Posts tagged ‘‘Spoiled Pink’’

Kickstarter success…or not!

I know that people are visual and that they usually are only hooked by a picture or video.  But as the title implies, it could go either way…and I don’t have time to sift through pictures of happy or sad puppies/kittens to use to lure you in.  Especially considering a reader may become confused by seeing both a sad or happy creature to represent one story. Maybe my next blog post, the one that details the outcome.

For now, all I have is words…and all I’m here to do is describe the experience.

I have written past blogs about the self-publishing experience; how I’ve settled on Ingram Spark as my American on-demand printer, and how each book costs at least 9.00 to produce, plus shipping.  Once you resell, add in web costs, advertising, and shipping out, yet again…well, you pretty much figure out quickly that you need to join the rest of the big-boy publishers in choosing to print your finished work overseas.  Otherwise, there is no money to even make back what you have spent, much less “make” a living at trying to write.

But while you are trying to make a living at writing, you need to keep spending, to advertise what you have written, to keep websites up and running; to pay copy editors and book design teams.  Kickstarter seemed like a great idea…we could pre-sell our books, gather the monies needed for a first run…and go from there.

We did want to offer cool “rewards” in exchange for pledges and donations though, especially as we hate the idea of seemingly being beggars.  I had to talk my artist/illustrator friend into the idea, as she had no taste for it at all.  She and I have been co-partners in this since the beginning, sharing words and pictures, and equal monetary investments, as well as time towards our first two picture-books.

So we spent even more! A limited-run 200 count of 2015 calendars…at a cost of $1,600 just for the printing (Proudly done in the good ol’ U.S.of A.) The design production alone was $500.00…but you have to pay to play, right? The quality is as fine, if not better than what you find in stores.  And even though it was created using paintings based on a children’s picture book, it has appealed to every adult who has seen it.

Next went more money, spent on producing giclees (highly advanced ink techniques, on a canvas-wrapped frame, made to appear just like the real painting, and meant to last without fading, like forever…) of the actual paintings.  Ready to hang, no framing necessary!

Then came a video shoot…which cost roughly 3K.

Then a book launching/Kickstarter promotional party…to offer up a presentation of our physical wares.  It was a success, the food and wine outstanding…and only cost $900! Serving roughly 40 people, even fancy jumbo prawn cocktail, endless wine, and champagne…a very good deal! And let’s not forget the miniature cupcakes, and cookies…O.K., delicious, but yeah, another $100 bucks…

I then started self-promoting, when my publicist’s bill came to almost 3K owed…still…she takes payments, so even that’s cool…but here’s the thing about these “free” kickstarter events.  They are not really free, or easy to run.

We are taking orders to be able to produce two books…the cost at printing both, at only 1K copies each…is about $6,500.00 depending if we ship them all to one place or not.  Or air-drop some ahead of a three month shipping time.

Just the cost of having brought the paintings into a viable, digitized form, and the books into a published form, ready for instant printing, has cost roughly $8,250.00.

We decided to shoot for a seemingly reachable goal:  $7,850.

Our early test markets and printed batches have met with very rewarding praise.

And almost everyone knows about Kickstarter now…including the other 3,900 (I believe) self-published efforts, offered up as projects on the site.  I have witnessed the absurd, “Please donate money, I have connections in the publishing industry, so only need your money so I can buy a camera and then write a book!” Which was a total fail, with not one donor amused, or moved by her plight.

To the amazing, a real (and by that I mean, already big published children’s author) writer asking for the whole enchilada…she too was asking for funds to go towards the development of a new children’s series, and an app, which we too have eventual plans for…but was asking for 100K! I was, like wow! She had amassed 48K in ‘pledges’, and had only 4 days to go, but did not get past $55,824! But had actually almost raised 56K! Wow!

The thing about Kickstarter though, is that unless you reach your funding goal, which for her was 100K…none of that money can go towards you or your project! I felt sick to my stomach just watching her clock run out on her campaign.

And here I am, at having reached 38% of our goal, but like with eleven days to go!

Bottom line, Kickstarter is not an easy nut to crack, especially at Christmas time…and especially if you have friends and family (the main contributers to any Kickstarter event) who are old-school, not up to speed technologically, or are just plain busy…but “I’ll get to it soon!” A lot of these same people kind of even led us on, at our Kickstarter launch party, bringing two to three, or even more…of their friends to “sample” our wares, give their opinions, and promise to buy, at the very least, a $20 book, or calendar.  (Shipping included!) They have not, thus far!

If I had a twenty for each time someone asked me, “Where can I buy your book?” our campaign would be funded already!

It’s also frustrating when a friend tells you, “I just bought it on Amazon!”

People have told me that others can be jealous and not want you to succeed…they really want you to have to do it the hard way, all by yourself…I even read that that’s what happened to Anthony Robbins, when he first started his business, even coming from his own family.

I’ve learned through the years just to plow ahead, get the work done and just get it (or yourself) out there…and not worry about the outcome…so it will be interesting–and if it turns out we picked a wrong time of year to approach Kickstarter, I guess we will just pick a new date, like the maker of ‘The Coolest’ did…who failing the first attempt, netted close to 11 MILLION in his second go-around, the highest grossing product ever to date in Kickstarter history.

*Our two children’s picture books are ‘Spoiled Pink, and ‘The Treehouse Treasury’, portrayed in our awesome video by a videographer who has worked for both Disney, and Dreamworks.  The first book is primarily for girls ages 3 – 8, and the second for both boys and girls ages 3 & up…It’s at Kickstarter http://tiny.cc/the-treehouse-treasury

Info also available at http://www.thetreehousetreasury.com

Laura Sidsworth

Self-published…print! AND…then what? (a personal journey account)

O.K., so here’s the reality for anyone interested in becoming an author, or for just whoever might want to know about the process involved when finally getting that tome of yours self-published.  Is it a harsh reality? If I let you think that way…you may never want to try the self-publishing route at all…so let’s just continue to consider it.  You’ve written a story, collection of poems, essays, or the like. You would like to share your work with the world, and thus would like to see it published.  However, despite that want and your gut feeling that your body of work is well-worth being appreciated by the rest of the world…you can not find it a traditional publishing house.

This is what this post is about then:  self-publishing.  Maybe even you are a wayy big-baller, and you don’t want to go the normal route, because you know the drill, and you want your own control over your project.  My first book is a children’s picture-book…and I know since I’m not Jim Carrey, or Spike Lee, who both have recently-published picture-books out right now…the likelihood of me scoring a publishing house, especially because I have my own friend/collaborator who is the artist/illustrator of my project…was pretty slim.  So I didn’t bother going there.

But let’s get to the heart of this post.  I found a printer.  Ingram/Spark.  Best outfit, in my mind, of having the best offerings.  Things like quality printing, fairly inexpensive finished products, and their highly touted global distribution network.  Their claim is 39,000 distributors:  like libraries, on-line retailers, and schools/universities…who if they were to choose your title out of Ingram’s catalogue, could then order as many copies as they would like to carry and or sell.  Which sounds SO exciting! All of those people, able to consider your work!

But…and isn’t there always that one big butt-head thing that stops us? The thing is, even though Ingram, unlike CreateSpace, allows an individual author to publish in a hardback format (aka Case Laminate) and that might be what you would like to see aside from just a paperback (definitely what libraries need) the cost, including an upgrade to a premium color package (for me, or for cookbooks, heavy graphics, etc. which includes a heavier stock of 70#)…is just too prohibitive.  My base price, plus shipping, plus allowing for the traditional ability for retailers to have a “return policy” on their orders, would totally negate any profit I could make, along with a truly horrifying thought that if a retailer could not sell my precious book — I would be on the hook for the return charges!

So, here’s what I have done:  I left my book listed with Ingram/Spark at a premium package.  I disallowed any return policy.  This alone, supposedly and most definitely, will preclude me from being on anyone’s must-order list! I priced it as high as I could to allow for the 55% discount (also supposedly such a tradition, no one will order unless you have allowed this deep cut)  and to allow just the base printing price to be covered.  I think there was something like a $1.80 or so, left-over as profit for myself and illustrator to share.  Because that’s our shared business-plan.  For any on-line retailer, there was still room to make a profit…but not without the gamble of first buying the product outright.  So I know that’s never going to happen.

What is going to happen now is that I am going to still have a very nice place to print off books, one at a time, or as many as I choose to have printed and shipped to me…at a very affordable price; and receiving, for that price..the best quality, professional book I can be proud of.  Then, I am going to continue marketing the eBook version, while at the same time promoting sales of a hardback version, through my own website.  The next marketing move for me, after I can see if I can work out an agreement with any major stores/chains, etc., will be to do just like the big-boy publishers are doing:  print it overseas.  During a recent foray into Barnes & Noble, I found almost every picture-book to have been published (no matter the famous publishing-house) in either China, or Malaysia.

Now, definitely, you may be able to score sales from the global network program, if you are just merely looking to have a paperback listed on Amazon, and hopefully other retailers.  You will be much luckier than I in that regard, as your book will be much less costly to produce, and therefore can be picked up by other retailers! Yay for you! 🙂

Also, do not forget to produce your book in an eBook format!   If you sell it primarily on the internet, you will need to focus all of your attention on marketing it on the internet where you feel your core group can be found. The business (and it is a business) of marketing is almost full-time, and can take very valuable time away from what you love best:  writing! You may then consider, if your finances allow for it, a marketing team to boost awareness of your product.

When I decide I have some buyers for bigger venues, and I am ready to commit time to local fairs, shows, etc., I will order the minimum shipment allowable (like $3,500 worth) of books from China.  Meanwhile, I am happy to sell them one at a time through word of mouth, or like last week, one copy to a nearby lunch patron who was at the same bistro where I was holding a signing!

The true excitement and value comes when just that one person tells you they like your book.  It’s even better when they are a sweet, loveable child and the story reached them innocently, without that child worrying about how the story came by them and what marketing strategies the writer had to employ…it just came to them.  And they tell you they loved it! My book is titled ‘Spoiled Pink’, and the little girl dressed herself (she was 7) all in pink, to meet me! And what was even cooler, is that she and her mom already had a copy of the book, but just wanted to meet me and have it signed! That, to me, is what it’s all about!

 

 

 

 

Entering the eBook World…recently self-published account

It’s a beautifully overcast day, so I’m going to keep with the mood, and write a mellow account of my foray into the world of electronic publishing.  To make it even easier (for myself, as well as you, dear reader) I am going to recommend, right off the bat — that you buy this wonderfully inexpensive, informative eBook:  Laura Shabott’s 2013 title, Confessions of an eBook Virgin:  What everyone should know before they publish on the Internet.  It is only .99! You can purchase it directly from Amazon; even download a kindle-type reading device that will allow you to read it on most tablet devices.  And there you will begin to learn all about eBooks!

I then looked into Smashwords, BookBaby, Google Books, Amazon/CreateSpace, and finally settled for having my eBook converted by ConvertAbook…mostly because they were inexpensive for doing the actual conversion of my printed file, and also because everyone else was busy in November, with a huge number of authors looking to get their works converted and on online retailer’s shelves for the Christmas (2013) holiday buying season.

ConvertAbook has a customer service team who answers calls and emails readily, and looks immediately at any issues you may be having.  They are very inexpensive to use…but if you need more assistance, BookBaby or Smashwords claim to offer more.  I do believe they charge more for this assist…ConvertAbook for instance does not upload your finished file to your eBook retailer’s, such as Amazon and the iTunes store.  This, only by the enduring persistence and intelligence of my web designer guy, was the only way that happened for me.  And even with that, it was a frustratingly long experience.

Why frustrating? Because my title was a picture-book…yep, apparently I chose the most difficult genre to produce…as the pictures and the story have to be in a fixed-format style, for most eReaders.  Once it was on-line though, the split between Amazon/iTunes and myself was 70/30.  Not a bad split.  Evidently, with everyone rushing to get an eBook out these days, and pricing them at free, to 99 cents and up…the online retailer’s are trying to hold the line at quality, and hoping to get author’s to price their product’s a little higher as to avoid just a garage-sale type atmosphere.  If you price them higher then, you are able to retain a higher percentage from sales.  Makes sense to me!

You can also google Digital World, and join up to receive on-going information about the eBook world.  If you have your heart set on a certain timeframe by which you want to see it up and on on-line retailer’s eShelves…best give yourself some time, explore a book such as the one mentioned above (I do not know Laura S., nor, as you can tell by my huge following, accept any paid advertising!) and do look into what the afore-mentioned companies have to offer you…and then, based on who you choose to go with…get in line! Because the eBook market is getting busier every day!

Above information learned while converting and uploading my children’s picture-book, ‘Spoiled Pink’, into both the Kindle version on Amazon, as well as for Apple’s iTunes’ book store.

http://www.thespoiledpinkbook.com

 

Self-Published (recently) with tips! *PART THREE*

O.K., so I had been waiting to hear back from IngramSpark in regards to a problem I had encountered upon opening the remainder of a shipment I had received back in December of 2013.  The problem was that out of 100 hardback (known as Case Laminate) books in said shipment — roughly 75% were damaged.  They had wrinkled, wavy pages due to what looked like a too-tight roller during production…was my guess.  The order had cost me roughly $600.00 and some change, and I was not about to try to peddle books which had any type of flaw.  

Being as how I had not opened the last two boxes till I had sold the contents of the first box (TIP:  Always inspect full order immediately) it was sometime in late January that I discovered the rejects.  As there is no immediate customer service, as mentioned previously, I left an email I knew I could only wonder as to when it might be answered.  Maybe three or four days later, I received a reply, and an actual name, including a more direct email with which to correspond. I was asked to forward box info, as well as pictures of damage, so it could be forwarded to the print techs for them to substantiate damage, and perhaps figure out it’s cause.  The customer service rep explained that I would most likely have to rip all of the covers off, and send just those back.  I replied that that seemed like a bad jinx to subject my “babies” too…and besides that, I didn’t want to waste the time of doing all of that work to almost 70 books.  Shipping labels were emailed, printed out, and the shipment sent back.  

I next sent the tracking notice of when the shipment had been received at the Tennessee plant, and left an email with the customer rep.  That was February 14th, 2014.  Not hearing from said rep for almost another whole week, despite another reminder email, and a phone call…I again went back to the main email system and left a generic message for the company as a whole — stating of course, my displeasure with the companies attention, or lack thereof.  The rep called back finally, and stated he had sent me an email the past week.  I asked him to resend it, but he had some excuse as to why he could not generate that “sent” email.  He said they had decided to reship me a whole new batch…really? Wow, how nice! But then went on to say that if I ever received a shipment like that again, they could not guarantee that they would reprint my order again for me, as they were so graciously doing for me now…as it may just be that the color saturation was too much for the fast presses to handle, they surmised.  This sounded ridiculous to me. I asked, how can you offer a service/product, with no guarantees as to it’s quality?  He suggested perhaps I needed to move up a notch to the “premium color package” which really was nothing more than going from like a 50# stock, up to a 70# stock.  The cost? A mere extra $3.00 + per copy.  

O.K., I said, let me ask you a few questions.  I asked, how many picture-books do you print? Tons he answered.  And what type of package do they order? The standard package, he admitted. (Which is what I had ordered). O.K. I said, and final question, have you ever seen this happen with any of their orders? He answered no. I asked, why was an earlier order I had received fine, and why could they not then guarantee the quality of any future orders? He explained things about end rolls (paper) and how you might get variations in stocks depending on what orders piggy-backed on other orders.  But he kept returning back to the argument that any large order I may place, which suffers some type of printing disorder…would be subject to approval, and would not be guaranteed a do-over by the company.  I asked why would the company offer such a service if it could not back the quality of the printing order? He mumbled something about color saturation again…and picture-books being the problem.  And variations.  And variables.  Before he got off the phone, he promised approval for this one time at a do-over, and said he would send an email confirming shipment of my new replacements.  Almost a week passed, before getting that particular email, and at this point, it is now March 08th, and I am still not in receipt of any replacement books.

So, two things to consider:  1:  Picture-books, cook books, and anything laden with extra color, graphics, etc., may have extra problems.  2:  If you are just printing standard paperback, I am sure you would receive a quality product, and would encounter few problems.  Also, they have excellent shipping practices, and charge a very nominal fee for setting up your file, and only charge $12 per year to keep said file in their database, which is then available for printing year-round.

The only big set-back, especially for fledgling authors, is the stress and tension induced by not having any type of customer service.  DO NOT EXPECT ANY HAND-HOLDING! They do not even know they are dating you! You are one of many…and you can only be grateful for what they can deliver, when they deliver, and nothing more…as they very much play on a very large field.

It is nice to get quality printing, affordably delivered right to your very own door…and they do distribute case laminate books to online retailers (such as Amazon) which CreateSpace does not do.  So if you really want to see your book carried this way…IngramSpark is the only way to go.  They also advertise that they have 39,000 on-line affiliates, book-buyers/retailers, librarians, schools, etc., which you may catch the attention of, by having your title listed in their catalogue.  As of yet, I do not know whether this will be an advantage I will ever fully appreciate!

Many people, on finding out the particulars of creating an actual “print version” of their work, are choosing to solely go the route of eBook publishing–what my next blog will be about!

The above information was learned while producing the book ‘Spoiled Pink’, a picture-book for children 3-8.  More info can be found at http://www.thespoiledpinkbook.com or on Goodreads.

 

 

Self-Published (recently) with tips! *PART TWO*

Continuing the summarization of my experience with CreateSpace (now a subsidiary of Amazon) when self-publishing my first title, ‘Spoiled Pink’…a 44 page picture-book for children.

1) Excellent customer service, from accessibility via email requests, or a dedicated ‘team’ assigned to assisting you via phone call.  Also, even though they had processed some work prior to their approving cancellation of the rest of my order…they returned all funds without question, and in an expeditious fashion.  The end result, my title is officially in ‘retired’ mode — and they have been kind and wise enough not to just close the door on a potential reunion by still keeping my account open and accessible to me.

2)  Pricing:  Just a tad more per unit for case laminate/hardback version, & paperback/perfect bound than IngramSpark.  However, they do not print case laminate version for sale on either your ‘eStore’ website they allow you to set up (so that you can retain an additional 10% off of the sale of your books from traffic you drive to that site, ie., friends & family) –or for purchase on Amazon.  You will only be allowed to have paperback version sold on Amazon as well.  Bottom line — the hardback version is for you to publish on demand, one at a time if you like, for shipment solely to your home/business address.  

3)  As stated in Part One, but worth mentioning again…the promise of any connections to a global audience of booksellers & libraries is just a come-on.  This can not happen, as book publishers need be able first, to acquire the hardback (which is not offered for this program) and secondly and more importantly, book sellers/buyers need a traditional return policy so they are not stuck with unsold product.  Without this guarantee, there is a 99.9% likelihood no one can make the economic decision to order your book for sale on their distribution channels. 

4)  Poor shipping practices.

Now on to IngramSparks, an off-shoot of Ingram Lightning Source, one of the biggest distribution companies in the world.  IngramSparks is basically for the independent, small publisher, like me! Now for quick comparison:

1)  Zero customer service! The email server was so busy during the past Christmas holidays that an email went unanswered for over a week.  There is no dedicated team to your title.  There is no phone number to easily find to call, and if after a very diligent search you happen upon the number…that goes to voicemail and is unreturned.  If you really continue on in your search, oh, because let’s say you were in the process of uploading a file, and needed a question answered…and you managed to find the front-desk person, she would send you on to a person’s voicemail, and they might return the call, if only to say, please email question please, as we are very busy.  Long story short, you must have extreme confidence in processing their required paperwork, and you must trust either yourself or your web designer, that you are on the right path.  We were successful on our first attempt at uploading our file, so that is a good thing.  But then we waited in suspense for any number of days it seemed, before the file was approved for printing.  So, zero stars in that department…which for some, would probably be enough to call it quits, as at times it seemed we were not able to proceed through the maze of details unexplained to us at many junctures.

2)  Once your file/title is in the system, only then does the system seem to make sense, as it then seems orderly.  The price per unit is a bit more inexpensive than CreateSpace and the price actually rivals the bother of trusting an over-seas printer, and having to gamble on buying a minimum of 1000 or so units to keep in your garage to sell to nearby innocent bystanders.  The Indonesia/China markets also do not have print on demand (POD) & the wait is approximately up to two months.  

 

To be continued… As I am encountering new issues with IngramSparks…which have yet to be resolved!

Self-published (recently) with tips! *PART ONE*

This past November, I self-published my first title, a children’s picture-book…’Spoiled Pink’.  In learning several things regarding the publishing world, I decided perhaps if anyone were to read this, they could pick up a few tips, and perhaps spare themselves some of the angst I experienced in my first foray into self-publishing.  I will try to keep it quick, and to the point.

1.  I’ve been reading different people’s blogs to both motivate myself, and to glean the tips they freely provide.  I used to think it would be nice to connect to people as well, but I know that with a purported 77 million bloggers world-wide, the chances of me finding and connecting with people who could become friends is very limited.  Even with those odds! 77 million users! A serious writer must of course eventually realize that this is very much a solitary pursuit…and while becoming educated to the ways of the writers’ world…you should not expect much more.  Information and entertainment (limit your reading time, or you will find little time to hone your own craft!) are about the best one can expect.  And that alone is worthy of gratefulness.  So read other people’s tips! They can be motivational, educational, and save you time!

2.  On content:  Having said the above, take everything with the proverbial grain of salt. I have read a lot of people’s blogs regarding initial works you may feel ready to publish…and a lot of them say, just get it out there! Forget the fear! Push on…”My first book…I use now as a doorstop, but I’ve learned so much since then.”  A writer, they go on to say, is continually perfecting their craft.  While that of course is true, please take it upon yourself to make sure your best effort is exactly that — your best effort! Nothing cemented the concept of it being the best it could possibly be, until I read the Kirkus Indie review I had paid for.  The first words I read… “debut picture-book” immediately chilled me to the bone.  I was already labeled as a children’s author…and it had been duly noted that this was my first “attempt” at being a writer.  Traditionally, you were judged based on your first work.  And if that wasn’t the best and did not garner glowing reviews or sales…that was it.  One statistic I remember from somewhere is that most writers publish only one title in their lifetime. Not adding up possible life-times…this is not an encouraging stat! Bottom line…even though this is about self-publishing, and a lot of people are currently into just that…don’t discourage your future self from getting out that second title! Do hire an editor, a graphic designer for your cover art (Our Kirkus Indie review said the ‘Spoiled Pink’ cover was brilliant) AND, get yourself a Kirkus Indie review. The five hundred plus bucks is well worth it.  It can also clue you in as to what may need to be done to your work to get it even more polished.  The best part is being able to use it in all of your marketing efforts.  Maybe even if your reviewer happened to be off his/her game that day and gave your book a passing nod…sometimes this is all it takes for people to notice you. Hey, someone thinks, Kirkus said it was good…so it must be. Then, like the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, you’ve convinced not only someone to read your book, but perhaps already be preconditioned to like it!

3.  It’s ready…where to publish?  I myself opted for CreateSpace, right off the bat.  Seems everyone was using them, they were inexpensive; and as a subsidiary of Amazon…you got your title up on Amazon instantaneously, with a promise of possible world-wide distribution.  It seemed the route to go, and boldly I went.  I found out a couple of things.  The cost of publishing pretty much precludes a realistic partnering with any outside retailers because of one big rule. Traditionally and more importantly, because of our current economic climate, there is little room for pricing variables and booksellers need to be able to return any books they can not sell.  Amazon/CreateSpace does not allow for such a practice.  Bottom line:  You will not have anyone order your books to sell in their on-line businesses, or brick and mortar stores.  Other things that did not go well:  shipping practices.  The first copy I held in my hand had high-quality printing and binding, and beautiful rich color…but had suffered its ride to my home.  The first few pages were wrinkled and the front cover was creased.  I googled shipping problems, and found that they simply ignored all complaints, and never addressed the very real need to add protective materials to their shipping.  As for pricing, I was dismayed to see Amazon reduce the price of my book after only 24 hours.  Only then did I look at the contract between me and about fifteen of Amazon’s best attorneys, and read that they were free to price my title at whatever they wanted, at any given time. This ticked me off just a tad, as of course, our first and immediate sales are to the locals and to our relatives and immediate friends and sphere.  Here I was quoting them one price, and here was Amazon, offering it up at something else.  I recall an immediate discount of like 17% — overnight! In any event, that was enough to get me to drop them the very next day.  

*PART TWO* (to be continued) My new relationship with Ingram/Sparks!

*PART THREE* (to be continued) All I know (NOW!) about eBooks!

Above information garnered while producing http://www.thespoiledpinkbook.com 

 

 

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