Fostering a growth mindset

Photobox with words: Growth Mindset

I joined The Alliance of Independent Authors last month. I’ve been considering doing so for a while and finally took the plunge once I felt I was almost ready to print my next book.

Alli has been a fantastic resource for me already with plenty of useful and helpful articles freely available on their website.

This article popped up on my Facebook feed today: The Psychology of Success For Authors: Do You Secretly Think Self-Publishing is Second Best? by Orna Ross.

While touching on the question of whether traditional publishing or self-publishing is the best route for authors, the article highlights the importance of having a growth mindset and willingness to learn which I feel are essential in any career.

“A growth mindset is the belief that with sincere creative intention, and enough creative attention, we can develop the abilities, skills, and resources we need to attain our goals.”

All of us are capable of developing a growth mindset. Even if we already have one, we can still learn more, still expand our skills. This is part of the reason I’m publishing my next book: Double Your Salary, to motivate you to believe you can achieve more.

What do you think of Orna’s article?

A box of books!

Does a print run count as a first edition when your novel’s been on sale through Print On Demand for the past three years? Probably not.

I received my first proper print run of The Great Scottish Land Grab today – 100 paperback copies. Quite exciting!

I’ve already got some orders, so will be posting them off immediately and will need to crack on, contacting more book shops to see if they will be willing to stock Land Grab.

I only ordered a small quantity of books for both Land Grab and Fallen Warriors. Having heard horror stories from other authors who ordered thousands of copies only to be unable to sell them, I’ve played it safe. I would rather sell these and have to re-order than worry about storage.

If you would like a paperback edition of The Great Scottish Land Grab you can order through your local bookshop quoting ISBN: 978-0-9929883-7-1

If you would like to buy a signed copy, I’ll be joining Wendy H Jones and Caroline Johnston at Cumbernauld Library on the 16th September from 2pm.

A professional barcode for your book

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I was unsure whether to just leave an old email address in the manuscript when ordering a new print run of The Great Scottish Land Grab. I called the printer today and they advised they could also send a PDF proof which has prevented any delay, otherwise I was potentially looking at a full week to order a new proof copy.

I’d pretty much decided that I needed to change the email address, so this morning I did that, corrected another issue I found in the manuscript and then had a last look at the cover. I wasn’t happy with the back page.

I’ve created my own bar code and it dominates the initial draft. I’d also decided to add my author photo as I’ve seen that done and it just didn’t line up in any way with the text or barcode.

So, I had another look at some traditionally published books and decided to have a go at creating my own publisher barcode.

I added my website URL, put on the website of the graphic designer who designed the book cover the first time round and also credited my wife for her photo of me. Set it all up so everything lined up, shrunk down the barcode to a more reasonable size and the finished version is below.

I really like it. Hopefully a much more professional look to the back page. What do you think?

A print ready PDF

When you want to get a physical copy of your book printed there are a number of terms to get your head round: CMYK, spine width, bleed, gutter size, embedded fonts, print ready PDF…

Printers ask for files in certain formats to ensure that what they end up printing is exactly what you wanted.

I’ve avoided this last one for book interiors until today, but decided to do a little digging and find out more.

In case you’re wondering…

CMYK stands for Cyan Magenta Yellow and Black – the colours traditionally used by printers to produce full colour images. Most screen images will be RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and if you send an RGB image to a printer, you might not get a physical image that looks like you expected. Fortunately most image editing software allows you to set the image as either RGB or CMYK and you should always use CMYK for images that are going to be printed.

Spine width won’t require you to visit your doctor – this is the width of your book and you need to know this if producing your own book cover as it will change if you add or remove pages. If you want the book title to be centred on the spine, you need to calculate the spine width when working out the size of your cover image.

Bleed – starting to sound like a murder/mystery right here! Bleed is also related to cover images. Once your book is printed and bound, it will be trimmed to a nice and neat edge. Your image should extend past the Bleed area of the cover (between 3 and 5 mm from each edge – including the spine!) so that if the trim is less than expected, there is no unexpected white space at the edge.

Gutter size. Nope, nothing to do with the amount of water your drains can take advantge of, gutter size is an extra buffer on the spine edge of each page that ensures that the reader can see the whole page easily. Some printers don’t require this, but others do. It is important to check as otherwise your text may look offset on the page.

Embedded Fonts and print ready PDF. I’ve not previously had to worry about this as I used Amazon Createspace to produce Print On Demand (POD) physical copies of The Great Scottish Land Grab, and was able to send them a word document for the book’s interior. (The cover image was designed for me) For my first run of Fallen Warriors I used Book Printing UK who also accepted word documents for the interior.

Ordering my first batch of 100 copies of The Great Scottish Land Grab from Book Printing UK, I hesitated when I saw they initially ask for print ready PDF files.

I use Microsoft Word 10 on a Windows 10 OS and while I frequently use Word to export documents as PDF, I wasn’t sure whether it could produce a “print ready” PDF.

As I wrote above, I decided to do some digging and quickly found this helpful guide: At the bottom of the page there is a helpful section: How to create print ready PDF files in Microsoft Word.

Turns out it is fairly simple, ensuring that Options are set to save as ISO 190051 compliant (PDF/A)

And the best thing about it, Book Printing UK gave me a small discount when I ordered my next batch of books as they didn’t have to spend time converting the interior to PDF!

Self-publishing your own books does take time and has a learning curve, but if you’re willing to learn and have the time, it is very rewarding.

Fallen Warriors is now available in paperback format!

Three boxes arrived today, delivered by a friendly UPS guy. Each containing bundles of carefully wrapped paperback copies of Fallen Warriors!

I’ve been checking online daily, sometimes several times a day, waiting for them to arrive.

It’s been a long road, first getting the ebook version released and then going through another round of formatting and proofing copies – almost four months since the ebook was published till the physical copies arrived.

I’m going to be primarily promoting the paperback edition to bookshops, but if you want to buy a copy directly from me, you can use the contact form to get in touch.

The retail price is £9.99. If you want to order from your bookshop, quote them this ISBN: 978-0-9929883-8-8

My first bookshop orders

Ever since I’ve wanted to be a writer, I’ve wanted to see my books for sale in book shops. When I self-published The Great Scottish Land Grab I ran out of money and opted to release it as a physical book through Print On Demand (POD). The main problem with that was the price per unit was way too high to allow me to sell to book shops.

With Fallen Warriors I’ve ordered 100 paperback copies at a price that’s low enough I can make a small profit on each sale, including the book shops discount and postage. I’m not going to get rich from selling physical copies, but it allows me to reach a wider readership than I would otherwise.

I’ve offered Fallen Warriors to three bookshops now and two have so far said they’ll take copies with the other taking a proof copy to review. One of those bookshops – The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick, Shetland – took one copy each of Fallen Warriors and The Great Scottish Land Grab last week when I was up in Shetland so if you want to buy the first paperback copy of Fallen Warriors on sale anywhere, or a copy of The Great Scottish Land Grab, you can do so in Lerwick! And they’ve even ordered more copies of The Great Scottish Land Grab so I now need to urgently order copies to send them. It’s all quite exciting!

Analysis of Sales of The Great Scottish Land Grab Part Three

Continuing a short series analysing sales of my first novel: The Great Scottish Land Grab. You can find yesterday’s post here and the first post here.

Every author’s story will be slightly different. I’ve benefitted from reading and hearing about the lessons other authors have gained from their experiences selling their books so it makes sense to offer what advice I can from my own experience.

What worked

1. Don’t discard rubbish first drafts
The first draft of Land Grab was not great, but it contained large sections that contained the core of the story I wanted to tell and on re-reading a couple of years later, still thrilled me.

I was extremely fortunate to have a relevant first draft waiting when I realised the level of interest in the Scottish independence referendum. If only I’d realised it sooner, but in reality, much of the plot of the finished book came out of my own journey exploring the issues. I doubt I could have written the novel, especially my first, at any other time. I was told from an early age to write and save what I wrote as it may become useful later. It’s good advice.

2. Be aware of what people are interested in
My decision to try and publish Land Grab in 2014 was definitely the right one. I made sales I might not have made at any other time. The original idea for Land Grab was for someone to try and steal a General Election to gain power and use it to reverse the Highland Clearances. As my interest in the referendum grew, I realised it offered a ready made situation that could be exploited in my plot and I began to rework the story to fit a topic all of Scotland was interested in.

Yet trends can easily vanish, as happened in October 2014. The No vote won and my sales began their quick slide towards zero.

Still, almost three years later and interest in Scottish independence has had a resurgence following Brexit… I’m still selling this book three years on…

3. There is no substitute for advertising
If you want to see zero sales, don’t market your book. If you want to sell one copy, tell someone you’ve written a book. Then tell someone else. Repeat until one of them buys it! If you want to sell hundreds or thousands of copies… You have to tell thousands or even millions of people.

How you advertise is possibly less important than the fact you are doing it. As long as you are reaching out to people who might be interested in your book, you may see some sales.

I’ve managed to sell dozens of copies by approaching strangers and talking to them about my novel. I found out this year that I could also sell copies by paying for Facebook advertising and I’m now also experimenting with Amazon Ads.

Time or money, you have to pay at least one of them and probably both and if you do it right, with a good product, you’ll find that you will sell.

4. A good cover will help, but a poor one won’t stop people if the concept is right
My first book cover was poor:

Yet, if you look at yesterday’s post, I still managed to sell a hundred copies. I knew it wasn’t the best I could do and kept trying different ideas, using this one when I released book two:

By the time book three was almost ready, I’d convinced myself I needed to show another side to Scotland and settled on this:

The last chapter written, the third book in the trilogy published, I listened to reason and hired a graphic artist: David MacKenzie who took a new concept I’d wanted and produced what became the final cover for The Great Scottish Land Grab:

David was kind enough to produce related covers for each separate book in the trilogy as well which you can view here.

5. Telling people how to buy the book
When I’ve told people they can buy copies on Kindle or physical copies through Amazon, they have. When I’ve told them there is a book, but failed to include that vitally important where to buy, I suspect they haven’t… It’s rather embarrassing to admit that on my leaflets and business cards I forgot to include that vitally important piece of information!

6. Split your book and make the first part free
Or write a short story or novella or prequel and give that away.

While giving the first part free is no guarantee that anyone will read it, let alone go on to buy the rest of the novel, I am seeing results where I’ve advertised the novel and let people know they can try the first book for free. If they are interested enough to act on your request and download the book, I think people will be more inclined to read it. Then, they may enjoy it and go on to buy the rest…

Want to start reading book one of The Great Scottish Land Grab for free? Click here…

7. Don’t give up!
If you have written a good story, then believe in yourself. Publishing is a long game and as many more experienced writers than myself have said, ebooks will be there long after printed copies are removed from the shelves.

My intention is to keep writing, keep selling and keep learning.

If you have any advice to share on your experiences of selling your books, why not comment below.

Analysis of Sales of The Great Scottish Land Grab Part Two

Yesterday I started an analyis of what worked and what failed as I attempted to market my first fiction ebook: The Great Scottish Land Grab.

Today I want to look in more detail at what I was doing to market the book and what results it had.

The chart below shows the lifetime sales of Land Grab book one since June 2014:

First thing to point out is that Orange/yellow shows sales where I got paid, blue is sales of the book after I set the price to free.

One of my biggest mistakes was not making book one free right away. Instead I priced it at 99p.

I was marketing Land Grab every single day during the summer of 2014. I printed up business cards, approached random strangers at village fairs and at train stations. I posted on Facebook and Twitter and while I sold over a hundred copies, look at the difference in numbers from October 2016… I did almost no marketing at all for the three months from October 2016 and people still found and downloaded the book!

I wonder how many more downloads I might have had in 2014 if I had enticed people in with a free offer.

The next two charts show life-time sales for books two and three respectively:

The numbers are not huge so I can’t make any hard and fast statements about what worked and what didn’t work, but it does seem to me that releasing Land Grab as a series did allow people to try at a low price and then free, and then go on to buy the other books in the series.

Both in 2014 and since October 2016, I’ve seen people go on to buy book two and three after downloading book one.

The chart for the full trilogy looks very different:

The fact is that I still carry business cards with me and still give them out or leave them in cafe’s and other venues for people to find. The business cards only advertise the full novel and I think that people who are intrigued by the cover image on the cards or maybe by something I’ve said will go on to buy the full novel.

Contrast the final chart with the first three and you see that huge dead area from November 2015 till August 2016. Without advertising I don’t see sales.

That’s a really important statement. Early this year I had an offer from Facebook. A £30 credit towards Facebook advertising. I used £12 of that voucher to advertise The Great Scottish Land Grab and later worked out that I made a slight profit off the back of it. (In reality a full profit as Facebook gave me a free voucher, but looking to see whether I would make a profit in future, it was small, but there.)

Tomorrow I’m going to try and round all this up into some sage advice to anyone thinking about how they can sell their book.

Analysis of Sales of The Great Scottish Land Grab Part One

On 13th June 2014 I published my first fiction book: part one of a planned four book series titled The Great Scottish Land Grab. Published solely as an ebook through Amazon KDP, I fully intended to cash in on the hype surrounding the rapidly approaching referendum on Scottish independence.

This post is intended as an analysis of what worked and what failed as I attempted to market my first ebook.

Here’s the high level sales figures:

Total downloads:

The Great Scottish Land Grab Book One …. 227
The Great Scottish Land Grab Book Two …. 58
The Great Scottish Land Grab Book Three .. 56

Total sales receipts:

The Great Scottish Land Grab Book One …. £33.66
The Great Scottish Land Grab Book Two …. £74.75
The Great Scottish Land Grab Book Three .. £73.29

All these numbers are up to the end of May 2017, effectively three years worth of sales.

Somewhere during editing book two I realised that I would only manage to write three books before the referendum and so books three and four became one book.

On 24th September 2014, I released the full trilogy as a complete novel.

Total downloads:

The Great Scottish Land Grab …. 43

Total sales receipts:

The Great Scottish Land Grab …. £87.93

So, in total, in three years I’ve sold 384 books and made £269.63 from these ebooks.

I confess that at times it has been extremely depressing to know how few copies I’ve sold in a three year period. However, I’ve had a large number of readers contact me to tell me how much they enjoyed the story. I enjoyed writing the book and even enjoyed the rush of trying to market it at the time. It has been a worthwhile learning experience and I was able to go on to write a much better second novel in Fallen Warriors.

And I’ve gained knowledge about how not to market a book which does seem to be helping as I concentrate on Fallen Warriors. Tomorrow I’m going to look at some of the lessons I’m still trying to learn and apply.