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Tag Archives: self-publishing

It has been a long, hot summer of idealism.  I sat outside as much as I could bear, sweating and writing and editing and formatting and plotting my vision of unprecedented overnight success under the canopy of oak trees shedding their acorns like grenades to explode on the decking beside me.  I relearned the refrain of cicada-song during the daytime and lay awake at night, uncovered and smoldering, listened to the yip-howl of coyotes.  I played with my son in the park or in his sandbox or played trains or built “sheds” out of sticks and leaves, drinking in the sight of his face, so much like mine, big-eyed and round-cheeked in delight, or scrunched-up and desolate with turbulent toddler frustration.

I’m not sure I’m supposed to admit this, but I haven’t sold a copy of Bestial in weeks, practically since October began.  The success which I dreamed and hoped for has not been forthcoming, but then I always knew this would be the case.  I spent the month after Bestial‘s release chasing reviews, approaching bloggers, inserting myself into online communities where I could self-promote.  It was a full-time job, exhausting and unrewarding.  My reviews are still paltry in number but highly-prized and hard-won, and every new sale felt like a victory.  I’ve come to realize what I already knew, however, that success as a self-published writer is in no way guaranteed, regardless of how hard you work, and owes more to blind luck than any deliberate planning.  The summer of idealism has ended, and now with the falling leaves comes the autumn of pragmatism.


Pragmatism never looked so pretty.

I’ll still take advantage of opportunities to self-promote, and I even have a speaking engagement at a local library planned for January.  I’m intending to go visit a local independent bookshop to discuss whether they’ll stock Bestial and if they’ll be interested in hosting a talk/signing event.  If I see blogs or review websites which seem targeted to my audience I’ll approach them.  But I’m also fervently pursuing full-time work for predictable, reliable income and general adulting.

At the same time, however, I’m also planning my next book.  Books I should say, because I’m planning a series and it’s a really exciting project which I can’t wait to get started on.  I’m a writer because I love to write, and I’d rather generate new work than be constantly flogging my last book.  If success is down to luck then surely publishing as many works as possible increases my statistical probability of reaching that success.

One benefit of my stalled sales of Bestial is that I can now fix that one typo which I found (typically) immediately after it was released, and I can also try to improve the resolution of the cover image to fully do justice to Amelia’s beautiful artwork.  This requires making the print book unavailable for sale while I await the new print proof, so this is the perfect time to do this.  There’s a silver lining to every cloud, yep.

I remain positive, my idealism isn’t completely gone but it’s tempered by a more practical view of my long-term goals.  Which, among them, include one day moving out of my parents’ house.

This has been an exciting week, and it’s only Tuesday!

Yesterday the interview I did with Unsettling Wonder went online.  I’ll be honest, I was a little bit nervous about it.  The reason I love the written word is that I have time to think about what I’m trying to say, go back and amend things, polish it exactly right and then release it into the world after I’m satisfied.  I’m so thankful that Rebecca not only gave me her questions in advance, but let me review the transcript and edit it.  The day I have to do a purely video/audio interview is the day I’ll be a gibbering mess hiding in a corner, most likely.

I’d been lately toying with the idea of releasing a short story I’d written in early 2013, The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When.  I have a very silly side, a part of me which seeks to be witty and hilarious, so sometimes my writing goes in that direction.  I couldn’t entirely keep that part of myself hidden while writing Bestial, and there are scenes in that novel which I honestly cracked myself up while writing them.  TATAoDW was a constant delight to compose, and I got to channel my inner ridiculousness throughout.

So as a way to encourage, and then celebrate, reaching over 100 likes on my Facebook author page, I published The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When for free on Smashwords.


I had intended to release via Kindle Direct publishing again, but they don’t give you an option to make your works permanently free when publishing with them.  Instead I found advice online which suggested to publish for free on another platform, then in a week contact KDP that the title is available for free and they would have to price match as a result!  Unfortunately this means that Kindle has my short story for $.99 at the moment, which I personally don’t believe its mere 6,000 word jaunt will give readers a feeling of value for money.  Oh well.

Some writers don’t believe in offering any of their work fo.r free, believing it will devalue their work in the eyes of readers, but I have a more positive opinion on the effect a short freebie offering may have on gaining readership, and encouraging readers to take a chance on a longer, paid title.

I do it.  All the time.  I look at a book cover with the same kind of instant appraisal as I do when choosing a bottle of wine based on its label art – which is to say, I already have formed an opinion of its quality while also being fully aware that what’s inside probably bears no relation.  But I still do it, and that snap judgement still colors my decision-making process despite my rational acknowledgement of its unfairness.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

So when I set myself to the task of deciding what my book cover would be I knew it would be an important decision.  In many ways the actual book makes little difference if the cover art or book summary or any other of a number of promotional materials don’t inspire readers to actually read it in the first place.

I thought about the books I love reading now and loved reading as a child.  Many of them were written in the heyday of paperback fiction, fantasy in particular, when unique hand-painted cover art was the norm.  The cover art was truly art on its own, a visual expression of the book, its message, characters and the general feeling of it all.  I wanted a cover that did all of this but I felt uncertain how to go about it, who to ask and how to commission one.

Then, by chance, I met Amelia Royce Leonards in her shop in Rockport.  Turns out the way to commission a book cover is as simple as not being a self-entitled douchebag when approaching the artist you want to work with – who knew??  Apparently not everyone knows this one weird trick, so I thought I’d share my gems of wisdom.

Through the course of roughly a thousand emails and text messages we hashed out the details of the cover design.  I knew from the beginning that I wanted to show my Beast in both her bestial and human forms as the focal point of the cover, so deciding how they would be portrayed was the hardest part.  Turns out my inconvenient imagination which provided two characters of such extreme differences in size meant that having them share a relatively small space was going to be … challenging.  I’ve promised Amelia that my next book will be the story of the unlikely friendship between a mountain and a fly, just to keep her from resting on her laurels.

After that was finally settled everything else kind of just came together easily.  The cover tells the story, moving from right to left – seasons change from spring/summer to autumn/winter, Yvaine transforms from Beast to Mortal, and Beau walks towards his fate.




Anyone wishing to get in touch with Amelia, or see more of her fantastic artwork (in both senses of the word “fantastic!”) can visit her Facebook page or Etsy page.

In the past couple of days I’ve had certain important victories.

From the beginning I assumed I’d have to get a professional to format my book, in both digital and print.  I’d heard reports of, and seen for myself, some amateur Kindle books which didn’t inspire much hope for the inexperienced DIY-formatter.  I’d tinkered a bit with running my book through a free online mobi converter, and it always ended up very very wrong.

However, I’m at a very unique point in this book’s progress.  I’ve finalized the manuscript, done all my front/back matter, but not yet ready to publish as my glorious cover art is still in the making.  (I’m very excited about this artwork, and plan to devote an entire blog post to it in due course.)  I just recognized, this week, what an opportunity this is.  I have time to play around, see what I can do for myself, but still have the back up plan of hiring a professional should it become clear that I need one.

And it turns out I don’t.

It took a couple days to wade through various helpful websites and how-to guides on the subject, and then to download certain useful free software, but I managed to format the e-book into a working Kindle mobi file.  It retains my images right where I want them, has a working table of contents, retains my text formatting and generally appears to be the real deal.

I’m now working on the print book format, using the same formula as the above.

There have been points during both of these explorations where I feel like my brain is breaking, and I have this overwhelming frustration that I know what I need to do but don’t have the tools to do it.  I’m now recognizing that this feeling tends to prelude a breakthrough, so I just need to take a deep breath, walk away for a moment, and then come back to it with a clearer head and more specific search terms.  Self-publishing is enough of a well-trodden path these days that there are plenty of resources out there if you know how to look for them.

Tonight I’ve been celebrating these victories, and the new-found knowledge that’s come with them.  I’ve been on such a kick that I even decided to fix our broken toilet this morning!  So if anyone needs any information on the subjects of turning a Word document into a mobi file, or how to create print page templates, or anything about the inner workings of a modern low flush toilet, I’m your girl.