Thursday, February 23, 2012

Show Me the Money ... (in 10 steps or less)

 I have a debut novel, "Quintspinner - A Pirate's Quest " published, with Book Two of the intended trilogy just a smidge away from being finished and ready to publish as well. I published Book One in 2010 through iUniverse, as I was brand new to the world of self-publishing or indie-publishing (whatever term you are comfortable with) and a complete technophobe.
Quintspinner - A Pirate's Quest
 In 2009, I had sent my manuscripts out to a few traditional agents (OK, several dozen, but who is counting, really??), because that's how I thought you had to do it, and had a few requests for partials and fulls, but became frustrated when the last agency said (and I'm paraphrasing here): "This is really good, but it's obviously YA and we don't have a YA section. We strongly encourage you to submit to an agency that specializes in YA." Trouble was, the second to last agent that I had heard from had said (more paraphrasing): "This is really good but it's probably a little too realistic/intense for YA." 
(Too Intense? Um ...thinks me, have you read or at least heard about YA's  The Hunger Games?)

About this time, a friend sent me an article on the rise of self-publishing and within the article was some sort of rating system of the available services out there at the time. iUniverse scored well in the ratings. and Lisa Genova, well-known author of Still Alice had first published with them. I emailed her and asked if she had been satisfied with their book creation services. She replied that she had been very happy with iUniverse and felt that, without having gone through them, her book would have still been sitting on a shelf as an unsold and unpublished manuscript. ( She was picked up by one of the big publishers after she had marketed her novel herself).

So, I paid for their Book Launch Premier Pro package for $3830 US. I also devoured blogs about the publishing business and marketing and publicity. Here is an abbreviated version of my experience in spending and gains for my book so far (all cussing and tears of dejection and depression have been removed) :

MY RATING SYSTEM: 1 - worthwhile;  2 - not sure, maybe worth it;  3 - wouldn't do it again

1. iUniverse Package - beautiful book, loved my cover ( it has since been changed to the one you see above, as iUniverse wanted $750 to release the rights to it to me), the paperbacks and hardcovers got many compliments. ebook was offered as well. They set up a web page and other social media sites for me, but not until AFTER my book was live. Too late, in my opinion. I did, however, have several paperbacks and hardcovers to sell on my own, which was great for an initial blast. ( See book launch party below.)  
Rating: 3 (There are better options out there now) You can get your books edited, formatted by a professional, and have an awesome cover made (The Book Designer ; Creativindie Covers ; extendedimagery) for FAR LESS money than my package cost me. **However, if you have more money than you have knowledge in the area of getting your book published, they DO offer a very complete and professional package and are very helpful. It's one-stop shopping to get your book out there.

2. Book Awards - I got caught up in the need for validation and entered 20 of them (what can I say, other than a previously undiagnosed OCD seemed to have manifested itself...) However, Quintspinner won 14 of the awards in Best YA, Best Historical and Best Commercial divisions . (Woot! Woot! puts a smile on my face) I got a couple of small cash prizes ($100 or less) and listings in online publications, but no boost in book sales (takes the smile off my face ...) Honestly, I don't remember what I spent in entrance fees but they ranged from $25 to $125, so you do the math. I really hoped that listing the awards it won on either my book's front or back cover would tempt some readers but I don't think it has. Rating: 2 (I'm still proud of the awards and people still come up to me and mention them, but I wouldn't enter them for most or maybe any of my future books).

3. Book Launch Party. (key word being Party). It was a fun-filled evening: we sang ribald sea shanties, I gave an author talk about my publishing journey and about pirates and life in the 1700's (featured in my novel), and an author reading, complete with a stunning live enactment of a couple of chapters in the book, done by a group of rowdy and authentic looking pirates. I served grog to those of legal drinking age and iced tea, coffee, and tea. There were platefuls of hor d"oeuvres with a seaside theme, door prizes, and a give-away of spinner rings ( also featured prominently in my novel). Many members in the audience came in pirate costume as well. I sold 150 books at $25 each, 20 of which were hard-covers at $35 each, and autographed for what seemed like hours. A local bar/restaurant offered plates of appetizers, for the cost of "4 gold doubloons", (which attendees were given at my reading - play gold coins,) for a post-party get-together at their establishment. Book Launch Party lasted 3 hours. Rating: 1, for a debut author, because it got the word out locally that I had a book published and that it was for sale. It also, through word-of-mouth, got me two author reading invitations at two other cities' libraries, as they had heard about the "Pirate Book Launch Party".

4. Numerous author talks at high schools, middle grade schools, and community gatherings, a writer's meeting, and as, mentioned, libraries. Although fun to do, they resulted in not even a cost recovery in book sales. Rating 3. (Gas costs too much these days, not to mention the time and money lost from my regular day job to do these.

5. Book blog tour - did a 10 blog book tour for the bargain price of $65. You get what you pay for.... blogs that hosted me, chosen by tour planner were not really genre appropriate and had low follower numbers. Even so, the interviews took a lot of time to write answers to, with each one having slightly different questions, and me not wanting to repeat myself too much. Rating 2. If I were to do it again, I would be much more selective with the hosting bloggers. Note: I did some singular author interviews ( Let's Book It ; drey's library ; Scribbles and Tunes) and they were followed with a short upward blip in sales.

6. Book reviews - back in 2010, reviewers still wanted paperbacks. Few accepted ebooks. There was then the cost of the books, as well as postage to send them (usually $20 per book for postage, with tracking and insurance); I sent them with tracking availability, as most were going from Canada to the US, and the postal system, on more than one occasion, "lost" the book. Rating 1. I believe book reviews are essential, and now with the growth of ebook acceptability, this is far less costly.

7. Webinars - a great way to increase one's knowledge level about any topic. For me it was so convenient, without even having to leave the house, to be able to learn from experts about a variety of topics such as how to twitter, how to do attractive web pages, and how to do effective publishing and marketing and I highly recommend Joanna Penn's How To Promote Your Novel: 21 Ways to Sell More Books Online.
Rating 1. Attaining knowledge is a worthwhile thing. And I was sadly lacking in many areas.

8. Online radio interview, CBC radio interview, West magazine feature, University of Sask Green and White Alumni magazine, local newspapers - I have no way of knowing if they helped sell books, but they were free to me, and I can't help but think they had to be worthwhile in getting my name and novel's title out there. Rating: 1.

9. Book Fair entry/display - I paid a fee of $175 each time to have my book displayed at the London Book Fair and again at the Book Expo America and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Rating: 3. Total waste of money. Not even one inquiry generated.

10. Amazon's KDP Select Program - this gets a category all of its own. Quintspinner was placing at a dismal #351,000 out of a million Kindle ebooks until I enrolled it in the KDP Select program for 3 days over a long weekend. By breakfast time on the first morning, it had risen to # 351. It continued to bump around the 300 - 400 range for the rest of the free period, then slid back down into the #100,000 at the end of the free days, and has now risen again into #21,000 without any further marketing by me. Sales have been in England, Germany, and the US. I'm still watching the numbers and they're climbing ... 
Rating: 1. KDP Select costs nothing to join, and I will even have a royalty cheque coming for the first time in a very long time.

What have YOU experienced as being worthwhile to spend money on, or even pursue for free, in your book publishing journey?

(Book images from Amazon's online pages)


  1. This is very interesting. Thanks for posting your journey. I have a journey of my own, but I've not spent any money out for it. I am published on Kdp amazon, not in the Kdp select program.
    What I've found is that whenever a book goes FREE on Amazon, and that is totally up to them not me, then of course I get lots of downloads. But after it goes back to regular price, I still get downloads, not as many of course. I find for me this is one way of getting your name out there and costs me nothing.

    1. Carol, my experience totally agrees with yours - free equals more downloads, and then there seems to be a settling for a day or two, and then a smaller rebound of downloads, even though the book is no longer free. I have read of similar experiences by other authors who are published on Amazon. I did KDP Select because it automatically went to "free" on my chosen dates, and it was one less thing that I had to do for myself (blatant laziness, I know!) Best wishes for continued success with your books!

  2. Fantastic column! Your rating system is fantastic. Thanks so much for this, Dianne!

    And - book two will be out soon? What a thrill! I'll keep my eye out. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Quintspinner.

  3. Hi Alison, yes, I am just a few short scenes away from being done Book Two. A cover designer is already working on the cover. I'll be posting its release. Stay tuned!!

  4. Thanks for your analysis, Dianne! You've given me a lot to think about, especially regarding a book launch party. My promotional efforts have been entirely online thus far, and I haven't been too focused on offline promotion, but after reading this perhaps I'll reconsider.

    Also, I've considered doing #4 as well, but since I work full time and do this whole crazy author thing, I have to consider the old cost/benefit equation. It sounds like you really pulled out all the stops on this one! Wish I could have been there! :-)

    I'm VERY glad you think the webinars are worthwhile, since I just purchased 6 months of tutorials from Writer's Digest and thought it might have been a waste of money! I agree with you on the acquisition of greater knowledge of the craft however, since the learning process is essentially infinite.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Vlad, thanks for dropping by. The book launch party was a blast and helped to hand sell many books to the local population. I have been uncertain as to whether I will do such a thing again for Book Two, which is also pirate themed - I would need a new "hook"( no pun intended) I think, to make it slightly different from the last one - ideas, anyone?

    I LOVE the availability of webinars, since I live in a very remote part of the Canadian prairies and I, too, have a full time day job that I have to factor in loss of income for, if I choose to be away for a course. Several webinars ( 1 hour ones)have been free, too, so keep your eyes peeled for them.

    Just last weekend I taught a one day workshop to a writers' group of traditionally published writers who are now interested in the world of indie publishing. (Whoa! Me! Teaching it instead of learning it...)They were a great group of very talented and eager people and I would like to, with your permission, forward on a link to them of your latest post on your interactive book experience.

    If you do a book launch party, email me for a few more pointers that worked well.

  6. Thanks for the tips, Dianne, and I would be honored if you pointed them in the direction of my post! The more, the merrier!

    Congrats on teaching that class as takes real guts to get up in front of strangers and teach them, so I applaud you.

    I'll definitely be in touch if I decide to go the book launch party route!

    Love the hook pun as well! :-) I sampled the first few pages of your book via Amazon and liked what I saw, so I added it to my Kindle "to read" list. Loved the period dialogue, by the way! If anything comes to mind while reading Quintspinner about a party theme for you , I'll let you know.

  7. Your breakdown of the book services brought back plenty of memories, and moments to reflect. iUniverse only charged $159 for the same services back in 2001... so then it was worth it... like Lisa thought. I totally agree with the ratings and just loved that book launch party!!! It sounded expensive, but also like an expense I would do over and over. Too much fun.

    and also... that pitch on 6 kids...we all survived... no injuries... haha! I loved it. Dropping in from the March Book Frenzy tour. Wendy's tours are the best!

    1. Thanks for dropping by! Wendy's March Book Frenzy WAS a busy 4 days but I loved meeting all of you bloggers! Such fun! And yes, the book launch party was worth it as I had a blast, and had many people tell me that they had never attended a book launch like it. ;-)