Minutes Of The Meeting
ML Stewart - President.
ML Stewart - Secretary.
ML Stewart - Author.
ML Stewart - Twat.
Apologies For Absence.
Billy No Mates.
When I started this blog, back in 1921, my tongue-in-cheek goal was to see how many books I could distribute to the literate global public in a year. Back then I promised to keep you all informed on progress, tactics and, more importantly, sales figures and revenue. Now, I'll be the first to hold up my hands and say I became a little lost on my path of divulging said knowledge, but I'm here to make up for it. So here's the title of today's blog...
Is It Really Worth Self-publishing My Book? (Or should I just shoot myself now?)
Now I know many people read this blog who are researching the marketing of their latest or debut book. The stats from blogger.com tell me so. If you Google a phrase such as "can I sell a thousand books online" and you end up on this pathetic blog, the Internet Gestapo tell me exactly where you are and how you got here. So here goes.
Q) Is your book any good?
A) And I mean that sincerely. Okay there may be 100,000 words in there, but do they actually make any sense. Are they all spelt correctly and do they actually work together to make a story? Oh, they do? In that case: Is the story of interest to readers, or have you pinched bits from the last fifty books you read and spliced them into a novel you now call your own? If your answer to this question is 'yes' then please fuck off and stop clogging up the internet with your "why is no one buying my book?" crap.
So you've passed part 1. Your book is as good as you can make it. Great Aunt Fanny (a retired English teacher) read it on her death bed and pointed out any errors or spelling mistakes to you (I hate the term 'typos'. It's so Obama). So now you reckon you've got a best-seller on your hands, the money's going to come flooding in; foreign translation rights, and Hollywood directors are going to offer you their wives to sleep with just for the chance to make a few billion out of your idea.
Now you're sitting there thinking "Yes, Aunt Fanny said the book was perfect and the best thing she's ever read. She even sighed at the ending. Just before she flat-lined." Well that's great, you're well on your way to changing the literary world for the better.
Part 3: Marketing.
Okay, so you've published your book on Amazon. You've checked the formatting to make sure it actually looks like a book. By this I mean that each paragraph is kind of pushed in a bit, andthere'sagapbetweeneachofthewordssothereadercanmakesenseofwhatthey'rereading. Yes? Excellent! You're on the road to fame and fortune.But what about the cover? Does it look like the real thing, or is it a square picture downloaded from Google Images with your name slapped across it in some strange (but unique) font? No? It's all perfect? Then we'll continue.
Most self-published authors work for a living, unless they have twelve kids or more, so they upload their books at the weekend. Let's say you were working an extra shift on Saturday, so published your book Sunday morning. What happens now is you and the wife go out for a celebration Sunday roast at the local pub and sink a few beers. The cost = £55. The time to recoup this extravagance when your book begins to sell = 6 months to a year.
You're up at 6:00am to see how many books you've sold. You log into KDP and check your US sales. There's a big beige rectangle. No sales. "Fuckin' Yanks!" you cry. Then you click on UK sales. The same. Nothing, zero, nula, squat, fuck all. Europe has a similar story to tell. So does Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. By Friday, you're logging on every hour, hoping the boss doesn't notice, and still, not one single person, out of the billions on the planet, has the slightest interest in buying your book (even though Aunt Fanny loved it.) So what now?
So there you are, depressed and frustrated. So you think... If I have some great reviews, readers will want to buy the book and I can jack in my job and concentrate on writing? Yes? Perhaps, yet doubtful.
DO NOT, EVER, write your own reviews. I would go as far as to say, do not even ask friends and family to write a review for you. They are so obvious and detrimental to your cause. "This book was excellent and I can't wait to read his next one."..."This is the best book I have ever read and I hope it's made into a movie soon."
Forums. Twitter. Facebollox.
OK, so it's taken you, let's say for argument's sake, six months to write and edit your masterpiece. You consequently spend a month reading 3 million gigabytes of bullshit regarding social media and self-promotion. You then waste the next five months spamming each and every e-book forum on the planet, in which time you could have actually written another book, refined your style and actually have something to Tweet about (i.e. your latest book.) But no, you choose to languish in the self-imposed failed writers' ghettoes on Amazon and Goodreads, wallowing in self pity and trying to collectively work out why you haven't become a best-selling author yet. You waste another six months plugging and spamming your book to death. In which time you could have three books to your credit. READERS DO NOT READ FORUMS. THEY READ BOOKS!
ML Stewart (Secretary) demands order, insisting that many authors who languish in the forums receive favourable reviews from other forum members (virtual friends). ML Stewart (Author) tells ML Stewart (Secretary) to shut the fuck up and says, 'let the record show that I will prove this has nothing to do with sales.' An author cannot live on reviews alone. Five-star reviews will not feed your children. Reviews will not pay your council tax and weekly alcohol bill.
Anyway, to cut a long blog short. I can't help you write or edit your book. I can't give you ideas or advice. In fact, I can't do anything for you. All I can do is share my experience from the past 18 months, since I first self-published.
A: Don't be a wanker. I regularly read Twitter accounts, forum posts etc. from a number of writers, both published and not. If you decide to buy 2,000 Twitter followers for $5 and make a twat of yourself when you launch a competition and only receive two replies, that's because you are a fake. I have 69 Twitter followers, three of which I think are dead. Don't fool yourself into thinking they are logging on every morning to see what you have to say. They're not. They don't give a fuck about you. All they want to know is when your next book is available (and if it's too expensive they won't buy it anyway). They are only following you because they have read your work and like it, so don't spam the poor buggers twenty times a day with plugs for books they've already read, and for God's sake, don't for one minute think they wish to know if you're in Asda looking for asparagus, or that your kid has chickenpox. BE PROFESSIONAL! (OK, I may not be one to talk, but the difference between you and I is that I don't give a shit. You are trying to make something of yourself, to perfect 'the craft', to be liked, loved, admired and wealthy. Don't brag about how good you are, and the latest review you received saying what a steaming pile of excellence your book was. Your followers and fans like your work already, that's why they follow you. Just keep your head down and get on with writing. Point taken?
B: To touch on a point I've already made. Do not use sock puppets. Don't start multiple accounts on the forums and praise your own books, nobody will believe you, except Aunt Fanny's widower. What really pisses me off, and I've seen a lot of it lately, are tweets asking for honest reviews of books. The Twitter account holder then sends out a copy of his / her book and the lap dogs give 5-star reviews on Amazon / Goodreads / BolloxBooks, but the critics don't. They may mention the fact that they didn't like the book on their blog, but they don't jump in with a 2 or 3-star review in the public forum. This, to me, is a form of manipulation. If someone asks their Twitter or Facebook followers for a review, then said review should be made public on the books retail sites. Am I ranting?
OK. Enough syntax saliva. Let's cut to the chase. In an attempt to compare, I trawled the internet to find another self-published author who was willing to publish their online earnings, and I have found none. The closest I came was an author who published his monthly book sales from January to December 2012. But that's where it became interesting. The author in question shall remain nameless, but I'm glad he made his sales public, as when I first heard of him he was the buzz of the e-book forums. Let me elaborate on that, I was actually a little jealous of him. Let us refer to said author as 'MR. X'. And to some degree he still is the darling of many forums. I haven't read his books, simply because I do not read work by other authors, but his literary skills appear to have been missed by the major publishing houses. Something which may be corrected in the near future, according to many of his readers.
So, we're looking at the period Jan - Dec 2012. Mr. X's book (BOOK X) has garnered 143 global five-star reviews. During the same period, my books received maybe 30.
My point? The value of writing versus online self-promotion. Here are the sales figures. Mr X's sales are in the yellow column. My books are in the following columns. FBK = The Facebook Killer (Parts 1 -3 and the completed trilogy), UKI = The United Kingdom of Island, and SC = The Sunday Club.
So you can be everyone's friend and have a ton of glowing reviews, or you can knuckle down, tell your ego to piss off, and keep writing.
Forum friends and cronyistic reviews, or sales? The choice is yours.
Forum friends and cronyistic reviews, or sales? The choice is yours.
So, during 2012 I sold a total of 24,547 books (The free giveaways of FBK1 stopped in early Jan, so the figures are basically purely revenue sales), and Mr. X sold 1513. I received 30 5-star reviews, Mr. X received 100+.
So things are looking pretty good.
MR X: 1513 sales.
ML Stewart: 24,547.
But it doesn't stop there. The above sales figures are only for Amazon. I also sell via Smashwords to Apple readers (amongst others)
And here is the screenshot for 2012 sales via Smashwords.
Mr X = 1,513
ML Stewart = 36,645
So, would-be authors, you can see it's well worth the hassle of formatting your books to publish with Smashwords.com. Amazon is by no means the 'be all and end all' of self-publishing.
Can you make money with e-books? I think so. Okay, fair enough, I still haven't reached my target of 500,000, but I'm 1/5th of the way there...almost.
Disclaimer: This blog was written in a hurry and has not been edited.
On Facebook somewhere, too.