publishing

The Big (Tiny) Amazon Self-Publishing Experiment Begins! (+ Cover Reveal!)

I just learned an important and slightly disappointing lesson about putting a book up for Amazon pre-order. Logical in retrospect, though. But I should back up.

I’m finishing up a couple novels and plan to self-publish them when the time comes. I’m looking forward to sharing the process of completing them, getting them ready, publishing them, and getting the word out. Thing is, they’re both major projects—150k and projected 120k words—and I’d kind of like to have a little experience with the basics of self-publishing so that I can put them up without wasting time on errors or inefficiencies, especially when it’s a time sink that would scale up with the length of the novel.

Recently I remembered a fairy tale I wrote a few years ago. It’s early work but it’s actually quite beautiful and the ending still brought me to tears when I re-read it, and it’s a story that’s worth getting out there. Thus was born the Big (Tiny) Amazon Self-Publishing Experiment. The story is around 30 pages long and in mostly finished form.

I realized if I can put aside my perfectionistic tendencies I could put on a pre-made cover, convert it with minimal editing, and publish it on Amazon within weeks or less with very little effort.

Big if.

I ended up ordering a pre-made cover and, while the designer was incredibly friendly and responsive and did a beautiful job adjusting the background image for me, it turns out I have pretty strong views on matters of design (and I like getting my hands dirty and testing different options out), and the “make a suggestion, wait a day, make a suggestion, wait a day” cycle was killing me.

So—don’t try this at home—I basically took the second or third version he gave me, completely edited out the title in GIMP, and did my own typography for the main title. Here’s the result. I’m pretty excited.

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

And the disappointing lesson about pre-orders? I decided to put the book up for pre-order to give me a chance to make a few final edits and complete post-production while already having a legit Amazon product page I could direct people to.

The way this works is that you enter your book information and upload a cover and a content file (either draft or final—mine was a draft because the whole point is that I’m finishing it up while pre-orders are open).

Then you pick a future release date and Amazon generates a deadline by which you have to upload the final copy, about 10 days before the release date. This deadline is all very scary and official and bold and red, especially because before your final submit you have to confirm that if you don’t get your final version in before the deadline, you’ll lose access to pre-orders for a whole year.

That’s pretty serious stakes for what started out as essentially a lark.

I decided I needed a kick in the butt to short-circuit the perfectionism and ship the book. So I gave myself a nervous-makingly short deadline of about a week and carved it into stone. That’s when I learned that it doesn’t actually put up the product page until you submit the final draft anyway. So the whole pre-order thing is kind of moot. Either I get a few days to finish post-production or I get a few extra days with a legit Amazon pre-order page, not both.

Lesson learned. And really that’s what the experiment was for all along.

Have you guys done anything like this? Anything I should be aware of going into it?

Cheers!

—Ben

365 Days. 365 Posts. 1 Nerd. [Edit: Now With Additional Nerd!]

As usual, I love the way bookshelfbattle thinks. This post is well worth reading if you’re interested in goal-setting, finding readers, or developing a writing practice. Before I send you on to the original post, a few thoughts and responses:

1. I love that this is concrete, actionable, and attainable. You can’t decide whether someone follows you, but you can decide whether you’re going to post; make your goals in terms of things you can do.

2. Quantity and consistency are worthy goals. It seems there’s some debate about whether it’s worth pushing for quantity instead of quality. My stance is that if quality is your goal, quantity is a great path to it.

3. I like that bookshelfbattle isn’t shy about trying to get readers. That’s the whole point. Writers want readers. And readers want good stuff to read. If you don’t think your stuff is worth reading, write better stuff before you go public.

If, however, you think your writing is worthwhile, why would you not want to give it to as many people as will benefit from it? Applying strategy and focus does not make this evil, it makes it effective.

4. I’m joining in, but more cautiously. (Caution™! Putting the boring back into success!)

I’m planning to post every weekday, holidays optional, through the first quarter of 2015. I’m still figuring out where blogging fits into my overall career strategy as a writer, but I’m enjoying it so far and I think three months will make a good baseline.

Also I really appreciated bookshelfbattle’s willingness to share stats, so for the record:

  • After about 2 1/2 weeks of posting consistently, I currently average something like 10 visitors a day, with about 40 people following.
  • End of March will be (let’s see…math math math) 42 more days of posting, so by then I’d like to see at least 100 following, with 25-30+ visitors a day.

Really what I’d like to see is more people reading my stories, so in addition to posting I’ll probably be experimenting with new ways to make those more visible and fun.

Anyway, enough from me. Enjoy. And if you have any thoughts on what you’d most like to read about here, I’d love to hear it, so leave me a comment and let me know.

Cheers!
—Ben

PS – It will be especially hard for me to write quick posts without worrying too much about quality. I think that alone will be a useful discipline to develop.

Bookshelf Battle

If you have the time, you can check and see that every day in the month of January 2015, I made at least one post per day.  I’ve been thinking about challenging myself to making one post per day on this blog in 2015, but wanted to get through one month before committing to the idea.

So, consider me committed.  And frankly, for agreeing to do this, I should be committed.

My theory:  Daily posts = more readers = more site traffic = an overall stronger platform.

Your theory probably = do less posts, idiot, and the posts you do, make them quality.  Quality is better than quantity!

And it is!  I’m not disagreeing.  A great feature of Word Press is that you are allowed to schedule posts in advance.  Many of my short posts are written and scheduled to appear on different days.  I write a bunch in…

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