Since you've all been so kind to be interested in my *book journey*, I thought it was time to give an update! I'll try to do one every few months or so.
I was reflecting on what I've done this year and felt like I hadn't accomplished as much as I wanted with writing my next books until I looked at where I was at this time last year. Then I thought, I've had a lot going on, not only with marketing but with kiddo stuff as well. Here is what I reviewed:
In July 2008 I was under great time pressure to get my ARCs (advance reader copies) out in time for a writers' conference (the GPCWC HERE) that I would be attending during the first week of August -- they have a book consignment table there, and I wanted to sell my books. I'd been working with deadlines that whole year, but all the details finalized in July. Between finishing having the company officially established, receiving the ISBNs and the other legal doodads, logo design (that my daughter did -- try arguing with a teenager about what you want), getting the final interior and cover PDFs, completing a contract with the printer, getting the proof printed/examined/OK'ed, and then getting the shipment of books, believe me it was a nail-biter. The books came in on July 30th, with a week to spare. Phew.
I was told to expect to sell about five to ten books at the conference. I engaged in shameless marketing, including sitting on a self-pub panel and putting the book prominently on my desk at every lecture :-) Several people read the book while the conference was going on, then searched me out to tell me how much they enjoyed it, and I think they may have told some of their friends. I even saw one person absorbed in Lever instead of listening to a lecture we were both attending -- wow. The woman doing a marketing seminar held my book up during another lecture and said she'd heard it was very good (God bless you, Carmen!) Final result: I was able to sell 16 books. I also passed out a few to authors or other people who might be able to write an endorsement.
Right after this, Tammy, who runs the Curves that I attend, held a book signing for me. I sold about 50 books there. Furthermore, the ladies really seemed to enjoy it and told their friends, so I was (and continue to be) able to make additional sales over the next months.
For the remainder of the fall, I continued to pursue endorsers and also sent out a slew of books to review sites. Pursuing endorsers was worth it; the review sites weren't, although I did get a nice turndown note from the religious editor of Publisher's Weekly. If you notice on amazon that on Lever's listing there are 16 *new and used* books for sale, guess who paid for those, mailed them to the reviewer, and never heard a word back? If they say *new* you know why. This upset me when I first saw it, but I've since taken a deep breath and decided to let it go :-) It's God's book, not mine, and He will get the word out. If He wants to put this company in the black, He can certainly do that.
During the fall I also went over my manuscript yet again with a fine-toothed comb. I was double-triple-quadruple checking mostly for accuracy, consistency, and interior appearance since the main edits had already been done months before. There was a glitchy with the binary countdown code heading the middle chapters, but after some head-butting the printer and my interior designer were able to work it out. Thank goodness! By being a (nice) pest I also added a few new endorsements, especially from Randy Ingermanson and Wayne Batson. Randy was so kind -- he told me he didn't think he'd ever written an endorsement for a self-pubbed book but was happy to write one for me because he really liked the story :-)
The last major worry was getting the cover changed from ARC to final cover, since the PDF files I'd been given weren't layered. Chris again saved the day! (Chris was my copy editor and interior book designer, and is fabulous at this stuff). Actually, let me give him a plug since he has a self-publishing company. If you want to self-publish your book and don't want to form a company, I can unreservedly recommend Chris's company, Yav Publications. He is honest and meticulous, and his books are works of art. He is an expert in all areas of publishing from editing to design. I don't know his prices off-hand, but for the work he did for me he charged a fair price and I was completely happy with the result. Chris has also developed Fiction Fixer, a program that evaluates your use of language and writing style to optimize what ends up on the page.
Release date of Lever was January 12, 2009. I chose this date since it would be a 2009 book then, and would have the whole year to still seem *new.*
Nothing earthshaking happened on release date. In the few weeks before, I'd been desperately trying to fix inaccurate information on the amazon listing. This was incredibly frustrating, although at the end it worked out. And there it was: my book was ready to be sold!
From January to about April, I had internet reviews and did a whole slew of blog interviews, including a Wild Card Blog Tour in February. You can see some of these listed on the side of this blog. Lever also was the featured book for the ACFW internet Book club in March -- and BTW, for all of you who came by for the chat even if I missed you, thank you again so much! It was calming to know friends were around :-)
I've also done a few local book club presentations and book signings, with excellent results. I'm still trying to get a print review in a newspaper -- since Lever is self-pubbed, no one wants to touch it. Frankly, I can understand this since self-pubbed books often deserve a poor reputation, but it's still discouraging. When I wanted to sell to libraries, I was told it will make the difference if I have print interviews. Oh well, never say die, says I.
Throughout the process, whenever anyone reads the book, I ask if they might consider doing an amazon review. Many of you have done so, and again, thank you so much! So far I have 35 reviews, averaging four and a half stars out of five.
In April I decided I should get some postcards made, and now have really spiffy ones with the book cover on the front; on the back are the back cover description, Randy's endorsement, a brief bio and tiny author photo, and then ordering info. The only thing I'll do differently when I reorder them is to underline the web site addresses. These are great to pass out; in fact, I've been using them instead of a business card. I put them in book racks at Walmart and B&N. I put them in churches. When it's not obnoxious to ask, I give a few to friends and ask them to pass them out as appropriate.
I figured the main hooks for my book are that (1) it's Messianic (ie Jewish believers of Yeshua); and (2) it is not CBA Christian; rather it's written in a neutral or even skeptical manner, and invites the reader to examine the evidence for and against the resurrection. Also, it's a hopefully exciting story :-) My prayer is that the Lord uses Lever as a tool to open the heart/mind of a skeptic. So, in April I started sending postcards to a sampling of messianic rabbis across the country, offering them a free book to read and, if they liked it, they might tell people about it. While a number have taken me up on the offer, I haven't seen any spikes in sales so at this point it doesn't seem like a worthwhile tactic, although one never knows. I also had one rabbi who actually purchased the book; I was so touched that he did this. It reminded me of the believers in Philipi when Paul wrote (speaking of his financial support during his journeys) "Not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account." Phil 4:15-16
More recently, I've been calling a few Bible theme parks (Sight and Sound, Holy Land, Passion Play) and messianic online stores to see if anyone wants to carry the book (with proper wholesale discount, of course!). I've approached a few local Christian schools and homeschool companies with no success (yet), and am now thinking of branching out to find church bookstores that might want to carry the book. My target reader is actually a skeptic, but I'm not sure how to target this amorphous group! My strategy so far has been mostly through the Christian community.
My journey to date has been enlightening. I've decided that there are two main hurdles to pubbing a book, whether self or traditional: (1) creating a good product; and (2) marketing. I think, based on what others keep telling me, that I've vaulted the first. The second one is also quite challenging! So far my tally goes:
sending books to endorsers and influencers -- worth it
sending ARCs out for reviews -- most disappointing to me. ALL the pubbing books said to do this, but I found it a big fat zero, plus it ate a lot of capital
sending final books for internet reviews -- small places like blogs also work well
sending books for blog interviews -- worth it
local book signings -- gold standard
postcards -- should have done these earlier; they are great
writing the next one(s) -- essential. Things are finally calming between family and marketing so that I am hoping to focus more on writing for the summer. I will be giving a lecture at GPCWC this year on The Story Template, which gives me an appropriate kick in the rear.
OK, here comes the shameless begging part:
Sales are not moving well right now. Although I will continue to pursue avenues, and I have sold a bunch of books, I believe that I've more or less tapped out my limits for personally marketing Lever. If you've read this book and liked it, please please please tell your friends about it! If your church has a bookstore, see if they might want to carry it. If you want to suggest Lever for your book club, I promise it raises interesting issues, and I have a killer list of discussion questions. If you want to pass out postcards, let me know and I'll send them on. If you can think of any other ways to get the word out, I'd be so grateful, and I'm all ears :-)
One other thing: I'm praying for a champion, someone who can introduce the book to the next level, say a local radio station or even a Rick Warren or a James Dobson. (this is provided, of course, that the book is good enough, but I truly think based on feedback that it is). If you feel inclined, please pray for this. Although I've made some sales, the outflow is much greater than the inflow, and I have mostly tapped out my funds: my goal is to make just enough money back that I can afford to publish my next book. Taegais is the Lord's company, the money is His, and I'm content with whatever, but gee, I hope He wants it to continue...
Sob story over. Thanks for listening!
17 hours ago