Thoughts About Writing · Uncategorized

I Bit The Bullet…Again

To offer discreet covers or to not offer discreet covers, that was the question. And eagle eyed readers can probably tell -per the image above- that I opted with TO offer them.

I debated about this with myself for a long time. But sales have been non-existent for the photo covers, and I didn’t think I had much to lose by taking the plunge. Romance readers follow trends, for one thing. For another, they ‘eat with their eyes’ and, as much as I love my photo covers, there is something to be said for bright, eye-catching designs that actually do leave a lot to the imagination. (I have included a warning about the explicit content in the preface of those new print covers, though.)

However, what I didn’t anticipate was how much I’d prefer the alternative covers when they arrived. They’re currently Amazon exclusive (because I can’t really afford the Ingram Spark set up costs to make them go wide right now), but they are absolutely gorgeous in person. I did a little TikTok unboxing video for anyone who wants to see my reaction, haha.

I feel guilty for thinking this, but I actually prefer them to my original covers. So much so that I might just cancel the photo covers for the rest of the series and focus solely on the discreet ones going forward, which was never the plan.

See, I hate it when I’m collecting a set and the author changes the covers midway through, but that’s what I’m considering doing right now. I might upset the grand sum of 6 people who bought the original covers, but that is a risk I am willing to take.

Yes, this means I’m kind of rebranding. Yes, this means I’m giving myself additional work (removing the old covers entirely, unpublishing with Amazon and properly merging the new covers across etc). But…I’m excited about all of it. The old ones aren’t selling. I haven’t sold a paperback in months. Just because I have an emotional and sentimental attachment to them shouldn’t mean I should stick with them. Gotta cut my losses and move on, really.

(Here’s where I eye Charlie’s biceps and sigh sadly, lol.)

Honestly, I’ve made so many mistakes in this self-publishing journey. This has the potential of becoming yet another one. But I’m happy to take the risks now: to make the changes and play around while I’m still relatively unknown, rather than give up. And, hey, if these changes don’t pan out? I can always bring the photo covers back. That’s the beauty of being in control of my own publishing, I guess.

Anyway, I’d love feedback on the new covers, or on whether you’ve also tried rebranding/new covers and how that went for you. I know I’m not alone in trying to figure things out, so any advice is welcome!

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To Spoil or Not To Spoil

That is actually the question.

I recently read an article about spoilers not being a bad thing. It asserted that, instead, spoilers make you enjoy stories more. Obviously, I won’t repeat the article verbatim* (I’m not into plagiarism), but what I took away from it was the concept that if an audience knows what’s coming, they can focus more on the actual story as it develops, rather than try to guess what’s around the corner.

I found this soothing. You see, I’ve received a few reviews recently which contain spoilers for a twist which -while I thought it was predictable- a few readers have said they didn’t see coming.

Before I continue, I want to be very clear that this blog post is in no way an indictment of the reviews I’ve received, because those people cared enough to take the time and make the effort to leave feedback, and that is awesome. I value every single reviewer, and thank them from the bottom of my heart for leaving their thoughts for me and for other readers. The feedback is deeply, genuinely appreciated. (Yes, even the handful of 3 star reviews. They are fair, and valid, and I appreciate them, too, and I will use them to improve my writing going forward.)

I firmly believe it is a reviewer’s right to put their feelings and opinions of a work out there however they choose to. Spoilers or no spoilers. Even though I’ll admit it – I have never really liked spoilers.

In Handle With Care‘s case, some reviewers have -on Goodreads- ticked the box that declares that they’re doing just that, which then gives the option to hide the review from people who mightn’t like reading spoilers (like me). Amazon doesn’t (as far as I’m aware) offer the option to do that. And that’s okay. It’s an Amazon flaw, not a reviewer’s.

However, I know that as a reader/viewer myself, a courtesy “Spoiler Alert” at the beginning of a review is helpful to me, because I personally detest reading them before I’ve read a book/watched a movie so I will skip that review…but, according to the article I referenced above, there’s a chance that spoilers might actually make me enjoy the story more.

So this all got me thinking… when it comes to Handle With Care, the ‘twist’ that has been “spoiled” in these reviews actually puts my novel into an additional trope category than just the ones I’ve been advertising it under. It’s a trope that I know a lot of readers enjoy. Some even specifically seek it out.

With that in mind, I’m now wondering: should I embrace the spoilers? Lean into them and change my blurb? Market this additional trope as part of the novel’s appeal? It’s very tempting to do it.

If the article I read is right and spoilers don’t actually ruin a reader’s enjoyment, I can’t see why I shouldn’t embrace them. Especially if I’m going to potentially market to a new group of readers who might not have given my novel a chance otherwise, not realising that I tick their trope boxes after all.

But it’s daunting. Just like every other decision in this self-publishing adventure. Every time I start thinking that I’ve started to wrap my head around it, something new pops up to challenge me. (Or maybe I’m overthinking again.)

But, with no magical guide to tell me what to do, I’m off to write a list of pros and cons.

I’ll let you know how I go.

(If you’d like to give the article that inspired this ramble a read, THIS LINK will take you there.)

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Free Book Distribution – Quick Update

Alright, so I’m fairly happy with Prolific Works as a host and means for distributing my reader magnet in conjunction with MailerLite, but in terms of using the free version to build a mailing list/social following, it’s been a dud for me. Over 200 copies of Handle With Care have been downloaded, though, which does make me feel quite excited, and I genuinely hope that those readers enjoy it.

However, I have since moved on to trialling Voracious Readers’ Evergreen program (in conjunction with their free 20 copy giveaway to existing readers) and within 24 hours I had 30 new subscribers to my mailing list. I’ve got about a 75% click rate on my welcome email/newsletter out of that, and I’m keen to see what the retention rate will be like in a month or so. (Much like my blogging, my newsletters are sporadic at best – I don’t like to spam people, and I struggle for engaging content to share, so I’d rather wait until I have actual news/something fun to send out.)

The next step in my plan will be to complete Book 2 in my series (because HWC is no longer a standalone as planned, haha) and then use HWC itself as my reader magnet. (As an aside, I’m also looking into PublishDrive as an alternative to IngramSpark or Smashwords for publishing Book 2, after initially publishing on KDP exclusively for the first 90 days. From all accounts, it seems like PublishDrive is less rigid than IS, but after diving in too hard and too fast with IS, I’d like to do a bit more research first.)

I’ve also got a Virtual Book Tour lined up for later in the month, but that’s definitely a blog post for another time!

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KDP Hardcover Beta

So, I recently gave the Hardcover Beta in KDP a shot with Handle With Care. I highly doubt anyone would want a copy of my light & fluffy romance novel in hardcover, but the option was there so I gave it a go. (Let’s be honest: I wanted a hardcover copy for myself.)

At the moment, KDP’s hardcovers are only available for publishing in the US, UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy – but I went ahead and decided to set my book up and order a copy from the US, knowing that shipping would be a bit expensive, but deeming the exercise worth it. Little did I know, though, that the United States Postal Service would enact a suspension of services to Australia shortly after I placed my order… so my test copy ended up costing me a fair bit more than I’d bargained for in shipping, but that’s a rant for another day.

I’m a bit of a novice with resizing existing graphics, so I had to play around with the pdf of my cover a lot to get the dimensions right for the change in cover size, despite the book itself being the same 6″x9″. But I got there in the end and was excited to publish it.

Anyway, after the shipping snafu, my Author’s Copy finally arrived today! I was so excited. And, I have to say, I’m pretty happy with the hardcover’s quality. It did get a little banged around in shipping, so the corners have taken some impact which is a little disappointing, but the colours show up better than they do on the KDP paperback cover, and it feels solid and well put together.

Hardcover copy of Handle With Care published via KDP

I don’t think I’ll order any more until shipping to Australia is more feasible again, or I can order Author Copies directly from Amazon Australia. However, I definitely think this is a great step forward for KDP and for self-published authors.

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I caved.

Before I published, I swore black and blue that I didn’t need to set up a mailing list or a newsletter. I was only writing for my own enjoyment. I don’t NEED followers etc. etc.

Except…

Well, I’ve received some lovely feedback from completely unbiased parties (people who don’t know me!) and it’s all kinds of addictive. So I caved in and started looking into the newsletter/mailing list process. After all, it would be nice to be able to let people who like my writing know when there’s more coming, right?

I don’t have a lot of funds, and I currently have zero subscribers, so I’ve opted to start with the MailerLite free plan (which caters to up to 1000 subscribers) and have used a discarded alternate scene from Handle With Care as my ‘reader magnet’. I’ve opted to distribute that via Prolific Works because it’s the free option, but should things change, BookFunnel looks like it’s the way to go as they give customer support to readers having issues downloading the files where I don’t think Prolific Works does.

It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out!

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Quick Update – Amazon Paperback Quality

I received my updated Amazon copy of Handle With Care yesterday and the cover print is now nice and clear! (So I must have done something silly the first time I uploaded the file.) The colour is still off in comparison to IngramSpark, but I am so much happier with the overall quality now. I can breath a bit easier knowing that people aren’t going to be presented with an amateur-looking product if they purchase the paperback via Amazon.

On a side note, I’m now considering doing a short price promotion via Amazon to encourage a readership boost (in conjunction with some targeted advertising and possibly collaboration with some established/professional romance novel promotion) to try and encourage a few more reviews. (I have also set the novel up for some ARC reviews as well.) I’m thinking I should add a page to the epub with a link to reviewing on Amazon or Goodreads, too. It can’t hurt, right?

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And The Learning Continues…

Today, I finally received my Author’s Copy of the paperback of Handle With Care from Amazon. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in the quality of the cover in comparison to the quality from IngramSpark. Considering I believed that I used the same base file, and the Amazon process was so much more user friendly than IS, this really surprised me. The colours are a bit off, but my main concern is that the text is kind of fuzzy. It has a really cheap and amateur feel next to the IngramSpark paperback, and there’s not a huge difference between the two in printing costs.

However, I’ve just gone back into KDP and have loaded an updated cover file and it looks better in the preview than the original did, so I’m guessing I did something stupid somewhere along the lines during the initial upload – I’m actually wondering if maybe I initially loaded the wrong pdf proof from my cover artist. All the files look very similar, I guess. (That seems to be the only logical explanation. #rookieerror)

Once it’s approved, I’ll order a second Author’s Copy and will keep my fingers crossed that this updated version will be better.

Apologies to anyone who purchased the first version from Amazon. At least the internal file printed correctly – absolutely no complaints there.

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I’m Learning A Lot

Handle With Care is now available in a number of places, and the list is growing by the day. Prior to publishing, I did so much research into my options. I knew I was going to self-publish (I didn’t much relish the idea of querying traditional publishers when I write primarily for my own enjoyment) and I didn’t want to limit myself to just Amazon. IngramSpark seemed like the best solution to my needs, but it’s not without its drawbacks.

Despite numerous edits, I found a tiny little typo in chapter five post-publishing (ugh! Gaiman’s Law strikes again!) and to fix it with Amazon was a quick, painless process. Through IngramSpark, I know I need to pay USD$25 to upload the new file (and I’m not sure if that covers both the eBook and the print version, or if it’s $25 for each) and I’ll have to go through the review process with them again. It’s not the end of the world, but it is a bit frustrating. More fool me for not catching that typo, though!

Also, once you’ve set your Distribution Settings with IngramSpark, you can’t change them. You can change your pricing once a month, which is helpful because it took me a little while to work out that their system doesn’t automatically calculate the currency conversions like Amazon’s does. I’ve also changed my mind on the discount and returns structure to retailers, opting to have my paperback sold online rather than in-store (because the risk of returns costing me a lot more than I can afford was too high).

With my next book, I’ll do things a bit differently. I’m considering a staggered release – opting in to Kindle Select for the first 90 days and then looking into only offering paperback (via online sales) through IngramSpark while potentially using Smashwords for additional eBook distribution.

I’m sharing these thoughts here for anyone else currently researching their publishing options, but also for myself to refer back to when I start looking into publishing book #2! I’m also more than happy to field any questions about the IngramSpark vs Amazon process, too.

Happy reading/writing/publishing!