This Week in Self-Publishing: I Got My BlueInk Review!

This Week

Books sold: 3 ebooks (Amazon), 1 ebook (iBooks)

Money earned: $11.12

Money spent: $0

Total

Books sold: 375 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Volume 2 pre-orders: 30

Money earned (book sales): $1,480.87

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $6,622.57


I am currently at the beginning of what I’m calling the “promotion critical path.” There are certain actions that have to complete (like finalizing the date for the reading/launch that I’m currently planning in Cedar Rapids) before I can start other actions (like reaching out to the local newspaper and local library). There’s a lot of work to be done, but I do enjoy putting to-do lists together and then doing the items on the list!

I also got my first industry review for The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2. It’s from BlueInk Review, and so far I think the pull quote is “the writing is precise and wonderfully descriptive.” The full review will be on the BlueInk site next week and I’ll give you the link as soon as I get it.

I’ve been getting more NetGalley reviews for Volume 1 (none for Volume 2 yet), and people either really love the book or they say it isn’t their thing, which is fine. Nobody has yet said that the book is bad, or the writing is bad — which is kind of all I care about? If it’s not your thing, no big deal. But if I wrote terrible prose, then that’s on me. So far that does not seem to be the case; the one consistent comment I’ve gotten from reviewers is that the writing is very strong. (Precise and wonderfully descriptive!)

I also found out that I did not make it onto the Foreword Indies finalist list, which is disappointing — but, again, not a big deal. Submitting to awards is the important part; whether or not I win them is out of my control, so it’s not worth worrying over. I have my list of to-dos and I am going to do them, and that’s all I really can do: write the best book I know how and share it with as many people as possible. ❤

Photo credit: Arnolds Auziņš, CC BY 2.0.

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On Reading Nate Staniforth’s ‘Here Is Real Magic’ and Realizing Life As You Live It

I was doing this interview to get a scholarship for college, it was me and something like four or five faculty members in a conference room, and I can’t remember whether they asked me if I had a philosophy of life or if I volunteered it, but I remember quoting Our Town:

Does anyone ever realize life while they live it… every, every minute?

Saints and poets maybe, they do some.

I’d actually learned that quote not from Our Town (though, like most young people interested in theater, I would eventually help stage the play) but from the novelization of My So-Called Life — which I did not mention.

I also don’t remember mentioning that one of the reasons I wanted to work in the arts — or more specifically, make art — was so I could realize life every, every minute. It seemed too much like comparing myself to a saint or a poet, and I was neither.

But I was ambitious, and I was a hard worker, and I was, for lack of a better term, a chaser of dreams.


I bought Nate Staniforth’s Here Is Real Magic: A Magician’s Search for Wonder in the Modern World for three reasons:

  1. I’d recently moved to Cedar Rapids and I wanted to start building a relationship with my new local bookstore.
  2. It had a blurb from Lev Grossman on the cover, and you already know how I feel about The Magicians.
  3. I was curious whether Staniforth’s definition of magic was the same as mine.

Here’s how I defined “magic,” when I wrote about visiting Disneyland:

I don’t believe in magic but I do believe that people can create magic, which is to say they can imbue items or people or experiences with meaning. They can imagine, to borrow what seems to be the theme, something more—and then it exists.

The magic, to me, isn’t in the action; I know enough about how stage magic works that I can look at something like the opening scene of Now You See It and think “they just forced the seven of diamonds.” The magic is in the reaction; in hearing a theater full of people take a quick breath when the seven of diamonds is revealed.

Or, to go back to the Disneyland example: Snow White’s Wishing Well isn’t magic, but the people who believe in magic (or want to create magic) have made it so by the way we respond. Dropping coins, making wishes, saying prayers. Leaving the grotto feeling hopeful or happy — or like we’ve participated in something larger than ourselves.


Here Is Real Magic, as the subtitle suggests, isn’t really about magic. It’s about wonder. Staniforth writes about two different kinds of wonder: the kind that can take hold of an audience, which falls in line with my definition of creating magic, and the kind that can take hold of the self.

As a musician, I am well aware that you can create the type of performance that delights an audience without necessarily feeling that delight yourself, but it’s hard to create a truly captivating moment without also being equally captivated. It’s the balance between what you’ve rehearsed and what you make new; discipline and connection. The moment when you are singing with someone else (or with a choir) and your voices blend to the point where you can’t tell where you end and your partner begins. The moment when you are listening to the audience as intently as they are listening to you.

But even that, as Staniforth knows and as I know and as anyone who does any kind of creative work over a period of time knows, isn’t enough to maintain your own personal sense of wonder. At some point you’re no longer realizing life as you live it, every, every minute, and you have to go find life again.


It took me until this past year to put a name to what “finding life again” felt like, and you’re going to laugh when I tell this story because it’s so obvious, but here we go:

I bought Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven’s Prophecy tarot deck after reading The Raven Cycle, and here’s where you go if you want to read my thoughts on The Raven Cycle, but when I started using the deck I had the same feeling you get when you’re a child and someone gives you a new toy to explore or take apart or turn into stories.

And I hadn’t had a new toy in forever. I’d occasionally try to go back to old toys, like replaying SNES games, but I’d get bored. That wasn’t play anymore, and this was.

Before I get a bunch of comments on how tarot isn’t a toy, I want to say that I agree with you. It isn’t! But it is play. It’s creative interaction. It’s self-directed and generative and it teaches you something new and helps you grow — and, by the definition above, can be magic.

I didn’t fully put together that “finding life again” meant play until I got my bike. I felt that same strong sense memory of getting a new toy — and although bikes aren’t toys either, they are self-directed and generative and they teach you something new and etc. etc. etc.

So I started looking for other ways to play, and it was interesting to learn what did and didn’t qualify. Caring for my succulents is a little too passive to be play. Cooking can sometimes be play, but sometimes it’s just chores. Singing and dancing are often play, but it’s a little more complicated when you get into the performance end of things because then you start switching over into trying to make something specific, which is why writing can also sometimes be play but sometimes it’s more of that goal-oriented, dream-chasing trying to make art, which is equally captivating but not regenerative in the same way that play is — because play isn’t working towards a desired outcome. It’s just seeing what happens.

(This is where I should sidebar and say that yes, sometimes “just seeing what happens” can result in art, but there’s a difference between play and performance — there’s a lot more vulnerability in performance, for starters — and if you want to read more about that, go get a copy of my novel The Biographies of Ordinary People.)

This is why walking or biking a new trail feels like play, which brings me — finally — to the photo at the top of this post. Finding an empty frame placed on the side of a lake felt like a discovery (even though I in no way discovered it) and the fact that the frame was empty made me imagine everything that could go inside it — the lake, of course, but I could also bring friends here and show them the frame and we could take photos of ourselves through the frame, and I could come back in a month and see what the trees looked like with leaves on them — and suddenly I was connected to this piece of art and interacting with it, and it was wonderful. ❤

This Week in Self-Publishing: The Third BargainBooksy Promo

This Week (technically the past two weeks)

Books sold: 10 ebooks (Amazon)

Money earned: $27.03

Money spent: $0

Total

Books sold: 371 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Volume 2 pre-orders: 28

Money earned (book sales): $1,469.85

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $6,622.57


I skipped last week’s update because I had zero sales, zero expenses, and no news to report; this week I still have zero expenses, but I had a bunch of sales because I ran a BargainBooksy promotion on Saturday, March 17.

My previous BargainBooksy promotions had both been Sunday promotions, under the theory that people are more likely to make decisions on Sunday and Monday (I don’t know about you, but Saturdays are generally rest days for me, and Sunday/Monday are action days). Here’s a quick recap of the results:

First BargainBooksy promo (July 16):

Cost: $35

Sales: 28

Net royalties: $75.18

Net profit: $47.18

Highest Amazon ranking: #16,507 overall, #120 in litfic sagas

Second BargainBooksy promo (August 27):

Cost: $35

Sales: 14

Net royalties: $37.38

Net profit: $2.38

Highest Amazon ranking: #31,807 overall, #226 in litfic sagas

Third BargainBooksy promo (March 17):

Cost: $35

Sales: 9 so far (my Amazon KDP report claims I got 9 sales on March 17 and none on March 18, which doesn’t match the sales ranking graph from Author Central; maybe the other sales will record later this week?)

Net royalties: $24.66 so far

Net profit: -$10.34

Highest Amazon ranking:  #39,163 overall, and I know it hit at least the #300s in litfic sagas

It does look like my BargainBooksy promos are showing diminishing returns, although I’ll be interested to see whether I did have some sales on March 18 that haven’t yet been recorded on KDP. My Author Central graph, which you can view at the top of the post, suggests I should have made another 8 or 9 sales on Sunday, so… where are they?

If it turns out that I made zero sales on Sunday but my author ranking remained in the 30,000s  because nobody was buying books that day (remember, Amazon is constantly comparing you to all of the other books being sold in real time) then it won’t be a terrible loss. The biggest reason I ran the BargainBooksy promo was to get new readers who would then pre-order Volume 2, after all — and my pre-orders did go up this week. Still, I’d like to break even on the cost of the promo, so I’m hoping I get a few more sales!


I sent Volume 2 to designer Veronica Ewing to start the “turn it into a paperback” process this week. We have a lot more time to get this done than we did last year, and (I hope) a lot less work; the interior design will follow the template Veronica created for Volume 1, so we don’t have to have a second conversation about layouts and typefaces.

I also asked Veronica to make a few changes to Volume 1; we need to edit the copyright page to reflect the new ebook ISBN, now that Pronoun is defunct (seriously, the fact that we all lost our ISBNs was one of the worst parts of the Pronoun shutdown), there’s one typo in the text that I want to fix, and I need to edit the back cover copy to include the Library Journal Self-E Selection honor.

This is where I want to add “and any other honors The Biographies of Ordinary People might receive in the next few months,” because AWARDS SEASON is starting, but I also don’t want to sound overconfident or presumptuous or jinxy.

Here’s a list of all the places I submitted Biographies Volume 1:

I got my IndieReader Discovery Award Verdict this week (it’s like the BookLife Critic’s Report, they review all of the books before they announce the winners, no doubt to get the extra publicity that comes when excited authors like me share their reviews), and my verdict included “The rather unassuming title doesn’t do justice to the beautifully written story of this typical American family.” So… no matter what happens with these awards, I can still tell people that IndieReader thought my writing was beautiful. ❤

 

This Week in Self-Publishing: Volume 2 Is Available on NetGalley!

This Week

Books sold: 1 ebook (Google Play), 1 ebook (iBooks)

Money earned: $4.87

Money spent: $1,155

Total

Books sold: 361 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,442.82

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $6,622.57


Let’s add one more metric to the list: 25 pre-orders.

So this was a big spending week for me; I sent The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2 to Kirkus, Foreword Clarion, and BlueInk to be reviewed. The Kirkus review cost $425, and the Foreword Clarion/BlueInk two-review package cost $695.

I also spent $35 to set up another Bargain Booksy promotion for Volume 1, in the hopes that readers will buy the first book and then GET EXCITED ABOUT THE SEQUEL.

If you are currently excited about the sequel AND you have a NetGalley account, you can read/review Volume 2 RIGHT NOW. (You can also read/review Volume 1, if you want.)

That’s all the update I can give at the moment because I am very busy singing in the chorus of Revival Theatre Company’s production of Ragtime — which opens this Thursday — but as soon as that is done I will be going FULL SPEED into book promotion and paperback production. More news coming soon! ❤