This Week in Self-Publishing: PUBLICATION WEEK

Money earned (total): $7,041.71

Money spent (total): $3,058.30

Money earned (this week): $0 (I won’t count income from sales until the end of the month when I get my official monthly earnings statements)

Money spent (this week): $47.10 (on cake and wine)

The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1: 1989–2000 is officially published! If you buy the ebook right now, you can read it right away! If you buy the paperback, you can probably start reading in two days, depending on shipping! If you’d like to buy it from your local bookstore and/or check it out of your local library, ask! Even if they don’t have it in stock they can get it for you, and it’s a win-win for everybody.

Readers are already responding positively; I’ve gotten a couple of lovely Amazon reviews, and people who have finished the book—which says something, considering that Amazon claims it will take nearly nine hours to read—have told me they can’t wait for the next volume.

It’s everything a debut author could want.

The book launch was also everything I could want, thanks to Phinney Booksand Molly Lewis and all of you who attended. Inviting Molly to be my co-host/conversationalist/Q&A moderator for the evening was such a good choice, first because she is an excellent interviewer and second because it’s always nice to have someone else who can help solve last-minute event problems, like “oh no I accidentally bought a corked wine bottle instead of a screw-top one.”

I have gone to book readings where it’s just the author, reading and fielding questions, and although I’m sure I will do some of those in the future, readings go so much better when there’s someone else there—both to save the author from herself (because we’ve all seen the person who rambles on, nervously and incoherently) and from the audience. A triangle is a lot more stable than twenty faces pointed towards an author, so get a person who knows how to both interview and panel mod on your team.


I also finally have accurate sales numbers, which means I can tell you exactly how many copies of The Biographies of Ordinary People have sold, so far:

64 ebooks and 45 paperbacks.

That number is not quite as high as I think anyone would want it to be, but it’s also, like, this week has been extremely good? The event at Phinney Books was so much fun, and readers are telling me how much they’re enjoying the book, and I had an essay about the book published in The Awl and people are telling me how much they enjoyed that.

So it’s not like anything went badly, or wasn’t what it should have been. It all went well.

A book launch is an extended process, and I’ll be promoting Biographies in various ways over the next few months. There will be readings, I’ll be on some podcasts, I’ll be sponsoring the Seattle Review of Books in a few weeks and my advertisement should go out in the next issue of the New York Review of Books.

I’m also going to be submitting Biographies for a few awards and continuing my media outreach campaign.

I don’t know how all of this work might affect sales, but I do know that I have picked the hardest genre to sell and the hardest method by which to do it, so the fact that I have been this successful is kind of amazing.

Thank you. ❤

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This Week in Self-Publishing: Outreach and Results

Money earned (total): $7,041.71

Money spent (total): $3,011.20

Money earned (this week): $0

Money spent (this week): $0

This is the last “this week in self-publishing” update that I’ll write before my book is actually published.

The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1: 1989–2000 releases on Tuesday, May 23, and there will be a launch event at Seattle’s Phinney Books that evening at 7 p.m. featuring cake, wine, and a conversation between me and Molly Lewis, and I’ll finally be able to look at actual sales numbers and see how many people pre-ordered the book, and we’ll start to learn how my novel is going to hold up both as a work of fiction and as a marketable work of fiction.

But before all of that happens, I want to take a look at my marketing/outreach strategy and its results.

My marketing/outreach strategy was pretty simple. I created a spreadsheet of people, publications, review sites, and bookstores to contact and then started contacting them. There were a few built-in conditionals, like “I’ll contact this publication if I get a good review,” or “I’ll contact this person after I get the paperback,” but for the most part it was pretty straightforward. The majority of people and publications I contacted were people I knew through my freelance writing network, though I sent out a few “cold call” emails as well.

I set myself the goal of doing one promotional activity every day, although that didn’t necessarily mean reaching out to someone on my outreach list. Sometimes it meant doing a podcast interview with someone I had previously reached out to. Sometimes it meant writing an article. Sometimes it meant writing this column.

I also decided to send ARCs to a handful of people who didn’t necessarily have methods of promoting the book besides, say, tweeting about it. I’m not sure what exactly I expected to happen here, but these were all people I knew who had shown interest in either the book or in my writing, so I was like “hey, want an ARC?” I figured the more people who got excited about the book, the better.

I ended up contacting 30 people/publications/bookstores and booking two podcast appearances, two bookstore appearances, and three articles as a result of this outreach—plus I booked three additional podcast appearances through people reaching out to me. (That’s the kind of marketing you want; the kind where they want you.)

I also began writing for Pronoun’s The Verbs, which isn’t a direct book-marketing thing but does let me include my Pronoun-published book in my bio as I write about topics like mailing lists or points of view.

I have yet to get any book reviews in blogs or publications (I’m not counting the Kirkus/Foreword Clarion/BlueInk reviews here, since I paid for those), though I’m still holding out hope. I’m anticipating that the momentum from the book launch will get me a few more opportunities, and I have a post-launch outreach list ready to contact next week.

So this outreach/results metric feels realistic, given that I am a self-published debut author. Here’s the part that feels even more realistic: about half of these opportunities came from people who already knew me well, and the other half came from people who weren’t close friends/colleagues but were still firmly in my network. The cold calls didn’t pay off, and even the slightly warm “here’s how we’re loosely connected, and here’s my book!” emails didn’t pay off.

So keep that information in mind as you plan your own marketing and outreach strategies. ❤

Photo credit: Wesley Fryer, CC BY 2.0.

This Week in Self-Publishing: Three Exciting Updates

Money earned (total): $7,041.71

Money spent (total): $3,011.20

Money earned (this week): $29.37

Money spent (this week): $374.78

I have THREE PIECES OF EXCITING NEWS:

ONE. There’s money in the earnings column this week! These are the royalties from all of my paperback sales in April! I earned nearly $30 from people who bought the paperback in April, which is impressive considering that the paperback went on sale on April 20.

I AM SO GLAD THAT SEVERAL OF YOU WANTED TO BUY THE PAPERBACK RIGHT AWAY! Thank you! ❤ ❤ ❤

TWO. There’s money in the spending column too, but it’s exciting money: I’m going to be in NYC on June 15 and 16 (technically I arrive the evening of June 14) and I am working on setting up a reading for Thursday, June 15. If you have a suggestion for where I should read and/or a contact at that location, please let me know!

This spending represents half of the cost of my flight and hotel room, because I’m also going to be doing some non-book, business-related stuff while I’m in the city. So yes, “book touring” is expensive and I do not expect to sell $374.78 worth of books based on one reading in NYC.

But I’m still doing it because it will be fun and because I will get to meet some of you in person! ❤ ❤ ❤

THREE. The Biographies of Ordinary People is now available in at least one library.

I have proof, because the reader who requested her library stock the book told me that the library did, in fact, stock it. It isn’t available yet, because we still have eleven days until May 23, but my book already has a library hold.

I love it. (And thank you!)

Once the book is released I’ll be submitting it to various library services (like Self-E) in the hopes of getting it in more libraries. If you would like to request The Biographies of Ordinary People for your library, it should be relatively easy to make the request through the library’s website—and if you can’t figure out how to do it online, you can always ask a librarian. ❤ ❤ ❤

That is all the news for this week, but the launch is very very very very very very very close (ELEVEN DAYS!) which means it is almost time for me to order a BOOK BIRTHDAY CAKE for the Phinney Books launch on Tuesday, May 23 at 7 p.m. If you’re in the Seattle area, I hope to see you there!

Photo credit: waferboard, CC BY 2.0.

This Week in Self-Publishing: Planning the Book Tour

Money earned (total): $7,012.34

Money spent (total): $2,636.42

Money earned (this week): $0

Money spent (this week): $862.80

We’re getting near the home stretch of “self-publishing expenses.” This week’s expenses include paying my designer and paying to be listed in the New York Review of Books’ Independent Press Listing (as you might remember, they reached out to me after seeing that The Biographies of Ordinary People was getting good reviews).

The remaining expenses fall into three categories:

  1. Buying copies of my own book (at $6.33 per book or $7.85 with taxes/shipping included) to give to a handful of people.
  2. Submitting my book for awards. I’ve done my research on the numerous indie awards opportunities as well as the types of books that win them, and I’m going to submit to three awards: the Foreword INDIES Book Awards ($79), the BookLife Prize ($99), and the IPPY Award ($75).
  3. The book tour.

I have two book tour stops booked already: the launch event at Seattle’s Phinney Books on May 23, and an event in August that coincides with another trip I’m taking. (I don’t want to announce that event publicly because the bookstore hasn’t yet, but I’ll give you details as soon as I can.)

Ideally, I’d like to hit Portland, Los Angeles, and NYC, because I know people in those cities and because I’ve already done successful readings in LA and NYC. Maybe San Diego, depending on what I’m doing during Comic-Con week, and maybe Washington DC because I’ve got family nearby. (Anywhere else, as much as I’d love to visit, will have to wait until I am a huge success and can afford to go.)

But part of me wonders if I should hold off on approaching more bookstores until after Biographies launches, so I can use any strong sales data as proof that people might want to come to the events.

Because if I’m going to spend the money to travel to a particular city and do a reading, I want to have at least some expectation that people will show up.

(I used to be a singer-songwriter, and I found that it was super-easy to convince bars and coffee shops and bookstores and libraries to let me play gigs. They didn’t lose any money by letting me set up in a corner, and I was talented enough that I didn’t sound dreadful. But I played plenty of gigs where nobody showed up, or where people did sit in the bar but didn’t pay any attention to me, and I do not want to do that again.)

So I could be contacting bookstores RIGHT NOW! and booking events for the first week of June! and getting that momentum all ready to MOMENT ITSELF!

But I think that’s the wrong idea.

I need to wait and see how this book does. I need to see if it’s worth a trip to Los Angeles or wherever, or if I’ll end up reading to an empty room.

So, although it’s agitating me to not be making plans RIGHT NOW, I think waiting on the book tour is the right choice. Plenty of people still give readings from their books several months after launch (or longer), and if I end up spreading these tour events through the rest of 2017, that’s fine with me.


There’s another question that I might go into more fully next week: how much am I willing to pay for the chance of making this book tip, for lack of a better term?

I’m starting to receive additional opportunities like the NYRB one, in which the pitch is essentially “You have a good book. We only want good books in our magazine, which gets distributed to hundreds of thousands of readers, bookstore owners, librarians, etc. Would you like to pay to advertise your book in our magazine?”

And yes, they’re playing to my ego—“you have a good book”—but I know that I have a well-written novel. I also know that any product has to get exposure before it reaches a wider audience, and although the internet has made it possible for fans to “do our advertising for us,” paying for advertising also helps.

So I’m like, okay, I wouldn’t be getting these opportunities if my book wasn’t good, and maybe that means I should take advantage of them, but also THEY COST MONEY.

As with the book tour, part of me wants to put this off for a month. Launch the book, see how much momentum it builds on its own, and then decide how large of a tour to do and how many additional ads to buy.

As a reminder, here’s what I’ve already got planned (this doesn’t include stuff like podcast appearances, but there will be at least two of those forthcoming because I’ve already recorded them):

May 23: Book launch party at Seattle’s Phinney Books.

June 5–11: Week-long sponsorship at the Seattle Review of Books, which means my book is featured on the site for the entire week.

June 8–29: Biographies appears in the NYRB Independent Press Listing, which includes NYRB copies mailed to subscribers and provided to BookExpo attendees.

August 11: Book reading that I’ll announce formally later.

I’m also listed in the Ingram Advance catalog and on a Kirkus content feed that was sent out to a bunch of major booksellers. It’s not like my novel will be invisible.

So maybe I see how June goes and decide if I want to buy more advertising (and do more book events) for July. I don’t know. There’s a lot to think about, and we’ll see what happens. ❤

Photo credit: kristin klein, CC BY 2.0.