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Polenth
05-22-2013, 04:36 AM
It's been a long term plan of mine to self-publish short story collections. Most of my shorts are fantasy and science fiction, and some have been previously published. My first collection, Rainbow Lights, is well on the way. I have some formatting things to sort, and then the Kindle version will be up (probably by the end of the week). And Smashwords and a paperback some time later.

It contains 35 stories and poems and is the length of a short novel, as I wanted it to be closer to the size of collections in book shops. This is a path less trodden in self-publishing land, so it'll be interesting to see how it does.

I did most things myself or had family/friend volunteers. The costs involved a piece of white card (for the cover) and postage to send off paperwork. I'm in the UK, so needed an ITIN to stop Amazon withholding tax money from the royalties. For the future, I'm also likely to license a font for my paperback interior (the cover font is donationware, so the license is free for now... but I'll donate to charity as requested if I earn monies).

I've blogged about a few things related to it. Most recent was the cover reveal (https://blog.polenthblake.com/2013/05/rainbow-lights-cover-reveal/):

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-tDBYMZxMNLo/UZrVYhoUjLI/AAAAAAAAA5U/vnUhGQq4Mj0/s320/rlkin300.jpg

Later, I plan to release some longer shorts as standalones. I've got a steampunk novelette that's mostly written, so should be out some time later this year (I have some other non-self-publishing projects to work on too, so it won't get all of my time).

And in this thread, I will waffle on about sales and what's going on with it. But at the moment, it's just me and the squid.

RLMcKeown
05-22-2013, 05:14 AM
Sounds interesting! I look forward to reading your updates.

merrihiatt
05-22-2013, 09:24 AM
The squid is gorgeous!!!! <--- Never thought I'd say that about a squid!

Polenth
05-24-2013, 10:52 PM
It's now live on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Lights-ebook/dp/B00CZ2JDV8/) and I've signed up for Author Central. The official announcement on my blog will be after I make my launch cupcakes (I have my priorities, and they mostly involve sugar).

I hit a few issues when formatting. One was auto systems for turning straight quotes to curly quotes don't understand words with a ' at the start, like 'tis, and use the wrong direction of quote. It's not something any formatting guides I read mentioned. I manually went through and changed those to the correct mark.

I have some poems and some unusual story formats. I think I've got it as close as an ebook can get. One problem area was laying out words in columns, which I ended up doing with a pre tag (it mostly works, but older Kindles shift the lines a little).

So far, it's all gone pretty smoothly.


The squid is gorgeous!!!! <--- Never thought I'd say that about a squid!

Yay!

James D. Macdonald
05-25-2013, 01:02 AM
Squid are the new vampires.

You're ahead of the trend.

Polenth
05-25-2013, 04:34 AM
Squid are the new vampires.

You're ahead of the trend.

I was thinking of going for a zombie nautilus next, before squid get saturated.

slhuang
05-25-2013, 05:25 AM
Ooo, cool! Good luck, Polenth!

merrihiatt
05-25-2013, 07:10 AM
You're on your way!

WriterBN
05-25-2013, 06:34 PM
Congrats! Looks promising, will add it to my wish list.

Ann Joyce
05-25-2013, 07:33 PM
Merri's right. That's a beautiful squid! Congrats... looks like you're off to a good start!

Polenth
05-26-2013, 01:16 AM
Thank you all. It's been fun so far. Also, the celebratory cupcakes have landed:


http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-UgHUPv-rpoM/UaEi1aZPwmI/AAAAAAAAA7A/2U3l14q1H60/s320/racake.jpg

Polenth
06-01-2013, 10:29 AM
May sales stats: I sold 7 copies on Amazon. It wasn't a complete month, as the book came out on the 23rd.

What I did: Promotion was very basic this month. I made sure my social networks knew (a blog post and messages on Twitter, my Facebook author page and Google+, plus cover and word cloud posts on Tumblr). Someone contacted me on Twitter to say they'd brought the book. A few reblogged my Tumblr post of the cover. Google+ and Facebook didn't do much as usual, but it's not as though it took me long to do.

I updated my website, so the cover and link to the book detail's page were on the opening page. My blog also has a cover link in the sidebar.

On outside sites, I made sure the Goodreads page for the book was updated. I also signed up for Author Central on .com and .co.uk, and filled out the profile with a bunch of photos and things.

I've submitted the book to three review sites so far. There aren't as many that take short story collections as novels, so I'm not expecting too much there. Another site has three of the stories, as I won the reviews in a charity auction.

And so ends May.

sarahdalton
06-01-2013, 06:25 PM
I love the cover, it's gorgeous. Is it an illustration or image manipulation? I can't tell from that size.

Also congrats on the sales! 7 in one weeks is really impressive.

merrihiatt
06-02-2013, 02:25 AM
LOVE the cupcakes!!! I sold 7 books my first month of self-publishing, too! Here's to many more sales in the months to come.

Polenth
06-02-2013, 06:15 AM
I love the cover, it's gorgeous. Is it an illustration or image manipulation? I can't tell from that size.

It's an illustration. Chalk pastels and charcoal. The texture is created by layering it up (with a coat of fixing spray between each layer).


LOVE the cupcakes!!! I sold 7 books my first month of self-publishing, too! Here's to many more sales in the months to come.

Thanks! I'm expecting sales to drop off next month, partly because I have a lot of other stuff to focus on. But once I get these other projects wrapped up, I can get the steampunk novelette out.

Polenth
07-01-2013, 10:49 AM
June sales stats:

Amazon: 1
Smashwords: 1


The random small stuff:

After going through all the reviewer lists I could fine, I submitted to four blogs in total (so I only found one more since last time). A novel would do much better, as I could have sent it to dozens if I had a novel.

I also started a LibraryThing giveaway for 23 copies, which'll end in a few days.

In positive news, I heard from a reader who'd read the whole collection. 'Dead Meat' was their favourite.


Smashwords epub beta:

Sorting Smashwords was my big task this month. I'm using their beta system where you upload an epub directly, which means I can't offer other formats there yet. Which is a pity, but I'd rather that and have an epub I'm happy with go out to the other distributors. The rest of this section is some of the technical stuff, which might be useful for anyone else going this route.

Smashwords uses an older epub validator, which has a bug. The bug is it won't take all of the allowed values for a certain attribute - preserveAspectRatio. The solution to this (as I'm using Calibre to convert from html) is to go into "EPUB Output" when setting the conversion and tick "Preserve cover aspect ratio". This changes the value in preserveAspectRatio, and Smashwords is happy.

If you're coding your own table of contents, rather than letting an automated system sort it, the name attribute shouldn't be used for epubs. Instead, the anchor should be marked with id. So instead of something like:

<a name="chapter1"><h1>Chapter One</h1></a>

It should read:

<h1 id="chapter1">Chapter One</h1>

I wish I'd known that before I made my initial html file, as I could have saved time by coding it that way from the start.

I also did what I should have done before, and ran my basic pre-conversion html file through the W3C validator (http://validator.w3.org/). It picked up a couple of small mistakes, which caused random issues with the epub validator after conversion.


Future stuff:

I aim to get a few related blog posts out next month, which'll give me something to tweet about.

I've been working on the cover for the steampunk novelette. This mainly involved taking pictures of rusted metal. Next up is taking apart some old clocks. August is a likely publishing date for that project.

LBlankenship
07-01-2013, 05:52 PM
I also did what I should have done before, and ran my basic pre-conversion html file through the W3C validator (http://validator.w3.org/). It picked up a couple of small mistakes, which caused random issues with the epub validator after conversion.


Hmm, thanks for the tip. I'll try that on my next book.

Blenia
07-01-2013, 06:57 PM
Just wanted to add that I too love your cover. Such an elegant and easy to read font choice and the illustrations gorgeous. Best of luck!

Polenth
07-31-2013, 11:35 PM
July Sales: No sales this month.

I sent out the copies for the LibraryThing giveaway. One person (out of 23) responded and added it to their library. No reviews currently.

Someone I follow on Twitter wanted happy news for a week of joy. I figured you couldn't get much more joyful than a rainbow squid. So I have an interview (http://wisb.blogspot.com/2013/07/week-of-joy-day-two-rainbow-lights-by.html) over there.


The Future: The steampunk novelette, By Means of Clockwork Selection, is written and I've had the notes back from my critique partner. I also have a finished cover (it's from photos of an old cuckoo clock, farm machinery and a graphics card):

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-d3XeSqoNFc0/UfsdPeU1fOI/AAAAAAAAA-Q/pSkcNS0CZmI/s400/csl350.jpg

It's the first in a series of linked short stories. Different characters and places in each, but all set in the same world. I can write these between bigger projects, so they'll be good for keeping up the release momentum.

The plan is I'll put the book up after I get back from climbing mountains. But I won't announce it immediately, as I'm going to set some free days for the official launch, and need enough of a delay to let the places that list the days know. This means it should be announced in late August, if all goes to plan. It'll be 99 cents when it isn't free.

merrihiatt
07-31-2013, 11:56 PM
Love the infinity feel of the cover.

Polenth
08-01-2013, 07:32 AM
Love the infinity feel of the cover.

Thank you! I hope steampunk fans agree.

Fruitbat
08-01-2013, 07:50 AM
I agree, cool cover!

BigRed
08-02-2013, 06:12 AM
Beautiful cover! Sending good thoughts your way!

Polenth
08-03-2013, 09:33 PM
Thanks! The novelette's now with my final editing volunteer, so it's all set for when I get back.

RLMcKeown
08-05-2013, 08:22 PM
Popping in to say I love the steampunk cover, too!

Norman D Gutter
08-06-2013, 02:04 AM
Best of luck to you Polenth. May you have many sales.

NDG

swvaughn
08-06-2013, 05:02 AM
Good luck to you! Your covers are really eye-catching -- love them! :)

bearilou
08-08-2013, 05:22 PM
:hooray: You go, Polenth! Both those covers are amazing.

Polenth
08-28-2013, 10:23 PM
'Tis launch day for the steampunk novelette. The book went live on Amazon on 11th August, but only so I could sort the free launch promotion. I set up the free days for 28th August to 1st September. Then I told a bunch of sites about it. The only place I linked to the buy pages was the official page on my website (where I told readers it would be free and what dates).

A site I hadn't submitted to noticed the book before the promo date. It was listed on their free and 99 cents list (as it's 99 cents usually). This seems to have resulted in some hits, as a "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed" appeared. I had one sale before the official launch hit.

I blogged about the launch (https://blog.polenthblake.com/2013/08/steampunk-novelette-launch/) (with cupcakes) and also tweeted. My main categories are steampunk (I'm at #10 free last I checked) and post-apocalyptic (#46). I'm at #5778 in the overall free. Which I'd take to mean the two sub-categories aren't that full. I thought post-apocalyptic would have more, I admit. But I'm not complaining.

Sites listing the book (after being contacted):

BigAl's Books and Pals
http://booksandpals.blogspot.co.uk/
(Thursday only)

BookGoodies
http://bookgoodies.com/

eBookLister
http://www.ebooklister.net/

Frugal Freebies
http://www.frugal-freebies.com/

Indie Book of the Day
http://indiebookoftheday.com/

Indie Book Promo (Database)
http://indiebookpromo.com/

Kindle Book Promos
http://kindlebookpromos.luckycinda.com/


Sites listing the book (without being contacted):

http://flurriesofwords.blogspot.co.uk/p/amazoncom-free-and-99-book-listing.html - This is the place that listed it once it went live, rather than after the promo started.



I'll edit this post if any more sites add me. It seemed more useful to list the ones that accepted my book, as it'll give a better feel for which are open to short speculative fiction.

sarahdalton
08-29-2013, 01:10 AM
Good luck, Polenth! Number 10 in the Steampunk category is really awesome. I think I might pick this one up while it's free. :)

ETA: You're number #3 right now!

Polenth
08-29-2013, 05:52 AM
Good luck, Polenth! Number 10 in the Steampunk category is really awesome. I think I might pick this one up while it's free. :)

ETA: You're number #3 right now!

It hit steampunk #2 and stuck there for a bit. Almost there.

(In strange irony, after writing a story about a post-plague world, I woke up sick. It's all coming true!)

thothguard51
08-29-2013, 06:23 AM
Polenth, I downloaded and will be reading sometime next week. I look forward to the Steam Punk. Thank you...

merrihiatt
08-29-2013, 07:24 AM
Good luck!

PJanes
08-29-2013, 10:47 AM
Good luck, Polenth.

Polenth
08-29-2013, 05:24 PM
Polenth, I downloaded and will be reading sometime next week. I look forward to the Steam Punk. Thank you...

Hope you enjoy it.


Good luck, Polenth.


Good luck!

Thanks!

I'm sticking at #2 in steampunk, but post-apocalyptic is still rising (currently at #16). So it's doing well in the niches. BigAl's blog included it in the Thursday free books post.

Polenth
09-02-2013, 02:19 PM
August Paid Sales:

Rainbow Lights - Amazon UK: 1
By Means of Clockwork Selection - Amazon US: 1



Free Promo Sales (By Means of Clockwork Selection)

Also includes September stats, as it crossed the month divide by a day.

Amazon US: 194
Amazon UK: 50
Amazon Spain: 10
Amazon Germany: 7
Amazon Canada: 4
Amazon Japan: 2
Amazon Italy: 1

Total: 268

My highest ranking was #2 for steampunk in the US and #1 for steampunk in the UK. It's a pretty niche category, so it doesn't take a lot of downloads. Post-apocalyptic got to about #16ish in the US, but I'm not sure exactly.



Ramblings on the promotion

The audience downloading my book on the sites varied. For the UK and Spanish sites, the 'also bought' books are science fiction and fantasy. The UK also had a sale of the collection after the promotion started (as I didn't sell any copies last month, this likely isn't coincidence) and a four-star review on the free novelette. So though the downloads were fewer, the audience was closely targeted.

In the US, the 'also bought' titles are linked by having lesbian characters. Most were realistic contemporary romance/erotica books. One on the first page was a cosy mystery. This isn't my main audience, so it's not really a surprise that I've not seen any additional movement on the US site.

Overall, I think it was worthwhile, as it did get more publicity for the book launch and raise awareness that I'm self-publishing things now. It's not something I'd want to do for every book, but I might pick titles to try it on here and there.



Other stuff

I got a review on LibraryThing and Goodreads from someone who won the LibraryThing giveaway for Rainbow Lights (when I sent the books out, I included links to both LibraryThing and Goodreads, just in case they had accounts on both). They gave it four stars. Four appears to be my lucky star number at the moment.



Future plans

Next up is an urban fantasy novel (and I've removed 'short' from the thread title, as they're no longer all short). I'm aiming for about December. I know some people have been waiting for me to release a novel, as they're not interested in short fiction, so I hope that translates into sales.

I think it was good to start with the shorter stuff, as it gave me some space to get my system down and figure out what I needed to do. But I doubt they'll ever sell that well.

sarahdalton
09-02-2013, 10:49 PM
Good luck with the novel, Polenth. I think you'll see a big difference in sales with a novel. And it's great that you've now got some experience with how things work.

I picked up your short story collections and am looking forward to reading them :) I've been wanting to get back into writing short stories so needed some inspiration!

Norman D Gutter
09-03-2013, 08:40 AM
Building an audience is slow. A couple of sales now might mean several readers later.

Polenth
09-03-2013, 05:04 PM
I picked up your short story collections and am looking forward to reading them :) I've been wanting to get back into writing short stories so needed some inspiration!

Yay! Writing shorts is fun. One thing I like is there's more room for experimentation. An unusual form or character choice can be hard to sustain for a novel, but works perfectly in a shorter format.


Building an audience is slow. A couple of sales now might mean several readers later.

I wasn't trying to sound like I was disappointed or expected more sales, as I didn't. What I'm saying is the audience for shorts is much smaller than the audience for novels. The shorts that sell the best come from people who also have novels, as the novels encourage people to read the shorts.

So though I enjoy writing and publishing the shorts, from a business perspective, it makes sense to release a novel.

girlyswot
09-10-2013, 01:21 AM
The rest of this section is some of the technical stuff, which might be useful for anyone else going this route.

Incredibly helpful, thank you!

Polenth
10-01-2013, 10:25 AM
'Tis time for September sales.

By Means of Clockwork Selection (steampunk novelette):
US: 5
UK: 3

Rainbow Lights (SFF collection):
None.


Clockwork Selection had the free days last month, so this is the first proper month of being for sale for real money. It's possible the sales came via the promotion from the free month, but there wasn't any sign of movement early in September. It changed when a discussion started up on Twitter in the #DiversityInSFF tag. I took part in that, and produced a list of 100 diverse authors, which got a lot of hits. And suddenly sales.

I also did an interview with AW member SL Huang, which helped keep the ball rolling.

A relevant discussion starting up wasn't something I could predict and I didn't comment with the intent that it'd lead to sales. So if anyone needs a data point for why it's a good idea just to be around and be part of things, without spamming, there's one.

merrihiatt
10-02-2013, 12:08 AM
Thanks for the update.

Norman D Gutter
10-03-2013, 01:42 AM
Your start looks encouraging, Polenth. I hope sales continue and expand for you.

NDG

Polenth
01-01-2014, 01:58 AM
It's end-of-year update time. I've not posted sales in the last few months as I've been working on other things, so there's not been much to say. This December I did some stuff. I got the steampunk novelette on Smashwords and I ran a short free run for Rainbow Lights.



Sales

In updates of previous months, Rainbow Lights also sold one copy on Kobo in August (reported in October).

October - No sales.

November

Clockwork Selection (steampunk novelette):
AZN US: 1

December

Rainbow Lights (SFF collection):
AZN US: 1 (a paid sale)
Free on Website (Mobi): 10
Free on Website (Epub): 20
Smashwords Free Downloads: 4

Clockwork Selection:
AZN US: 3
Smashwords: 1



Kobo
Rainbow Lights was one of the books Kobo didn't put back on sale in the UK after they disabled all self-published work. This either means they've deemed it to have inappropriate content for the UK market or someone forgot about it. Either way, it's no longer on sale in the UK, and I don't know if it'll impact them picking up my other books. I couldn't see a way to contact them or challenge their decision, so all I can really do is wait for them to notice it has no sex in it.



Free Stuff
I ran the free promotion using a Smashwords coupon and by having direct file downloads on my website. It was low key, so I posted to a few places, but didn't inform eleventy billion blogs about it. The results were fewer downloads than something like a Kindle free promotion, but I sold three copies of the steampunk novelette during the promotion time. I doubt that was coincidence, as many of the people seeing the announcements know who I am and that I write. Sometimes just reminding people you exist gets sales. (The Smashwords sale for the novelette was after it was first made available, so I imagine a random sale from seeing it on the front page.)



Art
I have some basic work done on the cover of the urban fantasy, so that's getting along. I also joined deviantART (http://polenthblake.deviantart.com/). I've not done a whole lot of promotion of the art side of things, but it makes sense to do so. The cover reveal for Rainbow Lights got more hits than the launch post, and I get more comments about the covers than the writing. Which may mean I'm going into the wrong profession. :) But anyway, if people are interested in that side, I'll roll with it.

Plus, they have a category where I can put my cupcakes, so I'm happy.

LBlankenship
01-01-2014, 07:29 PM
I'd be interested in hearing about what impact promotions on DeviantArt have... good to hear from you again!

merrihiatt
01-02-2014, 04:51 AM
Thanks for the update. Wishing you a fabulous new year!

Polenth
01-05-2014, 04:56 AM
Thanks for the update. Wishing you a fabulous new year!

Thanks!


I'd be interested in hearing about what impact promotions on DeviantArt have... good to hear from you again!

I'll be watching carefully during the next book launch. As a starting point though, people do seem to find the profile through the site itself (rather than me sending them there). I'll be uploading new things here and there to keep up the momentum. And giving people llamas, because that's the thing apparently.

It's not really much extra work for me, as I'm making the art and sorting it for my main website. So there's nothing lost.

Polenth
02-01-2014, 11:28 PM
The January sales are in...

By Means of Clockwork Selection (steampunk novelette):
AMZ UK: 1 (Returns: 1)
Smashwords: 1

Rainbow Lights (SFF collection):
None.

This marks my first return, which isn't bad going as it's been a few months. I have a week of no college work, so I'll be finishing off the main edits for the urban fantasy novel this week. I'm guessing the end of February is a likely release date.

Polenth
02-17-2014, 07:01 AM
The final stages of publishing the urban fantasy novel have begun. I've set the provisional release date to 13th March. That's my birthday (yay!). Here's the cover:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ztxtdRT8-Jg/U36dzjz-01I/AAAAAAAABJE/dnfOLN5Tix0/s400/sun350.jpg

I looked at a lot of mystery covers when it came to this one, as it's at the mystery end of the genre. The closer to central placement of the title and the faded look is more mystery. As is the illustrated feel (for a certain type of mystery anyway).

This time, I'm doing a soft cover reveal. I've mentioned it on Twitter and uploaded it to Goodreads, but I'm not going to blog about it. Instead, I'll do a 'making of' post after release. Then upload it to DeviantArt and link back to that post. This is part of my thoughts on using doing my own covers to get some attention for the books.

In other promotion, more review blogs take urban fantasy novels than short stories. It's also getting more casual interest from people. Only time will tell if that translates into sales. I expect to sell more of the novel than the shorts... but the real question will be to what extent.

And most importantly, I'll be making Bigfoot cupcakes.



Google's Auto-Enhance

I ran into this issue this time... my cover turned really purple when I uploaded it to Blogger. Turns out Google have decided to be 'helpful' by auto-enhancing all uploads. Where enhance means messing them up. This can be turned off (in the settings of your Google+ account) and can be reverted for individual pictures:

https://support.google.com/plus/answer/3338435?p=photos_auto_enhance&hl=en&authuser=0&rd=1

JournoWriter
02-17-2014, 05:47 PM
Love the cover! The blurb sounds interesting, too. Looking forward to it!

Storm Surge
02-17-2014, 05:49 PM
That is a lovely cover!

Polenth
02-19-2014, 10:00 AM
Love the cover! The blurb sounds interesting, too. Looking forward to it!

I consider the description a bit of an experiment. I generally favour more plotish ones, but urban fantasy tends to have more character-focused ones, so I ended up with that.


That is a lovely cover!

Thank you!

Polenth
03-01-2014, 10:37 PM
February sales...

Rainbow Lights (SFF collection):
AMZ US: 2

By Means of Clockwork Selection (steampunk novelette):
None.

In February I had a surprise review for Rainbow Lights. The two sales came in the couple of days after the review, so it's fair to assume they were connected. Though I don't think sales of the shorts/collections will ever be huge, they do continue to trickle in.

Mostly though, I've been working behind-the-scenes getting novel stuff done. It's set for the March release, so I'll have more to say at the end of the month about what I've done and whether it meant any sales.

merrihiatt
03-02-2014, 01:26 AM
Thanks for the update.

Ann Joyce
03-04-2014, 01:10 AM
Congrats on the surprise review and your upcoming release, Polenth!

Mama Llama
03-04-2014, 08:32 AM
I'm also looking forward to the upcoming release of your novel. I think the cover is fabulous.

Polenth
03-17-2014, 11:12 AM
I had a slight delay due to illness, but the release is now happening. The blog post with cupcakes (https://blog.polenthblake.com/2014/03/sunstruck-bigfoot-urban-fantasy/) is up and I tweeted about it. In the next few days I'll update my other social networks and contact the review sites who want requests with a buy link.

Mostly there was nothing new with this release, as I've done it all before with the shorts. If it wasn't for being ill, I would have released exactly on time, as I'm better at judging how long things will take now. I did have an awkward social issue though, as out of the blue, someone related decided to leave a review. This hasn't happened before and the family have never shown any signs of wanting to review. So next release, we'll have to have the talk about why it looks bad if my relatives leave me glowing reviews on release day. And meanwhile, I'll sit here feeling embarrassed until I have enough reviews to push that one down the list.

On the writing side, there's obviously new stuff here, as it's my first novel. I also had to write it in American English (or more specifically, two different dialects of American English), which is a bigger job than just exchanging a few words. I have a check list for that now, so it'll be easier when it comes to the next one. It also had a lot of cultural research, given that I'm not Native American and one of the main characters is, which means there's a short bibliography at the end.

And I actually paid money for this release... the font license for the cover cost me £25. But spread over a whole series, I should get that back pretty quickly.

Polenth
03-30-2014, 07:33 AM
March sales for Sunstruck:

AMZ US: 1
AMZ UK: 5
Smashwords: 1

I'm posting this a little early, as the sales were all in the first couple of days, so I don't expect them to change in the next day. From the numbers, probably to the same people who bought the previous titles.

I've sent out review requests, but I can't say I'm hopeful. The interest in my work isn't there and it isn't increasing, so the chances of reviews are slim. I can't afford advertising, so what I'm doing is all I have as options. I'd like to continue the series I've started, but with sales as they are, I can't justify doing so this year.

I realise that's not really the positive outcome people always hope for with these threads, but I hope it at least gives an example of what it can be like when it doesn't work out. I will be back to update if I can get my finances sorted and focus on my self-publishing again. I've enjoyed publishing my books, but right now, I need to focus on making money (which for me means short stories for magazines).

I hope you have better success with your projects, and I'll continue reading other people's diaries.

LBlankenship
03-30-2014, 11:01 PM
Hang in there, Polenth. How are the sales for your other titles?

Mclesh
03-30-2014, 11:09 PM
Polenth, there is a tremendous amount of competition out there. It's really hard to sell books, period. As LBlankenship said, hang in there. :Hug2:

Polenth
03-30-2014, 11:35 PM
Hang in there, Polenth. How are the sales for your other titles?

All the sales are in the thread, so they've stopped selling.


Polenth, there is a tremendous amount of competition out there. It's really hard to sell books, period. As LBlankenship said, hang in there. :Hug2:

I'd note I'm not planning to delete everything and flee or anything like that. One of the things with self-publishing is titles can sit there indefinitely. But it takes a lot of time to put together a title to self-publish. Looking for things like reviews and guest post opportunities also takes time. It's one of those cases where the rich can afford to be poor, as it's fine to spend the time for as many titles as it takes to be successful when you have another source of income. But writing is my only source of income, so I can't. I've pushed it as far as I can go in the circumstances.

Norman D Gutter
03-31-2014, 02:21 AM
Sales are difficult to come by these days. Congrats on the seven in March, and here's to an increase in April.

NDG

merrihiatt
03-31-2014, 02:42 AM
Polenth, thank you so much for making this thread and continuing to post here. I truly believe it contributes to the creation of a balanced view of what self-publishing is all about. Not every book is knocked out of the park. This is important information to realize, both before self-publishing and during it.

I am fortunate to be maintaining sales without having a new release out in months. That is not my usual strategy, but real life has been quite overwhelming.

We write because we cannot not write. We also need money to pay bills. These are not mutually exclusive, but sometimes a book doesn't appeal to readers, doesn't mean it won't at another time. When I dirst watched Seinfeld, I thought it was one of the dumbest shows I had ever seen. Could not imagine why everyone thought it was so great. A few years later, I happened upon a few old episodes and thought they were hilarious. Was it the same show? It was. Only now, I adored it from the get-go. Who knew?

Polenth
06-16-2014, 12:49 AM
It's over the one-year mark now, so time for an update. I have some short stories on submission, so I'm now balancing my time between shorts and my next novel project. I won't be posting exact monthly sales from here out, but will give a general feel for changes in sales.

My main change of focus this year is cutting down on community stuff. I like chatting to people, but it became very clear time spent on things like my blog content was wasted. Some people manage to build up a lot of interest in them as a person in a short time, but after six years I've had to acknowledge it wasn't happening.

This means having to look at ways to sell that don't involve social media or anything to do with me. One of those is to make sure books fit into a niche where there's demand, and aren't genre-crossing or otherwise tricky to define. So my next book will be a cozy mystery. It's a small market, which makes it easier for a book to be noticed. And the main lines around the genre are pretty easy to define. I'm not straying into any of the debatable areas, because I need something that's clear this time around.

I'm also removing Sunstruck from Smashwords, so I can try Amazon's various KDP Select deals. Most places took it down the next day, but the holdouts are Apple, Flipkart and Fnac (they use Kobo... the rest of Kobo's affiliates have taken it down already). The book isn't really selling, so it seems like it can't make it worse to try out some other things.

In slightly more positive news, I got two nice reviews of Sunstruck. They haven't helped with sales, but I might reach a point where there are enough reviews to start making a difference. They're Fangs for the Fantasy (http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2014/06/sunstruck-bigfoot-mysteries-1-by.html) and Review Hart (http://thereviewhart.com/2014/06/09/sunstruck-polenth-blake/).

M. H. Lee
06-16-2014, 06:22 AM
Polenth,

I just read your blog post and have to say that a lot of what you said in there rings true with my own experience. One of the most depressing things to me about self-pubbing was the lack of conversion from people who followed my blog to buyers of my stories. I knew it was coming though when I offered my stories for free before self-pubbing as a thank-you to my blog followers and only one took me up on it out of about two hundred... So, you're not alone. I'd already kind of known that a lot of people followed my blog simply in hopes that I'd follow theirs back. But it's still hard when you've put in that time and effort and get nothing back from it. (Hence my lack of blogging much since I started self-pubbing...)

Best of luck with year 2. I will say that I've made the most (not much) from a couple of non-fiction titles in an area where I have no established expertise other than the willingness to write about 35K words about it. So, that may be something else you can consider. If you have enough passion about a topic to write about it, then I say try that route as well. You never know. Maybe even write about the challenges of being atypical. (I only say that based upon what you put in the blog post, so no offense meant.) I think far too many people are willing to talk about success and belonging and too few are willing to discuss the daily challenge of not quit synching up with the rest of the world around you.

Anyway, I'm blathering on your journal and will stop now. Best of luck.

M.H.

RLMcKeown
06-16-2014, 06:30 PM
Good luck with your next book, Polenth!

Your blog post was an interesting read. I had a similar experience, especially on the whole "blog/community" front. As M. H. Lee said, a lot of people following my blog just did it so I'd follow them back. I get some people who regularly "like" my posts, but they don't comment, so I doubt they're actually reading. Oh well.

I'm interested in hearing how Select goes for you!

Polenth
06-17-2014, 04:55 AM
Best of luck with year 2. I will say that I've made the most (not much) from a couple of non-fiction titles in an area where I have no established expertise other than the willingness to write about 35K words about it. So, that may be something else you can consider. If you have enough passion about a topic to write about it, then I say try that route as well. You never know. Maybe even write about the challenges of being atypical. (I only say that based upon what you put in the blog post, so no offense meant.) I think far too many people are willing to talk about success and belonging and too few are willing to discuss the daily challenge of not quit synching up with the rest of the world around you.

One of the suggestions in my roundup was a blog book of my diversity in SFF posts, which I do intend to do. I was thinking of an introduction talking about the sort of things you've suggested. I'm on the fence about whether it'd make money, but it seems a relatively quick project (as most of the content is written). I'm not sure when I'll have time for that though.


Your blog post was an interesting read. I had a similar experience, especially on the whole "blog/community" front. As M. H. Lee said, a lot of people following my blog just did it so I'd follow them back. I get some people who regularly "like" my posts, but they don't comment, so I doubt they're actually reading. Oh well.

The diversity posts were read and passed around outside of people hoping for followbacks. But if a post went viral in the community, it'd be the prominent community member who linked to it who got noticed for linking to it. Six months later, people would forget that person didn't write the initial post. It's a strange kind of invisibility, where the blog was technically successful, but in a way that was completely disassociated from me.

Or as happened in one case, the people linking got hugs and apologies for the issue discussed. I got death threats. I really could have done with hugs at that point.

I don't believe it's because my blog doesn't make it obvious I'm writing it. The abusive emails always got to the right place and had my name on them. It's just positive reactions that tended to be directed to someone else. A bit of distance has made it easier to see I should have drawn the line a lot earlier. It's a lot less stressful now I'm pottering about and posting cockroach videos.


I'm interested in hearing how Select goes for you!Still waiting on the last few places to take it down. I'll post how long it took them once they get to it. (Or if I have to send them grumpy emails, I'll mention that too.)

Polenth
06-30-2014, 03:27 AM
The saga of getting the book taken down is ongoing. One of Kobo's affiliates still hasn't done it. I've contacted Smashwords, so we'll see if it gets sorted. In the meantime, I've joined Wattpad (http://www.wattpad.com/user/Polenth). I wanted to as a reader, as it's easier to bookmark stories as a member. Which seemed like a good reason to put some stuff up as a writer, as there's the potential for people finding it.

Currently, the stuff I've put up is all available online elsewhere (so it's short stories and flash fiction), which means there's nothing lost in giving it a go. It doesn't take long to transfer a story to the site. I'm also making custom covers for each one, which is good design practise. Wattpad has small cover sizes (256 x 400), which is a nice size for playing around with concepts.

My favourite of the quick covers are these two. Dead Meat is science fiction horror and Reflections is surreal / magical realismy. The Dead Meat photograph is a slice of ham. Reflections is lens flare / window reflections taken from inside a train (so actually fits the story nicely).

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-cDrfzjERccM/U7CdvTjexII/AAAAAAAABKA/-UHz_FgLvNk/s1600/watmeat.jpg http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-L1iZFy9M_vQ/U7Cdv7DiN1I/AAAAAAAABKg/kUr07R0CdCk/s1600/watreflect.jpg

I'm working on the cover for the cozy mystery, but that'll be a longer process.

Polenth
08-07-2014, 09:35 PM
In generally good news, things have settled a bit as far as money is concerned. Among other things, I've sold two short stories, which helps. This means I don't have to worry as much about sales. In self-publishing news, I finally got Sunstruck into Kindle Select, which is what the rest of the post is about.


Smashwords Removal

This is the timeline for removing Sunstruck from Smashwords. I checked books were down with the list of sites on the distribution page: http://www.smashwords.com/distribution

DAY 0: Smashwords was instant, though when logged in, an author can still see the book page.

DAY 1: Removed by Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Nook. I also checked Blio (Baker & Taylor) and Page Foundry sites, which didn't list the book... though I'm not sure if they ever did.

DAY 6: Removed by Flipkart

DAY 12: Removed by Apple.

Then the issue. Fnac (French version) is one of Kobo's affiliates. Though Kobo removed it the next day, and most of their affiliates followed quickly after, Fnac showed no signs of moving. It was a difficult issue to search for, though I found a couple of people who'd had similar issues with Fnac (but no followup on whether they got it sorted).

DAY 15: Contacted Smashwords support. Received reply later that day saying it was on the spreadsheet of changes to be made they send to Kobo.

DAY 27: Tweeted @Fnac asking who to contact to get the book removed. (Someone who spoke French looked at the site for a contact, but there wasn't one for book queries apparently... so I tried tweeting). No reply.

DAY 33: Second message to Smashwords.

DAY 49: The buy buttons on Fnac were removed for both of my books. Which wasn't the intention (I was only trying to remove one), but as I've never sold anything from them, I'll take both books being taken down. The books still appear in their search... but that's technically not against the Select guidelines, so I've gone for it and hoped that's not going to cause an issue in the future.


Kindle Select

I want to run a countdown deal, but there's a delay for that anyway... so I went with a free promotion for the first cycle. The hope is I might pick up one or two more reviews, as that'll help during the countdown. But it wasn't too urgent, so I did a bit of experimenting.

For almost four days, I didn't tell anyone, to see how many people would find the book through Amazon alone. There were 108 downloads in total during this time, which split as follows:

Day 1: 62
Day 2: 14
Day 3: 19
Day 4 (Most of the day): 13

Then towards the end of day four, I did some minimal promotion. I tweeted about it, changed my signature on AW, posted on a genre Goodreads group, and submitted it to Snickslist (http://snickslist.com/) (as the only free promo site where I could sign up and post the days instantly).

Day 4 (End of the day): 8 (giving a total of 21 for day four)
Day 5: 15

This meant total downloads of 131. When I put the steampunk novelette up previously, and got it listed on a lot of sites, it had 268 downloads. So there's a benefit in doing more promotional work, but it wasn't a whole lot and books do still get downloads without any promotion.

The minimal promotion did little in terms of quantity, but it might have benefits for quality. People on social networks/bookshelf sites are more likely to leave reviews.

The downloads weren't enough to get in the genre top 100 lists, but they're also pretty competitive lists (general mystery and urban fantasy). The also bought/viewed lists had more mysteries than anything else, which is hopeful for crossover sales when I publish the cozy mystery. And that's it for now. I'll see if I do pick up any reviews before the countdown next cycle.

Polenth
09-09-2014, 02:29 AM
Kindle Select and Kobo

Thirteen days after I joined Kindle Select, Kobo put my book back on sale. Amazon sent a message giving me five days to sort it out. I contacted Smashwords, and the book got removed before the deadline, but it was a close thing.

The result of this is I've removed my other books from Kobo, as this is the third issue I've had with them. The other two being their unresponsive affiliate and taking my collection off sale in the UK during their erotica purge... and then not putting it back after the checks were done. I may try them again sometime, but right now, removing Kobo is removing my main source of stress.


Sales Trends

Now it's some months on, I can see how Sunstruck is selling compared to the other books. It had the same sales pattern in the first few months, but then it went its own way. The collection and novelette quickly settled into selling none or one a month, and then dropped to mostly none. The novel has consistently sold at least one a month, and the last couple of months it looks like it's going up to 2-3 a month. There are also slightly more reviews for the novel. So though it's not hugely ahead, there's a sign that it'll keep on selling for longer and it's beaten the total sales numbers for the short fiction titles. It also looks as though sales are slowly rising rather than falling.

I'm not sure if the free period helped Sunstruck's sales or not, but similar to my last goes at free stuff, it did nothing to hurt them. I've also had my first Select borrow.


Next Book

The next book out is going to be a collection of my blog essays on diversity/representation. I'm expecting this to have a tiny audience and won't do a whole lot of promotion, but it's a nice way to round off my blogging time.

The cover is below. Most of my covers are done in GIMP. This mostly was, but I did the initial text placement in Corel Draw, as it has a better text-to-path system.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-JtS87pn3ti8/VA4nv2q8IAI/AAAAAAAABLI/s3GpiszYEbs/s400/int350.jpg

Polenth
09-24-2014, 03:03 AM
Sales went up this month, as I had a story out in Strange Horizons. Interestingly, few were of the book I mentioned in my author bio (the short story collection), which suggests more people click the website link (which has the novel on the first page) than read the bio. I've got a couple of other shorts coming out in the next few months, so hopefully it'll keep the ball rolling.

This is going to be my main promotion strategy from here on, as nothing else has worked as well. Plus I still get paid for the original story even if no one buys a book afterwards.

I'm not sure if anyone is still finding this useful? If not, this is probably a reasonable place to end it, as I might not have made a fortune, but at least sales seem to be slowly going up rather than down.

slhuang
09-24-2014, 11:48 PM
I enjoy following your diary. :) And I do find it useful! I shall be sad if you end it, but of course you should do what you want; if it's a burden to update us then by all means don't worry about it. :)

I find the short story thing really interesting. That's where I'm going too, since SFF has such a robust SS market. My first one is coming out in about two weeks and I'm really eager to see if I get any sort of bump in SP sales from it.

(See, I'm even finding your possibly-final-post useful! :D)

Polenth
09-25-2014, 12:57 AM
I enjoy following your diary. :) And I do find it useful! I shall be sad if you end it, but of course you should do what you want; if it's a burden to update us then by all means don't worry about it. :)


It's not a problem to update, but I've been talking to myself for a few months, which is unusual around here.


I find the short story thing really interesting. That's where I'm going too, since SFF has such a robust SS market. My first one is coming out in about two weeks and I'm really eager to see if I get any sort of bump in SP sales from it.Whether the bump shows will probably depend on your overall sales, but I think it's likely most pro and semi-pro places will get some reaction. I'm also thinking I can use the sales data to help pick out the most popular story, and use that for the branding of the next collection. The first one, I picked an unpublished story as the cover story, and that was probably a mistake (no matter how much I like squid).

slhuang
09-25-2014, 01:07 AM
It's not a problem to update, but I've been talking to myself for a few months, which is unusual around here.

Oh. Sorry! I often don't comment on people's SPed diaries even though I read a lot of them because....uh....I don't know! Maybe because I feel like I don't have substantive things to say? But I suppose a, "This is very interesting and useful information, thank you!" is actually quite substantive. Sorry....

*slinks away into weird introvert corner*


I'm also thinking I can use the sales data to help pick out the most popular story, and use that for the branding of the next collection. The first one, I picked an unpublished story as the cover story, and that was probably a mistake (no matter how much I like squid).Yup, this is a totally useful advice drop for me, and one I wouldn't have thought of! I've been pondering what I will do with my short stories once I get rights back.

Thank you, Polenth! :D

*resolves to comment more on threads I find generally interesting and informative*

Storm Surge
09-25-2014, 02:41 AM
I'm not sure if anyone is still finding this useful? If not, this is probably a reasonable place to end it, as I might not have made a fortune, but at least sales seem to be slowly going up rather than down.

I don't really comment on anything anymore. I suppose I ought to, especially since this forum is currently my favorite lurking spot. I'll self-publish one of these days and in the meanwhile soaking up the huge and varied range experiences is pretty cool. So I find this useful.

Also I love your cover art a lot. :)

*lurk*

slhuang
09-25-2014, 02:59 AM
Also I love your cover art a lot. :)


+1. :D

Polenth
09-26-2014, 03:53 AM
I don't really comment on anything anymore. I suppose I ought to, especially since this forum is currently my favorite lurking spot. I'll self-publish one of these days and in the meanwhile soaking up the huge and varied range experiences is pretty cool. So I find this useful.

Also I love your cover art a lot. :)

Thank you!

J. Tanner
09-26-2014, 04:16 AM
I'm not sure if anyone is still finding this useful? If not, this is probably a reasonable place to end it, as I might not have made a fortune, but at least sales seem to be slowly going up rather than down.

FWIW, I've enjoyed following your thread even if I haven't commented a lot (at all?) in it before now.

Polenth
10-16-2014, 11:41 AM
Publishers Weekly have this BookLife thing where self-published authors can submit books for review: http://booklife.com

It was free, for the sake of a little time setting up the profile. My book was selected for review, so I've now been reviewed by Publishers Weekly. Not a bad review all round. I already know readers tend to either love or hate Ari's way of speaking:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/ASINB00J1A69PO (No longer available online)

Something I didn't realise is I thought it'd email me the status updates. It didn't, hence not finding the review until today. There's also no status update saying it was reviewed (though it clearly has been, as the review exists). The site is in beta though, so that may be a bug rather than a feature. The status updates on my BookLife profile have the following messages:

Your BookLife project has been received.
08/04/2014 (US Dates, so August)

Good news: your BookLife project is being considered for review.
08/26/2014

Congratulations, your BookLife project has been sent out for review.
09/11/2014

The review is dated 10/06/2014 (6th October), so it took about two months from submission. I assume I can put a quote from the review in my 'editorial reviews' section on Amazon, but I've not had to do that before. So pondering which bit to use. It was a nice surprise though!

slhuang
10-16-2014, 07:01 PM
Ooo, congratulations! :D And thanks for the tip on PW; I didn't know about that!

WriterBN
10-16-2014, 07:50 PM
Congrats, Polenth!

Polenth
12-01-2014, 10:25 PM
I'm on the road for print editions. Back when I started this, I looked for font recommendations from people who worked in publishing for interior book design. The font I chose from those was Minion Pro, but the license was expensive. I've now managed to save up for it (yay), though hadn't realised the Abode store doesn't have an automated system for download purchases (bah). A human has to check them, so orders can't be processed outside of office hours. It took them a day to process the order so I could download the files. Possibly Abode will enter this century at some point, but not this year.

The first book I plan on turning into print is Sunstruck, as it has a relatively simple layout.

Rainbow Lights is more complicated. Firstly because it has unusual layouts for some stories, so will be more of a challenge. But also because I want to illustrate it. Other than this being a fun thing to do, it'll give me some portfolio pieces. There are a lot of calls for black-and-white interior art from small presses, so it may be a way to supplement my income.

That's biggest update for now. Sales are rolling on (with increased sales of the collection since having some shorts published). I still have Intersections to finish and I have a countdown deal for Sunstruck scheduled for Christmas, but I don't expect to see a lot of action until I get another novel done.

M. H. Lee
12-01-2014, 10:34 PM
Nice! Looking forward to hearing how the print editions go. That's something I've toyed with for my longer works, but it's a completely different skill set that I haven't yet had time to explore.

I think doing your own illustrations is a great idea, too.

Who are you using? I read a recent discussion about Lightning Source vs. Create Space and glossy vs. matte covers and white vs. beige pages. Lots of moving parts in addition to proper layout and font choice.

AndreaGS
12-01-2014, 11:01 PM
Best of luck with the print editions! So neat that you're going to illustrate one of your books too--I'm always fascinated by illustrations created by the author. It's neat that there's no middle-man.

Thanks for the tip about Publisher's Weekly, by the way! I had no idea!

Polenth
12-02-2014, 05:35 AM
Who are you using? I read a recent discussion about Lightning Source vs. Create Space and glossy vs. matte covers and white vs. beige pages. Lots of moving parts in addition to proper layout and font choice.

Probably CreateSpace. The print quality is decent and I'm not expecting huge print sales. I think matt looks best for most illustrated covers, as it looks more like a painting/drawing on the paper. Probably cream paper for Sunstruck, as it's an industry convention and I don't really have a good reason not to roll with it. White paper for Rainbow Lights, as it'll be illustrated. It might change once I get going, but those are my initial thoughts.


Best of luck with the print editions! So neat that you're going to illustrate one of your books too--I'm always fascinated by illustrations created by the author. It's neat that there's no middle-man.

Thanks for the tip about Publisher's Weekly, by the way! I had no idea!

It's both neat and I-have-to-learn-all-these-things. One reason why I'd rather separate print from ebook editions, so I have time to fiddle.

Good luck if you try out BookLife!

Polenth
12-21-2014, 11:59 PM
I'm running a Kindle Countdown deal for Sunstruck (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J1A69P0), probably. Amazon haven't really thought through how non-US authors can tell if their deal is running, as it won't show me on the US site. But I do seem to be listed in the promotion categories, so I think it's working. And it's hopefully listing the right price (I wanted $0.99 for the whole time).

On my first check, there were 20 pages of results for SFF countdowns. I was on page 11. mystery/thriller had 17 pages of results and I was on page 9. No idea if it'll do anything to sales, but this'll be my last promotion before I leave Select.

The promotion start was delayed, so probably best not to do any paid advertising for a deal on the first day. I didn't have a budget for that, but it might impact someone else.

I looked around sites that had previously listed my free days, to see if they did countdowns. A few did, but a fair number of the sites had gone over to paid listings only and/or requiring a minimum of 8-10 reviews. I know at least one site is listing my deal today, so that's something.

akaria
12-22-2014, 02:00 AM
Thanks for the PW tip! Good find.

Your promotion countdown seems to be running smoothly. Says it has six days and some odd hours left.

Polenth
12-22-2014, 05:51 PM
Thanks for the PW tip! Good find.

Your promotion countdown seems to be running smoothly. Says it has six days and some odd hours left.

Thanks! I checked as best I could, but it knows I'm in the UK (and it won't show the timer to US proxy sites).

Polenth
12-28-2014, 09:30 PM
I'm fairly sure the countdeal deal is over now. I had six sales and one return, for a final total of five sales. Most were in the first couple of days. It wasn't huge, but I likely would have sold nothing in those days otherwise. That's the end of Select for this book, as I'll be putting it back on Smashwords when the term expires in late January.

Overall, the year hasn't been good. Sales improved slightly with the short story releases, but it's not close to enough to really cover basic expenses. Next year will be about trying other genres to see what sticks. If I can find something that sells, it'll take the pressure off everything else.

M. H. Lee
12-30-2014, 11:27 PM
Next year will be about trying other genres to see what sticks. If I can find something that sells, it'll take the pressure off everything else.

Good luck! That's what I did the last couple months and I definitely saw an increase in sales/borrows versus before. Of course, then you run into the dilemma of writing what's paying you vs. writing what you love. Fortunately, I still have plenty of ideas in my new genres, but I can see a day where I stop and think "whatever happened to my speculative fiction stories"? 2015 will be about finding balance for me.

Glad to see you keeping your thread updated. Even if I rarely comment, I do always read it.

Polenth
12-31-2014, 12:11 AM
Good luck! That's what I did the last couple months and I definitely saw an increase in sales/borrows versus before. Of course, then you run into the dilemma of writing what's paying you vs. writing what you love. Fortunately, I still have plenty of ideas in my new genres, but I can see a day where I stop and think "whatever happened to my speculative fiction stories"? 2015 will be about finding balance for me.

Glad to see you keeping your thread updated. Even if I rarely comment, I do always read it.

My big worry isn't so much genre, as my second genre area can include aspects of the first. My first books are SFF, and the pending ideas are mystery/thriller/suspense, so there can be genetically engineered dinosaurs. I'm reading a cozy mystery right now with a skeleton person in it. There's some wiggle room there on reality.

My worry is putting the characters I want to write about in a different plot and setting may not be enough. I may have to erase those characters, the diversity and the things that make my books sound like they were written by me. I don't want to have to write books where people like me only get to be token stereotypes at best, and usually don't appear at all. But I'm having trouble seeing a way out that doesn't involve erasing myself from my work.

That's the thing that bothers me really. Success in another genre would be fine. But I'd like to do it without having to compromise my general voice and principles.

M. H. Lee
12-31-2014, 12:22 AM
I'd think there has to be an audience out there for diverse characters in mystery/thriller/suspense. It may not be as big of an audience as the whole mystery/thriller/suspense audience, but there have to be some readers, I'd think. And I'd bet that if you attract those readers then you'd have an incredibly strong and devoted fan base.

Only one way to know and that's to get it out there and see.

Definitely don't sacrifice yourself or your principles just for success. It's not worth it. (At least IMHO.)

Polenth
01-26-2015, 12:30 PM
There have been some changes in the UK tax returns system that might interest other UK people. For many low-earning self-employed people, it's now fine to use cash basis accounting. Which means you only record money as it comes in or goes out. This simplifies accounting, which was great for me as I don't earn enough to hire an accountant. I only realised this when I did my return (there's now a question asking is you're using cash basis or not), so useful to know for anyone starting out who hasn't hit their first tax year yet. It may make your accounts less painful.

The page on this is here: https://www.gov.uk/simpler-income-tax-cash-basis/overview

Though I did note if you're using profit averaging, you can't use cash basis.

M. H. Lee
02-26-2015, 07:30 AM
Hey! Just wanted to drop by your thread and say that I saw one of your stories mentioned in one of the diversity guest posts on Jim C. Hines's blog. Not sure if it's one of your self-pubbed ones or not, but has to be a good feeling to see that your writing touched someone enough for them to mention it.

Polenth
02-27-2015, 02:25 PM
It's bittersweet. I write the stories I couldn't find, so it's great that they matter to other people too. But that audience is tiny and relatively poor. So though my work has been favourably received, it's a success in a very small group of people who can't afford to buy very much. I have so few job options that I can't keep going on like this, even though I wish I could. Writing may be a terrible way to earn money, but it's all I have.

My future continues to look bleak, so I'm trying not to think about it too much.

M. H. Lee
02-28-2015, 01:49 AM
Sorry to hear that, Polenth. Sending virtual hugs your way.

I'm sure you've been over it any number of times, but aren't there some virtual options for making money with your writing skills? Like offering editing or cover design services on Fiverr? Or Createspace formatting or Kindle formatting or...So many people seem to be lost when it comes to that that I'd think you could parlay your own experience into a side business.

I know I hesitate to go get some sort of temp job because I know that if I write a good story and it hits that it'll pay far more than that temp job would and it's adding to my catalog which will mean more sales down the road. But...if you need cash, then you need cash. And that has to triumph over everything else.

Polenth
02-28-2015, 06:31 AM
I don't really want to get into discussion about why certain job options are a problem for me. Like I say, I'm trying not to think about this too much, as that stops me getting anything done. I'll update the thread if anything changes.

Polenth
09-29-2015, 12:34 AM
I don't have any updates on becoming fabulously wealthy, but I am back at work after finishing my art course (which took up most of the year). Book sales have stayed at one a month with no promotion. It's at least stable, and better than dropping to nothing.

I've sent out some short stories and I'm working on the cozy mystery still. But I'm also taking a bit of a different direction, in looking at ways to self-publish art. My covers got a lot more attention than my writing, so it's a logical thing to try.

First up is exploring Zazzle. They do print-on-demand for art, on a wide range of things. By wide, anything from a postcard to cake pops. I've set up my basic store with some older images I had: Zazzle store (http://www.zazzle.com/polenth). This was mainly to get a feel for working with their site, but if anyone wants a shiny mushroom on a badge, there it is. I've also filed the tax paperwork with them, as I'm a UK resident. I won't be promoting it until I've got some new stuff done and filled out the store a bit more.

Second is working on an adult/all-ages colouring book. I'm aiming at a picture a day. Adding on some time for formatting and getting proof copies, this will maybe take a couple of months. I'll be using CreateSpace for this, and drawing lots of aliens. There are a fair number of self-pubbed ones in Amazon's top 100 in the category, so it's really down to whether people like the art. I hope so, as I can produce colouring books much faster than novels.

M. H. Lee
09-29-2015, 05:37 AM
Great to see you back on here and good luck with the coloring book idea and Zazzle!

I've seen a lot of people talk about finding cover artists on Deviant Art. Never looked at it, but may also be worth exploring if you want a place to display your art in hopes of attracting some paying work.

Polenth
09-30-2015, 01:59 AM
Great to see you back on here and good luck with the coloring book idea and Zazzle!

I've seen a lot of people talk about finding cover artists on Deviant Art. Never looked at it, but may also be worth exploring if you want a place to display your art in hopes of attracting some paying work.

I have a DA account, but most of my hits are on my cupcakes. :D I'll probably delete it at some point, as I don't think that was a successful experiment. And put a cupcake section on my website.

I'd consider cover art commissions a last resort. The pay tends to be very poor for a piece of work that can only be used once. Also a lot of authors don't know much about hiring artists, so it can lead to a lot of additional issues.

Sorting my portfolio to apply for other things is on the list though. Better pay for the rights wanted, and will leave me free to sell the art on other things later.

Polenth
10-23-2015, 06:59 AM
Now I'm getting back to stuff, I'm finished off setting up Sunstruck as a print book. This post is about the cover. CreateSpace has a cover template generator (https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do). Oddly, my template disagreed with the calculation they gave about spine width. It didn't stop it going through the system checks though. Probably the difference was too small to mean anything (it was 0.79" versus 0.8").

My ebook cover wouldn't work on this, as the elements would have to be squashed together to allow room around the edge. So I moved one of the vines onto the back, and raised up the title. My first attempt put the title a little high. It was within the safe zone, but looked too squished against the edge once the buffer area was cut off. I realise now to assume all the red border area could be cut off, and leave additional buffer space to compensate.

I also went for a smooth texture covering the whole thing, which means slight spine shifts shouldn't be a problem. This is the same sheet of old metal as the ebook cover, but I combined two different photos of it (the join is blended, but I also placed it at one of the spine lines, to ensure it wouldn't show).

The little shroom on the spine is my new business logo (and also appears in the publisher logo space inside the book). It's harder to see at this size, but it is there.

Below is the cover and the cover with template.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-AeAU50BtAXM/VimgYs1oSiI/AAAAAAAABSs/782KVCgYCqo/s1600/awcov1.jpg

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-zATin61HLss/VimgYX25TJI/AAAAAAAABSo/HZYH3tvyvmQ/s1600/awcov2.jpg

J. Tanner
10-23-2015, 07:27 PM
I noticed the same thing about the spine width. I noticed that I had entered a 26 page short story into the calculator and got back a file with 24 in the name. I think they're just sending a "close enough" template rather than having one for every single page count.

Are you really not offsetting the bar code area with white? I thought that was required.

Polenth
10-23-2015, 09:20 PM
I noticed the same thing about the spine width. I noticed that I had entered a 26 page short story into the calculator and got back a file with 24 in the name. I think they're just sending a "close enough" template rather than having one for every single page count.

Are you really not offsetting the bar code area with white? I thought that was required.

The bar code they add has a white box behind it, so there's no need to add a white box in the cover design. Once I get the proof in, I'll photograph the back to show how it looks.

J. Tanner
10-23-2015, 11:25 PM
Oh, I didn't know they did that. I have my own first proof a few days ago and I had added white where their template shows. So no photo necessary (at least for this purpose. Wouldn't mind seeing how it turns out in general. I wonder about their spine alignment and my short didn't allow text there.)

I found the colors to be pretty true. I've seen lots of reports that people got much darker or lighter colors than they expected, but mine was quite close to what my home printer put out. (I'm guessing they're just working on very bright or dim monitors and were assuming print would be similar.)

M. H. Lee
10-24-2015, 05:20 AM
I found the colors to be pretty true. I've seen lots of reports that people got much darker or lighter colors than they expected, but mine was quite close to what my home printer put out. (I'm guessing they're just working on very bright or dim monitors and were assuming print would be similar.)

I think the key when testing colors is to actually print the image as opposed to looking at it on the screen. I've had some interesting results with a red that came out bright pink and another where a photo I was using came out much darker in the print version than the e-book version. But the other eighteen or so covers I've done looked pretty much how I expected they would.

Polenth - beautiful cover!

Polenth
10-25-2015, 01:26 AM
Now all about typesetting. This was the biggest learning curve of anything I've done in self-publishing so far. I also couldn't afford InDesign. I can do big purchases sometimes (often by asking for things as gifts), but I can't pay a monthly fee for typesetting maybe one book a year. I think I'll look into some open source alternatives next time, but this time, I used Word. Any recommendations for free or flat-fee software welcome. The rest is long, but hopefully might be useful to someone.

The big issue with typesetting advice articles is they often lost sight of why they were typesetting. Rewriting the text was given as a way to make the text typeset nicely. The writing was considered there to enhance the typesetting, rather than the typesetting being there to enhance the writing. They also sometimes forget that the main purpose is to make the text more readable. Trying to hit all the rules can do the reverse (like you can avoid most rivers by super-condensing the text, but this isn't readable).

So I did a lot of studying trade published books, to see what actually happened out in the wild.

My first go round, I overdid trying to get everything right. It did hurt the readability. So I started again, and used a lighter touch on sorting everything. I made a priority list, and would accept keeping something further down the list to fix something higher up. I don't know if I got the balance right, or if I'll need to do more tweaking once the proof arrives, but it's a lot more readable.



Basic Setup

It's a 5x8 book with cream paper. I started with the CreateSpace Word template, then altered it to suit what I wanted. I'm using 12pt Minion Pro with 14.4pt line spacing (spacing is 120% of character size). Indents were set to 0.51cm. The text is justified.

In Word's settings, I turned off image compression. I replaced all hyphens with non-breaking hyphens (this stops it splitting a word that always has a hyphen across a line). I made sure automatic widow/orphan control and hyphenation were turned off, as I'd be doing this manually.

I did a final editing pass before starting, but the things I found were very minor (I'd hyphenated a word that more commonly doesn't have one and one of the chapter timestamps was wrong). I will update the ebooks to match, but at this point, it's pretty clean.



Priority List

Here's my priority list, based on analysing other books:

Last words of a paragraph on the next page. I couldn't find these flicking through my sample books. It's clearly the top priority to remove, and I made sure I didn't have any.

Noticeable word spaces. This can include very spaced out lines due to justification and large rivers. It's subjective what counts as too big a space. My sample books varied. Middle grade books tended to accept larger spaces, for example, as they also avoided hyphens. But there comes a point where it clearly can't be kept and still be readable. I removed any of the really big spaces.

Last line of a paragraph on the next page (where the line is more than half a line long). This happens often enough that it clearly wasn't a priority over the above things. It happened little enough that I'm sure they removed them where it was possible to do without creating other issues.

First line of a paragraph is at the end of a page. These were like sprinkles on a cupcake. They were everywhere. I did remove them where it was possible without creating other issues, but at this point in the list, it often wasn't without breaking some of the above things.

Tiny streams. Most things that could be called a river weren't removed. Actual typesetters for novels don't seem to aim for the level of river removal that advice articles suggest. Trying to do this meant I ended up starting again. I was a bit dubious before all that, because I'm dyslexic, and finding rivers is supposed to be my superpower. It's true that obvious rivers do cause issues for me, but these aren't obvious. If I struggle to see a river and don't find it a readability problem, who does? So these dropped down to a low priority for me.

Last word or two of a paragraph on a new line (same page). If anyone cares about this in fiction typesetting, it certainly didn't show.



Fixing Techniques

Changing the tracking (called spacing in Word). This was the meat of the changes I made. I kept it to small changes, and condensed more than I expanded (expanding runs the risk of creating new obvious rivers, whereas condensing reduces their appearance). Changes were either per paragraph or per line. There isn't a neat way to do it at a line level in Word... you have to manually select whatever will end up on the new line. I got better at judging it by the end.

Soft returns. Sometimes pushing a short word to the next line can cause the lines to balance out. This is done in Word by holding shift when pressing return.

Altering the spacing around scene breaks and chapter starts. Based on the sample books, the way to do chapter spacing was to leave the title placement alone, but reduce/expand the space between that and the body text. Even if someone is flicking through the pages, they'd be more likely to register the title in the same place than the body text shifting slightly. Very handy for issues too soon in a chapter to have much else to work with.

Hyphens to split words across lines. I find hyphens reduce readability dramatically, to the point it'd better to leave slightly wider gaps between words than use a hyphen. So I considered these a last resort, in cases where the word spacing got too big and nothing else would solve it. I used a tiny number of these.



Other Random Things

Em dashes could sometimes appear at the end/beginning of lines, which I changed. It looks odd and isn't something I found in the sample books.

The gridlines feature was very useful for making sure the bottom of pages lined up. The spacing on chapter start pages needed to push the text in line with the opposite page. Also, where I tweaked scene break spacing, it had to be set so the text still lined up.

I used a symbol for scene breaks, as I find this easier to read. It's not as common as just leaving a space, but it's also not unheard of in trade published books.

I didn't do drop caps or small caps at the start of chapters. I felt it looked a bit messy with my chapter headings. There isn't really a standard for chapter starts, as my sample books did everything from nothing special (like my book) to drop caps and small caps, and every combination inbetween. A few even indented the chapter start (I didn't, as not indenting is more common).

akaria
12-02-2015, 10:58 PM
Congratulations on your Zazzle store. Those spider faces are so cute I forgot about being terrified!

Polenth
12-03-2015, 07:19 AM
Congratulations on your Zazzle store. Those spider faces are so cute I forgot about being terrified!

People have even bought a few things! Though no spider faces yet. They'll have their day eventually I'm sure. (I will have a bigger update on other stuff at some point, but taking proofreading slowly.)

Fruitbat
12-03-2015, 07:41 AM
Cool stuff, Polenth. :)

Polenth
12-31-2015, 05:29 AM
Things got a bit delayed at the end of the year, for writing and un-writing reasons. There was work in the house for a few weeks, which cut out some time. I was also asked to do a last minute non-fictiony thing, which is now out (it's a discussion in Strange Horizons on gender, sex and sexuality in speculative fiction (http://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/articles/gender-sex-and-sexuality-in-sf-a-conversation/)). Interesting that having fiction in SH caused a sales spike in my books, but non-fiction didn't. It's not too often you get to directly compare the result of different items in the same market.

The first proof copy of Sunstruck is mostly okay. Nothing too bad in the interior, as it's just small changes here and there. But the cover came out rather purple. CreateSpace asks for sRGB, but I'll be ignoring that and doing my own CMYK conversion next time. I didn't want a new proof copy order happening over Christmas, as I've had bad luck in the past with parcels going missing from America at that time. I will get it ordered once we hit January.

I had a burst of Zazzle sales over the holidays, and have a collection of stuff with Sunstruck's cover art to promote when the paperback is ready.

In admin type stuff, my blog is now a Wordpress one (self-hosted on my site). Blogger got to the point where people couldn't comment anymore, so it was time to switch. It's in the same web location as before (but has a new feed location). A smaller change is I've removed any mention of upcoming projects. I talk about them here as this is more a diary-as-it-happens thing, but readers will only know once it's released (or ready to be released). I really don't know what will happen next year, so I can't say anything will be finished for sure. I also removed the steampunk novelette, as I consider that a failed experiment. I can't write fast enough to make a go of publishing shorts as separate items. To be honest, I don't write fast enough to be a self-publisher at all, but I'm flat out of other options, so I'm doing the best with what I've got.

akaria
01-06-2016, 09:45 PM
I feel you on the not writing fast enough to be a self-publisher. Keep plugging away. Forward is still progress no matter how slow you go.

CathleenT
01-07-2016, 12:43 AM
Nice article, Polenth. A pity it didn't net you a sales spike. I've felt that asexuality has a bias against it for some time. Feeling that you must have a strong sex drive to be creative doesn't seem to be rational, but it's nonetheless out there.

Polenth
01-10-2016, 11:14 PM
I feel you on the not writing fast enough to be a self-publisher. Keep plugging away. Forward is still progress no matter how slow you go.

I'm always boggled at how fast people can put out stuff, especially with all the extra time for copyediting and such. Maybe I should rebrand myself as a cute snail.


Nice article, Polenth. A pity it didn't net you a sales spike. I've felt that asexuality has a bias against it for some time. Feeling that you must have a strong sex drive to be creative doesn't seem to be rational, but it's nonetheless out there.

It does also impact story content. The hindsight of realising a low romance urban fantasy was a very bad idea. But no one expects sex scenes in cozy mystery, so there's hope.

WriterBN
01-10-2016, 11:21 PM
I feel you on the not writing fast enough to be a self-publisher. Keep plugging away. Forward is still progress no matter how slow you go.

Add me to that group. So far, I've averaged one full-length book every 18 months...

akaria
01-12-2016, 04:23 AM
We should form a support group. Or what about a micropress? Snail's Pace Publishing. Hrmph.

Polenth
02-15-2016, 02:58 AM
More updates from the world of snails! In embracing my slowness, I've looked for ways to boost earnings on the content I already have or I'm already working on. This is mostly about that. Book updates will happen some other time, once I'm closer to the launch of something.


Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/polenth) - My thought has always been that if you're not popular, and you can't produce stuff really fast to offer rewards, you're not going to do well with Patreon. People either sign up for the swag or because they really like someone. I have neither of those going for me. But it comes down to nothing being lost by trying. I've set it up as a tip jar affair with no guaranteed rewards, on the basis that one day people might like me enough.

So far, I actually have a few patrons, which surprised me. My first goal is to hit $10 a month, so I don't have to worry about web hosting. Though I was right that I'm not popular enough to do well with Patreon, I may do well enough for it to help.


Blog / Reviews (http://blog.polenthblake.com/) - I've mostly settled in to my new blog. I've joined Netgalley, and had a lot of success getting approved for books. So it's giving me more of a range of books to review. I consider this a win/win, as it means I can keep up with the industry, it's a type of content with fewer death threats (authors can react badly... but they do so to a lesser extent than the stuff I used to write on my blog), and it's a way of promoting books I want to see succeed. I am open to review requests (http://blog.polenthblake.com/review-requests/), if that interests anyone. I don't guarantee to say yes to any request, but I could do with some more self-pubbed things in the queue.

In addition to reviewing more often, I've joined Amazon Affiliates. Both the US and UK version. My reviews had links for where to buy the books anyway, so all this means is adding a little tag to the links so I get credit for the sales. In things I hadn't realised, I should get credited if someone follows a link and buys something else entirely. I'd always assumed it'd be for the linked product only.

In Amazon's weird way, UK people can only be paid by cheque from the US version of the scheme. Whether it'll catch up with the rest of Amazon at some point, who knows. That means I'll have to hit a $100 threshold in the US.


dot + birb (http://comics.polenthblake.com/) - This is a fun hobby project, rather than something I'm imagining will make money. It's a cute wordless comic. I have the two introduction pages up, and I'm cleaning up the photographs of the next two. (It's painted, and has to be photographed due to the size, so producing them is slow.) I've made sure to make everything large enough so that it'd be easy to do a book version in the future, which is my eventual aim. Saying this is niche is probably a vast understatement, but it's nice to have something to do for fun on the side.

akaria
02-23-2016, 01:59 AM
You had me at cupcakes! The comic is adorable.

I've also jumped on the Amazon affiliates wagon. It's interesting because it shows my website gets traffic from real humans sometimes!

Polenth
02-23-2016, 07:34 AM
You had me at cupcakes! The comic is adorable.

I've also jumped on the Amazon affiliates wagon. It's interesting because it shows my website gets traffic from real humans sometimes!

There will be many more cupcakes in the first story! I'll likely do more to promote it (like a post on my main blog) once the first storyline is finished. Delaying a little though, as I'm looking into some better lighting for the photographs. That'll speed things up a lot if it works out.

So far, I have more in my Amazon Associates balance than my KDP one. Non-fiction really does pay better. Something I did realise is it's important to read the fine print. It's nothing too scary, but they want to make sure your privacy policy has a bit about third parties using cookies and stuff, and they have a line to include that discloses to visitors that you're in the programme. So here is the wondrous excitement of my new privacy policy (http://blog.polenthblake.com/about/privacy-policy/).

It's in the 'About' menu on the blog. I also added a link to the privacy policy in the blog footer. Really, very few people will read it or care, but I like to cover all the legal stuff as best I can.

Polenth
09-13-2016, 11:18 PM
I appear to be the book at the top of AW today (thank you!), but it's about time for a general update anyway. Trying other things for money has helped take the pressure off the book release thing. Patreon now pays for my website. Zazzle and Amazon Associates haven't hit the cheque thresholds yet, but I don't see anything to suggest they won't.

The result of less pressure is I've been floating around my various project ideas, figuring out what would be the best route. None of the work is wasted, as I plan to release everything anyway. It's more about deciding what to focus on next for a push to release. My concern with some of my ideas, is it's the same problem as before. They're too quiet to really be noticed by people who don't already know who I am.

So the thing I've chosen to release next is a novella about werecockroaches. People always seem to notice the cockroach thing (even if they think I made it up for my bio), so I think this'll be an easier concept to market. I'm also targeting #ownvoices with this, by writing a main character who shares a fair number of my marginalisations. I have mixed feelings on this, in that it isn't bad to write about someone like me... but I also feel there's a lot of pressure right now for marginalised authors to only write about themselves. But this is my for-the-market piece, so I'll roll with it for the moment. Before the end of the year is my target for this one.

After that, I'll figure out which novel project. The pros of the cozy mystery is it's a more likely genre for sales and the books don't need as much research. The pros of Sunstruck's sequel is I don't want it to look like I've abandoned the series (which might impact sales of a new series) and it's the one I'd prefer to work on first. I've been working on both, so the time between releases might turn out to be fairly small in the end.

Whibs123
09-14-2016, 06:23 AM
Ha, that's awesome. I have a wereinsect book that is in my currently trunked WIP folder. I hope your Werecockroaches goes well!

akaria
09-24-2016, 09:19 PM
More adventures with Ari & friends? *grabby hands* GIMMIE!

Polenth
01-30-2017, 12:17 PM
Since my last update, Amazon Associates has paid me. Zazzle is close, once a few more sales clear the returns date. I'm sorting some pacing issues in the novella, but it's close. Whether I'll release it soon depends. Now is a bad time, and I'd like to give it some chance of not sinking. I may delay a few months.

In the meantime, I've done some self-publishing through t-shirts. Back when I started out, I had a drabble published by an email list that sent out a drabble a day. It's been on my website since then. Inspired by some text-heavy t-shirts, I decided to have a go at putting it on one. I put the main text on the back, as that tends to be flatter. The front has a cat outline with word fragments from the story. These are the results (this is the Zazzle model):

https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-RtK_ZrOMbzM/WI7qj2PbzJI/AAAAAAAABVA/OYNbXqt3uukqYi59NIdA3JMSmglIApvyACLcB/s1600/soul1.jpg

https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ulvUExTiAfk/WI7qj4qDpfI/AAAAAAAABVE/cG0MEDJTGjUviKZCxzLZEX3c-99XM0EggCLcB/s1600/soul2.jpg

Also thinking of doing other double-sided items like cards and postcards, but I'd like to do a background to go under the text on those. This is the collection (https://www.zazzle.com/collections/cat_drabbles-119671740228904333?rf=238906063497980236&CMPN=share_dclit&lang=en&social=true) of those t-shirts, and where other things will appear if I get the background sorted. Also looking for double-sided clay things (might fit on a mug?), so I can fulfil the promise of the forum title. ;)

I'm not really sure how many people will want to wear a story, but I'll let you know how it goes.

Catherine
02-04-2017, 04:50 AM
Ooh... I like the mushroom card on Zazzle.

Polenth
02-05-2017, 06:16 AM
Ooh... I like the mushroom card on Zazzle.

Thank you!

Polenth
03-09-2018, 11:09 AM
I have a blog post about last year (https://blog.polenthblake.com/2018/01/2017-survival/), which can be summed up as it being a difficult year for getting writing done, but my Zazzle store did well. Since then, I've continued to sell art stuff in the first months of this year, which is good as it's a dead time for that sort of product. The pressure that takes off writing is really great.

But despite the setbacks last year, the Werecockroach novella is done. The advance copy has been given to my patrons. It still needs the frills and the final cover, but there's nothing that should stop publication. I'm aiming for early in April. I'll ramble on a bit more once it's actually released.

Sunstruck (novel) and Rainbow Lights (collection) are down to zero sales most months. So it'll be very obvious if they see a sales boost from the new release.

CathleenT
03-11-2018, 12:15 AM
Sunstruck (novel) and Rainbow Lights (collection) are down to zero sales most months. So it'll be very obvious if they see a sales boost from the new release.

Great job at finding the silver lining. :)

Comments were closed on your blog post, so I'll add my thought here: sometimes it's enough just to survive. Don't overlook the strength it took to remain functional in other areas of your life.

Love the t-shirt. Pity I can't write drabbles because that looks pretty neat. I have thought of going with Teespring for POD tees with my covers on, though.

I also loved the embroidered jay further up-thread. There's something inherently classy about embroidery as compared to, say, screen printing, not that there's anything wrong with the latter.

Good to hear that the werecockroach is almost ready to be released into the world.

Polenth
03-13-2018, 11:25 PM
Great job at finding the silver lining. :)

Comments were closed on your blog post, so I'll add my thought here: sometimes it's enough just to survive. Don't overlook the strength it took to remain functional in other areas of your life.

Love the t-shirt. Pity I can't write drabbles because that looks pretty neat. I have thought of going with Teespring for POD tees with my covers on, though.

I also loved the embroidered jay further up-thread. There's something inherently classy about embroidery as compared to, say, screen printing, not that there's anything wrong with the latter.

Good to hear that the werecockroach is almost ready to be released into the world.

Thank you! I did survive, which I think was the important thing from last year. This year has gone fairly well so far, though I obviously still have concerns for the future.

I did look at places like Teespring, but Zazzle still wins on coming with a ready-made customer base, having a great design tool, and a big product range. There's no reason why you can't try out several PODs though. I still have my Society6 as well, even if it hasn't really generated sales. Sometimes you don't know until you try.

Polenth
03-13-2018, 11:27 PM
I have some news, which is not related to the novella. Last year, I published a few short stories on Patreon. I don't have a regular rewards cycle, as I use it like a tip jar with surprise rewards. But I did have a few stories, in addition to the art cards at the end of the year. It's held at about $15 a month (with a few pledges up and down).

This year, I sold one of those stories as a reprint. More details will come later once contracts have been signed. It's an interesting change, as when I published my first collection, selling self-pub stuff as reprints was tricky. Everything was in the swampy area where it was seen as published, so first rights couldn't be sold, but not really published, so reprint rights were hard to sell. It's nice to see a shift to more places considering self-pub reprints (and to have actually sold one).

Polenth
04-03-2018, 04:23 AM
Werecockroach (novella) is now out. The book includes the novella, a bonus short story, and an about the author which links to my website. I released it on 1st April, because I thought that'd be funny. It did highlight a weirdness with Amazon, that Amazon lists the day before the book was published as the pub date (but in the backend, knows the book was submitted on 1st April). I'd have set a preorder, but I wasn't ready by the window to use that. I did Smashwords via preorder, so everything was sent to retailers and ready for the date I wanted.

My blog post about the release is here: https://blog.polenthblake.com/2018/04/werecockroach/

New this time is including a few more detailed thoughts on the story. Some people like story notes, so I gave them story notes. Anyone who doesn't like them can skip them. I also didn't do launch cupcakes this time. But have no fear: I'm intending to rework this idea as a post-launch idea. I'll make cupcakes, then do a post with instructions on how to decorate them.

The official book page is here: http://www.polenthblake.com/words/cockroach.html

That has links to everything, including the start of my merchandise. The artwork this time is drawn in wax crayon. It's meant as a joke on the idea that self-pub covers are drawn in crayon. Which honestly, the terrible ones are more likely to be bad photo edits, but the crayon thing always gets brought up anyway. Now I have a crayon cover.

My general plan with this novella is to have something that's not as quiet as my past work. Something to encourage people to talk about it. The concept, the cover, and it being ownvoices, are all things I'd hoped would get people talking. So far, I'm seeing more retweets and the like, but I'll have to wait and see if that equals more sales. The current price is $0.99, so it's a low price point for people wanting to sample my work.

Mclesh
04-06-2018, 05:09 AM
Polenth, I just ordered a copy of Were Cockroach. I look forward to reading it. I love the cover. You do such beautiful work! I took a look at your store, and I'm so impressed with your artistic talent.

I found myself in a similar boat last year writing-wise. The first half of 2017 found me at a real low point, and I had to go through a reboot process. I ended up writing about it as my own kind of therapy, so I really identified with what you wrote in your blog post. (And it seems like so many people I know felt/feel the same way.)

Anyway, I wanted to compliment you. Your covers are gorgeous, and I hope your sales go well.

Polenth
04-07-2018, 05:08 AM
Polenth, I just ordered a copy of Were Cockroach. I look forward to reading it. I love the cover. You do such beautiful work! I took a look at your store, and I'm so impressed with your artistic talent.

I found myself in a similar boat last year writing-wise. The first half of 2017 found me at a real low point, and I had to go through a reboot process. I ended up writing about it as my own kind of therapy, so I really identified with what you wrote in your blog post. (And it seems like so many people I know felt/feel the same way.)

Anyway, I wanted to compliment you. Your covers are gorgeous, and I hope your sales go well.

Thank you! I know a lot of people who struggled last year as well, though I feel like I'm getting back into things now.

Polenth
05-08-2018, 11:59 AM
It's update time. I'm not going to record sales each month, but I think the first month is a good one to know the exact sales. In the lead to this release, most of my books hadn't been selling. Though I did have a small burst of sales of Sunstruck in March, due to an indie reading challenge on Twitter (someone mentioned my book, copies sold). But it'd gone back down to nothing by the novella release in April.


First Month Sales: 16 (15 on Amazon and 1 on iBooks).

The initial burst of sales was about the same as previous books. I did see more people talking about the title compared to previous ones, so going for ownvoices and cockroaches did improve that a bit. It's possible this will pay off later, as the right person talking about it could boost sales. There was one sale of the collection in the month, so that may have been connected to the novella.

Overall, it wasn't really any better or worse. I didn't lose readers by having a delay and I didn't gain any.


Amazon Marketing Services (AMS): I've been experimenting with Amazon's advert system. I'm running both a sponsored advert and a product advert for Werecockroach. These were started after the initial sales burst. I'm planning to run these for a few months and then analyse what worked and didn't. Two of the sales from the month are due to the adverts.

I don't expect this to make a direct profit as the book price is low, but I wanted to try it before having a new novel. I'll have more to say when the adverts have finished, but so far, I see this as a potentially useful system when the novel comes out. I'm getting a click for about every 500 impressions and a sale for every 10 clicks, which is a good rate if it keeps up.

WriterBN
05-09-2018, 10:22 PM
I'm getting a click for about every 500 impressions and a sale for every 10 clicks, which is a good rate if it keeps up.

That's actually pretty decent for AMS. I'd also recommend trying Bookbub's PPC self-serve ads (but not their CPM ads).

Polenth
05-10-2018, 08:28 AM
That's actually pretty decent for AMS. I'd also recommend trying Bookbub's PPC self-serve ads (but not their CPM ads).

Thanks! I won't be doing any more paid adverts with this particular title, but I will look into it once I have a novel ready to go.

Polenth
07-09-2018, 06:02 PM
I have some news, which is not related to the novella. Last year, I published a few short stories on Patreon. I don't have a regular rewards cycle, as I use it like a tip jar with surprise rewards. But I did have a few stories, in addition to the art cards at the end of the year. It's held at about $15 a month (with a few pledges up and down).

This year, I sold one of those stories as a reprint. More details will come later once contracts have been signed. It's an interesting change, as when I published my first collection, selling self-pub stuff as reprints was tricky. Everything was in the swampy area where it was seen as published, so first rights couldn't be sold, but not really published, so reprint rights were hard to sell. It's nice to see a shift to more places considering self-pub reprints (and to have actually sold one).

The contracts are signed and the announcement made. "Hello, World!" is being reprinted in "Transcendent 3", which is edited by Bogi Takács and published by Lethe Press.

CathleenT
07-10-2018, 08:13 AM
Yippeee! :snoopy:

It's a got to be a relief once the ink is dry and you can talk about it as a done deal. :)

Polenth
10-25-2018, 10:28 PM
'Tis the season for updates. It's been a few months now since releasing Werecockroach. So far, sales have held up in a way that hasn't happened for previous titles. At first, due to some sales from the AMS adverts. And then because people started to recommend it. It's been recommended because it's ownvoices for the asexual aromantic main character. The other aspects of ownvoices haven't interested people.

The good side is it means it's selling. The bad is it's a little sad that the only way I can get people to notice my stuff is because aspects of my identity are trendy. But I'm not in a position to be picky. Sales are sales. They buy me new critters.

Drawing the cover in wax crayon did go down well. I'm not recommending this for every book, but it worked for this one and made the cover really stand out (especially for the adverts, as it's clear at thumbnail size). People found it funny rather than assuming I'm terrible at covers.

Next up is the sequel to Sunstruck. I didn't get anything done in the summer, as the heat was too much. The heat also hasn't stopped yet, so I'm still getting very little done. I'm hoping winter will stop being like summer soon. My aim is to release next year, but with Brexit, I might not have power, the internet, or food. I'm not setting an exact date.

CathleenT
10-26-2018, 05:16 PM
Yay for the werecockroach! And I hear you on the economy. Here in the states, the new tariffs have made crab fishing unprofitable to the point that we're considering not taking the boat out at all and just giving the crew a small bonus instead. It would be cheaper than all the wear and tear on equipment to end up earning minimum wage. And that's at a captain/owner's pay. Deckhands are really screwed.

Just hang in there. There's a got to be a way to get through. And in the meantime, there's still writing. :)

Polenth
11-12-2018, 08:27 AM
First is a warning: my books disappeared from Amazon's search and my author page. The pages for the books are still there and active. I didn't notice immediately as Werecockroach was still selling (I assume people are being sent there from direct links or "also bought"). I've contacted Amazon and will let people know what happens, but in the meantime, you might want to check your listings.

Second is a different way to self-publish: I ran a story hunt in Second Life for Hallowe'en. It's now over, so here's a bit about it. I made a blog post (https://blog.polenthblake.com/2018/10/fungushunt/) about it to advertise it. I posted to the official Second Life forums (they have a section for events). The sim took part in a big hunt by MadPea, which meant a lot of people visited.

The story was "Letters to a Fungus", which was previously published. I split up each letter as an item to find and also made some gifts for the hunters. I recorded stats for how many times each hunt item was clicked. The item that was found the most was clicked 95 times. The one found the least was clicked 34 times. Overall, it was pretty successful, with a reasonable number of people taking part.

Polenth
11-12-2018, 11:14 PM
First is a warning: my books disappeared from Amazon's search and my author page. The pages for the books are still there and active. I didn't notice immediately as Werecockroach was still selling (I assume people are being sent there from direct links or "also bought"). I've contacted Amazon and will let people know what happens, but in the meantime, you might want to check your listings.

A little update on this, to add a link to a blog post by David Gaughran that explains this in more detail: https://davidgaughran.com/2018/11/12/amazon-kdp-books-unavailable-international-readers/

CathleenT
11-14-2018, 05:07 AM
Great source! For anyone else who's reading this, I highly recommend David Gaughran's blog and newsletter.

Polenth
11-15-2018, 07:37 PM
Great source! For anyone else who's reading this, I highly recommend David Gaughran's blog and newsletter.

I'm not sure if anyone else reads my thread, because I'd expect them to be a lot more panicky about books dropping out of search if they were. :P I got a reply from Amazon saying it was a technical fault affecting a lot of authors. Which I knew, but it's good that Amazon has acknowledged it's an issue and they're working on it.

heza
11-15-2018, 07:43 PM
I read your thread!... I just don't SP (yet), so I don't have any specific comments--just gathering information.

Polenth
11-16-2018, 06:36 AM
I read your thread!... I just don't SP (yet), so I don't have any specific comments--just gathering information.

Not having any books out is a good reason for not panicking!

One of my books is back in search. Two more to go.

Polenth
01-16-2019, 02:00 AM
It's new year time so I blogged about it (https://blog.polenthblake.com/2019/01/2018-heatwaves/). The important point for self-publishing is the novella is continuing to sell without me having to do anything else. I'm hoping to publish the next Bigfoot Mysteries book next year, but with Brexit I don't really know what's happening yet.

Sales of the novella do mean the odd sale of the novel and collection. It's not a big crossover, but it isn't non-existent either.

Not in the blog is that I've sold a short story to an anthology. This tends to give everything else a boost and means I get paid. It'll be the first piece of original fiction I've sold for some years (I haven't been submitting much, as I'm a lot more selective about projects these days).

My books did eventually reappear in Amazon search, though the last one took weeks.

Polenth
04-06-2019, 02:50 AM
It's just past a year since I published Werecockroach. It also happened to be when it finally got more ratings on Goodreads than my previous highest (which was the short story "Never the Same", as that got a boost from being published by Strange Horizons). I'm still selling copies, which is basically self-sustaining at this point. I'm not running adverts or anything at the moment.

I took part in an event called #ReviewPit on Twitter, where authors pitched their books to reviewers. I wasn't too fond of the system to "like" if someone wanted a review copy, as people tend to just like stuff because it sounds fun and it can make it hard to contact the actual reviewers. I had one reviewer who I was able to contact (there was an email on the review blog) and one who was on Goodreads and I couldn't figure out a contact method. But they both reviewed it anyway, so I had some success from the event, even if I think the system was a bit clunky.

Work on anything else has been delayed as a family member died unexpectedly. I do have the edits for the short story I sold, so that's progressing. Fantasy Faire in Second Life is coming up soon, so I'll be working on that for a bit. I don't do story stuff there usually (I sell mushrooms), but everything I sell has a notecard about me with a link to my website.

CathleenT
04-08-2019, 09:35 AM
Life, and tragically, death, happens. I think expecting ourselves to continue to work as if we're robots or something is an unrealistic and unhealthy expectation. It's important to take the time to work through feelings and tasks related to all this stuff. I can't remember the source, but a famous writer once said that we should either be writing or living something worth writing about. Grieving definitely falls into the latter category.

Interesting feedback on #Reviewpit--thanks. : )

Polenth
05-16-2019, 07:45 PM
Rainbow Lights was one of the books Kobo didn't put back on sale in the UK after they disabled all self-published work. This either means they've deemed it to have inappropriate content for the UK market or someone forgot about it. Either way, it's no longer on sale in the UK, and I don't know if it'll impact them picking up my other books. I couldn't see a way to contact them or challenge their decision, so all I can really do is wait for them to notice it has no sex in it.

An update on this comment from 2013, it took them six years to notice the book shouldn't have been taken off sale, as it's now reappeared. UK readers can buy through Kobo again. As it turned out, it didn't stop them listing my other books when they came out, but the collection remained unavailable on Kobo for those years.

AgathaChristieFan
05-21-2019, 05:15 AM
I’m sorry about your loss. I’m late to the party, but I just wanted to let you know I just bought your book, Werecockroach, through Apple, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Congratulations on getting your short stories published :)

It’s good that Amazon apologized to you. It seems like the site keeps messing up more and more, screwing authors