Falling off the Net – What happens when life happens

I don’t know about you, and for me the first thing that happens when life happens is that my tech life vanishes. First comes family, second comes work and third comes nothing.

In June, when I left to go to the UK for two weeks, the evening before I left I had everything I could think of in order. I made a quick a cappella CD for my children (‘I love you’ songs containing their names, some reworked ballads and nursery rhymes and my own creations), so that their carers could play it for them while we were apart. I had met or spoken to my authors. I had scheduled a few week’s worth of blog posts. I flew out the country without pyjamas, but that’s what you get when you think  you don’t have time to write a packing list.

While I was away, three things happened. One, my cell phone stopped working. Two, I was nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award by belindacrane (thank you, Belinda!). Thirdly, I signed up with IPR License.

I was excited by the latter two and thought the former could be easily fixed. I had plans. And then I arrived back home, where life made fun of my plans in not-so-much fun ways which resulted in much hospital and doctor time for my immediate family and no cell phone for over a month. So, first came family. In the between minutes, I worked. And the electronic platforms I’ve been developing fell flatter than a pancake and nowhere near as nice.

The result of all this is that I’m holding back the publication of Innerone until I have time to honour it properly. I am focusing only on meeting the needs of my family and my authors. And, in the moments between the minutes, I’ll keep you posted.

Authorship and Publicity – Creating Your Market

Publishing a book in the 21st century is not only no longer a solitary endeavour where you write a book and find a publisher, it will never be so again. Publishers now expect many more of the authors they publish to bring an already created market before their first book is printed. If you are publishing your own work, it is an expectation you should have too, if you expect to sell any books. I discovered this first hand last year, while experimenting with my first international publishing project, Innerone.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – (Sep 23, 2014)

Authors usually think that once they’ve written a book and it is there, in long hand or their computer, that they are done. Then they think they’re done when they’ve had it edited. Then proofread. Then they finally publish, either as an indie author or through a publishing house. At each stage, when they think they are finished, they are wrong.

At the beginning, when the work is first crafted, it is a rare author who thinks, who is my market? Where are they? How will I get my book to them? Publishing houses like to get books that sell to large markets. Usually when I ask fiction authors who their market is, they say “Anyone who likes my genre!” I am as gentle as I can be when I contradict them, because that market does not exist. It does not exist because an unknown author is just that – unknown. Your market is your platform – people who know you. So while authors are writing their opus, they should be blogging, joining internet and local groups interested in their genre, following others and becoming followed in turn, building a reputation and creating their own market. This can go on for years. Then, as they write, they can tell their followers what they are doing, get opinions, and find ways to reach out and fulfill the needs of their market within their text. That’s more than a smart author, that’s an empathic author whose chances of prospering have sky-rocketed. It takes time and courage, but, what’s worth doing is worth doing well; and if some authors are shy, at least their keyboards will shield them for a while, so that they can build their confidence and their platforms simultaneously. Then, when they are ready to publish, they need to put the book out as a pre-release, drum up interest, let the libraries know about it and release with fanfare. You only have a short period when your book is new, as Judy Hertzl reminded me (see below for more on Judy). You have to maximise the impact and need to strategic about it, as Lee Woolf emphasised (see below for more on Lee). We are living in a world where a determined author can live in the middle of nowhere, yet have an international market. Make the most of it.

In the build up to the Innerone release, I thought a few months of publicity build up would be enough. But I was thinking local, not international, because local has been my market for almost all of my company’s life; I was thinking internet, not radio and TV. And I was lucky.

Let me explain. While I have been publishing books for fifteen years, very few of my authors have had books that required publicity. The few authors that did often lectured, and as experts in their subjects are interviewed in newspapers, magazines, on TV and radio anyway. My company, ada enup, does not do any marketing, although I give what good and steady advice I have to my authors.

When it came to my own book, I thought a few months of promotion would be fine for a fiction book. (Actually, it is a bit of a rush even for our little South Africa. Four or five months are better for press releases and interviews. International requires nine months, at the least, with someone on the other side pushing for you.)  As you know, I’ve been working hard to do all sorts of internet-related promotion, such as Goodreads and Smashwords, blogging, a short story and coupon codes. I was so busy on the internet I quite forgot about actual papers, radio and TV. The day I realised I needed to do this too, I contacted a few people.

As I said, I was lucky (in the way that you make your own luck). I met with Lee Woolf (no relation), a South African producer, who I met at Chai FM while promoting one of my albums in 2010. Over coffee, I explained that I knew some basics but needed an expert to guide me, someone who knew the industry and who liked my work. She said, it’s more than who you know and who they know – it’s who they are. I thought this was quite profound, and told her I would quote her, which I have just done. Lee does seem to like my work, something that is very important to me, so hopefully we can get things together for a November launch in SA. I then contacted a platform creator in Santa Fe, Judy Herzl, who I’d ‘met’ in a Linkedin publisher group. I really liked what she had to say and how she said it, so I asked her for a Skype meeting. Fortunately, she was happy to meet with me and confirmed what I already knew – you have to build a platform and in the US it takes longer. I have not been building a platform for long enough.

So it seems as if I need to have two different release dates, one for South Africa – hopefully mid-November, in print, where I sell enough books and generate enough good reviews for it to be marketed well in the States – and one in the US, later, after building a solid platform.

At this moment I am not sure about many things; the cost of the publicity, the actual strategies, which still have to be formulated, and so on. But I’ll keep blogging about the process and hopefully you who are reading this can learn from my missteps.

I said I was lucky and this is why: it is both the knowledgeable people I have met and that I still have time to change direction. So I will push the release date of Innerone back. I will publish another short story, a satire called The Mysterious Jagg, on the second of October instead. And I hope that readers who have been waiting patiently for Innerone will forgive me.

‘A Cheery Surprise’ – repost with comments

Only a few people have paid for stories since. But I still say: give people the option! I’m nine dollars richer than when I started and that’s nine dollars better than nothing.

A Cheery Surprise (Aug 28, 2014)

It has been a tumultuous time since my last blog.

I’ve been sick, as has my husband and both kids. Apparently flu is doing the rounds because many people I know have been enjoying this change of weather sickness too.

Yesterday my eldest child started nursery school. I took her in and she was immediately swamped by the other kids in a mob. Charley Ruth is tiny for her age and I was terrified. When my vision cleared, I realised that the bigger kids love little ones and are protective of them. They led her off, hand-in-hand, to show her swings and slides and the classroom. Charley was fearless, as usual, and for that hour seemed to have the best time. I, of course, wanted to howl.

I’ve been doing my best to keep on my stepping schedule with getting the Innerone formats ready (focusing on on the InDesign for print version), as well as doing some work on the AmaZizi 2nd Edition and pushing some marketing for my authors, who are all such lovely people with excellent texts and deserve the best I can give them. I also spent a couple hours on Goodreads, where, a month ago, I became friends with Ellie.

Ellie liked Susan Woolf’s Taxi Hand Sign book, so I wrote to her. And when she liked a blog post of mine, I wrote again. In our correspondence, it turns out that not only has this American met South African Susan, she is good friends with Susan’s sister, Lesley, who lives in Atlanta. I could hardly believe it.

And then, today, somebody paid for a copy of Cheery Red. In other words, someone actually paid real money for a short story that I had written. It’s taken me a while to get over the shock.

Now, I’m a publisher. You would think I was used to people buying books from me; and it’s different when the work is your own. It’s a milestone for an author when someone you don’t know pays good money for something you wrote. So I’m having a little celebratory dance inside my head.

However there is a marketing gem contained inside my cheery surprise that I want to share with you. A week or so ago I was reading Steven Trustrum’s blog:

http://trustrum.com/self-publishing-marketing-mistakes/

One of the things he said was that, if possible, rather use the ‘reader-sets-the-price’ than the ‘free’ option when putting up works. This means that if somebody wants to pay you, they have the option (he said a lot more – I recommend reading the article). I wondered if people would stop downloading at the story if it wasn’t marked free but, after 81 downloads, I decided to try it. The downloads did slow down – but that also could have been because it was no longer on the Smashwords home page, or because people who know me and who wanted to support me by reading the story ran out. Today, I am $1.39 richer ($2.00 minus fees) because I chose to give people that option.

Once I had uploaded Innerone for pre-release on Smashwords, I now had the opportunity to do something I had wanted to do for a while – create a coupon code for Innerone and put that code into Cheery Red, both as a marketing tool for Innerone and as a thank you for choosing to read Cheery Red. I put it in the ‘Thank You’ section at the end of the story and re-uploaded it. I like getting coupons for books so I hope my readers do too.

And maybe the marketing ideas in this blog can help aspiring authors too. Now isn’t that a cheery thought!

‘A Giant Leap’ – repost with comments

I did get all the versions ready in time… and I didn’t publish. I just wasn’t ready to publish. I’m still not ready to publish Innerone. Not all of the endorsements have come in (note to self, I need to write a blog on endorsements) and I haven’t built up a big enough following for the release that I want. Moreover, I will need to create new e-book versions, because there have been small changes since the last upload. So what looked like a giant leap was rather something that felt like one.

I have also realised, as I reflect on the the earlier blog posts, that I was again remiss in providing information. I was so busy thinking about the nuts and bolts of publishing books that I never gave descriptions of the works I was talking about. How is that going to attract interest in those books? Seriously, I sometimes wonder what is going on in my head. It would be too much to describe all of them now, so I’ll just give the blurb for the one that I’m experimenting with. This book, Innerone, is the one I’m using to learn how to publish in the US, so that I’m much more savy about the process when I publish my authors there.

Here is the blurb for Innerone:

How deep would you go to reclaim yourself?

A contemporary myth of courage and healing,  Innerone is an extraordinary narrative in which the protagonist meditates to her mind’s underworld to find the younger self she betrayed.

Although she thinks she knows what to expect, the surprises keep coming. Her  expectations dashed and new-age ideals thwarted, she discovers she is neither alone nor in charge. Her spunky inner-child, her esoteric higher-self, her unconvinced inner-scientist and others—all of whom hold different beliefs, values and desires—converse and argue, travel and shop (not your usual mall).  

And the subtle question swirls… how different would her actions be, what changes would play out in her life, if she flipped from believing she is broken to recognising that she is whole just as she is?

A Giant Leap (May 14, 2014)

If you have been reading my previous posts, you’ll know that I have been applying myself to the practical metaphor of ‘small steps’. Today I made a giant leap instead.

I have finally finished the Innerone e-book and am uploading it to Smashwords. I have set it on pre-order for a month, so that I have time to get the print,  print-on-demand and Amazon e-book versions ready and release all of them in early October. (That’s right – there are three versions of this book and each of them take a long slog to get right. It’s a good thing I’m doing all of this in my spare time. If I had to pay someone to do it, it would cost a fortune.) Apparently, putting a book on pre-order also generates a buzz and is good marketing. I hope so. (Tell your friends!) I’ve also given a larger sample of the book than usual – 25%.

Curiously, Amazon only allows big, favoured publishers to put a book on pre-order. That means that I can’t create and upload a .mobi file at any point – I have to upload it the day before the pre-order on Smashwords expires so that the book on Amazon is semi-synchronised.

One thing I don’t know how to do is reach the 81 people who have so far downloaded Cheery Red and give them a coupon code for Innerone, to say thank you and to help market the book. I’m going to put the word out on Facebook and my website.

So…let’s hope I get all the versions of this book ready in time 🙂