My POD Self-Printing Adventures: All Will Be Revealed

Last November, after years of bashing all forms of self-publishing and assuming the only reason anyone did it was because they just weren’t good enough for proper publication, I decided to do the awful deed myself and released my book, a travel memoir called Mousetrapped, into the world with the help of a Print On Demand (POD) service called Createspace. I also decided to share my self-publishing (or self-printing) experiences – the good, the bad and the tinged with crazy – with you, here on my blog.

I shared everything. My reasons for self-publishing, how I produced my little POD baby and the distinct scent of bonkers in the self-publishing world’s air. I told you how I promoted it, and many of you helped me to do just that. I ranted about the self-publishing evangelists and conversations littered with the word ‘gatekeepers’. I even blogged about the importance of industrial strength magic underwear in book launch success.

I quickly picked up some blog followers who themselves were venturing into the world of POD. They paid attention to my mistakes so they wouldn’t have to make them, and took note of what worked so they could try it too. Somewhere along the way I became – gulp – an example to other people. This was nice, if a little scary. Because what were my qualifications? Anyone can produce a POD book; that’s kind of the problem. You could look at my Amazon rankings or Twitter followers or Google search results and try to ascertain how well my book was doing, but what you really needed to know were my sales figures. And what you really wanted to know was exactly how much money I was making off of them.

And you’re in luck, because I want to tell you.

I’m going to tell you tomorrow, in fact. Sales figures in the morning and money matters in the afternoon.

Can you handle the excitement? I’m not sure I can, especially since I’ve already had three coffees today and my heart rate might not be able to take it.

But before I reveal all, I have a favor to ask. Two favors, actually. But don’t worry – they’re only ickle ones.

The first is that I’d love to know how well the reality of my sales and royalties meshes with any impressions you had of them. Did you think, from my gib-jabbering, Amazon sales ranks, reviews and coverage that I’d sold more, or less? Did you think my royalties would be better, or worse? Does it sound worth it to you, or do you think the endeavor is about on an even keel with sponging up the sea, trying to understand Lost, peeing in the wind, etc.? Kindly tell me by commenting on the posts.

That’s the first condition. The second is called No Further Questions. I’m going to tell you what my royalties (or profits, strictly speaking) are and how many books I’ve sold, but that’s it. No more, no less. So please, once we’re done here, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t e-mail me with questions like, How much does each book cost you? or, How much would it cost, hypothetically, to order 17 copies of a 284-page book measuring 6×9 with a full color interior and ship them from CreateSpace to Yemen by priority on a Tuesday in the middle of June? The reason being that my answers would be, It doesn’t matter because your book will be different to mine and, Are you f–king kidding me?!, and I find it kind of annoying. After all, I’ve self-published the sum total of one book and everything I know about doing it is already up here somewhere, on my blog. I also have a Frequently Asked Questions page so try checking that instead.

So do we have a deal?

Great. Just initial here ____ and then we’ll be good to go.

Check back tomorrow for all the scandal. In the morning I’ll be telling you:

  • Exactly how many copies I’ve sold to date
  • From where I’ve sold them
  • How many were print editions and how many were e-books
  • Some other stuff.

Then tomorrow afternoon it’ll be:

  • How much money I get from each type of sale
  • Print profits Vs e-book profits
  • All the costs involved with publishing Mousetrapped
  • Some other stuff.

If you’d like these posts to arrive in your inbox, subscribe using the button in the bottom left hand corner of the page.

Catch up on my self-printing adventures on the Self-Printing page.

Read more about the book I self-printed, Mousetrapped.

Spreading the Space Love and Other News

As anyone who has read the MISSION SPACE chapter of my book Mousetrapped will have guessed, I’m convinced it’s my mission to open the eyes of the uncaring masses to the utter awesomeness that is NASA’s manned exploration of space.

Something else that’s awesome: U2’s current tour, U2-360, which I was lucky enough to see in Dublin in July 2009. Part of the tour was a link-up with the crew of the International Space Station and Bono and The Edge got to visit Mission Control in Houston, something which I WILL NEVER FORGIVE EITHER OF THEM FOR. (Unless they arrange for me to meet Adam Clayton over a candlelit dinner. Then I’d consider forgiveness. Maybe.) U2.com produced the video below to commemorate this collaboration and like all things involving space, it’s pretty inspiring.

Look out for a brief appearance by Twitter star and NASA astronaut Mike Massimino (“Astro Mike“) who has talked about listening to U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ while looking down on the earth from space. Coincidentally that’s also the song I used – somewhat, ahem, illegally – to accompany my footage of the Space Shuttle Discovery launch I got to see on October 22nd, 2007, also known as the Best Day of My Life Ever Ever.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Say what you like about Bono – I know I do – but this is exactly the kind of thing that will bring an appreciation for space exploration down here to earth, perhaps even to new generations, which in turn reminds us all that absolutely anything is possible.

Last week I was a total slacker on the blog posting front but my monthly hits didn’t suffer. Why? Because 300 of you read my post about Penguin taking unsolicited submissions. To put this in perspective, I normally get around 80-120 hits on a day I post, and my most-visited post ever was the one in which I shared my agent news back in April, and that got around 350 visitors on the day it went up. I also hear Bubblecow’s post on preparing to submit to Penguin was it’s most popular ever. Am I the only one who finds this kind of scary? (Besides the Penguin employees tasked with reading the queries, of course.) I posted about it to, yes, let people who have a manuscript ready know about it, but also because up until a year ago I would have thrown something together in a weekend and sent it off, and I wanted to warn against doing that. There’s no need to panic, especially since lovely people like Penguin Ireland accept unsolicited manuscripts all year long, from anyone. So calm down.

THIS week however, I have some exciting posting to do. On Wednesday I’ll be telling you how many copies of Mousetrapped I’ve sold, and how much money I made off them. Squealing and such! Can you take the excitement?

(Don’t answer that.)

Heineken not included.

And finally, look what my parents brought me back from their hols: a coffee scented candle! My life is now complete. Well, almost. I’m just waiting for that Adam Clayton dinner…

Boy, there were a lot of links in this post.

Click here to read more about why I’m certifiably astronuts.

Click here to read more about Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida.

Coffee Break: Coffee + George Clooney = Nespresso

Every Christmas I try to buy something nice to give to me from me and in 2008, that something was a Nespresso coffee machine. Officially it was the best way to make a one-touch cafe latte at home. Unofficially, George Clooney was in the commercials, I wanted something cool to play with on Christmas morning now that I was too old for toys and I longed to sit on a high stool at the Nespresso bar in Cork’s exclusive Brown Thomas department store and sip freshly prepared Nespresso coffee from delicate glass Nespresso cups. It was truly the best way to spend my lunch hour back when I worked the 9 to 5, and I never say no to free coffee.

DeLonghi Latissima Nespresso machine. (Mine is exactly the same, just with dust.)

But now the machine that cost me the best part of a week’s wages is in a cupboard collecting dust while several long, slim boxes of Nespresso capsules creep towards their ‘Use By’ date beside it. The last time I used it was several months ago, and that was to make a latte for a guest. My caffeine habit is such that I have opportunity to use it several times a day, but don’t. Why not?

In the TV ad, Gorgeous George eyes up a brunette before selecting a colorful Nespresso capsule, popping it in his Nespresso machine and then, a moment later, enjoying a perfect cup of coffee. The idea is the amount of coffee is perfectly controlled every time, as is the amount of water dispensed to filter through it, so your coffee will always be just right. The machines will make you make you an espresso, lungo, cappuccino or latte with minimal effort. With my DeLonghi Latissima machine, for instance, I press one button and watch with delight as a perfect espresso drops into my cup, followed by freshly steamed milk and topped with foam: the perfect latte. Continue reading

What I Thought Of… SECOND HAND HEART by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I chose Catherine Ryan Hyde’s Second Hand Heart from Transworld’s Summer Reading Challenge list because she and I share two names and three initials, and once on Goodreads someone sent me a message saying they really enjoyed Pay It Forward. However despite loving the big screen adaptation of that book – it starred Kevin Spacey, and I was at the height of my age-inappropriate, post-American Beauty Kevin Spacey crush – I knew little about Hyde (or is it Ryan Hyde? I suffer from the same problem!), and jumped at the chance to finally read her work.

A bestselling author, Hyde’s success in her native USA raced to this side of the pond when Richard and Judy made her novel Love in the Present Tense a book club pick in 2007. Second Hand Heart is published in the UK next month and yes, being the uber book nerd that I am, I let out a little squeal of delight when I saw the words ‘Proof copy – not for resale’ at the top of the front cover. If you ever want to make me feel special, forget flowers – a pre-publication proof copy will do just fine…

“One girl: Vida is nineteen, very ill, and has spent her short life preparing for her death. But a new chance brings its own story, because for Vida to live, someone had to die. One man: Richard has just lost his beloved wife in a car accident. He hasn’t even begun to address his grief, but feels compelled to meet the girl who inherited his wife’s heart. Someone else’s heart: In hospital Vida sees Richard and immediately falls in love. Of course he dismisses her as foolish child. But is she? Can two people by bound by a second hand heart?”

I thought I had the measure of this book a few pages in. I tend to be biased against books told through e-mails or diary entries, and this was both. I didn’t immediately warm to Vida and having read my fair share of heart transplant/other life threatening medical ailment schmaltz in the past, I figured I knew what was coming, pretty much. In fact, if anyone had asked me what the book was about at that point, I  would have laid the entire plot out for them, so sure was I of the ways things were going to unfold.

But boy – was I wrong! Continue reading

How To Avoid Self-Publishing A Crappy Book: My Two Golden Rules

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When you tell people that you’re self-publishing with a DIY Print On Demand service like Lulu or Createspace, you get much the same reaction as you would if you’d told them that since Weightwatchers hadn’t worked, you’re going to attempt a DIY stomach stapling operation in your kitchen. They smile, nod and think to themselves, This is going to be terrible.

Self-published books and particularly POD self-published books have a bad reputation, and I think they deserve it. Due to the ease with which people can produce and start to sell their books, the quality goes down as the quantity goes up. With next to no checks on copyediting, design or layout – or even whether or not the book is good enough to have a career in anything other than toilet paper – POD sites are becoming a one stop shop for things that should never have seen a computer screen, let alone a piece of paper, priced at just $9.99. I resent the people who decide, on a Friday afternoon, to finally self-publish their novella, The Darth Vader Diaries, spend a half hour summarizing the plot into a paragraph that fits on the back cover (including the big twist at the end), make the cover a yellow background spotted with daisies, put an index at the front and make all interior text 18 point Wingdings. I resent them because until someone sees or holds my book in their hands – the book I had copyedited, with a cover I had designed, consisting of pages that are correctly and cohesively laid out – they assume that it’s going to be like that too, and I don’t blame them.

What I don’t understand is why POD self-publishers continue to push crappy books into existence. It is so easily avoided. Simply abide by Catherine’s Two Golden Rules for Not Adding to the Ever Growing Pile of Crappy Self-Published Books

1. First, Try To Sell Your Book

Continue reading

Mousetrapped Monday: Jurassic Park

“In the summer of 1993 the best movie ever made had been released, and eleven-year-old me had gone to the cinema to see it with [my brother] nine-year-old John. CGI Dino Mania had gripped the world and Cork was no exception – the queue for tickets was all the way down the street and around the corner. I had laboriously read as much of the book as I could, and everything that summer seemed to have the black, red and yellow Jurassic Park logo on it (I had the binder, pencil case and notebook). In special issues of Smash Hits magazine, I had read all about Mr. Spielberg’s dinosaurs and how they had been created, and I was glued to any behind the scenes documentaries shown on TV. As I got older I was finally able to understand the bits of the novel thick with genetics and chaos theory, and I progressed to more age-appropriate merchandise, like a special-edition DVD and John Williams’ original score.”

– from Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida

No constant reader can really chose a favorite book of all time, as there would be far too many up for the title, and too many different kinds of books for the process to be fair. However if I had to name the book that has given me the most reading pleasure in my lifetime, I wouldn’t even have to think about it: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

Jurassic Park's original cover, before any movie studio marketing department got its velociraptor claws into it.

I first read Jurassic Park in July of 1993. In those days my family spent as much summer time as we could in a little touring caravan (berth: 4, family members: 5) that we kept near the beach at Garryvoe, Co. Cork. I’d have been bored to tears there without books, and I can clearly remember lying in the bunk above the dining table (yes, the bunk above the dining table), laboriously moving through Jurassic Park‘s pages. I had only turned 11 and was, understandably, in awe of dinosaurs but confused by chaos theory. It’d be another while before I could read it all but once I did, I did so regularly. I’ve read it at least once a year since then, and still have my original paperback copy, although now it’s all Sellotape and crease. And yet every time it entertains me, even when I know what’s coming – even when, in places, I know the sentence that’s coming, and I know it off by rote. While backpacking in Central America in 2008, a highlight of the trip was landing on a beach in Costa Rica: one of the early scenes in JP occurs in such a place, and Crichton had described it perfectly. The JP Jungle River Ride in Universal Studios may have almost killed me, but – I think – it was worth the risk. (That one time. I won’t be doing it ever, ever again.) Continue reading

Is Your Target Readership Finding Your Book? Let’s Find Out!

As you might already know thanks to my relentless blogging about it, I couldn’t find a traditional publishing home for Mousetrapped because, on paper, its inherent weirdness (or ‘originality’, as I like to call it!) translated into a tiny potential readership. For a publishing house, pouring the efforts of its editorial, design and marketing staff into producing a polished book – not to mention coughing up the cost of manufacturing a few thousand copies of it – would be a commercial decision that was reckless at best. I fully understood this – heck, I even agreed with them. Based on its subject matter, there were only a small number of people who’d even be interested in reading my book and there was no guarantee that all of them – or any of them – would be interested enough to buy it. Still, I was up for the challenge of hunting them down. Almost six months after publication, how can I find out if it is indeed this little group who are buying Mousetrapped? How can I find out who my readers are?

If your book is listed on Amazon and you’re prepared to do a little detective work, you can find out in only a few minutes. All you have to do is take a good look at Amazon’s ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…’ feature as it appears on your book’s Amazon page. There is so much information you can glean from it that you’d be a fool not to. Read on to find out how much I learned from mine…

Why I Know For a Fact That Twitter Sells Books

I can’t say enough good things about how Twitter can help writers. Even though I wasn’t even using my Twitter account when I made the decision to self-publish, I soon got tweeting and credit Twitter with at least half of my sales to date, nearly all of my promotional opportunities and getting me an agent. I know Twitter sold my books, and I can prove it.

Up until a month ago, my ‘Customers Also Bought…’ on Amazon.co.uk consistently included:

  • Like Bees to Honey by Caroline Smailes
  • Della Says: OMG! by Keris Stainton
  • Wasted by Nicola Morgan
  • The Dating Detox by Gemma Burgess
  • Not So Perfect by Nik Perring.

Now at first glance, this may seem like a random collection: two teen fiction, two adult fiction – one funny, one sad – and one collection of short stories. But they’re not random at all – these are all writers who are on Twitter and who happen to be in my little Twitter swarm, i.e. I follow them, they follow me and we all follow and interact with a lot of the same people. Therefore, Detective Catherine concluded that many UK customers were buying Mousetrapped because they had come into contact with me via Twitter, as they had with the others writers on the list above.  Continue reading