This Week in Self-Publishing: Ways You Can Get My Book for Free

Money earned (total): $7,392.11

Money spent (total): $3,496.31

Book sales (last month): $350.40

Money spent (this week): $0

So I’m still getting emails every morning tallying up the previous 24 hours’ book sales, which means… people are still buying the book. At a pretty consistent rate.

Which surprises me. I think I thought sales would drop off after the first week, but here we are in Week 4 and people are still buying the book and writing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. That’s really good news, and I want to thank you all—AGAIN—for reading and supporting my book. ❤

And, on the subject of Goodreads…

I’m doing a Goodreads Giveaway next week. From Monday, June 19 through Monday, June 26, you can put your name in the Goodreads hopper to potentially win one of five signed copies of The Biographies of Ordinary People.

I don’t have a direct link to the Goodreads Giveaway yet, but if you tag my book as “want to read” on Goodreads, you should get a notification when the giveaway goes live. (Or so I’ve heard. I haven’t ever done this before.)

But entering the Goodreads Giveaway isn’t the only way you can read Biographies for free. Pronoun just announced that it was adding OverDrive and Bibliotheca distribution, which means that libraries will be able to order my book through both OverDrive and Bibliotheca’s catalogs.

(My book made it onto Bibliotheca’s catalog right away; still waiting for the confirmation that I’m on OverDrive.)

This makes it very easy for you to fill out one of those book request forms on your library’s website, asking them to add my ebook to your library. If you’d like more info about that process, I just wrote a post about it for Pronoun’s The Verbs!

(You can also request the paperback; it’s not available through OverDrive or Bibliotheca because those are ebook services, but it is available through Ingram Book Group.)

Last big news: I got to visit Pronoun’s office yesterday! It was so cool to get to meet all the people I’d been emailing for the past few months. If you are reading this post for self-publishing advice, I would definitely advise working with Pronoun to get your book published.

And yes, happy to answer any questions you have about that in the comments. ❤

This Week in Self-Publishing: Sponsorships and Ads!

Money earned (total): $7,392.11

Money spent (total): $3,496.31

Book sales (last month): $350.40

Money spent (this week): $50.21 (the cost of mailing paperbacks to be considered for awards)

This week, The Biographies of Ordinary People sponsored the Seattle Review of Books. This sponsorship works just like any other sponsorship; I essentially bought an ad on the site, but since I was a sponsor and not just a banner-adder, they also said some lovely things about me:

Sponsor Nicole Dieker is a wonder. You may have seen her reading around town, or seen her work as editor of The Billfold, or writing on Lifehackerthe Write Life, and Spark Notes.

She’s also just published her debut novel, The Biographies of Ordinary People, and she’s allowed us to run the full first chapter on our Sponsor’s page for you to check out. We think you’re gonna love it.

I also love the Seattle Review of Books and would give them financial support even without the ad space. ❤

Last week a commenter warned me against paying to get my book promoted without knowing whether I’d get any return on my investment; all this submitting for ads and reviews and awards costs money, after all. Why am I not keeping every penny of my profit, instead of giving it to people who might profit off me?

I mean, I totally get it. There are plenty of ways to take a self-published writer’s cash, and you have to pay attention to money out vs. money in. But “keeping all my profits” doesn’t make sense either. Profit is linked to visibility and promotion, whether it’s buying a sponsorship or winning an award—and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this whole process, it’s that visibility costs money.

I used to think that people got their books under those “new and noteworthy” sidebars, for example, because they were new and noteworthyI have since learned that those sidebars are ads, and the space in them paid for. Sometimes you only get invited to buy ad space if your book is in fact noteworthy, but you still have to pay for the recognition.

I have also turned down a handful of ad offers. Including some that were very hard to turn down, because I did want my book to be in that publication and I loved the nice things the person selling the ad was saying about my writing, but I couldn’t afford it. (Or I “chose not to afford it based on my other financial priorities,” which is probably a truer statement.)

Am I losing out on potential sales because I’m not taking advantage of all those new-and-noteworthy sidebars? Well, let’s see.

This week, Biographies was featured in both the Seattle Review of Books and the New York Review of Books’ Independent Press Listing. Both were paid placements, costing $412.80 total. (The NYRB ad actually runs for three weeks, and was included in NYRB copies distributed at Book Expo.)

This week, I sold 15 ebooks and 7 paperbacks, earning $63.38 total.

So… I didn’t earn back the cost of the ads, and I have no real way of knowing whether the people who bought my books did so because of the ads.

Which means I don’t feel too badly about not buying ad space with everyone who told me I was new and noteworthy.

But what do I have left to do, in terms of marketing and publicity? How much more work and money am I going to put into promoting Volume 1before I start putting all of my efforts into revising Volume 2?

Here’s my short answer.

  1. I have a handful of reviewers I still want to reach out to, which means I might spend a little more money mailing paperbacks to people.
  2. I want to do a few more readings. I did Seattle in May and I’ll be reading in Missoula in August, and I’d like to do Portland in July. I’ve also talked to people about potentially setting up readings in Juneau, Los Angeles, and Seattle (again, since y’all asked), and all I need to do is figure out when.
  3. I need to get myself back on the convention circuit and start applying to be a panelist at PNW writing conventions. This would be one of those deals where you do a panel or teach a workshop, and then you get to have a stack of your books on a table for people to buy. I deliberately avoided this year’s round of conventions because I knew I would be spending a lot of money getting Volume 1 published and because I didn’t really have any results to share; by this time next year Volume 2 will be out and I’ll have a lot to say about self-publishing, writing a series, Patreon, Pronoun, promotion, budgeting, stamina…
  4. I’m going to be teaching more writing courses at Hugo House, which isn’t exactly a way to SELL MY BOOK $$$ but I can certainly mention it at the end of every class.

You’ll notice that most of the items on this list are things I do myself vs. things I hope other people will do for me. I would love for more people to interview me or review my book—I’m already loving the reviews I’m getting on Amazon and Goodreads—but I can’t base my promotional strategy on hoping that will happen.

So yeah, I’m self-promoting as much as self-publishing. We’ll see how it goes.

This Week in Self-Publishing: Applying for Awards

Money earned (total): $7,392.11

Money spent (total): $3,446.30

Money earned (this week): $350.40

Money spent (this week): $388.00

It’s the beginning of June, so I can give you a sales update:

In May, I sold 85 ebooks and earned $224.91; I also sold 47 paperbacks and earned $125.49. Add in the 11 paperbacks I sold during the pre-order period in April, and that means I’ve sold 143 books total and earned $379.77.

I won’t see any of these earnings for a while; it takes two months for payments to reach my bank account. But! Sales have been fairly consistent since the launch—I’m selling about five books a day—and even though I know that will drop off eventually, I have a few more promotional events that’ll take place over the next few months that should keep at least some of the momentum going.

And, on the subject of book promotion… this week I submitted The Biographies of Ordinary People to be considered for three awards: the Foreword Indie Award, the BookLife Prize, and the Pulitzer.

We’ll start with the Foreword Indie Award, because it was the easiest of the three; since I had already registered my book with Foreword so I could get my (five-star) Foreword Clarion Review, all I had to do was log into my account and click the button that indicated I also wanted to submit my book to the Foreword Indies.

The Foreword Indies grant awards in multiple categories, but you have to pay for each category in which you submit—so if I had wanted to give Biographies the opportunity to be considered for an award in General Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Literary Fiction, I would have had to pay three times.

I elected to pay just once, and to submit in Literary Fiction. Even though my book is technically a historical novel, it wouldn’t make sense to throw it up against, like, Civil War books or whatever. (One could make the argument that Biographies also takes place during wartime—especially the second volume—but the past 30 years have been weird, in terms of the way our country has culturally experienced “being at war.” It barely affected the Gruber family at all.)

I finished my application, paid $79, and sent Foreword both my ebook and two copies of my print book. I do not believe there is any prize money if I win. Just, you know, the honor. But the reviewers really liked my book, so I’ll see if they like it enough to award it.

The BookLife Prize does come with money; $5,000 to a single winner. It also comes with the reputation of the Publishers Weekly brand. The application was slightly more time-consuming than the Foreword application simply because they wanted a PDF version of my book, which meant I had to format one and make sure it looked professional and everything.

I paid BookLife $99 and sent over the PDF. They’re supposed to get back to me in five weeks with a Critic’s Report evaluating my novel, and—I assume—letting me know if it’s good enough to advance to the next level of the competition.

And then I submitted Biographies for a Pulitzer Prize.

I know that this might be seen as a bit of a stretch, but I’m going to quote Michael Cunningham here:

A proper respect for the mysterious aspects of fiction is encouraged by the Pulitzer’s guidelines, which are gratifyingly loose. The winning book, be it a novel or short-story collection, must have been written by an American, and should, ideally, be in some way about American life.

That’s it.

When we first spoke (we all live in different cities, and met in person only once), in June of 2011, Maureen, Susan, and I made a few fundamental agreements that had, surely, been made by other juries in the past. We would not favor writers for their obscurity (who doesn’t love an undiscovered genius?), or penalize them for their exalted reputations. We would tend to favor the grand, flawed effort over the exquisitely crafted miniature. We preferred visionary explorers to modest gardeners, and declared ourselves willing to forgive certain shortcomings or overreachings in a writer who was clearly attempting to accomplish more than can technically be done using only ink and paper.

Understanding that Cunningham was describing what happened the year the Pulitzer didn’t go to a single work of fiction, we can still look at this description as… well, it sounds like my book. American life, grand (flawed?) effort, trying to accomplish more than we generally expect books to do.

So of course I’m going to submit. Especially because it only costs $50 and they accept self-published books.

The Pulitzer submission required both a photo and a bio, and I was like “I can’t send them my out-of-date avatar where I’m wearing a gray T-shirt and mugging for the camera,” especially not if that’s going to be my official photo to be used in Pulitzer press materials, so I scrolled through my photo roll and decided to use one of the photos that I had taken on my 35th birthday because Biographies begins on Rosemary Gruber’s 35th birthday and ends on Meredith Gruber’s 35th birthday and each section has 35 chapters and it seemed like an auspicious choice.

Also the sweater I’m wearing in that photo fits with my book cover, in terms of color schemes and general aesthetic. Not like I should be even commenting on that kind of thing, because I am very sure the one thing Pulitzer Prize winners never do is write explanations of the selfies they chose to go with their application form, they probably have real photographers take their pictures and not, like, an iPhone timer.

But I did it. I submitted the application, and on Monday, I’ll send the Pulitzer Prize Office four copies of The Biographies of Ordinary People, and I believe that means they’ll go straight to the Pulitzer jury—which is to say, someone like Michael Cunningham might read my book.

Which, as I wrote in The Awl last week, is worth the $50.

(Also, the Pulitzer pays $15,000 but that is almost beside the point.)

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. ❤

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


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.


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.

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. ❤