Self-Publishing—what not to do

Advisory: This post disregards, violates and otherwise ignores all advice to self-published authors regarding professionalism, such as: Be professional. Or if you can’t do that, at least act professional.

Thursday, November 15, 2012 — afternoon

You’d think I’d know better. I mean, after all, I was a high school valedictorian and managed to earn a bachelor of science in Chemical Engineering. You’d think I could manage to to update my Amazon.com book page. But then I haven’t done that in over a year. Maybe if I were 25 or 30, or whatever age one is at the prime of one’s mathematical ability, which I correlate to analytical ability, or a basic ability to think oneself out of a paper bag, I could have figured it out even if it was a year later. But, no.

I sure hope I haven’t inadvertently unpublished my memoir from Amazon.com. All I wanted to do was update my book description.

Give me strength.

Here’s the good news:

After publicly announcing I was abandoning all efforts at marketing my self-published book, I made personal record-breaking sales in October and am looking at a fairly good month here in November too (still a pittance for real authors, but good for fledglings like me). I don’t know how. I don’t know why. Maybe it has to do with some kind of fancy Amazon.com algorithm that pops my book up in front of the right eyes. Who knows? But I’ll take it.

In his infinite wisdom, Mark says I should keep doing what I am doing—nothing.

I also received a letter this week from the Midwest Book Review where I had requested a review of Dancing in Heaven in July. It read, “I’m very pleased to announce that the November 2012 issue of our online book review magazine “MBR Bookwatch” features “Dancing in Heaven.” (Along with a gazillion other books, but hey, I’ll take it.) You can read it here. It’s under “Greenspan’s Bookshelf” and you have to scroll to the bottom. But it made me all kinds of happy because I can add it to my marketing materials (which are largely nonexistent). And which brings me to the present crisis of the day.

I decided to update my book description on my Amazon.com page.

I read a good article at Catherine, Caffeinated, “The 11 Ingredients of a Sizzling Book Description,” by successful Kindle sales author Mark Edwards. I thought the tips looked good, so I spent all day sprucing up my book description, and attempted to update my Amazon page.

But I forgot (it’s been a whole year remember) how to make revisions and ended up, without fully realizing it, on the publish a book page. You know the rest. (If you aren’t trying to sell a book out there on the web, you can’t imagine what a mangled up mess of author pages, book pages, passwords, user names, web addresses, and a whole lot of other things I have to contend with. And clearly, I am not contending with them very well.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012 — night

I received an e-mail from Amazon.com stating, “Per your request, we’ve unpublished your book, ‘Dancing in Heaven—a sister’s memoir’ . . . It should become unavailable to buy withing 24-72 hours. . .Republishing requires approximately 12 hours.”

I read it aloud to Mark who said, “I thought you were going to keep doing what you had been doing — nothing. Are you trying the Cabbage Patch strategy and building interest by making your book unavailable?”

After two frantic e-mails to Amazon.com, I’m afraid to try to republish it, since it doesn’t appear to be unpublished yet. I know it’s just a matter of a day or two, but I just hope I don’t lose my “likes,” reviews, and tags. I sent a third e-mail.

E-gads.

Now I wait for 12 to 24 hours to see if I’ve made a complete mess of things, or whether the gurus at Amazon.com are going to bail me out.

Stay tuned.

Friday, November 15, 2012 — before getting out of bed

I checked my iPhone for e-mail messages and found this one from Amazon:

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience caused. Every time you make changes for your book in the bookshelf, it will go to the publishing status. (Who knew?) There is nothing to be alarmed as it’s a standard procedure. (Again, who knew?) I’ve republished your book on your behalf. It could take close to 24-48 hours for the title to appear as “Live” on the KDP Bookshelf. It’s common for a product description to take 36 – 72 hours to be fully updated on the web site, so yours should appear online soon.”

Good to know.

Read more posts about self-publishing, some of them actually helpful, at my Self-Publishing page.

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.

A sneak peek of Dancing in Heaven

I just wanted to let all my blogging friends and those who have followed my self-publishing journey know that Dancing in Heaven is being featured in a “Sneak Peek” today by Indies Unlimited.

Indies Unlimited is dedicated to the independent authors, publishers, reviewers and readers. “A major challenge for any indie author is the lack of established infrastructure in place to market indie books. It can be challenging and time-consuming to get the word out about your book, to find reviewers, and to drive traffic to your website or Facebook page. As a new author, I was delighted to discover a very high level of mutual support and camaraderie in the indie author community. This platform is born from that spirit of mutual aid and support.” (About Indies Unlimited)

Dancing in Heaven will also be featured in the Indies Unlimited Store.

The Sneak Preview is a short excerpt from Dancing in Heaven that hasn’t yet been published on my blog. (You can read/hear me read additional excerpts at Dancing in Heaven.)

I’d like to thank Indies Unlimited, and all of my readers in advance for reading and sharing with your social network this opportunity to get the word out about Dancing in Heaven.

I hope you’re having a great day.

The weekend is coming.

Writing through the grief

Just a short note today. I’d like to invite you to read my guest post, How Memoir Writing Helped Me to Grieve My Loss, at Kathleen Pooler’s blog — Memoir Writer’s Journey. Kathleen is a writer and a retired family nurse practitioner. She is working on her own memoir about “the power of hope through my faith in God. Hope Matters” and believes “we are all enriched when we share our stories.” In the 2-1/2 years she’s been blogging, Kathleen  posts writing and publishing tips that have helped her along the way.

I initially found Kathleen on Twitter and when I realized she was a nurse practitioner, I asked her if she’d like to read Dancing in Heaven. Nurses have been among my best supporters. She subsequently read and reviewed Dancing in Heaven on Amazon and Goodreads.

I’d like to thank Kathleen, for the lovely reviews of Dancing in Heaven and for inviting me to be her guest today.

I hope you are able to take a minute to read my thoughts about writing through the grief.

How Memoir Writing Helped Me to Grieve My Loss~ A Guest Post by Christine Grote

Self-publishing update — 2nd Quarter 2012

2nd Quarter Promotional Activities

As I mentioned in my last self-publishing update, my promotional activities for Dancing in Heaven continue to be on a very low burner. When I bump into something like a review site or the opportunity for a guest post, I try to take advantage of it, otherwise I’ve pretty much moved on.  I know that Dancing in Heaven is available for anyone who wants to read it. I may try to place an ad or contact select places that might have an interest, but the overall marketing approach that many self-published authors take is not for me. I continue to be amazed that sales are trickling in one at a time, a handful a month. Who are these brilliant people who are finding and buying my book? I’ll never know, but am grateful for them. They are keeping Annie’s story alive.

I did have a couple of fun speaking events in April.

04-05-2012 — Spoke at Jeffrey Hillard’s Cincinnati Authors class at the College of Mount St. Joseph
04-11-2012 — Spoke to the Friends of the Library group and students at Kettering College in Dayton, Ohio
04-18-2012 — Talked with readers at an extended book club meeting hosted by Nancy Chadwick

05-31-2012 — Announced winners of a book giveaway on my Facebook author page

You can read about all three of my April speaking events at my April 19 blog post: Readers continue to amaze, surprise, inspire, and uplift me.

Reviews and Interviews:

The following book reviews and guest posts were published by bloggers in April through June:

06-02-2012 — Guest post at Wrote by Rote
06-07-2012 — Review by Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess
06-07-2012 — Interview at Reviews by Jane
06-28-2012 — Dancing in Heaven appeared in the UD Magazine on the Alumni Bookshelf and online at UD Quickly

Future Promotional Activities

I continue to be undecided about the Amazon KDP Select program that I mentioned in January. For now I’m doing nothing about it.

I may decide to pay for an advertisement if I find a site that I believe would be good for it.

I plan to request a review from the Midwest Book Review.

I will continue to look for possible reviewers.

I am scheduled to speak at the Cincinnati Author’s class at the College of Mount St. Joseph in the fall.

2nd Quarter Sales

Month Number sold
April  31
May  9
June  20
2nd Quarter Total 60
1st Quarter Total 74
December Total 42
November Total 34
October Total 33
Grand Total  243

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Helen Keller, American Writer and Lecturer

See links to more posts about my self-publishing journey.

A Review: It Rains in February by Leila Summers

It Rains in February: A Wife's Memoir of Love and LossIt Rains in February: A Wife’s Memoir of Love and Loss by Leila Summers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It Rains in February, the story of author Leila Summers’ journey with a severely depressed husband intent on ending his life is a compelling story. In some ways I felt like I was on a speeding train headed for a certain crash ahead, but with no way off.  And no way to stop the train.

Sometimes there is nothing we can do.

Through sharing her thoughts, feelings, hopes, struggles, and desperate actions along this fateful journey to try to save her husband’s life, Summers gives us all the great gift of a beam of light shed upon one of the most inconceivable tragedies anyone ever has to face—the loss of a loved one to suicide.

“Why did she do it?” “How could he possibly do it?” “I can’t believe she did it.” We all ask these questions when we hear someone has taken his or her own life.

After reading It Rains in February, you may not understand one thing more than you do today about suicide or the possibility of prevention. But you might gain a glimpse into the heart and soul of a tortured man and the helpless and hopelessness of a woman who loved him beyond reason, who made every valiant attempt to save him, and who, in the end, could only suffer the blow.

This book will stay with me a long time.

My gratitude to both Leila Summers and Robyn for her courage in telling the tale.

View all my reviews

A hat trick week for Dancing in Heaven

I want to thank all of you who followed me around the blogosphere this week. First I had the kind invitation from Arlee Bird to guest post at Wrote by Rote. Then my dear blogging friend, Marion Driessen, from the Netherlands posted her amazing review of Dancing in Heaven on Figments of  a Dutchess. And now to end this incredible week, Kaity-Jane has posted a book-showcasing of Dancing in Heaven and a short interview at Reviews by Jane. If you can spare a minute today I hope you’ll stop over there.

A big thank you to Arlee, Marion, and Kaity-Jane. It’s been a great week.

Dancing in Heaven receives glowing first international review

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Those of you who regularly follow my blog will know that I recently sent a copy of Annie’s story dancing across the ocean to the small country of the Netherlands where my blogging friend Marion waited with open arms.

This morning I sat at my computer intent on posting a blog I had written yesterday about motherhood, but first I checked my email. That’s where I found out that Marion has finished Dancing in Heaven and written an absolutely heart-breaking review of the book. It continues to both surprise and validate me when readers are able to put into words what I had hoped to write. Marion has done this.

I hope you have a minute to stop over and read the conclusion to our ongoing series about Dancing in Heaven‘s trip to the Netherlands.

Dancing in Heaven

Posted on June 7, 2012 by Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess

“As I turned the last page, tears were streaming down my face. Happy that sweet little Annie was finally able to dance in heaven, no longer hampered by the prison that her body had been for her sparkling and merry mind. Sad that her radiant smile was now only a memory.” Continue

Photo courtesy of Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess June 7, 2012

This was a fun and rewarding adventure for me and Annie’s story. If you missed any of the posts you can find them below.

Thank you Marion. You’re a terrific writer and friend.

Waiting for miracles

I debated whether or not to post this. It came to me like a flash a few days ago. That often means there’s a revelation or message for me in it. I realize now that this is more about Annie miracles than book miracles. It’s a journey I’m on. Growing up with Annie had a profound effect on me; I’ve never denied it. As I mention in Dancing in Heaven, a lot of things got buried out of various needs: not to be a problem for my parents, not to feel guilty about my abilities—there’s probably a whole laundry list of things that happen in a child with a disabled sibling.

I debated because I don’t want everyone to think I’ve given up on Dancing in Heaven. I feel more at peace with its publication than ever. I hang on to the words of one of my faithful readers, William, who commented, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” I think I’m off the starting blocks and well into the race. I’ve worked out the early kinks and pains, and am settling into a comfort zone in this particular marathon. I intend to continue to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. And I’ve got an idea or two that I hope to try. I’m just going to enjoy the view as I run, or in my particular case, walk.

(You might enjoy these humorous posts from William at Speak of the Devil: for dog-lovers—A day in the life of a dog, and for those who prefer feline friends—A day in the life of a cat. I promise you will at least smile and likely laugh. I did.)

~~~~~~~

I join the ranks of all the other writers I’ve read about who want to write, want to publish, but do not want to do the work necessary to promote their books.

Maybe it’s Annie’s story. Maybe it’s because it’s history, and family, and love. Maybe it’s because we always treated her gently and held her close. Even though talking about Annie’s story with others is rewarding, sending out press releases, holding book launch parties, and drumming up business at bookstores has never felt right.

Maybe if I wrote fiction, a fantasy or suspense. . .maybe then I would feel justified in beating the bushes and announcing to the world at every opportunity that I had a book to sell. Maybe I could approach it in the more professional manner I am continually encouraged to do in publishing-and-promotion-self-help posts and articles I read.

Maybe deep back in the dark recesses of my mind I always thought a miracle might happen for Annie’s story. Just like I grew up hoping for a miracle to happen for Annie. But miracles for Annie didn’t happen then. Why should the miracle of her story happen now?

Books from unknown authors, particularly self-published authors, don’t sell without people knowing about them. Promotion is required.

I see now that I may not be able to adequately promote that which is closest to my heart.

So I’ll wait for a miracle. That’s nothing new. I’m used to waiting for miracles.

R.I.P. Annie.

Marion waits for Dancing in Heaven in the Netherlands

 I wrote in yesterday’s post that Marion in the Netherlands is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Dancing in Heaven, as you can see from her blog post today “A book dancing across the ocean” at Figments of a Dutchess. I hope you’ll visit her over there in the Netherlands, but if you don’t make it to Marion’s blog, here is a short excerpt:

“The love Christine has for her sister is present in every word, and those words reach out to others, to me. So when Christine asked me if I wanted to receive a copy of Dancing in Heaven, I was delighted. She wrote about what happened next in the humorous post Dancing in Heaven dances across the ocean. Dancing in Heaven needs to be read – to be heard – throughout the world. And its first journey across the ocean will end in the tiny Netherlands. Awesome!

So now I’m in my hallway, keeping an eye on the front door. Waiting for Dancing in Heaven to land in my hands.”

Photo by Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess

Marion is probably going to have to wait from 7 to 13 days including weekends, for my book to get into her hands. I hope she has a chair.

I wondered how exactly my book will travel to get there. So I did a little online research.

I googled: “What happens to my package when I send it overseas?

Google replied with several choices that included:

The US Post Office official site

The US Post Office FAQs

How to find a lost package.

How to recover a package lost in the mail.

How to fill out the US Post Office customs form.

What happens if the post office lost my package?

All this talk about lost packages was starting to make me nervous. So I changed tactics.

I googled: “Sending a package to the Netherlands

Google responded with:

USPS  – Country conditions for mailing.

I looked into this link and found the following interesting information (there was more information that wasn’t so interesting):

Restrictions:

Articles sent for commercial purposes will not be admitted unless the addressee has obtained an import permit

Cigarettes or tobacco products will be admitted only if they are sent from one private individual to another without any compensation or payment and if the package contains no more than 800 cigarettes, 400 cigars, or 1 kilogram (approximately 2.2 lbs.) of shag or cigarette tobacco.

Meat or meat products (including poultry and wild game) and milk or milk products cannot exceed 1 kilogram (approximately 2.2 lbs.), and any such products must be accompanied by a veterinary certificate issued by the responsible official authority from the country of origin.

Value Limit:

The maximum value of a GXG shipment to this country is $2,499 or a lesser amount if limited by content or value

Size Limits:

The surface area of the address side of the item to be mailed
must be large enough to completely contain the Global
Express Guaranteed Air Waybill/Shipping Invoice (shipping
label), postage, endorsement, and any applicable markings.
The shipping label is approximately 5.5 inches high and
9.5 inches long.

Maximum length: 46 inches
Maximum width: 35 inches
Maximum height: 46 inches
Maximum length and girth combined: 108 inches

(Source of this information: http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/mo_022.htm Restrictions)

I realized I was off on a tangent, so I pulled it back together and googled: “USPS Package Handling.”

I got a YouTube link as a response.

Not a confidence builder.

Somewhere in my wild goose chase, I found a link to Netherlands Mailing address formats . . ., a worldwide -parcel services company from the UK sending parcels to the Netherlands, and a site comparing Shipito, My US and BongoUs rates, none of which I have any familiarity with, but perhaps should look into. Especially in light of the abundance of USPS lost package links.

I gave up trying to find helpful information about exactly what path my book would travel to get to the Netherlands, and decided to figure it out myself.  I found this world map online (from the University of Texas, reportedly created by the CIA).

You might think that would be easy. But no. The image was a PDF. I opened it in Adobe Acrobat and exported as a jpeg, saving it to my desktop. I opened the jpeg with PhotoShop (Perhaps I could have opened the PDF with PhotoShop? Don’t know. And at this point, don’t care.) Anyway I eventually got it cropped, resized, transferred to Illustrator where I could draw little circles on it. (Again, perhaps I could have done this in PhotoShop?)

And here it is. My first (and possibly last) installment of Dancing in Heaven’s journey across the sea.

Map showing Cincinnati and the Netherlands

I was told it will take 6 to 10 business days for Dancing in Heaven to get from Cincinnati to Marion in the Netherlands. I figure it probably will fly to somewhere on the east coast, perhaps New York City. That flight takes 2 hours and 11 minutes. Then it will fly overseas from there to Amsterdam. The flight from NYC to Amsterdam takes 7 hours and 10 minutes. I don’t know how long it will take to get from Amsterdam to the city where Marion lives. But since the Netherlands is only about half the size of South Carolina, it can’t possibly take that long.

But perhaps there isn’t all that much mail traveling to the Netherlands from the US. So maybe Dancing in Heaven will make a stop in the UK, or France, or Hong Kong for all I know. Without tracking information, I’ll never know. Or maybe Greenland. Greenland is right up there between our two countries.

Regardless, the way I figure it, Dancing in Heaven is going to be spending a lot of time being sorted, traveling in a vehicle from one post office to another, waiting in mail bins, more sorting, waiting at the airport, flying, more sorting, more waiting, etc., until it finally reaches Marion.

Sorry I got a little technical, Marion. Sometimes that engineering side of me won’t be held down.

. . .Just another post, that took way more time than it was worth, from Christine M. Grote who does have better things to do but doesn’t realize it.