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!