Book Sales

Launch day!

It’s been an endless day of fighting with an almost-three-year-old to get eye drops in her eye after emergency cataract removal surgery yesterday. I know, I didn’t know a toddler could get cataracts, either!

But I wanted to take a quick moment and acknowledge two things.

First, it’s been almost six years of my life. Of ups and downs, loves and hates, happiness and sadness, but the day is finally here. My Last Days is officially available as of today.

Second, I wanted to take a moment to sincerely thank each and every one of you who pre-ordered a copy. Further, those of you who’ve already started reading, maybe have finished, and maybe have texted me your thoughts along the way. Thank you beyond words. It means so much to me, especially in this weird state of the world we live in, that you’d spend your hard earned money on my book.

I’d love to say I spent the whole day online, talking the book up, promoting it however I could, and begging you all to tell your friends. But I didn’t. My little girl comes first, and she always will.

One week left to pre-order… and some other updates

The last three weeks have flown by. Almost in the blink of an eye, as they say.

Since launching the new site here and getting My Last Days available for pre-order, things have been a little hectic. I’ve been packing and shipping pre-order copies out myself, which isn’t a big deal. Except I offered a signed copy with a “witty or funny inscription”, which turned out to be much more challenging to come up with en masse than I thought. And, surprisingly, most folks who wanted a signed copy opted for that option. I think my mailman hates me.

That said, time is running out to get a pre-order in. But only if you want a copy before the public gets theirs next week. Digital versions will go on sale on the 6th and I’ll do my best to get your copy to you before then if you order in the next few days.

I’m really pleased with how sales are going so far. I’ve outsold A Sour Chord already, which is not that much as that didn’t sell very well.

I got my first actual piece of press this week, too. Our local town blog posted a nice writeup about me and included details about the book. You can find it here.

That’s about it for now. My anxiety has had me up since 1:30am (it’s now 5am), so I figured I’d knock out an update while I couldn’t sleep.

I hope you’re well and staying safe. Wash your hands and wear a mask for pete’s sake.

So many updates, all at once!

Oh, hi there. It’s been a while, I know. Actually, it’s been over a year. That’s inexcusable, at least in my own eyes.

Anyway, I’ve been up to a lot of things. Besides just living life, being a dad, working my job, working my other job, keeping my humans alive and trying to be a good friend to my close friends, I’ve done two momentous things as of just now:

  1. I published My Last Days! Finally, it’s available for pre-order starting today and will be available on May 6th.
  2. I launched my new author site. This took longer than I’d like to admit, but I’m happy with the result.

As a special offer to those who read my blog, you can use the promo code BLOGREADER on my online book shop will receive 10% off their order, with no limit. Pre-order your paperback or hardcover of My Last Days and you’ll get it on May 1st, before the public. You may even get it sooner than that, if I can get out to the post office to ship them out.

It’s also available for Kindle, Apple and Nook, and is available on Google Play and Smashwords. eBooks are just $2.99 as a promotional launch price. The paperback and limited edition hardcover are on sale until the end of May. Buy them right through my site, pay by credit card, or through your Amazon account.

And, please, tell your friends, loved ones, strangers, the guy at the grocery store. Tell everyone, but do it from a safe social distance.

Thanks for all the love and support over the years while I got this thing finished up and available to you all!

Some annoyances with Self Publishing

It’s been a full five days since A Sour Chord has gone on sale through various publishers, including Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google, and Smashwords.

If you’ve been following along with my blog this entire time, you know that I’m not only doing this because I wanted to write and publish something, but because I was curious to learn about the process of doing so.  I’ve learned some incredible things since I started this process in March of 2013.  Over the past two weeks, though, I’ve learned quite a bit more about actually publishing.

Getting the book online

Once you get the book ready to go — you’ve checked it on your iPad and Kindle a hundred times, mucking with formatting, deciding on a price, making sure everything’s perfect, you’re only halfway there.

Actually getting the book online is a journey not for the faint of heart, though some publishers make it easier than others.

For example, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Google make it incredibly easy to get uploaded.  You create a “project” or “book” (the naming convention varies based on what platform you’re on), type in some information and upload your ePub file.

Smashwords, a lesser known publisher – often frequented by people who want to buy books from a third party but still be able to read their books on their eReaders, is kind of a nightmare.  They have their own formatting rules and guidelines that don’t jive with the same formatting regulations for other publishers.  To be honest, I’ve ignored their warnings and will likely just pull the book down from there as I don’t see any real benefit in having it for sale there.  The actual publishing process is easy, but their special formatting requirements are a bit clumsy when you’ve already got your work formatted perfectly fine.

Apple’s publishing process, for someone who’s never done it before, was quite frustrating.  The entire time I’d been researching how to do this, I had sworn I’d seen that their process was the same as Amazon’s — you just upload your file and you’re done with it.  How wrong I was.  Apple’s publishing process requires using a specific publishing application called iTunes Composer, only available for the Mac.  Not a big deal for me, as I’m a Mac user.

The problem is that if you’ve never used it before, it can be quite daunting to figure out.  It took me a good three hours to get my book uploaded through it, having to fight through a number of cryptic error messages and timeouts while uploading. Not to mention that version 3.0 of their software locked up my computer multiple times before working.

Once I finally got my book uploaded, that was just half the battle.

All of the publishers go through a review process to make sure your book looks right on their devices, is formatted correctly, and doesn’t contain anything hateful.  None of them tell you how long this process should take, and some of them don’t even tell you there is a review process until you click the “Publish” button.

Amazon’s review took about 6 hours.
Barnes & Noble’s took just about 80 hours.
Apple took almost 96 hours.
Google took about 4 hours.
Smashwords took the better part of a day (though I didn’t keep an eye on it diligently, as it was an afterthought.)

My only annoyance with this was that I wanted to have the book “go live” on all platforms at once.  Without knowing how long this process would take, it was impossible to do that.  I had to wait for the process to complete, then unpublish the book and wait for the other publishers to be ready to go.  The only problem with this is that the only publisher that notifies you when they’ve approved your book is Amazon (which they do via email).  The others require you to check back through their website to see if your book’s for sale.

Which brings me to my next point.

Support

Throughout the process I had to reach out to the support teams at most of these publishers, for a variety of reasons.  The reasons aren’t important, but the response times varied greatly, so I thought I’d document them here.

Barnes & Noble

Between email and their live chat support, I contacted Barnes & Noble a total of 5 times over the course of the three weeks when I was getting ready to publish.

The two live chats I had deferred me to email and assured me that someone from the email team would follow up with me in “two business days”, which is the same time frame that they give you when you fill out their “email us” form.

The first email that I sent them got a response after 8 days.
The second email that I sent them got a response after 7 days.
The third email still hasn’t been responded to after 11 days.
The two emails that were generated by the live chat agents (supposedly) haven’t been responded to either.

All of the replies from Barnes & Noble’s email team were frustrating. They deflected the problem, asked questions I already provided the answers to in my initial email, or flat out didn’t understand the question.

The one email that they replied to saying that they didn’t see the problem anymore, was simply because enough time had elapsed between my sending the email and their response that the issue had resolved itself.

Apple

I emailed Apple twice asking for help, both about the same issue.

The first email was responded to in less than 8 hours.  I replied back to that same email four times in that same day, and the Agent handling the case responded to every one of those four emails within an hour of me replying to it.

The second email was responded to in about 2 hours, simply saying something to the effect of “It looks like my colleague is already helping you with this on another case.”

I was okay with that second email’s response.

Google

I reached out to Google to ask a question once I’d finished publishing.  Their website said that my book was live in their store, but I couldn’t find it through their search.

It took them about an hour to write back and say that they simply had to wait for the new book to be indexed by their search, and to “check back in a few weeks”.

While I wasn’t stoked to hear “a few weeks”, they were at least quick about writing back to me.

Note: the book showed up in search results the following morning, not a “few weeks”, like they said.

Smashwords

I’ve said it a bunch of times here — I don’t really care or understand Smashwords.  I don’t think many people will buy my book through there, so I didn’t really have much interest in this.  Some folks on Twitter suggested using them, so I gave it a shot.

I reached out to them asking a question on Monday May 19th.  I’ve yet to get a response.

Amazon

Amazon was the only company I didn’t have to ask for help from.  Their UI was easy to use, the uploading process, territory selection process, and pricing was simple enough that I didn’t need help.

Reporting

The biggest frustration for me was that the various levels of reporting through these five publishers varies enormously.  None of them appear to be real-time at all, though some are updated more frequently than others.

Apple’s reporting doesn’t update until the following day.
Barnes & Noble appears to be delayed by about 5 hours. (I only know this because a friend said she bought a copy, and I didn’t see it show up in “today’s sales” until around 5 hours later.)
Amazon’s appears to be delayed by about 8 hours, but does show you metrics for the same day.

I don’t know about Smashwords or Google Play because I haven’t sold any copies there.  However, Google’s reporting doesn’t really exist.  To be honest, theirs is the most frustrating of all, given the size of their company.

Their reporting interface doesn’t even show you metrics on screen. You have to download a CSV with your data and open it in Excel. Seriously. There’s no web interface at all like the other systems.  Even though the data might be outdated, at least you can see it online.

The last thing I want to do is download a CSV and open it to find out that there are no sales there.

Having to log into the five various publisher websites to see how many total copies I’d sold in a day was annoying me, so I sought out a service that would compile all of the metrics into one web interface.  I stumbled across Vook, which appears to do just that.  However, in the five days I’ve been using it, it appears to be wrong.  They’re not showing any Kindle sales (which their support team says is Amazon’s fault, because they don’t update the data very frequently) and the Apple sales are incorrect.

If they can help iron out those kinks, I think their service would be very beneficial, rather than logging into each of the websites every day to view sales metrics.

The Fifth Day

Today’s the fifth day since A Sour Chord went on sale.  It was finally approved to all of the publishing websites on Monday at around 8:30am EST.

The response has been bigger than I expected — not that much in terms of sales, but moreso in engagement.  Through my primitive marketing skills and efforts, in the course of this week, I’ve managed to:

Increase Twitter followers by 31%
Increase Facebook Likes by over 150% (not that I had many to start with!)
Have my Facebook posts seen by 2,478.6% more people than the previous week.

In addition to that, I’ve also sold a total of 9 copies, which is much more than I thought I’d sell during the first few days.  Nine may not seem like a whole heck of a lot to you, but I’m really really happy with that number.  I had set out a silent and internal goal of selling 100 copies in total, so starting with 9 in the first week is definitely a positive for me.

My hope is that over the coming weeks, those 9 people will rate and review the book and that’ll help with other people wanting to read it.  I think, like with much anything in life, no one wants to be the first to do something.

I’ve learned an incredible amount of things this week about the publishing process, including how amazingly frustrating some of the tools are (which I’ll detail more in a complaining post over the weekend), and I’m just incredibly proud of myself for seeing this all the way through.  That’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life and this book represents a new me, figuratively speaking.

If you’ve bought or downloaded a copy of the book, thank you.  I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing, editing, and publishing it!

Preparation for Selling the Book

As part of my preparations for selling the book once I’m done with all of the other work that’s going into it, there’s a few things that I’ve checked off the list already, including registering with the various websites that’ll sell the book.

As a first time author, I’ve opted to go for the big three: Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble.

Thankfully, each has a program for authors to sell their own work:

I was accepted into all three programs pretty quickly. iTunes took a day or two to approve me, most likely because all things Apple have a human review process.

I also have it on my to-do list this week to register with the Copyright Office, and to buy an ISBN from My Identifiers.  An ISBN is essentially a unique number that’ll identify my book across all mediums, including the library of congress.

There’s some debate whether or not an ISBN is required for a book that’s only published digitally, but I don’t want to take any chances.

As the week progresses, I’ll check these tasks off my list, and keep reading through the first draft making changes where I see fit.

My goal is to have my first round of edits done by the end of next week, and have at least one or two other people read it.  If they say it’s terrible, I’ll hit the drawing board to see what I can do to make it less terrible.  Hopefully that won’t be the case, but as I said this is an extremely personal thing to share with others for the first time, so I’m nervous and second guessing myself the whole way.