Lessons Learned: Rise of the Spider Goddess

Rise of the Spider Goddess [Amazon | Kobo | Smashwords] goes on sale tomorrow. This is the annotated edition of the very first book I ever wrote, back in 1995. The cover art accurately captures the experience of reading the book. Details are here if you’d like to know more.

Cover2I’ve self-published a handful of books, including several e-chapbooks of short fiction, and Invisible earlier this year. But this is the first time I’ve done a complete novel. This was also only the second time I’ve done a print edition as well as an ebook. So I figured I’d step back and take a look at the process and the things I figured out this time.

1. Print has gotten easier. Please note that I didn’t say “easy.” But when I did the print edition of Goblin Tales through Lulu back in early 2011 … well, let’s just say I came out of that experience determined to just do e-books from then on, both to avoid the hassle of print, and because the self-pubbed print edition simply didn’t sell.

This time around, I went through CreateSpace at Amazon, and the process was significantly more straightforward. I was able to download a template for both the interior and for the cover. I still spent a lot of time on the files, but that was because I wanted to customize the interior, add some additional sections that weren’t in the template, change the header and page number layout, add drop caps, insert a graphic at the start of each chapter, and so on.

It’s not perfect, and I’m once again left with a lot of respect for the people who do layout for a living, but I’m pleased with the end results. The pricing also seems to have gotten better since 2011. I’m able to sell a 200+ page trade paperback for $10.99, which Amazon has discounted to less than $10.

2. Cover art costs. I tend to be a bit conservative with my personal finances. (My daughter would have another word for it.) When I started searching for cover artists and emailing for quotes, I was hoping to keep costs low. $200 would have been nice. $500 was my upper limit.

Yeah, that didn’t last. I got quotes that ranged from $200 to $2500. I looked around a bit to see if there was any preexisting art I could license, but the book is quirky enough that nothing really fit. And after chatting with people online, I decided to try to do something in the old Dungeons & Dragons style. So I looked for artists who had done D&D illustration work in the past, and eventually went with Patrick McEvoy. Patrick seemed to get what I was looking for, and was friendly and easy to work with.

Was it worth what I ended up paying? Ask me in six months when I know how many books have sold, but I’m happy with the cover, and the feedback has been very positive so far.

3. Preorder headaches. Did you know that Barnes & Noble still doesn’t seem to have a way for authors to put their self-published title up for pre-order? There will be a Nook edition of Spider Goddess, but it won’t show up until tomorrow. They seem to be the lone hold-out. I was able to post the book at Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, and Google Play without any trouble, though Amazon has a cutoff date for uploading the final files, and says if you don’t do so by that date, they won’t let you post things for pre-order in the future.

And while Amazon will let you put up your e-book for pre-order, they won’t do the same for the print. As I understand it, there is a rather convoluted way of getting a self-published print title up for pre-order by sighing up for a separate Amazon program. But in my case, I ended up accidentally putting the print edition on sale a few weeks early. Ah well. It gave me time to get the Kindle and print edition linked on Amazon before the official release, and most of my print books start showing up on bookstore shelves early anyway.

4. Publicity. One of the many reasons I love DAW is that they do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work for me. They send out review copies, get the book listed online and in their catalogs, put out some advertisements, and so on. With Spider Goddess, it was all on me. I created print and electronic ARCs and sent those out. (I got some fun advance blurbs, too!) I’ve set up some guest blog posts on various sites. But I definitely didn’t accomplish as much as I had hoped. There was simply too much to do, and not enough time to do everything.

Trying to figure out effective book publicity is like wrestling a greased watermelon golem. But I’m hoping that I’ve done enough to generate a little interest and curiosity, and that the book itself will build on that to generate some word of mouth. We’ll see what happens.

5. A book day is a book day. I always get anxious when a new book ventures forth into the world. As I sit here counting down to December 2, peeking around to see if any more reviews have cropped up or if anyone’s talking about the book, and worrying about whether or not folks will like it, I think it’s safe to say that self-published or commercially-published makes no difference. Book day is book day, and I’ll be obsessing over this one all week.


I’m happy to chat about the process, if anyone has questions. Thanks for bearing with me, and I hope you like the book!