Why I’m Self-Publishing: A Guest Post by Roz Morris

Many of you may know Roz Morris from her fantastic writing blog and her indispensable writing guide, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Fix, Finish and Draft with Confidence. As of yesterday, she and I now have something in common too: after saying in the past that while we were happy to self-publish our non-fiction, we’d never, ever self-publish a novel, we’re doing just that! Roz has put an ingenious twist on her novel release, My Memories of a Future Life, so I asked her to tell us more about her decision. Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Roz!

Why I’m self-publishing

If you’d asked me in January, I wouldn’t have thought self-publishing a novel was a good idea. It was fine for non-fiction, where you could demonstrate your expertise and gather readers who liked your style. I’d already done it with a book on writing – Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How you Can Draft, fix and Finish With Confidence. Publishers thought it was fine, but too short to put out in print. So I published it myself and each month it gathers fans who tell me there is nothing else like it and it’s exactly what they need.

But self-publishing fiction? Wasn’t that like admitting you couldn’t get properly published?

Maybe years ago it was. But these days there are two reasons novels don’t find publishers. One is that they’re not good enough. The other is that they’re not what the market needs.

My novel

I had a novel on submission, My Memories of a Future Life. A quirky twist on reincarnation, it falls between genres. Too unusual to be either genre fiction or traditionally literary. My agent took me on because she loved it and said it reminded her of The Time Traveller’s Wife, in a Derren Brown way. But publishers won’t take chances on new unusual fiction.

I had rejections that went ‘a fascinating little novel – if it was more like a conventional thriller we’d have taken it’. ‘We loved Roz’s writing, she really knows her craft, but it wouldn’t be right for our list’. And: ‘I really liked it but I have no idea how I’m going to persuade marketing.’ Exactly like Catherine’s experience with Results Not Typical.

My Memories of a Future Life was inspired by the novels that were being published ten or twenty years ago. What if you were somebody’s past? What parts of you would haunt them? Could they give you the answers you need now? The publishing economy won’t stand novels like that now, but readers still adore them. It’s all the things I would tell authors not to do if they were hoping for representation or publication now, and it’s what I had to write.

Around spring this year, agents started talking about becoming publishers. The term self-publishing, which has been trying for years to peel itself away from the stigma of vanity (and helped by pioneers like our Catherine here) was at last being used in respectable circles – although with much gnashing of teeth.

Did I dare?

I looked at my manuscript. Did I dare put it out myself?

Then I hit on an idea. With our brave new world of Kindle, short-form fiction is just as saleable as long-form. What if I put my novel out as a serial, the way Dickens used to? If part of the problem was that I’d paced a ‘proper’ novel like a Hitchcock movie and done a few cheeky things with reality, I should make a virtue out of it. A literary novel in four parts, a hefty 25k words for the magic 0.99c a time?

I talked it over with my agent. Do it, he said. You’ve already self-published so you know how to do it to proper standards. And if you get good sales, publishers are more likely to take notice of your next book, which we can sell conventionally.

Times change, huh? Not so long ago, people worried that self-publishing your fiction was like taking a bulldozer to your career.

Not ‘either or’

By the way, just because you espouse self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to shun conventional publishing. I’ve got experience of both ends of the publishing spectrum, from self-pubbing Nail Your Novel and ghostwriting for the mighty behemoths like Random House. The publishers weren’t ‘wrong’ about Nail Your Novel. It was too short for them to turn a profit. I would love a conventional publishing deal for My Memories of a Future Life, but it breaks the rules of the commercial market now and so I’m better putting out myself. I have many other books in me that will be a good fit with bigger publishers. Talk to any self-publisher today and they will say the same. We can mix and match in our careers.

This time in publishing is groundbreaking and pioneering. Publishers won’t help authors create their own platforms and so we have to do it ourselves. But this also means we’re in the driving seat if we write great books and find the right audience. We’re like the indie musicians taking control – and possibly going to publishers on more equal terms.

And as for the four-part serialisation? My agent is watching keenly to see how it works as a model for ebook releases of their own. Yes, folks. Writers here and now are setting the agenda for the future of the industry.

My Memories of a Future Life Episode 1, The Red Season, was released on Kindle yesterday, 29 August. Find it on the Kindle store here. Find out more on www.mymemoriesofafuturelife.com.

About Roz Morris:

Roz Morris is a ghostwriter, editor and the author of Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, available from Amazon. Her website is www.rozmorris.wordpress.com and she blogs at www.nailyournovel.com. You can follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dirtywhitecandy and www.twitter.com/byrozmorris.

Thanks so much Roz – fantastically interesting post and best of luck with My Memories of a Future Life! Self-publishers: take note. This is how an experienced writer familiar with the publishing industry comes to the decision to self-publish – slowly, considerately and not at all lightly.

Why You Need an Editor: A Demonstration

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Self-publishers need to get their books professionally copyedited. Ideally they should have their books structurally edited, copyedited and proofread, but when you have a large number of people not listening to you about something, you have to start with baby steps. So let’s just say – for now – that self-publishers have to get their books copyedited, at least, before they release them out into the world.

That includes you.

Yes, you.

No, really – it does include YOU.

In fact, there are only two acceptable excuses for not getting your book professionally copyedited (i.e. paying someone to do it) before you self-publish. They are:

  1. You being a professional editor
  2. Your book having no words in it.

Do NOT make the naive mistake of confusing copyediting with looking for typos. If you believe that, then you probably need a copyeditor more than most. Every single day – it seems – I meet a writer about to self-publish, in the process of self-publishing or who has already self-published who disagrees with me on this issue. They don’t need an editor, they claim. Or they can’t afford to hire one.

Well, you do need one, and if you can’t afford to make your book the best it can be (or even just readable, depending on your grasp of grammar, punctuation, etc.), then don’t self-publish it. I’ve done everything I can to convince self-publishers otherwise – explaining how it’ll lead to humiliation, bad reviews, loss of sales, nuclear annihilation of your career, etc. etc. – but still, many don’t listen.

So I keep trying, and my latest attempt is this:

This is a (silent) video showing you how much copyediting had to be done to Backpacked. By the time my editor got a hold of it, I had rewritten it twice and, hey, I have a fairly good grasp of the English language. In other words, my book was in relatively good shape. And yet, as you’ll see in the video, there were plenty of corrections.

Please, self-publishing boys and girls. GET AN EDITOR. I have two I highly recommend if you need their contact information. But do it. If you don’t, it may be the most costly mistake – financially and professionally – you’ll ever make.

(Dum dum DUUUUMMMM.)

(That was scary dramatic music, if that wasn’t clear.)

Backpacked is out soon. Find out more about the book here.

The Social Network: Guest Post by Author Gillian Duffy

A while back I heard about Dublin writer Gillian Duffy, who had just signed a three-book deal with Book Republic, an imprint of Irish publishing house Maverick Press. What was unusual about Gillian was that her first book, The L.A. Commandments, was going to be published in only a few weeks’ time. With such a short time between dreaming of becoming a published writer and becoming one, I wondered how difficult it would be for Gillian to handle the social media side of things which, as we all know (whether we like it or not), is vital to selling books these days. So I asked her to write a post about it. Welcome, Gillian!

“Hi there everyone. I’m Gillian, I live in Dublin and I’m currently studying English and History at St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. All seems pretty normal and unexciting, right? Right…until something extraordinarily exciting happened about nine weeks ago which has thrown a spanner of hope and happiness into the normality works – I signed a three-book deal with Book Republic, an imprint of Maverick House, and my debut novel, The L.A. Commandments, will be published on 18th August.

I signed the contract on 8th June and the weeks since have been a rollercoaster ride of bliss and delight, with just a side-order of disbelief – ‘is this really happening?’ I continually ask, pinching myself. ‘Yes,’ is the answer, ‘it is happening.’ And happening really fast, which, I must admit, is propelling the excitement levels to a 5.0 on the Richter scale. The fast-paced momentum of my publishing experience keeps me focused, triggers my energy and makes the creative process even fresher; the manuscript is edited, proofread, then it’s ready for publication, and that’s exactly what’s happening. No long wait from edit to release and that approach suits me fine. Book Republic felt that the novel’s principle themes – Redundancy, Emigration, Celebrity Culture, Infidelity and Addiction – are so integral to people’s daily lives that it would make sense to publish it when its meaning is so topical. Finding something I can connect to is extremely important when it comes to my own reading ‘must-haves’, so I hope readers will find something relatable in this book. The L.A. Commandments deals with some hard-pressing issues, but, predominantly, it’s a light-hearted story about two best friends, Joanne and Suzie, who strive to find their place in the world as they tackle unemployment, relocation, relationships, and all the ups and downs which they can bring. Their journey begins during the summer months of 2009 as they make their way across the Atlantic, en route to their new home, so it’s fitting to schedule the novel’s release during the same season – people embarking on their own holiday or travelling adventure can also accompany the girls on theirs.

When I began this novel adventure, the part of the process which I found most daunting was the social media/promotional side of things. I had a Facebook account with about 130 friends, who comprised family members, schoolmates, former colleagues, friends and acquaintances, which I rarely logged on to. As for Twitter, I followed about five people and had five less followers. Not to mention my biggest fear of all – video diaries. I’m a huge fan of vblogs when I’m watching someone else’s footage, not my own. But suddenly I found myself in a situation where I had to embrace these social networking systems. They were to become my best friends for the immediate future – in some ways, even more so than my flesh and blood substitutes – and slowly, but surely, they are.

Facebook wasn’t so frightening. The search for likeminded literary lovers all over the world was but a few clicks away and I’d also found my Facebook feet while using my personal account, as relatively unacquainted as we were. But Twitter was a whole different kettle of very slippery fish. For me, it was a site solely used to follow the tweets of your favourite celebs, people you admire and those who inspire you – I was a tweet reader; I’d never envisioned myself as a tweet writer!

When I first began tweeting I’d stare blankly at that white space – future home to my 140 characters if I could just think of something to type – and rack my brain about what to say. ‘Should I just talk about the book and my publishing experience?… No, I’m trying to create connections, not crush them with repetition.’  ‘Perhaps I should post links to my favourite songs?’ ‘Maybe I could quote some lines from my favourite books.’ ‘Or, what about trying to meet some tweeps with similar interests and goals? Yes, that makes sense. We can converse all things literary.’ I’ve since realised that attempting to stick to one approach is pointless and nonsensical because people aren’t like that and isn’t that what Twitter and Facebook are about, trying to connect with people?  My favourite tweeters are those who openly share what they believe in, what they find funny, what they like and dislike – basically, people who are themselves. That’s the approach I try to take. Instead of only tweeting all things publishing, I like to let others know about my musical interests, what books I read, what films I watch, what fashion I like, while, also, keeping them up-to-date with my own writing news. I try to be myself and I think that’s the best approach to adopt in everything you do. So, Twitter and I are no longer strangers, rather admiring acquaintances whose budding relationship grows stronger by the day! It’s a great place to meet fellow writers – and fellow music, fashion, and film fans. I’m not doing too badly on Facebook either. My ‘author’ page gives me the perfect opportunity to meet and engage with other students and book lovers, worldwide, and The L.A. Commandments’ page is brilliant for keeping those who are interested abreast of any developments – it’s win-win all round.

The reality is that without Twitter or Facebook I wouldn’t have been introduced to Book Republic and if I hadn’t been following their tweets I definitely wouldn’t have known about the writers’ evening which they held in The Irish Writers’ Centre, Dublin, on Thursday 19th May. That was when this adventure really began. I met with the editorial team that night, told them about my manuscripts, which I submitted to them the following week, and about two weeks later I signed a three-book deal. Social networking really was instrumental in transforming my writing wishes into reality.

I’m still getting to grips with my video diaries, but, hopefully, I’ll soon feel as comfortable with them as I do with my other social-networking sidekicks. I think I’ll always prefer to be behind the camera, but you never know. Soon I could be chronicling my life on film: Gillian going to the supermarket, Gillian going to have her braces removed, Gillian waiting on the bus… Imagine!  No, you can relax – that’ll never happen.

So, nine weeks ago I was a social networking student. Now, I’m still a social networking student but at least I have a few more friends. And I’d like to say a very BIG ‘Thank You’ to all my digital companions for their ‘follows’, ‘likes’ and well wishes – right back at you!

Talk soon,

Gillian.”

Thanks so much for stopping by, Gillian!

The L.A. Commandments is out now. You can find out more about it on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, The Book Depository and Book Republic’s website. You can also follow Gillian on Twitter here and find her on Facebook here.

Max Barry’s How To (Reluctantly) Make a Book Trailer (Brilliantly)

Max Barry has been one of my favorite authors for years. He’s an Australian whose work – high concept, Big Ideas novels with humor, brains and heart – I find endlessly fascinating, and have done ever since I happened upon a copy of Jennifer Government in a bookstore here in Cork. While I couldn’t possibly choose one favorite author or one favorite book (there’s just too many!), I can tell you that Barry’s are the only books I re-read all the time. He’s just released his fourth novel, Machine Man, and I am LOVING his book trailer for it.

(If you can’t see the video, click here.)

Unless you’ve been on Mars and/or ignoring my blog posts, you’ll know that despite my saying never countless times – and saying it in public, and in print – I’m self-publishing my novel in October. And Max Barry actually has a lot to do with it…

His novel Company is a very, very clever corporate satire that Barry wrote following a stint in the bowels of Hewlett-Packard. Imagine Initech (the company in Office Space) only with nobody – including the people who work there – having any idea what it is the company does. I am forever amused by the utter idiocy of corporate culture and so Company felt a bit like it was written just for me. I loved it, and I was also inspired by it. I thought I’d love to write a book like that – but about the dieting industry which, if you ask me, has been asking for the satire treatment for years. So I did – or tried to, anyway. It’s called Results Not Typical and it’s out next month. I don’t imagine it’s a speck on the shoe of the great Company (I know it isn’t, because none other than the New York Times called Company “hilarious”), but I think it’s better than a slap in the face. We’ll see what people think when it goes on sale.

[Imagine me experiencing night terrors over this.]

In the meantime I implore you to head to your book retailer of choice and add Syrup, Company, Jennifer Government and Machine Man to your cart. Just read this, the synopsis for Jennifer Government:

“The world is run by American corporations; there are no taxes; employees take the last names of the companies they work for; the Police and the NRA are publicly-traded security firms; the government can only investigate crimes it can bill for. Hack Nike is a Merchandising Officer who discovers an all-new way to sell sneakers. Buy Mitsui is a stockbroker with a death-wish. Billy NRA is finding out that life in a private army isn’t all snappy uniforms and code names. And Jennifer Government, a legendary agent with a barcode tattoo, is a consumer watchdog with a gun.”

I mean, come on. How could you not want to read that book?!

In related news, Max Barry does actually know I exist. Or at least he did once, for a few minutes. In April 2010 I attended an Inkwell workshop in Dublin, taught by bestselling author Monica McInerney. At one point she went around the room and asked us to name a favorite novel, and I said Company. We got chatting afterwards and Monica being the super lovely person she is, ended up buying and reading Mousetrapped and then e-mailing me to tell me what she thought of it. In her e-mail she also mentioned that since the workshop she’d been in Australia filming a book club show with none other than Max Barry (!), and she’d told him about me and how I’d named Company when my turn came. I spent a day floating around a fluffy cloud, thinking, Oh my god! Max Barry knows I exist. Me! Little Me! 

Click here to find out more about Results Not Typical.

Click here to visit Max Barry’s website. Do it!

HOW Self-Publishers Can Mind Their Manners

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(As this is an obscenely long blog post, you might prefer to download it in PDF for easier reading.)

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD

So…

Wow.

That was my reaction to the reaction to Why Self-Publishers Need to Start Minding Their Manners, the guest post I wrote for Taleist a couple of weeks back.

Clearly I’d struck a nerve with my reminder of how lucky we are, as writers, to have all these amazing opportunities to get our work out into the world (and get it out there without even leaving our desk), and why we should start appreciating this instead of moaning and groaning about CreateSpace putting “proof” on the back page of our, yes, proof copy, or Amazon shutting down tag-exchange discussion threads. Most importantly and pressingly, we should also stop self-publishing crap, because Amazon exists not for us self-published writers but for Amazon customers, and if Amazon customers start complaining about all the POD’d and KDP’d poop they have to wade through to get to a good read, we’re going to get kicked off or confined to our own little “self-published” area, and so we won’t be allowed to sell our books with the Big Boys anymore. And we’d deserve it. The analogy I used was that we’ve been invited to sit with the adults even though most of us chew with our mouth full and if we don’t learn some table manners – and learn them quick – we’ll get sent back to the kids table.

Apart from a couple of confused folk who thought I was literally speaking about manners, i.e. self-publishers saying please and thank you (!), there was overwhelming agreement with me on this issue. To which I say: Phew – I thought I was the only one! Thank you for restoring my faith in a sane self-publishing world. Going forward I’m choosing to believe that actually, most self-publishers are like me and you – still blinking in awe at this opportunity – and it just seems like we’re in the minority because we don’t spend as much time shouting, “Down with the Big Six! Death to the gatekeepers! Indie authors unite!” as the others do.

(Perhaps because we spend more time writing our books? Ooh, burn!)

Do we need to start shouting as loud as they do? I don’t think so. And anyway who has the time? I think we just need to prove that you can successfully self-publish in a professional way without a sickening (and inexplicable) sense of entitlement, a schedule that barely takes up a week and a voodoo doll in the shape of the CEO of Random House.

How can we do that?

Step 1: Try to Get Traditionally Published

I believe the number one reason why some self-publishers have a misplaced sense of entitlement is because they don’t know how hard it is to get published and/or they have no idea how the traditional publishing industry works.

Only a couple of years ago my options for selling a book of mine on Amazon without leaving my desk or having thousands of dollars to invest were few. There was only one, actually: get a book published. Just as it is in self-publishing, headlines of “overnight” success are what catch our attention – e.g. HOUSEWIFE STARTS BOOK MONDAY, SIGNS 6-FIGURE DEAL TUESDAY (“I was only writing for myself – it never even occurred to me to show it to anyone. But I accidentally left some pages in the photocopier at the library and a literary agent just happened to pick them up and read them, and offered to represent me on the strength of the first chapter and a half.”) – but the reality is very different. It’s a long, hard, lonely slog, frequently doused in stinging rejection.

And it takes ages.

I have a popular blog, I’ve been featured in the national press and on the radio, I have a loyal readership, my work is well received, I have contacts in the publishing world and if my second travel memoir does as well as the first one when it comes out next month (hint, hint) I’ll have sold somewhere between 15,000-20,000 books by the end of 2011. (I’ve already sold more than 7,000 copies of an obscure travel memoir without pricing it lower than $2.99 until very recently.) But I can’t even get an agent, let alone a book deal, because my work “isn’t mainstream enough” and doesn’t have a large enough potential market. It makes financial sense for me to self-publish, yes, but it doesn’t make financial sense for someone else to publish me – still, even now.

One comment left on the original Taleist post by a reader named Holly sums it up:

 “I think that writers who have not gone through at least some of the traditional submission process don’t understand how fabulous this whole new world of publishing is. Spend five years at conferences, belonging to writer’s groups, editing, writing a new book and querying agents. It puts this upload slam bam thank you ma’am world of e-publishing in a whole new happy light.”

(If this post isn’t long enough for, you can also read Why I’m Still Pursuing Traditional Publication.)

Step 2: Stop Self-Publishing Poop

The problem here is that the typical self-publisher appears to be holding one or more of the following beliefs:

  • “My book is the most amazing thing to ever get laid down on a virtual MS Word page, and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about …”
  • “My book is at least better than Dan Brown’s, and he not only got published but went on to sell millions …”
  • “I’m only charging 99c for it. Nobody’s expecting Hemingway for that price.”

You cannot judge the quality of your own book, and neither can anyone you’re friends with, you sleep with or you are related to. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they do – the fact that they know you means that feelings are involved, and so even if you insist on them giving you the brutal truth, they won’t be able to. It’s just human nature. Chances are that they are also not qualified to. Your friend Debbie who, like, reads all the time, saying that she “enjoyed” your book is not sufficient positive feedback or enough of a reason for you to self-publish your book.

You need professional positive feedback before you self-publish your book. The best way to do this is to try to get your book traditionally published first.

(If you’re a regular blog reader, skip this next bit. You know it all already.)

I only self-published after a year of submitting my book to agents and publishers here in Ireland. It went out to one agent and four or five publishing houses. The agent requested the full manuscript but ultimately said that while she really enjoyed reading the book and loved my voice and writing style, there just wasn’t a market in Ireland/UK for a book about an Irish girl going to work in Walt Disney World. To which I said: fair enough. I then sent it out to the publishers, three of which requested the full manuscript. Two of them them e-mailed me feedback; one called me to discuss it on the phone. Their verdict was the same: good book, no market. So I self-published it.

Then in May 2010 I finished my first novel, a corporate satire/chick-lit affair that I describe as The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers. I’d actually finished the first draft that January, but had spent a few months working with an editor to get it up to scratch before submission. It went, by way of a contact I had, to editors at five top publishing houses. All requested full manuscripts. Deja vu time: they enjoyed the book, thought I could clearly write and that I was funny (ooh, get me!) but the book “wasn’t mainstream enough” to fit in with the other titles in the genre already on the market. One editor invited me to a meeting where we discussed what I might write in the future, and I’m using her feedback in the novel I’m working on now. But following the success of Mousetrapped, I decided to self-publish the novel – Results Not Typical – too. This was not a decision I took lightly: the last rejection Results got was in January of this year but I’m only self-publishing it in October.

Of course the submission process takes an awfully long time and I know that in the States especially, getting anything more than a form rejection letter is an achievement in itself. Plan B is to enlist the services of a manuscript critique service. Make sure it’s a reputable one with plenty of satisfied customer testimonials, and that it doesn’t have any ties to a self or vanity publishing company as some of the less trustworthy ones do. They will be able to tell you how your book can be improved. If they suggest changing everything, it may be time to go back to the drawing (or key-) board.

Don’t self-publish until you have received positive feedback from a professional source. There are some exceptions to this rule of course, self-published non-fiction being the best example. Roz Morris self-published the fantastic Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How To Draft, Fix and Finish with Confidence because it was too short to be a traditionally published book, and I self-published Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing because surely all self-publishing guides should be self-published? (And I could say things like, “What is CreateSpace’s paper like? Well, you’re holding it right now!”)

I don’t like pointing out exceptions to the rule, because the very people I’m trying to reach with this Stop sign are the ones who will automatically think, “Well, my book is an exception to the rule too.” So if you’re thinking that now, beware!

As for the price tag equalling the quality… well, where to begin. I’m always trying to dissuade first-time self-publishers from charging more than $4.99 for their e-books because the most important thing at that stage is getting readers, and you won’t do that at $9.99. I tell them the price-tag on their book has no relation whatsoever to how much effort they put into writing it. If it did, Jonathan Franzen would be charging hundreds of dollars for his tomes and Snooki would have to price hers at -$24.99, i.e. pay us to read them. The same goes for setting your book at 99c and then writing just enough to “justify” that price. It’s moronic. You may make the initial sale and pocket your 35c or however much, but will you sell that person another book if your first one is a pile of poop? Not a chance. They might also leave a scathing review of your book, so it’ll cost you a few more readers of that book too.

Finally on this step, just one word on comparing yourself to Dan Brown whether it’s favorably or otherwise: don’t.

(If this post isn’t long enough for you, you can also read How Not To Self-Publish Crap: My 2 Golden Rules.)

Step 3: Try Professional on For Size

If you want to be a professional author, i.e. make your living from writing books, you need to act like one. While this is by far the easiest of the three steps I’ve outlined, it seems to be the one a lot of the self-publishers I’ve encountered struggle with the most.

 A professional author:

  • Takes their time. Novels especially need to be allowed to sit for a while, untouched, before you return to them to do a second draft from anything resembling an objective position. Don’t finish your book on Friday, print it out on Saturday, fix a few spelling mistakes on Sunday and publish on Monday. Not only is this guaranteed to lead to the self-publication of a bad book, but you haven’t allowed yourself anytime for pre-publication promotion, building anticipation, etc. It’s a lose-lose situation.
  • Has their work professional edited and proof-read. You cannot skip this step. No, you cannot skip this step. Really, you can’t. Under no circumstances. I don’t care. You CANNOT SKIP THIS STEP.
  • Doesn’t offer PDFs to book reviewers/bloggers for pre-publication review. I review books and I’ve never received anything other than paperbacks from traditional publishing houses. Some of these are ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) printed up especially for the occasion. If you’re only releasing your book in e-book form, at least offer an e-book that the reviewer can download to their Kindle, iPad, etc. But stop with the PDFs! Personally, I only ever give paperbacks to reviewers and I also include a one-page “information sheet” similar to the ones I get with books from publishing houses. I offer e-books as an option in case they’d prefer that, but I send them the paperback because I want them to see the quality of it, which sends subliminal signals that I’m not self-publishing poop. I know publishers have loads of marketing money and you don’t, but sending out 5 ARCs is better than sending out 50 PDFs. Also stop with review exchanges (i.e. I scratch your back, you review mine), ultimatums (“Please only post a review if you enjoy the book” and “I’ll need the review posted by Friday afternoon…) and never ever ever respond to a negative review online.
  • Protects their online reputation. If you are, let’s say, JK Rowling, then you know that everything you put online – blog posts, comments, tweets – is going to be read by millions of people, and those millions of people are going to know it was you. Knowing this, would you blog about how awful another author’s writing is, or respond to a bad review with swear words, or moan about how your boyfriend has cheated on you again? Um, no. Not unless you’d been taking Career Suicide pills. So don’t do it now, even if no one’s reading yet. Google does a thing called “cache”, you know. Look it up.
  • Isn’t angry. I encounter so many self-published authors who are downright contemptuous of traditional publishing for no other reason than they rejected their book. Why? Rejection isn’t personal. Publishing is a business and the editor who said no said no because he/she didn’t think that they’d earn more money from your book than they’d spend publishing it. Is that really reason enough to dig out a literary agent-shaped chip on your shoulder or throw darts at a picture of [insert phenomenally successful traditionally published author who you believe you write better than]? In a word, no. On a similar note: Amazon Anger. They’re also in business. That’s why they don’t sell your books for free.
  • Is nice. Well, maybe not all professional authors are nice, but you should be, especially as you’re trying to ascend the ladder. I encounter a lot of self-published authors and you would be amazed at how many fail at this basic rule of life. You would also be amazed at how many opportunities have come my way just because I was nice. And it’s here, right at the end, that I am for once literally talking about manners: always be pleasant and polite. If someone reviews or mentions your book, say thank you. I always e-mail reporters who write stories about me after the story is published, and I always offer them a copy of my book. I’m cultivating a contacts list and after a thank you and a free book, I’m sure they’ll be more likely to help me in the future. Always stress to reviewers that there’s no obligation. Don’t send spammy e-mails. Don’t send group e-mails to hundreds of people (because someone will hit “Reply All.” Always. Without fail.) Simply put, be nice.
(If this blog post isn’t long enough for you, read 3 Things I’m Not Doing Anymore.)

Oh, and stop using words like gatekeepers.

Nearly forgot about that.

Click here to read the Taleist blog. If you’ve published using Amazon KDP, you should be reading it already.

Click here to see a chronological list of all my self-printing posts.

Click here to find out more about my book Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing.

99c: The Results and the Kindle “Indie” Bookstore

Three weeks ago I reduced Mousetrapped‘s e-book price tag from $2.99 to 99c. Before I did, I updated the e-book with details of Backpacked and put the opening chapter as a preview at the end, as the whole point of this is to sell more copies of Backpacked when it comes out next month. This morning I reset all the prices to $2.99 (it’ll probably take a few hours to filter down so if you haven’t yet bought it for sofa cushion change, quick! There may still be time!) and looked at my sales data to see if reducing the price, even for such a short time, made any difference.

It did. For the first week, there was no discernible difference, but for the last two it’s clear the lower price has led to more sales.

Since January 2011, my highest rate of books sold per day (based on total sales for that month divided by the number of days in that calendar month) was 28.9. That was for January which is the busiest month of the year for e-books and not good for comparison, so let’s scratch that. The next highest rate of books sold per day was 27.4, which was in March. The lowest rate of books sold per day was 17.7, in June.

For the first two weeks of this month, with my price at 99c, I was selling 32.8 books per day.

This tells me two things:

If I reduced my price to 99c, I could join the Big Boys E-book Sellers Club, as 1,000 book sales a month every month seems to be the agreed threshold for a successful e-book author. And I could do it with just one non-fiction book. 

If I reduced my price to 99c, I’d have to get a real job. 1,000 e-books at 99c equals a royalty cheque worth around $346 and so I’d much rather sell half that at $2.99 (and so earn over $1,000 on the 70% rate), thanks very much.

It is nice to see things like this though:

(And before you ask, the reason the e-book has a different amount of reviews to the paperback is because to Amazon they’re two different editions thanks to my attempts at updating Mousetrapped back in February. I don’t want to talk about that headache ever again, so let’s not. And yes, I’ve already been in touch with them, etc. etc. Don’t even mention it.)

Also, last week a Twitter follower informed me of the Kindle “Indie” store, a subsection of the Kindle store dedicated to, from what I can gather, books published through Amazon KDP. (There’s an FAQ on KDP that supposedly tells you how books get on there, but it doesn’t give much away.) Because Mousetrapped is a highly rated bestseller in some of its categories, it won a place on the “Biographies and Memoirs” which when Biographies and Memoirs is cycled through to the main page, means I get front page billing. Nice, right?

Well, no. It’s not bad, but it’s not much of anything. The Kindle Indie store is near impossible to find from within the Amazon site, and who would be going there anyway to buy their books? (Well, apart from other “indie” authors who are at pains to support the movement, needless to say.) And it’s not really for “indie” authors or independently published books – it’s just, from what I can see, for books published through Amazon KDP.

So let’s be clear: this store exists as an advertisement, and it’s not the books it’s advertising. (Oh what’s the red arrow of mine pointing to? Oh, yes. The service owned by Amazon that makes these books…)

Over the weekend I made the final interior file for Results Not Typical, and ordered a proof of Backpacked just using the rough draft to see if a little image of a backpack works on the section headings. I’m really looking forward to getting them out there now. After yet another scathing “The bitch didn’t even work for Disney!” review on Amazon.com over the weekend, I cannot WAIT to release a book that doesn’t automatically make a small but vocal section of society completely and hatefully overreact for no good reason. It’s just a book, people!

Find out more about Backpacked here. Want to get an e-mail letting you know when these books are out? Join my mailing list at the top of the page. 

More On BACKPACKED…

At the moment I’m going through Backpacked and tweaking it as per my editor’s instructions, and since this is taking up all my time and not leaving any for “proper” blog posts, I thought I’d use this fine Friday to give you some more info about the book that I’m equal parts excited and terrified to be releasing into the open world soon.

This is the final cover design for the paperback edition done as per usual by Andrew Brown of DesignforWriters.com. The photo to the top of the front cover is one of two volcanos on the island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua, and the photo on the back is of me looking like I’m pondering something on the shores of Lago de Yojoa in Honduras (taken by my best friend and traveling partner, Sheelagh).

When people see these “presentation views” they always ask, “Is the book really that thick?” Well, the thickness of the book in that view is as standard – so no. But Backpacked is thicker than Mousetrapped because – yes, you’ve guessed it – it’s longer. Mousetrapped was about 66,000 words and 232 pages, whereas Backpacked is 73,000 words and about 275 pages.

Its official release date is September 5th. This is less to do with availability and more to do with the fact that it was on September 5th 2006 that I moved to Orlando which in a long chain of events is how this whole thing came to be, so since I’m releasing it in September anyway I thought that’d be a nice touch. I’m not sure exactly when it’ll be available – it could be a couple of days before, a couple of days after – but the first people to know when it is will be those who have signed up to my mailing list.

(Next it’ll be you, dear blog readers, so don’t worry if your inbox can’t take another mass mailing.)

Want a sneak peek at the table of contents? Well, you’re in luck:

  1. Prologue: Charbroiled in Choluteca
  2. Departure Day
  3. Into the Airlock
  4. The Corrections
  5. Us Versus the Volcano
  6. Zona Viva
  7. Down the Gringo Lane
  8. Skool Daze
  9. The Adventurers
  10. Oh Danny Boy
  11. Of Red Frogs and Blue Iguanas
  12. The Brewery
  13. The Longest Day
  14. Border Crossing
  15. What’s Up, Doc?
  16. The Island
  17. Jésus Saves
  18. Goodbyes in Boca
  19. Epilogue.

And finally if you visit BackpackedBook.com, you’ll see a slide show of photos on the main page that will give you a good idea of the misadventures Backpacked has in store.

Also if you were wondering, my prices are staying the same:$14.95 for the paperback and $2.99 for the e-book.