Friday, 28 October 2011

The thousandth experience with self-publishing so far

I went to bed late last night with my total sales figure sitting at 999. It was a nice feeling to know that I would most probably be over that threshold of 1,000 sales by the morning.

I was. I was a few over the magical mark in the sand, actually. I am pretty damn pleased as to how well it has gone, and also a little scared to think that 1,000 people have paid (even if it is only 99c or 86p) to read my work. I am delighted at how easy it actually was to get into self-publishing after just a little research a few months ago. I had a book ready to go, having turned my Beer and Bloating in Dubai blog into book form, but I hadn't really considered this approach, holding onto some remote hope that I could land a publishing deal the traditional way, even sending out a dozen or so enquires to literary agents I found in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.

When I realised how easy it was to self-publish to Amazon, I went for it, and when I put "One Year In Wonderland" up on Amazon for sale in early July, I hoped I might sell a couple of hundred copies. To start with the sales rates weren't spectacular, they ticked over at around 4 a day. I had done some shameless plugging on a few internet forums I inhabit and had mentioned it a few times on Facebook to my circle of friends, but not much more than that.

August saw a slight increase in the sales rate to 5 a day, and my total sales for the month were just over 150. I got one or two reviews on Amazon and a little bit of good feedback from people I "know" from the message boards. One or two pointed out that there were a few typos and grammatical errors throughout the book, so I had a read through and found the problems. I also noticed that the formatting was a bit erratic, so remedied that at the same time. Finally I redesigned the cover, making it sharper and snazzier, in my opinion. I posted the revised edition in early September.

At the same time I sent out a few enquiries to Dubai blogs to see if they would do a review for me. One or two answered, and it was the lovely Grace at Sandier Pastures who offered to do a review. I sent her a copy by e-mail, waited a week or two and the review followed.

I don't think it's coincidence that my sales figures then started to rocket. From the middle of September up until the first week in October the rate went from 4 a day to nearly 23 a day. I sailed past 500 sales in the week following my birthday (24th Sept). The rate has dropped back a little, but I am still selling around a hundred a week, and am reaping the rewards of a little bit of marketing. My book is ranking at number 1 in the Travel>Middle East Category and has been there for at least a month now. I even rank in the top 10 of all Travel books some of the time, and got to the dizzy heights of #278 in ALL Kindle ebooks on UK Amazon. It was scary and exciting.

Around the beginning of October I read an article in a Sunday newspaper supplement magazine about e-book self-publishing, and from that I found a forum called Kindle Boards where readers and writers discuss Kindle books. I've found it a valuable place for advice on marketing, and a great sounding board for people with worries about their book. I do like to go on there and have a whinge about a bad day in my sales fugues occasionally. The article also talked about how to get your profile raised through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, so I've built up a network of people to annoy the hell out of.

Things got even mopre exciting the other week when a published author and journalist for a major newspaper tweeted me and said he wanted to ask some questions about my experiences for an article he was writing, so I ended up talking to him on the phone, trying hard not to come across as a completely desperate wannabe. I think I came across OK, anyway, and he gave me some glowing feedback on the sample he'd read. Soon afterwards a literary agency I had previously contacted got back in touch asking for sample chapters and a synopsis.

And now I'm plugging away at making my presence felt. The book is staying between 1000 and 500 in the rankings, and I'm getting more and more reviews, none of which have been bad. Of course I would still love to get it or another book into proper print so I can hold it and smell it and put it on the bookshelf. I don't see why this can't happen in the future.

The best side-effect of all this has been the effect it's had on my writing. I'm now writing every day, and am nearly finished the first draft of my next project, which is a book about the Boro. I've got 2 working titles competing for prominence and have put out some feelers to local artists and graphic designers with a view to getting a professional cover for it. I would love to get it out by the end of November, and then move on to something else. I've heard it said that the best publicity is to have more than one book out. There are some intriguing ideas in my head, and the chance to do some ghost-writing. I might even try my hand at fiction in time. Watch this space.

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