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A Gathering of Strangers Log # 3 - Post Release

This post will serve as a quick update as to what has been going on lately, including the time up until the release of A Gathering of Strangers and where I plan on taking things from here.

Since the previous log, A Gathering of Strangers has been finished and released. You might be wondering why it took so long to get to this point, and the short of it is a string of bad luck, COVID, and the woes of self-publishing. Technically speaking, I finished my initial draft of A Gathering of Strangers two months earlier than the prior books. But instead of releasing a couple of months earlier as a result, it ended up coming out in early July, like the previous two.

To start with, my copy-editor suffered a nasty head injury in the winter of 2021. My manuscript was the first she had worked on since that injury. Understandably, she wasn't quite as fast as normal due to her injuries. Thankfully, she seemed to be feeling better and better as time went on. During this edit, she reminded me of a grammatical error that I found to be prevalent in the previous two books. So I had to go back and fix these errors across over 500,000 words.

After all of these fixes came reformatting, and putting out new versions of these older books. It was a time-consuming and costly process, but overall worth it in my mind.

Next came the book cover for A Gathering of Strangers. The artist who I had used for the previous books caught COVID right around when I submitted my request to him. Thankfully he made a full recovery, but for those of you who don't do gig work, it is an all-consuming business. While he recovered from the virus, weeks and weeks of work piled up for him, and so my book cover got delayed for about 5 or 6 weeks.

During that time, I mixed and matched editing the previous novels due to the aforementioned grammar issues and writing the next novel I've been working on (more on that later). By late June, the cover had been finished, but more issues came about with Ingramspark, the company who I use to self-publish.

That brings me to the woes of self-publishing. My options are limited in who I can use. Hell, I'm thankful to have it as an option at all. And yet, it often feels like Ingramspark isn't all that happy or interested to have me as a customer. They constantly charge fees for any update you make to your book, and it's $50 for each version of that new book. This caused me to start using Amazon KDP for the ebook version of my novels, while sticking with Ingram for the paperback and hardcovers. The reason I don't use Amazon for all of it is that I really like the quality of Ingram's physical books, and KDP doesn't offer a hardcover option as of now.

I mention all of this because Ingramspark is a mixed bag when it comes to quality. Their distribution network, which sends your novels to all of the major online retailers, is a huge convenience. As I mentioned earlier, the quality of their physical books are good. But on the other hand, their website and layout are often times similar to solving a puzzle. This time around, that aspect cost me a couple of weeks of delays.

My cover artist submitted all files to me just before July rolled around. I submitted these covers to Ingramspark, but was met with an error. For once reason or another, they refused to accept the RGB color pallet and required a CMYK color pallet. I was warned by my artist that this would mute some of the colors, but it seemed there was little choice.

When I resubmitted these covers, all seemed to be fine. The paperback and hardcover editions of A Gathering of Strangers were submitted for review. Well, a few days later, as expected, I got notification that the hardcover was all set. I put in the approval for it, and it was distributed as per usual. But wait. My paperback was submitted mere minutes after the hardcover. Why hasn't it been approved? I chalked it up to a slight delay and waited... and waited... and waited... still, the website showed that it needed review. No reason given outside of that. For literally the same cover, just in paperback.

Seven days after the initial submission, I reached out to Ingram's support for an explanation. The response back was that it still needed to be reviewed and that they couldn't give me a time frame. Well, the website says 2-3 business days. I figured maybe the email would have awakened them from whatever slumber caused my book to slip through the cracks... I waited... and waited... and waited... 10 days since the initial submission, I contacted them again. This time they responded that I should be seeing it approved soon. The next day I finally got approval.

When it was all said and done, I finally got everything settled yesterday, July 10th. Even though the ebook and hardcovers had been out earlier, I wanted to wait until all versions were ready to go before announcing it. All in all, it was a somewhat embarrassing and staggered release. I suppose it wasn't all that hyped up anyway, but it was enough of a bad experience to convince me to change things up for the next book.

Unlike with the release of Seven Seals, I have a good idea of what I wanted to do to promote this novel and the series in general. In short, it's time for me to get serious about advertising. That is to say, paying amazon, facebook etc. to produce targeted ads. These ads would be for Gold Fever. It's funny to think back to how I lamented the promotion of Seven Seals last year. After all, how could I advertise something if people hadn't read the first book? Well, the answer is advertising that first book. And in fact, the more books that come after it, the more likely you are to see a return.

Do I see myself having immense success with this? Not necessarily, but with two books to follow up on Gold Fever, I feel there's enough for interested readers to look into after finishing it. My hope is to make a profit from such a promotion, not just on the strength of the initial sales, but people who buy the sequels as well. I'll be writing up posts soon enough which chronicle these experiments in more detail.

With that said, I am also ready to shake things up. While the Dark Savior Series will continue, I am currently focusing on a Psychological Thriller at this time. I'm about 1/7th of the way done with the draft and plan on putting heavy focus on it along with advertising in the coming months. As I mentioned earlier, I plan to change how I release this book. Rather than Ingram, I'm going to try my hand at an amazon-only release. I may even try Kindle Unlimited.

My two goals for the second half of this year are to turn a profit on advertising and to release a second book in the same year for the first time. This psychological Thriller is meant to be 70,000-80,000 words long, and so I believe it's more than possible to release it before year's end. The first three novels have been a fun, if painful growing process. I have often told people that even though I haven't been financially successful in writing, I see a light at the end of the tunnel. That light feels brighter than ever, and I know that I'm close. And what should one do when they're close? Experiment some more!

I'll be back with more blog posts soon to dive in deeper to this upcoming book and my advertising experiments, but until then, take care!

- Jim

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