Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Writer's Contracts: How to Get What You Want and Not Lose your House.

Negotiation is an undervalued art. And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't become easier with practice. It just gets less hard.

On average, I negotiate two to three contracts per week, for all sorts of things - uniforms, food, software. Hospitals, rest home beds - even christmas hampers! I've negotiated agreements from $5000 to $50 million. Each negotiation is different; each has its own challenges. 

But by far the hardest contract to negotiate was the one of least value. Value on paper, that is. To me, it represented an enormous amount of work. The reason it was the hardest contract was because this time I was not buying anything - instead, I was selling. I was selling my own work to a publisher. I felt as if I was selling my own soul.

AZ Quotes

Publishing Contracts

Publishing contracts have lots of fishhooks. These can (and have) included: 
  • No expiry
  • Payment delays or discounts
  • Unlimited liability (that is, in the event of a law suit you will fully reimburse your publisher all their costs)
  • Restriction on what you may and may not write next

Writer's contracts are discussed in detail on line - see this Savvy Writers  blog post, or this legal advice courtesy of the Authors Guild

Many Authors' Associations - such as the New Zealand Society of Authors or the Science Fiction Writers of America  - offer a contract review service to their members.

But NONE of these posts ever tell you how to negotiate a better agreement. And this is where I return to the first sentence of this post. Negotiation is an art and it's hard.

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

Disclaimer: This isn't legal advice; it's guidelines only. If you need legal advice, please see a legal professional.

How I Negotiated my Own Book Contract (and Didn't Lose My House)

My publisher was HarperCollins New Zealand.  I have to say that all the horror stories I read about in Writer Beware certainly did not apply with HC. HC were friendly, approachable and although they seemed surprised that a writer might even want to discuss some of the terms in their offered contract (I got the feeling that writers don't often negotiate very often), they were happy to take my comments on board. 

HC had a two contract model - a summary of offer (I forget the actual name of this agreement). This summary set out key payment dates, amounts and deadlines. They followed this up a few months later with their more detailed full contract. 

I signed the summary and started working with my editor. Once I received the full contract I scanned it for the commonest fishhooks (discovered courtesy of the internet and including unlimited liability) and asked a solicitor colleague at work to review it. She also had some concerns, and suggested alternative wording.

I phoned the number attached to the agreement - HC NZ draw up their agreements in Australia - and talked through my questions and concerns with them. 'Well, what would you like?' they asked.

I suggested Mary's wording and emailed it to her. She sent that to her legal team, and they came back with something slightly different. I ran this past Mary, she thought it was okay, and I signed the agreement.

My first book didn't sell as well as expected, and so eventually I began another negotiation. Please, can I have my rights back? Again, this was a phone call to the editor (after a series of emails).  Again, HC were understanding, and after some to and froing we came to an agreement and my rights were returned.

I would definitely work with HC again.

In hindsight: although I avoided the worst risks, I didn't obtain as much as an advantage as I could have (and an agent would have done). That's because at the time I didn't really understand the industry. If there's ever a next time I'd be more aware of things like international and national markets, expiry dates, digital, print, movie, TV rights and so forth. 

My Four Tips for Negotiation

Tip One: Plan. 
- What does the other negotiating party want?
- What do I want?
- What must I have?
- What are my risks?
- Where is our common ground?
I've set out more details in a downloadable cheat sheet.

Tip Two: Talk. (Face to face is best. Phone is second. Online chat is third)
- AVOID negotiation via email.

Tip Three: Build a relationship first.
- Emails are fine, but a couple of phone calls generally work better.
- This helps to break the ice.

Tip Four: Negotiation is not a challenge. It's a dialogue. 
- If you don't understand something, ask. 
- Be polite.
- Don't talk about money first.

Want More Information? - Downloadable Cheat Sheet

You can check out this online resource - the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's checklist for negotiations. (This sheet is quite detailed and really is more suitable for large-scale business to business negotiations, although some of the pointers are helpful).

Or you can sign up here for a free cheat sheet.

In this cheat sheet I've set out some of the main points to consider in your planning. 

Like I say, I do this all the time...and I've pretty much made every mistake by now. You may as well learn from them!

Sunday, 13 December 2015


In November 2015 I decided to run a giveaway for my readers - a series of downloadable short stories, called Upon a Time.

All the stories in Upon a Time are based on fairy-tales: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty. Except they have a fairy godfather, a mirror programmer (how do you define 'fairest'), and specially engineered glass shoes.

Fun, right? Easy, right? Well, yes and no.

This blog post documents the process, partly for my own reference, so I don't repeat my mistakes, and partly for others, because I really wished I'd had something like this to read before I started.

The Story of My Giveaway

I wanted to do two things with Upon a Time

One: I wanted to thank my readers.

A side note: When you're independent, like me, your readers are the most important thing in your world. (Apart from family and friends, of course!). Traditional publishers have multiple customers: distributors, booksellers, book clubs. I have one: my readers. This does change the focus significantly - astute self-published writers have a very active social media presence for this very reason, and explains perhaps why some of the large publishers have taken a while to discover the power of directly engaging with their readership. My readers are wonderful, intelligent and so kind - I really, really enjoy talking with them on facebook and twitter. I felt it was important that I thanked them for all their support over what has been a very full-on year.

Two: I wanted to find out more about who buys my books.

So I decided to set my giveaway up as a lead magnet.

What's a Lead Magnet?

A lead magnet is an article of value for a visitor to your website. It's also a way to encourage customers to sign-up for more information from you ("to receive a free xxx sign up for our newsletter"). Why on earth would I want people to sign up for anything - I'm not a store, I'm a writer? A lead magnet is designed to extract email addresses from customers. The holy grail of marketing; a targetted market. This is a bit conflicting for me, because I wrote Upon A Time as a present, not a carrot. But what the hey, if it could be both that would be super.

So I decided to ask readers to provide their email address before receiving the link to the short stories.

I wanted to set up this short story collection as an EXPANDING collection. I love serials, and I love the idea of special stories for a select group. I also love advent calenders, the idea of opening a little door and seeing something secret inside. So I wrote this set of stories kind of like an advent calendar. Nutty, I know.

The plan for my Giveaway was that, four times throughout the 2016, I will release another bunch of short stories, for readers to download. By signing up to this collection, they will end up with, by the end of the year, a substantial free book. And hopefully, by the end of the year, I'll have enough content that I can actually put it up for sale in 2017.

Sounds simple, doesn't it?


Martin Scorsese from AZ Quotes

There is no such thing as simple 

Here are the steps (and costs) to doing this Giveaway:

  1. Write the stories. Edit, repeat. Re write.
  2. Create digital files for your giveaway. I splashed out on Vellum to produce epub and mobi and I used a template I'd already created to do the pdf. Another side note. Oh wow, Vellum is so AMAZING. I did all this formatting in an afternoon - it would have taken me all day to do this earlier. I purchased a single use license, but you pay per title, and because this is an expanding book I won't have to pay again.
  3. Engage a cover artist, or do it yourself. I engaged Paper and Sage. Because I'm fussy with my covers, I didn't buy a premade, but if I had this would have made the process a little cheaper.
  4. Build a newsletter on mailchimp. This means figuring your way through the mailchimp software. Not hard, but takes time. (I went with mailchimp because my web wizard, Doug, said it was the best for me. That's how I select website plugins: Doug tells me what to do and I do it.)
  5. Build an email header on Canva. Again, not hard, but takes time to learn the software.
  6. Build a Facebook ad on Canva. Ditto. And, oh no, because I haven't got the pro option (because I'm trying to keep everything low cost), I can't resize the email header. Solution: download the email header as a jpg and upload it again into Canva's uploads files. This means I can't change the elements within the image, but it saves me starting again from scratch.
  7. Test the newsletter. Test the newsletter link. Test everything a hundred times. It won't work the first time (or it didn't for me), so repeat and repeat.
  8. Load the files onto your web page.

Wordpress Issues

This is where it all went pear-shaped. Turns out that Wordpress.org does not accept mobi or epub files. I spent a couple of hours googling 'troubleshoot' and finding bunches of code written by enthusiastic developers that might or might not work. But I'm not Doug: my idea of coding is to write a formula in excel. I didn't want to break my website by adding in something off the internet.

A couple of hours later I found cloud-up, a file sharing site, and recommended by wordpress so I figured probably compatible and not dodgy. I put my precious mobi, epub and pdf files on there. More testing of links, an error in the pdf, a few more fixes. Then - the files wouldn't download from cloudup onto my ipad. Aargh!

By then it was six on a Saturday and my kids and sick husband were hungry. I ordered takeaways.

Oh yes, and I'd sprained my ankle that week. It was huge and swollen and purple, but fortunately not broken. So a day sitting down was actually really good for it, but isn't it always the way, that life gets in the way of your plans?

Next Day:

  1. I embedded a pdf into my giveaway page, and that seemed to open fine. Fingers crossed.
  2. Double checked the links on the newsletter.
  3. I crafted a boosted post on Facebook, using my newly made Canva graphic, and set it off into the world. 
  4. Sent out the newsletter (with its Canva-generated graphic), into the world. 

Outcome so Far:

5 new sign-ups to my newsletter. 5! After all that work. I do wonder about this writing lark sometimes.

50 odd hits on my website. A few shares on Facebook.

I realised I might have made a mistake with the mailchimp software - I forgot to ask people to confirm their email address, so quite possibly they retrieved the file without signing up.

That's not a problem - it was a giveaway, anyway.

Motto: If you're going to give stuff away, don't expect payment

But if these people want to get the rest of the story - if this was you - you'd better get in touch, like my facebook page or something, because otherwise you'll be left hanging on, never knowing what happens to Aroha and the rose.After all, says David Mitchell, there's nothing worse than a story half-finished. It's like a half-finished love affair.

To those of you who did manage to download, Merry Christmas! I do hope you didn't have any technical glitches. And I hope you enjoy the stories.

Don't forget to check in for more. Next release is Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

My Personal Experience with Censorship

Yesterday Into the River, an award-winning Young Adult novel, was restricted for sale by New Zealand's Censor's Office. You can read the background to this decision here .

Now, I've not read Into the River. But I'm upset by this decision. Why? Because now I want to read it, and I cannot. Into The River is unavailable from Amazon, I cannot purchase it in book stores, or borrow it from a library. I can download Grand Theft Auto, I can watch (or read) 50 Shades. But I cannot read a book written for teenagers.

The reason for this fuss? Into the River contains sex, swearing and drug taking. Shock, horror! Obviously teens never indulge in such behaviour, or at least the Family First Coalition, who brought the case, would prefer to think they did not.

But its not just the absence of the book that troubles me. It's my personal association with censorship. See, when I was fourteen, my (religious) mother wrote to the school library, complaining that they had leant me a book containing twin evils: sex and swearing. I was so embarrassed! Also I was angry. Couldn't I chose for myself? Didn't she trust me? The book - which I think was an Alistair MacLean, full of busty women and strong men, was a good story - well, sort of. Okay, it was entertaining. My mother didn't seem to understand that reading such stories allowed me to explore ideas and new concepts through a safe, fictional lens.

So when I read about the censor's office restricting a book for sale - particularly a book which has won critical awards - I feel for the kids, the intended readership. Why should their choices be restricted because of a vocal minority? Banning books has a long and ugly, ugly history. How can a democratic nation, that prides itself on its tolerance and fair-mindedness, allow such a thing to happen?

I have teenagers. Would it worry me if they read Into the River? Of course not. Teens understand the difference between fact and fiction. Do they want to read it? They shrug and go 'meh'. But if I say, well, even if you wanted to, you couldn't, they stare. "What? Why?" (And then I have to add, they appear to be interested in reading it. The most requested book at the school library is 50 Shades. Its not on the stack, but its the one the boys ask the librarian to buy ALL THE TIME.)

Which doesn't actually worry me. Because far worse than a kid who reads smut or horror or whatever is a kid who doesn't read at all.  Most of my kid's friends spend their time on-line; they rarely read. No-one talks about banning online gaming or social media, yet its far more immersive than any novel. It's also far more damaging to a young person's long-term opportunities.

When my sons leave school, they'll be looking for work, or study.  What are the chances of them gaining a decent job without literacy? A teenager who does not read is less able to understand the complexities of language, the nuances of behaviour than a teen who enjoys fiction. A teenager who does not read will have less opportunities.

Rather than banning books, we should celebrate that they exist.

After all, is it the books we fear, or the reality they portray?

Feel like commenting? Write to The Honorable Maggie Barry, The Minister of Arts and Culture, Maggie.Barry@parliament.govt.nz

Friday, 7 August 2015

Giving Up or: Getting on With It

One Year On

Nearly twelve months back I set out into the world of self-publishing. This post is by way of a farewell (for the time being, anyway) and a summary of this experience.

My main conclusion: There is money in self-publishing. I have not seen it personally, but I'm confident it's there, and it's increasing. This is evidenced in part by the increase in the numbers of on-line vendors and in part by the number of authors they support. It is also evidenced by the increasing interest in self-published writers by major publishing houses.

However, as in any market where barriers to entry is low, profits per player are also low. This means it takes a long, long time to make a return as a self-published writer (actually, it takes a long time to make a return as any kind of writer, self-published or not). To take this further, I have a suspicion that many self-published writers are not actually supplying content to readers, but are instead providing income to retailers. Over the last year my outgoings to Amazon have been nearly ten times greater than the income provided from Amazon.

In defence of the 'Zon, this is because Amazon's publishing arm (Createspace) is relatively easy to use and offers international distribution. But I had an epiphany the other day when I thought about where the money was flowing, and in which direction, because the money flow tells us who the customer really is. If I was Amazon, and Amazon is really really smart, so they've probably already started doing this, they'll offer tiered advertising - that is, advertising at various rates, and target the large publishing houses with deeper pockets than self-pub indies. And this will further increase their revenue from writer-as-customer.

Okay, so that's all very interesting and intellectual and whatever, but how have I gone this year? Have I achieved my goal of financial independence through writing fiction.

Um, no.

Goal Achievement? Zero

Here's a brief summary of my year-to-date performance - approx 10 months.

(Dollars are NZ dollars, all figures are approximate only. These figures represent only self-pub sales through on-line retailers, not sales through retail outlets or royalties from publishers.)

income $240
titles produced 3
outlay $7000
downloads/loans/sales per month       bw 4-100
platforms published on 8

  1. Obviously, I have not made a truck load of money.
  2. I suspect this is pretty normal for new self-publishers. Most authors say that its only after title #5 that things begin to gather momentum. Some say not until title #20!


Some metrics are trending upwards. For me, things like social media engagement, number of followers and number of platforms accessed have increased. Reviews are generally positive (I hate the review process. It's horrible. Like baring your soul to an uncaring world) and although sales volume is low, it is steady. Inner Fire (the only title I've put into booksellers) remains on the shelves stores, as does A Necklace of Souls. 

Plus, and this is a big plus, my outlay is complete. I don't have to spend anything more on these three titles unless I want to. The covers are done, formatting complete, across a range of platforms. I'm looking at new marketing angles and avenues, ways of introducing them to a new audience. I'm wondering about audio. 

I'm producing new content - I'm half-way through two new titles and I really really need to begin on the final to the SoulNecklace Stories. Plus, I have another title coming out next month called The Prankster and the Ghost. A middle-grade fiction, it's totally paid for already, so the costs set out above include the outlay for that item.

My costs per title are reducing. While my first self-published title, Inner Fire, cost over $4000 in editing, formatting, printing and publicity, my most recent title, The Prankster and the Ghost, has cost closer to $800. This is because I know how to format myself now, I don't bother with the marketer and I don't print any more than ten copies. A Facebook ad, a Goodreads giveaway, good word-of-mouth and clever management of Amazon's search tags seems more effective. 

Top Tips

If I had to give ten tips to myself of twelve months ago, they would be this:

  1. Don't do it for the money, but keep an eye on your outgoings.
  2. Write the best book you can. If you're not a hundred and one percent happy, don't publish it. 
  3. Endings matter. The end of a book is what a reader remembers, and often shapes their review. (As a sideline: I am really really really pleased with the ending of Prankster. I think it is by far and away the best chapter I have ever written. It has taken me nearly three years to get it right and every time I read it I'm so pleased I spent that long on it.)
  4. Learn to format for yourself. I am a last-minute editor. There's always something I want to change or improve, and it gets expensive if you pay someone else to do it. If I was starting out again and had all the time in the world, I would learn inDesign. (It is so cool to design and layout the interior of a book in the way you want. Writers always get excited by the cover, and the cover is of course important, but the way the book feels inside is also important.)
  5. Always do a print version. It's a bit more hassle, but printed copies are nice on shelves, and they are good as giveaways and my reviewers like to have them. Sales of printed copies are slower than digital but they happen and that's cool.
  6. The best way to proof read for errors is to order a printed proof. It costs a bit more, but its really worth it.
  7. Order printed copies with staggered delivery dates. Because I live in New Zealand, I have to allow a two week delay for delivery. So what I do now is order 5 copies at the fastest delivery (that's in about 10 days) and 5 copies at a normal delivery (about a month). This makes the total cost of print copies about $100, or $10 each, so if I sell 5 (which I normally do) I've paid for the delivery.
  8. Don't announce the book is published until you have printed copies on hand. Sometimes people want to buy them off you and its not smart to say 'oh they haven't arrived yet.'
  9. Unless booksellers ask to stock your book, don't bother with retail. It's a lot of hassle, you don't get paid in a timely way, and sale volume is low. I read once that one title across the US is doing well to sell 1200 copies in all US Barnes and Noble stores. I don't know if that's true or not, but in NZ you're doing well to sell 3000 print total, and that's with a publishing house behind you. So unless you're going for discoverability, don't bother.
  10. The only constant is change. This year Kindle Unlimited changed its payment model and Scribd reduced its titles.  iTunes is looking kind of interesting, as does Google. Ingram Spark is looking at moving into bookstores; there's a new platform to integrate with libraries; self-publishers are signing deals with publishers; established writers are going self-pub. Keep flexible in your expectations and continue a little longer in the day job.

End of an Adventure?

So, after nearly a year of blogging, of writing and working incredibly hard, that's it from me. For the time being, anyway.

Would I do it again? Yes. Will I continue in this self-publishing adventure?  Yes, at present. I have another three to five titles that I would like to write, and perhaps one day I'll summarise my learnings into a handy guide, as there's nothing really relevant to the small-market environment of New Zealand. 

However, as I said to myself above (I never listen to myself, though) it pays to keep flexible. As long as I can keep writing, I don't really care if I'm self-published, traditionally published or whatever. What really matters is that people are reading and enjoying my books. 

And, dear Reader, thank you for stopping by this blog series. I hope its been useful to you. And good luck in your own endeavours. 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Good Health

Margaret Atwood was asked by the Guardian to provide advice for aspiring writers. Her reply: 'Take care of your back.' 

You want to get a bunch of writers talking? Ask them what chair they use, what keyboard, what desk.
Forget about asking about character or plot development or how to structure a novel. For most of us our craft is a deeply personal process and what works for one person may not work for another. But touch on the topic of seating, and man, that sure starts the conversational ball rolling.

Why? Because TOO MANY of us have bad backs, occupational overuse or gradual process injuries.

As an ex-physio (physical therapist) I find it scary and oftentimes sad, how so many talented writers work in chronic pain, pain that could have been easily prevented if they'd been more aware of their own body and acted before it became a problem. 

So today I'm going off-topic and ruminating on Health and how important it is and how you only miss it when you don't have it. (And also today, I need a break from writing my novel)...

Disclaimer: These are general guidelines only. If you have specific problems, see a doctor. And use common sense - if these suggestions make your pain worse, don't do them.  

How to Get a Bad Back

Do You:
  1. Adopt one position all day, every day. (Extra points if you bend, lift heavy weights or sit)
  2. Dislike getting out of your chair.  (Extra points if you move the coffee machine, printer and photocopier close to avoid having to stand)
  3. Never adjust your chair
  4. Write in the following places: bed, sofa or the dining table (using a dining chair)
  5. Only use a laptop
  6. Smoke
  7. Are too heavy for your height
  8. Never exercise
  9. Avoid all thoughts of stretching, walking, running or getting outside ( Extra points if you term hanging out laundry as exercise)
  10. You are passionate about craftwork hobbies
  11. Have arthritic hips and/or knees
  12. Drive around the supermarket carpark for thirty minutes to ensure you don't have to walk
  13. Have a history of spinal problems, such as spinal fractures, back surgery, chronic arthritis or disc damage?
  14. Have a history of chronic health problems?

If you can answer YES to all or some of these then congratulations! You are on your way to Bad Back Heaven.

Things you can do to reduce your risk - in order of effectiveness

  1. Start before it becomes a problem. If you can answer yes to many of the points above then back pain is not an if, it's a when.
  2. Try to lose weight. Seriously. Best thing to do. Note the word 'try'. The reason: if you are seriously trying to lose weight (and believe me, I know. I put on ten kilos this year so I'm in this process right now) you WILL exercise more. This increased activity reduces your other risk factors. Plus, weight loss involves an attitude change, a can-do mentality. This attitude is really important in managing pain.
  3. Move around more. Park the car at the far end of the carpark. Put the coffee maker in the other room, relocate your printer. Set a timer on your phone to act as a reminder to stand up and stretch.  Use a mobility tracker, like fitbit, or put a health app on your phone - it's easy to overestimate activity levels. Ideally, you want to get out of your chair at least hourly. 
  4. Exercise regularly. Ideally, exercise into positions you don't adopt during the day. So walking, netball, yoga, gardening, golf are all good options. Cycling or rowing are, on the other hand, mostly sitting, so if you're a serious cyclist and a serious writer you need to think about adding something like yoga. 
  5. If you are seriously unfit (can't walk up a moderate slope) start easily. Remember, anything is better than nothing. You may find investing in a personal trainer worthwhile. If you have significant health issues, like heart problems, talk to your doctor before starting on an exercise programme.
  6. Discourage sedentary hobbies. If you're a quilter and a writer, do something active as well.
  7. Stop smoking.
  8. Invest in decent office furniture. If you're short use a footrest, if you're tall make sure the desk height is right for you. Decent doesn't mean expensive, it means comfortable, well made and adjustable. Have a look at the products in government offices; generally, government buys good but affordable products. You can also consider more specialised products, such as a stand up desk (I had a patient who worked on top of a filing cabinet for the sake of his back) but if you're needing things like that its worth talking to an specialist clinician in ergonomics. Your practice nurse should be able to help you find a local practitioner. 
  9. If you're having back problems, talk to a professional. Do the exercises they prescribe, make the lifestyle changes. Do NOT rely on over the counter medication and hope it will go away. Meds are great for reducing acute pain but generally for chronic problems, they don't make the causes disappear. Sometimes, they mask the causes.

Most important: Prevention is always, always better than cure. Don't wait for your back to give way on you before you make lifestyle changes. 

If you're serious about writing, do as Margaret Atwood says, and look after your back.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Does Print on Demand Cost a Lot of Money?

I had an email last week from a talented writer, named Beatrice Hale.

Beatrice attended a session a friend and I ran on self-publishing, and since then has published her first fiction novel, a real boy's own adventure, about flying and airships. It's based on a real-life story. Her illustrator is Kura Carpenter, the very talented artist I've used before.
Ice Escape from Amazon.com

Beatrice has uploaded her first e-book online, very exciting, and was asking 'What about Print on Demand. Do I have to pay for the kindle formatting services?'

Because this is a fairly common question, I have posted my answer to her here. 

"Hi Beatrice

Congratulations on your book! Kura is great, isn't she? 

CreateSpace will produce an excellent product. Regarding paying for CS formatting and uploading services, you don't need to use their paid services unless you want to. You can upload a pre-formatted document to CreateSpace at no charge. I did use their formatting services for Inner Fire, partly to see what they were like and partly because it was all new, but at $249.00 US I thought it was a bit pricey. But the end result was very good. However, since doing Inner Fire I've produced two more books and I've just used my own self-generated template, and uploaded my own document to CS with no difficulty. 

CS can work with both doc or pdf templates now, which is quite good. But if you don't feel comfortable with word or pdf then you can pay a professional to format into a create-space ready format for you, or you can purchase a template from something like the Book Designer. These templates aren't that expensive, although they're in US dollars, so the prices do vary a little depending on the exchange rate.

I've got here an article on my blog which may be helpful: http://rlstedman.blogspot.co.nz/2015/04/formatting-woes.html  and also I have some handy links on my pinterest board:https://www.pinterest.com/soulnecklace/the-business-of-writing/ to various companies who can assist you.

My suggestion would be if you are planning on doing several more novels use the CS services (bite the bullet, recognise you won't get your money back) just so you figure out what to do for next time. However, if you're short of cash or don't plan on doing any more books, you might be better just to use ebooklaunch or the BookDesigner to format for you. There's another company I've heard of to, called Author's HQ , which is also supposed to be very good and that might be a solution for you too.

CS are very very helpful. If you have any questions at all you can email and they respond usually overnight. They are always polite (excessively so, sometimes!) and usually they answer your question comprehensively. If you get stuck you can phone too, but of course charges apply. If you do use their paid services for formatting and so on, then they offer quite good phone support and I found this helpful. The good thing about CS is the cost of their books, even by the time you pay for the shipping, is generally quite cost-competitive - cheaper than you can print in NZ, unless you're doing a larger run - and also you can ship internationally via the CS system which is a lot, lot cheaper than international shipping rates from NZ. The downside of CS is the delay on shipping. And they don't pay you until you make $100 USD. 

I use CS mainly for promotional books to avoid the cost of shipping, and also to offer purchasers an alternative, as some people like to read print. 

Two things to be aware of if you use the CS formatting service: Their formats are double-sided (i.e. two pages to one sheet) and their formatting is copyrighted to CS. This means you can't take the proof to a NZ printer and get it made up here for local sales. And secondly, any changes made after the proof completed cost you money. This means if you find an error you have to pay to get it changed. If, like me, you can't resist tweaking a novel, this can be extremely pricey. (this is the main reason I do it myself!!)

Oh yes, one other thing about CS is look at the distribution options quite carefully. What I do is to use a NZ ISBN for CS distribution only at a lower price point (around 9.99), and a CS ISBN for extended distribution (around $15.99). This is so I can reach both extended and web market places. I don't know if its really worth doing this, but I figured it can't hurt and there's no charge to produce two books with different ISBNs and the same cover and title. A lot of self-pub people recommend this because they say it increases the traction into the extended marketplace.

Anyway, good luck. Sorry this email is so long and best of luck for your first print book! "

Friday, 24 April 2015

Little by Little

My mother died when I was sixteen. She was thirty-seven. Far too young to die, most people said, which seemed odd to me at the time, because it's not like there's an age restriction on death.

One of the many effects on my life of Mum's death was, weirdly enough, on financial planning.

When I graduated and got my first 'proper' job - not the house-cleaning, baby-sitting jobs I'd been doing up until then - the salary came with optional pension contributions. I turned it down. Why would I need a pension? I was unlikely to live past forty. I mean, look at Mum. Better to have the money in my hand, and spend it while I could.

Mum's type of cancer wasn't genetic. I still have no idea how she got it; she never smoked, never drank, had five healthy kids, breast-fed all of them. Her food was from our massive vegetable garden - no pesticides or herbicides, because Dad couldn't be bothered with that, if the plants didn't grow that was their fault. There was no reason, really, for her early death. And there was no reason that I would die in my thirties too. But that's how people think when a parent has died young. There's an implicit (sometimes explicit) thought: "I'll die at the same age as my parent."

From Indulgy.com
Upshot of this was, that by the time I reached thirty I had no retirement savings. Not that that's a big problem, plenty of time to save and all that. But the pension contribution options had long since disappeared from government salaries. I would have to fully fund my own retirement. Gulp. That's a heck of a lot of money to save when you have little children and you only work part-time.

So I started small. A couple of hundred dollars in a unit trust fund. Added to it every week, or month, or when I could. 9-11 happened, and the world's share markets dived. I bought. The market recovered, and my units were worth more. I kept saving. Little by little.

We sold our house, put some of the proceeds aside. I did a business degree, found out about the sharemarket.  Kiwi-Saver began, and I entered that scheme. I kept saving. Eventually we had around $20K built up. I approached three share broking firms to see what they could do with this. Two weren't really interested, and said to make it worth their while I'd need to have considerably more! One, Craigs, was really helpful. I had an interview with a share-broker and we talked for a couple of hours about different options for us and our kids, and the best use of our money.

Fast-forward seven or eight years. We've been buying shares slowly and steadily while the market rose and fell and rose again. We only buy on the recommendation of our share-broker. He emails us or calls us if there's a good deal coming up. Perhaps once a year, there's a good deal. Little by little, says our broker. That's the best way of making and saving money. And thanks to compounding interest, money breeds money

From Mr Money Moustache

Anyway, long story short, I'm now ten years older than my mother was when she passed away. I've been saving for the last seventeen years and I have more money saved now than I had ever dreamed I could manage. I don't have a highly paid job, I don't have a great deal of non-cash assets but I don't have any worries about retirement (still many years away). And, best of all, I can afford to work part-time and write.

The point of this long post? (this is a blog about writing, after all) is to remind me and to remind you, dear reader, that nothing worth doing happens quickly. Writing is a very slow process. One word after another after another, until you have a book.

Making money from writing is very much like that too. Large book advances and Harry-Potter profits are the exception, not the rule.

But get the basics right - write a good book, have a good cover, make it discoverable. Gain more readers. Write another word, another book. Another reader finds you, and another. These are little by little things that gradually add up.

From Will Write for Chocolate

At least, I hope they do. That's what I'm banking on, anyway. It's challenging to look at the sales data and realise it's a good day if I sell one book. It's very difficult when a publisher closes, or says I can no longer sell your books, do you want them back or shall I just pulp them. But I used to have those moments when I started saving, seventeen years ago. Those why do I even bother. This is So Hard moments. I'll never make it.

The thing with writing, and with anything else that's hard and takes time, is to while you may have a goal, sometimes it's a big stretch goal. Sometimes there's little moments that you need to celebrate. For me it was having the first $1000, then the first $10,000. And with writing, its the 4 star review, the comment 'I can't wait for the next one!', and the 2000 people entering a Goodreads giveaway. That's what I'm trying to focus on at the moment anyway.

If I'm still writing this blog in seventeen years, I'll let you know if this approach was right.

Friday, 17 April 2015

The Importance of Proofing

Last post I talked a lot about formatting. Formatting is laying out your work on the page so it is easily readable on an e-reader and looks attractive to the eye. Formatting is about font choices and margins and layout.

This week I'm talking about proofing. Proofing is, basically, about typographical correctness.

The reason I'm talking about it (again) is because I absolutely suck at it. Every time I think I've done an okay job, the next time I look - oops! there's another mistake. Mistakes are BAD. They turn readers off the book and they make your work look amateurish.

I find proofing really really hard. It's incredibly difficult to check for errors in a script that you I've read hundreds of times and that, to be honest, I'm well and truly over.

Tips to Prevent Proofing Errors

1.  Relax. A manuscript can be easily changed - it's not as though manuscripts are physically laid out with little metal letters any more.

2.  No-one's perfect. Most books contain at least one error. It's unrealistic to expect a 100,000 word manuscript to be without fault. Some errors have made their printers famous (or infamous). Take the Wicked Bible. It contained a typographical error advising readers to commit adultery. Copies of the Wicked Bible are now extremely rare; the authorities, perhaps concerned about the popularity of this edition, ordered it burned.

The Wicked Bible. Image from Wikimedia

3. Decide on US or UK spelling. New Zealand uses UK conventions but most of my sales are in the US. So I've decided on US spelling. I find this quite tricky as some these aren't immediately evident. Everyone knows about colour/color but skilful/skillful was a new one.

4. Do a final spellcheck. Sounds obvious, but I've had a real problem with spellcheck on a Mac, particularly because I have a character named Will. The spellcheck kept telling me I was using a verb incorrectly, so in the end I turned it off, and missed a whole lot of duplicate words.

5. Read in hard copy. Proofing a manuscript on a screen is quite difficult. I print out the final pdf and read it with a pen in hand. Sometimes I run a ruler under the lines as I read, to make me slow down. I also order a paper proof from Createspace. This has been invaluable, as reading as a book format changed my attention and for some reason it's a lot easier to concentrate.  It's a little expensive, but it's definitely been worth it.

6. Some writers use the text-to-speech function on a computer (this is particularly good if you write using a voice-activation software). Hearing the words read aloud makes it easier to spot things like word duplicates. I haven't tried this myself but it seems a good idea.

7. Use a professional eye. I engaged a copy-editor for Inner Fire. This was relatively expensive, although very useful. I haven't used Jean for Necklace, as it had been through a thorough edit by harperCollins. After getting the proof from CreateSpace I wished I had, as there were a lot of spacing errors.

8. Use a second, or third, pair of eyes. I often ask my husband to do a final proof. He edits a scientific journal and is a very slow reader, so he picks up spelling errors. I also request advance readers - that's those readers who have kindly offered to read an early copy in exchange for a review - to let me know if they find any mistakes.

9. Do your own formatting. If you know how to construct a good epub and mobi file, you'll be able to make the changes to ensure mistakes are removed.

10. Use print-on-demand. If, like me, you are prone to proofing errors, print on demand seems a lot more sensible than paying for large print runs!

And finally - See Point One. Remember, even if one or two or three errors have crept through, at least you haven't altered the Word of God.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Formatting Woes

This last month I've taken a break from creative writing, and oh, how I miss it! But it's time for a massive pre-publishing work up and so I've been doing the proofing/editing/more proofing/formatting cycle that every writer needs to do before their book is ready.

Here, dear reader is a very brief summary of this painful process...

Proofing and Editing

Proofing and editing is one of those dreary-but-important tasks that every writer has to do. In brief, it involves going over and over and over your manuscript, refining the words. Making them tighter, more effective. Saying more with less. I lose between twenty and thirty percent of my word count in the edit phase.

If you have decided to self-publish your work, after the editing phase comes the formatting phase. Formatting is involves the final design, the layout of your manuscript and a final check for errors. It's a crucial step.


If you have a traditional publisher, they will take care of all formatting, although they might send you a final proof for you to do a quick check on before it hits the printers. Tip One: SAVE A COPY of that a word version of that proof.  Because one day your rights might be returned, and then you will be pleased you have an easy-to-format version.

I hate formatting. I am not very good at it, and it takes me ages. But just in case you're struggling too, here's what I do to make the process bearable. (This process only works if you write adult fiction without footnotes and very few illustrations. Formatting is quite different if you write picture books, graphic novels or illustrated non-fiction.)

First, I put a good music track onto iTunes. Then, following the Smashwords Style Guide I do the following:
  1. copy and paste the entire manuscript from word into TextEdit (or the PC equivalent). This strips all the formatting out of the document. 
  2. Then I reinsert the formatting. 

Yep! first I take it out, then I put it back in. Insane or what?

No , the reason is that Word is really buggy. It gets little glitches in it and then it doesn't seem to convert to other file formats very easily. So doing this properly at the beginning actually saves me time later on.  (I've tried doing it the other way, too. Like, not cleaning it up first. Big mistake.)

Formatting includes:
  1. double check for errors
  2. first paragraph no indents
  3. section breaks at the end of each chapter
  4. chapter headings
  5. re-insert all italics
  6. insert any images 
  7. write the back matter (that's the 'About this book' section that you might want to include at the end of the book)
  8. write the front matter (dedication, map etc)
  9. insert hyperlinks in the back matter 
  10. check all spelling is US
  11. insert table of contents (if required)
  12. check spacing around any poems is correct and that all lines of poetry have no indent
  13. check the spacing around the dinkus (asterix breaks) is correct
  14. remove all page numbers
This is my Master File

If I'm doing a print version of my book, I also: 
  1. insert page headers (I follow the templates on Amazon, but I've customised them a little, so they look a little smarter)
  2. insert page numbers
  3. remove the table of contents
I save this as my Print File.

This takes Ages!

I've covered this really really quickly. This whole process takes me at least a week, sometimes longer.  You can find details on how to do all this in the Style Guide (but be warned, the Style Guide is set out for PC. Plus, it's very colloquial. I prefer a recipe book-type instruction with screen shots, but No. The SG is all friendly and tells you about chickens and stuff. Plus, if, like me, you work on a mac, you'll find it a bit more complicated).

I do all the above in word, and then convert the files to a pdf for print on demand or to epub/mobi for e books. 

File Conversion:

Conversion to epub or mobi can be tricky. I've tried two ways of doing this, but I know of three.  These ways are:

  1. Pay someone to do it. I've used Ebook Launch and they're really good, very professional, very fast. The downside is, you can't insert the hyperlinks or make changes easily to the final file. So if you suddenly spot a typo, you need to pay to get it changed. 
  2. Use a conversion software, like Jutoh or write in inDesign and export as an ePub or mobi. Downside with this is you have to buy the conversion software, and you have to learn how to use it. Personally, my life is too short to use inDesign, although if you know the software, I would definitely give it a go, as people who do use it rave about it.
  3. Run it through an online conversion tool. I use the one on Draft 2 Digital. Then I have a mobi and ePub file generated relatively easily (although not always, the last one I did was really buggy and I'm still sorting it out) and once I'm ready, it's very easy to upload it through to the various vendors.
Tip Two: Do not believe any website that tells you formatting is easy. "in three easy steps upload your book now!" It is not.  Unless, I guess, you're a programmer or something.

From Dilbert

So there you have the summary of an awful lot of learning. It's not immediately obvious when you read this blog post, probably, but an enormous amount of heart-wrenching time and effort went into the knowledge set out here. 

I am now a lot better at managing a large document. I can clean out most errors from a word file. But still, I struggle. So just be warned, if you do go down the self-publishing route, you will spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen.

And Remember:

Tip Three: make sure you back up everything. 

And Tip Four: get the best and largest computer screen you can afford!

And finally: 

The difference between success and failure as a self-published author is your proofing, your editing and your formatting.

 Because no-one will read your work if it is full of errors.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Why Pinterest is Useful for Writers

Apologies for such a prolonged absence from the blogosphere; I've gained two colds, courtesy of my kids, and a new job, courtesy of a previous boss. All this has massively crunched my writing time, meaning this blog has just had to sit on the sidelines.

Anyway, today I got a query from the amazing Rachael Craw (check out her book, Spark, here). "What is this Pinterest thingy?"

I've talked about social media before and Rachael is an expert at the use of twitter and Facebook, but it just goes to show not even us Rach's know everything. So, a quick summary of Pinterest in this post, just for you, Rach :)

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a social media platform that acts as a virtual pinboard. Say you're building a house. Instead of collecting pictures from a magazine and pasting them in a scrapbook, with only a click of the mouse you can pin them to your board. All on-line content containing video or image files can be pinned. (You can't pin just text. And it doesn't seem to like Facebook too much, either.)

Pinterest is a bit more than just a pinboard, though. It's social. You can create group boards which other people can pin to.You can comment on other people's images and/or pin images they've collected to your board. You can make secret boards that are private, or you can make your boards public and able to be shared. (Pinterest has a lot more features but these are the ones I use the most).

Why is this Useful for Writers?

I use pinterest in my writing in four ways. Here's the link to my boards.

  • Creating value-add.

I pin links to research used in the creation of a book. I make a note of this board in the links at the back of the book (the back matter). Librarians, teachers and readers can gain a greater insight into the world building and the characters. This has been really useful, particularly when I was shortlisted for the NZ Post Award last year. Literacy Aotearoa did a spread on my book and linked my pinterest board into that spread.

Here's the board for my upcoming novel, A Skilful Warrior

Pinterest Board for A Skilful Warrior

  • Informing Media

I pin links to interviews, reviews and other material on a pinterest board. This makes it easy for anyone doing an article on me to quickly access this material.

  • Collaboration

My cover artists and I - Kura Carpenter and Christa Holland - are both on pinterest. Check out Christa's boards here, and Kura's here. Kura in particular has amazing boards, as in addition to her cover art she's a steampunk fanatic and a period costume designer.

When I've been in the throes of cover design with either of them I've started a group secret board to pin ideas to - covers I like, covers I don't like, font design and so on.

  • Plot Bunnies

I love collecting images that might lead to future stories. There's one board I have, called The Book of the Castaway which is a total story in development. I'm using the images in the board to cue the various narrative elements. It's quite a different plotting process to the linear way I normally work and I'm kind of enjoying the way the story is building.

Pinterest Board for Inner Fire

Other Uses for Pinterest

  1. Make a board for each character: their music, their clothes, where they live, their hobbies. Recipes they use, cars they drive and so on.
  2. You can list books you like, books you're reading (I started doing that, but now I just use goodreads), books you want to read or books that are similar to yours.
  3. Social context. Some people use this extensively, especially historical writers. House decor, fashions, current events, music, videos of a period can all be pinned to a board.
  4. Place. I had a whole board on castles, just so I could get the feeling of a castle, all that damp stone and narrow passageways
  5. Cultural vibe. Pinterest is a good way to quickly see which images are trending: which TV shows are popular, which books are doing well, which fashions are coming. (Spark, with its beautiful cover is really popular). Pinterest is quite an interesting marker of a culture. And it's changing quite rapidly, as the platform is becoming more international.
  6. Promotion. Through clever use of images you can (in theory) drive traffic to your books, or to your website. Personally, I'm a bit slack at that, but a good friend of mine, Roomie, uses it really cleverly to link to her blog and her design business.

Couple of things to be aware of:

  • Copyright. Where possible, I have attributed images in A Necklace of Souls and Inner Fire (my novels) boards. I have also add a line to the board requesting the owner of the image to contact me if they wish to have an image removed or re-credited. Never use an image for your own commercial use without purchasing a license.
  • Comments. Like all social media, keep comments positive.
  • Content. Don't rely on the pinner's commentary to be accurate (this is really important if you're looking for historical material). Always check the original source.
  • Image counts. The better the image, the more attention it will get. 

You can find out more information about Pinterest here Just beware - Pinterest is addictive!

So, Rachael, hope this is helpful! And enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Finding Your Market

In my last post I wrote about customer's needs and wants, and how this relates to writing. In that post I listed three key elements to a successful business. To recap:

  1. Identifying customer needs 
  2. Creating a product/service that meets these needs
  3. Delivering this product to your customer

(this is really, really simple. There are other requirements, such as management of cashflow. But as a start-up, these are things you must have.)

Lots of people write books. A few write great books. But all the great words in the world won't matter a dime if readers can't get their hands on your writing! So this post offers ideas on how to deliver your book to your customer. This post discusses distribution options.

Distribution Channels? What are they?

Basically, distribution is getting a product to the customer.  It's getting your book out to the market.

These days, writers are spoilt for choice.  You can sell your book online, through a store, or direct. A publisher may do it for you; you can do it for yourself. You can hire a third party. And your book can be available in a number of formats: digital, print, audio.

Okay, then, you say - I'll do everything! I'll sell everywhere, using every available format. Um. No. I wouldn't.

Be Strategic - Know Your Market

Distribution costs. Formatting for multiple platforms costs, print is expensive and the time spent navigating software is time you're not writing. In business-speak, unless you've got a massive team behind you and a known customer base, adopting a mass-distribution strategy is unlikely to offer an effective return on investment.

Rather than rushing out and putting your book on every available platform, it's more efficient to be strategic. And the key to being strategic is really, really basic. It's called KNOWING YOUR MARKET.

From Marketoonist

Identifying Your Market

You might already know your market. You've got a couple of books written. You've got a Facebook following, people email you begging for your next book. Readers ask for your newsletter. You will know the approximate age, sex, location and interests of your readers.

But what if this is your first book? How do you find your audience then?

Most writers of fiction write for one person - themselves. So, if you're trying to discover who on earth could possibly interested in reading what you've written, consider what other, recently published, books are similar in style and content to yours.

Think about your interests, age, sex, education. Where is your book set? Is the location likely to be appealing to a particular audience. Does the genre you're writing in have a broad appeal or are there a few niche groups that will be interested? Which groups do you belong to?

Philip Temple, a retired mountaineer, writes fiction and non-fiction about the New Zealand wilderness. He is passionate about the environment and deeply worried about climate change. His books appeal to mountaineers, environmentalists, travel readers. He reported that people have approached him from the UK, asking to put his recent book on a climate change blog.

Audience Characteristics

  • Look on Goodreads, see who's been reading this genre. What books do they recommend? Are the readers of these books male/female? What age? What do they say in their reviews? Do these readers prefer reading in e or in p? (usually, there are long threads on this very subject!). Do they say how they found this book?
  • Social media is a great way of finding potential readers. I've followed a few book instagrammers. (Booklovers on instagram are great, because they always post a picture of the book cover, which makes the book much more memorable than just the title. I've found heaps of new, amazing books through instagram.)
  • Often the discussion threads on social media sites are a good way of finding out about your potential readers. 
  • Quick Note on social media etiquette: If you really liked the book under discussion, join in; be social. Don't be a closet stalker, don't do the hard-sell. Just be friendly and interesting. Readers love to talk about books.
  • Follow the writers of similar books on twitter. Often, they'll post links to reviews mentioning their book. 
  • If you don't like social media, read print reviews of these similar books. Often these reviewers say who they'd recommend this book to. These people are your audience.
  • Think laterally. If you write books involving cupcakes and murders, your audience might include not only readers of detective fiction; it might also include people who enjoy baking.

The Importance of Influencers

Most of the time, there's only two ways I discover a new writer.

  • random selection - at the library or on the sales shelf
  • recommendation through a trusted third party (a reviewer, a librarian, a friend, a media article)

When considering your market, consider who their influencers are.

This is really, really important if you're writing for children. Children don't always select their own books; adults do it for them. If you write for children, you MUST consider their parents, and the school librarian. Basically, if you win over a good librarian (Hi there, Bridget!), they'll act as an advocate for you.

The Importance of Word of Mouth

Related to this last point - books are sold through recommendation. Your book must be as good as possible. I can't stress this enough. There's no point in ensuring your book is in all the right places if its no good. Therefore, before embarking on the final steps of getting your book to market (including how you will do that), pause for a moment.

Is your book good enough? Because, in the end, that's really what your audience needs - a good book, written well.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Needs and Wants

What do Customers Need?

Most businesses rely on three key factors:
  1. Customer needs
  2. Product creation
  3. Distribution
So today I'm going to look the needs of a reader. And over the next few weeks/months, I'll review these other points. So stay tuned!

Why do people read fiction? 

Here's a few reasons - you may be able to think of others. 
  • Escapism
  • Entertainment
  • Relaxation
  • Learn new things
  • To become someone else
  • To indulge a hobby
  • To satisfy a teacher
You can see from this list that reading isn't about words on a page at all - words are just tools to satisfy a deeper requirement. 

Needs vs Wants

This highlights the difference between Needs and Wants. A customer's need is the fundamental reason they purchase a product, or use a service. The want is often the way this need is expressed. The classic example of this is the iPod, a device for data storage. Steve Jobs realised actually what people needed was portability. If he could offer a device (and a store) that satisfied this deeper need, he would have an instant customer base.

This means that even if a reader says they want entertainment, they may in fact not. Why? Because there are such easily available substitutes for entertainment. This is why kids tend to gravitate away from books and towards their screens - reading is different to playing a computer game; it's more demanding. It's also much more immersive. And reading doesn't require hand-eye co-ordination, internet connection or (often) a battery operated device.

From InkyGirl

Some needs can only be met through fiction. Novels are, I think, the only way one can truly see the world through another person's point of view. Novels offer intellectual stimulation at the same time as providing entertainment. A good novel, written well, stimulates thought and discussion. A novel may change society. And of course, fiction uses the most durable of technologies; words on paper. 

Through this combination of low-cost technology and limited substitutes, fiction becomes an incredibly powerful long-term business proposition. The ultimate test of good fiction is time.

This means (and I'm writing to myself here), I should not look at the sales over the first month as an indication of success or failure. Probably not even in the first year. 

What do customers of fiction need? 

I think the list above can be simplified much, much further. 
  • Innovation
  • Entertainment
  • Stimulation

If you don't want your books to be easily replaced by gadgets, write your stories well. If you write kids books, make them more fun than an iPad.
Have an interesting story-line, something that's different, that stands out.
And - I think this is the differentiator that leads to long term writing success - your books should make people think.

Calvin and Hobbs, downloaded from the Image Kid

Monday, 12 January 2015

A Tale of Two Novels

First Thirty Days

This blog sets out the outcome of a little experiment. For those of you who haven't read last week's post, towards the end of 2014 I released two YA novels. One was called Inner Fire; the other was A Necklace of Souls. Inner Fire was released with significant publicity; A Necklace of Souls was launched with next to none

More details on the two novels are set out below.

Two Novels

- Inner Fire - YA - thriller/suspense - standalone - publisher: Waverley Productions, 2014
- A Necklace of Souls - YA - fantasy - #1 in series - publisher: harperCollins (Voyager) 2012-13; lately published by Waverley Productions, 2014. Winner: Tessa Duder Award, 2012; NZ Post Book Awards, 2013.

Publicity for Each Novel

1. Inner Fire: 
  • Professional publicist and professional press release
  • Available as on-line and print 
  • Advertising and publicity:
      • Newspaper article (readership 250K +)
      • Radio interview
      • Review in Collected, School Librarian magazine
      • Advertising in self-pub section in Publishers Weekly and application for review by Publisher's Weekly
      • Advanced Readers Copies to local high-volume bloggers 
      • Blog tour to YA bloggers
      • Goodreads giveaway
Sales channels - Inner Fire
  • Kindle unlimited, kindle select and countdown deal.
  • CreateSpace - print copies, including extended distribution
  • NZ specialty bookstores - print copies

2. A Necklace of Souls:
  • Advertising and Publicity:
      • Advance reader copies to Goodreads followers
      • Facebook advertisement 
      • Extensive publicity in NZ 2013-14 through NZ Post Book Awards. Approx 2000+ sales in NZ 2012 - 2013 before rights returned in 2014.
Sales channels - A Necklace of Souls
  • Amazon Kindle
  • itunes, barnes and noble, Nook and Scribd (via Draft2Digital)
  • Print in local NZ bookstores - voyager imprint only
From InkyGirl

Outcome - Caveats

  1. Numbers set out below are approximate only.
  2. The cost of marketing only includes giveaways, publicity and advertising. It does not include cover art, editorial, website design or formatting.
  3. I don't have visibility into print sales through bookshops yet as these are not available until after 3 months. So this print sales volume includes direct print sales through my website only, not retail outlets.
  4. Inner Fire was in the top 50 on Amazon for the YA/thrillers/spies for the first thirty days.
  5. Although the loans look reasonably good for Inner Fire, the revenue for Kindle Unlimited is really uncertain. Greatest returns are through print sales through my website.
  6. There are other rewards than sales volumes. For Inner Fire, these have included people stopping me on the street and saying how much they enjoyed my book; emails from fans; emails from reviewers saying 'it's fabulous'; a parent telling me in a cafe how thrilled they were that their daughter, not a big reader, was reading my book and loving it.


Inner Fire A Necklace of Souls
sales - amazon
loans (kindle unlimited)
sales - print
sales - electronic (other)
reviews - Goodreads
reviews - Amazon
approximate cost of marketing (NZD)$1,000.00$15.00

The Sales Roller-coaster


  • Formatting was a lot harder than I thought it would be; I wasted a lot of time on it.
  • Using a local printer worked well (it was cheaper than CreateSpace), but the lack of print-on-demand facilities in New Zealand makes it expensive unless you do more than about 300 units.
  • Print is a really effective advertising tool. People love getting free books. The Goodreads giveaway (which you can only do with a print book) was an effective promotional tool. However, sales were relatively low - although loans were higher than I'd expected.
  • Using a professional formatter made life a lot easier but it's quite expensive. It is probably more cost-effective to use an outlet like Draft 2 Digital .
  • Using a blog tour is good promotion (and is relatively inexpensive) but offers limited return in terms of sales. However, I gained a lot of followers on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter following the blog tour, which was useful for the release of Necklace
  • Using a professional publicist meant a high-quality press release and has gained some high-profile reviews, such as a national newspaper article, but has led to limited sales volume.

Final Conclusion

Low-key advertising seems to offer better value. So for A Skilful Warrior (the sequel to A Necklace of Souls) I will have a small blog tour, a Goodreads giveaway and, if you're a Goodreads follower, you might get offered a free advance copy. Get in quick! 
  1. Social media seems to be more effective than paid publicity. 
  2. And finally - these sales volumes will not make me rich. However, other very successful self-published authors report similar sales volumes early on, and so for the time being I'm actually not that discouraged. 
  3. In general, the trend is positive. Reviews are good; readers are enjoying my books. And I'm working out a more hassle-free process as I go. So I do plan to produce one or two more books in 2015. Stay tuned!