Ticking the boxes: a venture into self-publishing

Self-publishing wasn’t for me – or so I thought until there I was with what I arrogantly considered a passable novel on my hands that was obviously going nowhere.

‘Flying Leap’ had been through the NWS twice, once as a partial, and got good reports both times.  I couldn’t stop grinning as I read the final one.  This is it, I thought, I’m on the way.  Then came the rub: ‘…do remember the competition is fierce and having talent is sadly not enough to ensure success; a big dose of luck plays a huge part in such a competitive field,’ my reader warned.  Undeterred, I submitted, and submitted, and submitted, until after forty or so attempts I decided enough was enough, as, no doubt, did the lucky agents on the receiving end.

So now what?  I made a mental list of my writing ambitions:

  1. Write – and finish – a whole novel.  Box ticked.
  2. Give pleasure to others with my writing.  Unticked – the RNA reader doesn’t count as she may be lying to be kind.
  3. Make some money from my writing.  Unticked – the book tokens I won in a comp don’t count either.
  4. See someone reading my book on a bus or train.  (Is it just me?!) Unticked.

It took only a small leap from there to have me scouring the websites for a suitable cover for my soon-to-be published ebook.  After several days at this (yes, days!)  I chose a colourful, eye-catching image of a falling leaf but along with the image I had also bought myself a problem: a falling leaf didn’t really fit with my title, ‘Flying Leap’, so – and I don’t necessarily recommend what I did next – I took a long look at my novel, made a few minor tweaks and gave it a new title, ‘Falling to Earth’.  As I say, it probably isn’t the best plan to let the cover play such a leading role but it worked for me.  After all, this was an experiment so it didn’t matter that much.

Pinning down the genre caused a bit of angst because I genuinely didn’t know what I had written.   I examined all the evidence and realised, with some surprise, that it was a rom-com and duly wrote the blurb to go with it.  So now I had the whole package ready to go. I won’t go into detail here but suffice to say that Amazon’s instructions on how to publish your book through Kindle Direct are really clear and frighteningly quickly my book was out there for the world to take pot shots at.  One thing I would say, though.  Send your book to your Kindle and read it there before you publish because that’s the only way to test how it will look and there will be typos and funny spacing, no matter how many times you’ve checked it.

Tentatively I gave the good news to rellies, friends and everyone I vaguely knew but disappointingly few of them owned a Kindle.  I joined Twitter and begged a couple of well-known tweeters to retweet me, which they kindly did.  I’ve never joined Facebook because of the time factor and I don’t like the whole ethos of it anyway, but to be honest I don’t believe social media makes a jot of difference to book sales.  I could be wrong, of course…

Anyway, to cut to the chase, Amazon did a sterling job in promoting my book all by itself.  In the first two months I sold only 20.  Then I put it up for free for five days (a Kindle Direct facility) which might sound counter-productive but wasn’t because I gathered an astonishing 11,600 free downloads.  The effect of this was to send my book soaring close to the top in the ‘free Kindle’ chart and because it hung about in the chart for a while after the free promo ended (don’t ask me how, it just does) its ‘visibility’ was increased and the following month I raked in 1,500 actual sales, which again led to the book hitting the Amazon charts, this time in the ‘paid’ list.  At one dizzy point I was only five places behind Fifty Shades!  Sales continued at this rate for quite a few months and I can’t tell you how exciting it was to log on each day and check the figures.  I’m not telling you all this to blow my own trumpet, mind.  I just want to say how it worked for me, and it could work for you too.

I returned to my checklist and merrily ticked all four boxes.  I’d made a tidy sum from the sales, not a fortune but far more than I’d dared hope, and people had enjoyed my writing, at least according to the better reviews.  (Let’s ignore the others, shall we?  Some of them are quite funny though).  As for the bus and train thing, one reviewer said she read my book on the bus on her way to work and although obviously I didn’t see her (wouldn’t have anyway, since it was on a Kindle), she said it and that was enough for me.

A year on and ‘Falling to Earth’ has, well, fallen to earth, not with an almighty thump but more of a gentle drifting.  Cutting the price from £1.49 to 77p caused a little spike in sales – people do love a bargain – but it’s tailing off again now and that’s fine because it’s what you’d expect.

And what about the book itself?  Well, no, I wouldn’t write it again, not like that.  I’m still proud of it but it’s not my best work and if ever I succeed in getting something published ‘properly’ I would probably take it down.  But it’s been great fun, I’ve ticked those boxes, and yes, if I come to the end of the road with my latest and find no traditional publisher for it, I will do it again because there’s nothing to lose, is there?

 

Deirdre

 

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10 thoughts on “Ticking the boxes: a venture into self-publishing

  1. Hi Deirdre

    What a fascinating post! And congratulations on such a huge success in terms of sales. I’m really glad you were able to tick all your boxes. Perhaps when you get published with your next novel, you can take Falling to Earth, dust it off a little to make it the book you’d want it to be now, and give it another go. I’m going to need to hunt it out and download it onto my Kindle as I’d love to read it.

    Thanks for sharing. I haven’t sent my novel into the big bad world yet but if I get lots of regrets, your post gives me encouragement as to where I may head next.

    Julie
    xx

    • Aw, thanks Julie. Yes I might rewrite it one day, who knows? The link to the book is in my ‘journey’ post (never been one to miss an opportunity!)
      D x

  2. interesting post Deirdre. Self- publishing is something I’m keeping an eye on, but haven’t quite taken the leap of faith yet. Sounds to me like your sales have pretty much done you the world of good and it’s time to get your next book out there before people forget who you are. x

    • It is a real achievement, to know that you have actually put your novel out there. As for choosing a book cover, I really think this is important, as the first thing to catch the eye, when browsing is the front of a book. When I am with my friend, in a book shop, she always looks at the cover first, then reads the blurb on the back. Great to read about your success.
      Lorraine x

  3. Hi Deirdre,
    Well done for taking a leap of faith and self publishing your novel. Just think, the figures that you have recorded can be quoted when you send your next novel out into the big wide world. I think that this shows how serious you are about being a writer and will be looked upon favourably by agents and publishers.
    I don’t have a kindle but I do occasionally download books onto my iPad. Is it available on the iPad?
    As for the covers…I’m with Lorraine…a great cover grabs my attention, usually the bright colours like purple with a modern design on the front and then when that grabs me I look at the blurb.
    Well done again Deirdre 🙂
    Helen R x

  4. Thanks everyone for the lovely comments. One slight problem I found with the cover was that there were lots on sites like Istock that I liked and could have used but when I went to download they turned out to be the wrong shape (ie not portrait which you need) or too large in terms of the file so not within Amazon’s requirements,which is why it took me so long to find one. Something to watch out for if ever you do it.

    Another good thing about self-pubbing is that you can be who you like and write what you like, so if you fancy a crack at something entirely different from your usual style or genre you could put something up using a pseudonym and if you wanted to you could hide behind it and not tell anyone it was you! How much fun that could be!

    Helen I don’t know about the ipad thing, sorry. I suspect not though.

    Deirdre

  5. Hi Deirdre

    Thanks for sharing this. It has actually inspired me to think about maybe taking the plunge, if nothing has happened by the end of this year… I think I will probably have to pay an editor to sort out the proof reading and kindle format, however. As, despite the help I have had, I know how bad I am at letting typos slip through – just can’t seem to see them in my own writing, no matter how many times I look. Thanks again for sharing this and well done with your success. I am sure a traditional publishing deal is not far away now.

    Jo x

  6. Hi Deirdre,
    You really are an inspiration. I so admire you for just going for it with the self publishing. I’m so impressed that you were only 5 places further down the Amazon rankings that 50 Shades!
    It must be a great feeling to know that you’ve achieved the things that you set out to do when you became a writer. And I firmly believe that you’ll be seeing someone reading your new book on a bus or train very soon!
    Love
    Alex

  7. Way to go Deirdre, it just goes to prove that you don’t need an agent or even a publisher for success. Well done. I never thought about that I have a novel that is a little different to the others I have written but I adore it and might just polish it off if I ever get the chance and stick it up on Amazon myself.

    Thank you for the inspiration, good luck.

    Helen xx

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