This Week in Self-Publishing: I Got My Print Proof From IngramSpark

Money earned (total): $7,012.34

Money spent (total): $1,773.62

Money earned (this week): $0

Money spent (this week): $12.22

As you can see from that oh-so-carefully-arranged image, I got my print proof from IngramSpark this week.

I don’t actually have the print proof with me right now. I reviewed it, and then paid $12.22 to FedEx it to my designer Veronica Ewing so she could review it too.

Because, although the print proof is pretty close to perfect, it is not quite perfect. We’re still going to make a few tiny changes—and believe me, I thought about ignoring those changes, because they are very tiny and because it will cost me $25 to submit file revisions to IngramSpark, but then I thought: look, my name’s going on this. Veronica’s name is going on this. It’s worth $25 to fix a few things and make the book as good as it can be.

So here’s what you need to know about IngramSpark:

The print proof looks and feels great. The matte cover is almost velvety; it’s got a really nice feel. I went with the creme paper option (better for literary fiction than copy-paper-white) and although the text itself has a little reflection coming off it if you hold it to the light at a certain angle, that is the only real criticism I have. It looks like a book. A totally-worth-$19.99 book. A just-as-good-as-any-other book.

This is probably also because I’m working with a really good designer. ❤

I will say that it took IngramSpark nearly a week to get me the print proof, even though I paid extra for overnight printing—which is to say, they printed it overnight, shipped it immediately, and it still took five business days (plus a weekend) to reach me.

So if you’re thinking about using IngramSpark, I’d say do it! I am very pleased with the results.

I have heard that a few people have already received their copies of Biographies from Amazon, which was not how I had hoped that would go—I thought Amazon would do a pre-order and you’d get it in May—but if the paperback’s out of the bag, as it were, there’s not much I can do about that. (Remember my This Week in Self-Publishing column On Release: you can’t control what happens to the stuff you release into the world.)

Just be aware that any copies you buy before May 23 may have a few tiny errors in them. Consider them the Collector’s Edition. ❤


This Week in Self-Publishing: Now Available in Paperback!

Money earned (total): $7,012.34

Money spent (total): $1,761.40

Money earned (this week): $0

Money spent (this week): $149.28

First, I need to mention that I forgot to count some “money spent” last week; I spent $67.12 at the FedEx getting the paperback draft printed so I could make my final edits. I’ve adjusted that entry accordingly.

Second, I need to mention that the paperback version of The Biographies of Ordinary People is now available for pre-order.

Currently, it’s only available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It should be on Indiebound soon, and if you’re a bookstore owner or a librarian, you should also be able to order it via Ingram, although I don’t know if it’s in the database yet.

Also, I don’t know why Barnes & Noble is selling it for two dollars less than Amazon is:

hello, Barnes & Noble

I set the price at $19.99, which I did not want to do, but let me show you a couple of screenshots:

If I priced my 366-page book at $9.99, like I had hoped I might, I would have earned negative $1.83 on every book. It would have cost me money to sell my book to you, and although I know self-publishing involves self-funding, that’s taking it a little too far.

So I kept increasing the potential price until I got this:

If I sell the book for $19.99, I get $2.67 per book. Maybe. I might get 70 percent of $2.67 per book, since that’s how my ebook royalties work. I don’t know what I’m going to get when Barnes & Noble sells it for $17.99. (Less than a dollar? Or are they going to take the hit?)

The point is that I’m charging more than I hoped to for these books, and I’m sorry about that. But paperbacks do tend to cost $19.99 now, so it’s not like I’m way off from the norm or anything.

Now let’s answer a few questions:

What about hardback?

I am not a fan of hardback books myself. They’re heavy, they don’t fit in my purse, they take up twice as much of my limited bookshelf space, and the dust jacket always slips around when I’m trying to read. (I’ve heard people say you’re supposed to take the dust jacket off, which seems to defeat the purpose.)

That said, I did consider doing a hardback release followed by a paperback release, just for the sake of having yet another promotional opportunity. Then I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

Plus, Ingram’s publishing calculator said I’d need to charge $34.99 for the hardback to make $2.56 per book. I know that not all of my readers can afford to pay $34.99 for a book, and I also know that those of you who can pay $34.99 might assume that you should because that would be how I would “earn the most money.” (Which, as you can see, is not true.)

So yeah. No hardback copy unless Biographies becomes a serious bestseller and there’s a reason to do a “special hardback edition.”

Have you gotten to hold the paperback yet?

No! I haven’t! I paid $15.28 to get a print proof and it hasn’t arrived yet. (Also, if you’re wondering why you can purchase the paperback copy before I’ve seen and okayed the print proof… it’s because it’s a pre-order, and I’ll still have time to make changes to the files if the proof doesn’t look right.)

So… can you break down your costs?

You bet I can! Of the $149.28 I spent this week, $49 went towards uploading the paperback into IngramSpark, $85 went towards getting the paperback listed in Ingram’s Advance catalog, and $15.28 went towards the print proof.

I also need to pay Veronica Ewing, my paperback book designer (she’s so great!!!), but that will come after I okay the print proof.

Did you make any newbie mistakes that you want to tell us about?

YES. Oh my goodness yes.

So you remember Bowker, the place where self-published writers go to buy their ISBNs and barcodes? And remember how I paid Bowker $250 for 10 ISBNs (because I needed two each for Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and they’re less expensive when purchased in bulk) and $25 for a barcode?

Yeah. Pronoun gave me a free ISBN for my ebook, and IngramSpark gave me a free barcode. I also could have bought my paperback ISBN directly through IngramSpark at a discount.

All that Bowker money was essentially wasted. (But it’s still a tax deduction, so… I’ll just keep telling myself that.)

If you have other questions about the paperback, drop ’em in the comments. I’m so glad it’s finally available for pre-order, because I know a lot of you have been waiting for it. If you’d like to pre-order right now, here are those Amazon and Barnes & Noble links again. ❤

This Week in Self-Publishing: On Release

Money earned (total): $7,012.34

Money spent (total): $1,612.12

Money earned (this week): $0

Money spent (this week): $67.12, to print all of those pages you see in the photo

I wrote a thing on Twitter over the weekend, and I’m just going to share it with you here:

It’s both exciting and a little uncomfortable to think that I have committed myself for at least another year, probably another year and a half, on this project. I started writing The Biographies of Ordinary People, Vols. 1 and 2 in July 2015—technically I started writing it after spending ten years trying to write it, so I had been thinking about it for a while at that point—so by the time both volumes will be out in the world I’ll have devoted three years of my life to making them the best work possible.

Which is a ridiculously small amount of time compared to the trad publishing cycle, I should just say that right now. Going from zero words on paper to two books in print in three years? That’s the advantage of self-publishing.

And I’m excited to get to spend more time with these characters. I’m very excited to get to revise Volume 2, because there’s a lot I want to explore more thoroughly and some stuff I want to reshape or cut.

But it’s also scary. Any time anyone says “I’m going to value my own creative work, and commit to it, and make sure I block off time for it, and give the best parts of myself to it,” it’s scary.

Because maybe it won’t be any good, at the end.

Or maybe it will be good but people still won’t like it.

Or maybe they’ll say you shouldn’t have written it, and make a whole bunch of assumptions about you.

Or maybe a lot of people will like it, and make a whole bunch of different assumptions about you.

(It’s probably too late for me to do the Elena Ferrante thing, right?)

The cognitive dissonance I’m struggling with is the idea that I value this story so much that I am willing to both give it an incredible amount of discipline/effort/control and then release it into a place where it is completely out of my control.

And, because Biographies is not a true story but does draw from my experiences—“semi-autobiographical” fiction being extraordinarily popular these days, it seems—letting my novel out of my control means giving readers the possibility of making (false) connections between my characters and the people they assume they’re based on.

You know the four Alcott sisters never lived together in Orchard House, right? Lizzie was dead by the time the family moved. Little Women should not be taken as a true story, or even a close representation of Louisa May Alcott’s life, and yet it is.

In my case, people will start by assuming I had two sisters. They’ll ask me what my mother thinks of the story—because that’s the question women writers often get asked, especially when they write about families—and then they’ll ask what my sisters think, and I’ll say “why do you think I have two sisters?”

And maybe, in this conversation I keep having in my mind, they’ll say “because you’re Meredith.”

And I’ll say “No, I’m not. But I understand her.”

I got my Kirkus Reviews review this week. Of the three professional reviews, it is the most critical—while also being complimentary, which I think is really interesting:

At times, this overlong, meandering book can be frustrating: where are the dramatic confrontations, and why is everyone so polite? But Dieker excels at depicting how real people think and act. When she writes from a child’s perspective, she successfully portrays the state of knowing but not quite understanding. She’s also astute about communities: “She had already begun to realize that living in a small town meant being known for things.”

I will say that one of the reasons I decided to self-publish Biographies was to be able to experiment in exactly this way: to write a long, meandering book with no dramatic confrontations.

Because, hey, Foreword Clarion Reviews loved it. Kirkus Reviews didn’t as much, but they praised the writing if not the structure, and that’s fine with me.

What happens to this book is out of my control. People might tell me it was too long, and everyone was too polite. People might tell me how much it resonated with them, and how they couldn’t put it down. People might tell me they were hurt by it, which was not my intent—I wrote this story out of love, for the characters and for the reader—but I have to pay attention to that. Some people will just assume I have two sisters and I won’t be able to stop them.

To release something, you have to release.

I’ve made my final edits. It is almost time for the book to be yours, and for me to start working on the next volume. ❤

This Week in Self-Publishing: I Lost All My Amazon Pre-Orders

Money earned (total): $7,012.34

Money spent (total): $1,545

Money earned (this week): $103.34

Money spent (this week): $0

So I’m resetting the “money earned” tally to only include money that has arrived in my bank account. That means, so far, just the $6,909 I earned writing the Biographies drafts on Patreon, plus the $103.34 I received this week because… um…

Because this week all of my Amazon pre-orders got canceled.

Yes, that actually happened. There was a bug in Pronoun’s system, and they worked quickly to fix it, but my book disappeared from Amazon for about 8–12 hours and everyone who had pre-ordered the book through Amazon got an email indicating their pre-order had been canceled.

I’ve been in contact with both Amazon and Pronoun pretty much constantly since I realized what was going on, and both of them acted quickly and worked to find a solution. Pronoun also sent me the $103.34 I would have earned on royalties from the lost pre-orders, which was an unexpected and really lovely touch. Meanwhile, my friends and readers rallied, and I got a bunch of re-pre-orders in the past two days.

I also got a very useful piece of information: The Biographies of Ordinary People had 37 Amazon pre-orders prior to the mass cancellation.

I thought that number was closer to 100.

As you might remember if you’ve been following this series, I didn’t have pre-order data in my Pronoun dashboard for the first month after my launch. That meant I spent about five weeks estimating my Amazon pre-orders based on my Amazon sales ranking. I’d pull my daily sales ranking off Author Central, plug it into one of the many “convert sales rankings into sales” calculators, and tally that number on a spreadsheet.

My sales rankings weren’t bad, either. Biographies was ranked #11,896 out of the million-plus Amazon ebooks when it launched. As of this writing, it’s #38,999. Compared to all the ebooks on Amazon, I’m doing well! I’m almost in the top 100 of the Literature and Fiction/Literary Fiction/Sagas subcategory!

But my guess is that those “convert sales rankings into sales” calculators were created a year or two ago, and Amazon has since added hundreds of thousands of books to its catalog, and an #11,896 ranking doesn’t mean what it used to in terms of sales.

Based on my Amazon sales rankings, I thought I already had 100+ preorders and might get between 300–500 pre-orders before Biographies went live on May 23.

Now I’m expecting my pre-orders to be significantly smaller.

While all of this was going on, I got a five-star review from Foreword Clarion Reviews.

I want you to read the whole review, because this reviewer writes about Biographies in a way that makes the book clearer to me. What this story is about, who it’s for, why it’s important. But here’s the pull quote:

The Biographies of Ordinary People contains artful writing and delicately drawn characters who navigate through the universal tragedies and triumphs of everyday life. This first volume is deeply satisfying.

I feel like I could live the rest of my life on the happiness of reading this review.

Then I got an email from The New York Review of Books, asking if I’d be interested in advertising Biographies in its Independent Press Listing. They’d seen the reviews, and thought Biographies deserved the opportunity to get “mainstream attention.”

I am well aware that I will be paying for this opportunity (and that for all I know they send it to anyone who gets good reviews). But it’s a curated opportunity, and it’s the NYRB, and they’ll put my book and a quote from its five-star review in a magazine that will be sent to 150,000 people who are very serious about books, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it.

It also got me thinking about what the goal of publishing The Biographies of Ordinary People actually is.

If it’s pure profit, then I should be avoiding the NYRB’s invitation to advertise. I should have avoided sending my book to Foreword Clarion. I should have done Amazon KDP Select and let them autoformat my print book directly from my ebook (instead of hiring a designer to do my paperback, which I did) and just jammed out as many sales and Kindle Unlimited pageviews as I could.

But I want to make art, and I also want to be recognized for having made art, and those are two different things.

And I’m realizing that I may make very little profit on this book while simultaneously having people and organizations whose opinions I value tell me that it is very good.

I kinda feel okay about that. (It helps that I’m earning a good living already, which means that I don’t have to do this “for the money.” It also helps that I “earned my advance” already, through the generosity of my Patreon supporters.)

So maybe I’ll publish these books and they’ll do exactly what one agent suggested might happen: sell a small number of copies to a small group of readers who really like artful, quiet novels.

Or maybe I’ll send my book to the NYRB Independent Press Listing and it will get mainstream attention and I’ll sell 3,000 copies.

Or maybe I’ll pay to submit Biographies to the BookLife Prize and the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards, and maybe I’ll be a winner or a finalist, and maybe that’ll sell more books and maybe it won’t sell enough books to make back the cost of admission.

Or maybe all the pre-orders I got in the past two days will get canceled again. Anything could happen.

But I got a beautiful review from Foreword Clarion Reviews, and I’m still so happy about that. ❤