Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Friday, April 6, 2012

Farm Girl: The Making and Selling of a Book

My first book, Farm Girl, was also the first book for WiDo Publishing. The book had been put together beforehand, with my son Billy as the editor and my son Don doing layout and design. My plan was to print up a few copies for my mom and for our family members.

After the investor chose it as a first release of WiDo Publishing, he did a large print run of 5000 copies. About half of those have sold. The investor was willing to try many things to get sales-- hiring a publicist, sending out copies for contests, paying someone to call bookstores and get orders. The idea was to try a lot of different approaches and eventually something would pay off.

It's been an interesting learning experience, because the entire publishing culture changed from when WiDo first began until now. Most of the things that we tried at first are no longer viable.

Calling bookstores? A waste of valuable time. Farm Girl sells more books on Kindle now than print.

Hiring a publicist? A waste of good money. More book sales happen through online blog reviews and the calculated use of KDP Select free promotions than through an expensive publicist getting a feature on TV, radio or in the newspaper.

Giving away free copies to teachers in hopes they'd buy more for the classroom? Ha! Teachers, like everyone else, are strapped for cash and will gladly take a free book, no questions asked, no commitment made. Period.

From the way books were printed in 2007 to the way they are sold in 2012, Farm Girl has led the way in change for WiDo. The lessons learned and experience gained from making and selling this first book have been invaluable. I believe that is Farm Girl's real worth as WiDo's first release.

28 comments:

  1. I loved reading Farm Girl. Bought it because I read about it on your blog.

    Blogs work

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  2. I know my book sells far better in eBook form than in print.

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  3. I agree. I find I sell more just by doing my own promoting and a couple of inexpensive ads.

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  4. I'm doing a book signing next weekend. Not sure what to expect as its the first one in over a year. If anything, I can hand out flyers with my Web site and monitor Kindle version sales.

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  5. Hi Karen .. I think that's great to look at Farm Girl as a very useful experiment for WiDo ... after all, not many memoirs get 5,000 copies printed - whereever they go.

    I loved reading the history of 120 - 130 years ago and the Europeans' pioneering settlement westwards .. and how the families changed, as too the land -

    Farm Girl gives you and your family their history, while it gives us an idea of life on the farm ... and it's printed, and available on Kindle - so stands forever as time goes by ... Cheers Hilary

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  6. My grandmother's boots had 100 buttons, a major status symbol. Today, there's a zipper behind those buttons (if one could wear boots this winter). There's no going back. And I don't want to. E-books are easy to read, don't cost a fortune, and don't clutter. Even my local library now selects carefully from donated books. No more dropping in a bin and leaving.

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  7. I can say that I buy more books since ebooks have been invented. it is so easy and I can carry a library around with me :) - I am visiting from the A-Z challenge, www.marciespostbox.blogspot.com

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  8. Fascinating stuff. Thanks for sharing that.

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  9. What a fascinating journey! An excellent real world example of how fast publishing has been changing.

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  10. I am planning to go through, clean and purge my bookcases this spring. Farm Girl definitely stays with me. A lovely book.

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  11. They say experience is key. There's also the saying about the first batch of pancakes... Glad it didn't go that-a-way! Farm Girl is a good book and I'm glad it paved the way, like the spirit of the MC of which it is about.

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  12. Thank you for sharing your publishing/marketing experiences with us!

    J.C. Martin
    A to Z Blogger

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  13. Karen congratulations on being an author.. something that I would like to be one day too. Thank you for being a co-host in the A to Z Challenge!! You have a lovely blog and I enjoyed reading about how you are getting Farm Girl out there and your experiences. Blessings.. http://takingbackmylifemakingitmyown.blogspot.com/

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  14. Congratulations on your book. Yes, even in the ten years I've been writing, the publishing industry has changed so much.

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  15. Even from the perspective of a reader, I'm amazed (or horrified, sometimes) at how dramatically the landscape of publishing and bookselling has changed. I can't imagine what it's like for published authors trying to figure out where they should put their efforts.

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  16. I wish i were a published author or even had it in my to write a book lol. I do wish you well and look forward to following you and hearing more. If you have time please visit me at my blog in the uk www.jollyjillys.blogspot.com any time

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  17. That's a lot of change in a short amount of time. Great post.

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  18. I have to read your book. I think I am a bigger supporter of writers than I am a writer myself. Words can be magic.

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  19. I thoroughly loved your Farm Girl!!! And what a fabulous trailblazer for WiDo!! Take care
    x

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  20. I think, regardless of who publishes the book, online is going to be the big selling market.

    Online book blogs are where I find many of the new to me authors. Blog tours for authors are the big thing these days. A good publicist is going to go for social media first thing. An author can do that them-self and save money. :-)

    I enjoyed your article.

    Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

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  21. No matter what worked and what didn't work for the investor, 2,500 sales is pretty darn good for a first release :)

    ~Nicole
    Blog: The Madlab Post
    @MadlabPost on Twitter

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  22. Love this post and first read it on the Challenge page (congrats on that). It's staggering how fast things are changing, but I've been through it all before in the world of photography. There is a definite pattern to the changes that I hope will fit somewhere in the Challenge. It's all based on Long Tail Theory and involves holding on tight while staying lose through the changes. As a writer, I've been away from the game for over a decade. I don't recognize ANY of the moves a player must make, and just when I'd gotten that query letter down pat :-)

    I agree with Nicole. That many sold on a first release is very impressive. I'll have to check it out in digital form.

    Cheers,
    Max

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  23. Excellent post, loved reading of your success too. I know a lot of writers who'd loved to sell 2500 books!

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  24. An interesting learning curve, Karen. Times have changed since I started writing my novel four years ago. My idea of publishing has completely changed with the times.

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  25. thanks for the great advice, note taken

    I found you through the
    A-Z 2012 Challenge.
    Here is my link.
    http://www.astringofpearls.org/a-z-in-26-days/
    I have Google problems

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  26. Thanks for sharing this story. This industry is changing by the day. I like how you tracked what worked and what didn't. Interesting.

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  27. The book trade has changed enormously over the last couple of years, hasn't it? I know my ebooks sell a lot more copies than the print versions. Even my traditional (old-fashioned) UK publisher has finally come round to ebooks.

    I buy all my books from recommendations on blogs or internet review sites.

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  28. Wonderful post. It's so great to get new posts on my blog from writers I'm following. Your experience with Farm Girl is helping all of us.

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