To KindleScout or Not – The Cons

Most of you know that my book Beyond was submitted to KindleScout from August 19-September 19 2015. I heard, two days after the campaign ended, that I did not get a publishing contract. Instead KindleScout wished me “the best” and they hope I’ll “consider Kindle Scout again for your next book!” I was pretty disappointed. That being said, I also learned a lot. Which is what people who are optimists like to think of as a ‘win.’ I’m not sure if I’m an optimist today. Hopefully I’ll come back around later.

I wrote a bit about my decision to submit to KindleScout in the post KindleScout and Beyond. I researched, reading a lot of pros and cons, all from the perspective of having had a successful campaign. Such as, are you willing to accept a low advance? Or are you willing to have no control over the price? I thought these cons were pretty good considering, and submitted to KindleScout anyway, because like everyone who enters a contest, I believed I could win it.

So here’s some cons that you should consider because there is a chance (Dear reader/Author there is a slim slim chance) that, like me, your book won’t get chosen. And I believe your chances are getting worse by the day.

The campaign dashboard is almost completely useless.
Once your book goes live, you have a bit of time where you’re blind because all your information is delayed by a day. This meant that my book entered the campaign without being hot and trending and I had no idea how much I needed to step up my game until the following day. I stepped up my game and got my book in hot and trending very quickly but the only way to know on an hour by hour basis was by checking KindleScout. Pretty much hourly. The dashboard looks pretty but doesn’t tell you what you really need to know, like how many page views make a person hot and trending, how many page views translate to nominations, or even how many of any of them you need over all and finally, how many anyone else has ever gotten. And don’t go to sleep because you’ll need to keep cranking the Hot and Trending machine, by anywhere from 10-200 page visits, or something, your guess.

Don't sleep, gotta keep that Hot and Trending orange bar up, a day ago
Don’t sleep, gotta keep that Hot and Trending orange bar up, a day ago

The author has no idea what the goals are.
Okay, your goals are to get a lot of nominations. But pretty early on you realize that the name of the game is hot and trending. Or is it? And sorry but you don’t ever get to see how many nominations you have, instead you get a page visit tally, delayed of course, by a day.
stats for campaign 2

The rules of the game are shifting.
In August, it looked like about 40+ books were listed on the site. (there is no overall tally) I looked back over the months preceding and books were being published all the time, every few days, sometimes more than one a day, 7-12 a month. By the end of the month, the number of books on the site had doubled and a new category, YA, had been added. (I wanted in that category but they wouldn’t add me mid-campaign sadly.) In September 2015, so far, two books have been picked. Also, and I didn’t figure this out until halfway through the month, the Hot and Trending seems to be capped at 20. I was excited that I was there almost every day, considering, but as the field fills up how will mere mortals get to hot and trending, every day, for 30 days?

I’m not sure how positive news is delivered, but the negative news is fully automated.
KindleScout says that it takes a few business days to decide, but I recieved my letter at midnight on a Sunday, two days after my campaign ended. At the exact same time that all the lovely people who nominated me found out. The letter was a form letter without any information and ‘do not reply.’ In hindsight, and just guessing, I don’t think any human actually read my book, or even much looked at it. I think my campaign never got to the right number of nominations, or level of hot, or whatever, to warrant eyes on the page.

And finally, if your campaign ends in failure, there is literally nothing in it for you.
Either I just marketed my arse off for an entire month to get KindleScout 1300 new customers, with no plus side for me. Or, I just marketed like crazy for my next book, contacting every friend, fan, stranger, and person within a 3 mile radius, and then after a whole month of working my arse off, KindleScout told all of those people, 1300 according to their dashboard, that my book wasn’t good enough to be published. Thanks KindleScout, glad I could help.

I think if I were you, this last one is a huge negative. A screaming pile of stay away. Even if your Aunt Edna believes in your book, she may question her wisdom after hearing how Amazon feels about it. And that new book club that was going to read it in October after it was published, well, they probably just changed their mind.  Until authors have more information about what works, and what KindleScout is looking for, your month is just free marketing for their program, and is at your own detriment.

I saw that a few people were publishing their statistics so that others could see, and try to piece together how this whole thing works, here’s mine: 480 hours of 720 in Hot and Trending, 1300 page views.
stats for kindlescout campaing

If you nominated my book, thank you so much. I plan to publish it in a few days and will let you know when, please sign up for my newsletter to be one of the first to know.
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Fly is for ages 8 and up.

I realized the other day that Gail Carson Levine’s books Ella Enchanted and Ever are listed as for ages 8-12.

I have changed Fly’s listing to the same. It’s perfect for ages 8-12. It’s romantic. It’s a love story. It’s also a punk rock fairytale. My teens loved it, my 10 year old loved it, my friends loved it.

Also, it’s about a Kingdom and a drought, sound familiar? A looming dam?

 

fly something extra

Replacing Apple pages, an oddyssey.

I have been a self-publisher for about 10 years now. My first books were  complicated: words and images and lots of formatting. These days I’m self-publishing novels. Just words. Easy right?

Yes, because I used Apple pages on my desktop, and the pages app on my iPad. I was good at using them. I wrote on the iPad and then emailed the manuscript to myself. I could open it on either the desktop or my iPad and it was always the same as I had been working on it. My last book turned out lovely and though I had to learn a LOT it was almost effortless and fun.

Then I updated my operating system on my Mac to Mavericks and met the new pages program. I worked on a manuscript for a week figuring out along the way that a lot of the functions were missing, like being able to view two pages of your manuscript open like a book, nice when you’re formatting.  Or being able to have a gutter (the margin in the middle of two pages that is bigger for printing in a book.) Or find and replace invisibles. I used that everyday. Gone. So I reverted back to the older pages 09. Reasonable, right? Except opening my documents in the newer pages ‘corrupted’ them. I could no longer use them in the earlier version. I had to trash them for the older versions and accept that I had lost a week of work.

Fine. Whatevs. Then my iPad broke. It, coupled with a keyboard, was my main writing station. It took about six weeks to replace it with a refurbished iPad 2. The night I brought it home I restored all my stuff to it, and pushed a button that said, “Would you like to update this iPad?” YES! give me bright and shiny newness, yes! I planned to write and write and write.

Except when I tried to open the file I had been working on six weeks prior, the new pages app warned ‘if you open this doc you will no longer be able to open it with pages 09 on your Mac.’ AARGH!

For almost three days I have been trying to find a way to get my workflow, my pizzazz, my career back. I need:

1. an IOS app that I could write on that played well with…

2. a desktop application that I could format with that would play well with…

3. the servers at createspace headquarters, where my books are published and printed.

I dared to dream that the files could go back the other way and I could occasionally format on my iPad too. That dream has been squashed apparently.

I bought iaWriter and Daedalus Touch for the iPad and used both a bit to see which I prefer. Neither would open a .pages document, only .txt. Say good bye to any formatting. Sigh.

I trial ran Ulysses 3 (to pair with Daedalus Touch) which was a little too simple. I’m not sure I want to markdown all my emphasis, and my italics, and my bolds, and then Scrivener which was very complicated.

I ultimately decided to use Scrivener (the tutorial took 3 hours so I better like it. No, wait, you better love it lady.) Then and only then realizing that in the flurry of App purchases and trials and memberships and accounts and user manuals, that I had committed to the ONE that had no iOS counterpart.

Short of rending my shirt, I figured out how to use Scrivener, Dropbox, and Daedalus Touch together in a sort of wonky fashion that may or may not work, but by now who cares, I can’t even remember what I was writing about.

Oh that’s right, I was writing the sequel to Bright, and William and Estelle were about to…off to work in .txt, on Daedalus Touch. Wish me luck!

Oh, and do you have a workflow application that you LOVE? Can you tell me about it?

 

 

Fly, my second book

I’ve just finished the second BIG read through, rewrite, edit pass.

It’s a fairy tale about a Princess who has no gravity, based on the story The Light Princess by George MacDonald, written in 1864. I read the Light Princess to my kids this summer and was inspired to adapt it.

In my version, the Princess flies, but not because of magic. Perhaps it’s a lack of attachment? The Prince is earthbound, and not a prince at all. He’s a surfing village boy, Hank, a guitar strumming, lyric crooning, hottie. The Princess Amelia loves punk rock, throws giant parties and has not a care in the world. The prince cares too much about everything going on, the King has signed contracts with Fluid Gold Inc to build a dam. They’re storing the water away and selling it back at exorbitant prices. The villagers are thirsty and Hank goes to the Princess Amelia for help.

If my last book Bright, was any indication,  I have about 10 more editing passes to go, but I also think I’m much farther beyond where I was then. I  built Bright on the bones of a short story, and tweaked and grew and pruned from there. It was unwieldy at times.

Fly poured out as a full story, first pass. Thank you, NANoWriMo. And I love the characters. Wait until you meet Hank. He’s awesome.

If you’d like to read the first chapter you can have it, if you sign up for my email newsletter. You’ll receive a .pdf. I hope you like!

Then, I would love three readers who have an empty bookshelf right now and would like to read for me, and give me some general idea about what you think so far. Like, if it needs to sped up or slow down, and what parts you want more more more of.  I’ll send it in .pdf or .epub or .mobi. As a thank you, you will be thanked in the acknowledgements ;o)

 

How about, if you’re interested, comment below, finishing this sentence:

I need to read a fairy tale right now because…

 

I’ll pick from the responses  on the evening of March 16th!

 

 

Self-Publishing, thoughts…

When I decided to write a novel, I also decided to follow a well-worn path. The path of do-it-yourself. It’s the way I’ve always done things, and so it seemed the most obvious route. In discussing my plans with others I’ve found that they don’t always see the obviousness of my choice. Did you know Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass? I might say, but that, like most examples doesn’t necessarily apply. He was after all Walt Whitman, and I am newly started H.D.Knightley.

I could spend the next few months or years trying to sell my book to an agent and a publisher and hope against hope that they would help fling it into the wind. I could brush my manuscript up (even more than the 15 re-writes with the patient help of my editor). I could take suggestions, criticism, rejection, with the possibility of a contract. Or I could release the story into the world and let the readers decide.

Through Kickstarter my book was released into the hands of 75 gracious readers, many of whom have loved the book. Now I’m watching as the book, slowly, slowly migrates out to the greater world. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. If you have Bright in your hands and loved it, please tell a friend, and then pass it to the left ;o)

Just after I published Bright, this story hit the presses and I thought I’d share it with you. Brenna Aubrey was offered a publishing contract with a large advance. She turned it down after doing the risk assessment. Now she’s posted the math and it looks like she’s made a good choice.

My choice hasn’t been so spectacularly proven by the math, yet, but I’ll let you know as the path becomes clear.

Here’s what I’m up to…

Here’s what I’m up to while there’s one week left of my kickstarter campaign:

1. Type-proofing my novel. You would think that would go fast, but its a slow process. Denine found them much faster than I corrected them.

2. Learning about margins, font size, and the power of leading. Come to find out, determining margins requires math. If you have an 11 point font, and 1.4 times leading, and you want margins that progressively get larger (i.e. smallest on the inside, then top, outer, and bottom. Considering gutters as well) then you must find the perfect ratioor your right page will be shorter than your left. This will make no sense and will require you to try things like measuring tapes and calculators. Will make you google things like: why are my right pages longer than my left? to no avail, and will make you consider calling it a day unsolved. Then after many hours you’ll realize that somewhere along the line you ticked atiny box that says, no widows and orphans. This seems to solve everything, but you will like to think that it was really your mathematical solution, if margins are x+2x+3x+4x+11(1.4) = perfect bliss.

3. Writing a second novel based on The Light Princess. I’m 19000 words in people! No spoilers, but the princess threw a party last night with an inflatable floor (think bouncy-house) and a punk band called the Monkeys of Cheek. There were mosh pits. This princess makes me happy.

4. Answering e-mails about how to self-publish. I’m about 6 books in and have attempted about 10 different formats. Most have worked. I think I’ll share some of my trial and error here on this blog.

 

Here’s one question:

Dear HDKnightley,

How exactly did you start with self-publishing? I have a couple of short stories I would like to turn into novels but have no idea where to start.

signed, a loving reader

Dearest Reader,

When I first started I used a company called lulu.com. I loved (still do) that they were small and personal and I published about 6 books with them. Since that time though, the amazon version createspace has taken the field. Createspace is a behemoth and the prices are low in comparison. I had to do some soul-searching, but I plan to use them to publish this book. I can’t argue with the numbers, but that’s me, at this time. For you dear reader there may be other considerations.

The first step is to write the novel. Write it. Here’s Neil Gaiman‘s thoughts on the matter:

  1. Write
  2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
  3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
  4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
  5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
  6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
  7. Laugh at your own jokes.
  8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

 

I hope that helps.

Yours,

H.D.Knightley