This Week in Self-Publishing: I Love Pronoun

Money earned (total): $6,909

Money spent (total): $150

Money earned (this week): $0

Money spent (this week): $0

First, a quick update on the “licensing lyrics” project: I never heard back from Pioneer Drama Service, and I decided not to bother with Hal Leonard. Instead, I rewrote all of the text that previously included copyrighted lyrics, and it’s going to be fine.

This week, I want to discuss Pronoun and pre-orders.

Pronoun

So I cannot rave about Pronoun enough. I didn’t even think I was going to use it, because… I hadn’t heard of it? It was too new?

But then I read Jane Friedman’s interview with Pronoun head of marketing Justin Renard, and other people started asking if I was going to look into Pronoun, so I set aside some time to check it out.

Pronoun is SO GREAT. All of the stuff I’ve been doing for the past six months, like comparative cover research and Amazon category research and price research, is part of their FREE book-publishing package. (It was also nice to see that my research matched theirs, because that meant I did the right kind of work.)

With Pronoun, you drop your text into their magic box and and they give you a beautifully formatted ebook. You drop your cover into another box and they show you how it compares to other covers in your genre. You type in a potential price and Pronoun tells you how well that price performs with other books in your genre, as well as how many of those books at that price point are bestsellers.

You can even check your metadata against other books with similar metadata, and Pronoun will give you keyword suggestions to help your book stand out.

“How does Pronoun even work,” you might ask, “if it is free?” Jane Friedman also asked that question, and here’s the answer:

Pronoun works not only with individually self-published authors, but we also work with a number of paid enterprise publishers and count our own digital nonfiction imprint Byliner in our business mix. Through these income-driving activities and the strategic backing of our parent company, Macmillan, we are in a unique position to continue building a truly author-centric and free publishing experience. Our core pursuit as a business is to help authors succeed at publishing. As we grow along with our authors, new business opportunities will emerge that add value to what authors need.

When I use Pronoun, I get to keep all of my royalties, which includes that nice 70% royalty coming from Amazon. I get to sell my ebook through iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo—and all of my data and my payments come through Pronoun, which means everything gets centralized.

I also get to be part of Pronoun’s collection of authors—I already have an Author Page—which is especially important because I appear to be a (relatively) early adopter. If my book is successful, that’s going to look great for Pronoun and great for me, and maybe all of that greatness will generate more buzz and etc. (Yes, I am very strategic about this kind of thing.)

And if anything should happen, either now or five years from now, to end this relationship, I’ll own all my rights and I’ll have my own ISBN—which means I can take Biographies to KDP or anywhere else ebooks are sold.

But let’s go back to that beautifully formatted ebook. In two minutes, Pronoun did formatting work that would have taken me a full week to complete. I have a few more things that I need to put together, like front matter, but with Pronoun I’m much closer to being able to launch my pre-order than I had planned. So let’s take a minute to look at that.

Pre-orders and ARCs

Here’s how the pre-order is going to work. There are a lot of moving pieces, so I’m going to organize my thoughts along with yours.

The two biggest reasons to do a pre-order are:

  1. To give readers the opportunity to buy the book (and, more specifically, to create another promotional opportunity for the book; a pre-order is essentially a launch, with all the trappings but without the in-person parties and book tours).
  2. To get ARCs to reviewers.

Yes, it is possible to get a self-published book reviewed by the major players: Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and Foreword Reviews. Yes, in some cases you have to pay for those reviews. This is one of the cases in which pay-to-play is totally legit, and part of doing business.

So. Here’s how the timeline works on that.

Once the pre-order is live, I take my beautiful Pronoun-created ARC and send it to BookLife, aka “the self-pub arm of Publishers Weekly.” Getting a Publishers Weekly review via BookLife is not guaranteed, and it’ll take 12 weeks or more, but it’s free.

Then I send my ARC to Kirkus. This review process takes 7–9 weeks, but I will for-sure get my review. I’ll also pay $425 for the privilege, but I’m guessing it’s going to be worth it—because if it’s a good review, I can immediately showcase it on the Biographies pre-order page, etc. (I can also announce it on social media and email the mailing list and tell Pronoun.)

Then I pay $695 to get my book reviewed by BlueInk and Foreword Clarion. These are the self-pub review sites for Booklist and Foreword, respectively, and they’ve combined their review services into a single package that delivers reviews in 4–6 weeks.

The big reason to do the BlueInk/Foreword Clarion package is to get Biographies into Total Boox, a service that distributes self-published ebooks to libraries. Not all libraries—you can see their list of participating libraries here—but enough that I definitely want to be a part of it. (I love libraries. The sixth chapter of The Biographies of Ordinary People is literally called “Meredith and Alex go to the library.”)

There’s no guarantee that I’ll get into Total Boox just because I bought the BlueInk/Foreword Clarion package, but all books that get BlueInk “favorable reviews” get sent to Total Boox—and, you know, I think I have a chance.

Which brings me to Library Journal. It is technically possible for me to submit my self-published book to Library Journal to be reviewed, but they want it four months in advance of publication and they also want a print copy, and they still might not select the book for a review.

However, once the book has officially launched, I can send it to Library Journal’s SELF-e program. (I am really excited about this.)

By sending Biographies to SELF-e, I’ll get my novel into what’s called the “statewide collection,” which is to say that people in Washington State will be able to check my ebook out of participating libraries.

BUT, if the Library Journal SELF-e people like my book, it goes to all the participating libraries.

And if they really like my book, they’ll write about it. In the Library Journal.

So yeah. That’s Phase One of the pre-order ARC review plan. Phase Two is getting the ARC on NetGalley, doing a Goodreads ARC giveaway—Biographies is on Goodreads already, and people are marking it as “want to read”—and sending copies to a bunch of people whom I hope are interested in reading the book and, maybe, sharing that they liked it. If they like it. (I think they’ll like it.)

While all of this is going on, I’ll also be doing the final-final proofread—ARCs can have minor errors, it’s okay—and putting together my print copy so it can be available for sale as soon as the book officially releases.

There’s an argument for giving people the opportunity to pre-order the print copy as well as the ebook, but that would push back my publication timeline by maybe two months, and now that I’ve announced that I’m publishing Biographies I really don’t want to drag it out.

I want to get the pre-order up as soon as possible and, 90 days later, launch the book.

Let’s see what I can make happen. ❤

 

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