When we last left off, I confessed to living a double life: in self-publishing my book Unnaturally Green, I tried to appear (without lying outright) as if I had a publishing house backing me.
This past Friday, October 14 marked my book's official release day -- the day of consummation -- when all I'd been planning came to fruition in one, long, passion-filled night. Sales boomed. Nuns wept. I think I even saw a rainbow, even though it was night. I went to bed clutching my freshly bound paperback copy of Unnaturally Green.
The next morning, we rose together from the tangled sheets, to peer at each other. "Who ARE you?" I thought as I stared at my book, "and what have we done?"
One week later, here are my reflections -- on how one glorious evening turned into a full-on, committed relationship. And what I would have done differently.
1. Pre-ordering has its merits, but presents challenges. Because my print distribution channel (CreateSpace) does not offer pre-ordering, I managed the process myself through PayPal. On October 6, I shipped signed copies of Unnaturally Green to around 150 readers -- and several have still not received them. To save on shipping costs, I opted for the media mail rate from the USPS. In hindsight, I should have charged more for shipping and gotten tracking numbers. In the end, I'll have to send out 6-10 more copies to the people who didn't get theirs -- thus losing the money I saved originally on shipping.
2. BookBaby (my e-book distributor) kind of sucks. Quick E-book 101: If you're self-publishing your book as an e-book, you have to convert it. You can opt to crunch your manuscript word doc into one of the e-readable formats yourself, or you can hire somebody to do it. For around $100 bucks, BookBaby will do it for you and submit your e-book to Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Sony Reader. Then, as they assure you, they won't take any royalties from your sales.
For me, a newbie author, this deal sounded like a win-win. But here's the fine print.
First off, BookBaby not taking any royalties from your sales isn't really that big a deal -- since the companies to which they farm out your book compensate by taking a bigger cut (Kindle, Nook, etc.). So you end up netting the same amount that you would have if you'd gone to those companies directly.
Secondly, after the conversion, it's a pain in the ass to make changes. Once I submitted my manuscript, I found seven typos. In order to change those typos, I had to pay BookBaby $50. Granted, I probably should have proofread more closely to begin with. But this fee wouldn't have applied had I used a site that let me do the conversion myself.
Thirdly, BookBaby effed up my release day. On each BookBaby member dashboard, you can specify the earliest date on which to make your e-book available -- which, long ago, I set to October 14, 2011. BookBaby assured me that this was, indeed, the *earliest* date my book would be available (I even sent an email to customer service to confirm). Imagine my surprise when I got emails from fans telling me my book was already available on Kindle -- nearly three weeks early! When I called BookBaby's customer service about this, I was told, "Oh yeah, the date applies to all distributors except Amazon Kindle." Hm. Wish I'd been told that. If I'd known, I would not have enabled my Kindle sales channel so early.
Fourthly, BookBaby doesn't report your sales as they happen (there is a 60-day delay), so it's impossible to know how my e-book is doing. I can see its Kindle rankings (it topped the Amazon Broadway & Musicals and Theater charts this past weekend, and was #57 in all memoirs), but I'll have to twiddle my thumbs to get sales reports.
In contrast, CreateSpace (my print-on-demand distributor, Amazon's company) reports sales as they happen. So it kind of feels like BookBaby is withholding information, or something...even though I know better?
In short, BookBaby very much feels like an unhelpful middleman -- very opaque, creating hurdles where there should be none.
3. After release day (the one-night stand), there's a whole lot of work to be done (the relationship). In the past week, I've realized that October 14 was only the beginning; now the real work begins! Since then, I've been fielding emails from readers, corresponding with book bloggers, sending out press releases, updating my various websites to reflect ongoing internet buzz...My sense is that returns will be directly proportional to work input. But at what cost?
Since I'm recording an audio book and writing a companion booklet to Unnaturally Green, I want to be sure to keep going with my project(s). In the past seven days, this has proved nearly impossible. From now on, I will have to make even more of an effort to juggle past and future projects.
In conclusion, self-publishing is a ton of work, and the work is ongoing. Just as the countdown to publication was a learning curve, so shall the learning continue, for the many months ahead. I'll keep you posted! Hopefully I will emerge only partly, as opposed to wholly, insane.