Tag Archives: Self Publishing

A Year Of Self-Publishing

Exactly a year ago I made the decision to self-publish my first novel “Seascape”.

Over the course of the year I completed the editing and publishing process, I had 1 book launch, two store signings, three library visits. I was a book club selection for two book clubs. I did three assorted author sales. And I did a couple of community farmer’s markets. My book is in two bookstores, and two drugstores.

I have done almost no promotion other than this blog and Facebook, one newspaper advertisement and a couple of flyers at local post offices.

I have sold around four hundred printed copies and 75 eBooks, with almost no effort. Of course this begs the question, what might my results have been with considerable effort? Unfortunately I suck at sales. I am my own worst enemy, because I do not know how to toot my own horn, and I hate to impose and ask for the consideration of others. I have stretched myself a bit in this department. I am willing to stretch a bit father, but for the most part, this is never going to be my strong suit.

My strong suit is writing a book that people enjoy reading, even those who were certain they would have to groan and bear it. If I could get a dollar for every man who read it and said they didn’t think they’d like it, but enjoyed the whole thing, well I’d have about thirty dollars, at least. If you had to take away a dollar for every person who did not enjoy my book well I’d still have my thirty bucks. If someone has not liked it, they sure haven’t let word get back to me.

Word of mouth means everything. My book has sold for the most part on word of mouth. The trick is getting my book into people’s hands. Once it is there they enjoy it, pass it on, and buy more copies for others. I am blessed by repeat customers. That is wonderful for me because these are not just individual sales. Many purchasers of “Seascape” will return when the next book comes out. I may not have pushed my book into a great many hands, but almost every hand that took a book has become a fan and champion of my work. I know I have a small but firm base I can build on.

Over the course of the year the lessons were endless. I know where to spend my money and my time in the future. I know that bookstores are my least favorite sales locations. I know that if I can afford it, I am better off hiring someone to help with promotion. I am great at showing up but not so good at finding events and locations to market myself. I sold where I did not think I would sell. I did not do well where I thought I would. Through it all I made some great connections, bought some great books by other authors, and reaffirmed my belief that other writers are some of my favourite people.

Self-publishing seemed like such a monumental task and it turned out to be a life changing event. Looking back on the choice, I can say it was a fantastic decision and I have no regrets. If I do not secure a book deal with the next book I am writing, I would definitely go this route again.

My Indigo Experience

Last Saturday I had my very first official bookstore signing at the busiest location available in my entire province. I was excited by prospect of being in a target rich environment with the potential to move many books. I could not imagine a better opportunity but I did make myself a personal pledge to go into it with no expectations and no hopes.

INDIGO

From 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. I sold 4 books. The total money made for the store was $83.96. My personal profit was about $12.00. I did not take the pushy approach; I did not sit insecurely behind my table. I moved around the store. I struck up conversations with shoppers. I feel confident I got every sale I should have so why so few sales?

I was set up in the front of the store, at the mall entrance near the till so people saw me as they were entering and leaving. However many of the people coming in avoided my table choosing to come in away from my position. Next time I will pick a better location.

I was incredibly upset to discover I did forget a pivotal piece to erect my banner properly. This was a huge mistake. From my last sale I saw how helpful the banner was at illustrating with a quick glance what the book is about. More importantly it really helps me stand out in a busy environment.

According to the staff the store was not as busy as it normally should have been. It seemed busy enough to me; there was a great deal of traffic. However the store is also a mall entrance and many of the people were not at Indigo to purchase books, but were just passing through on their way to the rest of the mall.

Those who lingered and browsed were selecting nonfiction. In fact one of the staff actually pointed out how little fiction is really in the store. Only thirty percent of the books are actually fiction. Contemporary romantic fiction is a small part of this segment.

The last and scariest reason I discovered because I was stationed so close to the till and I was able to see what people were purchasing. Over half of the purchases made were not books, but rather items from the other part of the store, for example, toys from the children’s’ section, curtain hangers from the home decorating section, and dishes from the giftware section. It was truly shocking to see the traffic was steady, but the purchases were few books or no books at all.

I deeply want my writing to contribute financially to my family. I realize this is a goal that will not be accomplished overnight; I must be prepared to do the work. After this experience it is hard not to wonder if writing books is a pipe dream. Seven hours put $12.00 in my pocket. Actually that is a horrible lie because I left the store having bought double the number of books I sold and it cost me at least a hundred in fifty dollars in travel expenses. I’m left wondering if this is really the best use of my time?

Indigo would like me to come back and it wasn’t so difficult a work day that I have any anxiety about doing it again. It’s all part of the learning process and I am committed to learning every aspect of book sales and promotion so when my year is done I will be wiser, more experienced, and I will have all the information necessary to proceed more successfully in the future.

Once the disappointment wore off I got to thinking about sales and fan base. I have sold three hundred print copies of my novel; I have sold fifty digital editions. I know my book has been shared by many. The copies I have put in the library system have been steadily lent out. I may not have hit five hundred sold copies yet but I am close to having five hundred readers of my work. That is something.

This fall is going to be exceptionally busy with several events each month and I am hoping to line up more. I am honored to find out I will once again be a book club selection at another library plus I am going to be a guest speaker for another town’s cultural days. I have several library visits set up, and two book sales with other authors which I am really looking forward to. I have 200 books to go and then I will be able to focus on my work in progress. One thing about being on the road it doesn’t get the next book done. At least I have a very clear perspective that if I am ever going to make a living at this, it is going to happen one book at a time and one sale at a time.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to encourage me and give me some advice. It really made a difference!

The road to becoming an author really can end with one becoming an author!

No matter what else happens down other roads, I will always have April 28th, 2013 to look back on.

A Happy Author

Last December when I made up my mind to self-publish, I also decided I would do a book launch party. My initial vision was that I would do an e-book of “Seascape” and maybe get fifty copies printed. I’d have my friends over, and it would be an excuse to throw a small party. Somehow things got carried away (this may have had something to do with my husband saying “Come on! Order 500 books, I’ll help you sell them. We need to invest in you.”) It was an impulse buy/decision, and once I made it I had to take myself, my novel, and this business much more seriously.

I have had so much encouragement along the way from so many. It made it easier to wrap my head around the idea that this decision might not be such a bad one. But 500 books is such a lot of books. And renting a hall, paying advertising, buy and preparing a carload of food is such a risk, with no guarantee of any return.
I am so glad I made the leap!

My book launch had so much support. There were so many people who came and bought books. I saw so many familiar faces, and so many new and unexpected faces! I literally cannot believe how many men in the past week have purchased my book, and not just for their significant other. Men are reading my book! Wow!

Sitting at that table with my pen in hand, signing books with my wacky, messy, little scrawl (that some commented did not look like a real signature), and then doing a reading, it all felt incredible. I thought it might feel surreal, but it felt very real! It felt earned and I was able to enjoy the experience, despite nerves.

Reading for the crowd

Not since my wedding day have I ever been the focus of so much attention! And so much positive attention was overwhelming, in the best possible way. To have so many family and friends show up and support me, to work for hours at preparing food and refreshments, when I couldn’t even help, to compliment me, to want the best for me, to cheer me on, and to pay hard earned cash for my creativity, well needless to say, that kind of energy spilled over long into the night and the next day.

Yesterday I did not check my blog, I didn’t check Facebook. I had to unravel and unwind from the deluge of blessings. I had to soak in my gratitude. I had to remember that even though the day before I was a newly launched author, a glowing success, well on my way to selling my five hundred copies, I also had to remember that the date was April 29th, and I had not yet done mine and my husband’s taxes.

Back to regular life… which now also includes selling and promoting my book. I am feeling pretty damn good even if I now need to retitle my blog.

The road to becoming an author really can end with one becoming an author!

My novel amongst the decorations.

My novel amongst the decorations.

The Books Are Here! The Books Are Here!

On Monday I got a phone call from my sister-in-law that some UPS dude had dropped 11 boxes on her driveway. She barely got the words out before I hit the shower and got my husband and daughter ready to make the two hour drive to her house.

There is no greater feeling for an author than cracking open a box and holding your book in your hand. It was exciting! It was also surreal, and I could not wrap my head around the experience.

This is me seeing my novel in print for the first time.

This is me seeing my novel in print for the first time.

This immediate reaction was followed by an agony of embarrassment when I passed my book to my husband and he flipped to the back cover and his eagle eyes picked out an extra little “d” where one should not have been.

WHY!!!!!!!! ( I screamed, tearing and clutching at my hair.)

I did not expect perfection but I really thought I was going to avoid this type of error, a silly, stupid mistake, on the back cover of five hundred printed copies. UGH!!!! I worked so hard to avoid mistakes.

I immediately began to beat myself up for rushing because I was trying to make my somewhat secret book launch date. When I received my final proof I knew if I rejected it, there was no way I could make this date. However grief was the bigger component. Hours before I received my final proof we lost our 7 year old German Shepard, Jake. I love all my dogs but he was special. He was our gladiator, our protector.

My Protector

My Protector

It wasn’t the day to make the choice to put my book into production. My husband and I scoured the final proof and we both missed the mistake. This wasn’t the only problem. I missed acknowledging my photographer friend Tanya Hardy-Dubeau for my author photo and my font is a little small. Thankfully my chapters are short.

What is done is done. There is no point in continuing to agonize over mistakes. Feel the pain. Learn the lesson. Move on!

I am just a breath away from finalizing the details of my book launch. I am writing up advertisements for the local papers, I am working on getting my “purchase the book button” installed on this site. This is the calm before the storm of marketing and promotion descends. My Ebook is live on every E-reader format, but I am not pushing it yet, because I want to focus on my launch. I am very curious if I can generate any Ebook sales at all, without any promotion. I’ve got a few weeks to see.

April 28th, 2013, from 1-4 p.m. I will be launching my book “Seascape” at the Mallaig Legion Hall. I will be signing books for anyone interested in purchasing a copy, but more than that I just want people to come out and help me celebrate this accomplishment. There will be tons of great snacks and refreshments. I may even be persuaded to do a short reading from the book. With every book purchased comes an entry into a draw to win some great prizes. I have Chapters gift cards, a Kindle, A Kobo, and because my book is a great beach read, some fun, beach themes prizes.

If none of these reasons to stop by appeal to you, I guarantee you’ll get to see a woman who is excited but scared spitless of the next stage in her life!

Publication complete!

The last two weeks has been very busy for me indeed, and I am delighted to say that I am now completed all publication duties for my first novel. Two days ago the final proofs for my printed copy were sent to me, and I approved them. “Seascape” is in printing, and sometime next week, my novels will be shipped. By the second week of April I hope to have my finished novel in my hand. As of April 1st “Seascape” will begin to be available for sale on assorted e-readers. By the time of my book launch it should be downloadable on all
e-reader formats.

After many, many years, I can finally say I am a published author, and this book is done! Having completed the self-publishing process it is time to give my evaluation of the company I used.

I found Book Baby after doing some research into self-publishing, and I selected them because they offered
one-stop shopping. They provided Ebook conversion, publishing, and distribution, cover design, book printing, author websites, and even some basic promotional services. I was especially pleased with their ability to distribute my novel in every E-reader format currently available.

I began the process at the end of January 2013, and today everything is wrapped up and complete, other than the delivery of my books. The process had only a few hiccups.

The first delay occurred with my cover design. The first proof wasn’t quite what I had visualized, mostly because when they sent me the images they had selected, I agreed to them, even though I wasn’t quite happy with the images, which was totally my mistake. Upon seeing the completed product, I explained that it wasn’t quite what I wanted and made a few suggestions for change. They quite quickly responded and I have to say the second proof was perfect.

The next problem was the only major issue I experienced and if I had done my printed book first as opposed to the e-book, this problem would have been avoided. I uploaded my novel as a single Microsoft Word document, which had been thoroughly edited by a professional editor. All the headings and page numbers had been removed, and it was properly formatted. When the proof was returned to me for approval and it was riddled with spacing errors.

I was forced to reject the proof, and I was told that I would have to find, itemize and describe every single spacing error throughout the whole manuscript. There were dozens! This resulted in a three week proofreading delay. My husband thankfully volunteered to perform this chore because I feared reading my manuscript at this point, might spark a self-conscious panic fit, which would lead to a desire to edit further and/or make additional changes.

Book Baby quickly made the changes and sent me another proof. This time I decided since it was going to be the last read before publication, I should be the one to give it a final look over. I told myself that if I found three or less errors I would proceed with publishing as is. I found seven more errors which resulted in another round of corrections and further delay. I accepted the third proof.

The printed copy required only one proof. There were no spacing errors to deal with because I paid extra for black text formatting. They had to design my spine and back cover, and they got it right the first time.
I found Book Baby to be reasonable priced, professional, and easy to use. If I had begun with the printed book first I would not have lost the time to the spacing errors as long as I paid for the black text formatting. If you choose to go with Book Baby, and you intend on doing a printed book as well as an ebook, I recommend doing the printed book first.

As someone new to the process I liked that they were very willing to do as much my way as I wanted, but in areas that I was uncertain, like the black text formatting, Book Baby staff were able to put together a sample for my perusal. Their website has a quote calculator so I knew exactly how much their service would cost. We exchanged a few phone calls. They graciously answered all my questions and everyone was friendly and helpful, but they did prefer all instructions and changes take place in e-mail format so there was no chance of misunderstanding.

Although I have absolutely nothing to compare Book Baby against, I have to say that at this point I found the process relatively painless and easy. And as long as my printed books look like this:

Seascape final cover design

I’ll be happy!

Calling Myself Names

One of the great things about self-publishing, is you get to make the decisions, and everything is in your control. One of the bad things about self-publishing is you get to make the decisions and everything is in your control.

When I am confident I will dash off a decision, and I will rarely look back. I see little point to regret. Most choices happen for a reason, and I usually end up where I should be. I am also comfortable making decisions because I believe a bad choice can be easily changed. It is as simple as making a different choice and moving on.

There are times however where decisions are not so easily untangled. Some choices require more work than it’s worth to change them. Some decisions become mistakes. These kinds of decisions cause me pause. This is especially so if the direction I should take is not clear or immediately self-evident. When I am uncertain, when my inner compass is directionless, committing to a choice isn’t easy.

It seems silly now, but one of the most angst filled decisions for me was the name I was going to publish my work under. I have no problem with someone else using a pen name. I think it’s a smart choice in many cases, but for me it felt inauthentic. When I rolled names around in my head, they felt strange. They were disembodied entities meaning nothing to me.

But I did not want to publish with my legal, married name. That “Shannon” belongs to other people. She is married to a man named Denis and is the mother of two beautiful daughters. She often works in opposition to “Shannon the writer”. I wanted a symbolic separation of “Shannon the mom and wife” from “Shannon the writer”. I wanted the name to reflect that separation.

So why not used my maiden name? I look back on that young girl with fondness, but she was the daughter of my parents; she belonged to them. She is who I was. I am not interested in going backwards.

Evolving into a writer has been a struggle. I have had to fight and claw for every moment of writing time. I have spent years trying to make writing a greater priority. My biggest obstacle has been myself. Sure other people can be a distraction. Life events cause disruptions. But I am my own worst enemy. I get in my way. Writing is the most personal thing I do for “me”. It is on the same level as spirituality, exercise and self-care. It is an activity I need to do. It replenishes me but it makes no money. I feel selfish devoting time, energy, and resources to something that is at best now, just a feel good activity for me. Everything else comes first.

Until now.

I want my writing name to be a reminder that writing is a necessary part of who I have become. My inner writer is truly and deeply connected and rooted to “Shannon” at her most authentic, most spiritual, most human. “Shannon the writer” is the most personal private part of me, and other than loving my family, I believe it could be one of the most important contributions I make to this world. I need to honor this aspect of myself. I need to distinguish this aspect. I want that distinction symbolically reflected in the name I use.

My original thought was to use just my first name. I love the idea of publishing absolutely everything as simply “Shannon”. But I saw quickly it would be construed as trying to be like Cher or Madonna. That was not my intent. I am simply Shannon. Shannon is who I am. I tried it out on a cover design and, I have to admit, it looked unprofessional. “Shannon” on its own, looked a bit like I was hiding, or did not take my writing seriously. This was not the impression I wanted to give.

I also was convinced a second name had to be used so I could create a public persona. Although I don’t spend nights losing sleep over the thought, I would not want everyone who meets me at a book signing, to have access to my private family pictures on Facebook. I do not think in today’s digital world you can be out there and still retain complete control and privacy, but I do not want everyone who wants to connect with “Shannon the writer” to have immediate access to “Shannon the mother and wife”. She whines too much.

The deadline to making the decision approached and I had no choice but to ask for other opinions. I asked family and friends and I asked my writers group. Almost every response was the same, “what’s your middle name?” It was such an obvious choice I could not believe I did not think of it myself. “Shannon the mom” must have been trying to complete this task.

I have two middle names: Rae and Lynn. These two names together were perfect. Shannon Raelynn has always been a part of who I am. She is me. She is not someone newly created. I have been called Shannon Rae Lynn before, mostly by my mom when she was mad, but regardless it is a name I have been called by. It is a name that is me without the baggage my other names carry. As Shannon Raelynn I can compartmentalize without feeling inauthentic.

I have always been Shannon Raelynn. I am just more so now.

The Book Is Done. Now What?

Back in 2009, as I was finishing my book I had to consider what I would do with my completed manuscript. Once it became known I had written a book, people asked me when I was going to get it published. For those of you not in the field, let me just say, getting published, used to be a little like trying to become a famous rock star.

Publishing houses receive thousands of manuscript each year, and yours is one in the slush pile. Over time, even getting into a stack at a publishing companyhas become extremely difficult. Many publishers will not even look at a manuscript today, unless it comes from an agent. I submitted to a few publishing houses and when I received no response I knew I had to find an agent.

Finding an agent was not easy.  It required tremendous research. I had to find agents interested in my style of book, and then I had to research their submission guidelines. Each agent’s guidelines vary. Some want a query letter introducing yourself and your book. Others want a synopsis of your book, the first chapter, or the first hundred pages. Some want all of the above. If you deviate even slightly from their guidelines they will discard your submission.

It took a week just to put together three submissions. I sent out nearly twenty submissions to agents and publishers in all. I only ever received 6 replies. Of those replies, two were e-mailed stock letters informing me they were not interested. The other four were hand written notes, which gave me hope. I was told I had a good manuscript. Two of them recommended agents more suited to my style of book. It was a long frustrating process; waiting up to six months for a reply was such a waste of time. I realized it could take years before I found an agent to represent my book, never mind getting my book in front of a publisher. I am not known for my patience.

I decided to explore the self-publishing option. When I first began writing, self-publishing was still considered vanity publishing. It was what people did who were not “good enough” to get a traditional publishing deal. Self-published books were considered substandard, the publishers shady, and the process was too expensive for authors to make any money. With this opinion firmly in place, I was a bit of a snob, and wanted to hold out for a traditional publishing offer. However, my frustration with the “finding an agent process” led me to realize I may have to put my book on a shelf and move on. I had a great deal of time and effort invested. I didn’t want to give up on my story.

Thankfully over the last decade there has been a tremendous shift in the culture and attitudes towards self-published books. This shift became more prevalent thanks to the ease, popularity, and development of eReaders and the eBook. The self-publishing industry has exploded. Authors can get their work in front of the world-wide audience and retain a greater share of the royalties. Readers are recognizing an affordable quality product is being offered. I found a company that offered me both an e-book and hardcopy printed version for a very reasonable rate. I decided to take the self-publishing plunge.

I am glad I did. Now, waiting for a traditional deal seems silly. As a first time author, even if I found a publisher, or an agent, I’d have to do most of the marketing and promotion myself. Also, a traditional publisher would have control over my cover, title, and to some extent the content of my book.

With self-publishing I retain complete control but I also I have complete financial responsibility. My success is entirely in my own hands, not only in the production of a quality story but also in how hard I work to sell my product. This is a very scary proposition. To be honest it is very daunting. I want to write. I just want to write. But I could not accept that my book and all the work I put into it, would simply take up space on a shelf in my office.

And so my self-publishing journey began, and it is all in my hands.

Next week I’ll talk a bit about my writing process.