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How to Publish & Sell your Book : Free
A carrot brought it crashing down on me!
Who would have thought—that it would all come down to…A CARROT?
I could kick myself for being so slow to catch on to what was going on while I was busy sending queries to editors. I figured that I was a novice and the Writer’s Guide was the Bible. Yeah—it told me I needed an agent, and before Kindle swept the world, it was true.
The agents held the keys to the kingdom and I quickly found out they had locked the door and held everything close to the vest. Rejection slips—“Your work is not for us. We wish you well finding a suitable…” Yep. Three years went by and I wrote four novels and not a single agent would peek at anything—
" O'Bama must have read "Watchdogg" and learned something!" Jed Fisher wrote when Usama died.
"That is entirely not possible as few have read it since it has only been out two weeks." Yep, the entire commando raid is there, predicted down to the last detail in the upcoming "Seeds from Heaven" novel series. The Blackhawks descend upon the fortress, complete with watchtowers while everything is directed from a headquarters on the others side of the world. The Situation Room photo shown around the world is taken directly from the big scene in Watchdogg and even describes the occupants: the President, Vice President, The SecState, SecDef, etc. Yep--it is all there. Bin Laden dead. Yep! Gas prices leap to dizzying heights from the oil crisis too."
Eventually, I lit a match to the Writer’s Guide and spotted a list of e-publishers on the internet. It was clearly a different ballgame, but I could see this was a niche-thing, mostly filled with sci-fi, romance, and horror novels. These were the fringe publishers, like doggy-doo on the bottom your shoe to the Fifth Avenue boys. I did find an e-publisher that said they would take a look at my manuscript, but they wanted me to give them an exclusive look and I would need to wait for eleven months.
OK—I’m a forthright person. Someone promising to read the book in that time frame was better than the continued rejection slips. I needed to reformat everything for them too. Curious indeed, but this is where I learned to do the proper formatting for KINDLE and, in the end, it was a kind of blessing. Being a novice, I really did not understand why I needed to reformat everything. I simply went ahead and did it…and then counted off the months until a professional editor would actually read “The Gold of Mansa Musa.” My circle of readers adored it and I was confident I was now getting somewhere.
Yep, they were going to read it and the road to literary fame would soon be at my doorstep! That, of course, depended upon the reader actually reading the manuscript and that the failure or success depended upon a brilliant manuscript.
As the eleven months plodded along, I came to realize that the authors of tons of books like “How to write a query that will knock their socks off!” were written by the agents. Go to the library and you will see an entire shelf of this stuff—and they all have the same rehashed advice.
Who were the agents? Usually it turned out to be an individual that was lucky enough (a cousin, a brother-in-law?) to have a published book and from there they worked in New York and West Coast offices as agents. And for a mere $5 hundred dollar ticket, you could attend a writer’s conference and meet these people. So often they claimed that this is where they discovered the upcoming and promising writers. Yeah, sure! It was clear that these people made a heap of money at the conferences, publishing their own books, and being kind enough to accept authors with big platforms—O’Reilly, Beck, Palin….They controlled the massive promotional machines that moved millions of books through the merchandising system. They had it locked up for decades and were pretty smug in the way they controlled everything.
One could only wonder if being a superior writer could affect the outcome. I felt that I was talented and it showed on every page. I got my answer after my eleven month wait. “Rejected—sorry, not what we are looking for.… Would you like to see the critic notes? They can be quite harsh.”
I was warned. I needed to know how anyone who had read my book from cover to cover and had rejected it. There it was, “A camel is fed a carrot,” in the narrative “and carrots are not indigenous to Egypt.” What?!?! This was it? I double checked my facts and Cairo is the carrot distributor to the entire Middle East. The reader was sure that carrots were found only in North America. “…stopped reading on page nineteen.” It was clear that the reader looked hard to find a frivolous reason to reject a manuscript. It was probably time for lunch and she had to finish this one in five minutes. Gimmie a break! Oh well, my novel would not have fit in with the vampires and the werewolves they were gobbling up.
I tried to imagine a former president making a phone call to one of their offices and being treated in the same manner.
“Yeah, whadaya want?”
“I’m former President George Bush, and thought I should release my memoirs—”
“Lemme stop ya right there, Bub. We treat everyone the same around here and we really don’t care who the heck you were. Right now you are nobody in the publishing world and you’ll need to wait in line like everyone else!”
“I thought being a former president might carry some weight—”
“Eleven months—if you can wait eleven months and give us an exclusive look, then we’ll take a peek at it.”
“That sounds like an awful long—”
“Take it or leave it, Bub!”
“OK, OK—I’ll take it!”
“And if your stuff isn’t perfect, we’ll show you the exit real darn quick. We are look’n for vampire stories right now. There had better be a bunch of vampires in your memoirs, otherwise we ain’t gonna go for it.”
“Vampires? I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll need to rewrite and—”
“That sound like a good idea. Throw in some werewolves too—the more the better. Polish it up ya washed-up wannabe, and then get back to us! We had some babe in here last week who wanted to write sumpt’n about moose hunt’n in Alaska—can ya believe that? What a load of moose crap!”
“That sounds like Sarah Palin—I know her—”
“We tossed her out of here pronto. Hey, I got someone on the other line…Trump? Never heard of ya….”
“Hello? Hello? I think he hung up on me….”
I Began to See the Light:
By this time, I was catching on to the writing game and became aware of the KINDLE REVOLUTION.
I took advantage of selling collectibles on eBay for a decade and witnessed first hand how a new system could upset the applecart.
It was much the same with KINDLE. The middle men were being cut out of the system, the agents, the distributors, and the bookstores were dropping faster than the housing market.
A Book Seminar:
I happened to tune in a book seminar on the internet this week and a pretty young gal, an agent, addressed the audience with it all laid out. Her voice cracked like glass as she explained that KINDLE was a REVOLUTION and that they would all soon be boarding up their windows and vacating their offices. It was clear she had little respect for the writers as she used the word “crap” in every sentence and declared that she expected every writer to experience ten to twenty years of rejection until the “crap was out of their writing.”
That struck me as a long time to learn a craft. I wondered how they would ever spot “the crap” as they were busy sending out rejections to manuscripts they never read. I wondered if she wrote for twenty years before she was published. I imagined, probably not, as she was in her early twenties. Perhaps she needed to get the crap out of her system too while she spoke to the audience. I’m not sure if there was an audience, as the camera never bothered to show it. At least, I hadn’t paid $5 hundred dollars for the ticket for her perceptive observations.
Achieving Writer Goals:
I have achieved my goal. I’ve written four marvelous novels and have set them on the international stage where anyone in the world can view them. Yes, anyone with a PC can view them—anyone with a KINDLE too. I recognize that they may get lost in a sea of books; however that part of it is beyond my control—that is for others…. Yes, I have waded into the waters and made my dreams come true.
In the event you have a brilliant novel, my advice is to skip the queries altogether (unless you married the bosses daughter) and publish it yourself on Kindle (or Smashwords—more about that later). It’s incredibly easy to do as they have an instructional video right there taking you through it step by step. Hub articles will assist you too. If you curb the impulse to have bound copies, you will probably end up with more money in your pocket.
There is a lot of truly great writing that can now be viewed by the world. Writing that has been held back by an indifferent bureaucracy where money and power rule. While the powerful became published, the talented were squashed. But that scenario has come crashing to an end. For the reader, this is a golden era as there will be a flood of top quality books by the truly talented. One can see it happening at Amazon with first time authors receiving accolade five star ratings, far and above the ratings of the best seller authors. Yes, the revolution is happening at this very moment.
Regardless of how fabulous our Kindle books may be, we are going to have few sales as we are minnows in a sea of sharks. The big New York companies will continue to control it all, at least for now. You will see various promotional schemes being bantered about for us minnows, and if you find something that works, (and doesn’t work); please write so we can all share in the experience.
Simply placing your book with Kindle is only the beginning. See my model web site here to see how you can set up a site that allows virtually anyone with a PC to obtain your book. I imagine it can be automated. If sales are not astronomical, a writer/publisher can send his book to his customer with only a half minute of his time. If it looks beyond your expertise, call in an associate, or a professional to set it up for you.
A technical note:
On a technical note. If you have jpgs, be sure to save your document in Web page filtered on your computer. This allows a proper uploading of the manuscript with the art that you envisioned. Read the guide at Smashwords as this has a lot of important ( and complicated stuff) that should hep you understand the technical side of all this. Tell yourself that you must learn this because you are a writer and this is the information you should understand.
Update in June 2012
I have been published since March and Smashwords has miserable sales for me ($8.00) and Amazon sends me checks that are larger each month as I accumulate happy readers who love my books. I see other successsful writers report humble beginings like this with checks around $100-$200 per month during the startup months. I discovered that playing around with the titles and artwork makes a big differnce in sales. My novel, "Watchdogg: Somalia Retribution" had little interest . When I changed it to "Forty Days to Armageddon" things took off! Kinlde reports for Britian indicated that I had a hit with the same book when I call it " Battle For Hormuz." Go figure? The "Forty Days" title is firting with the political thriller Best Seller List!
The following Hubs are right on target for publishing in Kindle and cover everything you need to know.
If you have a Kindle downloading tip, please send it as a comment and then we can have a good reference for everyone at this Hub. I gave up trying to load an image, so maybe someone can help on that.
If you want to get your book distributed world wide, go to Smashwords and list your book there. Yep, you will be available at all book stores, like Barnes and Noble, and libraries.You will see the process is about the same and they have an online instruction book that covers every detail. Their free service includes distribution to Kindle, so you could skip downloading your book to Kindle entirely! In that Kindle provides an author’s site, it may be worth the extra effort so that you can have a presence there. Smashwords will provide an ISBN for you too. Cool!
I will admit that I discovered Smashwords after I signed up at KINDLE. I plan to go through both publishers with all of my novels, even though I could do it all at Smashwords. I consider myself a novice and hope that others will share important information here that I have missed. For example, had I not discovered Smashwords, I would hope that someone would have come forward with the information. It is likely I will update this HUB regularly, so stop back on occasion.
Updates: I am finding that getting on the Premium list at Smashwords is beyond my comprehension. Although I have read the 70 pages of instructions and understood nearly all of it, they continue to reject it. The premium list is the road to international distribution of my book. I paid $25 to have the brother of the Smashwords founder prepare it and everything went as smooth as butter. It was $25 well spent. RJ
Critcal Reviews of Fantasy books by Jenny (including Lean against the Wind & Watchdogg)
Update: two years later
I gave up on Smashwords altogether and threw in the towel. They did nothing for me and I did try all their promotions. I have all my books listed at Kindle and have them all in the KDP program. I see there are promotion companies that will email readers and advertise your book for a fee. There is Book Bub that has a mailing list of around a million and they currently charge around $450 to plug your book. Other companies with smaller lists charge $20 and up depending upon the genre.
Unfortunately, they are picky and will not take anyone's money. They have set up a list of guidelines and pick and choose better selling authors. Anyone just getting started can apply, of course, but I would anticipate polite rejections in your email.
Advertising at Goodreads has worked out well. They place your ad around their site that has several million readers searching for books to read. They click on the ad and then are taken to Amazon where they make the purchase. So far, this is the only advertising that has worked well for me and Amara (we co-wrote a non-fiction book that does well.)
The plan that seems to be working for many authors is to reduce the price to 99 cents and then advertise the sale price wherever they can. Simply reducing the price to 99 cents at Kindle (they have a promotion system to easily set it up) without any advertising at all, does generate sales. They have a FREE program too, however one does tire quickly of seeing readers snatching up one's books and the writer receives nothing at all.
The FREE program does generate sales, however and is not to be dismissed. There is a "carry over effect" and around 10% end up buying a book following a give-a-way. If 1,000 take the free offer around 100 or so end up buying the book that week.
The unfortunate part of all this give-away and 99 cent promotions is that simply writing a terrific book is going to get lost because of all this promotional activity that is scooping up the sales.
That is it for now. I'll come back in a year or so and report what is happening. I do have a children's series, "The Wurtherington Diary: The little Doll Girl" to publish in the Fall and hope I find some effective advertising that will launch the series properly.