Self-Publishing Update: Well, I’ve Finally Spent More Than I’ve Earned

Sales/Expenses Since April 22

Books sold: 5 ebooks (Amazon), 10 paperbacks

Money earned: $213.60

Money spent: $1,978.42


Books sold: 382 ebooks, 157 paperbacks

Volume 2 pre-orders: 35

Money earned (book sales): $1,619.28

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $9,540.32

We’re now at the point where I’ve spent more money on The Biographies of Ordinary People than I’ve earned from it — which should mean that it’s time to stop spending, but it takes a little bit of money to get a book published (I still need to order two cases of books from IngramSpark, for example, to give to bookstores that sell via consignment), plus the expenses of going on tour.

It should also be pretty obvious that the Patreon money was the big reason why I turned any profit on Volume 1; if I hadn’t had the support of a group of readers, I’d be way way way way into the red by now.

I do anticipate earning money on both Volume 2 book sales and the courses I’m teaching while I’m on book tour, but I don’t anticipate earning more than it’ll cost to go on the 10-day tour — and yes, I could have chopped those 10 days down to 7 if I’d been more willing to trust that all the planes would get me to all the places on time, but flying out of Cedar Rapids often means delays, and flying in and out of Juneau can mean additional delays, so I built in a few buffer days.

On the plus side, those buffer days will enable me to keep up my full-time freelance workload while traveling, so I won’t lose any money that way. Plus, the whole thing will be a tax deduction — and, more importantly, it’ll be an opportunity to meet readers, teach students, see friends, and build connections with bookstores and writing centers.

So where will I be, on this ten-day tour?

  • Tuesday, June 5: Teaching “The Finances of Self-Publishing” at Seattle’s Hugo House. 6-9 p.m. Sign up here.
  • Wednesday, June 6: Reading and signing at Seattle’s Phinney Books. 7-8 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Friday, June 8: Reading and signing at Portland’s Another Read Through. 7-8 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Sunday, June 10: Reading and signing at Juneau’s Rainy Retreat Books, with music from Marian Call and Laura Zahasky! 5-6 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Monday, June 11: Teaching “Getting Started as a Freelancer” at Juneau’s 49 Writers. 6:30-9 p.m. Sign up here.

There’ll be a few more local events to announce this summer, starting with the Next Page Books book club in Cedar Rapids! If you’re available on Tuesday, May 15 at 7 p.m., we’ll be discussing The Biographies of Ordinary People, Volume 1.

Am I planning any readings on the East Coast? Well… the next time I’m on that side of the country, I’ll definitely look for an interested bookstore! But I’m not currently planning a multi-day tour. (See “gotta make sure I don’t go too far into the red,” above.)

I also wanted to share a couple of recent accolades:

  • The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 was an IndieReader Best Reviewed Book of April!
  • Kirkus selected The Biographies of Ordinary People as one of the 35 indie reviews to be featured in its May 15th issue!

Plus, I got to hold, review, and sign off on the print proof, which means you will be able to start ordering paperback copies soon. ❤

Photo credit: Abby Lanes, CC BY 2.0.


Self-Publishing Update: Book Tours and Community Building

Sales/Expenses Since April 11

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

Money earned: $4.81

Money spent: $0


Books sold: 377 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Volume 2 pre-orders: 33

Money earned (book sales): $1,485.68

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $7,561.90

The following was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I’ve been living in Cedar Rapids for five months now, which I’m already mentally rounding up to “half a year,” and although I still don’t feel comfortable making blanket statements about what life in CR is like, and I definitely don’t feel comfortable making “I live in Stardew Valley” jokes even though that is, in fact, what it feels like, I’ll try to describe my new life in terms of What I Did Yesterday:

It was Ecofest, so I set my alarm to wake up early enough that I could ride my bike out to Prairie Park Fishery for the Tour de Trees. I knew that the event would involve bike riding and tree planting, but I didn’t realize that this wouldn’t be the kind of tree planting I did when I was in elementary school, where the trees they gave us were roughly the same size as weeds. These trees were the size of trees, and I was inappropriately dressed.  However, one of the organizers, whom I knew from Revival Theatre Company, gave me a pair of work gloves, and I dug up rocks and hauled water from the river with everyone else and we were able to plant three trees and name them. (It’s a tradition to name them.)

Then we all rode our bikes back to NewBo City Market, which is both a community center and a local vendor space, to continue the Ecofest celebration. There was food, live music, bus tours of Mount Trashmore, a film festival, and a compost bin mascot named Yardy. And, because people knew me, I got recruited to play a oak tree in this demonstration of “threats to our local tree population.” I was killed by bur oak blight, along with all the other oak trees in the demonstration.

I’m not going to be so reductive as to say “nobody ever asked me to play an oak tree in Seattle,” because I was invited to be part of an original musical (Molly Lewis’s Thanksgiving vs. Christmas) and I did a whole bunch of cabaret-style shows with Marian Call. The difference in this case was that I went to a town event and people said “Hey! Good to see you! Want to help us?” That’s the piece that never quite fell into place, in all the other places I’ve lived as an adult.

After Ecofest I went back to my apartment and logged on to Marian Call’s Karaoke Jukebox Challenge fundraiser, which was the other important part of yesterday: building a life in a new community while remaining connected to this other, mostly online community that I’ve been part of for years. (Also, supporting a friend.)

It’s interesting, because the more I live here the more I want to stay — like, I’m excited to take The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2 on tour, but I’m also excited to get back to Cedar Rapids and hang out with the bike people and the theater people and the writers I’ve met and, you know, do things. I’m helping launch a book club at the local bookstore. The Farmers’ Market will be starting up soon. The opera just announced its 2018–2019 season and I need to figure out how to be a supernumerary.

On the subject of The Biographies of Ordinary People, here’s a list of my current appearances and tour stops:

Next Page Books

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Saturday, April 28, 12-3 p.m.

It’s Independent Bookstore Day! I’ll be in Cedar Rapids’ own Next Page Books signing copies of The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 —  which has been selected as the first title in the New Bohemia Book Club.

Next Page Books

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Tuesday, May 15, 7 p.m.

The inaugural meeting of the New Bohemia Book Club. We’ll be discussing The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1.

Hugo House

Seattle, Washington

Tuesday, June 3, 2018. 6-9 p.m.

I’ll be teaching a one-night only course on the finances of self-publishing. Register here.

Phinney Books

Seattle, Washington

Wednesday, June 6, 7 p.m.

I’ll be reading from The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2.

Another Read Through

Portland, Oregon

Friday, June 8, 7 p.m.

I’ll be reading from The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2.

I still want to book events in Juneau and Los Angeles, and I’ll let you know if/when they’re added to the schedule. I’ve also been asked to do a reading in Washington, DC, although I suspect that might not happen for the same reason why these Juneau and LA events might not happen: because I haven’t built relationships with booksellers in those cities. (Have you read my Billfold piece on networking yet?) You can occasionally book a reading or a performance off a cold call — I’ve done it, and it’s always worth a try — but you’re a lot more likely to get the booking if you’ve already built the relationship.

You’re more likely to get other opportunities as well — I was recently invited to be part of an anthology, for example, and although I don’t think I can formally announce the book yet, I can say that my invitation came after having built a professional relationship with the organization releasing the anthology. (Also, I think I can say that I am SO EXCITED.)

On the subject of “professional accolades,” I am very happy to announce that The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 was selected as an IndieReader Approved title. I still don’t know whether IndieReader will give Volume 1 a Discovery Award — I’ll find out in May — but getting the IR Approved designation felt pretty good.

I do know that Volume 1 did not win any of the other awards for which it was entered, which is a bit of a disappointment, but it was an honor to have nominated myself.

Plus, Volume 2 just got its Kirkus Review: “A shrewdly unique portrait of everyday America.” I love that line because it echoes the “Dieker writes with unrepentant honesty about the human condition” review that Volume 1 got from the BookLife Prize team. (Another award that I did not win.) I also love the word shrewd. We don’t use it often enough.

That’s all the news I have for right now; the Volume 2 ebook is still available for pre-order at Amazon, and I’ll have more information about the Volume 2 paperback soon. In the meanwhile, I’ll be getting ready for Indie Bookstore Day next weekend and this book club that I’m getting to help launch — and I’ll tell you once again how happy I am to have moved to Cedar Rapids. ❤

Photo credit: Katja Schulz, CC BY 2.0.

Self-Publishing Update: I Got My Foreword Clarion Review!

Sales/Expenses Since March 26

Books sold: $0

Money earned: $0

Money spent: $939.33


Books sold: 375 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Volume 2 pre-orders: 32

Money earned (book sales): $1,480.87

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $7,561.90

So… I’m switching from weekly self-publishing updates to “updates whenever I have news to share,” because otherwise I would have spent the past two weeks writing boring ‘ol nothing new to report blog posts, and nobody wants to waste their time on those.

But I have news to share! Today! The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2 got its Foreword Clarion Review!

You can read the full review, but here’s the pull quote:

The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2 is a satisfying family saga about growing up and coming into one’s own.

This review was a four-star review, compared to Volume 1‘s five-star review, which I think is accurate. This isn’t to say that Volume 2 is significantly worse than Volume 1, or even 20 percent worse, but… it’s like I said at the Phinney Books launch last year. It’s hard to write about adulthood, if you aren’t doing, like, THE MYSTERY! or ALIENS! or OH NO, AN AFFAIR! There’s a long tradition of writing the ordinary young person coming of age, and I did that pretty well in Volume 1. There are fewer books about ordinary people navigating adult life — which, you know, Meredith addresses in the first chapter of Volume 2.


Also, my BlueInk Review is now up in full on the site, if you want to read it. Next up should be Kirkus, and then I’ll have enough blurbs to print the paperback.

As you can probably tell by the amount of money I’ve spent since my last update, I am in the middle of planning THE BOOK TOUR. (Flights and hotels are expensive, even when you’re paying for part of the trip with miles.) I have a few stops planned that I’m not sure I can formally announce yet, but I can announce that I am teaching a class at Seattle’s Hugo House on Tuesday, June 5:

The Finances of Self-Publishing
Self-publishing is easier than ever—but it isn’t cheap. When you become your own publisher, you take on all the costs associated with publication: hiring editors and designers, getting industry reviews, planning book launches and book tours. You also become your own accountant: how much should your book cost, and how many copies will you need to sell to break even? Is it worth it to sell print copies as well as ebooks? What about taxes? This course will cover the finances of self-publishing, explain the types of expenses you can expect as a first-time publisher, and discuss ways to keep your costs low while still creating a professional-quality book.

Here’s where you go if you want to register! I am so excited to get to talk about money and budgeting and figuring out how to fund your self-published book, because… well, you have been following all of my updates and financials, right? If you are in Seattle, I hope to see you there — if you aren’t, I hope you tell all of your Seattle-area writer friends. ❤

Photo credit: Rosmarie Voegtli, CC BY 2.0.

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


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.

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


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


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! ❤

This Week in Self-Publishing: Volume 2 Is Available for Pre-Order!

This Week

Books sold: 0

Money earned: $0

Money spent: $0


Books sold: 359 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,440.02

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $5,467.57

The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2: 2004–2016 is officially available for pre-order on Amazon! (Ebook only. Paperback will come later. The book releases on May 22.)

If you’re a NetGalley person, Volume 2 will be up on NetGalley this week for you to read and review.

At this point I get to switch from “creating the ARC” to “promoting the ARC,” which means I’m going to be reaching out to bloggers and reviewers, running another BargainBooksy promo for Volume 1, and… stuff? More stuff? I need to start doing Instagram posts, guest blogs, podcast episodes, etc. (If you know of anyone who would love to have my melodious voice on their podcast, let me know.)

Thanks for your support throughout all of this. I hope you enjoy Volume 2. I also hope you pre-order it, but that’s up to you. ❤

This Week in Self-Publishing: My Book Is On iBooks Now

This Week (technically “these past two weeks”)

Books sold: 0

Money earned: $0

Money spent: $386.86


Books sold: 359 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,440.02

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $5,467.57

Sorry to skip last week — I was feeling unwell. I was actually hoping to have done all the work to set up the Volume 2 preorder by now, but that didn’t happen either… however, I did finally finish the process of getting The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 back on iBooks (which I keep wanting to write as iTunes), so that’s one item I can check off the list. It should be available for sale by Tuesday at the latest.

I also submitted Volume 1 to the IndieReader Discovery Awards, specifically because they have a Best First Book award and I’m pretty proud of my first book.

I spent $374 to submit Volume 1 to the Literary Fiction category and the Best First Book category and get a discounted book review in the process (because part of the reason you do all of this is to have another piece of promotional material to send around, plus the chance of getting the IndieReader Approved sticker from the reviewer which means extra promo on IndieReader’s part, plus the chance of getting an award and having IndieReader send your book to agents).

Then I spent $12.86 to ship paperback copies of Volume 1 to IndieReader, because I had the choice of sending paperbacks or ebooks and… I’m pretty proud of my paperback, too. ❤

Other than that, I’m going to keep working and try to get that preorder up by March 1. Take care of yourselves, y’all. There are a lot of colds and flu going around, and I am still not completely well from the “probably a cold but I had about 24 hours of mild fever and muscle aches” thing I’ve had.

Photo credit: Josh Newman, CC BY 2.0.

This Week in Self-Publishing: Getting Ready to Announce the Pre-Order

This Week

Books sold: 2 ebooks (Amazon)

Money earned: $4.95

Money spent: $0


Books sold: 359 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,440.02

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $5,080.71

I wanted to give you an update on Patchwork Press’s NetGalley Co-Op: I submitted The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 to NetGalley through the Co-Op last week, and it currently has two NetGalley reviews!

This is worth noting because, as I explained last week, the biggest challenge of marketing Volume 2 will be re-marketing Volume 1.  I actually talked with some publicists who suggested it might be too difficult of a challenge, but… I have ideas. I’ve got this NetGalley Co-Op going, and I want to get the Volume 2 ARC up by the end of the month so reviewers can read/review/promote both. I also need to get the Volume 2 pre-order up by the end of the month so that promotion can drive purchases.

I’m also submitting Volume 1 to the IndieReader Discovery Awards this week. They just announced a prize for best debut novel, which will be awarded in late May/early June. As with the BookLife Prize, I’ll get an evaluation of my book regardless of whether I win any awards, and I can use that in my marketing.

After I get the pre-order up, I’m going to run another BargainBooksy promo on Volume 1, so people who like the first volume can immediately pre-order the second.

I have a few more ideas but they’re not fully shaped yet, so I’m focusing on these for now. (Yes, I’m still going to be reaching out to blogs/podcasts/publications, etc., and there’s also going to be a local marketing emphasis.)

But the most important thing for me to do this week is get Volume 2 ARC-ready. WHICH MIGHT ACTUALLY HAPPEN THIS WEEK, WE’LL SEE. The pre-order might also happen this week. Who knows? I’m going to work as hard as I can and see how far I get. ❤️