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.

Advertisements

Zerelda in Floz Visions

I know. I know… Everything is about Zerelda these days. Hope y’all ain’t tired of her yet. If you want to know the connection between a Barbie doll in a fighter pilot outfit and the gunslinging babe in the shape of Ingvild Eiring, head on over to Floz Visions, where Zerelda’s been featured along with a bunch of pictures you probably haven’t seen before.

Zerelda’s Big Weekend

Ingvild Eiring and yours truly at the release party for All The Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton. Much love and squishes to everyone who showed up! We had a great time!!!

TheShop

Here’s our little dry goods store at the release party we held on Friday. If you couldn’t come, but would like to buy a signed copy of All The Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton, Embers at Dawn, An Obelus Wheeze or maybe a pack of Zerelda postcards or the Professor Lafayette’s Bison Horn Potion bottle, head on over to my Tictail store.

A selection of images from All The Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton were exhibited at Fotografiets Dag at Preus Museum in Horten yesterday. As you can see, there’s no name under the pictures. Some time between 12.30 and 15.30 someone removed my name tag and stole my box of business cards, efficiently sabotaging my exhibition. A bunch of pictures without a name is worth exactly nothing. When granted an exhibition spot at Fotografiets Dag you basically get 5 hours of attention from a crowd who’s there to look at photographs. Up to three of those hours have been stolen from me. Ingvild and I have worked on this project for two years. Getting noticed is hard work. To be exhibited at an event such as Fotografiets Dag is a golden opportunity to promote what we’ve been working so hard on. I paid for the prints myself. Hell, I pay for everything myself… I’m a self-publisher. Nothing is cheap. Nothing is easy. But bullshit like this takes the fun right out of it.

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.

An Obelus Wheeze – Cover and Blurb

Lee has fled Chert in pursuit of the traitor Dan. She’s heading for Mexico accompanied by her guide, Snake Girl – she can’t decide which is worse: the climate or the company.

An Obelus Wheeze is a road trip on horseback – across scorching deserts and freezing mountains. The outlaw known as Crazy Cat gets to prove what she’s made of in encounters with bandits and rattlesnakes, crazy ole coots, saddle sores and worst of all: a big city.

An Obelus Wheeze is the second book in the western series The 9 Lives of the Outlaw known as Crazy Cat. It’s a story of harship and love, unforgiving climates and sordid sons of bitches.

-Recommended for mature readers.-

Release date TBA early 2015

Sign up to the mailing list HERE to be sure not to miss it.

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.

Happy Birthday, Lee!

In the world of the outlaw known as Crazy Cat, it’ s Lee’s birthday today! Huzzah! Had she been alive (not that I’m saying that she ain’t!) she would have been 167 years old. She would no doubt have celebrated with drinking whiskey and shooting guns. Both fine activities I fully endorse, although not necessarily combined.

T-Shirt, tote bag, button and postcard featuring the sketch of Lee is available here: http://www.zazzle.com/crazycatdrygoods.

In the event of Lee’s birthday, I’m giving away Embers at Dawn (kindle edition) for free today and tomorrow. Get yours here: US or here: UK