Wednesday Weigh In – Week Two

Project Details
Running for: 10 days
Working hours invested: 7/day
Published Works: 0
Current Work: Samara’s Song – 80% (+60%) edited and formatted
Anticipated launch: August 1st

Reach*
*no family/friends
Twitter: 63 (+48) followers
Project Self Pub: 26 (+11) followers, 143 (+79) views
Personal Website: 5 (+2) followers, 75 (+26) views

Money Spent
Domain names: $32
WordPress themes: $18
Cover Art: $95
Editor: $140.27
Total: $285.27 (+$98.08)

Money Gained
Still $0 (womp, womp, womp)

Advertisements

What to do with that pesky author’s blog.

You have to build a platform. You have  to have a way of reaching your readership. It’s a line out of almost every self-publishing guide out there. Utilize your social media. Twitter. Facebook. Start. A. Blog.

Sounds easy enough, sign me up. In fact, that was my first step before even publishing anything: get my platforms up and running. This site was easy. It’s basically a running dialogue of how I spend my days (which if you were wondering is almost entirely researching, writing, and distracting myself from researching and writing). This blog practically writes itself and that’s fantastic. It really is.

On top of this site, I opened up the famous dedicated “author’s site.” You know, the one that’s a .com version of your name and everyone should flood to once you things start taking off (amberfeldkamp.com – in case you were excessively curious). I even spent $18 on a visually pleasing theme. And then I sat down to write a blog post. And… nothing.

I’ve managed to kick out two measly posts in a week and half: a little reflection on the beauty of my last name and the cover reveal for Samara’s Song (coming to an Amazon store near you on August 1st). Since then, I’ve started maybe six different posts that have wound up in the vast wasteland of draftdom. I just can’t figure out what to write, and surprise, surprise, the following has suffered for it. It’s the same issue I run into with Twitter (follow me anyway). What do you say to make people like you? (That sounds pathetic, but it’s basically the game we’re playing here.)

No. But seriously.

So of course, I went back to researching. The common suggestion? Write about what you would want to read about. I want to read about self-publishing. I want to know everything I can about it. And I plan on doing quite a bit of writing about it on this blog. Not my author blog. Besides, I don’t think that’s a subject my readership is particularly interested in anyway (not that I’m counting you guys out, you’re more than welcome to read my work. Seriously. Samara’s Song. August 1st. Amazon.).

As much as I like to think I’m a superbly interesting individual with a lot to say, apparently I’m actually not. In actuality I’m a superbly introverted individual who’s almost 8 months pregnant and living in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country without a car while her husband works 12-15 hours a day (that’s not an invitation to come rob me – I have a dog and a gun and a lot of neighbors who like to check in on the pregnant lady). Basically I do a lot of sitting. Sitting is prime right now. Occasionally walking, but mostly just sitting. And writing. And researching.

In the midst of all this exhausting sitting, I came up with an idea. Or stole an idea. Whichever works for you.

Disclaimer: I’ve done absolutely zero research on the viability of this option. Zilch. Which is uncommon for me and will be corrected the moment I finish this blog. But, hey, I got excited.

I’ve noticed a lot of recent popular works releasing companion material – Veronica Roth’s Four, Kiera Cass’ The Prince, even J.K. Rowling released a fun  new “article” for the World Cup.

I’m writing 1st person POV novellas with limited vision into this giant dystopian world. Why not fill my blog with free companion material, 1-2k stand alone shorts from other character’s perspectives? Personally, sounds like a fantastic idea to me. So that’s my current game plan. And after a reasonable collection of shorts have been posted to the blog, I’ll wrap them up and publish them in ebook format as a free anthology in the hopes of driving up sales.

 

So tell me, what do you generally post about on your author’s blog? What garners the most feedback for you?

 

 

(Side note: A heart felt thank you to Robert and Angela for the supportive emails, and to the 20 new followers. I couldn’t believe 2 people had any interest in what I had to share, let alone 26. You are a huge motivating factor in this thing and have my sincerest appreciation.)

To outsource or not to outsource… Is it even a question?

Did I mention the fact that as self publishers we are basically a one man business? Now we’ve got two options when it comes to running our business: do it all ourselves or outsource some of the workload. I’m personally a big fan of making life easier on myself, but if sharing the burden isn’t enough of a reason for you to go running to a freelancer, here’s a couple of more that just might be:

  1. Someone else can do it better. Regardless of how many times you read over your manuscript, there’s always going to be that one little mistake your eyes miss. My stance on the matter is that I know my story, inside and out. When I reread it, I’m already anticipating what’s coming next instead of focusing on going line by line to look for that misplaced comma. On top of that, I know next to nothing about graphic design (thank you WordPress designers for the premade themes, I’d be lost in the sauce otherwise). My master trade is writing. I could probably manage to at least be average at the rest, but who wants average? Certainly not my future readers.
  2. It will give you a competitive edgeThis is a biggie. The market is saturated with sub-par works all vying for the same readership. Amateur covers, minor grammar mistakes, poor formatting – all are going to cost you a significant share of that readership. With millions of other titles out there, if you can’t stand out for the right reasons, you’re already shooting yourself in the foot.
  3. It will free up your time, allowing you to be more efficient. Raise your hand if you’re an obsessive self-editor. *hand goes up* Yep. Me too. And it’s a great way to circle the drain and never get anything published. Enter the wonders of hiring an editor you can trust. I kick out a chapter a day, give it a once over, and ship it down the line to Dawn. And then she does all the obsessing for me so I can focus on the next chapter. Your time is valuable, and it’s best spent honing your trade and promoting your brand.

 

So who are the experts that I should consider outsourcing my work to and how much should I expect to pay?

 

  • Editor: Your editor is your last line of defense before publication. She will catch the minor errors that you missed, polish your writing, and offer insight as to what is and what isn’t working. There are a few levels of editors, starting at the bottom with proofreaders and standard copy editors and going all the way up to developmental/line editors. At the low end of the spectrum you can find freelancers willing to copy edit your work at rates as low as $1 per page (manuscript page, not Word page – a standard manuscript page is 250 words). Keep in mind that most often you get what you pay for in terms of outsourcing, and a quality editor is far more likely to run you at least $30 an hour or $3 per page.

 

  • Graphic Designer/Illustrator: Someone who specializes in book covers and is knowledgeable as to what covers are selling in your particular genre. There is a huge range in costs for a professional cover designer. You can get them as cheap as $10 on Fiverr, but again, you get what you pay for. You can come by a good, marketable cover for between $40 and $100.

 

  • Ebook Converter: You can also use freelancers to have your books converted into an ebook format. I’ll be honest and admit I have not done a lot of research on the market as far as pricing and the advantage of doing such. We’ll find out if it’s entirely necessary when I attempt the frustrating process of formatting my book for publishing next week, so keep an eye out.

 

So what if I can’t afford to outsource, but still want to have a competitive edge? What can I do? There are a couple of options:

 

  • Beta readers: Non-professional, usually unpaid readers who will give you feedback on your story before publication. Beta readers can be found on many writing forums and over the social web. Some offer their feedback for a trade, while others like to focus on a specific genre. The advantage of beta readers is that they are free and they usually know the genre they beta for. The disadvantage is that they do not have the professional background of an actual editor and they do not have the same incentive for quick turnaround times on your work. If going this route, it’s beneficial to utilize multiple betas, instead of just one.

 

  • Read throughs: If you can’t find a quality beta and just need a pair of eyes on your work, you can at least enlist the help of family/friends by asking for a read through. This is your least professional editing route, BUT it will help you find the glaring grammar errors that turn off most readers. Heck, even with an editor, I still use my husband to read over everything I write.

 

  • Design your own cover: You can use sites such as shutterstock and depositphotos to purchase cheap, royalty free images. It behooves you to do some research first – what do the covers look like of the currently best-selling books in your genre? A simple amazon search will give you an idea. Then see if you can’t come up with something similar. Choose a font that doesn’t scream self-published (you can find a nifty list here). And most importantly keep it simple – especially if you have limited experience with graphic design.

 

When it comes down to it, you want to put the best product possible on the market. Outsourcing is an investment in those who know a certain craft better than you do. The pay off is in giving yourself that much more of an advantage over your competition. If you can’t afford to hire a professional, it is still prudent that your eyes are not the only ones to see your final product before it hits the market.

Wednesday Weigh In – Week One

Instead of forcing the casual reader to scour this blog for the raw numbers, I’ve decided to pick one day a week to report in on all the facts and figures. Wednesday blog posts will be dedicated to sharing statistics.

Project Details
Running for: 3 days
Working hours invested: 7/day
Published Works: 0
Current Work: Samara’s Song – 20% edited and formatted
Anticipated launch: Within 1 week

Reach*
*no family/friends
Twitter: 15 followers
Project Self Pub: 15 followers, 64 views
Personal Website: 3 followers, 49 views

Money Spent
Domain names: $32
Wordpress themes: $18
Cover Art: $95
Editor: $42.19
Total: $187.19

Money Gained
$0 (womp, womp, womp)

Treating self publishing like a business, not a hobby.

First of all, thank you to everyone who’s already added this blog to their follow list. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do a small happy dance when I awoke to find I had 7 followers. I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t still doing a mental happy dance. So thank you. Again.

Moving on.

The issue that I see with a lot of indie authors – apart from the obvious disparity in quality flooding the marketplace – is that they don’t recognize themselves for what they are: entrepreneurs. We are basically our own one man company, and the job is not simply to write. Writing is the easy part.

My plan from the beginning has been to tackle this project head-on with the understanding that I am creating a business. My business plan focuses on the following:

  1. Budgeting for start up costs: Whoa, whoa, whoa man. Self publishing is a free enterprise. There are no start up costs. Technically, sure. You’re right. But unless you’re the jack of all digital trades, I’m gonna have to call bull on that one. The main costs that I have budgeted for pre-release include a professional graphic designer to kick out high-quality cover art, an editor (because even the best of us are blind to our own menial mistakes), and the funds to launch and manage multiple platforms.
  2. Launch and manage multiple platforms: Self publication means self promotion. There’s no way around it. I opened my first ever Twitter account two days ago (follow me @amberfeldkamp, but be warned, I’m dismally awful and awkward at tweeting). I’ve also launched http://www.amberfeldkamp.com as my personal author page and this website to document the process. Shameless plug. Shameless plug. Shameless plug.
  3. Know my target market: Before I even began outlining, I researched what niche market I wanted to write for. Based on my research, there appear to be three general genres with the highest readership: romance, thrillers, and erotic. I blush at the thought of writing erotica. Amber, your modesty is showing. I’m not keen on putting together thrillers and I’m a lover. Romance wins. But I want to target a more specific niche. I’ve noticed the general rise in the dystopian novel, particularly of the YA genre. There appears to be an untapped market for adult dystopian, however, and this just so happens to be a favorite of mine to write.  The end result? A conscious decision to write serial novellas in the adult dystopian romance genre with a focus on reaching an 18-25 year old female readership.
  4. Be ready to invest the time: I wake up (anytime between 7:30 and 10:30, contingent on either the whining of my dog or the kicking of my son) and the first thing on my mind is work. I feed myself, feed my dog, and then plop myself behind the computer and I write. I plan. I outline. I format. I send emails. And. I. Write. For at least seven hours a day. I understand working individuals don’t have the time advantage, but since I do, I plan to utilize that time to the best of my abilities and not allow myself to be passive.
  5. Be prolific: As far as I can tell, the best way to achieve success in self publishing is to have both quality and quantity on your side. One book is not likely to constitute a living. One book a month, on the other hand, and now we’re talking.

So that’s the bare bones of the business plan we’re working with right now. Time willing, the first novella will launch sometime this weekend.

As I said before, I want to be as transparent as possible with this whole process. That being said, there are a million and one cogs involved in keeping this thing turning. So if there is a particular topic you are interested in that I’ve failed to put on display, don’t hesitate to click that little “Ask Me Anything” button up yonder and shoot an email my way.

Self Publishing – Show me the numbers!

A quick google search will reveal a plethora of articles claiming that self-publishing is the route for struggling authors to take in the new age. Just look at H.M. Ward who turned down millions of dollars in advances in favor of self-publishing. Or the million other success stories that seem to be cropping up all over the web.

Clearly those of us who are not yet millionaires are doing something wrong. Right? Well, that’s if the all the hype is to be believed. The honest truth is that these success stories do not account for the masses, and the majority of self-published titles are swept away and buried beneath an ocean of rubbish. Not to mention how rare it is for “successful” self-publishers to share their actual figures.

Okay, so maybe demanding to know someone’s income is not exactly tactful. But I’m not exactly the queen of tactfulness, so I will cross that line. We simply can’t ignore that this information is relevant. The few transparent blogs/threads I could find of self-publishers boldly exposing their entire process, expenses, and profits I absolutely devoured. And then I retreated to my corner in bitter disappointment when they stopped updating, returning to live vicariously through the google success stories overflowing on the web.

After months of wading waist-deep in that optimistic muck, I’ve decided it’s about time to get my hands dirty and figure out this whole process for myself. And I’d like to invite you along for the ride. You, the indie author who’s wondering what happens when an untested manuscript hits the kindle market. You who’s unsure where to even start when it comes to marketing and promotion. You, the skeptic who doesn’t buy into the hype. I am right there with you.

My name is Amber Feldkamp and I am an untried author with great ambition and probably a little to much optimism. This blog denotes the start of my self-publishing journey. I have a plan, a platform, a plot, and a promise: complete transparency. I offer up my successes and failures without complaint or censor. If everything goes to hell in a hand basket, you will be the first to know – well, after I cry into my husband’s shoulder for an hour or two.

Hopefully together we can learn what works and what doesn’t and if self-publishing really is a viable career path for the modern writer.