(or How I Did It, a “.doc”-umentary)
Latest update: Think back. Remember how I spent months in early- and mid-2019 researching this book which focuses on a peculiar new virus that affects only children, and the odd things that come of it? How I wrote the whole first draft during NaNoWriMo of 2019, just two months before COVID became a global thing putting us all under quarantine? Here’s the clincher: the day Entheóphage came out, I got sick and tested positive for COVID. Oh, irony of ironies! You can’t make this stuff up.
Thankfully, I’m now COVID negative, and feeling much better, thanks. But I was pretty darn sick for at least a week, and exhausted for several weeks after. So, my progress was not as great in the last six weeks as I had hoped. Still, I did manage to take a few forward steps.
Since mid-October, I’ve:
• Realized a week after my release date that I never hit the “enable distribution” function on Ingram Spark. Sheesh. I wondered why it showed no sales; I hoped, initially, that was the issue. But weeks have passed, and nothing has changed. No sales have come through IS at all. Perhaps this is because I could not set the discount to the full preferred 55% for resellers (if I did, I would have been paying them to buy my books; IS would not allow me to set my discount greater than the forty-something percent I settled on). It could also be because I did not tick the “allow returns” box. Here’s the thing—if you allow returns, that means stores like Barnes and Noble can buy 10 of your books, sell two of them, and return all the rest to IS or to you at your expense. Not only do you have to pay back the money you made from their purchase, you must also pay the shipping for them to send ‘em back. No thanks. You could also choose to make them “returnable,” but instead of opting to have the books shipped back, you stipulate that they get destroyed. You are still required to repay any money you’ve received from the sale of those books to B&N, but at least there is no shipping cost included. Still a “no” for me. I would rather sell the books myself and not see them printed for nothing. Besides, the thought of Phagey being destroyed kind of breaks my heart. Ya know?
• Worked a vendor table with veteran author Dawn Brotherton over the weekend of 11/5-6. I sold 16 books total and am not sure I’ll do many of these again, but here are my takeaways.
o a) Vending space costs money. Some events charge a lot. Other costs include gas and other travel expenses, set-up equipment (tables, book stands, decorations for the table, posters/easels, etc.), so this can add up. A writer with multiple books might make those costs back and still make a profit on top. For me, with only one book (so far), it was a wash. At least I made back my expenses, mostly.
o b) This kind of activity takes a lot of time and energy. Dawn does it a lot. I mean, a LOT. And she’s really good at it. She’s not shy or introverted and will reach out to people walking by without batting an eyelash. It took me a little longer to get comfortable with that, but she was a great teacher and role model.
o c) Venue matters. This weekend, we worked the table at a Santa’s Stocking Craft Bazaar. Vendors all around us were selling handmade crafts and holiday items. Most people who walked by were not looking for books. That’s not to say they didn’t stop, but it wasn’t at the top of their list. I suspect that, especially for Entheóphage which has a strong speculative element, a book fair, sci-fi con, or library convention might be a better fit as far as potential buyers.
I was glad for every sale that came my way, but the most exciting one was when three young ladies came by specifically looking for books to share with their book club. They were thrilled to find Entheóphage and bought four copies! I signed them all, of course, and Dawn hinted to them that I could probably be convinced to come speak to their group when the time came for them to discuss the story. How exciting!
• Took another Udemy class on the 4 Ps of Marketing, with Jay Sherer. Note: This presenter is excellent! I fully intend to look for more relevant classes taught by him.
• Practiced for my reading so that I’d be able to perform more smoothly when reading in front of an audience, then did two readings in two days. I sold 17 books that weekend and donated one to the library at The Muse Writing Center, where one of the readings was hosted.
• Researched book reviewers online; my own ARC readers sometimes had trouble uploading their reviews to Amazon, even if they *bought* a copy. Thus, I have far too few reviews on Amazon. (If I have bugged you to post a review or at least give Phagey a star rating, this is why.) There are a ton of reviewers online, most of which are free. A professional one, like Kirkus, can cost a lot of money. (Kirkus is $450; I’ve seen others for $100 on up.) By Googling “book reviewers,” I’ve found several sites that list reviewers in their resources, and have sent maybe 15 or 20 queries, but have gotten zero responses. If you do this, be sure to double check the reviewer’s site before you query; not all of them are still doing it, even though their site is still up and accessible. If they haven’t done any reviews in 6 months or more, keep looking.
• Took a workshop through the Hampton Roads Writers Group that focused on short story collections. I learned a thing or two that changed my plans for my own collection, and I’ll be putting those into action as I move forward on that project.
• I don’t remember if I mentioned before that I did not hire a proofreader at the end of the process and before I hired a formatter. Instead, I ran the entire document through a Grammarly check, and thought that should be sufficient. I was wrong and will never make that mistake again. So. I’ve made careful notes of all the errors people found (or at least the ones they mentioned), and yesterday I started making those changes. Today, with the help of my editor, I found a proofreader and sent her the file to go over one “last time.” (Hah! Is there ever a last time?) Once I get it back from her, I will reformat and upload the revised files to Amazon and Ingram Spark. I don’t think the changes are significant enough to warrant a new ISBN, so I’ll reuse the one from before. (According to more experienced indie writers, a new ISBN is only warranted when you change the manuscript in some significant way, such as changing a plot point or maybe take out or add a whole new chapter. None of my revisions were that extreme.) Note: I don’t *think* there is a fee to upload new files to Amazon; however, IngramSpark *does* charge. Some author groups offer discount coupons for these sorts of things. If you’re a member of a writers/authors group, ask about this.
• It’s worth noting that I will be formatting the revisions on Phagey myself, using Vellum. I’ll report on that once I’m finished and have the files uploaded, but so far, it has been easy; in the one problem I encountered, Vellum support staff was responsive and helpful. The program does not offer all the fine-tuning tools of a program like InDesign, but it does streamline the formatting process, which is a big help for me. Granted, a few elements from Duncan’s interior design—not the cover, but things that made the inside of the book a little prettier—may not make it into the next version; not sure on that yet. Whether or not they do, it seems important to me to learn this vital step in the self-publishing business. I don’t plan on stopping the writing game any time soon.
• I’ve reached out to a couple of local shops: a coffeeshop, an independent bookstore, and a “zero waste + refill” shop that has a local branch in my city. The coffeeshop was the only one to respond so far, and there is potential there for a reading after the first of the year (with the holidays almost upon us, I want to have plenty of time to promote) as well as maybe more of a long-term connection; we’ll see. The other two have not yet replied to my outreach, but I’m not one to give up easily. I’ll keep trying. These kinds of venues felt more in line with Phagey’s theme/message and are less stressful and overwhelming for me personally. Plus, people who come to these sorts of businesses will be more likely to fall into my target market.
• Renewed my registration with the State Corporation Commission.
• Put a copy of Phagey into a local neighborhood little library.
Still want/need to do:
• Start tracking (and back-tracking) all the steps I took along this journey so far so I can repeat the ones that worked well when I publish my second book (and the third, and the fourth). Thank goodness for this blog! I can come back and read all my own words!
• Using the list of steps I’m creating (above) and the start/complete dates from Phagey, set up a timeline with more relaxed deadlines for my next book. I’d prefer to have more time to complete each stage of the process, so that I’m not panicked and anxious as every deadline nears.
We’re coming up on the one-year mark—a whole year from when I started this journey. I’ll still have to maintain momentum on marketing for Phagey, but I also have other projects in the works. One, a dark medical sci-fi novelette at about 11,000 words, is now out with beta readers. Another novelette project, a dark fantasy/ecofiction novelette, is out for submission with a pro-level magazine. I’d planned to self-publish both in my own collection and forego the querying process, but the HRW class I took on short story collections (see above) convinced me it would be wiser to publish them first. Yesterday I returned to my Founder’s Seed trilogy and began a read-through on book one (again). I’ve already given notice to my editor and she’s waiting to read it. It’s great to be working on this beloved project again—I’ve been away from it too long!
Stay tuned and know I’m wishing all the best to you in your self-publishing journey!
**Please note that I am not a professional. Outside the writing part—for which I have taken numerous classes and workshops, and for which I’ve seen enormous improvement over the years, but which I am still learning—I mostly have no idea what I’m doing. I’m reading everything I can get my hands on, looking at how others who have been successful have done it, and learning this process as I go. I don’t want any reader of these posts to think I’m teaching THE way to self-publish; there are as many ways to do this as there are writers on the path. I am only sharing how I have done it. Your mileage may vary.
Moi, reading from Phagey at The Muse Writers Center; photo by The Hubenstein
Coffee with Book, courtesy of pexels.com