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I wanted to pass on this link for an ebook sales report just in case some of you missed it:

http://news.yahoo.com/e-books-sales-soar-2011-063045986.html

I think this is extremely positive for self-publishers who have trouble selling their print books. Even though the type of publisher is not specified, I’m assuming they surveyed the big publishers. I would love to see a study if self-publishers’ ebook sales are up as well. Any ebooks sales help out self-publishers though, since it shows that the public is drifting from shopping in the big chain bookstores and searching online where self-publishers like me stand a chance.

The future of publishing will still be a mix of traditionally published and self-published novels, and print books right now still dominate, but it’s good to see that ebook sales are steadily increasing. If you are a self-publisher or debating self-publishing, this increase will only work in your favor. This is especially promising if you are a young adult novelist.

Well, off to the beach 🙂

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From one of my FAVORITE movies ever (Dumb and Dumber):

Lloyd: What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me ending up together?

Mary: Well, that’s pretty difficult to say.

Lloyd: Hit me with it! I’ve come a long way to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?

Mary: Not good.

Lloyd: You mean not good like 1 out of a 100?

Marry: I’d say more like 1 out of a million.

Lloyd: So you’re telling me there’s a chance. YEEah!

So this pretty much sums up how I feel about self-publishing. In the vast sea of  books, my book is like throwing a pebble into that sea. I should be worried about how I’ll get my book seen among so many, yet, I feel just like Lloyd right now.

YEEah!

Why? Because I’m optimistic.

  • I’ve reached all my pre-launch goals.
  • I had a great launch day where I made some sales that weren’t actually friends or family (love you whoever you are!).
  • My early reviewers left fantastic reviews (thank you all so much!).
  • My crit partner, Bethany Yeager, wrote this truly amazing blog review (you have my undying gratitude).
  • I sent out like fifty ebooks to reviewers and already ten have promised me reviews within a few months.
  • Plus, I’ve got some promotional tools up my sleeve that I’ll use in the next few months.

So, I’m trying to think of sales like a swine flu…you infect one person who goes spreading it around to others and you have an outbreak. I’m happy to take this one reader at a time. I’m going to continue with Lloyd’s optimism for now, because I think it’s much better than looking back and saying,

“I could’ve been a contender.”

(PS remember to join the $20 Amazon gift card giveaway if you haven’t already!)

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Oh, it’s the time I dread most of all. Book reviewers! I feel like I’m turning my term paper in and most of my grade depends upon it. There is something so scary about sending your baby off to someone who is going to look your it over and point out all the flaws to the public. Hopefully, you chose carefully enough that you pick the right match for your book but anything can happen after you hit the send button.

I’ve found that most reviewers have three-month backlists, so the sooner you send them your book the better. The process is very similar to agent querying: you need to check each reviewers guidelines and follow it to the tee. They all want different formats, but I found that the Smashwords coupon was the most accepted form and the easiest. Another great reason to upload on Smashwords. It took me most of the day, reading the kindle boards for suggested reviewers, finding good matches, and submitting to them.

Here is a list I’ve gathered of indie book reviewers:
Motherlode

Readers Favorite

SF Book Reviews (Submisions closed until 2012)

The Tattered Scroll

The Fantasy Book Critic

The Self-Publishing Review (Costs $40, but you’re allowed to decide to publish review)

POD People

The New Podler Review of Books  (Submisions closed until 2012)

The Compulsive Reader

The Indie Spotlight

Rambles.net

Books on the Knob

Candy’s Raves

Fyrefly’s Book Blog

Good Book Alert

Adarna SF

Doubleshot Reviews

To Publish or Not to Publish

Daily Ebook Reviews

…and for an amazing list of book reviewers that I have yet to attack here.

A few say they won’t review the book if it’s less than three stars–these I like. The ones that can be brutal and will point out all the problems, are the ones I’m worried about. But negative press is better than no press at all, right? Oh, I hope so.

Do you know of any other book reviewers (large or small) that are willing to review a fantasy indie book? Let us know.

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First of all, I had a great response for book reviewers. Thank you all so much. There’s still one more ebook to giveaway so pm me if you’re still interested!

I thought it might be a good time to show a run down of what it cost me to get this book published if anyone was curious.

Expenses so far:

Music donation for book trailer= $20

Photos for my book trailer= $60

Ebook cover= $150

Full print cover= $30

Chapter vignette graphic= $15

Ebook formatting files= $150

Smashwords formatting file= $50

Print formatting file= $100

Extra formatting since I added the bibliography after the fact= $75

ISBN #’s = $250 (for ten and I used two for the ebook and print) = $50

Bar code for print version= $25

Editing = $375

Copyediting = $175

Website (per year for domain)= $25

Grand Total= $1,300

Obviously, you could do this for less money if you forgo a book trailer, format yourself, or decide not to make a print version.

So if I sell my book for $2.99, and at the very least make $1.79 a copy with premium catalog retailers, than I will have to sell around 727 ebooks to break even. Who says algebra wouldn’t come in handy later?

Selling 727 ebooks is my first goal. No matter how long it takes, this will be the carrot I’ll dangle above my head.  That breaks down to 60 ebooks a month, 15 ebooks a week, to 2 ebooks a day. 2 ebooks a day! That is completely possible. Plus, if I sell my print version it will help get there even faster.

Writing is so fulfilling for me, so to break even will make it possible to keep going. It would be great if I made money, but if I can at least not lose money with my passion than that is all I can hope for.

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The good news is that my second proof arrived and this time the cut of the book is perfect.

The bad news is that I’ve come across a change that I will need to go back to my formatter for and I hope he can work on quickly. I decided (hopefully not too late) that I need to include a bibliography in the back of my book.

Most traditionally published historical fiction authors don’t include a bibliography, but that is usually due to the publisher not wanting to pay for those extra pages. However, in this electronic age, it seems much more cost-effective to post up sources on your book’s website and direct your readers there through a mention in your forward. So this is what I planned.

This weekend though, I spoke to my editor who advised me to add a bibliography to be extra safe. I don’t hesitate to include my sources, in fact, I wish I could use footnotes to cite historic events. I would love my reader to see that many of my ideas, details, and events are actually inspired by true accounts. Although, most readers seem to detest the interruption of footnotes in fiction. The last thing I would want to do is to disengage my reader so I have restrained myself from citing. I decided to include an interactive page where my reader can click on links to sources that will further educate the reader. I planned to use this page to give credit to my excellent sources as well, but I realize that I should also include my sources within the book to be sure I acknowledge to each reader that I was inspired and informed by those talented non-fiction writers.

I have to hurry my bibliography and get it off to my formatter now so that I can approve yet another proof. I am getting down to the wire now and I might have to put-off some of the less critical tasks to do this right.

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Less than a month to go!

This was taken from my count down post back in July. Let’s check my status and see if anything needs to be added:

1) Get the MS back from the editor-make all changes and send it back out for second check

🙂  Check

2) Create LLC and small press publishing name: Rock Castle Publishing

🙂  Check

3) Send blurb out on forums to get feedback

🙂  Check (so helpful)

4) Send cover out to forums to get feedback

🙂  Check

5) Make final changes to book and send out to second copy editor (it’s always good to get two pairs of eyes to catch everything)

🙂  Check

6) Make final changes and read through to make sure it’s perfect (last chance!)

🙂  Check

7) Sign up and register for copyright

  😦  Still need to do this. Appears I have to have a publish date to do this.

8)  Buy 10 ISBNs (I’ll probably get 10 since I have a series and many more books planned)

🙂  Check

9) Work with my graphics designer to make the POD cover with author photo and book description

🙂  Check (I scrapped the author photo & bio–I didn’t like how it looked)

10) Send out to book formatter for B&N, Smashwords, and POD (Create space) formatting

🙂  Check (shows how much I knew about this- it’s termed epub, mobi, smashword, and pdf files)

11) Send out to book reviewers to review around launch date

  😦  Ah! I still need to do this and it scares me :0

12) Get quotes from positive reviewers to put on the back of the book & website

  😦  Still need to do this (hopefully there will be one or two positive reviews or at least snippets taken from negative reviews I can salvage)

13) One month before release send out trailer on all writer’s forums

🙂  I actually decided not to do this. I’ve realized it’ll be best to post up the trailer and description when I can point people to where they can buy it. I’ve heard people comment how annoying it is to read a promo to realize there’s no live link to purchase.

14) Ask close bloggers to review my book on their blogs or send out the word of the release

  😦  Still need to do this–*wink* at my blogger friends reading this.

15) Look up all relevant blogs and ask to guest post

  😦  Still need to do this

16) Put up the book for pre-order on Amazon.com

  😦  I need to check if this is even an option

17) When it’s released send out notification on forums, blogs, and websites

  😦  Still need to do this

18) Get second book out in a few months!

  😦  Still need to do this, but I’m getting it back from my editor any day now 🙂

Add:

  😦  Get a Tax ID number

  😦  Open a bank account in my publishing company’s name

  😦  Upload and publish on Smashwords

  😦  Read through and approve second proof & finalize the Create Space account

  😦  Finalize the Historical Info and post on my blog

  🙂  Offer ten people a free ebook copy a couple of weeks prior on my blog in hopes of leaving reviews (positive or negative)

  🙂  Launch book on 11-11-11 with a fun giveaway

I better get busy!



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Front Cover (eek!)

Back Cover

Spine

First Page

Chapter 1

Random Page

I can’t believe it. This day has come. I saw the small book-sized package on my front step and I couldn’t remember what book I’d ordered. Upon opening it I could hardly breathe…

my proof had arrived!

It was such a strange surreal moment. As if something you had only imagined had materialized right before your eyes by some white magic. As if you wanted something so badly that it wished its way into the world.

Now, that’s not obviously what happened since I have been toiling away trying to bring this book to life –revising, beta-ing, work-shopping, editing, copyediting, formatting, and uploading, but it suddenly felt like it just appeared out of no-where on my front step.

I’d heard on other self-published writer’s blogs that you shouldn’t expect a bookstore quality version in print, that they have bleeds, pages askew, smudges, shiny thin covers and poorer quality paper, but I was incredibly impressed.

The 5.5″ x 8.5″ size feels wonderful with its hearty 280 pages. Yes, the cover’s shiny, but I thought it looks like many of the shiny covered Grisham/Patterson novels in my bookshelf. The cream paper is a perfect thickness and all of the print was smudge-less and straight. My mother was with me when I opened it and both of our jaws dropped with how professional it looked and felt. It was only when my husband saw it that he pointed out one flaw — the cut was slightly narrower at the top than at the bottom. Of course, now it’s all I can see, but if that’s the only thing that’s not perfect than I can live with that since it doesn’t interfere with reading. I don’t think it’s something I can tell Create Space to correct, but I’m going to get another proof to see if the same thing happens.

All in all, this little bound book made the biggest smile spread across my face. Everything looked fantastic inside, the formatter and cover artist did a terrific job. I passed it proudly around to my large family and they all couldn’t believe how great it looked. Watching them all thumbing through it, inspecting it, and smirking (many of them doubted that I would see this through) was priceless.

I realized that this is a huge milestone. I’ve already achieved something that not many people do. Whatever happens after this won’t take away from the fact that I set out to bring this story to life and I’ve done it –through countless distractions, agent rejections, self-teaching, and self-doubt –I’ve accomplished a life’s goal and that’s a pretty amazing feeling.

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With a little more than a month away from my book launch and my first proof ordered for review it’s starting to actually sink in that

I am going to put my book out.

When I thought about this day months ago I was brimming with excitement and the thought of seeing my novel up for sale on Amazon made me giggle in anticipation, but now…

Now when I see the publish button at the bottom on the Smashwords page or the email I received after requesting a proof telling me how to approve the proof for publishing,

I just feel sick.

Yeah, I’ve been so gung-ho ever since I decided to do this on my own –trying not to look down as I climbed the slippery cliffs of self-publishing. Problem is now that I’m so close to the top…I’ve looked down.

Looking down, I began to suddenly worry that maybe my book isn’t what I think it is and maybe I’m not a good writer after all. Maybe the most important thing an agent and publishing house can give you is the validation that you are a good writer and you’ve written something that others want to read.

What if I publish this novel and no one likes it? What if I only receive scathing reviews? I feel like I’m approaching the edge of dream I’ve always had and very soon I’ll find out if this dream becomes real or will just fizzle away to the dark corner of regret where lost dreams go. Is it better to just keep the dream?

But then I sent an email venting some of these worries to my amazing crit partner (Bethany Yeager) and in only a few fantastic lines completely grounded me again to why I was doing this in the first place:

“And Lauren, let me just tell you: your book is good. It’s solid. It’s fun. The premise is fantastic, the execution is fascinating. If you doubt yourself, give yourself a little shake and know this: ultimately, the point of stories is to entertain. There is beautiful prose out there, gorgeous dialogue, pretty covers, but that means nothing if people are bored. And your story is NOT boring. It’s wonderful. And what’s even better? It’s got some pretty gorgeous prose/dialogue/cover as well. 🙂 And if it doesn’t do well at first, then just write the next one. You’ll get there with perseverance. :)”

Okay, you see why I’m so lucky to have her and why she is such a great writer!

(I wish I could use this blurb on the front cover of my book!)

Anyway, it’s exactly what I needed and has completely calmed my launching fears. I’ve turned my head back up to the summit and reached for another hand hold.

Thank you, Bethany.

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Ahhhhhh! I nice big mug of hot chocolate to wake me up from my night of two-hour interruptions and some time to write my blog. I think it’s time to update everyone on my self-publishing progress.

I really didn’t know much about book formatting. I even searched for online articles on how to work with a book formatter and what I needed to know but couldn’t find any. All I found was articles on formatting your own book. Luckily, I asked the amazing David Gaughran (my self-publishing guru) who he recommended and he gave me two names: one he said had a few months backlog and another who didn’t.

So I contacted the formatter without the backlog and I honestly didn’t even know what to say. I started by asking if now was a good time to have my book formatted and that I was looking for all the ebook files (epub, mobi, and smashwords) and a print version. He said that the ebook files are very similar but a print version was a whole other beast. I asked him for quotes for both and was happily surprised when I saw that it was only going to cost me $300 for all the files. Create Space starts at $295 for book formatting services and I’m sure I would get much better service and results from this highly recommended formatter. I’ve also found quotes for over $600 for the same services online.

After I jumped at this fantastic deal I was expecting much more hand-holding throughout the process. I’m sure this book formatter is used to working with seasoned self-publishers and I expected him to walk me through all the choices he was making and thought he’d ask me style questions but he just went right to work after asking me the size of the book and keywords I wanted to use. He got back to me after a few days with a problem. Since my book is incredibly complex with the same characters reincarnating into many lives I felt that a graph that kept track of each character’s past was needed. Unfortunately it seems that charts and graphs do not transfer well into epub and mobi formats. He said he’d try to fix it the best he could but wished I would just remove them. I told him to try and I’m sure he struggled with this for at least a week.

I received the epub file and the mobi file and had no idea how to open them. I’m sure he’s never gotten a reply asking for instructions on how I can view the files, but he sent me a few links on how to download the necessary readers. Well, I’d love to say I figured this out immediately, but it actually took me a whole day to figure out how to install these applications (I am grammatically and technologically challenged). Anyway after struggling to view these a huge smile came over my face as I opened my book. I couldn’t believe how real it looked and I went through it page by page to check whatever I could. I found a few things to change (lone sentences and issues with the graph). He explained to me that you couldn’t control the flow of the ebooks so that lone sentences could not be corrected but he said he would work on the graph again.

I was interested in using a chapter vignette (the little graphic an author uses at the beginning of each chapter). I had no idea how I got one though. I searched for one online but there were no sites that sold chapter vignettes so I figured I would have to ask my graphic designer to come up with one. She never made one before but she would give it a try for me and working with her delayed my formatter even more since he needed to wait on this before completing the ebooks.

Once I had the vignette the formatter requested it be done a certain size and I sent it off only to hear I sent the wrong one. So I sent the right file and a week or two went by, I had the baby, and still no news from the formatter. Finally after a week I decided to send a reminder email to him and he wrote back that he sent off the files weeks ago, even sent a follow-up email, and to check my spam since it might have gone there. Sure enough, it was sitting in my spam folder and I felt like there was no end to the miscommunication that was occurring between us. Once I opened up the files the vignettes looked great, the overall book was professional, and even though the graphs were not exactly how I wanted, it was good enough for the reader to understand. I only had a few small fixes like the Acknowledgements page was not on its own and the vignettes were on a separate page instead of right above the chapters. He made the changes and sent it off and began working on the smashwords file. He returned that by the end of the night and then he finished the print version by the next day. I thought everything looked great and he caught that I went from Chapter 5 to Chapter 7, completely skipping Chapter 6. I would have definitely missed that and he saved me much embarrassment.

He let me know that the smashwords file may not upload since they usually wanted font size 18 or smaller but he preferred to use some font 24. If I could sneak it by the overall product would look better and he would fix it for later if it didn’t upload.

Happy with my files, I sent off his paypal invoice and I’m now looking into all I’ll need to complete publishing with Create Space, Smashwords, Nook, and others. Oh I hope they are basic enough for me to figure out on my own. Now I’m off to give my graphic designer the page number of the print version so she can create my printed cover. I can’t wait until I can send for my proof!

All in all, this did take about a month to finish but I have a feeling this usually takes him a few days. He did say that I contacted him at a super busy time (I think he was releasing his own book at the moment) and I definitely delayed it myself by not knowing how to view the files, insisting on using the graphs, waiting on the vignettes, and not checking my spam folder. I do highly recommend this formatter though, he really knows how to deliver an extremely professional product and is familiar with the ins and outs of the self-publishing world. If you’re looking for a fantastic formatter email me privately and I will give you his name and if you learn from all my delays he will most likely have your files back to you within days.

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If you’re considering self-publishing it’s critical that you look into all of these forums: Kindle Boards, Absolute Write, Nathan Bransford, Self-Publishing Review, Goodreads, and Library Thing. You should join each one for a different reason and the earlier you learn how to navigate these forums the better it will be for you in the long run.

Kindle Boards – A fantastic, extremely self-publishing friendly forum filled with people with extensive self-publishing knowledge where you can ask any question you have on your mind. Especially helpful with promotional ideas. (If you join only one forum join this one!)

Absolute Write – If you’re shopping for an agent or query writing this forum is wonderful but I find it’s a little less supportive of self-publishing even though they do have a whole posting area for self-publishing. I still find this forum extremely helpful for testing a book description, approving a cover, and for promotional opportunities.

Nathan Bransford– This forum has much less traffic but is still good place to get some feedback on book description, cover approval, and as a promotional tool. His blog is also very entertaining and he’s discussing more about the benefits of self-publishing lately and on Fridays he gives a run-down on the latest news in publishing and in the blogging world.

Goodreads – A great forum for advertising your book once you publish. A wonderful place to connect to your readers.

Library Thing – This is a website geared toward readers. They seem to frown on promotional attempts but if you join and connect to readers legitimately through your love of books you might attract readers subtly towards your book. Once you publish though there is a section for book giveaways that can be very useful for collecting reviews.

Self-Publishing Review – A forum for self-publishers only where you can receive great information and exposure if you decide to post.

And even though this is technically not a forum, I strongly recommend to follow David Gaughran’s blog. He is not only very helpful and super informative but he wrote a wonderful guide to self-publishing that will save you tons of time. His posts keep you updated on all the latest self-publishing news and he exudes such a positive and contagious outlook on self-publishing. If you have any questions he is extremely knowledgable and warm.

In conclusion, these forums are essential for information you can’t find in the self-publishing how-tos and as a promotional tool but I find the most important thing these forums provide is the support that someone going out on their own needs. It must be terrific to get an agent who tells you your novel is fantastic and who tucks you under their wings telling you they’ll take it from there but for those of us who only have a handful of beta readers giving us the thumbs up you need to have people out there who have been through the self-publishing trenches and emerged satisfied and proud. You will need their success stories, their support, and their inspiration to press forward and produce your novel. Reach out to these people and ask any question no matter how basic you think it is. The only dumb question is the one that is never asked.

Are there any others I forgot?

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