Friday, September 4, 2015

The road to success isn't paved: Part 2 - Launching & Platforms

When it comes to self publishing, I only have experience with two services; Amazon, and Createspace.

Amazon was awesome, easy, hell it was even fun! They made it very newb writer friendly to start, it's easy to get it through review, and see your page on the app store before even going live. Updating files or settings only took about 12 hours to go through, though the initial approval was more like 36 hours.
The only thing I didn't really like about Amazon, was the explanation of the pricing system. It's not always clear to the writer what they're getting into, or the difference between the 30% royalty plan and the 70% plan.
I lied, there was one more thing I didn't like. When setting up the physical copy at createspace, the Amazonians did not have a way to link my digital and paperback versions until both were live... I ended up having to put the paper back copy live for realz for about 4 hours to get them linked. Fortunately, (or maybe unfortunately?) no copies slipped out into the public.

Creatspace was a different damn story. Even their inexperienced setup walkthrough was difficult, and slow. Good god was it slow. Being a child company of Amazon, you'd think they would get access to their high speed servers... Incorrect.
They don't walk you through, or even tell you anywhere, the size file you'll need for your cover. I went with the same size as was used on Amazon, assuming that they would let me create a custom back and spine. Again, incorrect. You have to upload the whole cover, front/back/spine, as one PDF.
Nextly, they're not the fastest to respond to customer service inquiries, and their "Call Me" system does not work, at all. I ran into several issues while setting up The Mill and had to be in contact with them quite frequently. Their CS portal doesn't always save the previous email on the same chain either, so often times you won't be able to see what they said, or you said.
They don't allow you to set up for pre-order. It's just not a thing. I understand that they're "Print on Demand", but seriously, can you not set up a system that allows people to place orders to be filled at a later date? Can you not store the order request in a database that has a "release on" date set in it, so when that date occurs, the orders print? It doesn't sound like a difficult system to set up to me. A few new servers to hold onto the project requests, a system to hold the orders until a specified date, then release to the printers.
This was probably the second biggest issue to me... maybe third since I've been setting up my second book in Createspace and I decided I was a pro and didn't need the newb route. They shipped me the wrong book! When I ordered a copy for review, I got some guys book of children's poems. Fortunately, I got someone on the phone and we fixed it rather quickly. That was probably the best customer service experience with that company.
As said, I didn't take the hand holding walkthrough for my second book setup and it turns out that this system is actually broken. The cover will constantly say that it's not ready to publish, even though it is. You have to save, refresh, save, cut off a chicken's head and spread the blood over your laptop, then save again. Minus the chicken head part, but it's still pretty bad.

The second topic, even though I'm out of order here with the title, is Launching. Prepping your launch is paramount to success. My novella, The Mill, has been done for about 4 months, and the art was complete in early June, but I'm waiting until October... why?
For one, Horror books are hard to market to begin with, and if I were to launch in the middle of summer, when everyone is out on vacation, at the beach, thinking about sunshine, they're not going to be in the mood for doom and gloom (at least most of them aren't).
Halloween is a set time of year here in 'Merica for all the horror and gore you could ever want to feast upon. So, why should I fight uphill, against the sunshine and the beaches, when I can hold off, solidify my marketing strategy, better identify my target audience, reach out to bloggers and reviewers? I talked a little more about blogging and reviewers in this post, check it out if you're interested.
So, my advice to you, dear reader, is this:
  1. Find some sort of seasonal, or largely promoted event, to tie your release to.
    For example, you wrote a fiction book about Football, and it finished up in March 2015. That sucks... you pretty much missed your big opportunity to tie it to the super bowl. Hold on to it for another 8 months, at least, and spend that time connecting with fans, building your Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Reddit presence. The 2016 super bowl is Feb. 7th, so consider going live in early January. And understand, that even though you wrote a book about a sport that is mainly dominated by males, a lot of your readers will be female. Don't forget about dem ladies. 
  2. Buy artwork for your launch. (I know I know, this was in the last post too)
    Not just for the cover, but additional promo images you can use for ad campaigns, teasers, adding to your teaser trailer (which I highly recommend. I'm working on my video with my good friend George right now!), etc. 
  3. Speaking of teaser trailer, even if it's just some stock photos, with text overlay, and a not so great song you purchased the rights to from spotify, make a trailer.
    Humans are much more likely to watch a 15-30 second video, and then click your link, than they are to read words in a post with one image... let alone read words in a post with no image... Ain't nobody got time for that. Make yourself a video, put it on youtube, and consider doing a paid Facebook campaign with it. I will be doing that shortly ^_^ 
  4. Find conventions / meetups that are an appropriate venue for you to stir some hype.
    This was a brilliant suggestion from my marketing manager, Kent Barton.
    It may not be appropriate for you to bring your Football book to Buffalo Wild Wings and start asking people to read it, but something like Fantasy Draft night may be a good idea. In my case, with the novella, Tacticon might be an ok-ish venue for me to tout my book at, but the Mile High Horror Fest is probably my best bet (I'll be calling the event organizers this weekend...) 
Well, that's it for today kiddies... I might do a part 3 if I learn anything new during the "Go Live" phase. We'll have to see. Stay tuned for more awesome though ^_^, thanks for reading.


  1. If anyone was wondering, I called MHHFF, aaaaand they've been booked for MONTHS. So, in this case... prepare for launch way early when it comes to events you can show up for... or else you may not get a booth. I might just camp the parking lot.