I know so far I’ve talked about this as a possibility, but now I’ve decided to come out with it: I am going to self-publish Give in to the Feeling.
This is the reason why I’ve been quiet on this blog lately: I’ve been working on materials for the launch and reading like a mad woman about how to launch a book and promote it. It’s fascinating, you know? I actually like reading about promotion and marketing. We’ll talk about how I like it after I’ve actually promoted my book (I have a feeling my ideas might change…) but at the moment I’m really enjoying it.
Getting the work into shape
As far as my book is concerned, I have a cover which was provided by Marion Sipe of the Dreamspring Design… and no, I’m not showing it, because I want to do a proper cover reveal (eh! eh!!) while the MS is currently with my editor, Aaron Sikes, who’s a fellow dieselpunk author as well as a freelance editor.
I’m also reading manuals on how to format the text so that it will look good on any e-reader. I’m kind of surprised how much I’m stressing over this part of the job, but maybe that’s because I’ve never done anything like this and I know nothing about it.
I’m going with Smashwords as my main outlet. They are very straightforward and very transparent, which I like. I’ve already read their Terms of Service and let me tell you, I liked it a lot more than Amazon’s (which I also read in its entirety together with my boss when she decided to become a provider for Amazon). Where Amazon is obscure and convoluted, Smashwords is clear and straightforward. And – I’ve noticed– Smashword calls the author just that, author. Amazon’s contract never calls the author author. I know many authors won’t care, but honestly, I do.
Why I wanted to learn the song
People who know me are aware that for a long time I’ve said I wasn’t interested in self-publishing… which for a long time had been true. I have never had anything against self-publishing, mind you, I actually thinking all authors will be hybrid in the future, because that’s what makes more sense. Besides, I’m still seeking traditional publishing for my trilogy.
The reason why this is, is that I think the trad industry is where you actually learn the job. I know, lots of indie authors point out how many authors that were previously trad published went indie and they cite this as an indication that going indie is the way to go. But I think the crucial point here is previously trad published. These previously trad published authors know the job because they have been doing it in a professional environment for many years. They know how it works, what you should expect, what you are supposed to do, what your work should look like. I think this is very important because it will shape the way you go about your indie career and there are very few ways you learn this other than doing it in a professional environment. I’ve read articles by many indie authors who just gave me the impression they were jumping on the bandwagon and just try to follow the song. It works… sometimes. Personally, I prefer to know how to read music and how the dynamics of the band work before jumping in their midst.
One reason I started thinking about self-publishing was my two rounds of queries last year. I leaned one important thing from all the rejections I received: my work isn’t up to the standard. It hit me hard, because I had honestly thought the contrary. I though I had a good story (which I still think and some agents remarked on that), but my style and my storytelling still lack a professional level of maturity. I honestly think this is the reason why, even if a few agents thought the story was good, no one ever asked me for a full.
So I started to think I had to go one extra step and professionally edit my stories before submitting. Clearly, I couldn’t trust myself on the professional level of my own writing. Problem was (and is) I can’t afford to edit my novel at the moment, so I instead decided to edit one of my old short stories (I ended up completely rewriting it) and have that professionally edited, so that at least I’d have a sense of what I might be overseeing in my writing.
But once I decided that, I though, wait. I’ll have a finished, polished product, why not go all the way through and publish it, and so experiment also in promoting and selling a story?
This is one of the reasons (but there are many) why I finally decided to self-publish Give in to the Feeling.
You can’t argue with your publisher
I knew from the beginning that self-publishing is a full time job in its own right, which is one of the reasons I’ve always been hesitant in going for it: do I have that kind of time, I wondered?
Well, I suppose that, as with all things, if you don’t have that kind of time but you want to do that thing, then you’d better find the time you need.
It does take a lot of time getting ready, even if I started having an idea what I needed to do and to achieve. I’m a bookseller in Verona (Italy) but the bookshop where I work is also a publishing house. So for ten years I’ve been involved in the publishing business and I’ve seen it happen everyday. I know the job from the inside and so I also know some of the things publishers blame on authors. I’ve tried to address that as I plan my launch, because you know, I’ll be the author, but also the publisher. Authors always know what they expect from a publisher, but what happens when the publisher is you and there’s no one you can blame about not doing something you expect? What when you are the publisher and you can’t blame the author not to be involved enough… because you’re the author too?
And of course, I’m reading widely about book promotions, which I’ve been doing for a long time, but now I’m focusing on an actual goal. It does makes all the difference.
I have a plan, here’s what it sounds like
So after considering all of this, gathering my ideas, reading profusely on the subject, what have I been doing?
- Write my media kit. I didn’t know anything like this even existed before a few months ago, but as soon as I discovered it, I decided I needed it.
Basically, a media kit is a page on you author site were people can find (in just one place) all the info they want about you and your work. This is particularly helpful when you’re promoting, because a part of promotion will be done on blogs. If you have a media kit, you just refer the bloggers on that page and they will find everything they need. You don’t have to send anything to them and they don’t have to wait for you to send them anything. This is a specific promotional tool.
There is a lot of material that goes into a media kit (I’ve written a short and a full bio, trivia on myself and a sample interview, and also a short and a long presentation of the book and a few loglines) and yes, it is work, but it’s such fun too!
- Prepare material for my author site. So yes, I think I should finally set up a site in my name. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and this seems the right occasion to actually do it.
At the moment, I’m going with a free WP site. I’d love a self-hosted site, like The Old Shelter, but I’d need to upgrade my hosting plan and at the moment I just can’t afford that. I know I’ll miss the freedom a self-hosted site gives, but I’ll make the free version do – for now.
There a lot of material I need to prepare for the site: some is the same as the media kit (which is good), but then I’d like to add characters’ presentations, setting presentations, many things about the story itself. I’ll probably add a section with image-quotes, which is an idea I LOVE.
Be assured that when the site is ready, you’ll be the first to know.
- Plan my launch. I’m kind of scared about thinking to what will come next, still I think I should take a problem at a time, and so at the moment I’m completely absorbed with the launch.
One of my buddies, Rae Lori, twitted about a marketing book and I’ll never thank her enough. The book is Tim Grahl’s Book Launch Blueprint, and it’s really very interesting and factual. Tim Grahl is a book promoter and he has a lot of knowledge to share. I’m basically planning my own launch on this book. I did change my mind about a few things after reading this book, but I’m saving them for the future. As someone told me, once you start promoting, you never really stop, so having a few ideas in my bag sounds good to me.
- Prepare a few freebies for my lovely new readers (eh! eh!)
If you have time, I’d recommend checking out Tim Grahl’s site. There is a wealth of info about promoting a book, including how to organise your site and how to write and promote your media kit (see links above).
A couple of other reasons why I decided about self-publishing come from a speech Tim Grahl gave during a webinar:
- He pointed out that being a published author opens doors that were previously closed. If you can honestly claim you are a published author, people, including people who can help you promote, will look at you in a different light.
- It’s true that to successfully promote a book you need an author platform, but if you don’t have it, you can use your first book to build that platform. Which sounds just like what I want to do.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
So once I decided to self-publish, I was done, right?
I knew that I wanted my book to look as professional as possible. This would cost me money. So the first decision was: do I want to sped money to get published? And the second was: how much money am I wiling – and able – to spend?
A few friends suggested me to make my own cover. I did consider this. What finally pushed me to turn to a graphic was that I can’t use Photoshop in any satisfying way. Sure I can crop images and slap a text on it. That hardly qualifies as being able to use Photoshop well enough to make a book cover. And what bothered me even more was being able to find pictures I could actually use. I’m not as strict with images I use on this blog, because of course they don’t belong to me, but if I use a picture for the cover of my book, I want that cover to belong to me legally.
Because I know very little about this, I preferred to turn to someone who knows how to go about it. And in any way, I then discovered that most of the pictures you can use are for sale, so you still need to spend money on them.
This said, I’ll admit that while I’m happy with the end result, I was very awkward with the process. Because I’m a visual person myself, I had a very clear idea what I wanted the cover to look like, which turned out to be not really the same idea Marian had. This resulted in a longer process which I think was frustrating on both sides.
And I wish I had read this blog from Bard Constantine earlier, because I may have gone a different way, but well…
I ended up thinking I should learn to use Photoshop and be able to do my own things. I had been toying with this idea for sometime and never really go through with it, because, you know, it will probably cost me more money. But after this experience I really think I should educate myself with Photoshop.
There was never a doubt I’d hire a professional editor, but now I’m facing the possibility to hire a proof-reader too. I’m very happy with Aaron’s job, but he did (as he should) the job of an editor. And no, I can’t proof-read my own work. I can’t do it when I write in Italian, let alone in English.
I just think that, after having gone through all this, I’d hate that someone would think, not too bad… shame for those typos…
Then I had to decide about the publication date, which was a natural decision for me.
I’ve read recently that Mondays are terrible days to self-publish while Saturdays and Sundays are good. I decided for a Friday.
Tara Sparling analysed in a blog what time of the year is best to self-publish and it turned out to be spring and autumn. I decided for March.
I made both decisions before reading those two articles… on the very scientific reason that the beginning of March is when my birthday it. So, don’t say a word, I’m not going to change my mind!
Now I’m facing another decision and I’d really like your help on this because I can’t make up my mind on it: what should I price my book?
I’m hesitant to price it near 3,99 because it isn’t a novel, and many novels are priced that. But I don’t want to price it too low, like 0,99 (as I originally thought), because I’d like to have some room for promotion.
I’m kind of leaning toward 1,99… but I really don’t know. I’ve read articles that suggest 2,99 for novelettes and novellas, but it kind of sounds maybe a bit too much for a 16.000 words story.
What would you suggest? How did you decide, if you’ve already published your stories?
My sweet baby
What can I say, I’m excited. I really am.
You know I love this story, I might have mentioned it once or twice (caugh caugh…). I just loved writing it, but making the book is so very exciting too.
However this will go, I don’t think I’ll regret trying. It’s a nice, forming journey. I hope you’ll come along.
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Yay! Go for it! (Also, I’m self-published, specifically because I write serials and most of the characters are in polyamorous relationships or gray romantic or both. Trad publishers won’t touch the stuff. For pricing, I say go with the lower end of the range. You can set your own prices and change it later if you’re selling more.
Hi Rose, thanks for stopping by 🙂
Yeah, I’m thinking staying in the lower range. I think it’s fair toward readers.
Congratulations! This is wonderful news, and I really love that cover.
Ah, thank! I can’t wait to share mor ewith you people.
That’s not the cover, actually, it’s just a little graphic of mine. But I think it suits the story quite well 🙂
Congratulations and good luck! I found the post very interesting because I am in the early stages of writing a young adult novel and am thinking that self-publication may be the way I go. I am a total novice, though, so I know I will need a lot of editing and a lot of advice. And marketing? Not a clue!
If you ever need help, don’t hesitate to shout my way, Amy! I’m not an expert by any stretch of imagination, but if I can help in any way, I’ll be happy to.
And don’t get scared about marketing. Many authors do, but honestly I’m finding it more fun than I thought. Just be yourself and share your passion, that’s what I’m trying to do.
Will it work? Time will tell… but I hope so 😉
Thank you! Right now my only question is—-how did you find your editor? I am mostly writing on my own, though a friend and I exchange our writings and critique each other. But I need a real editor. Thanks again!
I met Aaron in the dieselpunk community. He’s an author too. I read his stories, he read and critiqued a few chapters of mine. We talked. You know. Normal networking 🙂
I think networking is a magic tool. You met so many people who, in addition to becoming friends, have skills you can learn from and sometimes you just meet the person you need in that moment 😉
I don’t think Aaron does kid stories, but there’s another editor who follows this blog who might. She’s Sue and you find her here http://suearcherwordsmith.com/
Taking part to citique groups is also very useful, it worked wonders for me. I have been part of the Critique Circle (http://www.critiquecircle.com/) for many years and I’ve learned a lot from giving and getting critiques.
Well done! Best of luck to you on this adventure!
Thanks Lillian. It scary and exhilarating at the same time. Such a strang eexperience. But I’m enjoying it 🙂
Wow this is getting exciting. And you’ve even found things that I didn’t know.
A media kit. Now that is an idea.
Totally go for it! I think it will be useful especially in networking… but honestly it was also a lot of fun to write. Talking about your stories and yourself as an author, what can be better than this? (selling million of copies, I know. That was a rethorical question, you know?) 🙂
Exciting! Go for it.
It’s scary and exciting at the same time. Brrrr!!!! 🙂
Kudos on a well thought out article. Your way of logic is a much more mature approach than many who simply leap into self-publishing because they want to dodge the submission process and go straight to bestselling author status. (dream on, kiddies) I love your game plan as well. You’re definitely better prepared than I was when I started this journey.
As far as Smashwords, be aware that by submitting through them your work won’t be available on Kindle, which will cost you a huge potential audience. They claim they can submit to Kindle in a ‘limited manner’ but it’s a tricky process that requires you to already be selling a large number of units. No matter how you feel about Amazon, it’s the readers that matter. I’d strongly recommend using Kindle Direct in addition to Smashwords. As long as you don’t sign up for the KDP exclusive contract, there won’t be any conflict of interest, and you’ll have your work available to the widest potential customer base. Just a thought.
As far as pricing, it’s hard to say. For a 16k word story I’d probably not go over 1.99, but it’s your decision.
Congrats on taking this first step. I wish you all the success in your publishing ventures!
Thanks, Bard 🙂
Amazon is a sore point for me. I don’t like them, not just as an author, but as a human being, which poses me the moral question whether I want to be part of their system.
I know not being on Amazon will be tricky, because there are readers who just won’t buy my story even if there is an alternative way. This way of thinking is one of the things I don’t like. If authors and readers were more aware of what they’re doing and would ask more questions, Amazon wouldn’t be as powerful as it is.
This said, I know that I won’t make any substantial money with this story, my life won’t change even should it sell reasonably well, and anyway I know of authors who are not on Amazon and still sell their books.
So I think I’ll try this experiment, and see how it goes 🙂
Sara C. Snider
Yay! I’m so excited for you! I love all the research you’ve done. You definitely seem to have it together, which is awesome. I mean, I *still* don’t have a media kit, so, yeah. You’re going to do great, I think.
As for pricing, it’s a tricky beast, especially for novellas. My personal opinion is 2.99 should be the maximum for novellas/novelettes. That seems to be the price (roughly) that the trad folks publish their novellas. Granted, most of these novellas are by big-name authors with established fan-bases. As for the indie crowd, 0.99 seems to be the most common for shorter works (though I’ve also seen trad novellas at this price point too). I’ve struggled with what to price my own novella. 0.99 seems too cheap, 2.99 seems too expensive, and 1.99 is, according to Smashwords, a pricing black-zone that performs worse than the price points at either end. I started at 0.99, but have recently upped the price to 1.99, despite the Smashwords stats. The novella wasn’t selling much anyway, so I don’t think it’s a pricing issue at this point, but rather a visibility one, and I haven’t done much to promote the novella. 1.99 to me, though, feels good at this point in time for that particular book.
Anyway, best of luck with your launch and I’m looking forward to your book! I’ve never read dieselpunk before, so I’m looking forward to the experience. 🙂
Thanks for the thoughts about pricing, Sara. YOu gave me a lot to think about. I didn’t know about 1,99 being a black-zone, but I did read on Smashwords site that 9 is a magic number. Since 1,99 seems a bit high for me, but I don’t want to start at 0,99, I think I may do a different price. Like 1,59?
Maybe I can try that.
Hey, you’re on Smashwords! I’m going checking you out! 😉
Sara C. Snider
Yeah, I almost went for 1.49, but decided to get crazy and upped it to 1.99 instead. 😉 I might knock it down later, we’ll see.
Congratulations Sarah!! Sounds fabulous! Wishing you tons of success in this journey! <3
Thanks Lene 🙂
I don’t know how it will end up, but I’m enjoying the journey a lot!
D. Wallace Peach
Good luck! You sound so prepared, I’m sure you’ll do just fine 🙂
Thanks so much for stopping by. I wish I felt prepared. But I’ll do my best 😉
I really liked your blog about small presses. I didn’t comment because I’m very curious to read your next blog first 😉
Trad or Indie… it’s a big decision. There are pros and cons to both. Its certainly a great learning curve, if nothing else. Best of luck Sarah, I am interested in seeing the finished result.
Thanks Ali. I am taking this like a learning curve, because I won’t do any money with this and I know it. But there are so many things I need to learn, and this is a good chance, I think 🙂
Congratulations, Sarah! 🙂 I won’t be around much for the next few months, but I saw this and just wanted to wish you and your book well. If you want to pick my brain on anything feel free to email me.
I never bothered with Smashwords myself. I don’t want a service to distribute to other networks for me. I prefer to do it all myself. It takes more time, but then I can micro-manage everything and maintain control over formatting for Kindle and epub (and especially print editions). I dislike the conversion process used by a lot of the online services. They often produce a shoddy product that I would be embarrassed to have my name on.
I read an article a while back regarding pricing. It mirrored my own views so naturally I thought it good 😉 Basically, be reasonable but don’t underprice. Don’t cheapen your work just because everyone else is knocking out books for 0.99 whatever. The size of a book does not determine the quality of a story.
The print edition of A Bump in the Night ( a novella) is £4.99. The ebook is £2.99. I priced it based upon feedback from some of my beta readers (I choose based upon different locales).
As for marketing, I agree with CW Hawes. Sometimes it is better to wait on full blown promotion until you’ve got more than just one work out. People might enjoy your work, but if you have nothing else for them to look for then you might lose them.
Haha! Personally, if I ever had enough money after food and rent then I would use it to hire a media manager. I would much rather pay someone to handle the bulk of marketing my work and focus on writing, editing, and designing than spend time selling the damn books. I don’t mind putting myself out there, but I’m just not interested in waving my book in the air and jumping up and down.
Good luck, Sarah!
Oh… and associate ‘Sarah Zama’ with your Twitter account. Your name came up blank on a search… only @JazzFeathers found you o_O
Hi Crispian, thanks so very much for stopping by.
Well, one day I might go indipendent myself on the distribution side, but since in this moment I know nothing about it, I prefer to lean on a service and learn everything I can. I’ll decide when I feel like I can make an educated decision 😉
Smashwords of course suggests never taking a book out a discribution service lest you destroy your platform, which I don’t think will happen. So, I think this is still a step I can take in the future.
As regard with price, indeed 2,99 seems to be a good one. Even Smashwords suggests that it performs better than 1,99
Mhm… I’m still not sure what to do. I’m on the fence between 2,99 and 1,59 but there’s still time, so I’ll think abotu it.
I see what you and CW mean, but I’m taking this as an esperiment. I want to try things out so to see what works for me and what doesn’t. What I like and what I don’t like.
I am toying with an idea for a series, but it’s still so vague that I won’t have anything ready for years, I’m afraid. It’ll still be a story set in the 1920s, but in Europe… the research alone will be demanding.
So, I’m just taking this as school 😉
I don’t mind tha marketing part of the ‘business’. Modern marketing is very different from the hard sell push it used to be and I know by experience that nobody markets a book better than the author. Not in today’s publishing world.
Let’s see how this goes 🙂
I know about Twitter. But any possible variation of Sarah Zama are already taken… as placeholders, I suppose, since most of those accounts are empty.
I think I’ll do more often what you did, associate my handle with my name in one tweet. I’ve also added my name to my profile description. It doesn’t come up in searches, but it’s better than nothing, I think.
Thanks for bringing this up, I hadn’t thought about it 🙂
Congratulations! It’s a rough decision to come to, and for me, I love the idea of self-publishing (and will definitely self-publish some things) but my finances limit any meaningful people I could hire to help me polish/make book covers, so it’ll be traditional or small presses for me, most likely.
As for pricing, I personally would pay $2.99 for a novella. 16k words is a good chunk of story. But, as this is your first work to be published, and it isn’t a full novel, I can see why you would hesitate to charge that much. $1.99 would definitely be fine, but as Sarah Snider mentioned above, maybe $1.49 would be the ‘sweet spot’ for you.
It is costly, Rebekah. I knew this before starting, which is one of the reasons why I put self-publsihing off for so long. I’ve already spent more than I thought I would and probably more than I’ll be able to cover for with sells. But as I said, this is school and I’ve already learn something 😉
Thanks for you rthoughts on pricing. You guys are giving me a lot of food for thoughts 🙂
I had a long comment which got eaten, Sarah, so I’m just going to keep it short and say congratulations, how exciting, and best of luck 😀
Aww… I would have loved to read your long comment. But I love your short comment too 🙂
Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies
Congratulations! I’m so excited for you. It’s quite an adventure, and a ton of work, and I wish you all the best! Can’t wait for the cover reveal…
Thanks Lisa! I can’t begin to tell you how exciting… and scary this is. But I’m enjoying the journey and I think I’ll learn a lot from it.
Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂
Congratulations and very best of luck!
Thanks. I’m just starting really working at the publishing process and I’m becoming ever more nervous. But I like learing all these new things 🙂
Congratulations! Very best to you!
Thank you very much. It’s an exciting journey 🙂
Thanks for stopping by.
Alice E Keyes
Great! Looking forward to reading it.
Thanks, Alice 🙂
Wow! How exciting, Sarah. ^_^ Congratulations!
And thanks for sharing your journey so far and those links. Definitely trying to learn from people who are ahead of me in the whole becoming-a-published-author process…
Happy to be of help. It’s a great adventure, even when it doesn’t go as you’d like it to go 😉