A Publishing Update

Mark Paxson

Months ago, I posted that I was going to try the traditional publishing route with my latest novel. That effort didn’t last very long. Queries sent, queries rejected. Or just not responded to at all.

So, I decided to go the indie publishing route again. Only, I was going to put a little money into the effort for the first time, beyond some editing costs. I paid for a Kirkus Review of my novel.

The Kirkus reviewer provided a decent review, with some quotes that could be used for marketing purposes, but … the reviewer referred to the novel as a novella and the summary of the story line only included content from the first third of the novel. Which makes me wonder if the reviewer bothered to read the whole thing.

I asked them to fix the reference to it being a novella. It took more than a week to get that done. As the review was finalized, I pushed publish on the e-book version of the novel, while I finished up the formatting for the paperbook.

Let’s just say that the formatting experience became a gift from hell. Or something like that. There are certain things about Word that simply are not intuitive and never will be. Every time I work on formatting something for publication, I have to learn it all over again. It took me days and days and days to get it done.

One of the things I did with this book was to pay for a professional cover. It looks incredible and I never want to DIY on covers again. But that was another $300 down the drain.

Once I pushed publish on the paperback, I ordered author copies from Amazon. Twenty copies to hand out to people as I wish. Unlike when you buy a book from Amazon and it takes two days, sometimes a few more, for delivery, author copies take about two weeks. And for some reason, Amazon split my order of twenty copies into two separate orders. One order was … nineteen books, while the other was for one book. That one book showed up about a week later, and I waited and waited for the other nineteen books. They never showed up. Yesterday, I ordered twenty copies again. Let’s see what happens.

Meanwhile, I’ve entered the book in a couple of book contests, primarily ones focused on independently published books. I await the results. That was another couple hundred bucks invested.

And I’ve tried some promotional websites. EReaderNewsToday, which was so good for me with my first novel eight years ago, has been a difficult nut to crack this time. I submitted the book for their consideration a few weeks ago. Their website said that they were pretty booked and to make sure to submit for a date more than 30 days out. But the submission form required a date within 30 days. So, I requested a date within 30 days, and the book was rejected because they didn’t have enough room.

I re-submitted the book to EReaderNewsToday with a proposed date that was more than 30 days out. They rejected the book because they didn’t have room. Sheesh. Before I started writing this post, I tried for a third time — which is always the charm, right?

I also tried another promo site — GoodKindles. For the small fee of $45, they featured my book. Which means it was the lead book of the day in their emails and tweets to their subscriber list. My book ran on August 2 on their site and in their subscription communications. It produced a grand total of … zero sales.

A couple of days ago, I set up an Amazon ad campaign. I committed $150 to the campaign, which only costs me something if somebody clicks on the ad. What I set up was a campaign for Kindle screens. When you turn on you Kindle or it goes to the lock screen, ads show up, typically for books, but occasionally for other things. The campaign started today. As I write this post, 48 people have seen it, one of them has clicked on it, and none of them have bought the book. But at the moment, I’m only out .32 for that one click!!

This is all a long way of saying that nothing is working and I’m close to being at a complete loss for what to do next. I try to remember Berthold’s words on this topic in previous exchanges. To write for the pleasure of it and for the interaction with whatever readers I have. Between the Kirkus Review, the cover, and the promo efforts I’ve tried, I’m in for more than $1,000 now on this book and it’s actually sold worse than my last book. Even though I think it has more popular appeal that that last book.

What do you do when you get frustrated with results like this? Or do you not get frustrated? This goes back to a concept we’ve discussed frequently around here. It comes down to objective. While I don’t expect to ever write and sell a bestseller, I’d at least like to write books that reach an audience beyond my family, friends, and social media buddies. I’ve yet to figure out how to do that. I’d like to at least make some money at this and not just break even, or in this case, lose money.

It’s a mystery. How to do this in the indie publishing world is becoming almost as opaque as the traditional publishing world. Part of the problem is that there are so many of us. Literally, everybody is publishing a book now. Okay, not literally — almost everybody. It’s hard to find a spot in a limited world when it appears that there is an unlimited number of books out there competing for that spot.

I’m frustrated at the moment, but I’m also oddly motivated. I want to get to my next half completed novel and push it out there and see if that’s the one that can be a breakthrough. And, if not that one, the next one. I haven’t given up. Yet.


  1. chucklitka says:

    Sorry to hear how things are going with your book, so far. I think there is good reason to be discouraged these days in self-publishing. I’ve been giving some thought as to how anyone who is writing their own stories can get their books read in 2021, and I’ve come up empty. Even if you make a job of it and go the commercial route to produce books “to market” it still takes a great deal of money to properly promote the book, with no guarantees.

    I’ll report my experience with a story in the Vella program for a month next week, but from my experience anyway, no one missed the boat. I have a plan B, but it feels more like playing a game with no real expectations of any great success.

    I can report that my last order of paper books was split up as well. Amazon is using not only their own printer, the former Create Space, but but several commercial printers as well. I wonder if they run a test copy off at Create Space before farming the printing off to one of the other printers. The back page lists where the printer was located, in my cases, Kendalville, IN, Monee, IL, and Create Space out of Columbia, SC.

    Well, it is still early yet in the life of The Dime. Lightning can strike at any time.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. kingmidget says:

      Yes. It is still early for The Dime.

      I’ve considered just posting my stories on my blog and letting people who want to read them to do so there. That will be my last resort.


  2. While I keep telling myself writing and publishing is its own reward (or, are their own rewards–which sounds silly), I too keep wondering where the magic bullet is.
    And I think the reason it’s so hard to attract attention for our books is that there are so many of them, and fewer readers. The books never go out of print, and there is a flood of new ones every day. Plus people have to watch stuff on TV and their other screens, and write blog posts, and books (of course). Who’s got time to read? 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. kingmidget says:

      I forgot to mention this in my post, but one of the things that is bothering me is that I have family and friends who like to read, who apparently don’t even consider reading what I put out there. And if I can’t convince those people to read my books, what hope do I have strangers. Not that they have an obligation to do so, but … I love to read, experience, and support the creative efforts of my friends.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I know what you mean, Mark. While I was still working, my colleagues knew about my books. The library system I worked for even had a Local Emerging Authors collection, to which I contributed several books. Not only did none of the people I worked with read them, hardly anyone ever even asked me anything about how I came to write them. It was as though the books were something I should feel embarrassed about. I still don’t understand that. We were librarians and library workers, for Pete’s sakes!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. chucklitka says:

        My mom, my father-in-law, a sister and a brother, out of six, read my books. My daughter has read some, but my son’s not a fiction reader. That’s it. I think I may’ve mentioned that I write books to two neighbors. Not impressed. It is not what you do, but how much money you’re making doing what you’re doing that impresses people.
        Eau Claire has a store that offers local products, including books by local authors, and it also publishes a bi-weekly free magazine, which usually has little writeups about the local authors and the books in their store. I’m toying with the idea of seeing if they would carry my books. But do I really want to do that, being a shy and retiring writer? And there is always the library that might accept them. But is it all worth ordering 30 books? The jury is out.
        I did give away my surplus paper books to two charity stores just to get them out there — somewhere. They were first editions, and I’ve since made significant corrections to the text since then, so I didn’t want to keep them around to give to anyone (ha!) that might, on the off chance, express an interest in reading one.
        Still, I really can’t complain, I give away a fair number of books each month, so my books are being read. And if I thought one could do what I did in 2015 to get books into the hand of readers, I would urge people who want their books read and are willing to forego money for their effort, to put them out for free. But I don’t really think that would work today. In 2015 your books could still be organically discovered. Not in 2021.
        I would suggest looking into Google Play Books. It has grown to become my best selling venue. Though my free price makes my books affordable to any English reader anywhere in the world. I don’t know how many they sell for $. You need to inquire and then await on an invitation — and you have to create your own epub version, which can be a bit fussy, (use epub ver. 3) but it has certainly taken up the slack from a fading Smashwords.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. lydiaschoch says:

    Yeah, looking for reviews and trying to get publicity can be one of the most frustrating parts of being a writer.

    If you’re open to trying another site, Long and Short Reviews sells bookish ad space and accepts books for review: https://www.longandshortreviews.com/request-a-review/

    (But no pressure if you’re not!)

    Keep updating us on your progress. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. kingmidget says:

      I’ll check it out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I wish I had some “magic bullet” idea that would instantly get you thousands of sales and lots of readers gushing praise for The Dime. Unfortunately, I don’t. 😦

    But! I can offer this: after reading The Dime, and your afterword, I was motivated to go back and read Zoe Keithley’s short story collection, 3/Chicago. I’ve been meaning to get to it ever since you told me about her work, but The Dime finally got me to read it.

    Noah Goats said to me one time that “Books lead on to books, and sometimes in strange ways. They all seem to be connected somehow.” He’s right. For a personal example: reading Carrie Rubin’s books influenced me to write The Directorate. I know it seems weird, since the books are very different genres, but it’s true.

    My point is, sometimes a book can have more influence than is apparent through metrics like sales. Not all books, of course. Stephen King’s books of the last 20 years, for example, probably have more sales than influence. But for us indie authors, I think the best bet is writing books that influence others. And if a book does become influential, then sales may eventually catch up, once it gets enough people talking about it.

    You say, “but how long is that going to take?” Well, yeah; fair point. And obviously, you can’t pay expenses with “influence.” So it’s a long. long road. I guess I’m just saying, I’m glad you wrote The Dime, and published it. And because you did, it got at least one more reader for Keithley’s book, too. These are small things, I know, but I like to think (hope?) that over time, it can grow into something more. Something that will actually net you some sales.

    Liked by 1 person

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