Category Archives: Adventures in Self-publishing

A more personal and up-to-date companion to the Incomplete Guide to POD Publishers

Life is slowly going back to normal!

At last, my life seems to be returning to some semblance of normalcy. No, I’m not quite done with all those projects yet, but almost… now I just have to get back in the rhythm of things!

I’ll try to post something about what I’m reading in the next couple of days, but right now I just want to SLEEEEEEPP! (not likely to happen though, not seeing how it’s the middle of the morning and the big lightbulb in the sky doesn’t exactly have an on and off switch).

Thoughts on amazon’s purchase of goodreads

NOOOOO!!! That about sums up my first reaction when I heard that amazon had purchased goodreads… at least as a reader. As a writer, and as an author that is actually published by CreateSpace, I know this may actually turn out to be a good thing, but the truth is that I was there mostly as a reader. In fact goodreads was the only social network I was sort of active in, now I am left to try to figure out what am I going to do about it all because the keyword in that statement is ‘was’.

As far as I am concerned there is a pretty big difference between connecting over books with other readers via a relatively small, independent network, and opening my reading nook to a large corporation. To me that’s a game-changer… and on top of that I have to admit that my experiences dealing with amazon properties have been decidedly mixed. As a customer I admit they are extremely effective, as a writer my experiences with CreateSpace have been great, but when it comes to their AuthorCentral, the property that most resembles goodreads itself, my experience was a total nightmare, so much so that I decided to end my affiliation with that service… only to be told that I was not allowed to do that, that once I had signed up, so I was basically screwed. It is that experience, that inability to terminate my affiliation with their program, that now makes me so wary of continuing my affiliation with goodreads.

So what am I going to do? The truth is that I’m not sure. For now I guess I’m going to be moving mostly to lurker mode, I may also choose to delete some of my personal information, not that that’s going to do me much good at this stage, and I will abandon the reading challenge. Yes, I will go on reading, and I would love to be able to keep sharing my thoughts on what I read, but I would much rather do this without the mighty amazon looking over my shoulder, so any comments I write will be now restricted to my own blog, where I can be certain I will remain in control of my content.

Still, in spite of everything, and of the fact that I am mourning the death of the goodreads I used to love, I consider this a lesson learned: small private networks may seem like a great alternative to behemoths such as facebook, Google and company, but successful, small. independent networks are also attractive targets for takeovers by large, greedy corporations, and that means that choosing to participate in a small network doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself suddenly in the clutches of a large one… whether you want to or not.

Taking things one step at a time

Yesterday I wrote about feeling overwhelmed, today I decided to do something about it: rather than trying to juggle too many projects at once, I’ve decided to tackle them one at a time, and I have also decided that until last year’s projects are safely out of the way, one of my current ones is being moved to the back-burner. Hopefully that will help me keep things at a more manageable level!

Overwhelmed

The past twelve months have been fairly productive ones –in fact they were great in that regard, so I’m most definitely no complaining about that– but today is one of those days in which I feel like I am being pulled in a dozen different directions. Right now I’m trying to put the finishing touches on last year’s projects. There are four of them. There is the sequel to Citlalli on the Edge of the Wind, a fully revised version of Scales at a Glance, and two translations (Laira and Scales… are about to be released in Spanish). Anyway, each one of these four books must be proof-read one last time, formatted (and believe me when I say that that is not and easy task when it comes to the two versions of Scales, which feature about a gazillion figures each) and then there is the whole cover design thing. Oh, and if that weren’t enough there is also a blog that has to be updated, not to mention that I’m already working on two new projects and those too demand their share of time (those would be the third part of Citlalli and a sort of history book). I know this is just the final push and that it will be over in a couple of weeks, but I freely admit that at times the balancing act gets to be a little too much for me… I mean, right now I feel like I could really use a twenty-eight hour day! That wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t because today I got so overwhelmed that I would up getting distracted and didn’t even do the things I was supposed to do. That is one of my problems. As soon as I realize that there’s no way I’m going to get everything done I tend to get disorganized.

Well, there are worse things in this world. Here’s hoping that tomorrow things will work out a little better!

When things don’t turn out as you had hoped they would

Six months after my books went live in amazon I can honestly say that they haven’t sold well. Seeing how I am a writer, not a publicist, this is not entirely unexpected and I had originally thought I would let this particular milestone slip by unnoticed. That would have been the logical thing to do (we tend to celebrate our successes, not our failures), but the thing is that the fact that my books haven’t sold made me think about what this ‘failure’ means and to try to examine it more objectively… and then I decided that that was something that might actually be worth sharing in a world of ever-cheerful, self-promoting, self-published authors.

Continue reading When things don’t turn out as you had hoped they would

Price points, trim sizes and papers, oh my…

One of the tricky things when it comes to self-publishing a book can be choosing both a price point and a trim size… well, at least the trim size. In most instances the price point can be reduced to a nice little chart based on a couple of solid facts. Having said that I will try to explain what’s my philosophy when it comes to both of these issues.

The first thing you have to take into account is the nature of the book itself. Here I am going to be assuming that we are dealing with a literary endeavor (be it fiction or non-fiction) rather than with a more specialized book. In this regard you have some constraints based on the prices of most books in the market. Of course, specialized books can command a higher price, but I assume that if you know enough about a given subject to write a book about it, you are also familiar enough with that particular market to know what the prices are. Anyway, to begin with I try to follow a basic rule as a starting point, namely that I try to keep my printing costs under 30% of retail price. When it comes to POD that seems to be pretty much the standard. That makes it relatively easy, and using CreateSpace as a reference it also means that you get at least 70% off on copies you purchase, 50% royalties on sales through your CreateSpace page, 30% on sales via amazon, and if you have the expanded distribution option selected, 10% on external sales. That is pretty straight forward.

As I said it is when we come to the trim size issue that things get complicated. Most people tend to go with the most common trim sizes, namely 5.25×8 in or 5.5×8.5 in. Personally I try to avoid these trim sizes and go with a 6×9 in format except when it comes to very short books. My reasoning here is simple enough: POD published books tend to be on the expensive end of the spectrum, and those smaller formats are associated with books we just can’t compete against in that regard. The larger format, which does not really have an impact on your printing costs, is pretty much the standard for a hardcover book. It also enables you to keep down the page count and to charge a little more per page. In the end I tend to prefer a 5.25×8 in format and a retail price of $9.95 for books that are less than 150 pages in that trim size (that means up to something like 40,000 words), and then I start counting from $10.95 for the books with a larger format according to the following table: Continue reading Price points, trim sizes and papers, oh my…

A nightmare in the amazon, an update

And now for an even more outrageous turn of events: as a punishment for the fact that I had the nerve to complain about the situation, amazon has decided to dissociate my e-mail address from my author central account, effectively leaving me stranded with the worst of both worlds. There is apparently no recourse and no appeal, though in the end I did manage to restore things manually… still a valuable lesson when it comes to the fact that this authorcentral is no friend of the author!

A nightmare in the amazon (beware of amazon’s author central)

A few days ago I decided to sign up for amazon’s author central as I had heard some pretty good things about that program, it featured some interesting goodies and hey, it was free, so what did I have to lose, right? Well, it turns out that I had a lot to lose, thank you oh so very much, because almost immediately the response I got by clicking my name in one of my books was a nicer page… in which all of my recent work, the ones that were actually published by amazon’s own subsidiary CreateSpace, were missing. Still, I didn’t panic as there was a note saying that those books would be added in a couple of days, which they were. So far, so… well, I wouldn’t say that was ‘good’, but I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say it was ‘bad’.  In fact it was only when those books were added that things took a turn for the worse.

What happened was that the listing for Soulless, a book I had spent almost a year rewriting, defaulted to the old, out of print edition, though even after all this time amazon won’t list it as ‘out of print’, just as ‘out of stock’ (which is laughable for a POD published book, but that’s another story). I contacted them, asking them what I could do to fix that particular situation, and the reply I got amounted basically to ‘that’s the way our pages work, tough luck’… okay, not quite they did add a button that said that there’s a newer edition available, one I would have assumed would have been added by default when a new edition became available, but apparently it hadn’t been.

Also, as if their defaulting to the old edition weren’t bad enough, amazon had decided to link the old edition to the ‘look inside’ content of the new one… the fact that the content of both books is not the same is apparently irrelevant as far as they are concerned (to be fair, I have to say I’m not sure if this is a new development or if the problem had been there all along and I’ve just become aware of it as a result of this little SNAFU).

Anyway, back to the contact form I went. This time I clicked on the ‘I want to delete my Author Page’ option, as this seemed to be my only way out under the circumstances. Before I had even typed a single character that one had already gotten me a ‘he he, you are screwed’ message (okay, technically it read ‘In order to help customers better browse their favorite authors and find new ones, Author Pages are not removed’, but it amounted to the same thing). I wrote to them once more to try to explain once again what the problem was, and I am currently waiting for a response, but the thing is that, in light of the glowing reviews I had seen of that particular program, and how dismal my experiences with it have been in the short time I’ve been affiliated with it, I figured I might as well post this little heads-up, especially if you are trying to bring out a new edition of an existing title… or if there is even the smallest chance that you will someday have to do so.

Now to the obvious question: is this a real problem that is worth considering before signing up for this service, which does have some good things going for it, or is this just a one off fluke that is unlikely to come back to haunt most authors? Continue reading A nightmare in the amazon (beware of amazon’s author central)

At what price quality?

Hi guys, okay a fair warning, I am going to be asking a rather heretical question here, but first a little background: for over ten years now I have been maintaining a comparison of POD publishers and this past week I had a rather nasty argument with the owner of a particular outfit. In a nutshell, he claims that authors are better off paying him more than £3,500.00 to set up a book because he produces books that are of above average quality when compared to other POD outfits (and keep in mind that I only have his word when it comes to that particular claim). Anyway, seeing how you can have a book published via CreateSpace by paying something like $35.00, and that’s including both expanded distribution and one or two rounds of proof copies depending on your book’s length, I found myself wondering how much does quality really matter.

Oh, I’m not talking here about not having a nice cover design or a good interior layout (I do realize that those things are important), I am talking about the quality of the materials that go into making the physical object we know as a book. I mean when I think back to all the books I have ever read what I remember first and foremost is the plot, that is followed by the quality of the writing as such and maybe the cover. The interior layout only comes into play if there is a problem with it, but the manufacture and the quality of the paper? The truth is that that’s not something I, as a reader, have ever given much thought to (not as long as the thing doesn’t fall apart in my hands the first time I open it, and sometimes not even then)… and yet as an author at times I can’t help but to worry about it. Anyway the question I wanted to ask is this: would you pay more than £3,500.00 to have a book that’s a little nicer (and to be fair, that fee does include all design services and a few extras which you would have to supply on your own via CreateSpace), or would you prefer to either save your money or to have the freedom to allocate it as you see fit?

You get what you pay for and other canards

Today, for the first time, I deliberately deleted an active publisher from the comparison. Seeing how the company in question is based in the UK, and that the comparison focuses mostly on US based ones, it is one that wouldn’t even have been included if they hadn’t asked to be featured in it in the first place… in fact they asked to be included repeatedly. The problem is that dealing with the man behind this particular outfit turned out to be more trouble than it was worth, as he insisted on trying to dictate what my personal opinion should be… and seeing how this company operated in a completely different market to begin with it, its being there didn’t really make much sense.

Anyway, in case you were wondering, the fact that this company was deleted is the reason why the three trashcans sit neglected on an empty row, looking rather dejected (yes, I realize that reassigning that rating would have been the natural thing to do, but to do it would also have required a fairly substantial update. I will probably fix that in six months or so).

As for the decision to delete this particular company, I have to admit that it I am rather conflicted about that one.

On the one hand I feel that, by deleting that review, I am giving in to a bully and I hate that. On the other I feel that I have better things to do with my life that to try to explain myself to someone who is determined not to listen, and that seeing how I had only included the company in question because this person had asked me to, I felt that keeping it there just to spite him was rather childish (not to mention that I don’t need the aggravation of actually having to deal with this particular character).

In the end I think letting it go was right choice, especially because it was one of those publishers whose fees are so outrageously expensive (north of £3,500.00, to be accurate) that they will only be considered by someone who has already swallowed the whole ‘you get what you pay for’ canard… and those people are unlikely to be swayed by the fact that there are more affordable (as in costing a lot less than 1% of what this guy is charging), and in my opinion far better, options out there. These are people who ‘want the best’ and are convinced that they have to pay through the nose to get it.

Now, I know that may sound a little dismissive, and will even go so far as to admit that there are instances in which the most expensive option is actually the best one,  but what too many people don’t seem to realize is that there is a limit as to how far you can take that attitude when dealing with POD.

Yes, our books are our babies and we want them to be handled carefully –believe me, as a writer I most definitely get that– but the truth is that when your break-even point is above the thousand copies mark you have come to what is likely to be a losing proposition… or at best a less than advantageous one. Simply put, publishing is a business, money matters, and considering the differences in terms of quality and cost per copy, if your break-even point is above one thousand copies you may want to start looking into the possibility of an offset print run instead as the use of POD itself ceases to be cost-effective.

Speaking for myself

Hey, I have a voice!

Ever since I first started the comparison of POD publishers I have had no choice but to try to remain impartial… and that meant that there was a lot going on behind the scenes that I could say nothing about, now I can. Oh, I realize that e-mail is supposed to be private, so I’m not going to be quoting from my inbox here, nor am I going to be naming names, but if something annoys me, at least I will be able to get it off my chest.

In fact I had an incident along these lines the other day when one of my ‘favorite’ pushy publishers wrote to me to whine that there was a ‘mistake’ in the comparison. After a back and forth that caused me to waste the better part of an afternoon, said publisher went back to his/her site, made a change to correct the problem s/he had been arguing did not exist, and then continued to insist that it had been my mistake all along. For the sake of accuracy I did modify the comparison to reflect this change, but the truth is that the whole thing left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Yes, I realize that publishers have a reputation they are eager to maintain, and in that regard I understand why some of them may not be too happy about how they come across in the comparison, but the bottom line is that when someone goes back to correct a problem they have stubbornly been refusing to acknowledge, and then insist that it was the other’s mistake all along, that does not paint a very pretty picture of their sense of ethics, and that most certainly qualifies as a red flag.

Citlalli on the Edge of the Wind (excerpt)

Citlalli on the Edge of the Wind
A wish, a child, a betrayal, a death… and the barriers begin to crumble (click on the image to purchase).

Title: Citlalli on the Edge of the Wind
Author: Clea Saal
Genre: Fantasy/Pseudo Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Page count: 372 pages
ISBN:978-1475265972
Price: $17.95

Chapter 1: Wish upon a Star

The night was more than a little chilly as Sylvia made her way home after a long day at work. Her day had been particularly unremarkable and, seeing how all of her days were, almost by definition, quite unremarkable, that was saying something. She got up every morning at exactly the same time, got dressed, had a cup of coffee and two slices of toast for breakfast as she listened to the day’s forecast, went to work and then, after eight very long and boring hours, she went home, always walking the same streets and seeing the same people at exactly the same time. Continue reading Citlalli on the Edge of the Wind (excerpt)

Soulless (excerpt)

Soulless
No sex, no aliens, just a chilling possibility… because the end has already begun (click on the image to purchase).

Title: Soulless
Author: Clea Saal
Genre: Philosophical Horror
Format: Paperback
Page count: 252 pages
ISBN: 978-1475260359
Price: $13.95

Chapter 1

He woke up, covered in sweat, but the dream, the nightmare, kept calling him back. His father was there before he knew it, holding him, comforting him as if he were afraid. Continue reading Soulless (excerpt)

Laira (excerpt)

X or Y? Utopia or dystopia? In a world in which death has become a thing of the past the answer may well depend on X or Y (click on the image to purchase).

Title: Laira
Author: Clea Saal
Genre: Science Fiction/Novella
Format: Paperback
Page count: 118
ISBN:978-1475254426
Price:$9.95

5.

Laira 4 was overwhelmed when the 5 was placed in her arms for the first time. She had seen babies before, of course, but the mere notion that something so tiny could actually be a human being had always amazed her. She was reassured by the presence of the others, all five of them were together, as they were meant to be. It had been almost thirteen years since they had had a 5. Granted, there would be one only for a few years, but that didn’t really matter. Continue reading Laira (excerpt)