Thursday, December 11, 2014

Melissa Leong’s self- publishing (Part 2)

This is on my

Nov. 11 Melissa Leong’s self- publishing (Part 2):  I cut out the second part of Melissa Leong’s article about self-publishing her vampire book on Amazon.  It’s in the National Post called “Self-publishers can’t afford humility” on Dec. 15, 2012.  The illustrated picture had Leong taking off a baseball cap with the word “author” on it, and underneath it is another baseball cap with the word “publisher” on it.  Here’s the whole article: 

After I clicked “publish” on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program, I sat back and waited for my life to change.

It was as if I thought self-publishing my teen vampire novel, What Kills Me, would be transformative: kind of like when Prince Adam raises his sword and becomes He-Man. Following six months of writing and spending about $2,000 preparing my ebook for publication, by the power of Amazon, I was now an author.

Except that putting your book for sale on Amazon feels like dropping a single grain into a bag of rice — you need to paint it green or point it out, or else how will anyone distinguish it from the rest? So nothing happened. And I felt no different.

So I went to a bar across the street and had a sad mid-afternoon drink by myself. What I realized over a spicy Caesar was that I had to get a publicist. But I could only afford one who would work for an occasional spicy Caesar. Top (and only) candidate: Me.

At first, I found it hard to market my book. I think it’s because my dad taught me that it’s not nice to brag, which was never a problem since as a kid, I had subterranean self-esteem. That first month, June, 67 of my friends and family bought copies of my book. Some lied about buying a copy. I knew because of this exchange:

Family member: “I bought your book but I forgot to bring it for you to sign!”
Me: “But it’s an ebook.”
“Nothing. Thank you so much.”

By August, I had pitched 150 different book blogs. I printed and handed out bookmarks at book fairs. I Tweeted. I posted on Facebook. I hosted prize giveaways. I used Pinterest, LibraryThing, Triberr, Goodreads, GooglePlus and other platforms that I had never even heard of. I even paid someone $15 to make me a book trailer (another person, who has directed several high-profile book trailers, quoted me $10,000).

I gave away hundreds of free copies in exchange for honest reviews. I answered dozens of Q&As with bloggers (Who was your favourite author growing up? Stephen King. Which would you rather be a werewolf or a fairy? A fairy. Less shaving).

And I wrote dozens of essays and blog posts on everything from bullying to monsters to self-publishing. I gave the U.K.-based Dark World Books $375 to organize a blog tour for me, where I would appear on a different blog every day for four weeks.

How does anyone do this with a full-time job and other responsibilities? Well, keep the hours of a vampire.
A warning though: weeks of no sleep turned my sharp and efficient brain into mush. One day, Zombie Melissa got an email to interview “the president of Ups Canada.” I called and told him in a voicemail how happy I would be to chat about “Ups” — as in “up” and “down.” The moment I put the receiver down, I froze. Oh. My. God. UPS Canada Shipping.

That night, I went to bed early. But for a month after, my friends called me “Ups.”

So what did it all mean for sales? What was the, uh, upside? July and August saw incremental increases. Someone commented on a blog post: “I’ve seen this book around. Looks good. I might buy it.”

Who cares if she bought it? She had “seen my book around!” That warranted a happy dance. I did a lot of those — my happy dance looks like I’m playing the drums while running in place — for every small success: When Kayla Curry, another indie author, became the first stranger to “like” my fan page on Facebook. When Thomas Winship, author of Vaempires, gave What Kills Me a five-star rating. When I was a youth, no one wanted to be my friend because of my dark, messed up imagination. And suddenly, I had a gang of freakishly nice indie authors, all with dark, messed up imaginations, who were keen to help me with advice and promotion.

I published my ebook for Kobo using Kobo Writing Life, and for iTunes and Barnes & Noble using the digital self-publishing site Smashwords. I even produced a paperback version through Amazon’s CreateSpace.

Then in September, readers started to buy. I had dropped the price of the ebook from $2.99 to $0.99 to attract more customers. (Amazon gives you 35% royalties on anything under $2.99 and 70% for anything over.) I broke into Amazon’s Top 100 best sellers list in the occult and kid’s action and adventure genres.

I remember where I was for many of my mini-milestones and weirdly, some of those
moments involve vampires.

On June 9, I was in New York interviewing True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård when I saw my first review by a reader; “I could not put it down,” the U.K. reader wrote. (What a great dream, I thought, somebody pinch me, hell, bite me — preferably Skarsgård.)

On Sept. 11, I was sitting in the media lounge at the Toronto International Film Festival, writing a story about Neil Jordan’s latest vampire flick when What Kills Me hit No. 6 in occult. I went into the hall and did a happy dance in front of a very puzzled TIFF volunteer.

On Oct. 3, Pixel of Ink featured my book as the “hot deal” of the day. I had never heard of Pixel of Ink, a site that promotes free and bargain Kindle Books, but sales spiked. Every time I refreshed my screen, a dozen people had bought. Overnight, it hit  No. 1 in occult, No. 4 in action and adventure, No. 4 in horror (three spots after Stephen King).

Most impressively, it ranked No. 221 out of more than a million books in the Kindle store.

A book is generally considered a Canadian bestseller after selling 5,000 copies. What Kills Me has now sold more than 6,000 books. So far, I’ve received two cheques in six months for about $600, which doesn’t cover my initial investment, but I started out expecting to gain nothing but experience, knowledge and a sense of accomplishment. If I had to, I’d do it all over again exactly the same, the “ups” and the downs.

I’m especially grateful for the reception. The book is scored 4.3 out of 5 after 368 ratings on Goodreads and has 85 five-star reviews on Amazon, none of which I paid for (I know, the insanity — you can actually buy reviews). Three different producers have approached me to talk about television and movie opportunities. And best of all: weekly fan mail.

When I look back at the journey, writing the novel was the easy part. “You need to treat it like a business,” Mark Lefebvre, director of self-publishing and author relations at Kobo Inc., told me.
I had not been prepared for that. But still, I had carved a place for myself out of nothing. That is the real battle of an indie author. We are masters of our own universe. And we must raise our own swords.

My opinion: Wow, that’s a lot of work to get publicity for your book.  I did notice how 3 different producers wanted to talk to her about TV and movie opportunities.  I have thought about writing my script The Vertex Fighter into a book version, but I’m not really interested in it.

I have always been writing scripts since I was 14 yrs old.  When I was 18, I tried writing something in a book format, but then I start writing it in script format.

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