Interior layout – you what?

Interior layout – you what?

When I wrote my first novel I willingly handed over the interior layout of the both the paperback and eBook to CreateSpace. It cost me money of course, but my brain was reaching new-skill overload at the time, and frankly I felt beyond learning anything else.

You think a book is just printed words right? So did I until CreateSpace started asking awkward questions. Trim size and font were just the beginning. There were fleuron (or dividers) to be selected to decorate white space between the scenes. Front matter, back matter, dedications. Page numbers (If you glance at the book nearest to you, you will see that the numbers don’t start on the very first page, but when they do begin, they still start at number 1. An issue I’m currently wrestling with on my Word document.) I’m jumping ahead. I forgot to mention headers and footers (different on odd and even pages). Blank pages falling in the right places, and margins? Don’t get me started. Gutter width for binding (so you don’t bind the beginning of every sentence), weird and accidental formatting in your manuscript which throws the entire layout . Dropped capitals on the first sentence of the chapter, paragraph indents…I could go on.

It was highbrow stuff for a newbie techno-stresser, so I paid CreateSpace and they did a beautiful, stress-free job.

My second manuscript is currently being edited, and I’m thumb twiddling. I want to be getting on with the re-writes and publishing the book. The cover is ready and waiting. I could make a start on book three. Or I could try to save myself a few quid by learning how to format this one for print myself.

First step for me, in all matters self-publishing related, head for the Alliance of Independent Authors to see what advice they’re offering. I threw a question out on the ALLI members’ Facebook forum, to lots of other indie authors who will have faced this decision. Answers ranged from “do it yourself – it’s not rocket science” (gulp) to “I use this company.” There was a mention of HTML, which sent me into a tail-spin, a lot of reassurance that it is a learnable skill, and a fair few £ signs evident when I researched outsourcing (many variables but the lowest quote was £130 and the highest £450). Time to get learning I think.

I armed myself with Jessica Bell’s Self-Publish your Book (A Quick and Easy Step by Step guide) and a couple of free-to-download templates (one which came with the book and one from CreateSpace because they will be my publishing platform), brewed a strong coffee and settled down for a morning of frustration.

But glory be – the book really is quick and easy! So quick and easy that I decided I needed to make it more complicated by adding a few frills of my own. I’m a sucker for punishment, but I’m almost there. CreateSpace have a very useful online ‘interior reviewer’ which allowed me to upload the formatted Word doc and see the result. A few nips and tucks required, but better than I expected. Mysteriously an entire chapter has developed bullet points (I wasn’t aware I had bulleted any part of the document), and I’m still wrestling with those page numbers, headers and footers. But all in all I think I’ve earned a pat on the back, and saved myself a few quid in the process.

Just the formatting of the eBook to learn now. Maybe I’ll leave that for another week.

BookBub, Kindle Countdown and crossing those dastardly time-zones

BookBub, Kindle Countdown and crossing those dastardly time-zones

I’ve been so stuck into writing my new novel, and with harvest upon us as well, that I have to confess to my marketing efforts throughout July and August have being poor (verging on dismal). No surprise then that I have witnessed a drop in sales: For the last few weeks I’ve been flat-lining with only the occasional one-or-two books perking up the sales chart and keeping me from despair.

It was that despair, however, which urged me to bung off a submission request for a BookBub UK Featured Deal. Reading the BookBub submission guidance, I didn’t rate my chances. A Bed of Barley Straw has limited reviews, and the e-book is only available on a single platform (yes, it is Amazon, no surprises there). My personal Magna Carta carries an edict which states that I must embark on at least one marketing foray each month. To be frank, submitting to BookBub felt like an easy way to tick off a checkbox, with no further effort required when my submission was rejected.

To my utter surprise and delight the book was accepted!

BookBub Abobs

My promotion was scheduled to begin on August 20th. A mere seven days from receipt of the acceptance email, with seven days prior payment required. Clearly I wanted to seal the deal and get my $40 off in rapid quick time. (Ideally within half an hour, as I’d promised the Gallivanting Granny that I would take her to market. [PS – I wasn’t selling her])

The first flappy panic – the question “when do you want your deal to end” – involved a trawl through the BookBub Ts and Cs to find out if there were any rules governing this. The information was easy to find in their FAQs (in my haste for rapid solutions I also fired off an email to the BookBub partners, who I’m pleased to say were quick to get back to me.)

Having successfully straddled that hurdle, I decided to complicate things for myself by running a Kindle Countdown Deal concurrently with the promotion. (July’s marketing tick-box checked retrospectively).

Kindle Countdown clock

I have to admit that it was luck rather than planning which enabled me to do so. If your book is enrolled in KDP Select you are permitted to run one Kindle Countdown Deal, lasting a maximum of 7 days, during your 90 day enrolment period. The price of your book must not have been changed in the 30 days prior to the Countdown commencing, and the Countdown must conclude 14 days before your enrolment period ends. Also there are price criteria, and you must be willing to discount your book by a minimum of £1 ($1 US).

That’s a pretty specific set of rules, but luckily KDP enforce them for you. So your book will not show as eligible for the deal if you are sitting outside of their criteria. Phew! It would have taken me more than half an hour to work that out for myself.

The next flappy panic involved TIME ZONES. Simple for some maybe, but my brain was having none of it.

BookBub stipulate that the e-book must be available across all platforms (phew again) at the promotional reduced price (£0.99 in my case) at 12.00pm PST (Pacific Standard Time) and that price must be in place up until 11.59pm on the day the deal ends.

My Kindle Countdown must be scheduled in GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and I’m living in BST (British Summer Time). As someone who still hasn’t grasped the intricacies of changing my clocks twice a year, this could be a disaster. Luckily I’ve got 7 days of Kindle price reduction to span a 5 day BookBub promotion. Gotta be possible right? Flappy panic two.

(I’ve emboldened the numbers to allow you to share my hysteria, not as a useful aid to your own cross-time-zone promotional dilemmas. Sorry, but it’s no use looking to me for help with this.)

I read the blog of a fellow author who had scheduled Kindle Countdown Deals to run simultaneously across multiple time-zones. A dizzy spell ensued, which necessitated the use of smelling salts.

I scribbled vague numbers and arrows on to scraps paper for twenty minutes, before bringing in my support team – The Farmer, The Engineer and The Gallivanting Granny. To be fair, they had bigger things on their minds (harvest and market stalls) but between them they failed to allay my confusion. The GG was indignant that there wasn’t somebody else who could do this work for me. Bless. She thinks I’m corporate.

I got there eventually, with a prayer and a whistle. Flappy panic three when the Kindle price didn’t drop at 6pm on the 19th. BST of course, it dropped at 7pm (and yes, I know now, I was way ahead of myself. At 7pm in the UK it was only lunch time in America. I think).

By accident, my over-generous over-lap did provide some feedback. I followed the advice on the ALLi Self-Publishing site, and posted about my Countdown deal on Twitter, Facebook and here on the blog. Those efforts produced three sales from the Countdown Deal alone, in the hours between my price reduction and the issue of the BookBub email. (And I’m not knocking that. Three sales was more than I had achieved in the previous seven days.)

What happened next speaks for itself – screenshot taken at 9am on day two of the BookBub promo (that’s BST if you’re interested).

Amazon sales chart

Glory halleluiah, my best day of book sales to date (although I have done ‘better’ when giving them away). Interesting that I’m also seeing a rise in my Kindle Unlimited pages read.

And look how pretty my Amazon #rating is! (There’s a #39 in there somewhere, in case you can’t see it)

Amazon ranking #39

I fully accept that this is a temporary promotional blip, but I’m not going to let that burst my delusional bubble.

Today’s plan was to push on by shouting about my Kindle Countdown Deal on social media, as per the guidelines in the ALLi blog. But Unfortunately my internet is dead. I am blocked from obsessively checking my sales figures, from posting to Facebook or Twitter. I’m writing this instead, but you may not get to see it. Our internet provider tells me that we have used up our monthly data allowance. It’s only the 21st of the month for mercy’s sake!! Oh yes, YD is home from Uni, and she’s over-fond of NetFlix.

Now, should I fork out more cash to get us reconnected? Or should I take advantage of the downtime and write like a dervish?

If you’re reading this, I must have made my decision. #ammarketing

Talking about my book…

Talking about my book…

That is what I have to do now. Blog tours, author interviews and a couple of local speaking/signing events lurk on my horizon. I will have to talk out loud, in front of people. Yikes.

Numerous niggles are harrying my mind. The blog tour sounds fine; I can sit at my computer, happy in my space, editing and re-editing my words as often as I like before I send them out. Viewers can glance at my post and move swiftly on, or they can read every sentence. I cannot be offended because I will never know which of those actions they have taken (unless they drop a comment or a reassuring ‘like’ – lovely gifts from cyberspace which let you know you have actually connected).

My issue with author interviews is that I’m not sure I’m getting the answers right. This belief is confirmed when I read the interviews of proper, grown up authors. Those familiar with my blog will surely remember that my response to a straightforward query about my favourite books resulted in total brain freeze. (I felt only empathy for Natalie Bennett after that train crash of a radio interview). Also I did not study journalism at the University of Brilliant, I cannot quote Shakespeare (at least not knowingly), I have never written for the National Shout it Out, and there are zero awards to my name.

My author bio is a desperate little paragraph with few writer credentials, and zero proof of wordsmithery:

Left school at 16 ( I couldn’t wait to get out). Worked with horses. Got married, had kids, wrote a book.

There is more of course, but little of relevance. Various eclectic jobs, study and hobbies. You’re taking a gamble on me as an author, but hey, live dangerously. Oh, I’ve just remembered, I won the poetry contest at our village fete – for three years on the run! How the hell did I miss that out? They even gave me a cup (it had to be given back at the end of the year, of course). My poem about the Queen’s Jubilee was an absolute cracker. I would love to share it with you here but it is sadly lost in the mist of obsolete PCs.

Now the book, I can talk about, as friends will verify (whilst rolling their eyes to the heavens). Here are some great sample questions on author interviews which I can’t wait to get my teeth into:

Describe your hero in five words” – Hunky, bloody gorgeous. Bit of a sod. (Oops that’s seven)

Was your novel inspired by real life events?” – No! But no one believes me (mates who have read it are eyeing the Farmer in very different light). Some of the horses and dogs existed in real life…does that count?

“Can you remember where you first saw your book on the shelves” – I can promise you I.WILL.REMEMBER.THAT. When it happens.

And now the biggest Frog – PUBLIC SPEAKING. I’ve yet to find out if I can pull this off without my voice going weird and squeaky. I used to read the lesson in church as a child. That didn’t bother me. In my twenties and thirties I became adept at lecturing my offspring. Do either of those qualify as public speaking? I have hollered across a windy field whilst teaching people to ride, so I know the voice can carry when it wants to.

Luckily I have two secret weapons in my armoury.

  1. The lovely, helpful people on the “Alliance of Independent Authors” Facebook group, who have been amazingly generous with hints and tips.
  2. Gin and tonic.

Wish me luck.