Show Me the Money … (in 10 steps or less)

19 Jul

Show Me the Money … (in 10 steps or less)

 I have a debut novel, “Quintspinner – A Pirate’s Quest ” published, with Book Two of the intended trilogy just a smidge away from being finished and ready to publish as well. I published Book One in 2010 through iUniverse, as I was brand new to the world of self-publishing or indie-publishing (whatever term you are comfortable with) and a complete technophobe.
Quintspinner - A Pirate's Quest

In 2009, I had sent my manuscripts out to a few traditional agents (OK, several dozen, but who is counting, really??), because that’s how I thought you had to do it, and had a few requests for partials and fulls, but became frustrated when the last agency said (and I’m paraphrasing here): “This is really good, but it’s obviously YA and we don’t have a YA section. We strongly encourage you to submit to an agency that specializes in YA.” Trouble was, the second to last agent that I had heard from had said (more paraphrasing): “This is really good but it’s probably a little too realistic/intense for YA.”

(Too Intense? Um …thinks me, have you read or at least heard about YA’s  The Hunger Games?)

About this time, a friend sent me an article on the rise of self-publishing and within the article was some sort of rating system of the available services out there at the time. iUniverse scored well in the ratings. and Lisa Genova, well-known author of Still Alice had first published with them. I emailed her and asked if she had been satisfied with their book creation services. She replied that she had been very happy with iUniverse and felt that, without having gone through them, her book would have still been sitting on a shelf as an unsold and unpublished manuscript. ( She was picked up by one of the big publishers after she had marketed her novel herself).

So, I paid for their Book Launch Premier Pro package for $3830 US. I also devoured blogs about the publishing business and marketing and publicity. Here is an abbreviated version of my experience in spending and gains for my book so far (all cussing and tears of dejection and depression have been removed) :

MY RATING SYSTEM: 1 – worthwhile;  2 – not sure, maybe worth it;  3 – wouldn’t do it again

1. iUniverse Package – beautiful book, loved my cover ( it has since been changed to the one you see above, as iUniverse wanted $750 to release the rights to it to me), the paperbacks and hardcovers got many compliments. ebook was offered as well. They set up a web page and other social media sites for me, but not until AFTER my book was live. Too late, in my opinion. I did, however, have several paperbacks and hardcovers to sell on my own, which was great for an initial blast. ( See book launch party below.)  
Rating: 3 (There are better options out there now) You can get your books edited, formatted by a professional, and have an awesome cover made (The Book Designer ; Creativindie Covers ; extendedimagery) for FAR LESS money than my package cost me. **However, if you have more money than you have knowledge in the area of getting your book published, they DO offer a very complete and professional package and are very helpful. It’s one-stop shopping to get your book out there.

2. Book Awards – I got caught up in the need for validation and entered 20 of them (what can I say, other than a previously undiagnosed OCD seemed to have manifested itself…) However, Quintspinner won 14 of the awards in Best YA, Best Historical and Best Commercial divisions . (Woot! Woot! puts a smile on my face) I got a couple of small cash prizes ($100 or less) and listings in online publications, but no boost in book sales (takes the smile off my face …) Honestly, I don’t remember what I spent in entrance fees but they ranged from $25 to $125, so you do the math. I really hoped that listing the awards it won on either my book’s front or back cover would tempt some readers but I don’t think it has. Rating: 2 (I’m still proud of the awards and people still come up to me and mention them, but I wouldn’t enter them for most or maybe any of my future books).

3. Book Launch Party. (key word being Party). It was a fun-filled evening: we sang ribald sea shanties, I gave an author talk about my publishing journey and about pirates and life in the 1700’s (featured in my novel), and an author reading, complete with a stunning live enactment of a couple of chapters in the book, done by a group of rowdy and authentic looking pirates. I served grog to those of legal drinking age and iced tea, coffee, and tea. There were platefuls of hor d”oeuvres with a seaside theme, door prizes, and a give-away of spinner rings ( also featured prominently in my novel). Many members in the audience came in pirate costume as well. I sold 150 books at $25 each, 20 of which were hard-covers at $35 each, and autographed for what seemed like hours. A local bar/restaurant offered plates of appetizers, for the cost of “4 gold doubloons”, (which attendees were given at my reading – play gold coins,) for a post-party get-together at their establishment. Book Launch Party lasted 3 hours. Rating: 1, for a debut author, because it got the word out locally that I had a book published and that it was for sale. It also, through word-of-mouth, got me two author reading invitations at two other cities’ libraries, as they had heard about the “Pirate Book Launch Party”.

4. Numerous author talks at high schools, middle grade schools, and community gatherings, a writer’s meeting, and as, mentioned, libraries. Although fun to do, they resulted in not even a cost recovery in book sales. Rating 3. (Gas costs too much these days, not to mention the time and money lost from my regular day job to do these.

5. Book blog tour – did a 10 blog book tour for the bargain price of $65. You get what you pay for…. blogs that hosted me, chosen by tour planner were not really genre appropriate and had low follower numbers. Even so, the interviews took a lot of time to write answers to, with each one having slightly different questions, and me not wanting to repeat myself too much. Rating 2. If I were to do it again, I would be much more selective with the hosting bloggers. Note: I did some singular author interviews ( Let’s Book It ; drey’s library ; Scribbles and Tunes) and they were followed with a short upward blip in sales.

6. Book reviews – back in 2010, reviewers still wanted paperbacks. Few accepted ebooks. There was then the cost of the books, as well as postage to send them (usually $20 per book for postage, with tracking and insurance); I sent them with tracking availability, as most were going from Canada to the US, and the postal system, on more than one occasion, “lost” the book. Rating 1. I believe book reviews are essential, and now with the growth of ebook acceptability, this is far less costly.

7. Webinars – a great way to increase one’s knowledge level about any topic. For me it was so convenient, without even having to leave the house, to be able to learn from experts about a variety of topics such as how to twitter, how to do attractive web pages, and how to do effective publishing and marketing and I highly recommend Joanna Penn’s How To Promote Your Novel: 21 Ways to Sell More Books Online.

Rating 1. Attaining knowledge is a worthwhile thing. And I was sadly lacking in many areas.
8. Online radio interview, CBC radio interview, West magazine feature, University of Sask Green and White Alumni magazine, local newspapers – I have no way of knowing if they helped sell books, but they were free to me, and I can’t help but think they had to be worthwhile in getting my name and novel’s title out there. Rating: 1.
9. Book Fair entry/display – I paid a fee of $175 each time to have my book displayed at the London Book Fair and again at the Book Expo America and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Rating: 3. Total waste of money. Not even one inquiry generated.
10. Amazon’s KDP Select Program – this gets a category all of its own. Quintspinner was placing at a dismal #351,000 out of a million Kindle ebooks until I enrolled it in the KDP Select program for 3 days over a long weekend. By breakfast time on the first morning, it had risen to # 351. It continued to bump around the 300 – 400 range for the rest of the free period, then slid back down into the #100,000 at the end of the free days, and has now risen again into #21,000 without any further marketing by me. Sales have been in England, Germany, and the US. I’m still watching the numbers and they’re climbing …
Rating: 1. KDP Select costs nothing to join, and I will even have a royalty cheque coming for the first time in a very long time.
What have YOU experienced as being worthwhile to spend money on, or even pursue for free, in your book publishing journey?
(Book images from Amazon’s online pages)

26 Responses to “Show Me the Money … (in 10 steps or less)”

  1. Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) July 20, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Hi Dianne, this is a great post that honestly assesses your experience and mistakes, as well as successes. Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad you found my mini-course helpful and that you learned so much along the way. The next book will be easier right 🙂
    At the moment, my #1 book marketing tip would be to start an email list well before launch date so you actually have readers to buy on day 1. This is where selective guest blogging can be useful in order to build a list in advance, rather than in driving sales.
    All the best with your book, Joanna


    • Dianne Greenlay (@DianneGreenlay) July 20, 2012 at 8:10 am #

      Thanks for dropping by Joanna. Your course was really helpful and I follow your blog faithfully as I learn something from every single post!. Yes, hopefully the next book will be WAY easier.Still lots to learn, but I’m getting there. Indie authors are a great bunch and the social connections I’ve made are invaluable. I’m working on that email list, too!:-)


  2. Laura PepWu July 20, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Great post Dianne! Always helpful to have a candid insight into what worked for you. I think it’s interesting how fast book bloggers have started accepting eBooks – I also ran into a lot of bloggers who only wanted paperbacks in 2010 but this year everyone seems to have the ability to read digital. That makes it a lot less costly! And I agree, book reviewers are an essential piece of the promotional pie. Best of luck with book 2! – Laura


    • Dianne Greenlay July 26, 2012 at 8:56 am #

      Thanks Laura! Do you find book bloggers and reviewers generally all open to ebooks now?


  3. Derek Murphy July 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    I imagine the book would sell well to anyone interested in Pirates, Sunken Treasure, etc (sorry I still haven’t read it yet!) – maybe write a few blog posts on those topics, other pirate movies, famous pirate books like R. Crusoe. etc.

    Another easy tip: Create a Listmedia List or two like “My top 10 favorite YA Pirate Books” and add yours on there with other famous works.

    When Pirates of the Caribbean comes out (May 2013?) you can get a lot of traffic by blogging related news….


    • Derek Murphy July 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      oops I meant “Listmania”


    • Dianne Greenlay July 24, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

      Thanks for the great tips, Derek! I’m looking forward to getting another awesome cover from you for Book Two shortly. I’ll be in touch via your website!


  4. Joel Friedlander (@JFbookman) July 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    This is a great summary of what you’ve done and would be valuable for any author about to embark on their own publication, Dianne, thanks for putting it together.

    I agree with Joanna and have found many authors neglect to set up an opt-on on their blogs or websites. Having a community you can talk directly to is invaluable and is an asset that will continue to grow over time.

    Good luck with your book!


    • Dianne Greenlay July 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

      Thanks for dropping by Joel. I plan on doing another post soon, with regards to more details of other things that I have tried, and also a list of great resources (Your site!!) that have helped along the way.


  5. Barbara Forte Abate July 22, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    Wowsa! Great post, Dianne. Thanks so much for your thorough and honest run-down of the good, bad, and entirely pointless! When my first novel released I was up for trying a bit of this and a bit of that in hopes of coming up with a worthwhile formula. So much of marketing is trial and error, but always is the goal of weeding out the chaff and focusing on the positive for the next book. Your 1 – 10 is a wonderful reference as I stride ever closer to the launch of book #2 😀

    Wishing you the very best with your book!


    • Dianne Greenlay July 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words, Barbara. I will be posting another top 10 list shortly, that involves my experience with social media marketing ( Use Twitter? FB? Blogs? What worked?) Stay tuned!


  6. Michelle Proulx July 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    That was fascinating to read! I found this post because I’m publishing with iUniverse, and I’m always on the lookout for other authors who’ve gone that route. You seem to have liked what they had to offer (despite it being expensive, etc.). Did they do the cover design for you? How did you find the process? And did you have anything to do with the Editor’s Choice program? Sorry for all the questions, lol, I’m just very curious 🙂


    • Dianne Greenlay July 24, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

      Michelle, at the time I was so computer illiterate that I was overwhelmed and they did everything for me. However, since then I have learned much and probably wouldn’t go that route again, because of the expense. I did recoup my expenses in enough book sales, but it was through my own efforts, not theirs. Yes they did the original cover ( orange-ish with the silhouette of a ship’s steering wheel) that can still be found on some paperback versions and I liked it very much, but it would have cost me $750 for them to release it to me for my own use ( ie if you want to publish with CreateSpace to get higher royalties). The actual physical product was very nice, but the cover I have now was done by Derek Murphy at . The process was OK and they send out a large instruction booklet re formatting and also do some editing work on you manuscript but they are very expensive. I did not join the Editor’s choice program as it is an in-house program and I did not feel that it would give me much exposure other than with other iUniverse customers. Let me know if I can answer any other questions for you.


      • Dianne Greenlay July 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

        Whoops! *your manuscript ( tricky fingers…) Also I want to point out that you will earn much higher royalties if you publish through CreateSpace or Smashwords, or Bookbaby, than iUniverse. I ran across a great post today comparing BookBaby and Smashwords here . Hope this helps.


      • Michelle Proulx July 24, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

        Thanks so much! I’m already locked in with iUniverse, so self-publishing via another channel isn’t currently an option, but it’s great to hear your perspective. Did they offer you any marketing help (that you didn’t have to pay for)?


      • Dianne Greenlay July 25, 2012 at 9:18 am #

        No, Michelle, any help they gave, such as making a FB page, setting up Flickr, WordPress, Shelfari, Goodreads, MySpace and Library Thing accounts/pages were part of the “paid for” package.They didn’t give me the passwords, etc for these until after my book went live, however, and therefore I don’t think these things were nearly as useful as they might have been if I had had them available right off the bat, weeks before my book was actually available for purchase. Any online connections, magazine and newspaper articles, and interviews I got, I rustled up for myself. AT THE TIME (2009/2010) the best thing that they provided for me was a good-looking book and wide distribution to online sellers. The royalty was 50% ( and I think that was after costs, not 50% of selling price, but I may be wrong) which, again at the time, seemed better than the 7 – 12% that traditional publishing was paying its authors. However, now authors make 70% and sometimes higher, if they self-publish through CreateSpace, BookBaby and Smashwords.


      • Michelle Proulx July 25, 2012 at 10:10 am #

        Yes, what I’m really hoping for from iUniverse is a good-looking, well-formatted, good quality book. A bonus will be that the publishing package I chose puts my book into a Chapters store for 8 weeks and guarantees that it will be restocked if sold. So *hopefully* that will be my jumping-off point to get the book into other stores as well. But I definitely hear you about the social media thing — that’s all up to me! Thanks again for all your advice 🙂


      • Dianne Greenlay July 25, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

        Before the Chapters option was available, I phoned the manager of the nearest Chapters store (Regina, Sask) and spoke with her about stocking my book. She told me that Chapters’ policy is to have a “Sask. Authors” section for which each store manager has the final say as to what books are displayed there and she agreed to display/sell my book there for a time period mutually agreed upon (it ended up being 6 months) BUT Chapters takes 40% as a consignment fee. So it cost me nothing to have them stock my book (and I really was grateful that they did), but I lost that fee on each book sold. And by the way, in Regina, the Sask Authors section is one tiny narrow shelf, wa-a-ay at the back of the store. I doubt that any more than a few customers ever stray that far into the store…. hopefully the iUniverse Chapters placement will be much more visible for you!


      • Michelle Proulx July 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

        I’d never thought of asking about a local authors’ section! Great idea. As for the iUniverse Chapters placement, they said the book will be placed in its genre — so, it’ll be in the Young Adult section. It won’t be on an end shelf or anything, but it should be in a fairly well trafficked section of the store.


  7. Sara Flower July 23, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    Thank you for sharing. 😀 Some very good marketing tips!


    • Dianne Greenlay July 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

      Thanks for dropping by,Sarah. I hope I can save other authors from making some expensive choices.:-)


  8. Steve Vernon February 8, 2018 at 7:53 pm #

    Reblogged this on YOURS IN STORYTELLING….



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