Fanfare! My adventure in self-publishing continues!

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Oct 1, 2014
My latest book is now available on Amazon. If anyone is just starting out on the self-publishing adventure, I'm available for questions. Marketing still eludes me, so don't expect any sage advice there.

Amazon US
Amazon UK

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Congratulations, the cover looks intriguing, who did you publish with? I'm looking into self-publishing but not too sure how the whole process works. Did you go 'print on demand'?
Looks very nice. I've self published four so far, 1 poetry, 3 novels. If you can get the artwork done yourself, or for free from someone good at it, it'll cost you nothing to use print on demand. I used Lulu, who have a bigger distribution system than CreateSpace. The catch is always marketing, that usually requires the finances that the likes of us don't have. Hope it goes well for you.
Looks great @Diamond checking it out now :)
I am looking to publish the first novel of my series in early May so Advice is always welcome :) Going to go with IngramSpark and CreateSpace I think. Just waiting on the art for my first 3 covers :)

There are always ways to market things without spending... you just have to be savvy about it. For example, groups of people you know. I am involved with Horseback archery, tentpegging (mounted combat), Clan Ranald Trust for Scotland, Sugarbush Draft horse Registry and the other one I forget the name of it (2 branches), The crochet crowd and other craft + photography groups, and several other groups who have all expressed interest in my series and want to help me spread the word. I will be marketing through them all.
Jennifer, Misty Moon Media is my own private label, which basically means I published this book myself. In the past, I simply used my own name as the publisher. A lot of authors do that, which is fine, but some readers, when they see the author and publisher are one and the same, instantly dismiss the book as crap. This time around I thought I'd give myself every possible advantage. So Misty Moon Media was born.

No matter what you decide to use for a publishing name, when you set-up your ebook on places like Amazon and Smashwords, it's just a matter of filling in the blank under "Publisher". Of course, do your research. Make sure you're not infringing on another publisher's name and be sure to look into any possible tax implications (if any).

I use CreateSpace for my paperbacks. If you want a hardback version of your book for some reason, you'll have to look elsewhere. Setting up your book is totally free for most of the print-on-demand publishers, so I looked at the final sale price of the book. In my opinion, LuLu's end product was crazy expensive, pricing it out of the range most readers are willing to spend. I considered going with Lightning Source. They're really popular, especially in the UK it seems. They're more reasonably priced than LuLu, but on the recommendation of another writer, I ultimately decided to go with CreateSpace. So I can only speak about my experiences with them, which have been excellent so far.

The only cost to me with CreateSpace is when I actually purchase a physical book. Usually I go through several PROOF copies before I'm happy with the final result. There's just something about having actual paper in hand that helps me see the typos. The books run me around $5-$6 a piece for a 300 page novel, plus shipping costs. Once the paperbacks become available for public distribution, I sell them for around $10-$13. CreateSpace sets a minimum price, but you can price it higher if you so choose. My profit on each book is around $3-$4.

However, to be honest, as an independent author I rarely sell a paperback. Even so, I like to have them on hand for giveaways and such. Goodreads, a popular site you ought to become familiar with (if you're not already), only allows for paperback giveaways. Since Goodreads Giveaways tend to generate reviews, I think its worth it. Almost all of my sales though, as in 99% or more, come from my ebooks.

I'll be back later to tell you about some of my, I mean experiences.
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Interesting about the high costs of Lulu, and true. I didn't realise CreateSpace sells so much lower, it would seem almost half the cost, so I might re-look at them for my next one. Thanks for the info ;)
Interesting about the high costs of Lulu, and true. I didn't realise CreateSpace sells so much lower, it would seem almost half the cost, so I might re-look at them for my next one. Thanks for the info ;)

I'd be happy to make 10c on a 1000 rather than 20 on 500. Penetration matters. I use Amazon, Lulu, iTunes and LSI for hard copy. I should take up an ice cream stall...
Ingram spark is around the same pennies-wise. For a 6x9 paperback, 340pages it's roughly £4 Inc postage per book if you order 50 (if you order 50 you also get certain fees back) so a novel selling at say £6.99 would get you roughly £3 per book. Though I think 6x9 's sell at £7.99 regularly in the book shops now so depending on genre and demand that's take or leave a pound ;) Ingram Spark as far as I know are one of the main UK distributors for Waterstones and the like, and print the books in the UK whereas amazon don't, they are printed and shipped in. Oddly enough if a bookstore orders from amazon it is printed in the UK, but not if ordered from their print on demand service(from writers forum magazine and writing magazine - both have noted this so I assume there must be some truth behind it)
I've made a lot of mistakes along the way in my self-publishing journey. I think most writers, even the new ones, are smart enough to avoid this blunder. But I wasn't, so I'll give it a mention.

If I could start over, this time around I'd make sure my book was as perfect as I could get it before hitting the publish button.

That sounds pretty obvious, doesn't it? But in my eagerness to publish as cheaply as possible, I skipped critical steps. However, I did one thing correctly. Before I sent it out to the masses, I exchanged critiques with other wanna-be-authors. It was painful seeing my "baby" ripped apart, but subjecting my writing to criticism was one of the smartest things I ever did. My writing skills improved more in a month than they had in the prior couple of years going at it on my own.

Unfortunately, I still hadn’t fully embraced the philosophy that “it takes a village”. After I got my lovely critiques, in the interest of being frugal, I edited and proofread the manuscript on my own. Big mistake. I should have forked over the money for professional help because it turns out I'm a lousy editor and proofreader. Thinking my book was damn near perfect, I sent it out into the world. Readers started to complain about all of the typos and rightly so. Nonetheless, the novel managed to average over 4 stars plus, but it never really took off. The poor proofreading was definitely a factor, but it wasn't the only thing holding me back. My book cover sucked, which I will talk about in my next post.
You may have done better than me. Although mine have got 4 - 5 stars, that's like about 2 or 3 at the most, and I've only sold about 15 in total (2 eBooks). Although I've since spotted a couple of 'typos', nobody else has mentioned them! Next time round though I think I'll give CreateSpace a try.
Even professional editors and proofreaders make mistakes too. I have noted typos in books by big name authors that I know were professionally proofread and professionally edited. No one's perfect, but the challenge is to be as perfect as humanly possible ;)

Your experiences and advice are really insightful @Diamond thanks for sharing :)
Even professional editors and proofreaders make mistakes too. I have noted typos in books by big name authors that I know were professionally proofread and professionally edited. No one's perfect, but the challenge is to be as perfect as humanly possible ;)

Your experiences and advice are really insightful @Diamond thanks for sharing :)

I can live with a typo or two...but not on every page. That's how bad it was. Lesson learned!
Now I'm back on the soapbox about my disastrous first book launch. So here's a tip:

Splurge on your book cover!

I didn't and came to regret it. For my first novel, I made a cover using a photograph of my daughter and the Paint program that came with my computer. I was so proud of myself for spending zero dollars. In hindsight, the cover looked completely unprofessional, but I convinced myself it was good enough. However, slow sales forced me to ask the hard question. If I think the book is only worth a zero dollar cover, what does that say to the reader about its contents?

It was truly an epiphany, but only half an epiphany. I bit the bullet and paid $15.00 for stock art, purchased online from Dreamstime or Shutterstock. Then, using Paint again, I slapped on a title and my name. Not quite as ugly as the first cover, but still unprofessional.

Just as long as the interior story was good, I was operating under the delusion that readers wouldn’t care so much about the cover. Now if you’re name is Neil Gaiman, that might hold true, but for the rest of us, looks matter. My sales continued to tank, but I remained puzzled as to why. After reading dozens of self-published books with great covers on the outside, lousy writing on the inside, and impressive sales, I begrudgingly accepted the fact that a great cover was an absolute must an author without name recognition. I know, I know, it’s such an obvious thing to an outsider. I’m a slow learner, I guess. But the obvious finally clicked. No more homemade covers for me!

God help you if you are anything like I was starting out. You’ll find a million excuses as to why you can’t afford a nice cover. But you’re wrong. What you can’t afford is a bland one that gets ignored!
Nonetheless, some of us simply don’t have a lot of spare change. Original artwork is expensive, but your cover doesn’t have to be totally original to catch a potential reader’s eye. For the pocketbook challenged, I suggest going to a site with pre-made covers, such as: But they’re not the only game in town, so do a Google search. You can find some really cool ones for $50 to $100.

If I haven’t convinced you of the importance of a great cover, read my lame analogy. An ugly cover is like a fishing line without a dried up worm dangling on the end. Its surrounded by fishing lines with fat juicy worms. Now imagine a hungry fish that just happens to casually swim by. He’s going to ignore the skinny worm and go straight for the fat ones. In a nutshell, the less well-known you are as an author, the more spectacular your cover needs to be!

All of this being said, a great cover and grammatically perfect book doesn’t guarantee sales. So what does? Hell if I know. But I do know that both of these can be roadblocks to a novel that might have taken off to the moon. Don’t neglect them, or you’ll always wonder what might have happened if you had launched your book correctly the first time. I know I do.
I can live with a typo or two...but not on every page. That's how bad it was. Lesson learned!
A couple of options:
- rework the text and upload it again (that's what's great about self pub), though Library of Congress and Britsh Library (for example) might frown. It's been done many times...
- get a new cover, fix the text and issue anther edition.
Great advice. That's what I did in part...reworked the text and hired a proofreader. However, the damage was done. The first three months are critical and I didn't get a nice cover until about a year after the publication date. As I said, I'm a slow learner! I have since took the book down with hopes of relaunching it under a different title in the future.
Well I don't know what anyone thinks, well apart from a few positive comments, but I designed the first two covers, and although the first is probably fairly simple, the second is rather good (I hope). The third was designed by my artistic daughter, and catches the style of the story. Even so, as you say even a good cover isn't a guarantee of sales. We just gotta keep learning and trying.
Alistair, your books are hard to locate at a glance. I finally found them and have formed an opinion about the covers. I'm not sure if you were really wanting to know what anyone thinks about them though. Feel free to PM me.
You shouldn't have trouble finding my books, just click on the link gets you to one of them. The rest should follow?
Tip: Create multiple places where readers can find your books all at a glance!


1. Build a website.

Don't let it intimidate you. Sure, there's a learning curve involved, but it only takes an hour or two to become a pro. I use blogger, which is totally free. Wordpress is a great option. I love Wix as well. Display all of your books with links to the stores where they're sold. Be sure to include the link to your website at the back your books! Display it on all of your social media accounts as well such as Twitter and Facebook.

2. Create an Author Facebook Page.

It's not necessary to display your covers on the banner (although it's a good idea), but at least make it clear that you are an author with books to sell. Also, include a clickable link to your website. Remember, you're not just an author, you're a book seller. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to make a purchase!

3. Set-up an Author Page on Amazon.

If you're not sure what an Author Page is, take a look: Click here to see Hugh Howey's Author Page

There's his bio and his books all at a glance. If you look closely, you will see that it's linked to his Twitter account, creating up-to-date content. Cool!

I linked my Author Page to my blog. Until today, I didn't know I could link it to Twitter. Very interesting...something I will have to investigate! Hooking up your Amazon Page to blog posts, tweets, and so forth is great way to advertise your next book release, giveaways and so forth. Right. There. On. Amazon. Wow! Why wouldn't you want to take advantage of that?

Unfortunately, setting up your Author Page isn't a one stop deal. You must go to each separate Amazon location. I live in the USA, so I had to open a regular Amazon account with the UK before its Author Central website would let me in. Also note, this isn't an option at every Amazon location. For example, there's no Author Central for Canada.

These tips were prompted by my search for Alistair's books. I had a heckuva time finding them. If readers can't find your books, they can't buy them. So make them be as obvious and convenient as possible!
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TIP: If you want to generate early reviews, be prepared to give away a lot of books, but keep your expectations low.

You offer a free copy of your book on an internet forum, or to the people at work, thinking they will eagerly gobble it up, after all it's free. That might have been the case in the early days of the digital revolution, but no longer. Readers are drowning in REVIEW ME, I'M FREE requests. Others have been burned too many times by sloppy editing and don't want to commit to reviewing another crappy indie book. Readers can afford to be selective.

But say, through some stroke of luck or careful planning, strangers actually volunteer to review your book. It's a good sign you've done something right. Maybe you have a killer cover, or an enticing blurb, so pat yourself on the back. Well done! So you happily send it out, waiting for the glowing reviews to roll in. And you wait. And you wait some more, but only a few trickle in. What happened? I don't really know, sorry, but it's a common experience among hopeful authors. People get busy. People start reading your book and decide it's not for them. People forget. They procrastinate. That's the way life goes. So what's my point?

My advice...if you want to generate ten reviews from a giveaway, plan to give away a hundred books. Some authors have a better giveaway/review ratio, but I average about 10%.

A few places to find reviewers:

Library Thing: allows you to do giveaways digital copies but the number of reviewers who actually return a review in exchange for a free book is low--probably 5%. Still, I prefer to give away digital copies, because they don't cost me anything other than my time. On the other hand, they don't seem to generate as many reviews.

Book Blogs: allows you to connect with bloggers. It can be very time-consuming. Most bloggers say no, if they respond at all, but once they agree to do a review, they're usually pretty good about it. Most will take digital copies, some will only agree to review physical books. They'll usually tell you on their website, so read their review requirements.

Goodreads: allows you to do paperback giveaways. Readers are more likely to leave a review if you go to the trouble of mailing it to them. I think it's a guilt-thing. Ha. One book I did a Goodreads Giveaway on only had a 30% review return rate. Another, had 80%. It's a crap shoot, but overall it's one of the surer ways to get honest reviews.

Keep in mind, I'm writing from an American perspective. There might be more suitable places for those of you living across the pond. Feel free to weigh-in, of course.
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