March 22nd, 2011 by Sasha White
Rock My World.

Over the past year or more we’ve been hearing more and more about self-publishing. Joe Konrath has been a force behind the message that we authors can have so much more control, and income, if we override the conditioning of Big Publishing and take control of our own careers. That’s not to say that traditional publishing is bad. I’m not against it in any way, and will still be pursuing it. But I’m also smart enough to know that options are never a bad thing.

In October I dipped my toes into the whole self-publishing pool with MEANDROS. I’d promised to keep y’all up to date on how it went, but have really posted nothing about it since because it’s been very slow moving.

Meandros is a short story just over 5k long. It’s been previously published, and it was also a free read on my website and scribd for a year or so, so I didn’t really expect a lot of sales. But I thought why not, let’s get it out there. I put out some coin to get it re-edited, and formatted and got a nice new cover. I put it up for 99 cents, because that’s the lowest price Amazon allows.

Here’s the stats of what’s happened with that book so far.

* In the four and a half months it’s been for sale, I’ve only sold 1 copy through Smashwords, and 150 through Amazon.

* Sales went up when readers posted reviews.

* Changing the blurb didn’t help sales. Although this could be because my story is about how the main character deals with the death of the love of her life, and I refused to hide that fact in the blurb. It was suggested to me I take that out, to sell the story, but I didn’t think that was cool. I didn’t want to mislead readers

I’m okay with slow sales on that story. Of course I want it to sell lots. I’m human and I want to keep working as a writer, but that particular story is a very personal one, and I really just wanted it to be available to as many readers as possible.

Author Jordan Summers has also been dipping into the Indie Publishing arena by re-releasing some of her backlist, and talks about it openly on her blog. So far she’s released one novella and one category length book, and states that she made a little under $100 in the first month. A few of the sales are from Smashwords and B&N, but the majority are from Amazon. Jordan’s done no promotion beyond her own blog because she wanted to see what would happen if she just put the books out there. Would people find them on their own?

It seems that many of us are not only seeing this as a way to re-release backlists, or short stories that connect to our books, or even new stuff, but also as way to really see what works with readers. We can see what works promotion wise, too. I know I noticed a bump in sales when readers started posting reviews on Amazon, and Jordan confirmed that she saw the same thing.

With that in mind, I went forward with a project with another author. Charlene Teglia and I decided to do an anthology together. We used the theme of rocks or stones of mystical value (ROCK MY WORLD is my story) and we each wrote a short story that connected to our previous print books. Because Charlene’s was paranormal, I chose to write one connected to my own paranormals that were published by Kensington, and not my Berkley contemporaries.

The idea of it is that our fans will buy the book because it’s connected, and hopefully new readers will enjoy the eBook so much they’ll hunt down the print books they’re connected to.


A Rock & A Hard Place had it’s official release yesterday, and is now on sale for 99 cents through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Below are some tips from me to anyone out there wanting to go the Indie Publishing route.

*When it comes to formatting…hire a professional. Save yourself time and stress.
Also, when getting the file ready to send to the formatter…Keep it as simple as possible.
Page breaks are okay. Italics and bold are good, but beyond that, there’s no need to format your file a lot. The person who formats it for publication has to break it down and completely reformat it anyway. However, you can make their job easier and smoother by giving them a clean and simple file to work with.

When asked about how she charges for formatting April Martinez of Graphic Fantastic gave me this list

Long Fiction: $30 for the first file, $10 for each additional format
Anthologies of three or more stories: $50 minimum (more if number of stories or authors exceed 5) for the first file, $10 for each additional format. If the ebook file needs to have Interior Illustrations (including diagrams for non-fiction or covers for excerpt books): additional $5 per image embedded (assuming all images are provided by author(s))

April says, “So far, length hasn’t really made much of a difference in either ebook formatting or for print book design. If anything does make a difference, it’s more likely to be the number of chapters or the number of sections or, say, stories in an anthology. This is because where there’s a hard page break, it’s usually the start of a new file — so the more chapters/sections/stories, the more “files” there are in an ebook and in a print book, and the more “entries” there are that refer to them in a table of contents.”

This shows that it’s not so much about the number of words when it comes to formatting, but the work involved..books with more work (Sections, or excerpts, or images that need to be embedded) will cost more to format.

Also…be sure to include the legalese in the front, and your bio in the back. It’s not up to the formatter to complete your file, only to format what you send them.
If you have any specific requests, (a table of contents, or embedded links) be sure to mention them at the same time you send the file in.
When you get your file back, be sure to check them over right away. You’ll likely get a chance to ask for tweaks if there’s something off, but only if you do so right away.

Smashwords was fairly simple to upload to. Step by step, instructions. One thing we did by accident was not check off the ePub version because we wanted to upload our book to B&N via PubIt. That was a mistake, as the ePub version is also what they use for the iBook store and Sony. We waited until the file was published, then went back in and redid it. It wasn’t a huge hassle, but it was a step that we could’ve avoided. Plus, having to republish set our book back in the line for the premium catalogue, a delay thats not really wanted when the goal is to get the book out in as many venues as soon as possible.

*Side note* Smashwords has a fabulous step-by-step guide on formatting your file for them. It seems easy. It wasn’t. I formatted MEANDROS for Smashword myself (The guy I hired for that one only gave me Mobi and EPub files, I didn’t know enough to ask for a word doc) I followed the steps. Everyone of them, and MEANDROS is till no even in the line-up to go to the premium catalogue because they keep saying it’s not formated right. So, I highly recommend hiring someone. )

Kindle also had step-by-step instructions that made publishing fairly easy. The thing we screwed up on there has to do with pricing. You see, we uploaded the story to all three places (B&N, Amazon, Smashwords on Thursday, and decided to wait until it was available on three before we announced the Sale and Giveaway we planned. We figure it was a better way to make an event out of the release. With this in mind we set the price at $2.99 when uploaded, figuring we could change it to 99 cents for the sale on our official release day Monday) On Sunday night Charlene went in to change the price so the sale could start. The change on Smashwords was immediate. B&N took an hour or so, Amazon took over 12 hours. So, next time, we’re not going to worry about co-ordinating and surprising with a sale, we’ll just put sale price in initially. LOL

B&N PubIt. Me, I didn’t bother putting Meandros up on there before because at that time it wasn’t worth it for the experiment I was doing. Charlene uploaded our anthology, and she cursed the whole time. She says “The real difficulty I ran into wasn’t the upload process, it was the account creation and verification. Also, the cover art requirements are different from Smashwords and Amazon, so it takes a separate file that fits their requirements exactly.”

I highly recommend these guys.

ImagineIf Creative Services by Michelle lauren
Editing, (three levels: proofreading, copy edits and substantive editing)

April Martinez of Graphic Fantastic
Fantastic cover design and graphic art as well as formatting for electronic as well as print publishing. *Did the cover for A Rock & A Hard Place* Visit

Anne Cain Graphic Art & Design
*Did my Mavericks Of Space cover not yet released*

And since I’m talking self-publishing, I just have to add that the news of Barry Eisler turning down a two book deal worth $500,000 to self-publish makes me wonder what’s next. While there is no denying this was a revolutionary move, it’s also one that make me wonder what this move means for those like me and Charlene, and Jordan, who aren’t NYT Bestsellers. How will it effect us if more “Big Name” authors follow in his footsteps? Will it effect us?

One thing is for certain, it’ll be along time before things are settled again in this industry.

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24 comments to “Rock My World.”

  1. Miriam Minger, Author
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 10:55 am · Link

    Thanks for your insights, Sasha. You’re right; things are unsettled in the publishing industry, but we just have to forge ahead in this brave new world of ebooks. Best of luck to you!

  2. Suzan H.
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 12:02 pm · Link

    Thank you sooooooo much for telling us about your experiences, Sasha. Too many people think of indie publishing as a get-rich-quick scheme. They don’t realize the author has to wear all the hats the NY publisher normally wears.

  3. Sasha White
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 12:13 pm · Link

    Thanks, Miriam. I figured these are things I’d like to read about, so I thought others might find it interesting.

  4. Sasha White
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 12:15 pm · Link

    I agree, Suzan. I think there is definitely money to be made, but I also think it’s a lot of work. This path won’t be everyone, and the more we know about it the better.

    For me, I think the biggest plus on the side of indie publishing is the control for the author. We control the price, the cover, the release date…. and that makes it appealing.

  5. Thomas W.
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 12:27 pm · Link

    Wow. I had no idea about the complexity of independent publishing. I have a good friend who is writing a book and wants to get it published. I’ll definitely send him this link on this matter. He may want to go this route in his endeavor.

  6. Vivi Anna
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 12:28 pm · Link

    Thanks Sasha for sharing your experience.

    I too found the process frustrating, but I pushed through it.

    My book has been up since Feb 18th and it has modest sales. Nothing to jump up and down about. Not yet anyway.

    I’m hoping that changes with time and more work that I plan to put out.

    I’ve noticed with a lot of authors that the jump in sales comes after the 4-5 month mark, not sure why, but likely more reviews on and word of mouth.

  7. Sasha White
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 1:02 pm · Link

    Thanks, Thomas. Definitely send your friend over. I do think self-publishing has value, but it’s also a lot of work.

  8. Sasha White
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 1:06 pm · Link

    I agree 100%, Vivi. I think sales improve over time. Even with Meandros, though the numbers are small, the first w=month was 10 copies sold, last month was 28. Small numbers, but they are increasing. I also think the more releases you have int he kindle store , or Smashwords store, or Nook… you get what I mean. I think the more that are visible right there when the reader is shopping, the more your sales will increase.

    And really, we don’t expect huge sales form print releases in the first 6 months, soo why would this be that different? It’s different because WE can track it, and see the numbers as they grow instead of waiting 6 months for a royalty statement.

    Some big name authors, or niche markets (like straight erotica) might have great immediate impact, but sometimes it’s better to be the turtle than the hare.

  9. Kate Pearce
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 1:48 pm · Link

    Your experience with the so-called easy guides from Smashwords etc mirrored mine. I downloaded it, saw it was more than 10 pages 😯 and luckily found someone who offered to format my short story for me. LOL
    Just for comparison.
    My 99 cent short story been up about 10 months and its sold about 400 copies total through all the Smashwords outlets, (mainly on the nook) and about 2000 copies on Kindle, averaging about 50 a week, and that’s been fairly constant

  10. Vivienne Westlake
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 2:01 pm · Link

    Thanks, Sasha! It’s nice to see hard numbers for these kinds of projects. I agree, the industry is definitely changing and self-publishing is certainly losing some of its previous stigma. I definitely think its great move for authors who have regained the rights to previously published works.

    Its so sad to see good books go out of print. I’m happy that more authors have the opportunity to give those books a new life.

    Recently, I’ve heard a few self-published authors say the same thing. That their sales went up significantly on Amazon after a few months. I think you are right about the boost in sales being related to reader reviews and having multiple stories available.

  11. Amanda Brice
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 6:13 pm · Link

    Thanks for sharing Sasha! It’s always so refreshing when authors are willing to share stats.

  12. Suzan H.
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 6:33 pm · Link

    And I’m such a control freak! Which is why I’m trying my hand at the indie thing. It’s a lot of work, but I’m enjoying it thoroughly!

    Sorry to hear you were having such problems with the formatting though.

  13. vanessa jaye
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 6:34 pm · Link

    Great post Sasha. I keep hearing what a pain in the patootie it is to format and upload to the various outlets and it sounds like even with the expert help it’s still a bit of work!

  14. Jordan Summers
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 7:39 pm · Link

    Right there with you, girl. :)


    It is a pain at first, but it does get ‘easier’ with repetition.

  15. Amber Green
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 8:08 pm · Link

    Thank you. The voice of experience is so much more useful than the voice of a salesperson.

  16. Gail Roarke
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 8:14 pm · Link

    I took the leap into self-publication this year. I have five short stories and one collection (of those same five stories) up on SW, Amazon, and PubIt–and only Sony, Kobo and others via Smashwords’ premium catalog.

    It could be months before I get real numbers for all the distant sites (Sony, Kobo, et al), so I won’t have final data on sales until then. But so far I’m selling a few copies of each book every month. And I think that, yes, the more stuff you have available, the better–as long as it’s readable, of course. If someone discovers one story and likes it, they’re more likely to buy more from you–and recommend you to their friends.

  17. Sasha White
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 10:17 pm · Link

    Gail, five stories is great. I’m glad to hear that you agree that the more stories that are up the better the sales because I hope to do more.

    Good Luck with yours.:)

  18. Sasha White
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 10:20 pm · Link

    Thanks for sharing your numbers, Kate. That’s great consistency, and I really do think consistency is key. I love the idea that sales can only get better. 😉

  19. Sasha White
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 10:24 pm · Link

    Hi Vivienne,
    While I’m a firm believer that writing isn’t all about the sales, I do think sharing information is good. I hope to share more numbers as time goes on, and I admit it, I hope they continue to grow over the next months the way others have. 😉

  20. Sasha White
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 10:24 pm · Link

    You’re welcome, Amanda. :)

  21. Sasha White
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 10:25 pm · Link

    I think the learning curve is just pretty steep at the start. Like Jordan says, I think it gets easier as you go.

  22. Sasha White
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 10:26 pm · Link

    Onward and upward, right , Jordan? :mrgreen:

  23. Sasha White
     · March 22nd, 2011 at 10:27 pm · Link

    Thanks, Amber. I hope you got something from the post.

  24. Minx Malone
     · March 23rd, 2011 at 2:14 pm · Link

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! Reading about others successes and mistakes is really helpful. There are so many minefields out here just waiting to trip you up! It seems that way, anyway.