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5 Ways To Get a Book Deal: Guest Post by Sheena Lambert

This morning we have a guest post from Sheena Lambert, whose novel The Lake comes out today. (Woo-hoo!) Sheena self-published her first novel, A Gathering Storm (previously published as Alberta Clipper) and now this, her second, is one of the first six to be released by KillerReads, an imprint of Harper Collins. Before she started on the champagne for breakfast, Sheena shared her tips on how to get a book deal… 

“So you want a book deal? No problem! The following is a vaguely scientific way of achieving your goal. For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume that you have written a book worthy of publication; a rather weighty assumption, granted, but we have to start somewhere. This is not a how-to on writing a book; this is a how-to getting it onto bookshelves.

So, let’s get started. There are a number of ways of getting a book deal.

  1. Be famous. Yes, famous people get book deals all the time. It’s understandable – it’s a lot easier to market a famous person, and most of us want to read what famous people have to write. So, go and rob a bank, or have an affair with a politician, or become a politician (just for a while – you don’t have to stay that way), and I can almost guarantee that you will be offered a publishing deal for your book.
  2. Be a journalist first. It’s a lot easier to get noticed by the relevant people in publishing if you have a track-record in being paid for writing, and it’s a lot easier to get paid work in journalism than in books. Have you counted the number of debut authors who have day jobs with the Times newspapers? Exactly.
  3. Have a wild past, or make one up. No one is interested in reading a debut novel by Mary Smith who was born and has lived all her life in the same small town in the country. But MJ Smyth, an ex-nun and recovered heroin addict who spent his/her (no one is sure) thirties travelling through Siberia in atonement for past life indiscretions? I’d read me some of that.
  4. A good head of swishy hair. I don’t know why, just believe me that it will increase your chances of publication significantly.
  5. Self-publish first. Yes, fine, it might sound a little pedestrian when compared with options 1-4 above, but it’s a truth that is becoming increasingly apparent – successful self-publishing helps you noticed by the big boys.

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This is how I got my book deal. (Did I mention my novel The Lake has just been published by HarperCollins? Finish reading this, and I’ll show you where you can buy your very own copy.) I am neither famous, nor do I have a particularly notable past. My hair is unremarkable to say the least. I have written the odd journalistic piece in my time, but I would certainly not refer to myself as a journalist.

I did, however, self-publish my first novel. Not without a lot of help from Catherine Ryan Howard and her Self-Printed books [ed. note: Oh, stop! *blushes*], I self-published A Gathering Storm in 2012, both as an ebook and in paperback. The book got itself noticed by a major wholesaler in my home country of Ireland, which led to it being stocked and sold alongside traditionally published books in real, live bookshops. So when my second novel The Lake was ready to send out to agents and publishers, I had some credentials: I had a track record of selling and marketing books successfully, I had a following who were keen to read my next book, I had form.

Interestingly, the traditional publishing deal I got for The Lake was not so traditional – rather it came in the form of HarperCollins’s new digital first crime/thriller imprint KillerReads. Instead of arguing against the ebook revolution, HarperCollins have embraced this phenomenal phenomenon with their digital first imprints which publish the ebook, a little like the hardback of yore, as a forerunner to the paperback (my paperback is out on 4th June. Just saying). With a digital first imprint, the ebook is given all the pomp and circumstance it deserves, rather than being treated like the less-loved, problem child that has to be endured.

As a self-published author, the idea of putting emphasis on the ebook felt very comfortable for me, and I’m guessing HarperCollins KillerReads liked the fact that I had experience of digital publishing. No one successfully self-publishes without learning the social media ropes, and that experience was very useful when it came to working with the HarperCollins team in the run up to The Lake’s publication date.

So in the proverbial shell of the nut, self-publishing my first book helped me get an agent for my second, and a publishing deal followed. And I’m not the only writer this has happened to. Hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear about a self-published author landing a significant book deal with a publishing house. Rather than putting publishers off, having experience of self-publishing can make you and your book a very attractive gamble these days.

So what are you waiting for? Not a six figure deal from one of the Big Six (or is it Five these days?) I hope? Well, of course, that would be nice, but while you are waiting for that, invest in a copy of Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed [ed. note: I see what you did there…] and get yourself a head start in self-publishing.

Unless, of course, you have swishy hair, in which case sit tight. Those six figures will come to you.”

The Lake is available on Amazon.co.uk for less than the price of the venti wet latte, extra hot please, that I’ll be having in a minute. It is also a great read. The first two chapters are available to read for free here, and you can follow Sheena on Twitter at @shewithonee.

I’m off to buy some volumizing shampoo. Thanks Sheena and congrats! x

Sheena Lambert, The Lake

More about The Lake:

September 1975.

A body is discovered in the receding waters of a manmade lake, and for Peggy Casey, 23-year-old landlady of The Angler’s Rest, nothing will ever be the same.

Detective Sergeant Frank Ryan is dispatched from Dublin, and his arrival casts an uneasy spotlight on the damaged history of the valley, and on the difficult relationships that bind Peggy and her three older siblings. Over the course of the weekend, Detective Ryan’s investigation will not only uncover the terrible truth behind the dead woman’s fate, but will also expose the Casey family’s deepest secrets.

Secrets never meant to be revealed.

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

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.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Barbara Forte Abate who the Random Number Generator deemed the winner! Now, get finishing your book…! :-D

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?

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

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!

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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… 

Closing the Facebook

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…

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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!

Some Pics From Belfast

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…

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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)

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

Photo credit: Averill Buchanan (@averillb)

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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…

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):

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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.

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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.

Self-Publishing: The Professionals Effect

Over the last couple of weeks some of my fellow self-publishers have been keeping you entertained and inspiring with their self-publishing stories while I sand down my fingerprints finishing my novel. (Or this draft of it, at least.) Today in the penultimate ‘guest post’ installment, The Tour author Jean Grainger shares her self-publishing journey with us. You can read the previous guest posts in this series, 3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-Publishing My Novel and Self-Publishing: Do It Your Way by clicking on the links. Welcome, Jean!

Firstly I’d like to thank Catherine for inviting me to guest blog on Catherine, Caffeinated. This blog has been a constant source of advice, information and smiles for me since I started writing so I’m delighted to be here.

My journey into self publishing began when I spotted an advertisement for a one day course in Dublin. The expert speaker was Catherine. Hoping I had written a book that someone other than my mother might regard as a worthwhile way to spend their hard earned cash and time, I took myself off to hear what she had to say.

Of course, like most newcomers to this world I was seduced by the ads online promising that I’d be published in ten minutes, with nothing more than a curled up dusty manuscript needed from myself, or at least the digital equivalent. I had, unfortunately in hindsight, expressed interest in a company in the U.S. through their website who promised to make the whole simple process even simpler for a small fee who were now treating me to daily phone calls explaining how they were going to make me the next big thing.

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It all seemed simple. No need to wait for the elusive nod from the big publishing house, no more torturing myself visualising my hard work on the dreaded ‘slush pile’ going straight from the post bag to the shredder. It seemed like my dream of becoming an author could come true with self-publishing. Still, in the back of my mind I knew there had to be a catch, I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

The day of the course came and as we sat in a lovely hotel overlooking the bay I chatted enthusiastically with my fellow writing hopefuls, some of whom were already published traditionally and who were seeking new ways to breathe life into their careers, or simply monetising their work, others, like myself were total newcomers. It was all very exciting.

With Catherine’s combination of sound advice and humour , she outlined clearly what you needed to do. Ok, you needed a bit of computer savvy, tick. You had to have actually written a half decent book, again, (hopefully) tick. Everything was going great, I was right on track when Catherine dropped the bombshell. You must, and there was no grey area here, you must have your work professionally edited. Obviously, I thought, she doesn’t mean me. You see, I’m an English teacher. My life is spent correcting mistakes, restructuring plot, ensuring  the writing is purposeful ,  coherent, using appropriate and varied language and adhering to the laws of English mechanics. I’ve taught at university, I correct state exams, I don’t need an editor, I am an editor.

Wrong.

I need an editor. Everyone does, I don’t care who you are, what your day job is, you simply cannot edit yourself.

I’d love to say that there and then in that hotel in Dublin I saw the light, but if I’m to be honest I wasn’t convinced. Catherine however, was the expert and I decided just to trust her on it. I parted with the cash, a considerable amount of it, and I got myself an editor. For my first book, I found two editors in fact, one who read the story and looked at structure, plot development, characters and so on, and another, a copy editor to look at the actual prose. If I have learned anything from this process it is this – If I was to look at that manuscript until I was old and grey I would never have seen the glaring inconsistencies the editing process brought to light. I can’t actually believe I thought it was OK, it really, really wasn’t.

My structural editor, the wonderful  Helen Falconer, over lots of tea and biscuits showed me how to make my characters consistent and believable, how to add and subtract from the plot and the result was a much better story. My copy editor seemed to be able to polish my prose so that it still sounded like me, just a better, more articulate me. Words cannot adequately describe the positive impact these professionals had on my work.

This knowledge was liberating when writing my second book. I knew I’d be chopping and dissecting it once it was done so it gave me the confidence just to write, I didn’t worry too much about the finer points. As with the first book, Helen once again worked her magic, and now I have two books of which I’m proud, the alternative is something that makes me shudder. The moral of the tale? Listen to Catherine, she knows her stuff.   [Thanks, Jean! Your fiver’s in the post…!]

Find about more about Jean on her website (Jean: is that header image really where you write? I’m jealous! It looks so cosy…). Her books The Tour and So Much Owed are available on Amazon.

I think what’s interesting about Jean’s story is that she held a very common misconception about self-publishing: that she didn’t need an editor. And why wouldn’t she think that? Jean is an English teacher! But after she ‘saw the light’ as she puts it, she met Helen, and I know that Helen has become a big part of her process and not only a box that has to be ticked. So tell us: what is the biggest misconception you had before you self-published? What long-held belief about the process went flying out the window as soon as you started? What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned? Let us know in the comments below…