The Great Self Publishing Experiment

Okay, so this is the post you have all been badgering me for. Although I will apologize in advance (you’ll see why later) and hope that you all forgive me.

Several months ago, after to many ‘we loved it but we have a million similar books on our list’ rejections I decided to self-publish ‘Again’ as a sort of experiment into self publishing.

I had a look at the genres that a hot in SP right now, and paranormal romance seems to be the thing. So I figured Again was ticking boxes as a potential candidate.

And here’s where I have to apologize. I deliberately uploaded an imperfect version. In fact, what I uploaded was the first draft with only a quick attempt at spell checking via Word.

I know. I’m a bad person. Sorry to anyone who struggled through 200 pages of my spelling. But I assure you it was all for a good cause.

In my attempt to get an ‘authentic’ idea of self publishing I read more SP books in one month than most people will in a life time, and sadly I realised that there are a lot of trends out there that aren’t necessarily good, and I kept seeing the same issues over and over again. I’ve outlined a few below:

1. Spelling and grammar.

2. Bad cover.

3. Bad blurb.

4. Stupid pricing.

5. Bad formatting.

6. No promotion.

7. Public author meltdown.

 

I did my best to replicate all of these with varying results.

One of the most common issues I found was that, in their eagerness to get their book out there, the author published the book before the book was ready. Hence my decision to publish the first draft of this book, spelling mistakes and typos in tact.

Covers, I appreciate, can be tricky. It’s hard for someone who isn’t an artist to create a high quality cover. Initially I was going to use a stock image of a barking dog with Papyrus font in red. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Hence the cover for ‘Again’ isn’t really a cover at all.

Getting the formatting to be a little screwy is harder than you would think, given that Kindle and Smashwords both point out that you are using multiple fonts which have not been embedded properly. I had to result to adding random spaces and line breaks. Again, sorry for making your eyes bleed folks.

I initially priced it at $.99 and sat back to watch as my dollars rolled in.

I’m still waiting by the way.

After three months of absolutely zero promotion or fanfare on my part, the book had scored a total of 7 sales and one, rather lovely review from a young reader (my only 5 star review and I’ll admit that it touched my black little heart and made me feel a bit mean about what I was doing).

Given that most self published authors seem to do virtually no promotion, I figured I was doing just fine. And hey, after Amazon’s cut I had earned a whole $2.31 (about £1.50) and was set to retire to the Caribbean any day.

Of course, the other option was to take it to the extreme and spam the world, but I just couldn’t bring myself to get banned everywhere I like or have people bitch about me on the net. So I avoided that option too.

Having seen other authors make the first book in a series free when they uploaded the second book, I decided to give that a go and uploaded a (slightly better edited, but not much) version of ‘Blood’ (again, I’m sorry folks) and made  ‘Again’ free.

Now, making books free takes some time, but isn’t as complicated as it seems.

There is no option on Amazon to make a book free. The lowest price is $.99. However, you can make you book free on Smashwords, which I did. Then I submitted it to Smashwords premium catalogue and (after several resubmissions because Smashwords are more fussy about formatting) it was accepted.

This meant that it would be available on Barnes and Noble, also for free (yay).

Now you can price match with Amazon.

The easiest way to do this is to go to your book page at Amazon and click on the ‘tell us about a lower price’ button just below the description. Then enter the URL from B&N.

Note that Amazon WON’T price match from Smashwords, it has to be B&N.

Amazon will then, eventually, price match to the lower (free) price. This can take some time though and is kind of in violation of Amazons terms and conditions –

In point 4 of the Pricing page of the Kindle Direct Terms and Conditions it states :

4. Setting Your List Price 

You must set your Digital Book’s List Price (and change it from time-to-time if necessary) so that it is no higher than the list price in any sales channel for any digital or physical edition of the Digital Book. 

But if you choose the 70% Royalty Option, you must further set and adjust your List Price so that it is at least 20% below the list price in any sales channel for any physical edition of the Digital Book. 

 

Which basically means this: your Amazon price should not be higher than a price set anywhere else. So by setting your print price higher than the ebook price or your Smashwords price at Free you are in violation of the T&C.

See the risks I take for you guys in the name of science?

HOWEVER, the second point above shows that by setting the ebook price above the $2.99 threshold for the 70% royalty, you can still price you print book higher  – which is why so many people who are self publishing both print and ebook format are pricing at the golden $2.99 threshold.

As I don’t have a print version of ‘Again’ I didn’t worry too much about the second point, but I’ll admit that I did loose sleep over the first point about the violation of terms and conditions before deciding that it was all in the name of science and I would take one for team.

After getting the free price on smashwords and therefore B&N, it took about a week for the book to show as Free on Amazon.

However, it only showed as Free on Amazon.com, as I didn’t realise that I needed to price match on Amazon.co.uk as well.

Also, it should be noted that Amazon don’t send you email confirmation of a lower price etc, so it was sheer luck that I realised when I did and was able to track the figures from that morning.

Anway, that’s enough for today folks, tomorrow I will post the facts and figures from this experiement and over the course of the week will talk about what I did and what I learned and hopefully it will help some of you.

Until tomorrow. x

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