Musings, Publishing Tips

Publishing is a Journey, not a Destination


I published Book One of Darkness Falling six months ago. It was an exciting time. After 19 years of on again, off again writing and editing I was finally able to put some shine on my story and send it out into the world. As I hit the publish button in the middle of the night, only my husband stood beside me, hugging me at that moment I had dreamed of since I was thirteen years old.

There were no fireworks, torrents of confetti, or bottles of champagne. I didn’t make the circuit of talk shows. Conan and Ellen weren’t calling for exclusive interviews. It was just another book set adrift in a sea of obscurity.

That magical moment was anticlimactic at best. Despite that, within a few hours I had my first sale. There was a rush of joy at the idea that someone out in the world was able to read my words, but that sale was one of only a few in the following days. Announcements on Twitter did nothing. My inability to pay for marketing, or even to fully understand how it worked, was evident.

In the first month of my first book launch, November 2015, I sold five books. Two people borrowed my book and read it through to the end, which I know thanks to the page counter on the Kindle Direct Publishing report. I didn’t receive my first review until December 26th, almost two months after the release date on October 31.

By the end of 2015 8 eBooks were sold, 3 paperbacks, and 30 eBooks were given away for free. Adding in the two borrowed books, that was 48 books.

Expectations vs. Reality

Before publishing, I read  many blogs by successful self-published writers. It gave me a spark of hope that perhaps there was some money to be made. Let’s be honest, all writers would love to live off of their words. During that first month after publication I kept thinking to myself “What did I do wrong? Those other writers made it sound so easy.” Over time I tried some things in the hopes of boosting sales. I lowered the price of my book, I had some free days, and I tried posting little ads on Twitter.

At first I was disheartened. I knew what was wrong, advertising. I knew there wasn’t much I could do about it, and slowly stopped hurrying to check my KDP report each day, knowing what I would find.

Each month I keep a spreadsheet of all my sales. I’ve always had a thing for spreadsheets and data despite being horrible at math. It’s one of my quirky organized disorginizational things. Near the beginning of March I realized that I had sold or given away 98 books.

Does that make me an Amazon Best Selling Author? No! Not even close. It does mean that 98 people in the world have my book.

That’s 98 people who never would have had my book if I never tried. Maybe they’re reading the book. Maybe they’re waiting until they run out of magazines to look at while they wait for the dentist. Maybe, just maybe, some of them are quietly out there waiting for Book Two.

New Perspective

As of right now, 102 books are out in the world. I get a couple of sales a few times per month. I’ve made peace with that, and continue to look into options for marketing. I have 3 reviews, and all three are positive in their own way. I know of two people who are wondering when Book Two will be ready. That’s amazing! It’s something I didn’t have before, and I’m grateful for it every day.

The New York Times doesn’t know I exist and maybe they never will. At the end of the day, that’s not the point. I’m doing what I always dreamed, and publishing Book One was not the end of the story. It was just another step in my life’s work; to be an author creating worlds and giving people the opportunity to experience new adventures with my characters.

Thank you to all of my readers! I appreciate you.


Publishing Tips

Is Kindle Select Worth it for New Authors

Before I published two months ago, one of my biggest questions was: Is it worth it for a new author to sign up for KDP Select? It’s also a question I couldn’t find an answer to on the internet. There were arguments both for an against the program, but in all cases it was established authors or authors who had previously been enrolled. That left it up to me to decide for myself.

I saw both pros and cons to the idea of being exclusive to Amazon. The biggest pro was having my book eligible for Kindle Unlimited. I liked the idea that Darkness Falling would be free to anyone who was enrolled in the program, but I’d be paid for pages read. This is a big deal because as a new author it gives people the chance to read without having to risk anything but their time. If they read three pages and hate it, then I haven’t asked them to make a big contribution.

On the other hand, I’m a person of low means when it come to income. It would be nice to make some money on my book, and although the amount you get per pages read is something like half a cent, it’s better than nothing.

Of course, two months later only five-hundred pages have been read for free and all of them were on the same day: November 27th. According to the book’s page on Amazon for the digital version, it is 257 pages long. I’ve learned that if you borrow a book from Kindle Unlimited and then go offline with your Kindle, it won’t count the pages as you reconnect. Approximately two weeks prior to the 27th someone did borrow the book and read one page. That solitary page vanished on the 27th, which I assume means it belongs to the 500 page dump that appears on my graph. I’m guessing this was one borrower who read the book twice, or loaned it to someone.

Granted, I don’t have a large advertising budget. I don’t expect to loan out many books, just as I know my sales numbers have been small in comparison to those who have money for advertising. Despite that, I’m still really surprised that actual sales are 80% higher than borrowed books. I thought it would be the other way around.

This made me curious about borrowing. How many people really enroll in Kindle Unlimited? I decided to run a Twitter Poll to find out. I received exactly one response.

At this point I have one month left of being enrolled in KDP select. It does offer a few other pros, such as being able to have a free giveaway day. On Black Friday I gave away 30 books, which is a big number for me. My goal is to have my book read by as many people as possible, and that free day was a big boost.

The biggest con I have to staying enrolled is I know there are people who hate Amazon, which  means my book isn’t available to them in any format. I’d like to be able to reach those people, too.

I’d run another poll to ask my followers which platform they use to read, but right now I don’t think I’d get any data from it. If my borrowed books do not increase in the next month, and if my next free day doesn’t go as well as my first one, I most likely will be offering Book One on more platforms in February.

Thank you for reading. If you’ve had any advice on this matter, please feel free to leave a comment.

Publishing Tips

Formatting: Word vs. OpenOffice

Before launching Darkness Falling: Soldiers and Slaves, I made a post about reformatting my OpenOffice document for uploading as an eBook, specifically for Kindle. In that post I said I might do a tutorial on how to reformat with OpenOffice since all of the tutorials I found were for Word. In the end I ended up getting the free trial of Microsoft Office for Windows 10 to finish up the process.

I have used OpenOffice for a long time for my writing. I don’t have the money to run out and buy the Office software. Plus, it really isn’t that different. All of my projects up to this point, however; have never left my PC.

I’m not a programmer. I can’t tell you exactly why something works on a computer that I use every day. What I do know is that although OpenOffice seems to have the same functionality in the interface, there is something different going on in the programming that causes it to function differently.

It really wasn’t a difficult process in the reformatting within the document itself. It’s easy to set up the margins and indentations to the proper specifications. Everything would look great. Then I would convert it to html to look at it on the Kindle Previewer and Sigil. Although there was no reason for it in the formatting, extra space was added between every line every time.

I couldn’t figure it out. I searched on Google, learning I needed to add lines to the html. I tried to figure out how to add these lines in Sigil, which is a fine program but confuses me personally.

Besides working on my book, I work full time and I have my family. The whole thing started to be overwhelming. That was when I downloaded the free trial of Microsoft Office and discovered that once you set up all of your indentations and styles, that’s all you need to do. You don’t need to learn html. You don’t need to convert your files. You just need to upload your documents and preview it and you’re   done.

As I said, I don’t have the money to purchase the software, but they now have a program that allows you to “rent” it by the month. That’s what I’ve done.

Here is my final opinion:

If you already know how to work with html or have the time to properly learn, then using OpenOffice is perfectly fine for writing your eBook. If you’re not, then Word is the better option and it’s worth it to rent it to make your life easier.

Thank you as usual for reading. Let me know your experiences with formating in the comments!


Publishing Tips, Writing Tips

Publishing Adventures: Editing and Reformatting

This is my first attempt to publish my work, and that means I have a lot to learn.

With my rewrite complete I’ve began the process of a final edit; combing through each chapter for typos, extra words, punctuation, and awkward sentences. One of my beta readers has also been helpful in this area, without being asked, marking up a printed copy in red. It’s actually not that bad. Being a rewrite some editing has already occurred as I went.

I’ve also began the process of reformatting. This is primarily because I foolishly thought uploading to Amazon would be a simple affair. Silly me. Technology isn’t as advanced as I assumed.

It’s fine, though, because learning is part of the process. Also, needing to reformat helps me break each chapter into its own project which will prevent me from rushing.

I work with OpenOffice. The tutorials I’ve found online are all for Word. That’s fine, because it’s really not that much different. Instead of working with Normal style you instead work with Default. The changes in removing tabs and creating indents via the style sheets are the same. I have both Sigil and Kindle Previewer on my computer and Writer2epub extension added to my OpenOffice program. I downloaded Calibre but I had to uninstall it for now. I’ll just say we weren’t getting along.

In the end, I have confidence in my ability to complete the task, and once I’m done I can write a tutorial on how to reformat from OpenOffice.

As always, thank you for reading. If you have any tips or tricks for editing and reformatting, feel free to leave a comment.

Publishing Tips, Writing News, Writing Tips

Book Covers: Fun With Images

I may be a disorganized person but I still like to plan as I go. When I decided that Book One was going to be edited and put on Amazon, I was worried the cover would be a hurdle. I started researching right away. I had no idea what  tangled mess of legality of using fonts and images. Luckily, one of my good friends is a graphic artist and she was able to explain much of it to be before I even started looking.

I started out thinking I could probably use a stock photo. I don’t have the largest budget to work with, in fact I have barely any budget at all. I’m sure that this is a reality for many writers, especially at the beginning. As I began researching images and licencing of stock photos, I come across blogs stating that you can purchase images for just a few dollars. In my mind, “a few dollars” is under ten. When you actually look at the pricing of on these sites for licensing for commercial use, even purchasing credits is in the one-hundred dollar range depending on the image.

Everyone’s idea of inexpensive is different. To some, that may be a bargain. To me, that’s a lot of money.

I then learned about creative commons images and public domain. This is a rout that is possible, if I can find something that works. I’ve found many of these photos look like that roll of film someone took at random events and then forgot to pick them up from the developer. If I can find the right one, with the right legal licensing, it’s a possible place to find my image. I haven’t had luck so far.

Of course, Amazon has a cover creator. I created a mock book just to test it out. Similar to the creative commons pictures, I haven’t found an image I can work with. I’m looking for dark, mysterious, and dystopian. The images on Amazon are too generic yet cheerful. Going without an image is an option, but it feels like a last resort.

I also looked at Canva. The price is fine but once again the images are the same as on Amazon. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of the same images on both sites.

I’m going to continue browsing all of these resources, of course, but I have little hope of finding what I need.

I’d rather use my own image. Not only would I not be settling for something that only vaguely represents my story, I’d also have fully rights to it and never have to worry.

I consider myself to be a fairly artistic person. My family is full of artists. I understand color, design, and negative space. I can see images clearly in my head, and how they should curve and form and connect to create that image line by line. For some reason, that doesn’t transfer to my hands and I draw at the level of a semi-talented pre-teen.

That’s why I’m a writer and not a painter.

I’ve thought about taking a photograph myself. My only camera is my phone, but that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. With the right enhancements and filtering I could possibly make something that would work. Of course, even there you have to be careful. Recognizable places also have legal rights, just like people’s images.

Although it’s been a frustrating few weeks of searching through images and learning about the legal walls, I am glad I researched this topic in advance. It would be horrible to be ready to suddenly learn all of this when my deadline is up. Whether I take the picture myself, miraculously draw something suitable, or find a photo I can reasonably afford, in the end I’ll know it will get done.

If you have any tips or ideas for creating book covers, or want to share your own ideas, feel free to comment.

Thanks for reading. See you next week.