Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘youwriteon

At the end of 2008, after years of rejection letters from agents and publishers, I decided to publish my novel, ‘Tasting the Wind’ in a ‘Print on Demand’ (POD) format.

POD is not to be confused with self publishing. If I had self-published there would have been a lot more donkey work- buying my own ISBN, submitting the legally required copies to the relevant libraries and so on. It would also- and I have this on the authority of self- published authors- be far more expensive. With conventional self-publishing the author pays for a print run and ends up with a garage full of physical copies. POD books exist in cyberspace, and can be printed off… well on demand, as the term suggests.

So how was it for me?

The down side.

So you can have a nice, glossy covered version of your work without having to suffer another rejection. But what are the down sides?

These are probably in proportion to your expectations. If you think that a POD book is going to make you rich and famous, then think again. Some writers (including myself at one time) will point out the occasional author who has self or POD published and as a result has been ‘noticed’ by a major publisher. These are so few and far between that it can in no way be relied upon to get your book into the bestsellers list. Also, once you have gone down the POD route you have used up your first publishing rights.

 The fact that the technological revolution has enabled you to publish a book which has had no editorial input or proof reading means that anyone at all, regardless of talent or lack of it, can publish a book.  Even as a POD published author I have to admit that I am very careful about buying POD  work, and like to find out as much as I can, including reading a sample if possible. In order to give others a chance to decide before buying ‘Tasting the wind,’ and because I believe it will stand the test,  I have put the opening chapters on my website, www.allanmayer.com  and you can read a whole 25% of it on Smashwords, where it can be downloaded as an e-book.

Even after ten years of work, ‘Tasting the Wind’ admittedly has some typographic and grammatical weak spots. Despite careful readings by myself, family and friends, seeing your book in a published form for the first time will highlight some obvious errors previously unspotted. *

The company that I published with – www.youwriteon.com , have had their fair share of criticism. Their original plan to publish 5000 books by Christmas 2008 was never going to happen in reality. For £39.99 YWO printed my book, bought an ISBN number and placed it on several online book sellers sites including Amazon and Book Depository. YWO get 40% of everything I sell. I am aware that I could have gone down other routes which would have retained me more of the royalties, but as I knew that these would not be phenomenal figures I didn’t get over concerned about this.

I’m not sure if marketing should come under the downs or the ups, as it has provided an enjoyable learning experience. BUT it is hard work, and can consume a lot of your time. The best thing that can happen to a POD book is that it finds a niche audience or manages to get national press coverage (which to my knowledge two YWO books have done.) Talking of the down side, as I am, this brings me to my two greatest disappointments. Both ‘Community are Magazine’ and one of the Royal College of Nursing  journals showed interest then decided not to pursue the interview/ review. An appearance in either of these would have really boosted sales, but que sera sera… 

One last thing about  the downside: there were  frustrating delays in the publication of the book and the appearance for a short time of someone else’s cover with my information on some of the sites.  I don’t know if I’m particularly blessed with patience or just plain stupid, but at a time when people were panicking and withdrawing their work I decided to wait and see. The POD project was new to Ted Smith and the team, and they would be first to admit that there were teething troubles.

Then came the day when the first copy arrived, which leads me to…

The Up Side

I had heard all sorts of terrible things about the quality of POD books, including one of a writer doing a signing where the books were so poorly bound that they fell apart. No such problem with books published by YWO- I have handled several copies of ‘Tasting the Wind’ and books by other YWO authors and all have been sturdy and well produced.

I have made a lot of lovely contacts through developing my web presence. I received an e-mail from an Australian Speech Pathologist who was using parts of ‘Tasting the Wind’ in her lectures. The director of a company which specialises in workplace disability adjustments ordered signed copies for all of  his staff. I was also contacted by friends of David Heffer, a friend and colleague who was killed by the IRA and to whom ‘Tasting the Wind’ is dedicated.

Talking of web presence- I succeeded in what I set out to do by blitzing as many outlets as I could find. Google any combination of ‘Allan Mayer, Tasting the Wind and you will find pages and pages. Not that many people will Google those words, but I am pleased to say that if you also Google ‘Learning Disabilities novel’ I now appear on the first page.

Although, as I said, you will not earn fame and fortune through a POD novel, you may earn a small amount of local celebrity. I have appeared several times in local papers and have been approached by people who have seen the article and even bought the book. I am also pleased to have appeared twice in the magazine of  Derian House children’s hospice, to whom I was proud to give the first month’s royalties.

The critics of POD publishing say that only your friends and family will buy your book. This is patently untrue- living as we do in the world of the internet there is more potential than ever before for creating sales worldwide.

The most important thing is that my book is being read. It is not only being read, enjoyed, and not just sitting on my hard drive.

So how many people have read it?

Well, I once read that a POD book would do well to sell 100 copies. I was happy when I heard that I had sold 122 in the first six months. Fluctuations in my Amazon rankings (U.S. and UK) since then  indicate that it has continued to sell, and I know that some people have passed it on to friends. Having come to the conclusion that my book was not commercial and unlikely to attract a major publisher, I concluded that a small readership was better than none at all. At the end of the day it all comes down to why you write. Yes, fame and fortune as a writer is a highly desirable thing. But in this case so is the thrill of connection I have found when people have sent personal e-mails or written reviews which tell me that they get what I am saying.

I think that fame and fortune can wait until the next book…

(WATCH THIS SPACE)

*My purpose in writing this post is to give an honest account of my POD experience- not to put you off buying my book.  If you find this off putting please refer to my Amazon reviews, where people I have never met have taken the trouble to point out that despite these issues they would still recommend the book and have given no lower than 4/5 stars.

A Crystal Meth True Story.

I have often wondered over the past few months if any of the 400+ books published by YouWriteOn so far would break away from the pack and achieve high sales and sustained Amazon rankings.

This week, I heard that ‘Tweaking the Dream’ by Clea Myers was starting to do exactly that. Since the book was featured in The Sun newspaper it has maintained a consistent position within the top 10,000 books on Amazon.uk. When I researched the Amazon rankings earlier this year I discovered that a book that could do that would be considered a success by any small publisher.

My first reaction upon hearing about Clea Myers’ success was that it was a cause for celebration for all of us in the YouWriteOn stable. Having said this, any celebration of  ‘Tweaking the Dream’ as a triumph for POD publishing must come second to a far more important triumph: this book is getting the truth out there about the evils of Crystal Meth. It is Clea Myers’ own story about her descent into Hell through her use of the drug, and if any of the YWO books go on to greater things it would be good to know that it is one with such an important message.

You can read the Sun interview here:

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/2583142/Crystal-meth-is-the-devils-poison.html?OTC-RSS&ATTR=Features

Visit Clea’s website here: http://cleamyers.com/

A lot has happened since I started my blog one year ago this month…

This time last year I was still sending out the letters and submissions to agents and publishers and getting them returned (or not) with the standard rejection letters. Each manuscript provided exactly what each agent or publisher asked for, not a chapter more or less, an introductory letter, a synopsis and stamped addressed envelope. I never compromised on presentation, even when a friend of mine who has published a series of bestselling books told me that his break came when a publisher dished his submission out to a student, who just happened to enjoy reading it on a tube journey.

It was  advice from published writers that made me think that perhaps I was looking in the wrong place with ‘Tasting the Wind.’ One of them said that a writer’s first novel was more likely to succeed it it was ‘high concept.’ Another suggested that publishers were put off by mixed genre. A novel can be well written, but if a publisher perceives that it will not sell in large numbers it will not be taken on.

It was then that I decided to try a different route.

I had started my marketing early- about nine months before I had a published book- and that preparing of the ground proved invaluable. In August I was invited to speak at Stafford University, and it was there that a lady who later turned out to be a publishing consultant asked me who my book was aimed at, and by what time was I hoping  to get it published. For some reason I said ‘Christmas.’

It wasn’t long after this that I got an e-mail from my friend, Dominic Took, informing me that a publisher, YouWriteOn, were offering free POD publication,  before Christmas to 5000 writers .

There was never a chance that they would get 5000 books out in that time, and I wasn’t surprised when ‘Tasting the Wind’ didn’t appear until well into the New Year. So to fill the gap I carried on marketing, and through the process have met some great people. Some of them are writers who are only too happy to share ideas. Others are people who have contacted me from all corners of the globe to express interest in my work.

If you are planning to self-publish or POD publish a book, you will probably be told that it will only be bought by friends and family. I can assess this assertion in one word: WRONG. This may have been true in the days before the internet, but not now. Of course you won’t make the sales of a mainstream book- that’s a given- but if you put the work into marketing (and no one else is going to do it for you) you will find that people you have never met will buy your book, and even write reviews on it.

So, as things stand, one year on ‘Tasting the Wind’ is making modest global sales. Of over 400 YouWriteOn published books it is number one on the Book Depository chart and number two on Amazon. The immediate future is looking hopeful, as some of my biggest marketing initiatives are now in the pipeline- they include two reviews, one  in a regional magazine and another in a national.

Do I regret going down the POD route? Not at all. People are reading my story, so I consider that I have achieved what I set out to do.

Anyone who is considering POD or self-publishing must go into it with their eyes open. The chances of being ‘discovered’ by a major publisher are almost non-existent.  You will not make enormous sales, but if you work hard on promotion and find a niche market your book will not be read only by people who know you and your work will not languish on your hard drive.

So let’s see what the next twelve months bring.

 

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If you click Here you can see the  current top ten bestsellers from authors published by YouWriteon.

At the time of writing (Sunday 29th March 2009, 18.50pm) The list reads as follows:

A Dangerous Windfall by Thomas Dean

Safe by Kate Hanney

The Frog and the Scorpion by Steevan Glover

Great Short Stories by YouWriteOn.Com Writers by YouWriteOn.com Writers

Tasting the Wind by Allan Mayer

The Stone by Claire Nolan

Ordinary Monsters by Paul Ekert  

Chasing Dreams by Aaron Jennings

 The Chronicles of Joya by Liane Carter
 
Tuppenny Hat Detective by Brian Sellars
 
At present YouWriteOn have 375 books on Amazon. A Dangerous Windfall has held first place for some time now. Having been at number one, The Frog and the Scorpion stays firmly at number three.
So what have these authors done to get into the top ten?
 
Earlier this week I noticed that Aaron Jennings’ Chasing Dreams was rising quickly, and maintaining high rankings, so googled it, to see if the web held any clues. According to the tenets of neurolinguistics it is better not to look up  to successful people, but to look into them. So what has Aaron Jennings been up to?
The Google results demonstrated two things: the first of these was internet presence. Aaron has planted his book on so many sites, the trawl producing a long list of varied references to Chasing Dreams.
The second- and perhaps the most successful strategy, is that he has identified a niche audience. I haven’t read his book, but apparently there is a surfing theme, and it is clear from some of the sites where his book appears that he has directed his marketing at the surfing community.
 
Kate Hanney has featured on the YWO website- she has had copies stocked at Waterstone’s because the manager was impressed with the price of her book. This highlights the fact that the Amazon rankings only indicate online sales, and may be a hint that if we combine Kate’s success at Waterstone’s with her position on Amazon she is probably YWO’s top selling author. (That is if we discount one author who has bought 1000 copies of their book direct from the publisher.)
 
Liane Carter was one of the first (perhaps the first?) people to feature on the YWO website at a Waterstone’s book signing. She has also invested in her marketing, and is the only YWO author to have a ‘Meet the Author’ video, which appears on her Amazon page.
Thomas Dean, the current number one, also appears on various websites, and has been featured in the Northumberland Gazette.
I can also vouch for the usefulness of the press release. I had fallen to ninth place, and my Amazon ranking was 160,000th. Then my press release appeared in the local newspaper, my ranking shot up to about 11,000th and I went back up to number 5.
 
So how many have been sold?  No idea- the stratistics give no clue. Although I know it not to be the case, the YWO table would look the same if  Thomas Dean had sold only ten copies, Kate Hanney  nine and so on. 
 
I would be interested to hear from any other POD published/ self-published authors about which marketing strategies they have found most successful.
 
Meanwhile, I am expecting to be making a big announcement on this blog sometime soon… watch this space.

Although I am still waiting for the copies of my book that I ordered from the publisher, a box of ten arrived from Book Depository at the weekend. So now I have them, what am I doing with them?

This seems to be falling into clearly defined categories:

1) Gifts copies

I have written in and given copies to members of my family, and have put one aside for Peter who designed and runs my website. (What do you mean ‘cheapskate’- I’m talking about a signed first edition here!)

2) Technophobe copies

This may come as a shock to you, using the internet as you do, but  you will have among your friends and acquaintances some people who do not know how to buy from Amazon, and don’t want to wait the upto four weeks for W.H. Smiths to get hold of it. So I have sold a couple of copies this way.

3) Review Copies

Now although I come from Stoke-on-Trent and live in Lancashire, I must have a spot of Yorkshireman in me somewhere because parcelling up a book and sending it, free of charge, to a total stranger was not an easy thing to do. But you have to speculate to accumulate, because the generation of interest from one positive review should make the sacrifice more than worthwhile. I have sent a review copy to ‘Lancashire Life’ Magazine. When I spoke to the editor he was happy with the fact that although Tasting the Wind is not on a Lancashire theme, the fact that sales will help a Lancashire charity would qualify it for their interest.

4) Shop Copies

I say ‘shop’ rather than ‘bookshop’ because there is no reason why your book can’t be sold from any  venue- particularly if it is thematically linked. I spoke to the manager of my local W.H. Smiths the other day, who informed me that she has a budget for local authors- but that at the moment it is overspent. I’ll be going back there later in the year, but for now will be approaching the shop belonging to the charity which I support.

5) Cheeky copies

I call them that because I have noticed a tendency in myself recently (brought on by an obsessive compulsion to market my book) to be a little… cheekier than usual.

I can best describe this in an anecdote of my week so far….

Which I will tell in my next blog.

1: I’ve started up a ‘Tasting the Wind’ group on FaceBook
2: I got this from Ted at YouWriteOn…
 
Hi Allan
 This is to give you an update on the issue that the majority of our book titles are appearing as normal on leading bookseller sites such as Waterstones, but a number, including yours, have not being listed for display. This was due to a data input issue at Nielsens that they have resolved.

 How booksellers receive information is that Lightning Source, our printers, provide all the necessary information to Nielsens and Gardners  for each book published so that each book can appear on bookseller sites and be ordered through book stores. This is the basic info including ISBN, publisher, etc. Lightning Source assured us all this information was correct and sent information to us to verify which appeared all correct and in place. So we looked into this further with Nielsen and they report that for a number of titles there was a temporary blip in their Trade Data and that their Trade Data Team have fixed the problem to resolve this.

 Nielsen have reported to YouWriteOn that this was due to the omission of a publisher link in their trade data information for the affected titles. They report, “We manage this via a prefix mapping process. I believe that the titles that were missing the publisher link had a prefix which we had not mapped to the YouWrite publisher name. This has now been recitifed, and any new titles supplied by Lightning Source in their ONIX file to us for YouWrite titles with your prefix will automatically be given a YouWrite imprint name.”

 Nielsen’s have worked very hard to identify and rectify this issue.

 We are pleased this has now been resolved by Nielsen’s Trade Data team so that the affected books, including yours, can go forward to appear on the wide range of leading booksellers sites that our books appear on.

 Best wishes

 Edward

 

3:I had already uploaded my cover to Amazon, as the page was looking sad with no image.

4:I’ve also sent in a synopsis now, so that people looking at the page can tell what ‘Tasting the Wind’ is about.

5: Submitted another press release to the local paper.

 

I’ve also been chasing up the copies I ordered a month ago from Legend Press. I wanted to send some of them out as review copies, so that side of the marketing campaign is on hold. I do know that from now on I will order from Amazon or Book Depository, as they do free delivery and I get royalties which aren’t swallowed up in postage.

 

Oh Well, you live and learn…

 

I am publishing the correspondence below with the permission of Ted Smith, Director of YouWriteon.

(I had previously written about the mix up of book covers on Amazon, and Ted had replied that the cover and interior at Lightning Source matched, so the problem must have occured at Amazon…)

I wrote:

Thanks Ted,
I’ve just sent my press release to Derian House, the Children’s hospice I am giving half of my royalties to, so thanks for keeping me informed.

I have been, and will continue, collecting ideas for marketing on my blog. I am doing this because you were clear from the start that YWO would not be marketing the books. I would be interested, however, to know if you yourself have any ideas about the best ways to market a POD book. I am sure that you are very busy at the moment but if you do have time I would welcome, if you feel it is appropriate, a few words for the readers of my blog, which has been attracting over 300 readers a day, many of them YWO members.
Best Wishes,
Allan

 

Ted wrote:
 
‘ To try to get interest from a local store, it can help to also contact your local press and if they show interest in covering your book release, then contact your local store and try and tie up the article so that it appears if/when the local store has stocked you as a local author. Ideally an article might mention the local store for advantage to you both and to encourage visitors in general. This may not always work out depending on the newspaper, or store and demand on their floor space, but it can be worth a try.
 
The charity aspect may help with this, or it may be an idea to see if local press interested without, as then a few months later you could try to revisit the same press with the charity aspect and perhaps achieve further signing or stocking as well as supporting a good cause. It is always advisable to contact charities first to discuss your aims and see what the response is and whether they approve the fundraising aims.
 
Also on site, in a few weeks time members will be able to add a link on YouWriteOn for those  who enjoy your sample writing to buy your book at booksellers such as Amazon, Waterstones, etc. Part of our aim to make this a more interesting process alongside getting reviews for feedback. For each review completed of another members opening chapters, you will be assigned to be reviewed by a fellow writer/reader in return, and we hope this proactive system will help to spread the word about good writing, increase book sales for writers, as well as helping writers to develop further through feedback. Very frequently over the site’s history we have seen readers writing ‘I would buy the book’ so we hope this may prove the case for some writers.’

Thanks Ted. I know that there has been a lot of debate on some of the other blogs and forums about what direction YWO will take, so hopefully that will be of help, straight from the horse’s mouth.

 


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