Thursday, January 30, 2014

Self-Publishing Lessons Learned Part 2 (or, What I'll Do Differently with eBooks Next Time...)

Things I want to remember for the next time I self-publish a book...

Really learn to create a full featured ebook. From the TOC to footnotes to title pages, I've got a lot to learn and master. Part of the issue is that I'm using a basic MS Word template provided by CreateSpace. Converting .doc (or .docx) to .mobi (Amazon ebook format) is NOT straightforward. There are just too many variables. For example, the Table of Contents (TOC) has been a thorn in my side. Word has a facility built in for creating the TOC, but today, many authors create theirs by hand. Which works better for ebooks depends on which tools and processes you're using to convert your book, and which formats you're converting to. My automatic TOC in Word doesn't look good at all on the Kindle.

Let's just say that I have yet to stumble upon a reasonable, repeatable, quality method for taking a regular MS Word doc with auto TOC and generate a .mobi file. Some processes require that you save the Word file as an HTML file and then do some conversion processing. I'd like to think that there will com a time when we just get to the point where you simply press a button in Word.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I'll need to remember to test my book out on multiple devices. Turns out that there are several Kindle models and there can be a difference in how the book looks on different ones.

I felt that my ebook was sub par. It worked, and contained all of the words, in the right order even, but the thing kind of felt like an afterthought. I want to do better next time, since over 75% of my "sales" went to ebook users.

Another interesting thing was how the kindle and print versions of the book live and play together on the Amazon site. Specifically, the titles of the two versions have to match EXACTLY in order for Amazon to list them together on the same page. Which should be easy. Except that one of the submission tools seems to append the volume number to the title. This got me every time, since I was publishing a trilogy. At least I know where to go to get it fixed: The team that handles these things has always responded with lightning speed and a cheerful attitude.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jute's Charmed Life Trilogy -- Finished!

Yes, I'm finally done publishing the Jute's Charmed Life middle grade trilogy. I just put the last book up on Amazon and CreateSpace.

 To celebrate, I'm giving away the first book for free (Kindle version only) on Amazon through the end of the month.

My kids have been begging for more Jute to read, but I'm not sure when or even if I'll revisit the Jute story again.

In the mean time, I'm happy to have finished, to have crossed all the t's and dotted the i's. I'm not sure how much marketing I will do for these. Marketing is a time sink, and something I've discovered I don't have much patience for. That said, without more marketing, I'll  lose money on the project. I'm not too worried about recouping my costs: cover art (I'd recommend Heidi Sutherlin as she did a wonderful job), shipping, one round of editing, etc. It's been a labor of love and so I'm happy.

I know that one way to get more sales would be to run ads on the various sites and networks that cater to ebook readers. I have yet to look into the costs, but I suppose this is where the money math begins. Is it worth spending more on ads to generate more sales?

I've sold over 100 copies of the books, and over 700 over 1000 people(!) have downloaded the free copy of the first book. I'm assuming there's a market for middle grade books written with advanced/smart readers in mind. Book 1 has received a lot of great, positive reviews. I've also gotten some confusing 3 star ratings.

For me, the next milestone with the books would be to actually receive a "royalty payment" check from Amazon. Because I did not elect to use electronic banking with Amazon, I need to meet the payout threshold ($100) before I get a check. I'm hoping that happens early this year. Fingers crossed!

Next Up: Lessons Learned Part 2

Thursday, January 23, 2014

So Close...

Aaaand here it is! The cover for the third and final book in my Jute's Charmed Life series:


Again, thanks to Heidi Sutherlin (!contact/c1a9w)!

Should have the book finished in the next couple of days, just need to go through the CreateSpace process now that I have all the parts together!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Nudge...

It seems so much of my slice of the world is in stasis right now.

Garden plans and expansion are on hold while California suffers yet another drought.

Our two chickens are still recovering from the winter molt and the short days. We're looking forward to their return to laying.

And speaking of our hens, we still only have the two. We are handcuffed here, in a holding pattern. We want a third bird; the flock would be better for it. But where to start? We have a 5+ year old hen, and one that is < 1 year old. I suppose the best plan would be to look to adopt a hen around 1 year old. But what we really want to do is to start over with three peeps. The 5 year old barred rock is our favorite, but her two former buddies each died last year and we wonder if she'll be around long. It took a long time for these two birds to get along, and so adding a third would likely mean an extended period where we're having to deal with integration issues.

And the gridlock extends beyond the yard.

I feel the same sense of... frustration? at work, too.

It seems we're letting minor doubts and small inconveniences stop us from moving forward on many projects and decisions, from upgrading our internet service (we work a lot from home and our ancient DSL line is just not keeping up) and doing will/trust/estate planning. We continue to find perfectly valid excuses and roadblocks and reasons why we need to wait or reconsider.

What we need is a catalyst of some kind. Somehow I know that these decisions and projects and plans are all lined up like dominoes and that all it will take to get the whole thing moving is one nudge...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Blank Canvas That is 2014

I'm about to publish the third book in my middle grade series, The Charming Life of Jute. This the triumphant conclusion, the finishing piece, the end. The cover art is in progress and I've quadruple checked the text. Soon I'll post a wrap up of my experiences and the results of the grand experiment.

And as happy as I am to have actually finished something this big, to have seen it through to the end, I can't help but feel a little uncertain now.

I have no idea what I will do next. I may never publish another book. Sure, I'll still write -- I have such fun each year participating in Nanowrimo. But what next? Should I try to write another story for middle grade kids? Maybe a second Jute trilogy?

Or maybe I should try my luck at something aimed a more general audience.

I believe I need some kind of a creative outlet. I like to create things even though the process is the rewarding part for me. My daughter loves to draw and I find myself picking up her "how to draw" books and thumbing through them. I've never been any good at drawing. But I'm fascinated by the process.

I think I've about hit the limit of my crocheting. I enjoy doing it, still, so I might make a few things. But I don't think I'll ever be prolific.

Mostly, though, I'm looking at the wide open future, the upcoming calendar for 2014 is blank. I have no big plans, filled with magic to stir the soul. I have an urge. Not even an inkling, just a notion that I want to be doing something.