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. ❤️

Writing & Money Episode 8: The Art of Interviewing, Part 1

Interviewing is often one of the hardest parts of freelancing — it involves asking people for help, dealing with rejection, and PHONES — so I’ve broken the interviewing process down into a series of easy-to-manage steps. This episode deals with everything you need to do before you ask someone for an interview; the next episode will be about how to ask, how to do the interview, and what to do after the interview.

Show notes!

  • Seattle’s Hugo House is a great place to take writing classes, and I’m not saying that just because I used to teach there.
  • The “visit Enya’s castle” story is Anne Helen Petersen’s “The Keys to Enya’s Kingdom,” at BuzzFeed. Read it. It’s SO GOOD.
  • The Billfold has a Patreon! (You know I’m the editor of The Billfold, right?)

This Week in Self-Publishing: My Book Is on NetGalley

This Week

Books sold: 0

Money earned: $0

Money spent: $225


Books sold: 357 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,435.07

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $5,080.71

One of the more challenging parts of marketing The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2: 2004–2016 is that it isn’t a stand-alone book. (As you might remember, it begins at Chapter 71.)

So what I’m doing right now is re-marketing The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1: 1989–2000 in an effort to get people excited about Volume 2. Last week I contacted nine bloggers & book people about reviewing Volume 1, two of which now have a copy of the book.

I also signed up with Patchwork Press’s NetGalley Co-Op, and Volume 1 is currently available to read and review on NetGalley.

Here’s how the NetGalley Co-Op works: I paid $225 for six months of space in the co-op, during which I can promote multiple books (my hope is to have the Volume 2 ARC available by the end of February). Patchwork Press manages all of the review requests and does all of the back-end work, which is GREAT.

I haven’t even formally announced the NetGalley thing yet and already 17 people have liked my cover. So… I hope this works out as a promotional tool, and I’ll let you know how many review requests I end up getting.

This is probably how the schedule is going to go down, over the next few months:

February: finish Volume 2 ARC (ebook only), submit to NetGalley and industry reviewers

March: start promoting Volume 2 ARC with bloggers and book people, start creating print version

April: continue promotion, launch pre-order, finalize print version, begin planning book tour

May: continue promotion, planning, etc., publish book (which will probably be on May 22 but don’t hold me to that YET)

June: book tour, plus I’ll start hearing about whether Volume 1 won any awards

July: run another big sale on Volume 1 to get people excited about both volumes

I have a lot of work to do, but I am so very excited about getting you Volume 2 and sharing the second half of this story.

I hope you’re excited too. ❤️

This Week in Self-Publishing: Comparing My Numbers to Trad Pub Numbers

This Week

Books sold: 1 ebook (Amazon)

Money earned: $0 (no, I don’t know why Amazon told me I didn’t earn any royalties this week)

Money spent: $0


Books sold: 357 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,435.07

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $4,855.71

I have some exciting news that I can’t tell you about yet, so in the meantime let’s look at this New Statesman article about how much literary fiction novelists can expect to earn over their careers (hat tip to the Seattle Review of Books for sharing the piece).

In today’s market, selling 3,000 copies of your novel is not unrespectable – but factor in the average hardback price of £10.12 and the retailer’s 50 per cent cut, and just £15,000 remains to share between publisher, agent and author. No wonder that the percentage of authors earning a full-time living solely from writing dropped from 40 per cent in 2005 to 11.5 per cent in 2013.

I’ve currently sold 504 copies of The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1, and — as you can see above — have earned $1,435.07 in royalties and $6,909 from the Patreon “advance.” Subtract expenses and I’m at $3,488.36 in profit; pull out 30 percent for taxes and I get to keep $2,441.85.

The New Statesman doesn’t clarify how much of the £15,000 goes to the author, or whether that author has yet earned out their advance; there are a lot of apples and oranges involved here, since I don’t know the types of taxes British authors pay, etc.

But is it possible to look at these numbers and think “okay, as a self-publisher I’ve earned roughly as much from my 504 sales as a traditionally published author might earn from 3,000?”

That feels a little presumptuous on my part, but here’s another quote from the article:

Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors, tells me of a writer who had an advance of £60,000 for her last book and is being offered £6,000 for her new one – a not unrepresentative slump.

That isn’t too far off from the $6,909 I earned through Patreon.

The flip side, of course, is that I haven’t sold 3,000 books. What I’ve gained in revenue I’ve lost in reach; it’s a lot harder to get people (and industry reviewers) to pay attention to a self-published book, especially when — as with Volume 1 — I did all of the outreach myself. (That is going to CHANGE, and SOON.)

Plus, once you’re a midlist author you might get other paying gigs — teaching, speaking — that I am not currently eligible for.

However, the fact that I was able to turn a profit on my debut novel will make it easier for me to publish the second one and invest a little more money into it. Which in turn might lead to more sales and more profits. Maybe. We’ll see what happens. ❤️

Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash.

The Writing & Money Podcast is now FREE FOR EVERYONE

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I wanted to let you all know that I’ve switched the Writing & Money podcast from a Patreon subscription model to a Simplecast FREE FOR EVERYONE model.

I’ve been watching the stats, and what I’ve learned is that a lot of people are listening to the free episodes but only a small number of people choose to become subscribers.

So I’m making all of the episodes free. The ones that currently exist, plus the episodes to come.

I hope you agree that this is the way to go — I’d been thinking about it ever since the Patreon kerfluffle a while back, and when I reblogged the free “how to do your big creative projects” episode last week, the numbers confirmed it.

I want to share what I know with as many people as possible, and the $1/month subscription was getting in the way of that.

Here’s the newest episode: How to Become a Regular Contributor. 

Here’s the RSS feed if you want to add Writing & Money to your favorite podcast app:

I hope you enjoy the podcast! ❤️

This Week in Self-Publishing: An Update on the Lyric Licensing Project

This Week

Books sold: 1 ebook (Amazon)

Money earned: $1.71

Money spent: $0


Books sold: 356 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,435.07

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $4,855.71

I wanted to give you a quick update on the whole “trying to license a Hamilton lyric” thing.

To recap: since licensing lyrics can get expensive, I rewrote all of the sections of Volume 2 that included song lyrics except for one. As I explained in last week’s update:

Whenever I rework a piece of text so it doesn’t rely on a character singing or remembering a song lyric, I do feel better about the text afterwards. Yes, it would be nice if I could write out the actual phrase that is stuck in a character’s head (or that a character is singing onstage, or rehearsing with a choir) but it’s also fun to figure out how to allude to it without quoting it.


But I decided to go ahead with the permissions request [for the Hamilton quote] because I’d never actually sent one — you might remember that I thought about sending out requests for Volume 1 and then ended up rewriting all of the sections — and I wanted to get over my fear of doing it.

So I filled out the request form and very quickly learned that my request had been denied.

I wasn’t expecting this. I’ve licensed cover songs before — like the Gruber sisters, I grew up in a family of musicians — and that process was almost like going to a store: you pick the song you want, select the number of times you plan to license it, and pay the fee. If you sell more copies than you have licenses, you go back to the licensing site and pay them again.

However, if there’s one thing I am used to in this career it is rejection, so I have no problem rewriting the chapter. It’s probably the stronger choice anyway. ❤️

Photo by Valentino Funghi on Unsplash.

Happy Belated New Year!

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

We are technically halfway through January, but I still want to wish you a happy New Year. (It’s still new! New enough!) I realized I hadn’t written you an update since last November, which… um… my life has changed a lot since then.

I moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa on November 30, and I want to write a whole long post about that but I don’t quite have the words yet. It’s still new enough that I don’t want to start labeling and making comparisons; right now it’s my job to both get involved and step back. I will say that I haven’t gotten used to living in a place where events start on time.

I also got The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 back on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play after the Great Pronoun Shutdown of 2017. (Not iBooks yet, though. They haven’t responded to my Help Desk request.) I’m in the process of prepping Volume 2 for publication this May, and that is going to take up the next several weekends; I need to get as much of it done as possible before I go into rehearsals for the Revival Theatre Company’s production of Ragtime.

(I’m so excited about living in a place where I can do theater again. If you’ve read Biographies Vol. 1, none of this should surprise you.)

If you’re thinking about starting your own big project in 2018 — it being the season of resolutions and all — take fifteen minutes to listen to my Writing & Money podcast episode How to Do Your Big Creative Projects (While Still Doing All Your Other Work). If you like that episode, you can subscribe to the entire podcast for $1 per month; you can also leave comments, which I will be delighted to read.

On the subject of feedback: I’m curious what you’d like out of this TinyLetter in 2018. Would you like me to share every post I write on, including my This Week in Self-Publishing updates? Would you like a roundup of everything I publish at The Billfold and Lifehacker and anywhere else I write? Would you like me to share the most interesting thing I read in the past week, such as this brilliant interview with Terry Gross at Vulture?

Or would you prefer I just email you when I have a new book or a new class or a new event?

Let me know — and happy belated New Year. ❤️

This Week in Self-Publishing: My Book Is Back on Nook and Google Play

This Week

Books sold: 2 ebooks (Amazon), 1 paperback

Money earned: $8.86

Money spent: $0


Books sold: 355 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,433.36

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $4,855.71

Two pieces of exciting news this week: first, thanks to a great tip from Art Kavanagh, I was able to use Pages to create a new epub… which I then uploaded to Kobo and Google Play, since they were the two retailers that didn’t have their own built-in epub creator.

This means that none of the current ebooks have Pronoun branding or dead links to Pronoun sites. Yay!

My ebook is also now live on Google Play, and my ebook and paperback are live on Barnes & Noble. I’m back on every major retailer except Apple iBooks, because… I don’t even want to get into it. Oh-my-GOD Apple iBooks is complicated. I currently have a help desk request out with them and I’m hoping I can get some help with this.

The other piece of exciting news is that I started permissions requests for the lyrics and copyrighted text I want to quote in Volume 2. This actually means that I spent all morning looking at the various lyrics I wanted to quote throughout the book and then went “I can rework you, and you…” because quoting lyrics isn’t free.

Whenever I rework a piece of text so it doesn’t rely on a character singing or remembering a song lyric, I do feel better about the text afterwards. Yes, it would be nice if I could write out the actual phrase that is stuck in a character’s head (or that a character is singing onstage, or rehearsing with a choir) but it’s also fun to figure out how to allude to it without quoting it. The Biographies of Ordinary People is about musicians, so there are a lot of songs referenced in the book, and I don’t expect everyone to get every reference — so the challenge is to make the paragraph work whether or not the reader knows which song the crowd sang when they stood outside the White House on the night President Obama was elected.

(It was “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.” I was there.)

I did end up sending out three permissions requests: one so I could quote a prayer, one so I could quote from a sorority creed, and one so I could quote from Hamilton.

The prayer and creed requests went out via email to their organizations’ respective administrators (I’ve already heard back about the prayer; it’s in public domain). The Hamilton request required me to fill out a form with Alfred Music and email them the chapter in which the text will be used; I’ll hear back in 45 days.

I could have rewritten the chapter so it didn’t include a direct Hamilton quote, and I may still do that if it turns out to be super-expensive to use it. But I decided to go ahead with the permissions request because I’d never actually sent one — you might remember that I thought about sending out requests for Volume 1 and then ended up rewriting all of the sections — and I wanted to get over my fear of doing it.

I also wanted that particular request because… um… then I could tell the Hamilton people that my book has Hamilton in it. (Like, on Twitter. We know they like fanart.)

Anyway, I promise I’ll tell you when I hear back from Alfred Music, and I’ll also let you know more about the “how to get a book on Apple iBooks” process as soon as I figure it out myself. ❤️