Final Draft

Kindle Promos are Great!

There’s four major eBook providers, well three major ones and then Google. Of those major players (Google, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon), only Amazon lets you make your book free for a period of time. You get five days every six months to make your book free. I had good luck with it when I did it last year and just did it again last week. (If you don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you missed out on that announcement.)

Like last year, I had some good results. Lots and lots of downloads over the five day period, which coincided with my repetitive tweets and messaging about it. The number of downloads last week essentially doubled the number of people who’ve downloaded A Sour Chord. Which, granted, isn’t a whole lot in the last 9 months, but I’m still happy to be getting feedback from people about it.

A friend from high school read and finished it in a couple of days last week and had this to say:

Shit. Wow. Totally unexpected. Great job M. Jandreau. My hat is off to you. I LOVED LOVED LOVED it.

It was accompanied with a glowing (and much more wordy) review on Amazon, which truly made my day. I came into this not looking for money or fame, but looking to touch people emotionally, to get into their heads and make them think and feel and live and love. And that’s what I’ve been doing from the feedback I’ve been getting, and I truly love it.

My Last Days is just about ready to go to the editor to get chopped, sliced, butchered, beaten up, slapped around, and kicked in its proverbial teeth. I’m hoping that we’ll get through that pretty quickly and move onto the final draft before having the artwork done to be published.

Once that happens, my idea for book #3 will start getting planned out. Talk about an expensive hobby, I hope at least one of these books makes me a couple of bucks, because I’m bleeding money into this hobby of mine. Editors and artists are expensive!

If you read A Sour Chord, I’d really love it if you could drop a review on whichever site you bought/got it from. Even if you hated it, I still love seeing the feedback!

How do other authors do it?

I published A Sour Chord on May 18th of this year and immediately went back to work on My Last Days, trying to finish that book’s first draft.

Since then, sales of A Sour Chord have dropped off significantly, selling maybe one or two copies a month on Kindle or iBooks, none on the other platforms. I don’t know how other authors do it, really. Mentally focusing on finishing writing one book, while still trying to promote the other.

I imagine that the more books I write and publish, the harder this will become. Trying to promote four or five books while finishing a sixth seems like an impossible feat.

I supposed in some cases, successful authors have marketing people or teams that handle that aspect of their business. But since I’m making less than a buck a month selling A Sour Chord, I can’t really afford to spend any money to hire someone to run that part of this for me.

It gets you down a little bit, seeing your hard work get lost in a seas of a million or more other self published authors, all trying to get the attention of someone looking to spend a buck on a book they haven’t heard of. But then something magical happens. A message, a tweet, a random email from a stranger. Someone telling you that they read your book and loved it.

That happened last week, and it made me smile all through the weekend.

A friend’s dad read it. Someone I’ve never met in my life, but I’ve known his daughter for 20+ years. He stayed up past his bedtime for weeks reading it, and really enjoyed it. He sent me a Facebook message to tell me that he really liked the book and couldn’t wait until the next book was released.

It’s the small things. The lives you get to touch, the emotions you get to evoke, the smiles you know you caused. It’s those little things that make this all worthwhile.

This may never be a full time job or a business for me, or frankly anything more than just a hobby. But I think it’s something I’ll always do and always want to do.

I’m still progressing along with My Last Days. I have a few folks still reading it now and hope to incorporate their feedback before getting into the second draft. It always seems to take longer than I’d like with this process, but it is what it is. I’m doing my best to not get discouraged (and also to not just start on a third book while I’m waiting on this one.)

Spinning My Wheels

I’ve got a handful of people reading My Last Days right now. Not to tell me that I missed a comma or a closing quote or the like, but to tell me what they think of the story. I read through it twice when I finished the first draft and I’m not fully sure that I love it. I like the idea, I like the message I (think I) conveyed with it. But I’m just not sure that I’m in love with the whole thing.

So I’m hoping for some good feedback from those folks that are reading it now. So far, nothing either way, but hopefully soon I’ll get some feedback.

In the meantime, I feel a lot like I’m spinning my wheels. I feel as though if I’m not writing anything, I’m wasting time. Which is a weird feeling, given that this is not only just a hobby, but it’s not like I have a drove of fans waiting for my next book, or a publisher that’s hounding me to get something written.

I just feel like if I’m not doing something, I’m wasting the day.

Sure, I’m working my day job, I’m working on a website or two for fun. But other than that, every day feels more of the same. I wake up, eat breakfast, sit at my desk for eight hours and then do some chores and tasks, make dinner and watch TV. It feels very repetitive lately and I don’t know why I’m in this rut.

Maybe it’s because subconsciously I wanted A Sour Chord to do better than it has done. Maybe I wanted someone to email me, call me or write a review online telling me how much they loved it. Maybe, on some level, that’s done some damage to my mentality and it’s starting to hit me. Maybe the book’s not as good as I wanted it to be.

When I first started working on A Sour Chord, I didn’t tell anyone. I did that on purpose because I’ve, many times in the past, started things and not finished them. That’s sort of my motus operandi. I’ve started and quit so many things in my lifetime, I didn’t want to get anyone excited about this until I knew I was done.

Then when I finished, lots of people were excited. Friends and family wanted to read it. So I, foolishly maybe, started sending it out. I realize everyone’s busy and have their lives to think of, but some people that were so excited to read it still haven’t. It’s been almost three months since it was entirely done and for sale, and some of those folks still haven’t read it yet. Am I being sensitive about that?

I’m wondering if I should start working on something else while My Last Days is being read. I don’t know how long that whole process will take this time. From the end of the first draft through editing, through artwork, through re-reading, through reader feedback until publishing for A Sour Chord was more than a year.

I’m hoping, based on what I’ve learned from last time, My Last Days will go faster. I’m also hoping that once it’s published, I’ll sell some copies. While it’s not — and never has been — about making money for me, it’s sort of nonsensical to spend thousands of dollars on editors and artists to create the finished product when it’s only going make a couple of dollars.

Maybe I need to hire a marketing person. I’ve learned, quite quickly, that I have no idea how to market anything. I was hoping that I’d publish and people would just find the book, but that appears to be the wrong way to think about things. Maybe it’s time to regroup and rethink my strategy.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I realize this is mostly me rambling the thoughts I’ve been trapping in my head for the last couple of weeks, so I apologize.

Back to Work on My Last Days

Now that A Sour Chord is fully done and for sale in the various market places, I’ve decided to put off all of the other real-world tasks that I have to complete and get back to work on My Last Days.

Last week I started re-reading everything I’d written so far, so I can be familiar with my characters again, as well as the story lines I’d written. I probably could have skipped this process, but it’s actually pretty beneficial for a few reasons. Primarily because I’ve already found mistakes and inconsistencies in the first draft, but also because I’m getting back into the head of my main character, which is important for this particular work.

My goal is to finish reading the last 40 pages by Wednesday and get back to writing later in the week or early next.

This is such a fun journey and one that I’m glad that I’m able to do without very much effort or money. (Though, let’s be honest, I spent more than I thought I would on A Sour Chord, but that was worth it.)

I’m shooting to finish the first draft, first round of edits and a second draft by the end of the summer before turning it over to an editor. Then, this time, I’ll do a bigger group of beta readers than I did with A Sour Chord. Hopefully that’ll spark more interest.

I’m also hopeful that a second book will inherently draw more attention than the first anyway, now that I’m not an “unknown” anymore.

If you grabbed a copy of A Sour Chord, thank you! If not, it’s still on sale for 99 cents through the end of June across all platforms. Grab a copy before the sale ends and read it whenever you’d like. Once it’s yours, it’s yours! Also, if you have grabbed a copy, thank you so much. I hope you enjoy it enough to leave a review on the site you purchased from. I’d love that very much!

Published Author: Three Weeks Later

I clicked the “Publish” button across all three of the major publishing platforms three weeks ago today, at least what I thought was the three major platforms.

It was quickly requested to be published to Google Play, which I hadn’t even thought about, as my sister has an Android device now. And I figured I’d publish to Smashwords, too, since that seems to be big amongst the indie author scene. Why not, right? The more places people can find the books, the more likely someone may be to buy it.

Last week I ran one of Amazon’s free book promotions for the full 5 days (Monday – Friday), and got a huge number of free downloads.

So let’s sum up where we are after a long week of pushing hard to get people to buy the book on both Twitter and Facebook:

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Of the 87 sales on Amazon, 77 of them were free copies during the promotion week (which speaks volumes for the free promotion tool Amazon gives you). Which means I’ve sold a hard total of 19 copies so far. Not as great as the the 96 total downloads, but I’m overall pretty happy with that number. Given I have no idea how to market this book and am basically begging and pleading with people to buy it and read it at this point, I think I’m doing a-okay.

I’m hopeful that as these people get free copies and read it, that they’ll like it. And they’ll leave reviews of it, which will help other people to want to read it as well. That’s my hope anyway.

If you’ve grabbed a copy, please leave a review (though an honest one) when you’re done reading. I’d appreciate it.

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!

It’s Official, I did it!

The culmination of a total of 440 days of work has finally come to an end.  The write, edit, and publish journey has come to an end.  What started way back on March 5th of 2013 has finally come to a close as of this morning.

I’m fully published on Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble as of this morning.  You can find the links to those specific providers on the A Sour Chord page.

What took so long? I’m glad you asked.

The first draft took me 17 days (looking back at my daily word counts is sort of astounding. I wrote just shy of 80,000 words in just over two weeks). I wrote another thousand words after reading the first draft over a few times, then handed it off to my buddy Austin for a first pass edit.

That process took close to three months to complete, at which point I hired Lauren to do my real edit.  That took way longer than both of us anticipated, and we didn’t get that complete until mid-February.

At that point, I contracted Scott Pond to do the artwork for the cover artwork.  After a few rounds of back and forth and a handful of iterations, we had the final artwork done last week.

Then the process of compiling the eBook, formatting to the specific publisher’s specifications and getting it through their review process took exactly a week (I submitted it to all 3 of the publishing platforms last Monday morning). And here we are, 440 days later.

I told my first copy last night through Barnes & Noble, and I’ve never in my life been more proud to make a $2.65 commission.

If you buy a copy — even if you hate it — please review a review on whatever service you bought from.  That’d be appreciated immensely!

Phase one is now over.  Phase two is marketing, selling, and re-marketing.  And then I’ll get back to My Last Days and go through this whole thing again.  Once I get some sleep.  Thanks for coming along on this journey with me, dear reader.  Without you this wouldn’t be worth it.

Apple’s Publishing Platform is Terrible

Part of this whole “I’m writing a book” process has been to educate myself about how it works from start to finish — what it’s like to write a book, edit a book, have artwork designed, and finally publish the book.

I’ve been rolling with the proverbial punches since I started this journey in March of 2013.  I haven’t been frustrated at all, despite many parts of the process taking much longer than I wanted.  Until this week.

I was finally done with everything. Artwork done, book compiled into eBook format, ready to publish and start marketing myself and the book.

I uploaded the book to Barnes & Noble first, typed in a few bits of information, uploaded my file and had a button that said “Publish” in a matter of minutes.

Amazon’s process was similar — ready to publish in just a few minutes.

Apple’s process has been frustrating and confusing, to say the least.

I found out that you need their own proprietary publishing software, called iTunes Producer. After downloading 3.0 (the latest version), I had nothing but problems. Even on my brand new Mac Pro (one of the most powerful computers on earth), it just kept freezing.

Google suggested that it was the same for most people who’d upgraded. So I found an older version and used that.

After two, or maybe it was three, hours of confusing unhelpful error messages, I finally got the book to compile into their iBooks format, and started the upload process.

My 1mb file took ten minutes to upload. Ten minutes!

Once that completed I was happy. I was ready to go!

Wrong.  Then Apple’s “review process” began.  They, much like apps submitted to their store, review your book for quality — though it’s unclear what they’re looking for.

This was Monday morning, around 10am.  Cut to Friday, they finally approved my book and made it for sale immediately.

I wasn’t ready to be on sale yet, so I went in and turned off the “Cleared for Sale” option on the United States store, which then triggered an error message in their system.  It eventually fixed itself, but now I see a big error of “Not available in 51 stores” on my book’s management page.  I filled out the contact form yesterday asking for help, but I imagine it’ll be a few days before I hear back.

While the book was up for sale, the “Sample” file that was provided (which may have been my fault), was the entire book, not just a sample.  Clearly no one’s going to buy the book if they can get it for free through the sample.

I’m hoping I can get all of these issues cleared up next week and finally be on sale.

I do have to say, though, seeing the book on an iBooks page and in the iBooks app made me feel an extreme sense of accomplishment.  Even if no one buys it and no one cares about it or likes the story, I did it. And that’s the most important thing for me.

Uploaded and Queued Up

As of around 24 hours ago, I’ve uploaded A Sour Chord to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble were quick and painless.  After mucking around with my eBook format a few times and testing it on their preview systems, I got it right and had it queued up, selected what countries I wanted to sell in, and set my price.  All I have left to do there is click the Publish button on both platforms.

Apple, on the other hand, has a review process built into their system.  I won’t even get into what a pain it is to upload your book to their service if you’ve never done it before — they have their own proprietary app that only runs on OS X (not a big deal, I’m a Mac user), which the current version doesn’t work properly — but I managed to get that all sorted out.

I couldn’t find anywhere in their membership agreement, or documentation when I signed up that they can take up to 30 days to approve your book.  Apparently it’s the same review process that apps for the App Store go through.  I’m not sure if that means I have to wait for someone to actually read the book, or if they just download it, scan through it, and then approve it.

At this point, I’m at the mercy of the might fruit company.  My plan is that once they approve the book, I’ll flip the switch on all three services and be for sale all at once.  Then I’ll have some updating to do here on the website, including publishing the book details, updating the navigation menu, adding buy links, etc.  My task manager app is brimming with things I’ll need to do once I go live.

In case you’re curious, I settled on $3.99 for my initial price and will play with that over time.  It’s surprising how much of that money the companies selling for you take.  For example, of that $3.99, Amazon will give me $1.40.  That’s 35% if you wanted to do the math.

It varies by country, but given that most of my sales will be US based, I’ll get $1.40 per copy sold.

I’m hoping for, and will consider this endeavor a success, if I can sell 100 copies.  Fingers crossed!  Once this waiting game is over, it’s game on.  I don’t want to say that I’ll have to start pimping myself out, but it almost feels that way.

Progress Update: A Sour Chord

After what felt like forever of no progress, things are finally moving in the right direction with A Sour Chord.

I got artwork back from the graphic designer who implemented all of the changes I requested and it looked amazing.  To make sure I was really in love with it, I compiled the book into Kindle and iPad format with the artwork and put it on all of my devices.  I then stared at it for a good three or four hours to make sure it really said what I want it to say.

Turns out, it didn’t.  The concept was the same, but we’re changing a bit of the minor details and should have it finalized by this weekend.  Which means I’m one step closer to publishing.

Since I’m getting so close to publishing, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to two important pieces:

  1. The price point.  I’ve read almost every suggestion on the internet about how much you should charge for a self-published first time novel, and there’s really no right or wrong answer.  I think that’ll come to me in the spur of the moment and I’ll just pick something, wait a couple of weeks and see how it goes.
  2. The description of the book.  All three of the systems I’ll be selling through (Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble) allow you to provide a description of the book to help people know what it’s about.  Writing that — without spoiling the book itself — is proving challenging.  I’ve written four or five so far and will gather feedback from those that have read the book before picking one.

It’s really interested to me to learn that the hardest part of this whole book writing process isn’t writing the book itself.  The book just flew out of me, word after wild word, flowing from my fingers faster than my brain could process what I was writing.  The first draft was finished in roughly four weeks back in April of 2013.

Ever since then, I’ve been working on the harder parts; the editing, the artwork, the setup of the online services.  I had no idea that so much went into this process, but I’m glad I’m learning.  If this goes well and I go back to working on the second book, I’ll be a lot more educated on how this all works.

I’m hopeful that this’ll all tie together in the end and I’ll have something to show for all of my hard work (and money spent) in the next month or so! I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey as much as I have!

Artwork just about done

The graphic designer that’s working on the cover art for A Sour Chord emailed me a few tests last night to see what I thought of them.

We went back and forth a few times about placement of a few of the components and after going back and adjusting them, we’re just about done.

He’s out of town this week for business, but says that he’ll likely be done next weekend when he’s back. Which means I have one week to re-read through the entire book and make sure that it’s really done.  I realize I’ve been calling it “done” for months now, but I want to make really-super-duper-extra sure that I’m fully done.

A few different treatments for the typeface of the title and byline and we’ll be good to go.

I can’t even express how excited I am about getting this done so I can finally get the book on sale.

Once that happens, I’ll be blogging about my experience with the selling process, how I’ve been marketing it, and anything else I can think of that’s interesting. All the while picking up work on My Last Days, that I stopped working on back in October to finish up A Sour Chord.

Also, if you haven’t checked it out yet, my story telling website went up a few weeks ago.  All true stories from my really bizarre life (so far). Feel free to check it out at www.thesearemystories.com

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