Back to Self-Publishing…?

Image courtesy of Green Apple Books, our local bookstore

I really do miss self-publishing.

There, I said it. Back when I self-released A Division of Souls, I had the vaguest of ideas of what I was doing and mostly trusting my own instincts and relying on my own interpretations of how self-publishing works. I loved the idea of releasing my own books like I was selling my new punk single in Maximumrocknroll. I loved the idea of self-producing it — the editing, the cover art selection and layout — and trusting that I was doing a pretty good job of it. I loved creating and ordering those freebie cards that I could give out during local conventions. I may not have made any significant amounts of money, but I’m okay with that.

Why did it fall by the wayside? Well, a lot of personal stuff happened. The Former Day Job’s killing off of working remotely severely damaged whatever writing time I had. There was the idea of sending Diwa & Kaffi out to agents and publishers that got put on hold because of the pandemic that went on for far too long. Then I took a lot of time off to make some seriously overdue personal changes in my life.

I kept writing, though.

And because of that, I have multiple books waiting to see the light of day: Diwa & Kaffi is completed and ready to be seen by the big bad world. Queen Ophelia and Theadia are almost done. And I’m already thinking of what to work on next.

Which is all fine, but how to re-approach that avenue? I could keep up with what I’m doing, but there’s only so far I can go by just putting it out there. I need to relearn how to promote myself, what I can afford and what I can do on my own. I need to find more avenues to get my stories out there. I still want to aim for the goal of at least one title released per year, so that’s not the problem I need to focus on most. It’s bringing attention to the title. And I’ve read so many different things about how to do it that I’ve come to a temporary conclusion: no one really knows the One True Way towards self-publishing success, because there isn’t one. It’s not so much about following someone else’s directions as it is finding the version that works for you. I’m yet to find that version myself, but I’m still willing to take the time to search for it. Eventually I’ll find that version that fits me best.

In the meantime, I’m going to stick with what’s worked with me so far as a stable platform, and what I’ve enjoyed the most about it: writing the novels, doing the post-production, and putting it out there in the world for everyone to enjoy.

Year’s End View V

First things first: END OF YEAR BOOK SALE!

Want some free e-books? My novels are currently available for free over at Smashwords until the end of the year! That’s all three books in the Bridgetown TrilogyMeet the Lidwells!, and In My Blue World, available in all formats. Go on, you know you want them!

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I’ve been thinking, along with everything else, about where I want my writing career to go in 2022. I haven’t self-published anything new since In My Blue World in 2019, and I need to catch up on my plan of (at least) one self-pubbed project a year. I’ll give myself a break, though, considering what the pandemic has done to the publishing arena over the last couple of years. My initial plan of submitting Diwa & Kaffi to agents and publishers was put on the sidelines because of it, so I chose to use the ensuing wait time wisely by writing Queen Ophelia and Theadia. One (or both? or all three?) may be released in e-book form sometime next year, depending on where we are in revision and cover art.

Meanwhile, back in November I joked to A that maybe for next year’s NaNoWriMo I should write a Christmas romcom. (A did kind of give me an ‘oookay, where did this come from?’ look, but come on, romances are often a guaranteed seller no matter how much nonbelievers want to make fun of them.) I’ve actually been meaning to read more romances anyway to expand my reading and writing horizons. This in turn kicked off an immersive reading binge of romances and romance/mysteries, and I’m thinking this is indeed a viable avenue for me, not to mention another genre for me to read so I’m not stuck in the same reading groove. We both found Sarah Morganthaler’s Moose Springs, Alaska series really good fun, and it also has excellent doggo content. This kind of setup seems to resonate with my style of humor and plot, so I’m thinking this might be a good start.

This, of course, led to another semi-related conversation about pen names. I tend to think my given name is pretty plain and easy to pronounce (though I’ve heard my last name mangled many times over the years), but I’ve often thought about toying with a pen name anyway. I know of a few writers who’ve used them for one reason or another, whether it’s to revive a flagging career, kickstart a new one, or to keep different styles and genres separate. I do have a few thoughts about this that I may toy with in the new year. In a way I kind of like the idea, considering that I’ve put said career on pause over the last couple years. Starting off fresh across the board does have a certain appeal.

There’s something to be said about creating a new self-image, especially when you’ve been thinking about it over a long period of time and it’s something that’s long overdue. This is another one of the paradoxes in my life: while I might be a creature of comforting habits, there’s also this consistent undercurrent that I need to change things up now and again, especially when it’s desperately needed.

And in my writing career, while I’m happy that I’ve been coming up with these new stories, many that I’m proud of, I still get the feeling that I’m limiting myself somehow. Whether it’s by self-censoring or avoidance, I know when it happens because that’s when I get irritated with my work. Why am I writing all these non-action scenes? Why am I avoiding writing conflict? Why am I finding it so hard to face those scenes? It’s that paradox: I feel comfortable avoiding the conflict, but I know that does not make a good story.

I kind of blame writing Diwa & Kaffi for this, really. That project, while near and dear to my heart, was partly an exercise in writing conflict that specifically wasn’t based on protagonists and antagonists. The conflict in that story is within: learning to trust oneself and others, and learning how to believe in oneself. This in turn kind of skittered my own life into an unexpected direction: I realized these were conflicts I was avoiding in my own life. Writing that kind of story is one thing, but dealing it in reality is quite another. And it took me a while to realize just how badly I was limiting myself, not just as a writer but as a person.

While writing Theadia and Queen Ophelia this year, I chose to face that. I prepped myself by having a relatively strong outline I could work from, but I had to learn to trust myself with these stories. Let them go where they needed to go, even if they went in unexpected directions. This wasn’t just the “steadily increasing the volume” action style I used for the Bridgetown Trilogy…this was about immersing myself in these stories. Putting myself into them, but also letting the characters shine as much as possible. While they’re still a bit of a pre-revision mess, they’re probably the strongest stories and the most realistic characters I’ve written. I trust these stories implicitly enough that revision will only make them shine even brighter.

Which brings me back to the theme of this whole series of posts: I’ve been running in rough draft mode for far too long. Sure, there are moments in my life, professional and personal, where I’ll shine when my strengths are at their peak, but everything else definitely needed a fuckton of work. And that work is what I’d done over the last year and a half during this weird pandemic season. And I think, finally, I’m ready to emerge in a much better edition of myself.

The Real Thing

There’s been some noise lately about a few companies and intellectual properties jumping on the NFT bandwagon, and this time they’re all about trying to convince everyone that it’s in an artist’s/musician’s/writer’s best interests, that they can make all sorts of dough fast and easy, just by creating these doohickeys! And surprising absolutely no one, an extremely high percentage of said creative persons are responding with a big fat NOPE.

I mean, other than the vague theoretical that an NFT is — a non-fungible token, which no one really seems to understand or be able to accurately describe in the first place, including those who are trying to shill them — these creative people aren’t really buying the idea of a person not owning, say, a signed book, or a limited edition vinyl record, or a one-of-a-kind painting one can hang on their wall, or a photograph printed by the photographer themselves, or a cd that one can get autographed by the band members themselves. That’s not what an NFT is.

So what is it? Who the fuck knows. In vague theoretical terms, it’s apparently an e-token of sorts. Something that says one owns not an original piece of created art or a copy of it that you can actually tangibly hold and appreciate in some sort of way, but…something that says you own said token that’s tied to it. You’re not a shareholder. You’re not an owner of the creation. You’re just an owner of the mere statement that you own something.

In short, it’s saying “hey look what I have”. What you actually have doesn’t really matter. You’re not even an insider or a collector. It’s the idea that you have it, and you can’t trade it for anything else. It’s a one-of-a-kind statement of ownership, with the pesky annoyance of what you own taken out of the equation. And in some weird theoretical financial world, that’s worth…something? I think?

So. Why am I yammering on about this?

Because I, as a writer, a musician, a photographer and an artist, have absolutely zero intention of getting in on that bit of vague theoretical nonsense. When I put my books out for sale, you get a book. I flipping wrote them on purpose. For you to read. Good Christ Almighty, why the hell would I want to put myself through multiple tireless months of writing, editing, revising, laying out and self-releasing novels otherwise??

If you buy my wares, you get the real thing. Not a vague theoretical.

Current Status: Planning Stuff Out

I’ve been focusing on my outlining and synopsis writing with my current and backburner WIPs this past week, and I’m happy to say that it’s working quite nicely. I’ve managed to reach the end of Act I for one of the current stories, and do some major scene rearrangement and rebuilding for another.

The outcome of all of this is that it’s kind of fascinating to see the difference between “all the ideas are in my head and I have a vague idea where it’s headed” and “here’s the roadmap, have at it”. I mean, I’ve done this kind of preproduction many times before (and to varying degrees) and this time is no different. Just that I’m taking this step more seriously this time out.

Am I going to plan out the entirety of my current WIPs? I don’t know. I probably will with the shorter one, because the more preparation I have ahead of time, the quicker the project is finished. If I keep up with what I’m doing, I’ll probably have a complete synopsis in a couple of weeks and will be able to get to the heavy writing without delay. As for the other one…that’s MU4 if you must know, and that’s going to need a lot of planning due to the way its universe runs, so I think I’ll at least get it to where I feel comfortable with being a few chapters ahead plan-wise, just like the previous trilogy. For every prose chapter I finish off, I’ll add another synopsis chapter as I go.

I’m definitely going to keep this process going if I can. I still want to get back to my plan of self-publishing at least one novel a year, and planning stories out like this will definitely keep me well-stocked in future projects! It’ll also help me when I return to the Day Job World…just like I did with the trilogy, I can easily block out a few chapters ahead during slow time/lunch hour at work, dedicating my evening hours solely to cranking out the prose.

In the meantime, I’m thrilled to be where I am at the moment in these projects…I may not actually be getting any prose wordcount done, but this prep work will definitely open up all kinds of time for it later on.

Reading and Publishing

I really need to get myself back in the habit of reading more genre fiction again. I mean, not that I’ve been wasting my time at night — my music bio backlog is considerably smaller now — but I’m thinking that I really need to start reading more SF/F. I’ve been kind of avoiding it over the past few years, to be honest. I didn’t plan on it, it just happened that way. I don’t think it’s negatively impacted my genre writing to any serious degree, but it wouldn’t hurt to return to the source again.

One thing I’ve been meaning to do for a while is read more ebooks, and in particular, more indie publications. The other day I decided I was finally going to make good on that by downloading titles from B&N and elsewhere. Most of these are quite cheap and, like my Bridgetown Trilogy, the first book in a series is often free!

You know what I also haven’t done in ages? Self-publishing! I’ve been thinking about it a lot this past year, since I’ve been focused on submitting Diwa & Kaffi. I truly do miss the DIY aspect of it — creating covers, toying with photo editing software, making postcard freebies, and all that — and I’d love to return to that. I’m thinking in 2021 I may in fact do so, especially if I can get one or two of my stories prepped and ready to go. I especially would love to take my photography a lot more seriously again. I do have a creator’s account with Shutterstock that’s currently not doing anything, so perhaps it’s high time I reactivate that as well.

I suppose these two things could be the start of my New Year’s Plans. Sure, why not? I mean, I can start working on a lot of this whenever I like; no reason I actually need to wait until the first of January. [In fact, the other day I jumpstarted the ebook buying and spent $6 on four books and one book bundle!] I have most of what I need to make it all happen, so all I need to do is take the next steps.

Let’s make this happen. Pandemic or not, time to make it all happen.

On Giving Away My Books for Free

btown trilogy halfpage ad front b2

First of all:  If you’re here visiting for the first time after downloading any of the books in the Bridgetown Trilogy from Smashwords during its July book sale, hello and thank you!  I’m thrilled that you wanted to check my books out!  I hope you enjoy them!  And by all means, if you like them, please post a review on GoodReads!  That will make this writer very happy indeed. 😀

SO!  I’m sure some of you out there are wondering…why did this weirdo, who spent far too many years writing this damn trilogy, give it away in e-book form for free a few years after he FINALLY released it?

Good question indeed.  I have a few answers for you:

  1. Some time ago I put A Division of Souls up for free and kept it free, as a way to bring people into the Mendaihu Universe.  This by far has been my most regular seller, for obvious reasons.  It’s the enticement product.  It’s the register endcap.  It’s the book that says ‘hey, check this out’ and ‘if you like this, there’s two more sequels’.  I regularly get at least a few downloads a month for this one.
  2. The Persistence of Memories and The Balance of Light are at an already reasonably low price of $2.99 each.  I think of this as an analogue to mid-price cds you find at record stores…back catalog titles that are no longer consistent sellers, but are consistently available at an affordable price.  Again, this is part of the ‘long game’ process, and it’s actually worked to my expectations.  I might not get a big payout, but I’ll get at least one or two purchases every month or so.
  3. The sale is only for one month, and I know there are readers out there who, like me, get involved in a series and want to either buy the entire thing in one go, or at least be able to find and download them easily.  And everyone loves free things, right?
  4. It introduces new readers to my work.  Though I only got a few purchases since it was released, I did get a bit of interest in Meet the Lidwells, with a few sample downloads.  That right there is a learning experience; perhaps it’s that they weren’t interested in the story I had to say there, or perhaps the formatting wasn’t to their liking, or maybe it’s just not a book that many are interested in.  I’m okay with that; it’s not a science fiction novel, but a straight fiction novel in the format of a music biography.  It’s up to me to work on new promotional avenues for that one.

I haven’t yet looked at the stats for July as a whole, but from the email notifications I’ve received, between all three books I’ve gotten a good few dozen downloads and even more sample downloads.  Not bad at all.

In the meantime, I’ve put the url for this blog both on the books and on the freebie cards I’ve made.  [That’s the front of the freebie card for the trilogy above.]  I’ve been doing my best keeping this particular blog on a timely and expected schedule — and crossposted to Twitter and Facebook at that — and that has helped me gain new readers as well.  I spread out my freebie cards at all the conventions I’ve gone to as well.  All in all, from what little I’ve done so far for promotion, I’ve gotten a hell of a lot more response than I ever thought I would, so that’s saying something.  I can only imagine what the response would be once I restart the email list and start upping my promotion game!

So yeah, I’d say even though I didn’t earn a single penny this month, I got a lot of new readers, and I think that’s pretty damn cool.

On Worldcon 76

doctor who that can't be good

Well.  Nothing like waking up to a hot mess on Twitter.

I’ll start off by saying I have a very small pony in this horse race.   There are other writers out there, specifically writers of color, marginalized people, pro writers just starting out, and so on, that have a much bigger horse running right now.  I’m not trying to lump myself in with them or their issues regarding this convention, nor am I looking for sympathy.  I’m not saying my issues are more important than theirs; quite the opposite. This particular post is just about me.

First of all, I understand that there are more Worldcon attendees than there are panels and rooms to hold said panels.  Most of us are there as fans anyway.  I get that.  But a considerable segment of us are also writers, struggling to make a name for ourselves with minimal or no help from promotion departments.  We sign up for these conventions because it’s one of the few ways we writers know how to get our name out there.

The programming decision to leave out so many writers and professionals of all levels ‘because they’re not known’, on the other hand, is elitist, rude, and unprofessional.

I’m a self-published author and proud of it, but this decision sent a message that to me felt like I was destined to stay at the community access channel level of SFF conventions.  (Not that that’s a bad thing — BayCon and FOGcon have done me extremely well the last few years and I can’t thank them enough.)  It felt as though I hit a glass ceiling.

And imagine how that feels to others — the women, the people of color, the LGBTQ writers and fans — who get hit with this bullshit every single fucking time.

Us early career writers (and career self-publishers for that matter) rely heavily on conventions to get our names out quickly and easily, and also to network.  We especially rely on a Big-Name convention like Worldcon as a major boost to our career because of the sheer number of attendees.  We hope to be on panels and readings, because this method of exposure works for us.

Furthermore, many writers, both self-published and professional, happen to self-publish because they’re not getting any help from the regular commercial avenues.  Or that they aren’t getting the proper (or any) promotion.  Cons are a HUGE help to combat that.  And leaving them off the panels is NOT the answer.

Especially if they’ve been nominated for a Hugo this year.

I’ve also seen tweets from a few authors stating that they saw their own panel suggestions on the programming but they are not part of the panel at all.*  That might be an oversight (and a gross one at that), but it also sends a similar message: it might be your idea, but someone else more popular is going to benefit from it instead. We writers create these panels because a) we think it’s interesting and want to share it, b) it’s something relevant to our own career, and c) again, it helps put our name out there.  Keeping us off our own panels essentially closes a door in our face.

* – I was unaware the programming had gone live on the website this weekend, and it has since been taken back down, so I do not know if any of my panel suggestions have been accepted or not.

I would have loved to have been on a few panels, especially those dealing with self-publishing so I could Pay It Forward.  And to be honest, I’d also would have liked to at least gotten a form rejection letter saying I wasn’t going to be on any panels.  To not get any response at all — not even a simple ‘check our website on (date) to see if we’ve accepted you as a panelist’ — sent the message that I wasn’t worth it in the first place.

That I was still labeled a fan and not a writer, despite having multiple books out.

[Yes, I do know how rejection works in the publishing biz.  Some houses don’t even respond back because they just don’t have enough people to do it.  But this is a convention, not a publishing house.  There’s room for creativity and covering bases here.]

We’re still going, of course.  Even though I won’t be on any panels, we’re still going.  We have friends we’d like to see.  There are writers we’d like to meet.  I have freebie cards to give out, and other writers to network with.  Despite the annual wave of ‘Worldcon done fucked up again’ tweetstorms, we still have a lot of fun in general.  It’s not a complete shitshow.  Not like some cons I’ve heard about.

I’m not asking Worldcon to be perfect, flawless and infallible.  We all fuck up now and again.  All I’m asking is that they be professional and have a better awareness of the variables.  It’s a big project with a lot of moving parts that need monitoring.  And this really felt like there were a lot of people sleeping at the switch, or worse, weren’t aware of it in the first place.

EDIT:  Earlier this afternoon the Worldcon 76 committee agreed to the numerous complaints that had been placed about this issue, and have decided to “[tear] the program apart and start over.”  Good on them.  Their Twitter message can be found here.

On DIY: More on the Long Game

doctor who brilliant jw
I feel the same way when I get a Smashwords Purchase Notification in my Inbox.

It’s been a little over a year since I released The Balance of Light, the third book in the Bridgetown Trilogy, and about three months since I released Meet the Lidwells.  The sales for all of them have been rather slow and dribbling, but I’m okay with that.  They’re still out there, available to anyone who wants them, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

In fact, since I’ve registered all the books into a month-long summer sale over at Smashwords (If you haven’t gotten them, WELL WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?), I’ve gotten an uptick of downloads, especially for the entire trilogy.  Which makes me quite happy indeed!  {If you just recently bought them and are visiting my blog for the first time, thank you and Hi There!)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m playing the Long Game with my books.  By this, I mean that I’m not looking for or expecting a large wave of purchases in a short amount of time, but a small but consistent wave over a much longer period.  This makes more sense to me, because my aim as a self-published writer was never to become a Huge Bestselling Author (although let’s be honest, that would be nice).  It’s about having a nice long and varied backlist that people can check out whenever they like.  By the end of this year I’ll have five books on that backlist, with one, possibly two more coming in 2019.  I figure in ten years I’ll have a nice fat catalog that potential readers can check out.

Granted, I’ve essentially traded a big payout for longevity, but I’m down with that.  In my own fanciful imagination, I’d like to think that ten years down the road I’ll still be getting the occasional purchase notification on A Division of Souls, especially once the next book(s) in the Mendaihu Universe surface.

And it doesn’t hurt that I’ll have a nice lift in sales every few months or so when I hand my postcards out at conventions or sign up for a sales event at Smashwords.  And whenever I give myself a bit of a sales nudge online now and again, I’ll get a brief lift there as well.  I admit I’d like to do better at the self-promotion, but I’m glad to say what I’ve done so far does work for me.

It’s still a learning process, but I’m glad that it’s going in the right direction!

On Self-Publishing: Creating Book Covers

050418 shutterstock outtake 1
Picture credit: Shutterstock/Jose AS Reyes.

I’ve said it before, I love doing covers for my books.  It’s another creative avenue that I get to play around in that I don’t otherwise have much time for.   Every now and again I’ll go through my own pictures and create one just for practice.  [I’ve even come up with a few pseudonyms for certain styles; for instance, all my fake mystery novels are all written by Chase Johnson, and my fake lit-fic and women’s fiction is by Joanna Chase.  Why? Because it’s fun!]

I’m still sticking with the above image for In My Blue World, so if I’m going to use it, all I need to do is purchase the rights from Shutterstock, fiddle around with it a bit, slap the title and by-line on it, and call it done.  I still use Adobe Photoshop to crop it to the right size and adjust the image.  (I’m probably going to lighten it a bit so the title and by-line will pop out more.)  And I still use the PicMonkey website for the text.  Sometimes it takes a short amount of time, sometimes it’ll take a few days before I get it to how I like it.

One thing I’ve learned from doing covers — aside from enjoying the process immensely — is that I should always make sure the cover ties in with the novel in a specific and important way.  It’s not enough to get a badass lady with a katana on the cover…there has to be a reason for it.  In this case, I chose this cover for a few reasons:

–The first half of the novel takes place in forest land.
–I didn’t want the girl to be in an Attack Mode pose, but an I’m Ready for This pose.
–I didn’t want her clothes to be stereotypically frilly or flashy (or steampunk or goth, for that matter).
–I wanted there to be at least some hint of blue sky in the background.
–It needed to have a decent amount of space for the title; in this particular instance, I like how the text not only balances it out, it intermingles with it.

This is also why I used the cover for Meet the Lidwells! that I did; it was a straightforward concert poster-stapled-to-lightpost image that is pretty much universal for any band starting out.  They say that the cover often pre-sells the book, especially if it’s eye-catching enough from across the sales floor (or legible in thumbnail online, for that matter).  Don’t think of that as needing a flashy action shot, or a crafty written-in-chalk image.  Look at other covers you thought were innovative or creative.  Look at the ones that made you stop and pay attention to it; then look at the cover as you would a piece of art…why did it make you stop?  And how can you use that on your own covers?

Just like my writing, my cover art has changed and evolved and advanced, little by little.  The more I practice, the more fake covers I make, the bigger my portfolio that I can use later on if I so choose.  And I would like to expand on it as well; for the Apartment Complex story I’m thinking about commissioning an artist — specifically a webcomic artist.  I already have a few images in my head that could work.  I’d still do the text, but I’d like a unique image this time out.

I know there’s a lot of self-publishing advice out there stating that you should never do your own cover, but I’d probably amend that: don’t do it if you don’t want to do it, or if you don’t have the ability.  On the other hand, if you have the artistic chops?  Go for it!  It’s a hell of a lot of fun and you can get really creative with it.

Putting On a Show in the Barn, Or: Adventures in Figuring Out How to Self-Promote

rooney garland
Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in Babes in Arms (1939)

How the hell do you self-promote your self-published book, anyway?  That’s a damn good question, because I’ve heard so many different and varying (and often conflicting) answers that I sometimes wonder if anyone knows at all.

So I’m doing a bit of everything, to be honest.  I’ve created flyers for the trilogy.  I’ve posted hither and yon on social media.  I’ve sent copies to various websites like BookLife, NoiseTrade, and so on.  I’ve posted to GoodReads.  I’ve submitted to legitimate novel writing contests.  I’ve created a mailing list.  I’ve promoted myself at cons.  I’ve read a lot of different blogs and listened to various podcasts.  I’ve done a lot of it in one way or another, to varying degrees of success.

This isn’t to say no one knows what they’re doing, far from it; it’s that there’s a hell of a lot of different ways to do it, and they’re doing what works for them.

When I uploaded A Division of Souls as a pay-what-you-want e-book on NoiseTrade a few years ago, I didn’t get much money out of it, but I certain got a hell of a lot of downloads, over 250 of them.  And even though I haven’t done any major promotion on the trilogy for quite some time, I’ll still get the occasional download hit either on Amazon or on Smashwords.  [Those might be few and far between, but they still put a smile on my face when I get an unexpected payment!]

Right now I’m planning out how to self-promote Meet the Lidwells!, and this time out I’m thinking of being a bit creative with it.  I’ll reach out to the websites I tried before, with a focus on music-related blogs and sites (such as NoiseTrade) as well as any other bloggers who might be interested in doing a review.  I’m also thinking of doing some minor advertising in some of the writing magazines I read as well — maybe a one-column thumbnail ad or something.  The book will drop later this month, so I’ve got to work on getting all this out pretty soon!

If I’ve learned anything over the past three years that I’ve been self-publishing, it’s that this field truly is all about the DIY, where the long-established rules don’t always apply.  Sometimes your attempts at self-promotion will fall flat, other times it’ll catch on and grow far beyond your expectations.  There’s a lot at play here:  the kind of book you’ve written, the people and businesses you interact with, the people you’ve hired for production work, right down to the price you decide to give it.  And you can do exactly what professional self-publishers (such as David Gaughran or Joel Friedlander) suggest, and it might work for you, or it might not.  It really is a bit of a gamble each and every time.

It’s a learning experience every time I release a book.  In a way, it’s like the classic Babes in Arms trope: ‘Let’s put on a show in the barn!’  You’re out to show that you can do it, and that you want your audience to enjoy it, but you’re really not sure if it’ll work unless you actually do it.  But regardless, the payoff is still worth it.