A SELF-PUBLISHER’S FIFTH YEAR IN NUMBERS

Finally! Here’s my very belated annual report on how my books have sold and gained reputation during the past year. I reached an epic low concerning book sales in 2018… I guess that’s some sort of achievement too.

I didn’t publish any books in 2018. I meant to (at least) publish the fourth book in The 9 Lives of the Outlaw Known as Crazy Cat series, but life got in the way and there simply wasn’t enough time to complete that particular task. I sold a total of 136 books in 2018. I thought 2016 was bad with a total of 170 books sold, but I can thank myself for that. I have done absolutely nothing to peddle a single book since my previous annual report.

I am currently working on the last stages of editing Black Lily, the fourth book in The 9 Lives of the Outlaw Known as Crazy Cat series. It will be published later this year, probably in the fall. I’ll get back to promoting my books when it’s launched.

I did, however, get a few things done concerning my wetplate photography. I hosted four wetplate workshops, attended two markets where I made tintype portraits, launched a website dedicated to my wetplate work and got my Etsy store up and running again (this time dedicated to wetplate photography). I also went to my first portfolio review… and I’ve been confused ever since, questioning my art and wondering what direction to take. I’ve come to the obvious conclusion that I need to make personal photographic work that is either meaningful or sellable. Now I just need to figure out what I find truly meaningful and/or what sort of images do people actually want to spend money on – not as easy as it sounds.

I usually reveal my plans for the year in my annual reports here, but I’ll skip it this time. I’ll be darned if I don’t publish Black Lily, that’s all I’m gonna say. I don’t want to jinx any more projects by revealing them too soon. 😉

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My #2018bestnine on my @julieloen profile on Instagram

The Numbers

As you’ve probably deduced from the title, I’ve made four similar blog posts to this one in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Scroll down or hit the “Annual Report” category to find them. I started doing these annual reports and sharing the actual numbers of my success and failures as a self-publisher because I missed this kind of information myself when I published my first novel in late 2013.

Copies Sold 

As always, when I say “sold,” I mean all copies in distribution, including free books, giveaways and gifts. This blog post is about being honest, so I must honestly admit that I’m not making any money off this yet and I’m still very much in a place where it’s all about building an audience. I guess the PDFs will pretty much speak for themselves, here’s the first one: Books Sold 2013-2018

Goodreads Numbers

Here are three charts, featuring the numbers of “To Read”s, “Ratings” and “Reviews” of my books on Goodreads. The numbers are the accumulated total, including all years, for each year. For example: My total reviews received for Embers at Dawn was 8 in 2015, 2016 and 2017. I didn’t get any new reviews those years, 8 are the most reviews of that book for all years combined. Goodreads Numbers 2013-2018

Social Media

Again, as always (it seems) I end up apologising and explaining why I haven’t fulfilled my plans for the previous year, and excusing myself for being the worst. blogger. ever. Sorry! I haven’t entertained WordPress as much as I should, I even quit Twitter. I’m still all over Instagram, though, with three private accounts: @julieloen – a mess of misc. and personal stuff, @polaloen – a gallery dedicated to my Polaroid work, and @studiostandstill – an account dedicated to my wetplate work. You can also find me on Facebook, but Facebook seems less than useless these days, if you want to promote something creative.

Here’s my Social Media Numbers 2014-2018

Merchandise

I wasn’t been much better at selling merchandise than books in 2018, but it didn’t turn out too bad. I sold two art prints at Society6, one book and three sets of postcards from my Tictail store, and one set of postcards and one tintype from my Etsy store. I also sold a few postcards and tintypes at the markets where I made portraits. I didn’t sell anything from my Zazzle store.

I’ll be closing my Tictail store soon (they’re shutting down), and probably move everything (or most of it) to Etsy. I’m considering closing my Zazzle store too.

That’s it for now! Hopefully my next annual report will be filled with big numbers and bigger accomplishments. I don’t, however, consider 2018’s lack of retrospect bravado to be synonymous with failure, it was simply a year of travelling… and I haven’t reached the destination yet.

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A Self-Publisher’s Fourth Year in Numbers

So, here we are again. Another year has passed and it’s time for my annual report on how my books have sold and gained reputation during the past year. As always, things didn’t go quite as planned, but that’s half the fun, right? …right?!

I published two books in 2017, Whiskey & Whiskers – an omnibus collecting the first three books in The 9 Lives of the Outlaw Known as Crazy Cat series and Polafornia – an art/travel book in collaboration with Ingvild Eiring about our trip to California in 2015. I sold a total of 368 books in 2017, which is awesome compared to the epic low of 170 in 2016.

I thought 2016 would be the year I was going to put some serious money into promoting my books, next I thought 2017 would be the year I’d finally get around to do it, but alas, 2017 ended up as the year I spent all my money and then some on wetplate photography. I did, however, get some of my photography featured in a few magazines: Norwegian online photography magazine foto.no wrote an article about Zerelda Glanton, Square Magazine featured a few images from Polafornia and Impossible Project Magazine wrote a great article about Polafornia. I also got invited to the #blihus photo festival in Oslo, where I had a stand with my photo books for two days, which was nice.

I have serious plans for my wetplate photography, so I don’t feel bad about blowing all my money on it, I even have a dedicated website in the making for my wetplate work that I’ll reveal shortly.

My plans for 2018 are as follows:

  • Publish Black Lily, the fourth book in The 9 Lives of The Outlaw Known as Crazy Cat series
  • Maybe publish a short story collection (the same one that was on my list of plans last year)

Last year I had in mind to publish a book collecting ten years of self portraits, but I realised I’ve been shooting self portraits since 1999, so if I wait a few years I can publish a mammoth volume collecting 20 years of self portraits instead. In December this year Ingvild Eiring and I will have been taking pictures together for ten years, and by the time we hit December we will no doubt have done more than 50 shoots together. We’re planning to put together a book, and maybe even pitch it to a few publishers. And while I’m revealing my long-term plans, I might as well tell you that I’m about halfway through writing the first draft of the sixth book in The 9 Lives of The Outlaw Known as Crazy Cat series. It might not look like it here on my blog, but things are constantly moving/building/in the making in the house of Loen.

My #2017bestnine on my @julieloen profile on Instagram

The Numbers

As you’ve probably deduced from the title, I’ve made three similar blog posts to this one in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Scroll down or hit the “Annual Report” category to find them. I started doing these annual reports and sharing the actual numbers of my success and failures as a self-publisher because I missed this kind of information myself when I published my first novel in late 2013.

I’ve done things a bit differently this year. In 2016 I threatened to “throw in a pie chart or a line graph,” I actually ended up with columns.

Copies Sold 

As always, when I say “sold,” I mean all copies in distribution, including free books, giveaways and gifts. This blog post is about being honest, so I must honestly admit that I’m not making any money off this yet and I’m still very much in a place where it’s all about building an audience. I guess the PDFs will pretty much speak for themselves, here’s the first one: Books Sold 2013-2017

Promotions

So little is moving over at Amazon and Smashwords, that I’m going to leave them out of this report. Like I admitted earlier, I haven’t done much to promote my books in 2017, but I have hosted a few Goodreads Giveaways and a couple of Free Book Promotions at KDP. I didn’t go out of my way to promote that I was running Free Book Promotions, I left it at mentioning it in Social Media, but most of the copies I’ve sold of Whiskey & Whiskers is, however, a result of KDP’s Free Book Promotions.

Ingvild Eiring and I hosted a belated release party for Polafornia in August (it was released in May), and to be perfectly honest it was an utter flop. It was a one day event at Cyan Salong in Oslo – a Saturday! We were there all day with books, prints, postcards and originals galore to sell. We even had a talk lined up about our trip to California, that gained zero interest. A friend of Ingvild showed up and saved the day, when she bought the book and a couple of prints, but all in all the so-called party was a major letdown.

As you can see, I waited until now to publish this post because I wanted to include the numbers from my latest Goodreads Giveaway.

Goodreads Giveaways

  • The 7th Bullet: Jan 17 – Feb 17. 1220 people requesting – 9 winners
  • Whiskey & Whiskers: Mar 11 – Apr 09. 1799 people requesting – 9 winners
  • Polafornia. May 08 – Jun 08. 1369 people requesting – 1 winner
  • Whiskey & Whiskers: Oct 09 – Nov 09. 2212 people requesting – 9 winners
  • Polafornia. Dec 08 – Jan 08, 2018. 1558 people requesting – 1 winner

Goodreads Numbers

Here are three charts, featuring the numbers of “To Read”s, “Ratings” and “Reviews” of my books on Goodreads. The numbers are the accumulated total, including all years, for each year. For example: My total reviews received for Embers at Dawn was 8 in 2015, 2016 and 2017. I didn’t get any new reviews those years, 8 are the most reviews of that book for all years combined. Goodreads Numbers 2013-2017. For some reason I’ve left out the number of followers at Goodreads earlier, so I guess I’ll start registering that now. I currently have 116 followers and 13 friends at Goodreads.

Social Media

As usual, I haven’t been particularly active neither here (on WordPress – sorry!), on Twitter (I still don’t quite get Twitter) or Facebook. My Instagram, however, is almost booming. I’ve even made two accounts in addition to my main account @julieloen. In October 2016 I created @aetherandinstant, that later became @studiostandstill – an account dedicated to my wetplate work. The idea behind that account was to have a place to record my progress and fails in wetplate photography from the very beginning. It has become my favorite Instagram account and people seem to enjoy it. The other new account, @polaloen, was created in February 2017 and is dedicated to my Polaroid pictures. I made @polaloen because I noticed on my regular account (@julieloen) that Polaroid pictures would often attract new followers, but I would lose them as soon as I posted something other than a Polaroid picture. Unlike @studistandstill, @polaloen is more of a project to shamelessly attract followers, and I only post Polaroid pictures there – no behind the scenes, cameras, equipment or other things that would make sense to post beside the Polaroids – it is purely a gallery. I also delete posts that get less than 50 likes, but I have yet to decide if the project @polaloen is a success or not.

Here’s my Social Media Numbers 2014-2017

Merchandise

Just like in 2016, I haven’t done much to push merchandise in 2017 either, and consequently haven’t sold much. The biggest effort I made was to promote prints for sale in my Tictail store on @polaloen.

I have sold exactly one book from my Tictail store and one print from my Society 6 store, that’s it. I am, however, bringing back my Etsy store very soon – a revamped edition dedicated to my wetplate art.

That’s it for now! As a small token of gratitude to the mad folks who got to the bottom of this, here’s a free copy of Whiskey & Whiskers (Kindle edition) – but be quick! It’s only free for three days.

 

A Self-Publisher’s Third Year in Numbers

I won’t say 2016 has been a bad year, but it hasn’t been quite the year I had in mind a year ago either. I had expected to publish two more books than I did; another photo book in collaboration with Ingvild Eiring and a short story collection. I also thought 2016 would be the year I’d put some money into promoting my work and by doing so sell more books, but I got laid off work for three months and simply couldn’t blow money on such fancy notions.

But 2016 has also been kinda awesome. I got around to get my driver’s license (about time, I’m 35). All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton got a proper exhibition at Studio Cyan in Oslo. I finally got into wetplate photography, and I’m loving it.  And I published The 7th Bullet, the third book in The 9 Lives of The Outlaw known as Crazy Cat series. On top of these major events I’ve met some fantastic new people and had many a good time with old friends.

So, here’s the plan for 2017:

  • Publish another photo book with Ingvild Eiring
  • Publish a short story collection
  • Publish the first The 9 Lives of The Outlaw known as Crazy Cat omnibus (Book 1-3)
  • Probably publish a photo book of self portraits I’ve shot the last ten years
  • Maybe (if time allows it) publish Black Lily, the fourth book in The 9 Lives of The Outlaw known as Crazy Cat series

That’s pretty much it. I’ve got a few other things brewing too, but I’ll allow those projects to pop up as a surprise if/when they’re good and ready to be revealed.

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My so-called #2016bestnine on Instagram

A Self-Publisher’s Third Year in Numbers
A year ago I wrote the post A Self-Publisher’s Second Year in Numbers, and the year before A Debut Novel’s First Year in Numbers. This is the follow-up to those posts.

The Books
Embers at Dawn was published in December 2013, An Obelus Wheeze in April 2015, All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton in July 2015 and The 7th Bullet in July 2016. I include free copies when I say “sold,” at this point I’m more concerned about getting my work into the hands of as many readers as possible, than getting rich. Here’s the cold, hard numbers of my books’ success so far: 

Embers at Dawn

Copies sold per year:

2013: 233

2014: 1106

2015: 337

2016: 110

Movements on Goodreads:

To-read:

2014: 929 + 7 reviews and 13 ratings

2015: 878 +  8 reviews and 21 ratings

2016: 866 + 8 reviews and 20 ratings

It also has one review on Amazon and one on Smashwords.

An Obelus Wheeze

Copies sold per year:

2015:  39 

2016: 9

Movements on Goodreads:

To-read:

2015: 595 + 5 reviews and 15 ratings

2016: 570 + 6 reviews and 17 ratings

It also has one review on Amazon.

The 7th Bullet

Copies sold per year:

2016: 22

Movements on Goodreads:

I have hosted one Goodreads giveaway for it where I gave away nine books, 1092 people requested it.

To-read:

2016: 416 + 3 reviews and 5 ratings

It also has one review on Amazon.

All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton

Copies sold per year:

2015: 15

2016: 29

Movements on Goodreads:

I have hosted two Goodreads giveaways for it where I gave away one book, 1036 people requested it in 2015 and 1332 in 2016.

To-read:

2015: 407 + 3 reviews

2016: 694 + 3 reviews

Social Media and Merchandise

Followers per year: 2014 – 2015 – 2016

WordPress: 35 – 49 – 53

Facebook: 130 – 144 – 175

Instagram: 98 – 147 – 363

Twitter: 67 – 137- 209

I haven’t made any new merchandise and pretty much ignored the whole thing in 2016, and consequently not seen any of the stuff that’s already for sale move. I’m considering bringing my Etsy store back to life and fill it with darkroom prints and wetplates, but it’s not on top of my list – I need to get a few unfinished projects done first.

So, there you are; my third year as a self-publisher in numbers. I sold a total of 170 books, an epic low, but I intend to change that trend asap. Until next time, have a good one!

A Self-publisher’s Second Year in Numbers

Happy new year, y’all!

2015 has been an absolutely amazing year. I published two books, An Obelus Wheeze – the second book in the The 9 Lives of The Outlaw known as Crazy Cat series and my first photobook, All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton, a collaborative project with model and costume designer Ingvild Eiring. Images from Zerelda have been Exhibited at Fotografiets Dag, featured in Floz Visions, and I was recently granted NOK 25.000,- from Norske Fagfotografers Fond to put together a proper exhibition. Ingvild and I also went to California for a week, it was – to sum it up short – AWESOME!

In this brand new year we call 2016 I’m fixing to publish The 7th Bullet – the third Crazy Cat book and a travel journal with images and stories from Ingvild and mine’s awesome trip to The USA. I also intend to put the money from NFF to use, but I need to find a willing gallery first. These are the plans I’m most certain about, whatever else I might cough up will have to be a surprise …and I assure y’all, there will be surprises 😉

On the road to Yosemite, somewhere between Merced and El Portal.

A Self-publisher’s Second Year in Numbers
A year ago I wrote the post A Debut Novel’s First Year in Numbers, this is the follow-up to that post. In 2015 I decided to not spend any money on promoting my books. The only promoting I’ve done in 2015 are Goodreads giveaways. Why on earth would I skimp out on promoting my brand new books? Because it’s not worth it… not yet. I’m sorry to say that I can’t recall where I picked up this particular nugget of advice, but here it is: When you self publish, especially in regards to a series, the reader might not believe you will finish the series before it’s done (or at least have a few books out). So, if you wait until you have a couple of books out, the money spent on promotion will have more value, because the reader will trust the series to be completed.

From Amazon to All Over the Place
During 2014 my first (and then, only) novel, Embers at Dawn, was available exclusively via Amazon for Kindle and as paperback. In early 2015 I opted out of KDP Select and made Embers at Dawn available permafree via Smashwords, E-bok.no and Google Books. I am very happy about this decision, I can trust a steady trickle of copies being picked up each month via Smashwords. It took the better part of the year before Amazon adjusted the list price from $0.99 to free. When it finally got listed as permafree in November, sales started moving there too. KDP Select can be great, but for me, it is pretty clear that selling books via more channels works better – the world of e-books is bigger than Amazon.

The Books
Embers at Dawn was published in December 2013, An Obelus Wheeze in April 2015 and All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton in July 2015. Here’s the cold, hard numbers of their success in 2015:

Embers at Dawn
Embers at Dawn sold (I include free copies when I say “sold”) 1340 copies in 2014 and 337 in 2015 – 148 via Amazon, 183 via Smashwords, 8 via E-bok.no and I have no idea how many via Google Books because their reports are a pain to decipher. I hosted two Goodreads giveaways for Embers at Dawn in 2014, but in 2015 the only thing I did for it was make it available on further platforms. Last year 929 people had marked it as “to read” on Goodreads, now there are 878. Last year it had received a total of 7 reviews and 13 ratings, now there are 8 reviews and 21 ratings.

An Obelus Wheeze
I did the launch for An Obelus Wheeze very properly. I set a date for its release and made it available for pre order (one person pre ordered it – my boyfriend) and sent out a newsletter about its upcoming release to the good folks on my mailing list. I also hosted a Goodreads giveaway that ended on the day of the book’s publishing date, 852 people requested it. When I hosted another giveaway, about six months later, 872 people requested it. Not bad, I think, for a second book in a series where barely anyone has read the first book. To my great shock and delight, 595 people has marked is as “to read” and it has garnered 5 very nice reviews and 15 ratings. A mere 39 copies have been sold – the statistics of the feedback, considering the number of copies in circulation, is beyond my comprehension… I am humbled and grateful and gleefully surprised to find that so many has jumped into the world of Crazy Cat without the proper introduction of the first book (the series is really meant to be read as one big whole) and still enjoyed it.

All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton
Ingvild and I have been creating buzz around the cowgirl project, that eventually culminated in the book, for two years. A lot of people have shown great interest in it, but as of right now, only 15 copies have been sold. We thought we would easily sell at least 20 copies at the release party for the book. I have hosted one Goodreads giveaway for it where I gave away one book, 1036 people requested it. 407 people have marked it as “to read” and it has received 3 ratings, but no reviews. I’m not entirely disappointed with the sales of Zerelda, but I have learned that selling a photobook is a very different shot of whiskey than peddling free and cheap e-books and affordable paperbacks.

Merchandise
The Crazy Cat emporium hasn’t exactly boomed during 2015 either, but I’m pretty happy about seeing the Crazy Cat merch move at all. On Society6 I’ve sold three T-shirts, one duvet cover and one framed print. On Tictail I’ve sold 3 signed copies of Zerelda, and on Zazzle; 3 Zerelda 2016 calendars. I’d call that a fair increase, compared to last years two buttons, one mousepad and a coffee mug.

Social Media
I don’t do much, if anything – I know! I’m terrible! – to gain followers on Social Media, but the increase in followers since last year is pretty decent nonetheless. My followers on WordPress have gone up from 35 to 49 – tipping my hat to y’all! Facebook, from 130 to 144. Instagram from 98 to 147, and Twitter from 67 to 137. I know I’ve been a terrible blogger, the few posts I’ve written have mostly been announcements about new books or happenings… Exactly the kind of things one are advised against to blog about too often. Because boring. Facebook is pretty much the same as it was last year, a place where primarily friends follow me. Twitter is still a mystery to me. I’m still no good at it and I tweet seldom. A lot of my followers there are book promoting sites who are obviously fishing for customers, the rest are mostly authors. Followers are nice, but they are not necessarily customers.

All in all I’m happy with the 391 books I sold during 2015. I’m also happy about getting my first reviews on Amazon, being contacted by a book blogger who posted a nice review on her blog and Goodreads, and receiving fan mail! That was a BIG WOW moment. I completed the first draft for book 4 and 5, and am currently in the latter stages of editing the third Crazy Cat book. I’ll let y’all know the details about how 2016 went in a year, maybe I’ll even throw in a pie chart or a line graph. Until then: Have a good one, y’all!

My Self-Publishing Toolbox

I’ve been asked recently about how I publish my books, so without further ado, I present to y’all my self-publishing toolbox:

Image of Frøydis Labowsky from a shoot we did in 2011. Styling and make-up by Ingvild Eiring.

Image of Frøydis Labowsky from a shoot we did in 2011. Styling and make-up by Ingvild Eiring.

Getting the story down

I don’t support the idea that you need a special space/room/cave/whatever to jot your words down. Writing is writing – it’s just you and your brain making up stories. It doesn’t matter if those stories pour out of you by way of pen or keyboard, if you’re sitting in a tree or by your speshul IKEA desk made chic with sandpaper and pastel ribbons. You don’t need to clear your calendar either or feel somehow particularly inspired. Just goddamn write already! …and keep on writing until the first draft is complete.

I do a lot of writing on my iPad while on the bus to work. Of the many writing apps on the market, I’ve tried Pages, Nebulous and iA Writer – they are all good. If you want something simple to just plop the words down without any distractions iA Writer is great. If you want to write on your pad with “everything” you need readily available with an extended keyboard, Nebulous might be the thing for you.

I use Open Office on my computer, but borrow my boyfriend’s laptop with Word when I need to format a manuscript.

I find the good ole paper notebook to be absolutely crucial for ideas and outlining. I’ve tried the manuscript organizing apps Writers App and A Novel Idea, they work just fine, but I prefer to keep a notebook dedicated to story timeline, character gallery etc.

Publishing platforms

I use Createspace for paperbacks. It’s easy to use and makes my books available on Amazon.

For photobooks I use Blurb, that also can make your books available via Amazon.

For ebooks I use KDP, Smashwords, Google Books and ebok.no. I’m particularly fond of Smashwords – where you can easily get your book distributed to several platforms.

Formatting ebooks

I know it is possible to do this “at home,” but I find the process painstaking, frustrating and ghaaa… so I choose to leave this to the professionals. I use Kindle people to format my kindle book and ebook launch for everything else.

Since I’m a professional photographer I have no qualms about making my own covers, in fact – I cringe at the thought of having someone else mess around with them, but if I wasn’t a professional myself I would hire one.

Proofreading

I use Scribendi for proofreading. I’ve had my first two novels proofread by Scribendi people and couldn’t be happier. It’s not cheap, but it is necessary and absolutely worth it.

What about editors, you ask – well, I have several friends who have studied literature and are authors themselves. I trust them to give me the non-sugarcoated feedback I need to make my books the best possible.

Social media

As you can see, I use WordPress for my blog and homebase for my books. I also have a Squarespace website for my photography work. I have, of course, domain names that make sense too: jcloen.com and julieloen.com – it looks more professional and is far easier to remeber if anyone should ask, than a free domain name with “/blahblahblah” added to it.

I use mailchimp for newsletters. Free, easy and good looking. My sign-up page looks like this.

I have author profiles on Goodreads, LibraryThing and Amazon.

I can also be found around the web on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube.

Promotion

For promotional purposes I’ve used:

KDP’s Free Book Promotion

Goodreads Giveaway (I’ve got one going on now, if you’d like a chance to win a signed copy of An Obelus Wheeze) – this thing is pure gold! It has generated more ratings, reviews and books added to to-read lists than anything else I’ve tried.

Goodreads Ad

Digital Book Today

E-books Grow on Trees

FreeBooksy

It’s Write Now

For business cards I use Moo. Fantastic quality at a great price.

Merchandise:

I used Etsy for years, but have given it up basically because you have to pay to make a non-permanent listing (added item to your store). The community is, however, great, and I did sell a few prints there – I might come back some time. I’ve also given up Cafepress because of ridiculous shipping prices and better looking print-on-demand items elsewhere.

The shops that are still open in the Crazy Cat Dry Goods & Sundries Emporium are my Tictail store, Society 6 and Zazzle.

Tictail is super easy and free to use – this is where I sell signed books and handmade goods. I would prefer to sell all my merchandise like this, but this is simply something I cannot afford to invest in right now. Both Society 6 and Zazzle are good print-on-demand online stores. I might move away completely from Zazzle, though – I have already unlisted all the clothing I had there. I was not happy with the quality of the print there. I bought a T-shirt there last year and the print is about to peel off completely… and I have not worn the T-shirt often. I love the quality of the clothes from Society 6, but I would like to be able to decide the price myself – currently the artist can only set the price for art prints.

Other Resources

There’s a jungle out there! It seems like every person who have self-published a book also publish a book about self-publishing books. I’m sure a lot of these are very good and informative, but the two people I keep coming back to for advice are Catherine Ryan Howard and David Gaughran. They have bloggged extensively about self-publishing and published books on the subject too. I’d recommend checking them out.

A Debut Novel’s First Year in Numbers

When I released my debut novel a year ago I had pretty much no idea what to expect. I found it frustrating that so few (or is it just me that haven’t found them?) were willing to share the actual results of their promotional efforts and overall sale when starting out. Vague words like “good” or “bad” was the norm of what little information I could find. So, this is me sharing what I would have loved to have read a year ago myself: An honest report of a self published debut novel’s first year in numbers.

My initial goal was to sell 1000 copies in a year. That goal changed pretty quickly, to have 1000 copies in circulation within a year – giveaways or sold – kindle or paperback. There are currently 1340 copies of Embers at Dawn (my debut novel) out and about. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t gone completely overboard with marketing, but I have certainly made an effort.

I’ve spent a total of approximately $1420 on the circus that is publishing and promoting, which includes: Proofreading, submission fees to competitions, copies of paperbacks (for giveaways, the local store etc.), promotions and postage for giveaways. I’ve earned a total of $242. Needless to say: I ain’t quitting my day job yet.

Here’s what I’ve done to get those 1000+ copies in the hands of readers:

KDP SELECT

Embers at Dawn has only been available as paperback and Kindle edition during the year it’s been out. I started off pricing the book at $3.99 and lowered it, over time, to $0.99. I have sold a few at the $0.99 price point, but I don’t need more than two hands to count the sales.

I have used KDP Select’s Free Book Promotion as often as I could. The results have varied, but have generated more “sales” (can you call it that when you’re giving away something?) than varying the price. The results of my Free Book Promotions are as follows (unless otherwise stated the promotion have only been marketed via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and my blog):

  • Five days in December 2013 – Copies given away: 224
  • Two days in March 2014 – Copies given away: 73
  • One day in April 2014 – Copies given away: 24
  • Two days in May 2014 promoted via Digital Book Today – Copies given away: 107
  • Two days in September 2014- Copies given away: 73
  • Three days in September 2014 promoted via Digital Book Today, E-books Grow on Trees, FreeBooksy and It’s Write Now – Copies given away: 751

GOODREADS

I have tried two different approaches to promoting my debut novel on Goodreads. I have hosted two giveaways where I gave away nine copies of the book and advertisement. I can’t say that the advertisement did much else than rob me off $50, but the giveaways were a major success. I kept both giveaways open for a month, as recommended by Goodreads – one directly after the book was released and another about six months after. 1286 people requested the book during the first giveaway. 1130 during the second. There are currently 929 people who have marked it as “to read” and I have received 7 reviews and 13 ratings.

COMPETITIONS

I have only submitted Embers at Dawn to two competitions: One dedicated to western literature – I didn’t win anything, and to IndieReader’s discovery award – I didn’t win anything there either, but I got a professional review out of it and a IndieReader feature (that I had to pay extra for). Can’t say that I got anything out of it, besides something to put on Amazon while I wait for reviews from readers to appear there.

AMAZON

I don’t have a single review on Amazon, except a quote from the IndieReader review, but I haven’t done anything to get reviews there either, beside asking on my blog and offering the winners of my second Goodreads giveaway a free copy of the next book in the series if they give me a review on both Goodreads and Amazon… I asked nicely on a hand-written note.

SOCIAL MEDIA

My blog is also my author website, so I’m doing my darnedest to keep the content on point and of quality. It’s good to have a platform where I get to properly went the thoughts I have on the writing process and share what I’m up to creative-wise, both as an author and photographer. I have 35 followers as of right now.

My Facebook fans mainly consist of people I know. It doesn’t seem like it does much for marketing my work, except for giving friends a platform they can share content from when they feel like promoting what I do. I have 130 likes on my page.

I love Instagram. I don’t really get Twitter. I don’t think either has lead to much as far as sales and exposure goes. I have 98 followers on Instagram and 67 on Twitter. Too many cats, too little content, I guess.

I have also made a book trailer. It has had 134 views and received 4 likes on YouTube.

MERCHANDISE

With a background as a photographer I am, of course, a sucker for the visual. I enjoy building the world of Lee (the protagonist in my western series) both on the page and off. I have no illusions about getting rich and famous by selling T-shirts on Zazzle or bookmarks on Tictail, but why the hell not, right? I enjoy designing the stuff, and I hope that some of you enjoy it too. I have sold exactly two buttons, a mousepad and a coffee mug – the mousepad and coffee mug was bought by a good friend.

LOCAL EFFORTS

An independent bookstore in Oslo, Tronsmo, is selling my book. They bought five copies and have not asked for a re-up, so I can only assume that they’re not sold out. I have also been interviewed by local media: a newspaper and a magazine. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But I honestly can’t say that it’s done anything to boost the sale.

I expect and accept that building an audience and platform as an author will take time, patience, a lot of hard work and a fair amount of money. I look at my Flickr account and take heart. I became a member in 2006 and was very active for a few years. When my efforts turned to writing, more than photography, I stopped uploading new work at a regular interval. But before I quit Flickr (at a regular basis) I had already uploaded a considerable body of work. In my absence, my followers have grown from some 3-400 (if I remember correctly) when I left it in 2010-2011ish to a whooping 1262 in my absence. I like to believe that if you work hard and make something worthwhile people will take notice… Sooner or later.

Beta Readers are Wizards

Something magical happens when I send a draft to a beta reader. I’m not talking about the feedback I will receive once the beta reader has read it, or how useful it can be to let the text rest for a while before going over it again – I mean the very instant that mail is sent or that envelope is posted. It’s like waving a wand and abracadabra: New eyes! Typos pop up from the text like mutated gophers. Purple prose wash onto a beach of shame like so much flotsam and jetsam. Paper doll characters bloat and explode upon the page – setting themselves up for execution or refurbishing. Stilted dialog sticks  out like thorns, and logical flaws make themselves known in deafening roars.

It’s hard to explain, but knowing that your words are being read by others makes a difference in how you read them yourself. I’m not saying that I’ll spot every little flaw myself before the wizards get a chance to point them out, but the knowledge of those eyes makes a remarkable difference.

An Obelus Wheeze is in its third round of being read by new eyes – the final round before I make the finishing touches and send it off to proofreading. Each round is different and serves a purpose in the editing process.

  • Round one: I send the first draft to a trusted friend who is also a writer. I almost feel sorry for her for doing this – the first draft is the text in a fetus stage, not something that is ready for the world. But because of the magic of beta readers it serves its purpose, and I am grateful for early feedback if there should be any major plot holes to see about.
  • Round two: A revised draft is sent to another trusted friend who has an eye like a magnifying glass. It is almost annoying how good she is at pointing out anything awry – from characters acting out of character to displaced descriptions of nature. She makes me feel dumb as shit, and I love her for it.
  • Round three: After implementing changes based on feedback from round two, I send the text to a bigger selection of beta readers – six people (this time), to be precise. At this stage, I pretty much consider the book done, what is left to do is merely minor tweaks – or so I hope. I will, of course, take any feedback to heart, but what I’m crossing my fingers for are thumb ups and hell yeahs.

I find that editing a book is a fluid process that takes its own sweet time. I spend more than twice the amount of time editing the text than I do writing the first draft. I don’t have a count on how many times I go over the text – in the end there are far more drafts behind the final result than the ones the beta readers get to read. And in the end the book would not have been the same without the wizards.

THE FIRST DRAFT BEAST

I’m currently editing my second novel: An Obelus Wheeze, the follow-up to Embers at Dawn. Before I started editing An Obelus Wheeze I completed Embers at Dawn, and then jotted down the first draft for the third book in the series The 9 Lives of the Outlaw known as Crazy Cat. I find that this method works well for me (write a draft, and then edit the forerunner). It gives me distance to what I have previously written before starting the process of editing.

Writing a first draft and editing are two very different kinds of beasts. I have realized that there is no point in even trying to write a perfect first draft – I tried it with Embers at Dawn about four years ago – it just ain’t gonna happen.

The first draft is the story in a hairball form, coughed into words by a rambling author. You will commit logical flaws, unsavoury purple prose and less than cohesive sentences. Your characters will be rag-dolls failing at the seams and with too little stuffing, exchanging halting dialogues and performing a series of mundane tasks in between the actual story (that you will later edit out). But that’s fine. That’s exactly what a first draft should be: a rabid, bastard of a beast.

It took me two first drafts of novels before I figured out that a first draft is just that: a first draft. The important thing is to get the story down. The polishing comes later. What I found out after drafting the second book, and then returning to the first book to edit it was:

  • My writing had improved
  • I had somewhere along the way found “my voice”
  • I had gotten to truly know my characters (the only way to truly get to know them is spending time with them)
  • I had made absurd flaws in the story that I didn’t notice while writing
  • I had made absurd flaws that I didn’t notice until someone else pointed them out to me
  • It doesn’t matter if I write by hand, type on my computer or tap it into my iPad – the words and story will be the same
  • It doesn’t matter if I’m at home, on the bus, or on a lunch break. I don’t need a room of my own to write… sort of speak

I have also learned that:

  • Wordcount is a curse. Trying to fill whatever metre you’ve set yourself will only result in a whole lot of mundane noise – that you’ll banish during the editing process anyway
  • There is no point in commencing the editing process as soon as you’ve completed the first draft – you’ll be blind to the text and wrongly think that the rabid beast is not in need of medical attention
  • Paper is king. Red pen is the mighty queen. Get the beast out of the computer and let it breathe – it is so much easier to spot sore paws and the bubblegum stuck in its fur that way

A friend of mine recently finished the first draft of her debut novel. I told her time and time again to quit fiddling with the first few chapters – to get on with the damn story – but of course she didn’t listen. I wouldn’t have listened to me neither, but this is what she wrote on Twitter after finally completing the first draft: “Rewriting is so exciting! If I’d known how much it’d change and how much it would improve, I’d have jotted down the draft sooner!”

I guess that that very first of first drafts is something every author has to face alone and come out of it facepalming herself just like every other noob before her. Seems like none of that “just get it done” business makes any sense until you’ve started editing the damn thing.

What I’m trying to say here is that the first draft is a feral mongrel, as well it should be. Spawning that beast will not teach you how to write, teaching it to sit and not shit on the floor will, or in other words: editing will transform that wild puppy into a (hopefully) nicely groomed champion.

Reviews… Please and Thank You

I’ve gotten a few very nice reviews from winners of my Goodreads’ giveaway.

Here’s an excerpt from what Lynda has to say about Embers at Dawn: “The first paragraph grabbed my attention quickly and by the end of the first chapter the lead female character’s qualities became known. Lee was a multi-faceted woman surrounded with softness and harshness giving her great depth and an uncommon attraction. The author created a strong commanding character unlike any female character I have ever read…my curiosity was piqued to learn more about her. Not a perfect heroine but heroine-like in many ways – very interesting character development.” Her review of my novel is the review I dreamed of receiving, but wouldn’t dare to hope for. Read the full review here.

Duskofdoubt writes: “The main female character, Lee, is strong and spunky, and so amazingly likeable. Don’t expect the run-of-the-mill damsel-in-distress you’d so commonly find in similar stories, because Lee wields knives, holsters guns, and uh twists the testicles of her enemies (like I said, spunky!), and it’s most certainly refreshing to see such a strong female character once in every while.” She sums up her review with: “Overall, a pretty darn good book!” Read the full review here.

I’d like to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU! to those first few of you who have taken the time to read my debut novel and given it a rating or review. I don’t mean to sound greedy, but the fact of the matter is that Embers at Dawn needs more ratings and reviews to get noticed. I would be extremely grateful for any and all feedback on both Goodreads and Amazon.

Would you buy a book written by an unknown author solely based on its blurb? Well, I guess it depends… But would you pick up one for free? Get Embers at Dawn for FREE TOMORROW on Amazon US and Amazon UK.