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Monday, April 2, 2012

It's a Gift!

It was a year ago that, finding myself without a job and a lot of time in my hands, I decided to self-publish my novel, Justified. I’d written for NaNoWriMo, after months of toiling with the story and then getting stuck because it had no direction. NaNo focused the effort, what with 30 crazy days to complete the task; and it was a perfect way to channel some demons.

Prompted by awesome friends and loved ones, I took the plunge and embarked in this adventure purely for pleasure and the learning experience. The fact that there might be some royalties was also exciting but never the overriding passion in the project.

Now that a calendar year has passed, it seems like a natural landmark to stop and take stock of what I have accomplished in this journey.

Before I released the novel, just to get a hang of the process of publishing, I compiled some of my favorite columns written for Barbara Bretton’s website. The result, Kali: The Food Goddess, A Compilation of Delightful Recipes and Memories of Food, has received a total of 15,049 downloads (and by downloads, I refer to units sold as well as free downloads). The books has been relatively well-received with a couple of discontented readers that were not impressed – whether because the recipes were not exotic enough or too exotic.

That effort was followed by Justified, a crime novel with a twisted sense of humor, has received 158 downloads. This is a relatively larger number than I expected, though by publishing standards less than stellar. It certainly does not point to giving up the idea of a day job, but its relative success is promising. It could have easily sold zero copies. On this title, there were three people whose opinion mattered most, and all three got it (they got the jokes, the references, and even the details that would mean nothing to the casual reader). It was a very personal thing and it was very rewarding to get it done and have it well received by its intended audience.

Following this I rewrote a true story and fictionalized it to protect the guilty parties involved in Putting May to Rest. Altogether that short story has received 88 downloads and it has been the slowest moving title. This is not surprising because the subject matter, while hilarious to me, can be a little off-putting. It has been received about as well as could be expected. The Spanish translation has just been released and I suspect that one might be better received, but it remains to be seen.

The next project was another short story, but not fictionalized, a journal entry slightly expanded. One Night with B.B. also gave me the opportunity to play around with content and promotional gimmicks and it included two free .midi files. So far, the English version has received 35 downloads and the Spanish translation 33. I think the title may be stalling in the US, just as it starts to gather momentum in the European markets (more on this later).

The mini-memoir was followed by an anthology of journal entries titled Life, Dreams and Magical Landscapes. This has received 34 downloads and its Spanish counterpart (a less literal than poetic translation) has just reached 20 and is selling in places that I did not exactly expect: Spain (I get this one), France, Italy and Germany.

A second cookbook, Kali: the Food Goddess, Fruits of the Family Tree, released at the beginning of the year has 416 downloads and it has been selling exclusively at the Kindle Store. I expect those numbers to increase once it goes on sale across the board.
Just as March Madness got underway, I started a melancholic little piece, a short story about a woman and her child as they raced to meet their fate, How Nadine and Libby Escaped Destiny has received 80 downloads in a matter of a couple of weeks.

Altogether there are 15,913 e-books out there with my name on the cover page. As my distribution channels expand, I find sales and downloads from diverse markets across the US and Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK. I am also pleased that while books are moving faster on Smashbooks and Amazon than at Barnes & Noble (were some months it’s like I’m invisible), I have received royalties every month and payments for every quarter.

I will not measure cost of doing business to royalties because I derive joy from writing and cannot put a monetary value on that. Does that qualify as a success? I’d say it’s certainly promising and has absolute potential for bigger and better things.

In the process I have learned to format, distribute, promote and even design my books. I’ve put my entire education and all my professional skills to use and even honed in a few new ones while putting together book trailers.

Creating and maintaining a portal is interesting because it is only relatively static but new readers will constantly come to it after downloading a book. The Twitter feed has given me the opportunity to interact with a new group of fans and add a few recipes to my repertoire. There are only 21 followers, but I am not a celebrity and these 21 are quality followers inasmuch as they follow strictly for their connection to the content (they use it) and their interaction.

There are still new and exciting things I’d love to try -- like audiobooks and interactive titles, maybe a graphic novel. Certainly, as this is meant to be about experimentation, I have published different formats and will also expand on genres too (with a steampunk series and a literary fiction anthology of short stories). There will be more pieces written for online magazines and blog tours, and keeping the two blogs.

It is labor intensive but for the moment I can dedicate some quality time to it to establish my portfolio and a presence or a small following. I’m on my way and I am having the time of my life!

All this is awesome, of course. But even more awesome has been the support from my family (real and virtual). I’ve put a lot of love into what I am doing, but it has showered tons of love upon me as well. This alone makes it all worth the effort.

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