I Have Done My Job

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Idealised workspace, 2011

A a writer there are very few things I want more than to have my writing read. That sounds simplistic, but it does touch on the general gist of what I mean. Certainly I want my readers to like what they’ve read, to write stunning reviews, tell all of their friends about me, thereby causing my sales to skyrocket, causing me to make lots (not insane amounts, just lots) of money, so that I can pay off my house, give in charity, give my children a great life and quit my day job so that I can create more tales that people want to read, BUT none of that is as important to me that my writing is actually read.

I would be a writer even if I never made a single penny doing it. (Which isn’t that far off the mark right now.)

Like most writers, I have something to say. As an introvert, since I rarely actually say these things out loud, writing is my mode of expression. I write the kinds of stories I would like to read, stories that resonate with me, and that hopefully have deeper meanings. I’m not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking or teach anyone a lesson, (preachiness in fiction is a big no-no), but I do hope that when readers have completed my tales they walk away with lingering impressions about the characters and situations, that they continue to think about the story for days or even weeks in an effort to suss out the deeper meanings, or at the very least because they’ve grown attached to a character and they miss her.

Recently I received a very unexpected heart-warming email from a woman who had just completed my book. She’d downloaded it for free during one of my past Amazon KDP promotions. She said:

“I have subsequently told friends about An Unproductive Woman and what a wonderful insight into another part of the world and culture as well a message to all of that we are so very alike in so very many ways.”

and

“While not a Christian, I do believe in a power greater than myself.  The absolute everyday faith depicted in your book caused me to download the Qur’an too, I have my reading cut out for me for some time to come!”

The very fact that she took away the message of ultimate sameness across cultures and faiths from my novel despite the supposed divergences there appear to be and that are played up by our media absolutely took my breath away. Even more, in spite of the fact that An Unproductive Woman is not a religious read, the fact that she made the conscious decision to learn more about people (Muslims) who are often made to seem other and alien is the greatest validation and the greatest payment I could ever receive for my writing.

When I received her message I nearly cried. It let me know that I have done my job.

*****

Thank you for the email S.V. You made my year… probably my career as a writer.

Thank you Kindle Buffet for posting my book on your site so that people would know I exist.

Thank you to anyone who has ever honored me with the time it took to read my book and write a review… even if it wasn’t favorable.

Happy Ramadan to EVERYONE! 

There Are No Mistakes

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The four capital mistakes of open source

Almost five years ago, I self-published my novel An Unproductive Woman with Xlibris.

If I knew then what I know now… well, let’s just say I would have hung up the phone when they called me and offered me a publishing package.

Once the book was in the world and published the first three years with them were fine. They really were. Xlibris did exactly what they said they would. They helped me design a cover (which I later changed), they helped to edit a manuscript that was already amazingly pretty clean, and they made it available at multiple different outlets.

Following publishing I was busy with school and family so I admittedly did very little in the way of self promoting, but once I made up my mind to actually pay attention to the An Unproductive Woman I realized a number of unfortunate truths.

  1. I never needed Xlibris.
  2. I could have done all of this myself for far less money.
  3. Xlibris is a business, which explains why they kept trying to sell me one new service after another.

I wasn’t angry with Xlibris because of truth #3. They are a business and as such they were doing what businesses do. Trying to make money. They did. While very little, I did benefit from their service. Using them made things very easy for me at a time when I had none to spare. Because of them, I didn’t have to worry about the details.

A year and a half ago I decided that the time had come when I needed to take a more active role in my writing, that I would network and promote and try to make more sales. About this time last year I also made the decision to join Amazon’s KDP program. While not extraordinary, I did notice an increase in sales. An increase in sales is great. I mean, I never thought that An Unproductive Woman would make me wealthy, (One can hope, right?), but no sales turned into some sales and some sales are definitely better than none. Then I started to have problems.

KDP kicked me out of the program at least three times because my ebook kept popping up at other outlets, thanks to Xlibris, even after I’d asked that they remove my ebook from all markets. Needless to say, they didn’t. Each time I thought things were a go again, Amazon would find it somewhere else. I’d get kicked out of the program again. I noticed a drop in sales as a result. That’s when I got annoyed with Xlibris.

$3.99

$4.95

Two weeks ago I noticed that Xlibris snuck their ebook version of An Unproductive Woman up on Amazon and actually set it for a lower price than I have it listed for. They were competing with me for sales of my book. I have asked and asked them not to make an ebook available anywhere because I’d formatted and published the ebook version on Amazon myself and because it is a requisite of the KDP program. And still, there it was.

At that point I was more than annoyed. I was incensed.

Last week I drafted a brief letter and faxed it to Xlibris telling them that I wanted to withdraw my book from them 100% in all forms on all outlets post haste. It hasn’t happened yet because apparently it can take up to six weeks. I’ve turned into the customer from hell because I have emailed them on a daily basis asking the equivalent of “Are we there yet?” It’s just that I am cooked and want to be done with them.

I rarely admit to mistakes. This isn’t because I’m so arrogant that I don’t think that I ever make them. I don’t often admit to mistakes because I think that doing so misses the point, which is that there is always something to learn from almost each mishap, tragedy and flub. To call these things mistakes negates the good that can come from them. I also believe that sometimes our personal tragedies aren’t always for us. Sometimes they are for others to learn from as well. With that, allow me to share some lessons I’ve learned from this.

  1. If I’m bright enough to write a book, chances are I’m also bright enough to self publish said book without the help of services like Xlibris.
  2. I have more time than I think I have. Its better to reallocate my time in order to do the things that are really important to me.
  3. The indie community of writers are generous, smart, and savvy. Network, ask questions, and ask for help.
  4. Never publish with a vanity press. You give up your money, your control, and the opportunity to learn how to do some of this stuff yourself.
  5. Don’t get angry.

Just remember. There are no mistakes.

What choices with your writing have you made that you wish you’d done differently?

Someone

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On May 19th (wow, it’s already been more than a month) I enrolled my novel An Unproductive Woman in the Amazon KDP Select program.  I know that there are some authors who like the program and others who don’t.  Initially, I thought that KDP Select was an attempt by “the man” to control us little ‘ol authors, but the more I thought about it in relation to myself, the more I realized that I have NOTHING TO LOSE and anything (and I mean anything) at all to gain.  So I enrolled, mostly as an experiment, to see how my  humble novel would do.

Well, I made a few sales.  By a few, I mean a couple here and there.  Literally.  I’m not being modest here.  Honestly, one, maybe two sales a week.  Some of this is my fault…actually I take most of the blame.  I haven’t exactly been promoting.  Mostly, I don’t know how.  I tweet about AUW on occasion but I feel weird about dropping consistent consecutive tweets about my book on twitter, and Facebook, and G+ like some people do.  Kudos to them, but I just feel weird.  Don’t get me wrong, I do, just not very much.

Wednesday of this week, I decided to get online (finally, because I’ve been meaning to do this since joining KDP Select) and make AUW free for five days.  Yesterday was day one.

I don’t know what other people’s sales look like, but they certainly can’t be worse than mine have been, so you’ll certainly understand why when I checked my account last night I was more than a little thrilled to see that in less than 24 hours my book rose from  a rank of 448,224 in the Kindle Book Store to 296.  None of this actually translates into cash, which is okay with me at the moment.  I’m awed by the fact that nearly 900 people have copies of my book in their Kindle.  Of note, my novel is currently ranked #41 in the Best Sellers in Contemporary Fiction Top 100 Free.  Pretty awesome.

So, this brings me to my point, in a round about way.  Writing is the thing that I love to do. Writing is the thing that I would do all day everyday (you’re right, I have difficulty balancing) if circumstance and time permitted.  Last night, I gave a lot of thought to what this whole Amazon thing means and how I feel about the sudden jump in downloads.

There are people out there, myself included, who always have their eyes peeled for a good cheap or free book.  These downloads may not translate into great reviews.  Let’s be honest.  My book may just sit in hundreds (perhaps thousands by the time this is over) Kindles and never be read.  Never.  But someone will read it.  Right?  Someone will like the story.  Someone will review it on Amazon.  Someone will tell their friend about this new indie author who wrote this terrific book called An Unproductive Woman.  Someone will be angry with my characters, or love them, or cry for them.  Someone.

And that is how I will know that I have done my job.