A Greater Year

By on January 8th, 2013
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Happy New Year everyone!

Another Failed YearI was delivered some good fortune here at the beginning of 2013 when I learned that A Greater Monster was named to two top ten lists. It was named in “Top 10 Books of 2012” by Common Ills blog as voted by members, and it was also named in a “Best of” list on Refinery29.com and described as one of “10 books every Chicagoan needs to read right now” to their email list. Refinery29 Top 10 Books

In that spirit, I’ve written four top ten lists to evaluate my success as a self-publisher and provide a little bit of advice for authors-to-be.

Top 10 Things I Did to Produce A Greater Monster:

  1. Spent seven years obsessively writing it (through fourteen drafts)
  2. Paid a professional proofreader to give it the once over
  3. Asked two excellent writers to give me their detailed thoughts on it
  4. Hired a book designer and spent six months working with him to design it
  5. Hired an illustrator and spent six months working on the illustrations
  6. Hired an animator and a musician to collaborate on the web scenes
  7. Asked authors to read the manuscript and provide promotional quotes (if they liked it)
  8. Read and re-read several books on self-publishing (my favorite) and created long to-do lists
  9. Bid multiple printers to find the best price and quality
  10. Created a video and promoted a Kickstarter project to fund the print run of 1000 copies

Top 10 Things I Did After I Published It

  1. Held a big reading/release party at Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago
  2. Made the rounds to all the indie bookstores in Chicago and St. Louis, leaving them copies with a press kit
  3. Held a reading at After-Words Books
  4. Reached out to numerous bloggers across the web requesting reviews
  5. Entered twenty (or so) literary competitions
  6. Contacted numerous distributors, trying to find one who would carry a self-published novel (Hint: it’s next to impossible)
  7. Emailed bookstores occasionally when I had news
  8. Participated in a Chicago author reading tour in New York City and made the rounds to bookstores
  9. Created a postcard that highlights my literary award and an excerpt from a blogger review for bookstores to post on the shelf
  10. Hosted two giveaways on Goodreads

Top 10 Successes

  1. Made two top ten book lists of 2012
  2. Gold medal as “Outstanding Book of the Year” in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards
  3. Finalist for National Indie Excellence Book Award
  4. Received many thoughtful reviews from both readers and bloggers including The Chicagoist, The Midwest Book Review, Psychedelic Press UK, dig Boston, and the Seattle PI
  5. Interviewed for Chicago’s Newcity arts newspaper in both print and online, and by various bloggers
  6. A Greater Monster was featured in University of Wisconsin’s alumni magazine, On Wisconsin
  7. Managed to get listed with a small press distributor
  8. I feel proud of my work artistically
  9. Have sold more than 500 copies
  10. Am carried in nearly 15 bookstores

Top 10 Failures

  1. Post office lost 16 books and destroyed 8 (Lesson: always insure mailings)
  2. My distributor has done very little to promote my book
  3. One bookstore ordered 15 copies and the order never got through to my distributor
  4. Don’t have enough media attention to get picked up by a significant number of bookstores
  5. I have been disorganized following up with bookstores (especially those out-of-state) and getting paid for sales
  6. Struggling with developing an ebook version—had to fire my first ebook vendor; on my 10th round of feedback with my second
  7. Started an audio book version but put it aside due to other priorities
  8. Amazon sales have been pretty slow (bookstores have sold much better)
  9. Couldn’t get to 10 failures (oh, the irony!)

If anyone ever tells you that self-publishing is easy, they’re not doing it right. Sure, anyone can write a crappy book, export it as an epub and Kindle file, find a stock photo for the cover, submit it to Amazon, and voilà they’re published. But almost no one will read it, it will likely be riddled with grammar errors and typos, and the author will often be too close to the work to recognize its larger flaws. That isn’t to say, self-publishers can’t write great books. But they need some honest opinions and a lot of hard work. If a book is self-published in the wilds of Amazon, does it make a sound?

P.S. What a relief that this asshole lost

Mitt Romney