The Cost of Self-Promotion

Dear Reader,

Once again I reflect upon the idea of self-promotion, something which leaves a dour taste in my mouth and flags my spirit, making it difficult for me to be creative and write. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I was cutting out social networking for a while, which in essence meant I was cutting out all marketing (other than my AuthorBuzz subscription through fReado).

I have been concerned about my sales. Everyone has been bragging about their sales, which eclipse mine to the point of it no longer being depressing, but laughable. I read the blog of Zoe Winters, paranormal romance author, regularly and am inspired and jealous of her success.

Here’s the thing: I’m amazed and more than a little frightened by how much Zoe does. The promotions, contests, videos, book trailers, blog tours… So you have no idea how relieved I was when she wrote her post “No Shortcut to Awesome.” The content of the post was a comparison between her two writing names, Zoe and her pseudonym. Zoe goes crazy (literally) over promotion. Her pseudonym focuses on her writing; other than posting on social networks and in her blog that she’s released something new, she doesn’t go overboard.

Get this: they are making the same amount of sales, roughly. Wait. What?!

Man oh man, did I need to hear that. Yes, it is good to be available and connected to readers. No, it doesn’t help to freak about numbers in any format: Twitter followers, Goodreads friends, Facebook friends, Facebook fan page likes, Kindle sales, NOOK sales, blog subscribers, etc.

I was watching all those numbers. And then some. I don’t even like numbers. I hate numbers. Numbers have, on occasion, made me break out into a cold sweat because they make me nervous. Which makes it even more amazing that I graduated with an engineering degree. Give me variables any day.

Watching Zoe’s process and seeing the similarities in my own is giving me the permission to do what I want to do, which is write. My friends and family keep reminding me that I do this because I love it, not because it’s my day job. I have a day job to support my writing. I don’t have to kill myself to make my writing a day job in itself. The goal of self-publishing, for me, is for my writing to be a self-sustaining hobby.

As long as I keep that in mind and stop peeking over the shoulders of other indie authors, I think I will regain my sanity and sense of well-being. I also bought a sun therapy lamp last week for work to combat my seasonal affective disorder. Both items, I’m sure, will be beneficial in the long run. In the meantime, I’ll continue to write, or not write, whichever feels right at the time.

All the best,

Belinda

Media Mail and CreateSpace

Dear Reader,

Don’t switch addresses while waiting for a shipment of books from CreateSpace. It causes a mini-headache.

So get this: I’m currently at my parents’ house, waiting for a shipment of books from CreateSpace that I will be giving to winners of a GoodReads contest I’m holding, as well as my local library. They should have come last week, but I had my fingers crossed that they would magically appear at my parents’ door.

You see, I’m moving out, and I have a forwarding address in place. I assumed the book package would be forwarded to the new address.

WRONG. Oh so wrong. I just got an email this morning stating CreateSpace couldn’t deliver the package and it has been returned to them. In ten days, the package will be destroyed.

WHAT?!

Ok. Don’t panic. Contact them. Only, what do you know? Their response form is BROKEN. Ok, don’t panic. Have them call you. Wait on the line. Ask them what the freaking hell happened, why are they back in CreateSpace’s hands if they were at my doorstep?!

I’m sorry ma’am, I’m looking through all our systems and I can’t find a reason why. Here’s the package number for you, it was sent media mail. We’ll send them back to you the same way you originally asked, free of charge.

So I look up the number at the USPS and UPS websites. Except they say the number doesn’t match their tracking systems. Oh, excellent.  Let’s call the local post office and see if they know what happened.

Nope, they don’t. By this point, I think the lady on the other end heard my irritation and slight desperation and began asking questions.

Did you write the address correctly? Yes, I’ve had shipments from CreateSpace to this address only last month.

What sort of shipment method was it? Media mail? Why yes, it was. I set up a forwarding address because I’m moving, why didn’t it go to the new address?

We don’t forward media mail. That’s just not how it’s done. Especially books. We never forward bulk book shipments. Consider me flabbergasted and resigned.

All right then. I guess I’ll twiddle my thumbs in the meantime while CreateSpace sends it back to me, free of charge. It better come in time for my GoodReads contest! At least I got answers and know the books are coming back to me.

Lesson learned: stay where you are when books are coming your way.

All the best,

Belinda

Worderella Wonders Does Bad Mood = Bad Writing?

Dear Reader,

Well. I’ve been in something of a mood lately, which probably isn’t the best time to release a YouTube video inviting people to join me on this journey of self-publishing. Ah me. Oh well. It’s out there now, for people to judge, and so I say, “Have at thee!”

Without really knowing what that means.

I’ve been pondering my bad mood lately, trying to decipher my frowns and snarls as I stomp around the house, and the following comment by Libba Bray, author of A Great and Terrible Beauty, came to mind…

I’m one of those people who has to write. If I don’t write, I feel itchy and depressed and cranky. So everybody’s glad when I write and stop complaining already.

And so I must admit something that rather embarrasses me: I haven’t written a word for Haunting Miss Trentwood in over a week.

I know not to do this. I know my pattern. The longer I don’t write, the moodier and… well… bitchier I tend to become. I don’t know why I do this. I know I ought to be writing, but I wanted to get my micropress set up, and really ramp up my involvement in the writing community. In the meantime, I’ve let my writing slip, and therefore my optimism and overall good mood.

But now I’m afraid that I’ve lost my steam. I’ve felt guilty about neglecting 750words.com because I know the system will say it hasn’t seen me in a while, and it would be right. I’m most afraid that because I haven’t been writing (creatively), and my mood has suffered for it, that said bad mood will seep into my writing and make it worse for the wear.

I don’t want to be a bad writer.

I gotta get through this. Cue David Beddingfield, if you please.

I need to stop whining, get my hands a-writing, and blast out this shitty first draft.

Worderella Needs a Hero (aka Book Cover Designer)

Really, the two are interchangeable at this point. I need both a hero and a book cover designer. You see, I’m self-publishing my book and I’m doing as much of it myself as I can. Why? Well, because I just graduated from grad school and I have loans to take care of, thank you. I’m also a creative; I take pride in doing things and have an aptitude to learn new talents fairly quickly.

Book cover layout, however, continues to elude me, much to my frustration. The problem is that I want an industry-standard-style book, something along the lines of Silent in the Sanctuary, or The Slightest Provocation, or The Deception of the Emerald Ring. Those covers have stock imagery that I can’t afford. I suppose I could commission an artist to draw my character in a similar style, but how many artists these days like to be so… classical?

My process

I’ve been collecting my favorite covers as I see them on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com for the last, oh, I don’t know, three years. I have them separated by category: Fiction, Romance, and Teen, since those are my three main inspirational sources. I know the trends like the back of my hand, but the problem is my book, Haunting Miss Trentwood, doesn’t really fit in a “trend,” per se. How many of you know about a historical romance with paranormal inklings? I can think of one, Amanda Quick’s Arcane Society series. The one I read was Second Sight. But I’ve looked at those covers, and I don’t like them because they don’t get the mood I’m going for.

Anyway, I went to JoAnn Fabrics to buy a fat quarter and some scrapbook paper to, in essence, build my cover from scratch.

I had sketched out the general idea that I wanted, and since I’m crafty with the scissors, I went at it for three hours, running upstairs and down to the copy machine and back to my desk, grabbing my mothers calligraphy pens when I realized I didn’t have brown, and then taking photos of the final result.

Sadness abounds. I didn’t measure properly and my photos came out being the improper size for a trade paperback, which is 5.5″ by 8.5″.


So I went digital. I’d had fun working with real materials, but with that failed, I decided to replicate it digitally.

But then that felt a bit sterile, so I went to istockexchange.com and grabbed some comp photos that I liked and began to play around with layouts.


An improvement, I think, but still not what I want. Why is it so difficult to make a book cover for a book titled Haunting Miss Trentwood? I think because the book touches multiple genres lightly at once. It’s historical fiction because it’s the late Victorian era, specifically, the year of Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It’s a romance, albeit sweet. It’s a mystery because blackmail is involved. It’s a paranormal because a ghost is involved. With all these injected into one story, I’ve opted to keep the plot itself rather simple, allowing the characters to grow and mature, allowing the reader to enjoy the journey rather than roll their eyes at me for trying to cover too much in one story.

You’re not done writing, why care about the cover?

I’d like to have a cover so I can begin my marketing campaign. Marketing will be the toughest part of this self-publishing journey for me because I’m not a very good schmoozer. I love Twitter and will be utilizing that hardcore. I dislike Facebook, but it’s the lesser of two evils (not having online presence).

Additionally, having a visual of the book inspires me to keep going. I have every intention of completing this book and making it successful, i.e. break even at least. It’s so frustrating because I am a passable artist in my own right… but I’m also a perfectionist, and my artistic skill simply isn’t at the level I prefer for my novel.

Help me, oh mighty Internetz, you’re my only hope

If you’re self-publishing, know someone who is or has, etc, how did you/they find a book cover designer? How did you/they find a reputable artist? What am I doing wrong? Why has my usually stellar Google-fu failed me?