One year later — a review of Self-Publishing

One year ago tomorrow Dancing in Heaven-a sister’s memoir appeared for sale on Amazon.com. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported me on this journey. I’d especially like to thank everyone who read and reviewed the book for me. This has been a big help. You can find links to these reviews at my Dancing in Heaven page.

If you’ve read the book and would like to leave a short sentence or two at Amazon.com or Goodreads, it’s not too late. The reviews absolutely help me.

As I was looking back over my posts regarding my memoir and self-publishing, I came across the following:

I know I need to write her story, but I am afraid I have waited too long and won’t be able to remember it clearly. I am afraid it is too soon and I will remember it too well.October 5, 2009 – from Dancing in Heaven

I remember very clearly writing this in the middle of the night at our old house with Arthur, who was just a puppy then, at my feet, three years ago,  almost exactly two years before I published the finished story.

Isn’t it funny that it all started at this same time of year?

I had a finished draft a year later in November of 2010 and started deliberating about what I should do with it. I’m not going to drag you through all that again, but if you missed it, you can find all my posts about Self-Publishing here. By June of 2011 I had decided to go forward with self-publishing and with a lot of help from my graphic designer daughter, had a proof copy in my hands before the end of September. I did a little video of that thrill to share with you in case you missed it. That was a high point of the journey.

After a few rounds of proof copies and edits, Dancing in Heaven went up on Amazon.com, and other sites as well, October 7, 2011. I was actually visiting our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson when that happened. I had prepared some excerpt posts in advance to be able to blog from St. Louis. For some of these I taped myself reading the excerpt as I sat out on our screened in porch where I sit as I type to you today.

Over the past year book sales have done little more than trickle in. I’ve sold almost or only (however you choose to see it) about 300 books to date. And I owe a nice portion of that to three individuals: my good friend, teacher, and mentor, Jeff Hillard who has made Dancing in Heaven one of the required books for his Cincinnati Authors’ class two years running;  a good friend and high school classmate Nancy Henry Chadwick who chose it for her book club’s selection and hosted a book discussion; and Teresa Hutson Simmons, also a friend and classmate as well as the librarian at the Kettering College of Medical Arts, who shared the book with her colleagues and invited me to speak to students. Friends and bloggers who wrote reviews, interviewed me, or allowed me to guest blog also were very helpful in promoting the book. Again, links to these can be found at my Dancing in Heaven page.

At first I had a pretty good idea who was buying my book. Now when the sales trickle in, I always wonder. Who is it? Where did they hear about it? I sold one book recently in the UK — my first book sold out of this country. Is that one of you out there reading my blog? I’m happy that Dancing in Heaven has made its way into the right niche market at Amazon.com judging by what recommendations come up when I search for it.

I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve given away over the past year, but if I were guessing I’d say in the neighborhood of 50 — not all that many, but a fairly high percentage of those that I sold. I’ve debated doing mass giveaways, one of the Indie tactics to generate publicity and sales, but I’m not convinced that it will actually result in readers of the book. If anybody asks me for a book, I gladly will give them a digital copy. If someone offers to do a review, I send them a print version if they’d like. Many people have told me they’ve shared the book with someone else, so it’s hard to know how many people have actually read it. But I think 350 is a good, yet conservative, number. And I really don’t think that is bad.

Early out I made efforts to get reviews, to get involved with Indie organizations and support groups, and to try to promote my book. I quickly became disenchanted with what I saw as the Indie rat race, and soon stopped overt efforts. I know that my sales would be much better if I would promote the book with any regularity, energy, and enthusiasm. I just don’t want to spend my time doing that. I still occasionally make a lame effort or two at promotion, but mostly I have removed myself from that arena and will allow Dancing in Heaven to sink or swim on its own.

Would I do it again and self-publish another book?

I’ve thought about this a long time, and I believe I would. In fact, I probably will, if I ever finish my father’s story.

Would I show it to someone from a major publishing house if they came to me and asked to see my manuscript? Duh.

Will I spend a lot of time generating book proposals and summaries and query letters and wait perhaps years to try to get my next book accepted by an agent and then published? Not likely.

Will I do anything differently the next time? I will probably make every effort to keep my costs as low as possible. But I still will pay for good editing and cover/book design.

As disenchanted as I’ve been with trying to rise above the clamor and market a self-published book, I’m even more disenchanted with the notion of having to get that opening paragraph of a query letter so perfect that it will knock the socks off the agent who is buried beneath a pile of them. Did that agent have enough coffee that morning? Is she in a good mood when she opens my envelope? Was mine the last one to be opened at the end of a very long day? I just can’t deal with that kind of stress and dependence on luck and timing.

If I were a famous personality would I try to get an agent? You betcha.

Do I hope the world of self-publishing figures out a way to separate the wheat from the chaff? Of course. (Assuming my book/s fall into the category of wheat.)

Am I glad 350 people have read my sister Annie’s story? Absolutely. It’s made it all worth while to me.

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35 thoughts on “One year later — a review of Self-Publishing”

  1. I imagine you have touched way more lives than 350 with your book without knowing it! I admire you for the perseverance and your writing ability! Congrats on all you have achieved—–don’t downplay it! It is a huge accomplishment!

  2. You echo many of my own thoughts, Christine. I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing and promotion over the past couple of weeks. I know I should be doing more to promote Two Hearts but I find myself unconsciously or consciously digging my heels in and balking at the prospect of putting myself out there. For one thing I don’t have the time available that I would like because I’m still working full time at a corporate job that has me feeling exhausted at the end of the day. As I get older I’m less inclined to want to do things that go against my natural personality–and self-promotion is definitely contrary to who I am at the core! I don’t know what the answer will be for me yet. Still I believe independent writers like you and I have stories worth telling that will touch the hearts of readers.

    1. Marketing is always the problem, isn’t it?
      I’m with you, “as I get older I’m less inclined to want to do things against my natural personality.”

      I loved your book. I still need to put up a little review at Amazon. My life is chaos right now. 🙂

      1. i think it would be a lot of fun and get a lot of exposure too. There’s a lot of self published authors to don’t want to play the on line game of self promotion. It’s time consuming,f or one thing, and just doesn’t feel quite right.

  3. The key to successful “Self” promotion is NOT to promote your “Self.” Instead, focus on how the buyer, customer, client, reader will BENEFIT from reading the book.

    When you market that BENEFIT, you are not engage in “self promotion” . . . you are performing a “selfless act of service” by bringing the BOOK and its message to their attention.

    Of course, if a writer can’t perceive a benefit to THEM . . . maybe they shouldn’t be writing in the first place. 😉

    1. I understand all that. I don’t think that’s hanging me up too much. I think it’s the time factor. It just takes a lot of time, and a fair amount of drudgery. Maybe I should be more committed to sharing her story, because I still very much believe that it has a lot to offer to the right readers. The work and time come in with identifying and reaching out to the right readers. I’m not stopping. But it is definitely on a keep-warm only burner.

  4. I have really enjoyed following your self publishing story, Christine, so I very much appreciate this year’s retrospective. And I’m so glad that you would do it again. You’ve given me lots to think about and many pointers as I’ve considered my own possiblity of self publishing. Thank you for another great post!

    1. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it, Julia. I think you and I are alike in many ways, Julia. I understand the desire to be published with all the bells and whistles. And if I had written a novel I might have had more patience to try that route. This book was a lot more to me than just a story. And I needed to move it out.

      Ultimately, I realized that having people read what I write is more important than seeking the fame and honor of finding a publisher. I also had to believe in myself and my quality as a writer. I had to validate myself. I still waver on that sometimes, but I’ve spent the largest part of my life getting little to no feedback or validation from others once I dropped out of the work force.

      I don’t know what the future holds. You’ll figure it out for yourself.

  5. Congratulations on your courage and honesty about the whole self publishing verses agent publishing differences. I am in the middle of my third draft now of my memoirs that has taken me nearly three years to write. I am now facing the decision of which way to go myself. I am leaning towards self publishing simply because I have an urgency in my soul to get it out there. Unlike you, I am anxious to market the book in anyway I can. I don’t look at it as (self promotion) but rather I have a story to tell and my motivation is to help others. I am ready to do the public speaking, book clubs and anything else I can think of. I am very green at all of this and I’m trying to learn as much as I can. I’ve enjoyed reading about your journey!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Sherry. I also felt an urgency to get my story out and that is a large part of why I chose to self-publish. To be truthful, I never actually tried to get an agent, but based my decision on other people’s experiences with it.

      I actually have spoken to several groups and a book club. I recently offered to speak to another book club that is planning to read Dancing in Heaven. I’m not opposed to doing that, in fact I enjoy being able to answer people’s questions about my family and to support the inevitable people in the group who have or know of someone in similar circumstances.

      The part I don’t like is finding the speaking engagements and bookclubs to talk to, the websites to post on, etc. It is a lot of time-consuming work. I know if I put my mind to it I could target people who have similar interests.

      I’m sure if you have the energy and enthusiasm, you will do quite well. Good luck with your project.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I have something of a love-hate relationship with it. But I’m not taking my book down from the internet. It’s going to be one more piece of digital dust through the ages.

  6. I haven’t read your book, but as an author who danced awfully close to self-publishing before being picked up by a small publishing company, I have to say your cover is one of the most fetching and artistic I’ve seen in the SP world. Congratulations to you and your daughter.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. My daughter is a professional graphic designer, albeit a fairly inexperienced one, but I love her work. She actually designs text books for McGraw Hill and has been doing that for about 2 years.

      I sent out one query letter to a contact I had from someone else and never heard any kind of response. Other than that, I really didn’t try to get a publisher but decided to go it alone from the get-go. Too lazy to write all the stunning paragraphs, summaries, letters, and proposals.

      Congratulations on your book deal. Your persistence paid off.

    2. By the way, I tried to find you through your avatar (the little square beside your name) and it wasn’t linked anywhere. You can set up an avatar and add links to your blog or website so that people can visit you in return. Let me know if you want or need information about how to do this.

  7. Thank you for sharing this story of your ‘behind the scenes’ reflections. It is refreshing to hear the real deal. I also think it makes your sister’s story all that more precious, knowing the struggles you went through to tell it.

    I’ve never written a review on Amazon before, not understanding the importance of it. I will make a point to do so once I’ve read your book. Thank you for teaching me that, and for being so open about your writing process.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Denise. It’s humbling, but important, I think, to let people know what the world of self-publishing is like for most. And I think my experience is similar to most.

      I have no regrets for writing and publishing Annie’s story. You can’t imagine all the positive feedback I’ve gotten. I’ve had people thank me for writing it.

      Thanks in advance for the review. In this digitized world, reviews and ratings make all the difference in how often and under what circumstances your book pops up for shoppers on Amazon. There’s a lot to learn about optimizing your marketing, but I just haven’t gone there.

      I look forward to seeing what you think if you read Annie’s story.

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