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The Self Publishing Process: My First Book

- Thoughts on the process and outcome

Let's begin by saying the self publishing process on Amazon is extremely straightforward; maybe too much so. I flew through all the steps one morning and a couple days later had a real, live book! But I didn't order a proof first and discovered the size of the book was slightly different than I imagined. Fortunately, everything else about the physical copy seemed nice. I chose the cream colored pages to go easy on the eyes and a glossy cover. The actual print quality was perfectly normal.

Next time I'll do a slightly smaller physical size. This book was only 67k words and that length doesn't justify a 6"x9" size. At 266 pages the margins are slightly too large in my opinion. Not a deal breaker but in the future I think I'll go with 5"x8" for any book I release with less than 100k words.

I started a couple advertising campaigns on Amazon and Facebook. So far I've found it difficult to gain any traction with the Amazon ads. I'm running three at the moment; auto-targeting, categories, and manual. None of them have done much so far. I'll continue to tweak them to see if I can get more eyes on my book. The Facebook ads have done much better. Every day I get dozens of visits to the Amazon page where both my ebook and softcover reside. The BIG catch: almost no one so far is willing to pay for my book.

A few days after launch I decided to run a five day, free book promotion. I set up special ads on Facebook and Amazon to support this promo and watched as the orders piled in. I got between 45 and 85 new orders every day. I was very excited that someone, anyone, would desire to give my book a try. The money matters to me (unfortunately) but readers are still more important than dollars in my opinion. Giving up a few days of sales to gain readers felt like a perfectly sound tradeoff. And I still think it was... However, the day the promotion ended I dropped to zero. There is something about paying money, even a small amount like $3.99, that stops people from buying a book. It doesn't stop many people from buying an ice cream (insert snack of choice), but non-edible entertainment, enjoyed at home, just seems to stir the miser in us all. That ice cream cone might be 10 minutes of fun and a few hours of guilt but the $3.99 price tag feels perfectly reasonable (and acceptable). The book is zero guilt and 8+ hours of fun (assuming it's an enjoyable book) but it still feels like a pain to pay for it.

Why is this? Is it the unpredictability of the book? Your favorite ice cream stand is no mystery. You probably know exactly how its ice cream tastes and exactly how much you'll enjoy it. A bad book just feels like a waste of time. Is it the way we consume entertainment at home? Subscription services that pump entertainment into our homes are nothing new. They've been around for centuries; think newspapers. Perhaps we've conditioned ourselves to feel that home entertainment should either be paid for indirectly with time (watching ads) or subscriptions (pay once a month and forget about it for the rest of the time). Perhaps now the act of paying for something directly, that we intend to enjoy at home, feels... difficult? Or maybe it's something else, or a mix of these factors? Whatever it is, I'll keep tweaking my ads to see if I can attract people who like the risk of reading an unknown author (and are willing to pay a bit to do it.)

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29. Apr. 2023

Unfortunately for the world at large, there's a reason the term "starving artist" came into being. Yes, it's difficult to monetize art. Sometimes you grudgingly take a slightly different approach than what you'd like, for the sake of popularity (and sales). And along with your actual creating, there's always back-end work to try to recoup some of your time, effort, and skill in the form of dollars. But keep creating; that's the important thing. There can never be too many artists! Each of you speaks in a slightly different voice, be it words or pictures or music. And there's an audience out there waiting to connect with you and your work — you just have to find them.

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