Experiments in Publishing

Over the last six months I’ve been experimenting as a writer/publisher. And I thought I would share my experiences.

Let’s start with paperback books. Starting out I took Amazon’s word and made my paperbacks 6”x 9” and I thought glossy covers would be nicer. Well, 6”x 9” might be the most popular size, but I don’t think that’s the case for fiction. Because I am toying with the idea of trying to get my books into a small selection of SFF orientated bookshops, I decided to redo my books in the 8”x 5.25” format with matte covers, just like all the cool kids have. Having put out a dozen paperback books, redoing the books was not a great project, though for my longest ones, I had to reduce the type size to that of mass market paperbacks. Now, you can’t just change the size of published books since it is baked into the ISBN code. You need to unpublish your old versions and publish the new versions as new books. And here’s a pro tip; I discovered that Amazon will no longer let you link ebooks and paperbacks if the metadata does not exactly match. Since these were new editions, I listed them as 2nd editions, and since the ebooks are either 1st edition or have no edition number, I now cannot link the two versions. Given the fact that I’ll sell half a dozen paperback books in a year, I’m not losing sleep over it. Just be aware of it, should you do the same.

Next up, audio books. I have, in previous posts, suggested that if you are self-publishing wide, and don’t offer your books on the Google Play store you should. At last count over 60% of my sales came from Google. And that was before audio books. As I wrote earlier, Google is offering, for a limited time, to convert ebooks in the Google store into auto-generated audio books – for free. In May I took them up on that offer. For most of the last six month I have had a dozen audiobook titles on offer. In those six months I’ve sold, that is to say, given away, more than 4,500 audio books, without lifting a finger to promote them. They’ve accumulated over 50 ratings, and the audiobooks rate as well as the ebooks, with no complaints as to the quality of the audio narration. Of course selling books for money is a lot harder, BUT, since you can convert your ebooks on Google for free, (I did so just a couple of weeks ago) there is no reason why you could not sell your audiobooks for the same price of your ebooks, which would likely be significantly less expensive than most audiobooks. With audiobooks being the fastest growing segment of the book market, I think it’s an opportunity you might want to seriously consider if you don’t want to spend what human narrators charge – two to five hundred dollars per finished hour. Most novels run around 12 hours in audio form or more. Do the math.

My third experiment was withholding my standalone novel, The Girl on the Kerb, that I wrote at the start of this year, from self-publishing. Instead I submitted it to an English SF publisher during a month-long open window for writers without agents. Since I can’t publish it until I hear that they rejected it – in six to nine months – I decided to use the time to see if I could find an agent for it. I have sent out four query letters on the first of the month since July 1. So far, that’s 16 query letters. I have received 4 form letter email rejections and no requests to look at the manuscript. Let’s just say that I’m not holding my breath – but it was always a lark; a nothing ventured, nothing gained sort of thing. Recently, I hear that Orbit Publishing, a division of one of the big publishers, is going to start offering a line of ebooks and audiobooks, without paper editions, and I understand that this line will be open to authors without agents as well. I plan to submit The Girl on the Kerb to them, if possible. That said, I have already painted the cover for my self-published version of the book, so I’m all set to release it sometime in the first quarter or half of next year if things work out like I expect they will. In short, I’ve got my 2023 novel in the can. That said, I plan to spend six months querying any other standalone novels I manage to write before self-publishing them, because well, why not? The gold rush of self-publishing is long over. There is no hurry to get something out there, no boat to miss or train to catch.

I’m not a lad for seeking publicity, but this year I once again entered one of my books in the Self Published Science Fiction Blog-off. I’m hoping to get a review and a little publicity out of it. I didn’t last year, but maybe I’ll have more luck this year. I really wanted to enter my one fantasy book in the far more popular fantasy version of this contest, but I never found the date to enter until the deadline had passed. Next year.

Upcoming experiments include going over all the metadata on all my platforms and adding as many tags as possible to describe my books. For example a book may have only “Space Opera” for a tag, but I’m going to add tags like “Free Space Opera” and maybe “Free SF Book”, etc. This is probably self-publishing 101, but I’ve been rather dismissive of tags. No more. I gather that is how people discover books now, since they’ll never find them simply by scrolling the lists provided.

Next up, if I ever write a new standalone novel, it is going to be a fantasy. Fantasy outsells science fiction, and there are far more agents, editors, and publishing houses looking for fantasy than there are for science fiction. Since I write old fashioned romances using planets as the required exotic lands, I’m going to bury any science fiction elements and just market them as fantasy. Why not reach for the largest potential audience you can when starting out with a blank page?

I have not spent any out of pocket money on my self-publishing efforts. My modest royalties from Amazon cover my modest expenses, which are essentially the author copies of the paper books and postage that I send to my beta readers. I am, as I mentioned above, I’m toying with the idea of spending a chunk of change to get my books into bookshops by offering them as free samples. The idea is a mix of advertising and creating a (tiny) lasting legacy by having my books on some book shelves somewhere years after I’m dead. I hate spending money, so we’ll see about this ide.

There are many ways to promote your books, and networking with other authors is a good one. Newsletter swaps are pretty popular – if you have a newsletter to swap. Sending books to reviewers and YouTube book channels is another — but that’s not really my thing. What have you been experimenting with to promote your books? And how has it worked for you?


  1. I agree about 6×9 paperbacks. The prices at which you sell them have to be higher than for smaller formats. My last 3 books are all 8×5.5, which I think looks better, a little shorter and a bit fatter. Also a bit cheaper. And of course a matte finish is cool! 🙂
    About the Google audiobooks–do I understand your books were sort of grandfathered into that because they were already in the Google Play store? Meaning if I were to put all my ebooks there, would I be able to get them converted to audiobooks? Or have I missed that opportunity?
    I still haven’t figured out keywords and tags, or how people looking to buy books use them, even though I gave it a shot with my last couple of books. Some say there’s a magic formula, and I’ve seen a product called Publisher Rocket touted, but haven’t checked it out.
    One thing I’m done with is KDP Select. Going exclusive with Amazon lets you give your ebook away for free 5 days out of 90, and your book can be read
    by people who pay for Kindle Unlimited. The KU thing does bring in a few bucks, but I’m not sure the exclusivity restriction is worth it.


    1. chucklitka says:

      I think Google will convert any ebook in their story to an audiobook. I just released my 2022 book last month and it was still free to convert. It’s a beta program and will likely run for a long time. So I think you could use the audiobook service if you placed your books with Google. The twist with Google is that you have to convert your book to the ePub format yourself and then upload it along with your cover. (Or maybe you could just use the Smashwords ePub version…) I use Calibre version 3 to convert the books. I have one novella in Kindle Select and KU because it’s also in Amazon’s Vella serial book thingy, and does nothing there, and little on KU, but maybe serves as a signpost to my other books that likely go unnoticed to KU readers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Chuck. Good to know!


  2. kingmidget says:

    9×6? Nope. I published my last novel on Amazon at 5.25 x 8.25. Which I think is a good size. Then when I went to D2D for my recent novella and short story collection, they don’t have that size available, so I went to 5.5 x 8.5, which, at least to me, seems too bit and creates a book that is too thin.

    Regarding Google Play … where do I go to figure out how to get my books on that site?

    Lastly … I think it’s incredible that you are trying all of these different avenues and experimenting with different options. Thanks for sharing your experiences.


    1. chucklitka says:

      This link should take you to where you can sign up for Google:
      As I mentioned to Audrey, Google has a bit of a learning curve when learning how to upload books – you have to upload an epub version of the book rather than a word copy that the others then convert into an epub. I use Calibre to do that, which is also has a little learning curve, but I don’t get into the weeks and don’t get fancy with ebook versions. I’d be glad to answer any specific questions you guys may have concerning Google.

      There are so many things you can try in self-publishing, I pick and choose what I feel comfortable trying, which is mostly things I can do on my own, without spending money…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. kingmidget says:

        Now I just have to figure out how to save my documents into epub. 😉


      2. kingmidget says:

        The good news is that D2D allows me to download the EPUB version of books I’ve published through them. So, I’m going to give this a try with my two recently published books. I wonder though, how successful Google Play will be if the books aren’t free. We shall see. Thanks for the info!


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