Publishing My First Novella to Amazon – Day 52

Sorry, Charlie cover

 

Day 52.

 

For the month of March, I sold 4 copies and there was one borrowed. Borrowed means that someone got it on their Kindle and then loaned it to someone else for free. I still get a small cut of the Kindle Select money pot for that month. Of course, most of the buyers were people I know. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, it’s just that as an author, you kind of feel like it doesn’t really count until strangers buy the book. Anonymous, cloud-surfing people who happen upon your page through some mysterious search engine algorithm and like the first chapter enough to click the buy button.

 

From this, I made $13.22. I consider this a win. A small win, but a win nonetheless.

 

For April, I have sold 7 copies. If you ignore the blatantly obvious, miniscule figures, and use math to make it sound better, that’s a 75% increase. I think. I can never remember how to figure percent increases. Correct me if I’m wrong. You could also round the 7 to an 8 and say that it’s the start of a geometrical progression, meaning that come December of this year, I will have sold 2048 copies that month. That would be a . . . really big % increase. I would pull in over $5,000 that month. A really good Christmas-recovery check. By next year, millionaire. I prefer to stay positive.

 

For the month of April (so far), as part of a promotional tool for those of us enrolled in KDP Select, I have given away 535 copies on Amazon, 190 in the UK, 9 in Denmark, 1 in France, 2 in Spain, and none in Italy. That’s a total of 737 digital copies that I have given away. I think it’s really cool that someone in Denmark may be reading my book. I’m international, dude. And after giving away almost a 1000 copies, I finally got 1 feedback.

 

I realize that a lot of people, from what I’ve heard on the Internet, download a crap-load of freebies and don’t always read them. Or maybe they couldn’t get past chapter 2. Who knows? But I did learn something from the one feedback. The review title read ‘not bad.’ The pessimist in me notes that they didn’t say it was good, just not bad. Like it’s stuck in limbo somewhere in between. A kind of literary purgatory. The optimist in me noticed they said they really enjoyed it. It got 3 stars. I think I could have pulled out another star, but they didn’t like the price. Point taken.

 

It was $3.99. Before I put the original price on it, I thought to myself, what would I pay for it? Well, I’m a cheap guy. I probably wouldn’t pay over .99 for it. So then, why did I set it at 4 bucks? Because like all people, I have trouble coming to grips with reality. I know that since this is my first book and I am an unknown author, I can’t command a decent price. I know this. I just can’t accept this. That’s because the book is worth more to me than it is to the reader. I sliced my word-veins and bled all over the pages. Why in the world, my tender ego acclaimed, would someone not part with 4 bucks for such a work of art?

 

Also, anything set less than $2.99 on Amazon will only bring 35% commission instead of 70%. So the other reason for my pricey price is, well . . . greed. But I did take note and lowered it a dollar to $2.99. I can’t bring myself to go less. For now, anyway. But after my 90 days in Kindle Select is over, which should be at the end of May, I’m thinking it’s going to 99 cents. I’m coming to my senses, slowly. I know it would be better to sell a hundred at a buck and get some decent feedback than to sit stubbornly at 5 or 10 a month because of greed. I would make more money and have a much better chance of getting enough sales to edge my way into the top 100, even if only for a couple of days. It’s not that hard to do if you sell a bunch at one time.

 

But I do appreciate the feedback, whether it’s positive, like this one, or negative. The more the better. So, this Friday, April 27, 2012, I’m having another Promo where everyone can get the book for free! That’s a dollar cheaper than the .99! To me, it’s a path to feedback. So if you get it this weekend, and if you take the time to read it, I’ll go ahead and say thanks. And if you give me some feedback, I’ll give you double thanks, no matter what you said.

 

On another note, I finally got the proof of my print version from Createspace and accepted it. So now Sorry, Charlie is available on Amazon and Createspace in print form.  For some reason, it’s a little harder to find than the Kindle version. The Kindle version shows right away, but you have to search for the paperback version in the horror section to find the printed copy. Weird. You would think it would show right under the digital copy in search results. I’m still figuring this one out.

 

Again, if you have something you want to put out there, do it. It’s not that hard. If I can do it, anyone can. Good luck.

 

 

 

 

Creative Writing Exercise #1

 

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to get up in the middle of a book store and just stab someone repeatedly in the windpipe? No? Well, never mind. Back to what I was saying.

My name is Chris. That’s not my real name. I could tell you my real name, but then I would have to kill you. That’s not cliché. It’s the truth. That’s kind of what I do. Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s sanctioned where I come from. The land of Id. The land of blood and daisies. Of tricky window Saturdays.

What? You’ve never heard of – that’s right, never mind. I forgot for a second. You guys think this is all made up? Right? Fine, whatever. You asked. I’m telling. You want the whole thing at once or do you want to pull off at a rest stop?

Okay. Then. Tricky window Saturdays. There’s the crews, all colors, all brands, you know, and they take the hoppers to the burnouts and – hoppers? There the fidgety ones wanna hop from place to place. They always think the grass is greener, you know? But borders are borders for a reason, right? So they – oh, yeah the crews. They’re the ones with the most guns or the most food or the most water, depending on where you are. Course, most guns usually equals most food, you know?

The burnouts? Buildings man. Just buildings that are burned out. Black with death and plague and soot and canker and you name it and there it is, cluttering the floor with human detritus, draped over the bombed out remains of walls like a Louisiana coffee house, smoldering like a dead turkey on thanksgiving. Bad, bad mojo. Gotta watch the stairs in burnouts. One-two-three-four-five- One-two-three-four-five- One-two-three-four-five One-two – boom! You’re a beauty-school drop-out. Five stories to the wet floor. Maybe a Wiley Coyote brick on your head to boot.

And they take ‘em in the buildings and light some fires at midnight and everybody stands down on the streets and looks down the blocks and waits. Yeah. They just wait. And then they hand out guns, sometimes one, sometimes 50, and they cock ‘em and wait. There’s these cooking grills, grated little splices of crisscross metal, rusted and clamped to the underside of the window. Got the wood underneath and burning white. The grill’s all red. The people are silent. Guns raised.

And then they make you wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

I seen people piss themselves without moving the gun an inch. Didn’t want to miss, you know. And then out of the blue, they shoot out from the windows like flying fish. Hands always tied behind their backs, and the guns fire away, concrete chunks flying, embers disintegrating, Hoppers flailing or going limp, the crews shooting off fireworks and the music bumping, sometimes country or something jazzy for contrast, and a few always make it, landing on the molten grate, skin sticking to it, with their teeth clamping down wildly on a bone or flank and reeling all awkward to their knees before launching backward, food in jowls, to disappear and fall back inside the burnout’s window.

Can I have a glass of water? What are they after? Food, dude. There’s not a lot of it, you know? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you really don’t. What year did you say it was? Huh. Yeah, right. Right. Are you with Chris? Yeah, the Church of Chris. I don’t think so brother. The crews speak the word and the word is. I’m not letting a letter take me down. Right?

Thanks. I’m really thirsty. Holy Chris, this is clear. Where’d you get this? Really? What year did you say it was again? Wow. Okay. So what else, man. Wait a minute, you guys ain’t crew. That just hit me, man. You guys can’t be crew. Crew knows everything about everybody. Scourge of the data. You guys, you guys look confused, man.

Hey. Is it really 2015? Oh. Okay. What?

Yeah. I’ll state it as clear as I did the first time. My name is not Chris and I’m a carrier in the Hot Zone.

The year? Yeah . . . 8256.

I already told you. Carrier’s carry. Pestilence incarnate. We deal in specific deaths. Mine is unique.

Can’t say, less you want me kill you two and everybody listening? Then it wouldn’t do much good to know, now would it? Yes, sir. Even the ones behind the listening glass. Say, you ever just wonder what it would be like to drive head on into a car on the other side of the lane? No? Well, okay, where were we?

The Hot Zone is where everything’s on fire. No reference points. Boiling, scattering, flaying, Napoleons.

How are you losing me? We’ve been over this already. Are the recorders not working? Do you people have those? Okay.

About here and now? All the books were rewritten by Chris in 6000. So not much. Just a little worrisome though. What? Well . . . suppose you’re telling me the truth? And? And it’s been about 6000 years since now in my Now. And it don’t seem like a lot has changed, that’s all. Just more fire and less green. Something doesn’t seem right with it. And how’d you say you found me again? Passed out in a church? On fire, yeah, that’s right, on fire. No, I didn’t set it. I’m not a Burner. Carrier. I told you already. Fire is not my specialty. Are you serious? I don’t think you really want to do this. I know your partner’s outside the room and behind the window, but that doesn’t mean he’s safe. All witnesses go, it spreads like that. You observe it and the wave function – it spreads, non-local, distance means nothing.

Locked up? Why? I didn’t set it on fire. What? For how long?

This is bullshit. Okay then. What’s the chain cycle? I mean you’re watching me, here, now, and whoever’s watching us on the other side of the window, that’s second level, and then whoever’s watching them, like a tree you see? Where does the tree stop? So that’s it? Three of you? Fine.

What are you afraid of? I said, what are you afraid of? Mice? You’re lying. I bit my tongue. Why? To get the blood, you need blood for everything. No, really. Mizion Seuzye paktche. Huh? Just a key. Like encryption stuff. Bloriddin pluragrir. You guys encrypt things here? Code? What’s that? Noriem jzestifer munhywella. It’s really not that funny. Krystoun vhallestia. That’s okay. See, I knew you were lying. I can tell by now just from talking to most people for a few minutes. Yeah. They’re real to you guys. Ever see snakes that fast? Spiders that small? Can’t stop it, not now. No. I just can’t. So, shoot me. Try to shoot all of them. Won’t do any good. If you’ll stop panicking, you might can get to the door. They’re not biting me because they came from me. You don’t bite the hand – no, begging is just – you’re just feeding it by begging and whatever you do, don’t pray. Do that and they find the path inside your head and file in. they’ll close it up and you’ll never get there.

Chris, this is boring. Chained to a desk 6000 years ago. No one around but Deads.

What happened? You’re all dead now. Yes you are. Look at your skin. Screaming won’t help. Well, I told you it wasn’t that funny. Fix it? I don’t know. We could go back to where you found me and see if we can get back in? In the Hot Zone. I must have slipped out somehow. Well, you can walk around dead here or walk around dead there, doesn’t matter to me.

Okay. Let’s go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publishing My First Novella to Amazon – Day 14

Five Stars

Wikipage

Day 14

Okay. So it’s been an even two weeks since I hit the publish button on my book. I gently placed my anonymous, digital book into the Kindle virtual world, armed it with some vague keywords for SEO purposes, stretched a pretty cover over it to make it more desirable, and donned it with a descriptive introduction that should touch the fancy of like minds, warped that is, who might find the courage and the $3.99 to click the ‘Buy’ button on Amazon. Then I blogged about it to my immense number of followers (11). Then I went to Bookdailey.com and set up a first-chapter free read. Then I used Facebook and word of mouth to elucidate the masses as to the location, at the end of the Amazon rainbow, of their waiting treasure.

I now have 4 sales.

This is tantamount to bedding your dream woman and then, right before the Big Bang, having her thump the shit out of your balls. It’s like Paul Harvey never telling you the rest of the story. It’s like the series finale of Lost. It’s like December 22, 2012. It’s very anticlimactic, you see.

The thing is, I understand that none of this is an overnight thing. I know that it takes time and that readers and publishers want more than one little novella from an author.  I am also aware that the Internet is a big place and I really know nothing about how to properly market anything. I am standing at the edge of the Atlantic, no boat, and casting my cane pole into the oncoming waves, a tiny sliver of soft Muenster cheese pressed on a barbless hook. Not to mention the fact that the book isn’t exactly an award winning novel. But then again, it wasn’t supposed to be. It was initially a 40 page scribble in my notebook. Something emergent and ephemeral that began to coalesce and demand a clarity of its own. So I obliged. But if I know this, then why does an average of two sales a week bother me?

If you’re a writer, you don’t need me to answer that. If you’re not a writer, I can tell you it’s because idealism will always trump reality. You might say though, hey, Dude, you published a book and not many people have done that. Traditionally, this might have been true, but with the advent of self-publishing becoming one-click-easy, it’s not. Anyone can scribble anything down and hit the ‘Publish’ button. There are millions of books out there, but only a small percentage worth reading. Is Sorry, Charlie one of those books? Who knows?

For every song, story, or play, there will always be someone that experiences it and thinks it was wonderful. That may be one person, or 10,000,000. And I think that is the one thing that is hanging like a grey cloud over my literary ego – lack of feedback.

If I only had 30 sells this year, but 25 of those gave positive feedback, that would in some way validate the process. Of course, even if I got 25 negative feedback, I know I would continue to write without pause. But with no feedback at all, I know nothing. It’s very dentist’s office. I am waiting in the lobby of my own tortured mind and listening to shrill screams against the background of metal grinding raw on teeth. Somewhere out there, someone is reading my attempt at dime store horror – and judging it with every word.

So, I have been working feverishly on getting out a more accessible printed version of the book. More availability, quicker feedback. That’s my reasoning. And I had no idea about some of the things that would come into play. I will share a few of them with you.

One was page size. Would the reader want a smaller 8×5 or a larger 9×6. I ended up going with 9×6 because it was standard, which I understand opens doors to more markets, and gave the book a little bit of mass for its smaller page count. Go larger and your book may not fit on some shelves. Most of what I read relayed that 9×6 was a good choice.

Another was font. I know that it makes a huge difference on readability. Ever opened a book and put it down because of the font? Or maybe you didn’t even consciously make the decision, you just knew something wasn’t right when you started reading it. If the words are too close to each other, your reading voice runs everything together. Too far apart and the line starts to stretch and pull at your attention span and the connections and meaningful associations between the words attenuates with each sentence. And then there’s leading and kerning. How far away from each other should the letters be? And the line spacing? Turns out that you can, and may need to, set the line spacing in points and not use the basic Microsoft line spacing. For mine, I chose the font the best way I knew how. I researched online to find out the most common and easy-to-read fonts, and then I picked out four to choose from. Then I set the font different on each page. I also set each individual font to a different size for each page. I printed the pages out and let my family number the ones they liked the best. They picked Mongolian Baiti at 11 point, so that’s what I went with.

There were common, first-time publishing mistakes of which sites warned. Starting a chapter on the left side of a page, for instance. Or having a line by itself at the end of a page. Or not justifying the text. There was header numbering that wasn’t supposed to be on blank pages or chapter pages. A lot of little things that you see and never think about. Unless they’re off. Then your mind realizes that something is not right, and even if you don’t know what it is, you may shy away from the book.

And there’s the cover. I only needed a front cover for the web. Now I needed to do things like multiply the number of pages by a constant that’s based on the type of paper I’m using to get the spine width. And there’s making sure the pictures bleed off the page and don’t have some weird border around them. This is all DIY I might mention, just time consuming. You figure things out like – If you set your page numbering in the header and then create your section breaks immediately following your page breaks before chapters, and you’ve got the checkbox marked for allowing a different first page header, then the header will not show on the chapter pages. It’s all very trial and error, even with the help of the Internet. Picture someone changing a car tire with nothing but a small hammer and you’ve got the idea.

And let’s not forget what needs to go on the cover. There’s more than the title, subtitle, and author’s name. There’s the description, illustrator and publisher information, pricing, the barcode, back matter, and blurbs, of which I have none. Nor will newspapers even consider reading self-published materials, because again, there’s too many of us and they would be inundated.

So I think I avoided most of the bad mistakes, but we’ll see. And if I didn’t, it’s okay. I’m climbing the learning curve. I’m figuring out things that I never would have if I had a publisher doing all the work for me. It’s a more fulfilling and personal experience. And kind of fun. Kind of.

So while I wait for my extremely underpaid (underpaid meaning no pay at all) but very skilled illustrator to send the updated book cover, I cross my fingers and wait for that first set of five stars to show up underneath my book. Hopefully they will all be yellow.

 

 

Sorry, Charlie cover

Publishing My First Novella to Amazon – Day 4

Silly Monkey

Wikipage

I hit the publish button and then hit F5 (refresh). Wait 5 seconds. F5. Wait 5 seconds. F5. I know, of course, that it takes up to a day or so for Amazon to actually list it. But I just . . . hold on for a second . . . F5 . . . as I was saying, I have a patience problem. I finally give up and go to bed.

Upon awakening, I check again. Now the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) site shows the book in the ‘publishing’ stage. F5. F5. F5. Alas, it is time to leave. And my wife asks me when was the last time I used the bathroom. I look down at the chair in front of the computer and see a large wet spot. I have a problem. We go run errands.

When I return, I go sit in my wet spot. I have marked my chair. Mine. And lo and behold! KDP says my book is live! Live I tell you! Live! In my excitement, I go to hit F5, then realize that it’s unnecessary. I panic for no reason. I feel like Neo the first time he tried to jump the building. I find a ‘Reports’ link at the top and click it. Then I click the ‘Last 30 days report’ to see how wealthy I am. There are no results. Neo looks down, then falls to a squishy pavement. This is reality. This is actually what I expected. But I think I would’ve been better off mentally if they would have just lied to me. That’s the least they could have done. Just a panel that says you’ve already sold your first book. No one would need to know the dirty truth. F5. F5. F5.

I look out the window and see a flower bloom as if watching a time lapse video. I realize my arm is hurting. I’ve been continually hitting the F5 key again for 12 hours straight. The wet spot has spread to the surrounding floor. I have a crazy look in my eye. The dogs are whining when they are around me for no reason. I swim forth from a hazy shade of extreme refreshing and see that someone has borrowed my book! I smile and make strange monkey sounds. Dancing around the room, I pound my chest and bang on the door for my wife to let me out. I hear the key in the lock and then footsteps hurrying away, lest I take to throwing poop again.

When I awake, I am lying on the downstairs couch. I look up to see a huge spot on the ceiling where there is discoloration, probably from a leak somewhere above. It must be coming from the office. Strange. I look around to find that everything is nailed down. There is a tire hanging from a rope over the stairs. As I move to the windows and look out, I see my family through the newly installed bars. There is a note on the door. I read it twice before understanding it fully. Language is becoming harder to understand. But I see the word on the note – “Sale.”

Ooo – ooo – ooo – Ah – ah – ah! I swing from tire rope to stairs. I swing from stairs to office. Office big wet spot with squishy carpet. Mine. Mine. Mine. Magic screen show one sale. Right Turn Clyde! Me happy. Me happy. Throw poop. Throw poop. F5F5F5F5F5F5F5!

Ooo – ooo – ooo – Ah – ah – ah!

Publishing My First Novella to Amazon

Sorry Charlie

All in all, publishing to Amazon wasn’t all that bad.

I had gotten to the point that if I didn’t publish one of my works somewhere, I was going to blow a piston. And I almost put it out without getting it edited. What a mistake that would have been. When my editor handed the manuscript back, I think there were two pages – out of 156 – that had no red marks on them. If you’re going to publish, let a professional edit it. No matter what. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Next comes the book cover. Again, don’t put something out there just to have it. I almost did this, too. And although I think I had a pretty good picture, the illustrator I used put me to shame. As a result, I feel much more confident that the book cover will represent what I have written. The reader can, hopefully, judge the book by its cover. Again, hire someone who knows what they are doing. It really makes a difference.

Then comes some keywords and categories. They have tons of articles on how to do all these things, so I’m not detailing them here. I will say that these are very important, too. How will the reader find your book (Out of over 21,000 in Horror, for instance)? What tags will they use on it? Spend some time on this one. You could argue that this is the most important. If you have a book in a category that doesn’t match it or you don’t have good keywords, then nothing you have written will matter because no one will ever find it. Be granular when choosing your categories. The smaller the niche, the more chance you have of rising to the top 100 in that niche.

I set the price at $3.99. Probably should have gone with $2.99, but then there’s a whole lot of people who would say for a novella it should have been $1.99, or even $.99. And of course, there’s the ones who say it should all be free.  I don’t know if I made the right decision, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask for less. My finger hovered over the ‘2,’ but I just couldn’t. Give me $3.99 or give me death. This will also be a good way to validate my writing abilities. The more the book costs, the harsher the criticism. If the reader feels like they overpaid for what they got, I’m sure they’ll let me know.

For formatting, I used Mobipocket Creator and Kindle Previewer. You just import your Word document and it does the rest. Once it was in a workable html format, I took the html and added some blank lines, removed some indentations, and added a dedication page. It’s not that hard if you know basic HTML.

Then you just hit the ‘Publish’ button. It’s really that easy.

My point for writing this update is not just to chronicle my first baby steps in the self-publishing world, and not just to shamelessly plug my book, but to let you know that if you have something that you think is worthy, then you can publish it. Stop thinking you can’t and let that baby see the light of day. Whether you sell 2 copies, or 5,000, you’ll feel better if you do.

Good writing!

Unspoken

Unspoken

pic credit

 
When I was living
I left fear voids,
an embarrassed unspeaker of things that
should be said,
comforting things,
cool bed covers on a summer’s day things.
Each well thought out novel excerpt
bottled up into an awkward moment’s
silent little soliloquy.

Each repressed emoticon
too cliché,
too much like a movie line,
rehearsed sounding,
as if mumbled sideways by some sappy poet
ready to expose my delicate ego
to some mirage of infinite possible responses,
or worse,
left desolate in wide open silence.

It was these Unspoken things
that were swallowed by swift moments,
hesitations led by a tug-boat of doubt,
slow moving but of powerful persuasion
tightening the unsure rope around the words
on the tip
of
my
tongue
and dragging them to the back of my
remorseful throat.

And the dead drew tears.

They would never know the words
I had kept to myself.

Then I died
and went to a place
similar to what you’d think
and they sat me gently down
at a wooden desk and slid a book under my nose.

The title was simple:
Unspoken.

The authors were many
and line one chapter one read
“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean that.”

And the living drew tears.