with WRITTEN IN THE SCARS coming soon – also with Thomas & Mercer, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, WATCHING OVER YOU, a dark psychological thriller. FOLLOW THE LEADER, the follow-on from TAUNTING THE DEAD will be published in February, 2015. Find Mel’s books on Amazon here.

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Don’t forget that there’s an eBookPartnership conversion and distribution package worth $299/£225 up for grabs that’ll take all the headaches out of self-publishing your e-book while keeping all the profits intact. Find out how to enter for your chance to win here. (Closes midnight GMT on Monday 27th October.)

*Technically it’s a Friday, a Saturday and a Monday but let’s just go with it, okay?

It’s #SelfPrintedSplash Day! (and it comes with PRIZES!)

24 Oct

Happy #SelfPrintedSplash Day!

The Self-Printed Splash, if you’re not familiar, is a stupid idea I had [I'm typing these words at 2.36am on the morning of said splash, when I have something like 20 responses left to go and Gmail has decided to stop letting me in and there's only so much coffee a person can drink - hence the stupid bit] to launch the third edition of Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing.

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I invited people to ask me their burning self-publishing question and I answered it under the condition that they’d post it to their blog, Twitter feed or Facebook page today, and in exchange they would get a digital copy of Self-Printed. Come Monday I will be posting links to all the participants’ published questions and answers right here and I’ll be revealing the winners of the Random Participant Wins This and Best Question Asked awards, for which there will be small but fun prizes.

Today however, you can do these things:

1. Follow the #selfprintedsplash on Twitter

I’ve asked all the participants to tweet links to the Q&As if they can, so do follow the #selfprintedsplash hash-tag on Twitter if you’re in need of a procrastination activity today.

2. Win an aMAHzing prize!

The fantastically lovely (and patient!) people at eBookPartnership have given me an aMAHzing prize: a conversion and distribution package worth LOTS that’s valid until December 2016!

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For your chance to win, leave a comment on this blog before midnight GMT on Monday 27th October.

The winner will be picked at random and everyone will be VERY jealous of you. You can find out more about eBookPartnership on their website.

3. Buy Self-Printed 3.0 (if, you know, you want to)

Self-Printed 3.0 is out now! It’s available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com and the other ones, and other e-book formats will be available soon.

Don’t forget that you don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books. If you have a PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone you can download the free Kindle Reading App.

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It’s on Amazon.com here and Amazon.co.uk here.

Here are some nice things some people have said about it:

  • Self-Printed is my self-publishing bible. It taught me how to format, create and upload my e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks. It showed me practical things such as how to build a website/blog and how to promote my books. More importantly, it taught me how to compete with the professionals. Just look at the results – The Estate Series has sold nearly 100,000 copies and following that I got a traditional book deal with Thomas & Mercer too, so I’m now a hybrid author. Jam-packed full of hints and tips all in one place, I’m always referring back to it. In a word, it’s priceless.” – Mel Sherratt, author of The Estate Series and DS Allie Shenton Series  [and we'll have a blog post from Mel to entertain us this weekend - stay tuned!]
  • “An exceptional breath of realism, real knowledge and hard experience – don’t dream of self-publishing your book without it. This is the self-publishing guide to read if you actually care about the quality of your writing and your readers.” – Nicola Morgan, author of around 100 books – including Write to be Published (and other writing advice on her website - www.nicolamorgan.com), award-winning YA novels such as Wastedand books on the teenage brain and stress.
  • “[Self-Printed has] been my bible! Whenever anyone asks me for a tip on self-publishing, I tell them to go buy it. I had it in digital version first and then in paperback so I could have it open next to the laptop.” – Kitty French, USA Today bestselling author of The Knight Series
  • “The BEST book on self-publishing … Seriously, GET THIS NOW!” – David Wright, co-author of the bestselling Yesterday’s Gone series
  • “It’s authoritative, engaging, and, like [Catherine’s] blog, caffeinated. If you’re thinking of self-publishing and you want to give your book a great start in life, get Self-Printed.” – Roz Morris, author of Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence
  • “When I decided to self-publish my work, I didn’t have the faintest idea how to do it. Fortunately, I came across Catherine Ryan Howard’s guide to encourage, push, and prod me through the process. I doubt I would have achieved the success I’ve experienced without her down-to-earth, practical, meanwhile-here-in-the-real-world advice. I recommend Self-Printed to every writer I meet.” – Martin Turnbull, author of the Garden of Allah novels, recently optioned by the producer of Disney’s Million Dollar Arm
  • “The best thing about Catherine is that she not only lives the dream, but offers you a stepladder up to join her. The advice she gives is utterly practical – because she’s done what she describes – and the whole [book] is suffused with humour. I am a fan.” – Associate Professor Alison Baverstock, author of Is There a Book in You…? and Course Leader, MA Publishing, Kingston University (UK)
  •  “Catherine explains clearly and concisely how to make self-publishing work for you. Laugh-out-loud funny in places, this book covers everything you need to know to make your book a success.”– Vanessa O’Loughlin, founder of Writing.ie

Did you pre-order Self-Printed?

P.S. Did you pre-order the Kindle edition? It was in lock out for the 10 days prior to publication and in that 10 day period I discovered a change with the tax situation that I was then able to update in the post-publication Kindle and paperback editions. The newest version says “Version 3.1″ in the copyright notice. If you bought a Kindle edition and it does not say that, please e-mail me at info[at]catherineryanhoward.com with proof of purchase and I will hopefully be able to send you a free Kindle edition of the newest update. (Amazon basically demands a blood sample before they push a new version out to customers, and who has the time?)

Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win the aMAHzing eBookPartnership prize! If you can’t think of anything, tell me: what’s your coffee order?

Inserting Page Numbers and Running Heads

12 Oct

Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing, 3rd Edition is almost here!

The Kindle edition goes live this Thursday, October 16th (you can pre-order it here on Amazon.com and here on Amazon.co.uk). Other e-book formats and the paperback will – avoiding any major disasters – be available by the day of the Self-Printed Splash, Friday October 24th. If you want a little e-mail reminder that it’s out, sign up to my laughably sporadic newsletter.

It’s been nearly two years since I brought out version 2.0 and a lot has changed. I’ve been addressing some of this new stuff in recent posts like Closing the Facebook, Goodreads Giveaways: Don’t Do What You’re Told and Self-Publishing a New Edition? Get Rid of the Old One First.

Today we’re going to do something that I know a lot of you have been asking for: we’re going to put page numbers and running heads into our CreateSpace paperback interior using MS Word’s “Sections” feature, and we’re going to do it step-by-step.

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The What Now?

I sincerely hope it goes without saying that the interior of your CreateSpace paperback needs to have page numbers, and if you want it to look a bit fancy you might consider adding running heads to it as well. These are just headers – usually a combination of either the title of the book and the author’s name or the title of the book and the section of it you’re in – that run throughout the book. The Book Designer has an excellent explainer on running heads here.

If you have even a mild grasp of MS Word, you’ll already know how to use headers and footers. That bit’s easy. Where this gets tricky is on the pages of our book where we don’t want page numbers or headers to appear.

For example, you shouldn’t have page numbers until the actual text of your book begins. In Self-Printed 2.0, there’s something like 11 or 12 pages where you have things like reviews, the table of contents, about the author, title page, half-title page, etc. None of them should have page numbers. The page numbers only start on page 13, which is the first page of the introduction. Trickier again is the rule that if a page is blank – like the even page at the end of the chapter that we have to leave blank so the next chapter can start on an odd page, as it should – it should be completely blank, with no page number or running head. Then you might have no running head on the first page of a chapter, but you still want a page number.

(If any of that sounds confusing, follow my simple rule for getting things right in self-publishing: find a traditionally published book that’s similar to yours and note its layout. Then model yours on it.)

How can you achieve this? The answer is to use MS Word to divide your book up into sections, and then make each section look the way you want it. Sounds simple, right? Well…

Link to Previous Lucifer

I’ve talked before about how much I loathe MS Word. Yes, it’s a workhorse and I use it for all my writing, formatting, layout, etc. but at the same time it acts like an evil AI who throws things into my documents while I sleep. I’m not sure counter-intuitive is the right term, but while my Mac applications help me work, I only seem to get work done on MS Word in spite of it.

(One of the best examples of Microsoft’s inherent idiocy I’ve come across is Protected View. It’s a feature that stops you from printing an item you’ve opened as an e-mail attachment. It’ll tell you it’s in protected view so you can’t print. But all you have to do to get past it is click a button that says something like Enable Printing. But you’re already trying to print, so why wouldn’t you click that button? WHAT IS THE BUTTON FOR?!?!?!??!? And don’t get me started on a shut down procedure that includes a drop-down menu AND an Okay button AFTER you’ve selected the option to Shut Down…)

When it comes to using sections, both our patience and our intellect will be challenged by a little check box labelled Link to Previous. It will cause untold problems if you don’t keep your eyes peeled for its insidious ways. You have to watch this a-hole at all times because if you don’t, it WILL destroy you.

(Dum-dum-DUUUUUUMMMMM!)

NB: I use Word on a Mac. You might not. If you don’t, the screenshots will look different to what you see on your screen but the general principles will be the same. No freak outs allowed. Click images for larger versions. 

Sections Step-by-Step

So let’s begin. We’re going to work with the MS Word document that is destined to become our CreateSpace interior, i.e. the template you downloaded from CS and then filled in with all your lovely words and stuff. This document should be (a) absolutely the final, final, FINAL version of your text, (b) already laid out as you want it to print, i.e. blank pages left blank already and (c) clean – get rid of any existing sections or headers/footers.

Then, as is always the case with my instructions, the coffee-making comes next. Once you have a steaming mug of caffeine within reach, we’re good to go.

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1. Insert page numbers (whole document)

Click in the space at the bottom of your virtual pages or use the Insert -> Page Numbers in the File Menu to add page numbers to your document. I like to keep things simple, inserting centre-aligned numbers in my footers, but if you’re feeling brave you could do left-aligned on even pages and right-aligned on odd, or combine your running heads and page numbers into one line at the top of the page.

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2. Insert running heads (whole document)

Click in the space at the top of your virtual pages or use the View -> Header/Footer option in the File Menu to add text to your headers. If you’ve written a novel, you’ll have the same running heads the whole way through. (Refer to The Book Designer’s post, linked above, for more information.) As I have a non-fiction book, I’m going with the title of the book on the even/lefthand page and the title of the section or part on the odd/righthand page.

Now we should have different odd/even page running heads throughout our document and a page number on every page.

3. Create a new section

Now that we’ve put all this lovely stuff in, we have to take some of it back out, starting with all the pages before the first page of our actual book, i.e. the first page of the book’s text, like Chapter One page 1 or the introduction. I can only do this by dividing my document up into two sections: everything up until page one of the main text (the blank bit) and everything that comes after that (where I want header/footer stuff).

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To create a section I simply “break” the document by inserting a section break – Insert -> Break -> Section Page (Next Page) – at the end of the page before the first page of my new section. (Yeah, simply might not belong in that sentence…) You’ll know you’ve done it when (i) you hit the Show Non-Printing Characters button and a double blue line appears and/or (ii) click into your header or footer and now see it named “Section 2″.

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Now this is where things get tricky

4. Break all links

You now have two sections that have the same page numbers, running heads, etc. If MS Word wasn’t the devil, you would just be able to delete everything in Section 1’s headers and footers – thus making them blank – and everything in Section 2 would be unaffected.

BUT OH HOW BILL GATES LAUGHS HIS EVIL LAUGH!

Nothing is ever that simple in a Micro “We Think You’re Dumb and So Will Second-Guess Everything You Do” Soft program. If you try to delete something from a Section 1 header/footer now, it will disappear from Section 2 as well, because MS Word assumes that even though you went to the trouble of splitting them up, you still want them both to be the same. (I mean… REALLY.)

So before you do anything – BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING – to either section’s header/footer text, you must break all links between them.

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In the new section you’ve just created (Section 2 here), click into each header and footer that’s labelled “Same as previous” and, in the Header/Footer toolbox, uncheck the box “Link With Previous.” Do this even if the header/footer is blank. 

Now – sigh of relief – you can make the changes you want, which in this case is to delete everything in headers and footers in all of Section 1. Hooray!

5. First page of chapter/section

The first page of a chapter or a section needs a page number but NOT a running head, usually, and the first page of my newly created Section 2 is also the first page of my Introduction. So now I’m going to click into its header and make sure the Different First Page box is checked in the Header/Footer toolbox. This will allow me to – yes, you’ve guessed it – make a different first page in terms of headers/footers without upsetting the rest of the headers/footers in the section. I want to keep the page number but delete the running head, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

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WARNING: Guess what happened when I checked the Different First Page box? The Link to Previous box checked itself as well! The MS Devil lurks AT EVERY TURN. Needless to say, uncheck that thing.

6. Odd/Even Page Running Heads

If you looked at two pages at a time, you were just working in a screen that looked like this (below): first page of your section/chapter on the left of the screen, the even page on the right. (Please note: in the real book, the first/odd page will be on the RIGHT side of the book as you hold it, and the even page will be on the LEFT. The easy way to remember this is to think of page 1 of a book. What side is that always on? As it’s the very first, it’s always on on the right. The inside of the cover is to its left.)

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Now we want to scroll down until we’re looking at the next pair of pages (below). These should be labeled Odd Page Header and Even Page Header. For my non-fiction book, every Even Page Header is going to say the same thing: Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. But the Odd Page Headers will bear the name of whatever section of the book they happen to be in. So here, I have to go to the Odd Page Header and enter the name of the first section or part. (FYI: this running head should actually say Introduction. It does now.)

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Because I unchecked all the “Link to Previous” boxes before I even started thinking about amending, deleting, etc. I can do this without there being an unwelcome ripple effect on the rest of my book.

7. The blank page problem (a one-page section)

So far, so good. But – nooooooooooo! – when I reach the other end of my introduction, I see that it ends on an odd page. Disaster! All new sections/chapters have to start on odd pages, which means I need to leave a blank (even) page after the introduction. That’s all well and good, but as blank pages need to be completely blank, this means I have to remove the header/footer text on it – while keeping the header/footer text on either side. Ugh.

How will I do this? I’ll create a new, one-page section.

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I go to the last line of text at the end of my introduction (or the line underneath it) and Insert -> Break -> Section Break (Next Page). Then I go towards the end of the blank page and insert another Section Break (Next Page). I now find myself working with four sections:

  • Section 1: Front matter, all the pages we made blank headers/footers for
  • Section 2: The introduction
  • Section 3: The blank page
  • Section 4: The first page of chapter one, the next “it needs stuff in its headers/footers” section

***Before I do anything else now, I must go through the all the new sections I’ve just created and UNCHECK Link to Previous.***

(Yes: bold, underlined and italics. UNCHECK IT!)

Section 3 is my blank page, and since we’re using Different First Page as a default setting here, it is also a different first page. So all you should need to delete here is the page number in the footer.

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I break the rules a little with my chapters, in that I put their title page on an odd page but I start the text of the chapter on the back of that, i.e. on an even page. I’ve seen this done in other non-fiction books and I like it, because I think otherwise there’d be too many blank pages and so too much flicking to get to the text. So now I delete the page number on the first page of Section 4/first page of my new part/chapter, making that page’s headers/footers completely blank. You may have to do something different here depending on how you’ve laid out your book.

Now I repeat Step 6, changing the Odd Page Header to the specific title of this chapter…

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From here on in, all we do is repeat these steps whenever we need there to be a change in the appearance of our headers/footers.

  1. Make a new section
  2. Uncheck the Link to Previous box so we can make changes without bringing about Armageddon
  3. Delete what we need to
  4. Amend what we need to
  5. Save changes and move on

When we encounter a blank page between the section we’re working in and the next section we’re going to create, we simply:

  1. Make 2 new sections, one of them consisting of JUST the blank page
  2. Uncheck the Link to Previous box
  3. Delete what we need to
  4. Amend what we need to
  5. Save changes and move on

Whenever this goes wrong, I find it’s down to one of two common mistakes:

  • Not unchecking enough Link to Previous. When you create a new section, you’ll be unchecking ***SIX*** Link to Previous boxes, one for each of the following: first page header, first page footer, even page header, even page footer, odd page header, odd page footer. You must do all of these before you even THINK about deleting/changing something. When you are working with a blank page section, don’t forget to uncheck the LTP box for both it and all the aforementioned ones in the next section too. Uncheck the box even if the header/footer is blank.
  • Not working in a logical order. Start at the beginning and work your way through. Do this only with the final version of your book because can you imagine how complicated it gets if, in the middle of all this, you need to go back and insert a new blank page/section? Yeah, good luck with that.

Checking Your Book

To make absolutely sure that you’ve done this correctly, I’d recommend saving your interior as a PDF and then selecting the View -> Two Pages option in your PDF viewer. This should show you the pairs of pages as they will appear in the finished product, i.e. with the even numbered page to the left of your screen and the odd numbered page to the right.

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This will help you determine if you have blank headers/footers where you should, if page numbers are inserted correctly, if your chapters start on odd pages throughout, etc. etc.

So that’s it! Any questions?

(Reading over this post, I realize it’s not very clear or at least as clear as I’d like it to be. I’m hoping that’d down to the fact that we’re talking about it in the abstract and then when you come to actually do it, you’ll be able to make sense of my instructions. Fingers crossed.)

Taking part in the Self-Printed Splash? THANK YOU to everyone who e-mailed their questions. You will be hearing from me within the next 7-10 days re: taking part in the splash and getting your free digital copy of Self-Printed 3.0…

Thinking about self-publishing? Free next Sunday morning? In the Dublin area or able to get to it? I’m doing a three-hour self-publishing workshop next Sunday, October 19th, in the beautiful Co. Dublin village of Dalkey as part of the Dalkey Creates festival. Tickets are just €20 and you can buy them and find out more here.

Self-Publishing a New Edition? Get Rid of the Old One First!

17 Sep

Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing, 3rd Edition is almost here, so it’s time to address the woes involved in bringing out a new edition. Don’t forget that in the Self-Printed 3.0 build up we’ve already talked about closing the Facebook and not doing what Goodreads tells us anymore, if you need something to read with your coffee today.

See also the end of this post for Self-Printed 3.0 buying options and a chance to see Self-Printed: LIVE! (AKA, me doing a self-publishing workshop) if you live within driving distance of Dalkey, Co. Dublin and are free on October 19th…

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An Update Versus A New Edition

Let’s get one thing clear from the start: I’m not talking about releasing an update. An update is when you take a published book and make a few changes to it, maybe update some hyperlinks, correct a few typos or even spruce up the cover a notch. You don’t change the ISBN (but note that you should change the ISBN if the changes are significant) and all you need do is upload a new interior/e-book file.

A new edition is exactly what it says on the tin: a new edition and so a different edition to the one you released before. It needs a new ISBN, because it’s a different book – and yes, you’re going to have go back to the start and publish it from scratch.

(Does this mean you’re going to lose all your shiny reviews? Unfortunately yes, but more on that in a second.)

What About The Old One?

On September 1st I went to CreateSpace and unselected all my sales channels on Self-Printed 2.0. This means the book still exists – I can still buy copies myself through CreateSpace – but it’s not for sale anywhere else. Then I went to KDP and selected ‘Unpublish’ next to 2.0 on my dashboard, making the e-book unavailable for sale and changing its status to ‘Draft’. Finally I instructed EbookPartnership.com, who distribute the title to all other e-book channels, to withdraw the files from sale.

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This is just what happens when a book suddenly becomes unavailable. Imagine the Amazon Algorithm Elves freaking out, looking for some stock to back up the listing they have on the site. Eventually they found some secondhand/Market Place sellers, so the listing changed to this:

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Meanwhile over on Amazon.com, new copies are still available. Why? Well, this ties back to the fact that sometimes a order of your paperback on Amazon doesn’t necessarily add to your unpaid royalty balance – because it’s already been printed and you get paid at the print. I assume this is what’s going on here – Amazon already has a number of physical copies and they’re letting the stock run down. When I first withdrew it, this figure was at six. Why are people still buying the 2nd Edition when on the same list you can see that a newer one is forthcoming? I don’t know but I do know I’m not responsible. I’ve done what I can to withdraw the book from sale.

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I also had to remember to go to Gumroad, which supports my purchase-from-me-direct e-book store here on my blog (currently offline; look for it again in a few weeks), and remove all the files from sale there as well.

The Kindle listings, meanwhile, just completely disappear.

Note: you cannot get rid of an Amazon listing for a paperback. The Kindle edition listing may disappear but the paperback’s will always remain, even when the book is out of print. (This is so if anyone has a copy they want to sell through Marketplace, they have a listing to attach it to.) But you can – and you must – make your earlier edition unavailable. It’s just not fair on your potential readers otherwise.

But What If I Bought 2.0?

Round about the time I released 2.0, I got three increasingly angry e-mails from a man who had purchased 1.0 and now wanted 2.0 for free. I ignored them all, and the end of the third one was a reminder not to get too big for my boots and to remember who my friends are.

Oh for… I mean, really. Give me a BREAK.

If you’re my friend – and I don’t expect you to be, I expect you to be my reader – you would surely not begrudge me 70% of USD $4.99 for 130,000 words that I’ve just spent months updating and revising. Even if you hate e-books and only read in print, the print edition is the same price as 3-4 venti lattes at Starbucks and it can make you money. In fact, you’d only have to sell about 8 e-books priced at $2.99 before you have earned the money back that you paid out for my book.

Moreover just because you bought an earlier edition of something does not mean you’re entitled to newer ones. Do you see Microsoft sending out free Xboxes every time they bring out a new version? Does Apple send me a brand new Macbook every year? Does your car manufacturer show up every January 1st with a new set of keys? OF COURSE THEY BLOODY DON’T. And we’re talking about something that costs a tiny, minute fraction of what those items cost.

If you bought an earlier Kindle edition, you may have a genuine, non-greedy question about whether or not you’ll get an update for free, as Kindle sends out free updates if you’ve purchased an earlier version of the book. But no, you won’t receive Self-Printed 3.0, because it’s an entirely different book. Remember: it’s not a new version (read: update), it’s a new edition (read: new book). It will be in no way connected to 2.0, so Amazon can’t automatically deliver it to you. Sorry!

Where/When/How To Buy Self-Printed 3.0

It’s hard to estimate exactly when all editions will be available when you self-publish, so although some formats may be available before this date, I’m going with October 16th just to be safe.

It will be available in all major e-book formats and paperback, priced at $4.99 for e-book and $18.95 for paperback. This is a price hike on the paperback edition, yes – before it was $14.95. Why am I charging more this time out? Because I woke up. I was always thinking about my book prices in dollars, and $15 for a thick 6×9 paperback sounded like about as much as I’d pay. But actually, here in Ireland, those same size traditionally-published books are €14.99 if you’re lucky and up to €18 if you’re not. (That’s just under $19 and just over $22.) Although I was doing alright profit-wise on Amazon.com purchases, I was merely making slivers of it on all other retailers. Normally I’d say your paperback profit isn’t that important, but Self-Printed generally sells as many or more paperbacks than it does e-books. Plus, it’s worth it. I think so anyway. 130,000 words that are designed to help you make money? I think that’s worth the extra couple of bucks.

I will be selling it directly from My E-book Store too but PLEASE NOTE: if you purchase it from here, you’ll have to manually download the file and then transfer it to your Kindle like you would any other file that you download from the internet and need to, say, transfer to a USB stick. (If you’re wondering why anyone would need this told to them, let me direct you to my Inbox. Let’s just say when you’re used to buying Kindle books by clicking a button and then watching them magically appear, you don’t understand the process when it happens anywhere else. Think of that YouTube clip of a child stabbing a magazine, thinking it works like an iPad…)

Sometimes I’m asked where I’d prefer you to buy my books from. Um, hello? Are you kidding? I’m doing cartwheels that you’re buying it at all. Buy it from wherever is most convenient for you!

You can pre-order the Kindle edition of Self-Printed 3.0 from Amazon now here and all other Amazons too if you go look. 

(I hope it goes without saying that you can’t pre-order the paperback.)

A Plea for Reviews

Because Self-Printed 3.0 is an entirely new book, it means I’m starting off from scratch again with Amazon reviews. Yes, I have to say goodbye to 35 5* reviews on Amazon.com and 39 5* star reviews on Amazon.co.uk (yes, I’ve counted) but I’ve no choice because Amazon will not connect them if they’re significantly different books, which they are. So please, if you do read Self-Printed 3.0, please leave a review too!

dalkeycreates

Dalkey Creates

I’m running a self-publishing workshop at Dalkey Creates in Dalkey, Co. Dublin on October 19th. You can find out more and book tickets here.

Have you released a new edition? Did you update the existing one or start afresh? How did it go? Let us all know in the comments below… 

The SELF-PRINTED 3.0 Splash Needs YOU!

25 Aug

Self-Printed 3.0 is almost here EXCLAMATION MARK.

Well, it’ll be here soon. It’s hard to estimate exactly when all editions will be up and running, but I think it’s safe to say we’ll be good to go by October 16th. Some editions may be available long before that but usually I watch all self-imposed deadlines pass on by, so I’m way overestimating here just to be safe.

I’ll also be availing of Amazon KDP’s new pre-ordering function, so stay tuned for that.

Since it’s been 2 years since the last one and this new edition is almost entirely revamped, I want to send it out into the world with a bang rather than a whimper. Enter The Self-Printed Splash.

selfprintedsplashbadge

My first idea for this was that I’d guest post on as many blogs as would have me on the same day, Friday 24th October. Then I was like, um, hello? You’re starting an English degree. You’ll be, like, three weeks in at that stage and probably still wandering around Dublin wide-eyed and confused. Not the ideal time to be writing extra blog posts, realistically.

So instead, here’s my Self-Printed Splash Plan:

  1. You – blog-owner, tweeter or Facebook-page-adminstrator – present me with your burning question about self-publishing.
  2. I answer said question, and send you the answer along with a discount code that enables you to download a digital copy of Self-Printed 3.0 for FREESIES.
  3. You post your answer somewhere online on Friday 24th October.
  4. I gather all the questions and links to the answers here on Catherine, Caffeinated on Monday 27th October…
  5. … and celebrate the fact that anyone at all has participated* by giving away some copies of the book
  6. One Splash-host will also win a very special thank-you prize, subject to a names-in-a-hat type drawing.

Now before people start e-mailing me questions like ‘How do I sell copies of my book?’ let’s make a SCREECHING BRAKES SOUND and think about this for a second or six.

I’m hoping for questions that I can answer in around 300 words or less, so please: make them fairly specific. This will be going on your blog/Facebook page/Twitter stream, so feel free to make them personal, i.e. specific to your situation. Because these will NOT be posted on my blog (apart from through links) I’m going to make a one-time exception and say don’t worry about whether or not I’ve posted or written about the answer before. Just ask whatever you like. The worst that can happen is that I’ll say I can’t answer it because I don’t have a day to research the answer and then 10,000 words to answer it in. Obviously I’ll only be able to answer what I can. Opinion questions are good too, e.g. Do you think the gold rush is over, are Amazon the big bad wolves, will we ever know what happened at the end of the LOST? etc. etc.

Use this handy graphic to ascertain whether or not your question fits the bill:

PicMonkey Collage

I’m also prepared to do this in tweets, but really, 2-3 tweets would be the limit. We’ll see how that goes.

You don’t have to review your free copy of Self-Printed 3.0. You’re not even under obligation to read it. But you must agree to post the answer I send you publicly and to do it on Friday October 24th ’cause otherwise – well, that’s kind of unfair and mean of you and other nasty stuff.

What’s that? You want to participate? Well then, just fill out this little form and I’ll be in touch shortly…

*Please don’t let this be a Joanna-NoMates situation. Come on, get involved! You’ll get FREE STUFF! I am prepared to BRIBE you! MORE EXCLAMATION MARKS.

UPDATE 11th September: A big THANK YOU to everyone who submitted a question for the #SelfPrintedSplash! Fortunately/unfortunately I’m now up to around 100 participants and if I take any more on, publicizing Self-Printed 3.0 will require more words than writing the damn thing, so I have to stop. Thanks for your interest and stick around – there’s been some GREAT questions asked!

Goodreads Giveaways: Don’t Do What You’re Told

18 Aug

This summer I’m working on revising and updating my self-publishing ‘how to': Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. Edition #3 is scheduled for release in a few weeks’ time. (I will definitely be taking advantage of KDP’s new pre-ordering function, so stayed tuned for that.) When I did the second edition back in 2012, only one year had passed since the first but still, so much had changed. This time around, the entire landscape has changed, and there’s so many new and exciting opportunities for self-publishers to take advantage of. I’ve completely changed my mind about some of my advice, and believe more than ever in the rest of it. One thing hasn’t changed at all though: I still think self-publishing is something every author should be involved in, whether it’s their main career or a sideline, and I still think that with great power comes great responsibility, so you should do it professionally. Between now and release I’ll be writing posts about some issues that need a complete re-write in Self-Printed: The 3rd Edition. We’ve already done Facebook, which I am all but abandoning. Today’s topic is why, when it comes to Goodreads giveaways, you should ignore the official advice… 

[The Self-Printed 3.0 Splash needs YOU!]

Any self-published or self-publishing author who’s done even the tiniest smidgen of research into how to use internet thingys to help sell their books will already be familiar with Goodreads. It’s Facebook for book lovers, a place where you can share what you’ve read, divide your reads up into lists and recommend books you’ve loved to others.

Goodreads-Logo

As an author you can have a Goodreads Author Profile, a jazzed-up version of the standard one to which you can add videos and blog posts, and you can run giveaways where you offer Goodreads users a chance to win a copy of your book.

Why Run A Giveaway?

The beauty of the Goodreads giveaway system is that you don’t have to do much except tell Goodreads how many copies you want to give away, where you’re prepared to post them to and how long you’d like the giveaway to run for. They take care of the rest. They run it, pick the winners and send you their addresses, freeing up time for you to develop an obsessive habit of checking your Amazon sales ranks. Fantastico.

Then the winners receive their copies, drop everything to read them and post gushing reviews on the site. Hundreds of other Goodreads users see these reviews and drop everything to go buy a copy. Then they read it and post gushing reviews on the site, and the cycle continues until you’re a bestselling author who can pay for life’s big purchases in cold, hard cash.

Or, you know, your Amazon sales ranks don’t ruin your day.

But is that always what happens when you run a Goodreads giveaway?

Um, no.

Usually what happens is you run the giveaway, send out the books and then… Nothing. Silence. Deafening silence. Your book doesn’t take off. The ratings don’t change. If you’re lucky, one new review might appear on the site in three months’ time. But essentially, your Goodreads giveaway disappeared without trace like a raindrop falling into the ocean.

Now, up until recently I put running a Goodreads giveaway into the ‘sure, you might as well!’ category of Things To Do When Promoting Your Book. (For maximum authenticity, you need to say ‘sure, you might as well!’ in a Tom Cruise in Far and Away Irish Accent, pronouncing the first word ‘shurr’ and the second word ‘yee’.) It was easy, it would only cost you a few books and some postage and it gave you something to say on Twitter, Facebook and your blog, i.e. ‘I’m giving away copies of my book. Come get ‘em!’ The winners might also leave a review on your book’s Goodreads listing, which may help too.

But everyone is self-publishing now and the Big Boys have copped onto the fact that if you sell an e-book for sofa change, it will sell more copies. Therefore when it comes to promoting your book online, don’t we need something better than, ‘Sure, you might as well!’? I think we do. We need something that will actually work, that will achieve successful results that we can measure.

So like Carrie Bradshaw, I got to thinking (a phrase that always made me wonder what she’d been doing up until now): is there a way to do Goodreads giveaways better?

Beginnings and Ends

Goodreads have a lot of really interesting and helpful guides for authors on their website, including a guide to giveaways. In it they say that a month is the perfect length of time to run a giveaway for and that, ideally, you should run two giveaways: one before publication and one after.

I completely disagree and the thing that got me started on disagreeing is a graph that Goodreads included in their own Guide to Giveaways:

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It’s showing us how giveaways get results by charting the number of times a user added Beautiful Ruins (my favourite book of 2012, by the way) to their Goodreads shelves, including during a giveaway period that ran from March 31st to May 12th and offered 25 copies as prizes.

But what’s wrong with this picture? When I look at it I see something painfully obvious: that the real benefit of running a giveaway only comes at the start and the end.

Why is that? Well, let’s think about how Goodreads users discover giveaways. They can either navigate to the book’s listing on the site and see the ‘Enter to Win’ button, or they can browse the lists of current giveaways. Scrap the first one, because in order for that to happen we have to somehow send a user to our book’s listing in the first place, and that’s not what this is about. This is about getting new people to discover for the first time that our book exists independently of any other social media activity we might be engaged in.

So, let’s look at the lists.

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Goodreads giveaways are listed in four different charts: Recently Listed, Popular Authors, Most Requested and Ending Soon. Presuming that you’re starting from scratch, you won’t have a hope of elbowing your way into Popular Authors or Most Requested, so that just leaves Recently Listed and Ending Soon. Clearly, being in these charts has an effect on entries, because of the Beautiful Ruins chart above – that title saw the most activity it would ever experience on the site at the beginning and at the end of the giveaway. In short, beginnings and endings are good.

So why in the name of fudge would you minimize the beginnings and endings you have by running one long giveaway? That’s just one opportunity to get into Recently Listed and one opportunity to get into Ending Soon – when we know that appearing in these charts is your giveaway’s best chance of winning entries. Wouldn’t the intelligent thing to do be to construct your giveaway schedule so that you have as many starts and stops as you possibly can?

(Spoiler alert: the answer is yes.)

Think Bigger Than The Winners…

But Catherine, you might be squealing now, who cares about how many entries you get? We’re just trying to get a couple of reviews here, right? So what does it matter if 100 or 10,000 people enter my giveaway? I just want the 10 who win copies to read them and write a review.

This is not about getting reviews. Would we really go to the trouble of running a giveaway, publicizing it and then spending our first royalty payment sending copies of our books to far flung places just to get reviews? I hope not, because there are easier ways. No, this is about informing Goodreads users that our book exists in the hope that some of them will think it looks interesting, add it to their ‘To Read’ list and then, on a date in the future, purchase it for themselves. That is our goal here: sales. That is always our goal. So, the more entries we get = the more people know our book exists.

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When you enter a giveaway, Goodreads even clicks by default a box that adds the book to your ‘To Read’ shelf, placing a permanent reminder of it on your Goodreads profile whether you end up winning a copy or not.

It’s just as well people-knowing-we-exist is what we’re really after, because Goodreads say that on average only 60% of winners of giveaways go on to read and review the book they win on the site. I think that’s a tad optimistic, if I’m honest. I know in the giveaways I’ve run in the past, the figure was well below 50% as far as I could tell. And we’re self-published authors, remember. Our budgets are not bottomless. We have to pay for the books themselves and the postage, so we just can’t afford to give away the 20 or 25 copies we see traditional publishers offering on the site. We’re lucky if we can stretch to 5 or 10. And what’s 60% of 5 or 10?

The answer is no feckin’ point at all. (Again, best read aloud in a Tom Cruise in Far and Away Irish Accent.)

…And Don’t Think About Geography At All

I cannot adequately express in words how much it annoys me when I see self-published authors restrict their Goodreads giveaways to specific countries… SO SUPERFLUOUS USE OF CAPITAL LETTERS WILL JUST HAVE TO DO INSTEAD.

IT *REALLY* **REALLY** ***REALLY*** ANNOYS ME. LIKE, INCREDIBLY SO. LIKE, IF I THINK ABOUT IT FOR MUCH LONGER I MAY EXPLODE. OR MAKE THIS FACE:

trex

Publishing houses have a genuine reason for restricting giveaways geographically: they only have the rights to publish the book in certain territories. You only have one reason, and it’s stoopid: you don’t want to stretch for international postage.

Give. Me. A. Feckin’. BREAK.

Have you ever posted a book internationally? Unless you’ve written a doorstopper, it’s not going to break the bank. You don’t have to FedEx the damn thing; Goodreads tells winners to wait for up to 8 weeks for their books after the giveaway closes. Don’t think of the shipping costs as something separate, which is a mistake I think a lot of people make. They say to themselves, oh, I’ll giveaway 20 copies because that’s (my unit cost + cost of shipping books to me) x 20, and then when the postage bill kicks in it seems like a fortune. I say create a budget, e.g. $75, and then work out how many books you can giveaway and post, potentially internationally, for that price.

Also, you don’t have to send your winners books you ordered in from CreateSpace. That’s actually kind of a silly idea, when you think about it. Why would you pay to send the books to yourself, and then pay again to send them to the winners? Send them directly from CreateSpace instead. For example if I have a person in the US who needs to receive a complimentary copy of my book, the cost of the book plus domestic postage (because CreateSpace is in the US) is half the price my book is to buy. If you live in the US and your winner is in, say, Ireland or the UK, why not get Amazon.co.uk to send them the book? The shipping will be minimal and you’ll get some of the price you paid back in a royalty payment. The Book Depository will even ship one book anywhere in the world for FREE.

The bottom line here is that if our goal is to inform as many Goodreads users as possible that our book exists, you have no choice but to set your giveaway open to all countries.

And personally I think it’s rude not to, especially when, as a self-published author, you have world rights. More importantly, when I log into the site, by default I can only see the giveaways that are open to Ireland. So if you exclude me, I can’t just not enter your giveaway – I won’t even know you’re running it. Therefore, cross me off your list of people who’ll discover that your book exists.

Backlists and E-book Only Titles

The official title for the Goodreads giveaway system is ‘First Reads’, the idea being that the prizes are proof copies or shiny new ones that still aren’t for sale on any shelves, virtual or otherwise. I used to think the prize book had to published in the last six months, although I can’t find any evidence that this was ever strictly the case. Anyway, the case now is that you can giveaway a book that was published at any stage as long as the copy you’re giving away is a brand new one.

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It actually says on the ‘List Giveaway’ page that giveaways can be used to ‘build awareness’ for a previously published book. You can only enter this year and next year as a publication date, but all you need do is make a note in the ‘Description’ box that the book was previously published, .e.g. This title was first published in 2012. I would then set the publication date to the day the giveaway ends. Great for building a bit of a buzz if, say, the final installment of your trilogy is coming out soon. I’d run giveaways for the previous two and then have a series of giveaways for the new book.

You can’t give away e-books and I’m glad about that. E-books are just not worth running a giveaway for. We want a physical prize, something we’re excited to open in the mail. But what do you do if you’ve only published in e-book? Does that mean you can’t use Goodreads giveaways at all? I’d suggest making a print edition with CreateSpace or Lulu just to serve as prizes. They can look like proof copies – they don’t have to be the real deal. Use CreateSpace’s template that lets you put a full bleed picture on the front, slot your e-book cover in there and, hey presto, you have a paperback.

So, You’re Thinking of Running a Giveaway

Once upon a time, I would’ve recommended you giveaway 10 copies of your book in a single Goodreads giveaway that lasts a month.

But now I’m saying:

  • Give away as few books as you like, because this isn’t about the winners. It can even be 1.
  • Instead of one long giveaway, run 3-5 shorter giveaways (5-10 days) of varying length to maximize your appearances in the Recently Listed and Ending Soon charts.
  • Open your giveaways to all countries OR ELSE THE T-REX WILL COME FOR YOU WHILE YOU SLEEP.
  • Don’t think about giveaways just for new books. You can give away new copies of some old ones too.
  • If you’ve only published in e-book, consider making a physical proof-like copy to give away instead.
  • Definitely do it, because it’s a great way to spread the word about your book.

Does this work though? Going back to Goodreads own Guide to Giveaways, they tell us we should give away at least 10 books and run our giveaways for a month.

They also tell us the average number of entries is 825.

GOODREADS

(Apologies to Goodreads for desecrating one of their slides in the name of blog graphics. Remember I really love you and I think you’re brilliant. SMILES.)

Now in the last few months I’ve been trying it my way with one of my social media clients, a major UK/IRL publisher, and the results are clear. Before this, standard practice was to do what Goodreads told us to do: a month-long giveaway for 20-25 copies.

I took one title and split those 25 copies into 5 shorter giveaways of varying length for just 5 copies at a time. These ranged from 5 days in length up to 2 weeks.

The average number of entries was 1,726.

In a six-week period, we won over 8,000 entries over all.

For exactly the same number of books: 25 copies in total.

So I would say yes, yes it does.

Have you run a Goodreads giveaway? Any against-the-grain strategies you’re willing to share? What do you think of my dastardly plan?

Let me know in the comments below… 

Closing the Facebook

5 Jul

This summer I’m working on revising and updating my self-publishing ‘how to': Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. Edition #3 is scheduled for release September 5th. When I did the second edition back in 2012, only one year had passed since the first but still, so much had changed. This time around, the entire landscape has changed, and there’s so many new and exciting opportunities for self-publishers to take advantage of. I’ve completely changed my mind about some of my advice, and believe more than ever in the rest of it. One thing hasn’t changed at all though: I still think self-publishing is something every author should be involved in, whether it’s their main career or a sideline, and I still think that with great power comes great responsibility, so you should do it professionally. Over the coming weeks I’ll be writing posts about some issues that need a whole new section in Self-Printed: The 3rd Edition, starting today with the tumbleweeds-blowing-across-a-broken-road-cutting-through-barren-desert ex-social network we call Facebook…

[The Self-Printed 3.0 Splash needs YOU!]

I think I’m done with Facebook.

Once upon a time, I thought Facebook was a really good way to reach readers. If you had a book about a specific topic – say, Disney World – you could reach groups of Disney Word enthusiasts who were already assembled for you. By setting up an author page, you could get real life friends and family to help you build a fan base, as they could share content from your page on their own pages and news of their ‘liking’ you would show in their news feeds. With the help of things like Facebook offers and Rafflecopter, you could hold giveaways and draw attention to events, real world and virtual, like the release of your new book.

Then, it all went to pot.

Facebook has become its own worst enemy. I think in the future social media archeologists will study it for lessons in what not to do with your success. I think it was Steve Jobs who said, ‘People don’t know what they want until you give it to them.’ Mark Zuckerberg seems to be operating on some kind of ‘Take away everything people want’ principle, and it’s failing miserably. By constantly trying to second guess what users would like to see when they log into Facebook, Zuckerberg and friends have consistently moved further and further away from what users want. Privacy settings constantly change. The terms and conditions hide a multitude. In attempt to turn a profit,they’ve made many page owners, effectively, invisible. The kids are all signing up to Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and other websites this grandma (32 as of today!) probably hasn’t heard of yet, and Facebook is a wasteland of neglected profiles, dusty photo albums and unrequited pokes.

Take, just as a simplistic example, the debacle that is your News Feed. Once upon a time you accepted a friend request, and then whatever that friend posted on Facebook, you saw in your News Feed whenever you logged in. If you didn’t want to see it you could unfriend them or hide them. Simples, right? Worked for everyone. You could see what your friends were up to and keep in contact with them – the point of Facebook – and you could also lurk and, ahem, stalk as well. Then Facebook decided that that was an inefficient method of operating and started hiding things from you. So if there was a “friend”, say, as opposed to a friend, and you never commented on any of her photos or clicked the ‘Like’ button or in fact interacted with her in any way (but you still wanted to see what she was up to, natch) well, forget it. Zuckerberg said no, and hid her from you entirely. He only wanted you to see the activity of people you regularly interacted with which, honestly, shows such a blatant misunderstanding of what people were using Facebook for (let’s be honest) that he doesn’t deserve his paper billions.

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But the fact that you missed your old frenemy getting a horrendous fake tan job isn’t important. (Let’s hope!) But take Dead Good Books. Run by a team from Penguin Random House, this Facebook page is one of my faves and a must for any crime fiction fan. Even though they’re a corporate page their content is fun, interesting and worthwhile, and I loved checking in to see what giveaways, news, etc. they had on offer. They’ve worked hard to get to nearly 15,000 likes. But a few days ago I realized that I hadn’t seen anything about them in my News Feed for a while. Were they still operating? I wondered. Well, DUH. Of course they were. Facebook had just decided to hide them from me because even though I had clicked the ‘Like’ button and interacted with them in the past, I hadn’t for a while. FACEBOOK FAIL.

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Take my own Facebook page for Mousetrapped, which – hands up – I have been neglecting. So my neglect might well play a part in what I’m about to share with you, but it’s definitely not the only underlying cause. When you are the admin of a Facebook page, you get to see the ‘reach’ stats for every post. Reach is pretty self-explanatory: it’s the number of people who saw your post, i.e. the number of people it reached.

My Mousetrapped Facebook page has 1,126 likes as of writing this post. Let’s take a look at the reach of some the posts I’ve published there lately…

FB.jpg

The post on the left is a link to the last blog post on here, which only reached 34 people. Yes, thirty-four. There were no shares or likes, which makes this a really good indicator of how many eyeballs land on content that’s just posted to your Facebook page without any subsequent interaction. 34 out of 1,126.

But, in fairness, that content is me-related, not Disney-related, and that’s the main attraction – I presume – to fans of this Mousetrapped-specific page. The post on the right is indeed Disney-related: it’s a shot of balloons for sale on Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom. It had 33 likes and reached 485 people – great, but still a long way off 1,126. Less than half, as a matter of fact.

You’ll notice the handy ‘Boost post’ button, which is an invitation to spend money – because that’s what this is all about. Not reaching enough people? Pay Facebook to lift the invisibility cloak. (Remembering that if enough people organically saw your posts, they wouldn’t be an opportunity to make money this way.) A little over a year ago, I tried this just to see whether or not it was worth it.

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I think we can agree the answer is no, right?

I ran a giveaway and I wanted people to see the actual giveaway post, so I set a budget of €4 and let Facebook go and do this boosting it was always on about. You can see that the paid reach was 1,083 people – fewer people than ‘like’ my page. (Although, in fairness, back then, it was probably slightly more or the same.) Out of them, a whopping 8 – EIGHT! – actually took action on the post, i.e. clicked ‘like’. (We don’t know if they entered the giveaway.) So essentially Facebook charged me €4 to reach the same number of people who had ‘liked’ my page. Stay classy, Facebook.

There was a time, back in the old days, when you could just post something on Facebook and most of the people who had ‘liked’ your page saw it. (Or an amount of people equal to them, anyway.) No money changed hands. Can you imagine such a thing?! This is the last example I could find of it on my page, a post published back in March 2013.

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As you can see, this post won activity: 12 likes, 8 comments and 2 shares. Not exactly viral, but yet it organically reached 713 people. Woo-hoo! In March 2013, this was probably less than 100 people off how many liked the page, so I’d consider it a win. A win, but a win back in March 2013.

Now, let’s slap ourselves across the face with a cold, dead fish called reality. Something that ANNOYS ME NO END when people start harping on about how terrible traditional publishing is because so many books don’t earn back their advance and why self-publishing is a waste of time because so many books don’t sell more than a copy is that no one ever says, ‘Maybe the book failed because no one wanted to read it.’ So maybe I’m crap on Facebook. (I’ve definitely been crap on it recently.) Maybe my contributions to the Facebooksphere are so boring that if you cared any less, you’d pass out. That is entirely possible – it’s entirely possible approaching almost likely.

But let’s go back to Dead Good Books. Nearly 15,000 likes and I’m one of them, yet Facebook has decided not to organically show me their posts anymore. (FYI: I’ve corrected this by going onto their page and randomly liking a few things they posted recently, but should that be necessary? I love to lurk, just like 95% or something of internet users. Let me lurk, Facebook. LET ME LURK!) They are definitely not crap on Facebook. They’re exceptionally good, and nearly 15,000 other people think so. But if it hadn’t occurred to me that I hadn’t seen them in a while, I’d be lost to them forever. Me and who knows how many others. So was all that work – the work that it took them to get to nearly 15,000 likes – worth it? I think the answer is no, and the reason is Facebook.

(There’s also this creepy business, which I won’t go into here. But, ewwww. Creepy McCreepyson.)

However nothing sums up the crapness that is Facebook like the image above. ‘Organic reach is dead’ the accompanying tweet declares and unlike those ‘No, really, THIS time, the novel really is dead. No, really’ articles that come out every six months or so, this could well be true. The image is comparing the response Snickers got when they posted the exact same picture to their Facebook and Twitter pages the night Luis Suarez got hungry for human flesh.

On Facebook, they have approximately 11,000,000 fans. The post got 895 shares and was ‘liked’ by 3,250 users.

On Twitter, they have approximately 50,000 followers. The exact same post was favourited 14,754 times and retweeted 34,994 times.

In the first and second editions of Self-Printed, I encouraged self-published authors to get on Facebook. But do I now? Well…

If you have an active page with a high, consistent level of engagement:

Get YOU! And well done. Somehow, some page-owners have managed to keep up a very high level of engagement (posts getting ‘liked’, commented on, shared, etc.) naturally, which means that you likely have great organic reach. If it’s working for you, hooray! Keep it up. But also keep in mind that as a social network, Facebook’s star is fading. Encourage your Facebook fans to double-up on their liking of you by subscribing to your mailing list, following you on Twitter or adding your blog feed to their Feedly list. Then you won’t have to worry about what shenanigans Facebook might get up to in the future.

If you have a page with lots of ‘likes’ but inconsistent and/or low engagement:

This is me, right now. I’m thinking that just like not eating that cupcake now and ‘saving’ it for later, it’s just not worth it. I think what I might do is apply some jump-leads: really make the effort with FB for a month or so and seeing if stats improve. If they don’t though, I know my time is better spent on other things, like this blog, Twitter and writing more books. It’s time to relegate Facebook to the waste-of-my-time leagues, me thinks.

If you haven’t got around to doing Facebook yet:

Don’t even bother. The ship has sailed. In the current ‘pay to be seen’ climate I’m not even sure how you’d win likes or expose users to content in the first place. Put your time and energy into something else instead.

UPDATE: The very helpful Amy Keely shared this YouTube video in the comments. If you are considering paying Facebook to do anything, you NEED to watch this video first. Shocking stuff.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVfHeWTKjag

In other news, yesterday was America’s birthday and today is mine! (Yes, 21 again, thanks for asking…) To mark the occasion, Backpacked is free to download for Kindle from all Amazon stores today (Saturday 5th July) for 5 days. If you’ve read it already, you might be interested in the Backpacked photo or video galleries. Have a good weekend!

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