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…


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, who distribute the title to all other e-book channels, to withdraw the files from sale.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 12.35.11

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:

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 12.15.37

Meanwhile over on, 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.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 12.17.45

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 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 and 39 5* star reviews on (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!


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.


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.


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:

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 11.15.29

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.


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.



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 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.


(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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 14.02.02

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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 14.06.26

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…


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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 14.08.00

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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 14.08.27

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.

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!

Some Pics From Belfast

25 Jun

Busy writing, packing and – come this weekend – moving (ugh!), so I’m just popping in to share some pics from my afternoon at the LitNetNI event ‘Way With Words’ at Belfast Book Fest on June 14th…


L-R: Alison Baverstock (@alisonbav) sharing the findings of her research into self-publishing and those that indulge in it, and moi and Andrew Moore (@agrmoore) listening intently.

Photo credit: Averill Buchanan (@averillb)


Should we have a caption competition? Note how my top matches my blog. I mean, really….

Photo credit: Averill Buchanan (@averillb)


Andrew shared a moving story about how connecting with his young readers is infinitely more fulfilling than sales.

Photo credit: Averill Buchanan (@averillb)

And the lovely Karen, who was in the audience, shared these pics on Twitter…

Were you there? Do say hi!

In other news, I am still enthusiastically tweeting my #bookadayUK pics on Twitter. Activity-wise, that’ll have to do until this book is finished…

B is for…

31 May

While I (a) struggle to believe that today is the last day of May, (b) try to drum up the motivation to clean my apartment and (c) prepare for binge-watching 24 with my brother tonight (I’m STILL waiting for someone to say, ‘Send it to my screen!’), I have a few things to tell you…

B is for #BookADay

Starting tomorrow, June 1st, Harper Collins are inviting book-lovers everywhere to participate in #bookaday. The idea is that every day for the month of June, you share a book a day on Twitter.

I’m doing this, and I can tell you: I’m doing this seriously. I’ve already made my picks, photographed them unnecessarily and queued them all up in Buffer. In four short weeks I’ve to leave my beloved apartment and embark on a move to Dublin, and who knows what kind of grim bedsit I could end up in there, so this is kind of like a just-in-case goodbye to my bookshelves, as they may have been banished back to a storage unit by the end of the summer. (Nooooooo!)

Here are a sneak peek at some of my choices (although, if you’ve been around these parts for a while, none of them will come as a surprise to you):


I think this is going to be so fun, and we all might discover some new books to add to the TBR pile. And bonus: it gives you something to tweet about too.

B is for Belfast

Two weeks from today (Saturday 14th June), I’ll be in Belfast with Alison Baverstock and Andrew Moore, at LitNetNI’s Way with Words: Literature Development Day.


The afternoon will focus on self-publishing with an inspiring and revealing session fromAlison Baverstock, a hugely experienced publisher, trainer and writer on all aspects of publishing, marketing and reading. She is the author of The Naked Author – a Guide to Self-Publishing. The session will explore the publishing process in an informative, practical way and there will be lots of opportunities for questions. This event will feature Catherine Ryan Howard, writer and blogger from Cork whose self-publishing adventures began with the release of her travel memoir, Mousetrapped, in 2010 and Belfast writer AGR Moore who self-published The Unseen Chronicles of Amelia Black in 2011 and a picturesque fable A Boy Named Hogg in 2012. Find out how they published without the backing of a mainstream publishing house and pick up tips on how to raise your profile, promote, market and sell your book.

Find out more about the event and the Belfast Book Festival here.

B is for… Um… Well…

So okay, there’s no ‘B’ for this, but UK TV fans, I’ve a public service announcement for you: Amber starts on BBC Four this week.

You have been warned.

The Infinite Sadness of Unfinished Work

19 May

Recently I came across the Nicholl Fellowship, an initiative run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (that’s the nice people who give out the Oscars, FYI), which invites amateur screenwriters from anywhere in the world to submit a feature-length screenplay to compete for one of several $35,000 bursaries, the idea being that in their fellowship year they have some financial wiggle room to take a step back from the 9 to 5 and produce a new script. (You also get invited to a very swanky luncheon in L.A…) There is a small fee to enter which pays for the time of the industry experts – and Academy members – who read and critique the entries, and the only entry requirement is that the entrant has earned less than $25,000 from screenwriting.

It’s a prestigious prize and one, I imagine, that’s not easily won. The deadline just closed for this year and last time I checked, they’d received upwards of 7,000 entries. The number increases every year, presumably as more and more people find about it, and more and more people put pen to paper. (Or finger to keyboard while Final Draft is on screen.) There’s been some notable winners: the screenplay for one of my Top 100 Favourite Movies, Arlington Road, was a Nicholl Fellowship winning script, and other notable winners include Jeffery Eugenides (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Middlesex) and Susannah Grant, who’d go onto win an Academy Award for her script Erin Brockovich. Finding Forrester, frequently cited in favourite-movies-about-writing-and-writers lists, was also a Nicholl Fellowship script.

But none of that was what struck me about the fellowship.

Also on their website is a section where you can catch up with past winners, a kind of ‘Where are they now?’ just for Nicholl Fellowship recipients. And yes, while a few of them are winning Pulitzers and winning both themselves and Julia Roberts Oscar statuettes, the vast majority of them are not. The vast majority of them are working on another screenplay.

Now maybe it’s just the way it’s worded, or maybe it’s because the best thing for a one-line bio is the name of the project you’re working on now and not the fifteen scripts you’ve finished that are languishing in a drawer, or maybe I just reading into this too much altogether, but it struck me as sad that all these people were the best, the absolute best, out of thousands of people at doing something, and yet here they are, years later, saying they are still working on their next project or admitting that they’ve moved on completely to something else.

Why haven’t they finished them?

Well… Pot Kettle Black Alert!

Too much of this...

Too much of this…

Now I certainly have not been proven to be the best at anything except consuming caffeine, online shopping and getting through TV show box-sets, but I have had some success. Since dramatically (and, perhaps, foolishly) quitting my job in the summer of 2009, I’ve self-published three full-length books and sold a few of them, done a whole load of speaking engagements, seminars and workshops and started to work on social media projects for a major publishing house. I’ve got to a place where I only need do book and writing-relating things full-time. I have a popular blog with lots of followers. I now know a good group of people in the publishing industry; I have contacts. I have a busy writing CV filled with evidence that I have an established readership and that I’m prepared to get out there and sell my books. And, perhaps because of this, in the past couple of weeks I found out that I’ve been offered a place to study for an English degree in one of the best and oldest English departments in the world, at the country’s most prestigious university.

(More on that another time. Right now it’s overshadowed by the fact that I have to move to another city this summer. STRESSFEST.)

But I still haven’t finished my novel.

I mean… I can’t even believe I am still in a position to write that sentence.

I still haven’t finished my novel.

What the fudge HAVE I been doing? Because all that stuff up there, in the paragraph above? That’s, like, maybe one year out of the last five, if you added up all the time it took. I put the first edition of Self-Printed together in a month. Backpacked‘s first draft took two weeks. I don’t blog or tweet or use Facebook anywhere near as much as I used to. And I don’t have a spouse, kids or a full-time job to worry about. My time is my own, more or less.

So what the hell have I been doing with it?

Publishing, however you’re doing it, can be an extremely frustrating endeavor. If you’re chasing a deal or an agent, you’re dependent on someone else’s ‘yes’. If you’re self-publishing, your success will depend on the reading tastes of the world at large, as well as things like timing, price, luck, etc. There’s little about the outcome, on either side, that you can really control, in the sense that you can say ‘Well, if I do x, y and z, I’ll definitely end up selling a trillion copies…’ But there’s one thing you can control, and none of the other stuff will happen if you don’t do it: finish your book.

... and not enough of this.

… and not enough of this.

Catherine’s Stressfest Summer 2014 officially begins on July 1st. I have until then to finish my novel, which is entirely feasible. I have to do it, because after that I’ll be moving, and after that I’ll be in school. I have no choice this time. It has to happen. It will happen.

Because for all the frustration, all the uncertainty, all the rejection, rewards and success — none of it, none of it, can happen if you don’t finish your book.

Let’s do this.

Are you haunting by unfinished work? What prevents you, do you think, from finishing it? Do you agree that you’d find the time if you truly wanted to? Let me know in the comments below…

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