Tediously, it's me again. Not more than a few weeks ago, I was holding this blog hostage with a post about the tribulations of publishing my book, Déjà Vu. The traditional route hadn't worked. It hadn't worked for so long, in fact, that the 'future' in which the book was set was about to pass by with one of those 'whooshing' sounds. I was willing to turn to the Church of the Latter Day Kindle - can I get a 'Hell yes?' - and turn I did.
I am back to report, friends and neighbours, that I have got me some Holy Ghost power and a bad case of the born-agains.
The story so far: Déjà Vu is selling for 70p in the UK and 99c in the US. It's been selling since the beginning of March. In that month, I sold 320 copies in total; in April, 938; and in May (thus far)...um, 666 copies.
That totals £407.96 in three months. Nobody will be retiring on that money, or even earning much of a living, but I could certainly go to a casino and lose it all on the Snakes and Ladders.
Lo, brothers and sisters, following the success of Déjà Vu, I hatched a plan. I decided to publish the sequel. Flashback is yet another technothriller with yet more time travel, smart-arsed computers and snappy talkie-talk.
What first? Editing.
Déjà Vu was professionally edited by m'colleague Aliya Whiteley, who is also a novelist. I thought - more than thought; knew - that publishing Flashback without editing would be like putting on lederhosen, those strange socks-that-aren't-socks, and forgetting the accordion. Effect: ruined. Lacking in oompah-pah. Dead trousers, as they say in Germany. Readers not so much disappointed as very, very angry.
Friends of Me And My Big Mouth will need no introduction to Clare Christian, who was there when the Friday Project was wee. She's doing various things right now; one of them is editing. I blew a cool £425 on a...line/copy edit - whatever you call it. In essence, she changed all the things that made me look like an idiot into things that made me look clever.
At this point, given current earnings on Déjà Vu (disregarding tax for the moment), I was down about a hundred quid or so.
What next? The cover. I'd heard about Emma Barnes over at Snow Books through Scott. She's the managing editor of this small publishing outfit but also does freelance designing. I dropped her line asking about her going rate. Turned out it was £699.13.
In for a penny; in for a grand. I wasn't about to knock up something in my shed and have prospective readers shudder in a Sideshow Bob-meets-rake style every time they saw it. Besides, her covers are great - particularly those for the thrillers they sell over at Snow Books. Check them out.
How do you start the ball rolling with a cover? Well, the designer wants some initial ideas. I'm not sure how established publishing houses do this, but I'm not of the opinion that the designer needs to read the book first; the author should be able to communicate the tone, genre and major elements. So I sent Emma - now signing herself in a somewhat Kafkan manner as 'Em' - some piccies, chiefly covers of Robert Ludlum/Bourne novels, some Hollywood posters, and an image of the Avro-Lancastrian - one of the two aircraft that features in my book.
This was Em's first mock-up:
As a mock-up, of course, it has many almost-but-not-quite elements. I thought it was pretty good. The top plane was modern; the bottom one old-fashioned. And yet it didn't quite make Schnookins do the shit dance.
I wrote back to Em and requested another. Em's reply was not verbose. Later that night, I got this:
Wow. When I'd suggested 'woman with a gun' I was thinking trouser suit and pistol. This looked like something from Top Gear. You know the feeling you get when you're not sure whether something is really good or really naff? Usually when you're watching Top Gear? That's the feeling I had. Ultimately, I decided that the publishers of those 1970s Fleming re-prints would have loved it.
It had to go.
Em's emailed reply was almost entirely composed of a fictional conversation between myself and her. It was a comedic tour-de-force. By this point, it was hard not to picture Em as a chain-smoking, sassy young detective from a 1970s New York cop show who refers affectionately to criminals as 'clowns'.
We pulled the one-armed bandit of design once more. And the next cover blew the bloody doors off.
This was almost perfect. It needed a tweak or two for legibility as a 'fun size' Amazon thumbnail - the accordion to its lederhosen, as it were - and then we settled on:
Which just about makes me want to shout "Top drawer!".
So now I'm over a grand in the hole.
I remind myself that small businesses spend more than this on their headed notepaper. Ultimately, it ain't much. And if you're going to publish a book yourself without having it edited or given a decent cover, you might as well call it 'Book' and see how people get on googling it.
Lo, brothers and sisters: Flashback. It's been out four days and has clocked up 44 sales. Given that it's selling for £2.13 - the lowest price threshold for the 75% Kindle royalty - that's £67.76 or thereabouts. (Update as of 7pm, May 26, 2011: 64.)
The cover has a lot to do with it. Right now, with very few reviews - not counting those for the prequel, Déjà Vu - the cover is doing most of the work in selling the book. Perhaps once I have more reviews, those will take over...but a person does need to click that cover in order to get at the text of the reviews.
Now, do you need to spend this kind money to publish your book? Difficult to say. One might argue that £1000-plus is taking the enterprise into what used to be known as 'vanity publishing' territory - i.e. a con targeting the vulnerable.
My advice is to believe in what you're doing. Yes, you want a publisher to take you on and do some of your believing for you. There is comfort in that. But - here comes the cliché - you need to believe in yourself with this stuff anyway, publisher or not, so you may as well get the faith.
Alright, you clowns. Peace, love and incense.
You can check in on Ian's antics at his This Writing Life website.