The Week Behind

It's been a good week, with much satisfaction arising from the current book project, The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level. All the amazing conversations of the week before and much digging in old cocktail books, thinking about principles of drink creation have been percolating in my head. This resulted on Tuesday in my finalizing the first draft of the Bibulo.us Cocktail Taxonomy and posting it for comment. Mostly Twitter chatter in reaction so far, but the process of articulating my principles for others has, as usual, clarified them and this structure is performing well as I continue to research old recipes and organize the book's recipe candidates.

This pleasant creative burbling all week was accompanied by a big experiential spike in the form of an amazing concert Sunday at the new SF Jazz Center in honor of Bobby Hutcherson. Wonderful sound and great performers! Such a joy to have this resource so close to our home.

Around those themes the week swirled along quite well with a nice mix of home life and time out on the town and up in Napa county for Joe's work.

Proud: I have been keeping up my exercise routine! Between the Fitbit, the treadmill desk, and Zombies, Run! I am able to make myself put in the effort and seeing my strength and endurance grow as a result. Very pleasing!

Completed: I think I can now say I've achieved mastery on maintaining a beautiful, uncluttered living space with minimal effort. Still projects to be completed and undulation in tidiness from day to day, but in general the place is within ten minutes of "company-ready" pretty much all the time. The fortnightly visit from the maid who does my most-hated chores (vacuuming and scrubbing porcelain) has helped tremendously in letting me put my energy into things that pay off without driving me nuts.

Learned: Twitter may not seem like it eats much time to quickly check now and then, but it is a huge time-suck if not constrained. Trying out a Pomodoro method timer to help keep me on track and not ducking into email/Twitter/etc every 10 or 15 minutes. Getting better at managing this will help me not only with completing the current to-do's but also with staying focused on work as my social media activity grows when the book comes out.

Inspired: The barfolk I've been talking to as I research the book have been just marvelous; generous, enthusiastic, customer-focused. Really looking forward to working with them a lot this year.

A few more thoughts on self-publishing

I'm deeply involved in work on my next books (one on cocktails, one on history), but I do want to take a few minutes to share some more of what I learned putting out Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff.

  • Scrivener and OmniFocus continue to be invaluable in my book writing and publishing process.
  • Amazon's Kindle store sales represent just over 51% of the number of copies sold and just over 34% of the money earned, despite the $2.99 price tag. KDP first, last, and always; hugely important for self-publishers.
  • iTunes sales represent nearly 21% of copies and nearly 16% of income. Their management interfaces may be a pain, but it's worth it.
  • Createspace is great for selling print-on-demand copies through Amazon, but only use them for that. Lightning Source (LSI) is your better method for print-on-demand sales to distributors and thus bookstores and libraries. LSI allows you to set your terms and you will need to make sure they are attractive enough to bookstores. Make at least your U.S. terms (if you're in the U.S.) returnable and with a wholesale discount of 60% in LSI's interface so that after Ingram or Baker & Taylor takes their cut, the bookstore still sees a discount that allows them to make some profit to keep their lights on. That means you need to think about those terms as you set the book price so it doesn't actually cost you to sell the book wholesale. International terms may have other constraints, costs, or reduced payments to you, so read those details carefully as you go through your contract agreements and adjust your discount percentage accordingly.
  • Promotion is a lot of hard work. Plan it and don't burn yourself out too early. It is a marathon. You should plan on beginning your work 3 months before you put the book out (e.g., setting up the book's website, creating your Amazon Author page, etc.) and continuing at least 9 months after the release date. If you're continuing writing in the same subject area, it doesn't really stop, but can wind down so you can focus on the next book.
  • It took 15 months for Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff to reach 3000 sales, which is actually quite good for non-fiction from what I hear.
  • Always always always carry some of your Moo cards with the book cover and details. People frequently ask "What do you do?" and it's great to be able to hand someone the card when they perk up after you tell them you're an author and describe your book. This makes sales and recommendation happen.
  • Plan on doing a "second printing" about a month after release which updates your master files and corrects the inevitable few typos that you and your editor miss. I fixed around 13. Since then only a handful more have turned up and they are of the "missing period after that parenthesis in that one bulleted list" caliber of problem, i.e., fine to wait until I do a second edition (with content changes, and thus a new ISBN) years down the road. It'll never be perfect, but it needs to be near to garner great reviews.
  • Make your book available in international markets as your ebook and print-on-demand services allow. You'll earn less per copy, usually, but it's worth it and is a whole other market in which your work might take off.
  • Don't obsess over charts and stats; focus on getting the word out and tracking your actual sales numbers. List positions and similar data are worth looking at quarterly or so to understand trends over time. For example, here's the page on BookChart.info for Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff.
  • Do pay attention to your costs; remember that you're going to be earning them back a couple bucks at a time and that you don't start getting paid for your actual time writing and promoting until you're in the black.
  • One caveat regarding tracking sales: Apple's interface is a true pain in the rear and their fiscal calendar does not correspond to actual calendar months. I track sales in a spreadsheet and actually just enter the iTunes number for a month for each day (e.g., the KDP cell for last month has the value 47 while the iTunes cell has the value =0+1+2+1+1+0+2+0+1+1+1+1+0+0+0+2+2+0+0+3+1+0+0+2+0+0+0+0+1+2+0
    Sigh.)
  • You do need to track your sales, though, or you won't be able to tell when the book has paid its costs or confirm you're receiving your share. (I will note that the only problems I've seen on the latter front working with these big vendors is where I wasn't getting payments at all due to an error in the bank account number they put in for direct deposit.)
  • I find it useful to have a spreadsheet file per book (or other writing project with income or costs) and separate sheets within that file for costs, income, sales tracking, and consignment details.
  • Though I have not sold a huge quantity through local consignment, it still represents about 4% of the copies and, because of the higher per-copy profit, about 10.5% of the money earned. That money comes at a high cost of my time and effort, though, so choose your consignment locations carefully. Select places where the book is likely to do well for both you and the store, and where it is not inconvenient for you to visit to restock them or retrieve unsold copies. In general, if they are willing to order through Ingram or Baker & Taylor (whoever you're able to get distribution through) it's going to be less work for both of you.

 

Happy writing and publishing! As usual, I'm happy to answer questions in the comments.

Oh historians, you crack me up

“…some historians have linked the vagrancy problem with demographic changes, above all population growth and migration. It is true that migration was one step down the road to vagrancy, but whether by the time of their arrest most vagabonds were migrants is doubtful…"

– A.L. Beier, Masterless Men: The Vagrancy Problem in England 1560-1640

One step down the road! *snork*

It's stuff like this that gets a writer through edit after edit, though many if not most of these in-jokes must be cut by the final version.

‘Domestic Servants in Elizabethan England’ rises again

OMG academic libraries are so frickin’ excellent. I’m back at UCSC’s McHenry Library 25 years later updating & expanding my senior thesis.

Why is Google Books good for scholars/writers? Because books don’t have complete indexes. Combing a 750 pager for keywords by hand is slow.

The terrible pain of reconciliation

Each month as I attempt to reconcile my iTunes sales reports I am once again bewildered that this mess of an interface/data is Apple's.

Really, Apple, would it kill you to provide your reports by calendar month or at least provide daily sales totals across all regions? Gah.

 

Continuing saga May 4, 2012:

I receive this error on their website:

"You backtracked too far. The application backtracking limit of 30 has been exceeded. Re-enter MZLabel" (that last word being a link to a login screen).

Jeez, Apple. I thought you were in it to win it. This is just sad. Even BN.com's PubIt is kicking your ass on interface.