Showing posts with label self-publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label self-publishing. Show all posts

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Self Publishing Success Stories, by Dan Metcalf

Self-Publishing can seem like a long and lonely battle sometimes, so take heart with the stories of these authors who made it work for them:

Karen Inglis:
Karen is a children's author who has cracked the knack of self-publoshing books and marketing them to children. She breaks down exactly how she does it in this podcast.

Barry Eisler: 
Eisler is a thriller writer with the distinction of having served time in the CIA, which is probably what gave him the balls to walk away from a six-figure contract for his John Rain books. He now publishes his own ebooks and has retained the rights to his previous works.

David Hendrikson:
David managed to sell his books in bulk to schools and colleges throughout the US and has a brilliant story of how he did it. Check out the podcast here.

Amanda Hocking: 
The Texan author had 17 unpublished novels sitting on her hard drive when she decided to self-publish them through Amazon. Through self-promotion, social media, and already having the manuscripts to satisfy the emerging demand, Hocking managed to make $2.5million in the first two years of going it alone. She is now signed to a traditional publisher, a move which she welcomes.

EL James:

Whatever you think of them and the ‘New Adult’ publishing craze that followed it, The Fifty Shades of Grey book have been phenomenally successful. First published online, the books spread like wildfire, and had soon made the former TV producer a cool $95million.

Nick Spalding:

Spalding turned his humourous prose into gold by selling his short funny books through Amazon. Titles such as Life with No Breaks and Life on a High, which were written in one sitting, sold well and now Spalding has a six figure book deal.

Edgar Allen Poe:

I’m not sure if you’d call Poe successful (dying young and penniless), but he made his mark on the literary landscape, created the detective novel and inspired generations. He self-published Tamerlane and Other Poems in 1827. 

William King:

William King was already a successful writer, having contributed to the Games Workshop Warhammer books, and used his small fanbase to launch his original series as ebooks. His brilliant blog includes a breakdown of exactly how much he made from self-publishing in a year, and lots of tips on how to get your book out to the masses. These make for great case studies for writers thinking of going it alone.


Dan Metcalf is a writer of children's books from Devon. He recently self-published Paw Prints in the Somme, about a cat in the trenches of the First World War. Find it here.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Being Your Own Small Business, by Dan Metcalf

As the end of the tax year looms closer, and my stack of receipts from Costa Coffee and Staples mount up, I'm reminded that I am not just a person. Not just a writer, even, but a business.

Scary word, no? I never took Business Studies at school, never quite grasped the idea of self employment and creating stuff for profit, so when I started publishing books I was shocked to find this whole new world of bookkeeping, promotion, discipline and money. I was part of the Young Enterprise scheme at school (somehow) where myself and a group of friends formed a company to produce hand-painted rocks, but that hardly compares to the reality of setting up on your own.

I was aided in this venture into the unknown when I was made redundant by my employer, a local council. Once I had declared myself unemployed, I pushed hard to get on to a scheme called the New Enterprise Allowance. This gave a small payment each week to attempt to live on (impossible, but I did have redundancy money and a wife in employment as well) but the most important thing was access to business training and mentors. This meant I was able to go to workshops on writing business plans, social media management, self assessment taxes, grant applications, marketing, starting out in business and much more. The access to a mentor was brilliant. Mine was an experience businessman and knew every trick in the book; funding, selling, self-promotion and the art of the deal (sorry to drop a Trump-ism in there...).

If you need support setting up or just general help with your career as a self-employed writer, don't suffer in silence. There are loads of free advice sessions available to you:

  • Ask your local council. When I first new that redundancy was on the cards, I asked my local council and got a meeting with a Business Development Officer, who went through my options. Most councils will have some similar service as it is in the government's interest to promote and help new businesses – it's them you'll pay your taxes to when you're a millionaire, after all.
  • Check your local library. Many library authorities have a Business and Enterprise Hub now, which can hold meet-ups for free advice. It's worth having a look to see if your library authority subscribes to an online resource which is butchly named COBRA (COmplete Business Reference Advisor). Here they have fact sheets on every sort of career and business you can imagine, listing the research, qualifications and experience that would be helpful to start up. Some libraries can provide market research too from MintUK which can show lists of similar businesses and their turnovers, taken from the Companies House database. (Oh, and they have books too)
  • Every area should have a local business advice organisation. These are the people who monitor the New Enterprise Allowance and can support start-ups. Ask your local Job Centre for advice on how to contact them.
  • The government website here in the UK is invaluable. has loads of articles on how to set yourself up in business, all written in non-scary plain English. There is lots on there, so try as a starting point.
  • You may need funding; start up loans are available at reasonable rates but you'll need to get your business plan approved first. Check for details.
  • Lastly, ask friends for advice – even if they are a plumber or builder, they'll have a good grasp on self-employment and they will tell you it is not that scary. If you don't know anyone, join groups on Linked In and find meet-ups in your area. Don't be afraid to ask – every business person had to start out sometime.
Feel free to add your own authoritative business support links in the comments if you have any. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some bookkeeping to do...

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Limos Circle The Block, by Susan Price and Andrew Price

                Hi again!

     There's such an atmosphere here at the launch for Three Billy Goats Gruff!
     The limos are circling the blog and we'll soon be welcoming our first star!

     And wait!
     A limo is pulling up!

          I can't see who's getting out yet....
          It's sure to be someone exciting!
          It's - it's - 

                                         Ooh, I'm thrilled!

It's the Bridge!

I was another bridge, further down river, but the part was written out.
That's how it is in this business.  
I was the original bridge too far and one of the bridges of Toko-Ri.
You don't see me. I was behind a building.

Who is this arriving?

Can it be - ooh, can it be Great Big?
      Oh, girls, he's so dreamy. For a goat.

Art work: Andrew Price

Goodbye! - Susan Price and Andrew Price

It's been wonderful having you all join me here, folks - but there's been so much happening, it's been hard to keep up.
        Let's join our roaming camera for a round-up...

Inside the janitor's broom cupboard...

 At The Front Entrance...

Inside, At The Party...

Speeches - The Troll Thanks Everyone...

The Goats' 45 minute speech on why everyone should vote Green...

Back Outside, At The Door

Back Inside, On The Dance-Floor...

As the music ends...

That's all, folks!

           Goodbye!      Bye-bye, darlings!   Goodbye!    Bye-eeee!

Goodbye Everyone!

 Thank You For Joining Us! 


(Conforms to American spelling.)

The Runaway Chapatti

Tinku Tries To Help

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Something out of Nothing

by Lynne Benton

My agent once said something that has always stuck in my mind.  She had just edited, and improved, a story of mine, and I said, “I wish I could get it right first time!” 
“Believe me,” she said, “hardly anyone gets it right first time.  But editors have something to work from, whereas you make something out of nothing!”
Of course, she was right.  Why had I never realised it before?  Writers can, and do, create stories from nothing but some nebulous ideas in our heads.  And this is really special.

I've been thinking about it again over the last few weeks, when I have been busy getting my next Middle-Grade book ready for publishing via Amazon’s CreateSpace.  This is my second venture into self-publishing – my first, “Jimmy’s War”, came out last year and has had a steady trickle of people buying the POD book or downloading the ebook.  Not enough to make me a fortune, but at least it’s out there, and has had some nice reviews on Amazon and Blogger, not all of them from people I know!  However, it had already been edited by my then agent (who has now given up the agency) who then suggested I should self-publish when in spite of her enthusiasm for it she couldn’t persuade a mainstream publisher to take it on.

So now it was time for my next book, “The Glass-Spinner”.  And this time I didn’t have anyone to check it through and tell me if it was publishable.  (This is where I miss my lovely agent!  I still find it incredibly difficult to tell whether my work is any good or not.)  After going over and over the manuscript until I thought it was ready to go, I decided to get it edited, which was invaluable.  (Amazing how many things three new pairs of eyes found that could be improved!)
Then, of course, I needed to go through it all again, taking into account the suggestions for improvement.
Now to put it into the CreateSpace template.
Having done it once, I thought it would be easy this time round.  Not quite true.  Some things I remembered, but others… For example, I had to tick the box to show which category my book should fit into, and nowhere could I find “Children’s fiction”.  It was only after I’d read the list three times that I discovered that here it was described as “Juvenile Fiction”.  Should have known, I guess.

Then I went through the proof-reading process.  And again.  And again.  In each case, when I thought it was ready I had to download it on to the template as a pdf, whereas the ms was in Word, so it had to be converted before downloading.  And you can’t edit a pdf file, so if you discover any misprints, poor spacing, or bits you could improve, you have to go back to the original word document, edit that, then convert that version into a pdf and download it again.  This took several forays before I got it right.  By now I was getting a bit obsessive, but I was determined to get everything as I wanted it before I pressed PUBLISH.  I’ve heard enough horror stories from fellow-writers about professional proof readers correcting some mistakes and then putting more in!  At least with self-publishing it was entirely down to me – no pressure, then!

I also had to decide on the size I wanted the book to be, the size and style of the font, and the price I needed to charge (ie not too much or nobody will buy it, but not so little that you make no profit at all) etc etc,  There’s quite a lot to it.  Not to mention getting the right cover!  I am extremely lucky to have a son who is a professional illustrator and who has designed me another great cover.  (I do pay him for it, so I can ask him again…!) 

But before I could ask him to finish the cover, I had to decide what needed to go in the blurb.  And this was really difficult.  I had to put enough to intrigue the potential reader and make him/her want to read the book, without giving away essential plot twists.
However, after many changes of mind, I eventually came up with a blurb I thought would work – only to find I’d forgotten to change the blurb that goes on the Amazon website to sell the book in the first place.
Now at long last I've done it all, and have sent off for my proof copy.  I'll have to check that before ordering my own set of copies, and while I'm waiting for the proof I'll have to work on the ebook, so both versions are available at the same time.

But I suspect it won't be until I hold the actual book in my hand that I will realise all over again that writers really do make something out of nothing.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Being a Real Person Sheena Wilkinson

I’ve just become Ireland’s first Patron of Reading. Trinity Comprehensive School, Ballymun, is a north Dublin school in an area which was, in the past, a byword for deprivation. In recent years, Ballymun has been the subject of a huge regeneration programme, and it’s a place where I have been welcomed since I did my very first school visit there four years ago.

This was drawn by the principal, Ms Fran Neary.

where it all started 
In 2011, my first novel, Taking Flight, had just come out, and I’d only done a few local visits in Belfast schools. I was a fulltime teacher so I wasn’t nervous about talking to teenagers, but when the invitation from Trinity Comprehensive came in, it felt different. It was the first time I realised that readers outside Northern Ireland would connect with my characters. Joe Kelly, Trinity’s wonderful librarian, assured me that his pupils had liked Taking Flight ‘because it seemed so real to them.’

That was the first of many visits to the school. I’ve done lots of talks and workshops in the library which is, like all good school libraries, central to the school, promoting literacy in its widest sense. I think I kept being invited back because I’m unpretentious and realistic. Earlier this year Joe and I decided to formalise the relationship by designating me Trinity’s Patron of Reading. I’m sure readers of this blog are familiar with the PoR scheme. It’s an excellent way for schools to connect with writers, and for writers to connect with readers. When I attended a ceremony in Trinity last month to mark becoming its Patron, one of the things I promised to do was to use my December ABBA post to celebrate being Ireland’s first PoR.
me on a school visit -- unglamorous but real 

In the last week, however, my thoughts have also been exercised by the furore over ghost-writing, transparency, and celebrity culture. There’s been a lot of nonsense in the media, as well as a lot of good common sense – not least here on ABBA: thank you, Keren David.

How does this link with the PoR scheme, and with school visits in general? I think the most important thing about authors visiting schools is that they make things real for the pupils. As a child, I had little concept of my favourite writers as actual people. The books just sort of appeared in the library, as if by magic, though I gleaned every little snippet of biographical information I could from the dust flap. When I wrote to Antonia Forest and she wrote back it felt like the most exciting thing that had ever happened anyone – to have a letter written by the same hand that had written the Marlow novels. (And I should point out that I was 23 and a PhD student at the time.)

the book that drove me mad
What I always emphasise on school visits is that writing is a process, and often a fairly torturous one. I don’t pretend to write quickly and easily. I show the pupils the whole journey of a novel, from notebooks with rough planning, through printed-out and much scribbled over drafts, to the final book. I’m not precious – I tell them about the times when it’s been hard; I show them a six-page critique of an early draft of Taking Flight, and point out that there is a short paragraph of ‘Positives’ followed by five and half pages of ‘Issues to Consider’. I tell them about going to an editorial meeting to discuss Still Falling, and how my editors spent five minutes telling me what they liked about the novel and 55 minutes telling me what wasn’t working.

I’m not trying to put kids off. I always emphasise that making things up is magical, and seeing your ideas develop into actual stories that people read is the best thing in the world. But I do let them see that it involves a lot of hard work.

Nowadays I think that’s even more important. I once shared a platform with two children who had self-published. It was a ridiculous, uncomfortable event: there I was talking about hard work and rejection and editing and how hard it is to get published, and there were these two little pre-teen moppets with their shiny books. The primary school audience, who won’t have known the difference between self-publishing and commercial publishing, probably thought I was some kind of slow learner. But I least I told them the truth.

Honesty. I think we need more of it. I’m so proud to be Ireland’s first Patron of Reading, and I intend to keep on being honest about writing as a magical, but difficult craft.
Trinity Comprehensive School, Ballymun.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Why I don't want to self-publish again

(Kate Wilson of the wonderful Nosy Crow asked me to write a guest post for her on my experiences of self-publishing as a published author. For your info, she didn't know what those experiences were, so there was no direction or expectation. I have re-posted it here, with permission. Note that this is personal experience, not advice.)

Many writers, previously published or not, talk excitedly about why they enjoy self-publishing. Let me tell you why I don’t.

I’ve self-published (only as ebooks) three of my previously published YA novels and three adult non-fiction titles which hadn’t been published before. From these books I make a welcome income of around £250 a month – a figure that is remarkably constant. So, why have I not enjoyed it and why won’t I do it again?

It’s damned hard to sell fiction! (Over 90% of that £250 is from the non-fiction titles.) Publishers know this. They also know that high sales are not always about “quality”, which is precisely why very good novels can be rejected over and over. Non-fiction is easier because it’s easy to find your readers and for them to find your book. Take my book about writing a synopsis, for example; anyone looking for a book on writing a synopsis will Google “books on writing a synopsis” and, hey presto, Write a Great Synopsis appears. But if someone wants a novel, the chances of finding mine out of the available eleventy million are slim. This despite the fact that they had fab reviews and a few awards from their former lives.

But some novels do sell well. So why don’t mine? Because I do absolutely nothing to sell them. Why not? Well, this is the point. Several points.

First, time. I am too busy with other writing and public-speaking but, even if I weren’t, the necessary marketing takes far too long (for me) and goes on for too long after publication: the very time when I want to be writing another one. This is precisely why publishers tend only to work on publicity for a short while after publication: they have other books to work on. We may moan but it has to be like that – unless a book does phenomenally well at first, you have to keep working at selling it.

Second, I dislike the stuff I’d have to do to sell more books. Now, this is where you start leaping up and down saying, “But published authors have to do that, too!” Yes, and I do, but it’s different. When a publisher has invested money because they believe in your book, you obviously want to help them sell it. But when the only person who has actually committed any money is you, the selling part feels different. It’s a case of “I love my book so much that I published it – now you need to believe in me enough to buy it.” I can’t do it. Maybe I don’t believe in myself enough. Fine. I think books need more than the author believing in them. The author might be right and the book be fabulous, but I tend to be distrustful of strangers telling me they are wonderful so why should I expect others to believe me if I say I am? And I don’t want to spend time on forums just to sell more books.

Third, I love being part of a team. Yes, I’ve had my share of frustrating experiences in the course of 100 or so published books, but I enjoy the teamwork – even though I’m an introvert who loves working alone in a shed; I love the fact that other people put money and time and passion into selling my book. It gives me confidence and support. They won’t make money if they don’t sell my book and I still like and trust that model.

And I especially love that once I’ve written it and done my bit for the publicity machine and done the best I can for my book, I can let it go and write another.

See, I’m a writer, not a publisher. I may love control – the usual reason given for self-publishing – but I mostly want control over my words, not the rest. (That control, by the way, is never lost to a good editor, and I’ve been lucky with genius editors.) So, yes, I am pleased with the money I’ve earned from self-publishing and I love what I’ve learnt about the whole process, but now I’m going back to where I am happy to do battle for real control: my keyboard.

It’s all I want to do.

Nicola Morgan has written about 100 books, with half a dozen "traditional" publishers of various sizes from tiny to huge. She is a former chair of the Society of Authors in Scotland and advises hard-working writers on becoming and staying published, and on the marketing/publicity/events/behaviour that goes along with that.

She has also just created BRAIN STICKS, an original and huuuuuuge set of teaching resources about the brain and mental health.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Trying to democratise publishing - David Thorpe

I used to look down on self-publishing, as most writers did. I did kind of self-publish a book in the 1980s, in that I was part of a workers' co-op which published the book, and, while it was a valuable experience, had no wish to repeat it because of the hard work involved -  and that was before the Internet!

As we all know, since then publishing has been transformed by the spread of print-on-demand and the ebook revolution, social media and the plethora of channels and platforms through which creative content can now be delivered.

It seems that there is now a distinction between self-publishing and procuring author services, a distinction that is common in the USA. One can procure the services of print-on-demand or e-book conversion, and then one's book can be published by a publisher.

The difference from traditional publishing is that the publisher still pays the author income derived from their sale of the books, but the author does not receive an advance at the start. Crucially, the author keeps far more rights.

If I was to be cynical I would say that it doesn't matter what you call it, it's self-publishing by proxy, but on the other hand anecdotal evidence suggests that most young readers don't really notice whether a book has been published by a well-known publisher or one they have hardly heard of, so in practice it makes far less difference than you would think.

I tested this out last year when a friend who runs a publishing company of this type offered to publish an updated e-version of my slim volume Doc Chaos: The Chernobyl Effect. They gave the book a page on their website, a Facebook page and some social marketing, and every now and again I get some money from sales, so it's almost like having a 'proper' publisher. Plus I keep all the rights.

It seemed ok. Once I had accepted this idea then there still remained in my mind the thorny issue of marketing. My friend -  Chris - and I talked over this issue and came up with the idea of starting a co-op that would include anybody who wanted to join it and offers services in the area of publishing. Especially the all-important function of profile raising.

We wanted particularly to attract trade members who would offer their services at a discount to members, who would also include authors. Members could be: any publishers, book and book cover designers, artists, illustrators, marketeers, publicists, social media marketing wizards, readers, proofreaders, editors, printers and any others who provide services that enable a publishing business to function effectively.

We identified that there is strength in numbers, so the more trade service providers and authors band together, then the higher the collective profile they would achieve.

We said that the co-op should be not-for-profit so that people could join it without the fear of being ripped off.

We managed to get some free advice from the local co-op advisory service who suggested the legal model we've adopted.

We persuaded a few people to join the start-up, including the most successful independent Welsh literary magazine, Cambria magazine, the University of Wales at Trinity St David's, and social media publishers Americymru and Denis Campbell's UK Independent channels.

Although both companies are based in Wales, as is the head office (at the University of Wales, Trinity St David's), membership of the Co-op is open to anyone, anywhere. The whole point of the publishing revolution is that it transcends geographical boundaries.

 All of this has taken the last year.

Now we are throwing the doors open to anybody else who wants to join. It's a bit of an experiment, none of us have any idea how successful it will be, but we do know that it's very important to network. So we're busy trying to form as many partnerships as we can.

I should add, I don't make any money out of this. I just want to see publishing adapt and thrive and independent opportunities for authors and artists to continue to exist.

Oh yes, it's called Cambria Publishing Co-op.

Monday, 6 August 2012

How I made my first e-book

Are you e-experienced? Until a week ago I wasn't. But, in the last three weeks I have made and published my first e-book.

It feels a bit like giving birth to, I don't know, some kind of strange mutant mongrel beast, some hybrid child whose destiny is unknown, who may grow up to mock me, betray me, give me glory (but only by leave of the wayward capriciousness of viral flukeiness) or, even worse, disappear completely without trace in the infinitely absorptive sponginess that is the e-thernet.

Anyway, for what it's worth, I thought I would share my experience. Some of you may be teetering on the edge of this mysterious pool of brave new publishing opportunities, debating whether to take the plunge. I expect many of you already are e-experienced swimmers with Olympian credits. If so, you can poke fun at my ineptitude.

I kindled thoughts of these waters for a long while. Some of my books had been converted into ebooks by my publishers, but they were like the offspring of alcohol-obscured one night stands; unknown and unclaimed. The publishers didn't even tell me they had been born, I only found out by accident, and I don't have a clue about sales figures.

In a tentative way, I had previously offered PDF downloads of one or two stories or chapters for sale through my websites, but they had languished as forlorn and undownloaded as an unfertilised dandelion in a meadow of opium poppies.

I own no e-reader; nothing I cannot read in a bath without fear. Every work of fact or fiction in my library looks dissimilar from every other, and I like it like that.

What persuaded me to dip my sceptical toe in these waters was partly the persistent encouragement of a local publisher, Cambria Books, whose manager, Chris Jones, is passionate about their new business model.

OK, I said. But I wasn't sure what content to offer first. Then, an old colleague and the series editor of some of my non-fiction, suggested that I republish an old novella of mine. (Thank you, Frank.) This seemed a perfect way of testing out the market, since I knew it would have an existing audience, and that there'd be a new one to which I wanted to introduce it. All I would have to do was find those readers. (The expected readership, by the way, is YA, most likely readers interested in humour, politics, science fiction, and comics/graphic novels.)

I still am sceptical, so I'm going to be watching sales with interest.

The whole process of preparing the content from start to finish took two weeks, which itself is very attractive: contrast this with the swimming-through-jelly tempo of traditional publishing - two years start to finish?

Here are the stages it went through:
One of the illustrations, by Rian Hughes
  1. Scanning in the original book using OCR (optical character recognition) software. I used ABBYY. The software is remarkably accurate but does need a bit of an eagle eye for spotting 1s that should be Is and Os that should be 0s.
  2. Scanning in the 12 illustrations, which different comics artists from Dave McKean to Simon Bisley had contributed to the original edition. This was the fun bit.
  3. Designing the cover, which included colourising in Photoshop a black-and-white illustration that had been on the inside. That was fun too.
  4. Adding a short story on the same theme to give extra value, that had been published elsewhere in another collection but not widely seen.
  5. Writing a new afterword. This involved a nostalgic and enjoyable expedition into overgrown verges along the side of my personal memory lane. I took my butterfly net for effect (a butterfly effect) to catch those extra special chaotic moments.
  6. Completing the whole thing in Word. Word, the software, is not my friend, although Word, the archetypal personification of language, is. But sometimes you have to dance with the Devil, since the e-book conversion process requires a Word file. How did Microsoft sew that one up?
  7. Making sure all the prelims were hunky-dory and accurate. That included researching and writing up short biographies of all the artists, updating them from the previous edition, and making sure I thanked everyone.
  8. Then I thought I ought to add some adverts for some of my other books at the back that readers might be interested in. Why not? 70-90 years ago, most books had adverts in the back - and the front, sometimes, just like magazines. Perhaps this is the way to go to finance this new form of publishing? Interactive ads for acne-banishing face creams in the back of YA novels, anyone?
  9. Then I got carried away and added a real ad from the 1940s for a chemistry set for boys that included real uranium! Most people don't believe that I didn't make this up.
I sent the file to the publisher, who checked it over, made more corrections, added the ISBN and converted it into the .mobi format, which Amazon likes.

I chose to go with Cambria Books, but there are many other companies offering similar deals. It may be worth shopping around, but I didn't bother. Some of them offer print-on-demand as another option. This may be worth considering as well. If you want to get reviews you should have a few print copies to send to reviewers. Also, if you don't think you will sell more than 1000 print copies, print-on-demand is generally cheaper than a conventional print run. Over this number, you should go down the conventional printing route.

The publisher then sent the e-book file back to me to check. I was horrified. I had designed it in Gill Sans font, which I love, and it came back in a frankly disgusting, evil, serifed font. All my lovely formatting was strewn about like weatherboard in a hurricane, and my unique work was reduced to the same common denominator as everything else that you see on a Kindle.

I had to resign myself to the fact that there is little you can do about this, except to control where some page breaks go. It's a bit like designing for the web, except you have even less control. That's the nature of this homogenising beast.

Then, holding a stiff drink, I muttered: “Go!" The publisher uploaded the file to Amazon and it was live - for sale - in less than 24 hours! Wow.

However, I didn't just want to sell it through Amazon and merely contribute to their increasing domination of the market. I wanted people to be able to read it on something other than a Kindle.

So the nice publisher also gave me a version in the .epub format, which works with other e-readers.

Cambria Books also made a Facebook page and a webpage on their company website for the title, to promote it alongside all of their other titles. For all of this Cambria charged £200, which includes £50 for the ISBN. The book is for sale at £1.84. So, I need to sell, bearing in mind the cut that Amazon takes, just 125 copies to get my money back.

I could also have chosen to do all of this myself, but I'm lazy, and I figured that it's worth it, especially since this was my first time.

But I wasn't finished yet.

I then chose to make the files available on my own website. I already sell books on my website through PayPal. Selling e-books is slightly different, because there isn't a physical product to ship, and you need to create a place where buyers can download the file, after PayPal has checked that they have paid for it successfully.

This place has to be completely inaccessible to search engines, otherwise people will just grab the files for nothing.

Here's what I did:
  • I made the webpages holding the downloads, one for each format, which just need to be very simple, and put them together with the files in a folder on the server. At the top of the web pages is this text: <meta name="robots" content="noindex" />.
  • Just to be safe, I also uploaded a text file to the folder named robots.txt, which simply contains the following:
    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /
  • Both of these little tricks should prevent search engines from indexing and making public the content of this folder.
  • The next thing to do is to get an account with PayPal, if you haven't already got one, and, once logged in, go to the Buy Now Button-making page (if you can't find it just type those words into the search function), which allows you to create a button for a single item purchase.
  • All you need to do here, is to put in the name of the e-book, a product code that you make up, and its price. There is, of course, no shipping cost. You probably want to check the button that says “Track profit and loss".
  • Then you come to Step 3, subtitled “customise checkout pages". This is the important bit. Answer the questions the following way:
  1. “Do you want to let your customer change order quantities?" No, because they won't order one more than one e-book.
  2. "Can your customer at special instructions in a message to you?" No, there's no need for that.
  3. "Do you need your customer's shipping address?" No, because messages will go to their PayPal e-mail address.
  4. Check the box saying “take customer to a specific page after checkout cancellation" and type or paste in the full website address for your shop page.
  5. Check the box saying “Take customer to a specific page after successful checkout". Here is the really, really important bit: type or paste in the full website address for the page they go to download your e-book. Make sure this is right! This is the complete address for the page that you made earlier and uploaded, the one at the otherwise secret place.
  • All you have to do now is click “create button" (don't worry, you can go back and change things if you made a mistake, as I did), and, when happy, copy the code and paste it on your page exactly where you want the button to be.
  • Save your page and upload it to your website.
That's it!

The things writers have to do these days.

But I still hadn't quite finished. I had to write a news item publicising the e-book for the front page of my website, in which I included a link not just to the page where people can buy my books, but to the exact part on the page where they can buy that e-book, to make it super-easy for them.

On that page, I include all the options for them to make the purchase: a link to the Amazon page, because most people will be comfortable doing that; and the two buttons for both formats that I made using PayPal.

You can see the news item on the front page of my website here.

I then wrote a post on my blog promoting the book, which you can read here.

Of course, I also had to promote it on Facebook, on both my own page and the page made for the book itself, and on my Twitter account.

And, I launched the e-book at what was billed as the UK's first festival for e-books, in Kidwelly last weekend. My publisher had a stand there.

Unfortunately, this event was poorly promoted and badly attended (having it in a more accessible place would have helped), but there were many excellent speakers, not to mention, for children, our own Anne Rooney, plus Simon Rees and Mary Hooper, Clive Pearce and Nicholas Allan.

Several speakers told their own experiences of publishing e-books. Notable for me was Polly Courtney, who confessed her lamentable experiences with HarperCollins that made her realise that self-publishing was a far better route than being with one of the big five, and Dougie Brimson, who has sold over one million self-published e-books, because he knows his audience really well.

Listening to the speakers gave me confidence that it really is okay to do it yourself and publish ebooks. It doesn't mean you have to give up working with mainstream publishers. You can do both. But given that we all nowadays have to spend at least 25% of our time marketing ourselves and our books, in practice it is not that much more work.

As one of the speakers said, most readers don't care who the publisher is, as long as the book is good.

Did I leave anything out? Is there a better way of doing this? Perhaps some of you will share your experience. After all, I'm just a beginner, but at least I'm no longer an e-book virgin.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Do you do too much promotion? - by Nicola Morgan

Recently, on my own blog, I was talking about "how much promotion is too much?" (There's no need to go and read that post, and it's not about the same thing as this one, but I'll put the link at the end in case you want to see the guidelines I was suggesting, as well as the useful comments.)

The question had arisen because, on Twitter, some writers have been bugging the pants off people by over-promoting. In fact, I've decided that the next in my series of writers' guides from Crabbit Publishing is going to be How to Promote Your Book Without Bugging the Pants Off People.

I think there are three main reasons why writers sometimes do too much jumping up and down about their books - bearing in mind that "too much" is going to be different depending on each beholder.
  1. Our publishers don't really do it for us. Most of us are expected to do vastly more than we used to have to; publishers' budgets have been slashed; and the window during which our publisher may do some activity has shrunk. Many of us (myself included) don't actually mind, and many of our publishers are delighted to let us do it.
  2. We can. Suddenly (and it really has been quite sudden) we have all the possible platforms of Facebook, Twitter, our own blogs, other people's blogs, etc, and they are free and easy. So it's easy to be a bit too free and easy with the opportunities. It's also easy for us to make connections with journalists and therefore easier for us to generate publicity opportunities in traditional media.
  3. Sheer blind panic at the thought that our much-loved, long slaved-over book might sink without trace, and a burning passion that people should get to read it.
In the blog post I referred to, I was answering the "how much is too much?" question from the viewpoint of "how much will bug the pants off people?" But there's another way to look at the question: how much is more than is good for us? How much will actually be self-defeating because we won't have time to write?

I've read numerous pieces by highly successful self-publishers (including this piece by Joe Konrath and also a recent interview in the Guardian with Amanda Hocking) in which the value of tweeting etc in actually selling copies is regarded as over-rated. Joe Konrath has analysed sales movements in his ebooks (yes, we all get RSI from checking our figures!) and believes that it's not the tweeting or FBing or blogging or being interviewed anywhere that boosts his sales. He's not saying don't use Twitter or even that it's not useful - he's saying, and I agree, that it doesn't directly hugely affect sales, or not as much as we might think it would. What both writers do is write, and write lots. Amanda Hocking's sales rocketed because she put lots of books out there in quick succession, not because she found thousands of followers on Twitter.

So, is one conclusion that a better way of promoting ourselves is to promote ourselves less and write more?

I rather think it may be. I think that spending two hours a day on promotion (in whatever form) will not be four times as effective as spending half an hour a day on that, and an extra hour and a half writing something. In fact, I'm rather sure that spending more time writing and less time promoting would be a very good idea for many of us - myself definitely included - for lots of reasons.

What do you think? Do we all do too much promotion, even those of us trying to keep it at the non-bugging end of the scale? Do we do too much for our own good? How do you know when you've done enough? What do you dislike about it? Or possibly like about it? Do you like the idea of doing less and writing more?

I'd love to know!

(Here is the link to the post I mentioned.)

Ahem. If by any chance you'd like help with how to use Twitter like a sensible and unbugging person, you might be interested in Tweet Right - the Sensible Person's Guide to Twitter, currently at a crazy cheap price on Amazon. I'm cringing at that blatant plug and the irony of its appearance in this post. But what the hell: in for a cringe, in for a crossing the line - my newest ebook for writers is Write a Great Synopsis - An Expert Guide. 

*slinks off to do some writing*

Thursday, 15 December 2011

An obvious (and slightly inconvenient) truth - Nicola Morgan

You know that thing when you realise something and then you realise it was incredibly obvious and you feel embarrassed for not having realised it before? Well, that. But, just in case there's anyone else out there who hadn't thought about this, I will share it with you. Please tell me I am not alone in my foolishness.

Non-fiction is much easier to sell than fiction. And now I realise why.

First, let me tell you how I realised that this was even the case. In August I published my book on Twitter - Tweet Right - The Sensible Person's Guide to Twitter. And in November I re-published Mondays are Red, which was my debut novel back in 2002. I published both books as ebooks only.

Now, Mondays are Red should have had an advantage because it has been published before and has a raft of lovely reviews from newspapers as well as readers; also, it's been out of print for a couple of years and people are still asking for it. But it's selling about a quarter of the number that Tweet Right sells on a weekly basis. (Which is not a vast number, let me tell you, but it's very respectable.)

And this is despite the fact that I did more to push Mondays. A blog tour, for example, which I didn't do for Tweet Right. And TR is more expensive. And shorter. It is, by word count, much less good value. With Mondays are Red, I pleaded with my blog readers and employed blatant emotional blackmail. I never did that with Tweet Right.

However, none of that really worked. (I'm actually a bit relieved - I don't like pleading or blackmail! And btw, let me be clear: I do NOT expect people to buy out of duty.) So, TR continues to outsell Mondays by about four times.

And it seems to me the reason is obvious.

When you try to persuade a reader to buy your novel, you're trying to persuade them to want this one more than thousands - hundreds of thousands - of others. Even if yours is the genre they like to buy, you're still competing in a crowded, often poorly differentiated market. It's easy to be invisible. (Especially since there are some things I won't do to get myself or my book seen.)

But if they are looking for a book about something - Twitter, or my next topic, writing synopses (Write a Great Synopsis - An Expert Guide, coming in January!) - there are very few books that I'm competing against. Very few indeed. It's easier to be seen. Also, it's relatively easy to find the audience, because you know where they hang out. But readers of novels are everywhere, everywhere, I tell you. And they are slippery. God, they are.

So, it's obvious when you think about it, isn't it? It's much more a numbers game than we'd like to think.

In view of this, I will not bother to plead with you to buy Mondays are Red. Honestly. Don't. There are hundreds of thousands of other novels you might like almost as much. But, on the other hand, there's only one at the other end of this link. :)

EDITED TO ADD: I have a suggestion: if any published* UK authors with YA titles which are also in ebook format for Kindle would like to get in touch, I'll do a blog post (on my blog) after Christmas which will list them, with links. SO, if your book is YA, published and in ebook format, email me, in this order: title, author, publisher, 25 words to describe including genre, and Amazon link (UK or US, just one). By Christmas Eve. [email protected] 

(* I'm really sorry but I have to offer this only for authors who have had novels published by a trade publisher. This is purely so that I don't end up having to put eleventy million books in a blog post when I could be eating mince pies.)