As you may know, a year ago I created a project on Kickstarter to have Anna published. Projects on Kickstarter only have a 43.65% success rate and mine was one of them. It was a life changing event, of which I am very thankful. I had never published a book before and it gave me the chance to thoroughly experience the process from beginning to end. However, if I was able to do it over again, there are some things I would change.
But, first, let’s review my original plan. My goal was to raise $6,600 broken down as:
Comprehensive and Copy Editing (2 Sessions)- $3,192
Book Cover (Artwork, Design, and Setup) – $749
Interior Formatting – $379
Kindle Formatting – $69
ISBN and LCCN – $59
Marketing Materials and Media – $907
On-hand Inventory and Kickstarter Fees – $1,245
All of the tasks were to be completed through Createspace with advanced distribution and initial enrollment in KDP Select. To make it easiest to identify what I would change, I’ll go through each service starting from the top, which is also, basically, the order in which the services were used.
Comprehensive and Copy Editing
Under this service, I had two edits: a comprehensive edit (plot structure, consistency, and grammar) and a copy edit (a final polish). Oddly, I’m torn on this service. Part of me wants to say I would only have one edit, the comprehensive one, but my experience with my editors (I had two different ones for each edit) was backwards. My first editor did what I thought was a good job putting my manuscript into compliance with Chicago Style; however, the second editor found consistency issues the first editor should have caught and changed edits that the first had already made, because they weren’t truly in compliance with Chicago Style. So, you can see my issue here. It seems the best decision may be to just request the second editor to do all my edits or start all over with an editor I can have direct contact with and interview.
This service I was quite disappointed with. I sent Createspace detailed instructions on fonts and example graphics, and I had to ask them to completely redo the first two covers they sent me, because they weren’t even close. They won’t let you send them the graphics to use, because they want to be sure you have the rights to use them commercially and doing anything more than adding text is costly. Next time I publish, I will purchase the graphics and make my own cover. I know how to work Photoshop and doing it myself will guarantee that I get what I want.
The interior formatters at Createspace did a marvelous job. I’m very happy with what they produced. I had no issues whatsoever and would use them again. My only problem with interior formatting came later when I was trying to format my manuscript for Smashwords. It was like banging my head against a wall. I think I’ll take the money I’ll save from eliminating some other services to hire someone else to do it on my next book.
Createspace did a very good job formatting Anna for Kindle. Then again, they should, because they’re both owned by Amazon. My one complaint is that they don’t automatically update your Kindle file if you make a change to the interior formatting. If one word is wrong, you have to pay $35 to edit the interior and $79 to update the Kindle file. RIDICULOUS.
ISBN and LCCN
I had originally thought I needed Anna to have its own ISBN to sell it outside Amazon, but the “free” one provided by Createspace works everywhere. As for the LCCN, there’s no question it’s a good investment.
Marketing Materials and Media
The first part of this group is the marketing copy package. Createspace has expert copywriters compose the marketing text you’ll use on the back of the book, marketplace, marketing materials, social media, etc. They don’t read your book. Instead, you fill out a form telling them about your book. Now, I know what you’re thinking…
“But YOU are a writer. Why do you need to pay anyone else to write FOR you?”
When I agreed to purchase this, I assumed that the person writing it had a proven track record of writing copy for books. However, after reading the results, I’m not sure my copywriter read all of my survey answers. I had to rewrite parts of it, because they got the facts wrong…and I’ll be honest and say I’m not even sure the copy is working to attract readers. I’m completely oblivious to what will attract readers within a short paragraph. It’s really my weak point.
Another part of this service was printed bookmarks, postcards, and business cards. I haven’t used all of them yet, but they were part of my Kickstarter rewards. They’re of good quality and have served their purchase. I’ll be using them at my first book signing.
Finally, this group includes the Kirkus Review. If anyone tries to sell you a Kirkus Review, SAY NO! They aren’t what they used to be. 80% of the review was a summary of my book. Their opinion wasn’t horrible, but I really expected more depth to it. It just wasn’t worth the money.
On-Hand Inventory and Kickstarter Fees
This is a given. I needed inventory to give to my Kickstarter pledges and I had to pay fees to finish out the project.
When I was doing my original research for Createspace and Kindle, I was really excited about the promise of the KDP Select program. If you aren’t familiar with KDP Select, it’s a program where Amazon allows you to give your book away for free as long as you promise not to sell it as an ebook anywhere else. I put a LOT of faith into this program. I read testimonials from authors saying they gave away 1,000+ downloads of their books and sold $250 worth of books the following week. Little did I know that Amazon had changed the algorithm between then and me signing up. When I conducted my 5 free download days, I ended up giving away 300+ books and getting maybe 3 sales out of it. That’s after submitting it to 80 sites, posting it on Facebook and Twitter, and marketing it as an event on Goodreads. So, I restricted my book for 3 months for basically nothing.
At the end of my 3 months, I quickly put it on Smashwords where it was fed to Barnes and Noble, Sony, Apple, etc. That was mid-December and, since then, I’ve had more consistent sales than on Kindle.
There is one final thing I want to touch on – reviews. In my Kickstarter campaign, I sold over 80 books. I didn’t expect everyone to leave a review, but so far only 5 people who bought the book through the project have left a review on any of the sites where it’s listed. This is disappointing, because reviews sell books. I’ve asked multiple times through emails, social media, and personal conversations, and even held a review giveaway. I’ve had reviews promised by multiple people, only to have them not appear, and I’m not sure how I could have improved upon that. So, if you hold a Kickstarter campaign to have your book published, don’t expect reviews to follow.
As I said before, I’m very thankful my project was a success. My book would have never been published without it. But, if I add up everything that is worth keeping when I publish my next book, I can probably save $2,000 to $3,5000. I hope other writers read this blog and learn from my choices.