So I Self-Published THE NORTH – Release Day Thoughts

menorthI have no idea whether this book is going to sell. I hope it does because its sales will determine whether I start writing the second in a planned trilogy.

I had offers on the table from a couple of small publishers but as mentioned in an earlier blog post, I didn’t see there was anything they could offer that I couldn’t already do myself.  I came very VERY close with a publisher I could only dream of being published by, but they felt the market was flooded with zombie books and would have difficulty getting sales in an over-crowded market.  And maybe they were right, who knows?

So, this is a brand new work and it’s 100% self-published. I did hire an editor to clean up the manuscript and it went through a series of reads via beta readers, so thank you beta readers. Will I self-publish again? Beats me … it’s a hell of a lot of work and I’d really rather be writing than formatting and dinking around with Adobe Illustrator for the cover art. I honestly don’t know where authors who have been successful at self-publishing find the damned time to write new stuff, there’s just so much to do. At any rate, here are some things I’ve learned since deciding to self-pub this project:

1) It’s a lot harder to get retweets promoting the book. Could be due to the fact that people don’t want to get spammed. I try to limit my promotional tweeting.

2) It’s been hard to get likes on Facebook – possibly the same reasons.

3) This one surprised me: it was really hard to give away e-arcs! I only managed to giveaway twenty-three of them in total!

4) There were a total of 8 pre-orders on Amazon.

5) It was up for pre-order over at Smashwords and I didn’t sell any. Actually, all of my books save for POLTERGEEKS and STUDENT BODIES are available at Smashwords and I have sold precisely none. All of my sales have come from Amazon – draw your own conclusions from that.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. I shall give it the old college try and see if I can make something resembling a success out of this book. I’ve learned that outside of hiring a publicist or spending a boatload of money I don’t have, my marketing efforts will be limited to social media. This is nothing new for me – I didn’t have any real marketing support for my two Strange Chemistry Books titles so I got the word out the best I could. The sales were abysmal. I suspect the sales for all the Strange Chemistry Books authors were/are abysmal, hence the reason they shut their doors less than two years after opening.

I think that experience also had a lot to do with my decision to self-publish THE NORTH. I’ve had bad luck with two publishers in a row now – it tends to wear a person down.

Anyway, I do hope you buy my book. I think it’s a great read. It’s pretty bleak. It’s pretty dark. It’s pretty hard to find hope when the world burns … but hope can happen.

Enjoy THE NORTH! If I sell enough, I will write the second one. You can get it at Amazon in print and Kindle format and over at Smashwords for epub! (The ebook is on sale this week only for $1,99 at Smash and Amazonistan!)

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The Tipping Point of Publishing – We’re All Hybrid Authors Now

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Malcolm Gladwell argues that the tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.  Yeah, I know the book came out 12 years ago, but it’s almost as if he foresaw the power of social media, for example … that moment when something like an ALS ice bucket challenge hits critical mass and suddenly everyone and his/her dog is doing it.

I’ve been thinking about the challenges in publishing since Angry Robot Books YA imprint shut its doors less than three years after bursting onto the scene with great fanfare. A bunch of authors I know with book deals wound up having them cancelled. Other author friends of mine are hanging in limbo. We are all waiting to get word on whether we have a fight on our hands to get our rights back. (My hunch is that we probably will have to fight because nothing is ever easy, is it?)

Hachette is fighting with Amazon. Amazon is fighting with Hachette. One group of authors has an open letter asking Amazon to lay off while self-published authors are openly supporting Amazon’s position.

2014 has been a crazy year in publishing and I have to wonder: are we nearing a tipping point that changes publishing forever? Have we already tipped and is the new paradigm starting to take shape? Is the future of publishing one of hybrid authors? Is it just self-published books and will authors ever make the kind of money they made a generation ago?

So much has changed so fast. Agents are offering publicist services. Some agents are developing their own in-house imprints for their client’s back lists. Smashwords is a bona-fide phenomenon. Kindle Direct Publishing is kicking ass everywhere and Amazon OWNS … they freaking OWN 90% of the ebook market world-wide.

That’s a staggering figure.

And I don’t know how the existing traditional model can continue when there is so much uncertainty. Nobody has a clue where things are going, but if you look closely you might see some writing on the wall.

I think the phenomenon known as “showrooming” where people go into a show room, price the product they want and then go home and buy it online is starting to hit the traditional retail sector in a big way. (Best Buy has been hit hard. Sears. In Canada, Chapters-Indigo, our largest book retailer is dramatically increasing their non-book stock to make up for the losses to Amazon purchases)

We already know bookstores are closing. People are shopping on their iPads and laptops. Out with the old ways and in with the new.

This stuff has happened so goddamned fast. I can’t even keep up with the changes … nobody can!

I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t think traditional publishing is going to survive – at least not in the way we’ve grown accustomed. This will have a dramatic impact on everyone involved in getting books sold under the old paradigm. It’s already hard as hell to find a literary agent … but … does an author even need one anymore if the traditional model is going tit’s up?  Does an author really need a publisher like he/she used to? My two Strange Chemistry titles, POLTERGEEKS & STUDENT BODIES … outside of fantastic cover art and editing, the lion’s share of the marketing was done by me and me alone. The first book wasn’t even in Canadian bookstores until the second book came out … a full 12 months later! Not that it mattered … the bulk of my sales were ebooks by a WIDE WIDE WIDE margin.

And so if digital sales are outselling traditional sales and authors are being asked to do all the marketing for their work … what’s the point, right?

Well, see … we are a vain bunch. Unpublished writers and people like me who’ve been around for a few years … we still cling to the notion that the old model somehow legitimizes our worth as authors. That holding a book in your hand for the first time or seeing it on the shelf of the local bookstore (assuming you can find one) makes it more real.

We want recognition. We really do … because it’s so fucking hard to write a book. We pour our hearts and souls into our work. We are taking something so deeply personal and putting it out to the universe. We want to feel the love, you know?

For me … I still like a lot of what traditional publishing offers in the way of good cover art and of course, professional editing. I like to think I had a relationship with the two traditional publishing houses that thought my stuff was good enough to make offers on. I connected with their authors. I made friends. I traveled to England twice (on my dime – that’s what my advance paid for) and took part in a big shindig to launch my 1st Strange Chemistry title (my agent organized this). I along with another author who is a good friend organized all my author visits last September during my second trip to promote STUDENT BODIES. Very simply, I’ve been alone for a long time when it comes to getting the word out about my books. We are all of us, alone to promote our work because publishers aren’t really that interested anymore unless you’re an established brand.

Over the past few months I’ve come to the realization that this is the new reality. Things tipped or are in the process of tipping or possibly crashing into the ground with a great big wet, sticky sounding SLAP!

I still believe in traditional publishing, but I believe even stronger now that for me at least, a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing is going to be the way forward.

What a freaking learning curve. An entire industry is driving down a dark winding highway with no idea where that road is leading. Oh, and the headlights just conked out.

As John Lennon once sang, “strange days indeed … most peculiar Mama.”

I started a writer’s group here in Saskatoon with more than 40 members now. I’m going to be telling the everyone  the future of publishing is in being a hybrid author. 

And that’s not a bad thing. Not bad at all.

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Wait … what? Another Cover Reveal? (Adventures in self-publishing)

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My experiment with self-publishing continues! Funeral Pallor is the second in my Valerie Stevens series, first published by Snowbooks back in 2010. I’m self-publishing it with groovy new cover art and a relatively attractive price point. $3.99. This one combines two of my favorite things: urban fantasy & zombies. Here’s what it’s about:

There’s a nest of zombies in an old city warehouse and they’ve got a hankering for human flesh, but that’s the least of Valerie Stevens’ problems. While necromancers are a dime a dozen, these mindless killing machines all share one thing in common: they’re former occupants of every funeral home in the city. 

All the evidence points to Val’s best friend, the zombie Caroline. (She’s the only sentient zombie in existence & lately she’s been having trouble explaining her whereabouts.) If Valerie plans to clear her best friend’s name, she’ll have to move fast: someone has dispatched a zombie assassin and there’s a dark plot to overrun the city with the living dead. 

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Self Publishing Confession: Why I’m Self-Pubbing my next book

 newnorthcoverI’m fond of this cover art because I think it encapsulates the bleak , flat and grey landscape for my forthcoming YA post-apocalyptic thriller THE NORTH. I wrote it three years ago and it’s been through a hell of a lot of revision since I penned it during NaNoWriMo. It’s the zombie apocalypse, or rather, six months past Day Zero – the day when the old world ended … but the zombies aren’t the primary antagonists, they’re just another hazard for my group of teen soldiers as they fight their way out of a city ruled by the dead in a pair of barely serviceable armoured personnel carriers and into open country where a bigger, more sinister danger threatens to end them.

THE NORTH is the first of three books, I plan to release the second installment in October 2015 and the final book in October 2016. I’ve decided to self-publish the first one in spite of the fact that I had a perfectly good offer on the table from a respectable independent publisher of zombie/post-apocalyptic books. Why?

Because I didn’t see anything they could offer that I wasn’t able to do myself.

There was a higher than standard ebook royalty offered, I turned it down. I was offered the rights back if it didn’t hit the top 100 in the first six months. (For post-apocalyptic books). I was offered the cover art even if it didn’t work out. And after spending two weeks humming and hawing about it, I politely declined.

My experience after five published works is that authors are continually in a cycle of self-promotion. Sure, the publisher has 20K likes on their Facebook page and likely a built-in fan base for their books, hell, I’d probably get a nice initial bump in sales from that. But then I spent some time on Amazon and researched post-apocalyptic books including the ones with zombies … there are some huge sellers there and a heck of a lot of them are self-published and priced competitively.

I can still do a blog tour. I can still giveaway e-arcs (which I will be doing in the next couple of weeks so email me at info AT sean DASH cummings DOT ca if you want one for review). I can still post it to Facebook and Twitter. I really didn’t see how this publisher’s marketing efforts save for the 20K likes on their Facebook page would be any different from what I and thousands of other authors do every single day.

And one final thing:  I have control of the price. Had I signed on, that would have been gone. (Not to mention world rights, translation rights, etc, etc, etc.)

You know, it’s a great read. I had one publisher with some big bestselling books under their belt love the story to death and want very much to publish it, but they were worried it wouldn’t sell because the market is flooded with zombie books. (Even though this isn’t exactly a zombie book, but I digress and the numbers of sales for self-pubbed zombie books would indicate there’s still a very strong market, so perhaps he was thinking bookstores as opposed to online?)

Anyway, it’ll be an adventure. I hope it sells. I hope it sells so much that I can get new hair, a fur coat and a 1967 Mustang. It might not sell, but then again it might not sell if it was traditionally published. I know the risks. I know it’s on me now.

And that’s just fine.

It’ll be released on October 6th for epub, Kindle and print via Create Space. Oh, and you can pre-order it today …how cool is that?

Here we go!

PS. I am in love with the cover art for this one 🙂

 

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Self-Publishing Confession: I have no idea why this book is selling.

My book Unseen World has had a wild ride since it first became available to purchase back in 2009. Lyrical Press, then a startup ebook publisher and now an imprint of Kensington Books was its first home with this cover art:

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Anyway, the darned book didn’t sell. You couldn’t give it away, which is weird, because it’s really a pretty fun read – but then I’m biased. Anyway, Lyrical Press gave me my rights back – more publishers should give the rights back to books if, for example, that publisher closes their doors less than two years after opening to great fanfare. That was a pretty classy move on Lyrical’s part.

Unseen World came back two years later – this time in print with Snowbooks in the UK. It had this cool cover:

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Guess what … it didn’t sell. I think it actually sold worse than it did when it was published by Lyrical Press. But … to Snowbooks credit, they too gave me back the rights to all three of my books published by them. The Snowbooks titles are still out there for sale if anyone wants them.

Flash forward another three years. I’ve just learned that Strange Chemistry Books is closing its doors. I’ve had two books published by them and I’ve got three books with the rights back. So I said to hell with it … I’m going to self publish Unseen World with a different title via Kindle Direct Publishing and with this cool new cover art that I whipped together.

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And the strangest thing is happening … the frigging book is selling. For the life of me, I have no idea – maybe it’s that I’m selling it for 99¢ that people are deciding to take a chance on it. There haven’t been many reviews either on Amazon or on Goodreads, but there are a few more five star ratings so that’s nice. As of this morning, here is where it’s sitting:

 

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Like … wow. I really don’t know why it’s selling, but Marshall Conrad has been in the top 50 for Superhero books for nearly two months now and in the top 100 Dark Fantasy for nearly thirty days. It’s up there alongside big name authors like Stephen Blackmoore or Charlaine Harris. It has to be the price, right? Maybe? Okay, I’ve experimented over the last month and raised it to as high as $3.99 and it still held its own, remaining in the top 100 for Superhero fiction. I keep raising and lowering the price but it still seems to sell.

What kind of voodoo science is this? I just have no idea why it’s selling. I’m grateful though, you have no idea. Because after Strange Chemistry closing and my sales for Poltergeeks and Student Bodies being fairly abysmal, I was wondering if I should just walk away from all this. Very simply, the strong sales for Marshall Conrad have  been a ray of sunshine in an altogether crummy year for me professionally.

Nevertheless, I’m pressing on. I’m self publishing a new work THE NORTH and it will become available on October 6th. This time I am going to publish via Kindle Direct Publishing and a print version will be available via Create Space. And maybe it will sell. It’s got zombies, action, gun play, armoured vehicles and for the first time … no teen angst in a YA book. None. My characters are too busy trying to stay alive. You can preorder it right now, if you like … just click on the cool cover art. In the mean time and in between time, I’ll post updates on my self-publishing adventures. To everyone who has been buying Marshall Conrad … thanks so much. To everyone who might consider reading something new, THE NORTH won’t disappoint. Have a great Friday, all. 🙂

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