The Opposite of Popular

The online home of alleged author Victoria Leybourne


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Release Day Update!

It’s about 3pm here in the UK (assuming I don’t get hopelessly distracted from writing this post for another hour or two, which is not out of the question) so I thought it was time to update you on how Release Day (AAAAHHHHH) is going.

Well, I’ve been a guest over at The Silver Petticoat Review, talking about how I adapted some of my favourite elements of Beauty and the Beast to write The Rose and the Mask. Take a look and let me know what you think!

I’ve also been interviewed by the glorious Bronwyn Green over on her blog, talking about what I most like about my main characters, why I chose Beauty and the Beast, and elaborate pasta-based escape plans.

Sales so far have been, er, nothing to write home about. (This is not literally true, I’m sitting right here texting my family about them!) To my certain knowledge, I have sold eight (8) copies so far.

There are some mitigating factors, namely:

  • That’s only ebooks. It takes a lot longer to get the figures for print ones.
  • There miiiiight be a delay on the ebook figures? They haven’t changed in several hours – and if you think I haven’t been sitting here most of this time refreshing the page, then you think too highly of me. However, Occam’s Razor would suggest that they haven’t changed because there, y’know, haven’t been any sales.
  • It’s only like 5 – 10AM in the US, which is the biggest market for Kindle books.

So it’s definitely too early to declare this whole thing a miserable failure – even for me, Her Royal Highness The Princess of Panicky Pessimism. Plus, this is very much what I expected – that only people who know and love me would buy it. But of course I hoped for more than that, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed.

Objective for the rest of the afternoon: figure out which pages I can refresh obsessively without risking seeing any reviews, because I would definitely not cope well with a bad one right now.

More updates to come!


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The Rose and the Mask: A Beauty and the Beast Retelling IS NOW AVAILABLE!

OMG, you guys. I’m so nervous. My book is OUT THERE. People are going to BUY IT (hopefully) and READ IT (hopefully) and REVIEW IT (yay but also *incomprehensible panicked squeaking*).

I’ll be back later with more news for you but right now I need to take a break from feverishly checking things and have several large cups of tea. In the meantime, if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, here are some links that may interest you!

theroseandthemasksidebar2

Faustina is a beauty and a thief, not necessarily in that order. She doesn’t believe in magic, just luck, and hers has run out. The last thing she needs is to get roped into a ridiculous revenge plot by her brother—especially when that brother is Giacomo Casanova, Venice’s most notorious libertine.

Benedetto Bellini has never been particularly lucky. The fact that he’s under a beastly curse proves that. Now he’s got a second problem, one that’s washed up on his island in its undergarments and attempted to steal his silverware. He finds Faustina intriguing and infuriating in equal measure. And, thanks to the curse, he’s stuck with her.

Faustina doesn’t know what to make of the sweet, shy and deeply irritating man holding her captive. Does he have something sinister in mind, or is he just trying to keep her safe? And why won’t he take off his mask?

Available in paperback and ebook editions from:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon ES | Amazon IT | Amazon NL | Amazon MX | Amazon IN | Amazon JP


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One week to go!! Or, the art of self-deception.

YOU GUYS AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH YOU GUYS THE ROSE AND THE MASK COMES OUT ONE WEEK TODAY AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH

(Don’t worry, the book contains much more punctuation and much less screaming than that.)

Here’s the cover and the link to the website again, you know, in case you lost them.

theroseandthemasksidebar2

Here are a couple more reminders:

As for new news… there isn’t very much to tell. After a busy month or so, I’ve been at a bit of a loose end this week. My to-do list for this book has dwindled to nearly nothing, but I’m much too focused on it to really get anything else done – like writing the sequel, for instance.

For anyone hoping to learn from my self-publishing fails, I can confirm that organising my own blog tour (which I mentioned that I was going to try in my Self Publishing To Do List) has been… not an unqualified success. I contacted around twenty blogs, which I hand-picked myself on the basis that it looked like they reviewed books like mine, didn’t say that self-published books were libris non grata and so on. One invited me to guest post, which I’m super-excited about (look out for the link next week)! And I’ve had a couple of polite “no”s. Otherwise, it’s been radio silence. This is totally understandable, because I know review blogs get an overwhelming number of requests, and I’m not at all surprised, individually, that each blog didn’t get back to me. But of course I hoped that some of them would be interested, so I’m definitely disappointed.

Still, I’m sure there’s something to learn here for next time – which is a large part of what this first release is going to be about! It might be that I just picked the wrong blogs, but I’m sure I could improve something about my approach, too. E.g., I actually spent quite a long time exploring each blog to get a feel for their style and content but, since I was trying to be concise, that maybe didn’t come across in my emails – they might have looked a little impersonal.

And an update on the above-mentioned giveaway: it’s now at 681 entries, which means that 681 people have heard of the book! Yaaaaaay! Although the frequency with which I have been checking that number does not bode well for my self-control about checking my sales figures after the publication date.

And finally…

I am suuuuuuper stressed about the publication date being so close – something which will not surprise any of you who’ve seen me get suuuuuuuuper stressed about incredibly minor, everyday crap. But I’ve been able to turn it to my advantage! (Sort of.)

One of the many things I am irrationally anxious about is going to the dentist. I had perfectly respectable teeth as a small child but, when my adult teeth came in, they were large, free-spirited things that grew in some rather whimsical directions. So I’ve had quite a lot of scary, painful and expensive work done to them and am now afraid of dentists. Like, openly-weeping-in-the-waiting-room afraid. So, when I got a reminder to say I was due for a checkup, my first thought was that there was no way I was dealing with that until after the release. But then I realised that I was already pretty close to a maximum stress level, so what the heck – and I went today. It worked! (Sort of.) I mean, I still freaked out, but only for a few hours before, not, like, a week – because I was too busy worrying about the book. If I’d done it after the release, I’d have had ample time to worry about both.

Self-trickery: almost as good as being able to respond to challenges like a functional adult!

Right, that’s enough excitement for me for one day. See you all soon! ❤

the new cover of "bloody zombies": a photograph of a green hand against a pink background with white text: "Bloody zombies - a novella about a really bad date, victoria leybourne"


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Quick cover redesign!

No, don’t worry, I haven’t re-done the The Rose and the Mask cover yet again! It’s actually Bloody Zombies that’s had a makeover. I made the original…

The cover for "Bloody Zombies": a pink background with grey zombie hands reaching up from the ground.

… a while ago, so with less experience of making graphics and finding stock images and stuff – and using only free fonts and a free online image editor, because I didn’t even have a real computer then, just a netbook. While I don’t think it’s too bad, considering, it’s definitely short of polish. It’s been on my to-do list to remake it as part of a general effort to class up my online act, and I finally got round to it. Ta-da!

the new cover of "bloody zombies": a photograph of a green hand against a pink background with white text: "Bloody zombies - a novella about a really bad date, victoria leybourne"

It’s not as nice as the The Rose and the Mask one, but it’s for a much shorter, cheaper book that’s long since stopped selling, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. It should look a bit nicer on my Goodreads and Amazon author pages, anyway. What do you think?


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LOOK AT THIS AWESOME THING! Ft. Proof Copy and A Giveaway

Guys, look what my mum made me!!

the cover of The Rose and the Mask, as interpreted through the medium of quilting

It’s even prettier than it looks in this crappy phone photo, believe it or not.

This counts as fanart, right? Either way, this is some HIGH QUALITY MOTHERING. Thanks, Mum! 😀 ❤

Speaking of The Rose and the Mask, as if I’m ever not, Things have been Happening.

Things like AN ACTUAL REAL LIFE PROOF COPY WITH PAGES AND EVERYTHING

proof1

I am nowhere near as invested in my skill as a cover designer as I am in my skill as a writer…

proof2

…so I’m therefore approximately 1,000,000,000% less self-critical about it….

proof3

… but… I dunno, I think this actually looks pretty good?

I can neither confirm nor deny rumours that I’ve been periodically stroking it and murmuring “my preciousssss” since it arrived.

I can, however, confirm that I found about twenty mistakes in it that were completely invisible on both my computer and my Kindle. Siiiiiiigh. Still, now is the time to find them, I guess!

And, if you like the cut of its papery jib, but also like not paying for things, you may be interested in the Goodreads giveaway I’m running:

The Rose and the Mask by Victoria Leybourne

The Rose and the Mask

by Victoria Leybourne

Giveaway ends March 03, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

As I write this, exactly 500 people have entered. Looking at how well other giveaways are doing, I think that’s… not bad? Not necessarily anything to write home about, but not bad. And it means that at least 500 people have now heard of it. Given how hard it is to get a self-published book noticed at all, I’m pretty happy with that. It’s giving me a very cautious sense that people might find something (the cover? the Beauty and the Beast link? the title? lol, definitely not the title) about it appealing, which is heartening. I’m still keeping my expectations extremely low about how well it will actually sell, but I’m starting to feel that I’ve at least done something right.

I’ll be back soon with more updates. In the meantime, if you missed it, check out my last post where I announce the release date (MARCH 3! IT’S MARCH 3! …Welp, ruined that surprise) and talk about how you can help with the launch if you’d like to.


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The Rose and the Mask releases March 3! (And how you can help if you’d like to.)

That’s right, folks, I set a date! The Rose and the Mask: A Beauty and the Beast Retelling will be all kinds of purchasable one month from today!

theroseandthemasksidebar2

goodreads-badge

Here’s the blurb:

Faustina is a beauty and a thief, not necessarily in that order. She doesn’t believe in magic, just luck, and hers has run out. The last thing she needs is to get roped into a ridiculous revenge plot by her brother—especially when that brother is Giacomo Casanova, Venice’s most notorious libertine.

Benedetto Bellini has never been particularly lucky. The fact that he’s under a beastly curse proves that. Now he’s got a second problem, one that’s washed up on his island in its undergarments and attempted to steal his silverware. He finds Faustina intriguing and infuriating in equal measure. And, thanks to the curse, he’s stuck with her.

Faustina doesn’t know what to make of the sweet, shy and deeply irritating man holding her captive. Does he have something sinister in mind, or is he just trying to keep her safe? And why won’t he take off his mask?

Are you excited? I’m excited. Also nervous and scared. BUT ALSO EXCITED.

I’ve had loads of support and help from some truly excellent people in creating this book, and some of those excellent people have also asked how they can help with the release. If this sounds like you, please keep reading! (I mean, keep reading either way, if you want! But please remember that this is specifically for people who’ve said they want to help me – I certainly don’t feel entitled to any of this.)

Reviews

I’ll get the trickiest bit out of the way first: If you know me personally, please don’t rate or review the book on Amazon, Goodreads or similar. While a part of me would love for all my friends and relations to shower the book with five-star ratings (and, if you were thinking of doing that, that’s very kind of you!), there are a couple of reasons why it’s a bad idea:

  • One, I really want to approach this whole thing professionally and ethically, and have people buy the book (if they buy it at all) on merit. If someone buys the book based on a glowing review by someone who loves me, I’d feel we’d tricked them – even though all the motives of those involved would have been good.
  • And two, on a more pragmatic level… Amazon’s systems (and Amazon owns Goodreads) are terrifyingly clever and will quite possibly figure out that you know me, which could lead to sanctions, because having people who know you review your book is against their rules. And being sanctioned by Amazon would be Bad News, especially when (at least to start with) it’s my only sales outlet!

If you only know me through my writing (for instance, following this blog), that’s different – though, of course, I still don’t want you to rate or review the book dishonestly! But, if you do read it and enjoy it, it’s certainly true that good ratings and reviews help to sell books, so it would be very nice of you to leave one!

(Incidentally, I’m currently giving out advance review copies of the book. If you like the sound of The Rose and the Mask and are happy to write a review, I’d love to send you one. Get in touch here or comment below! Note: both Amazon and Goodreads say that you should clearly note in a review that you received an ARC – people usually say something like “I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review”. For the reasons I mention above, it’s really important that you do that if you take an ARC.)

Buying the book

Okay, so, to be clear… if we are friends and you would like to read my book, I will obviously just give you a copy. You’re not expected to buy one!

However, I know some of you are planning to buy it anyway, and want to know how to do that in the most helpful way. The answer is that I’m not really sure, because the Ways of Amazon are strange and mysterious. However, it almost certainly helps to get a lot of sales at once – and particularly close to the release, because that pushes it up New Release lists and basically suggests to Amazon that people might want to buy it so it shouldn’t be immediately buried. I think. So – while every sale is wonderful and lovely and counts – they might count a little more on or around the release day.

Then there’s the matter of format – ebook or paperback. From a practical perspective, an ebook sale is probably better for me. I get more of the royalties, though it costs the buyer much less. And, since (as I mentioned in my last post) the vast majority of self-published authors’ sales are in ebook, it’s more helpful to get a sales rank bump on that than the paperback. Buuuuut… I really like the idea of paper copies sitting on people’s shelves. Also, I spent ages formatting the inside of the paperback and designing the back cover, neither of which you’ll be able to see in the ebook. So I’m going to say, buy whichever one you’d rather buy!

Other than that…

Honestly, your support and encouragement are amazing and all I really want from you, so thank you ❤ (Unless anyone wants to volunteer to read Amazon and Goodreads reviews for me after the release, because that’s a month away and I’m already terrified. But excited!)


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A Self-Publishing To Do List

adventuresinselfpublishing

Here it is: the list of things I’m doing, book-wise! I’m sharing it partly because I know some of you are curious about all the Very Important Tasks I’ve been muttering about, and partly for anyone else considering self-publishing. But please, note that I mean everything I say in this and future posts about it in a “this is what I’m doing, follow along to see if it works!” sort of way, not a “do this, it’s a good idea” sort of way.

Bold headings are things I’m planning to do individual posts about later. I’ll come back and add links!

Oh, and one last thing: this list sort of starts at the “I have a finished, polished manuscript” stage. See the rest of this blog for the roundabout, tear-soaked route I took to get there.

Okay, let’s do this!

Professional Editing

Plenty of self-published authors skip this step, which is either a pragmatic allocation of resources or the beginning of a literary apocalypse, depending on whom you ask. I’ve seen knock-down, drag-out fights about it in indie author communities. (Then again, some of those communities would have a knock-down, drag-out fight over, like, Coke vs Pepsi, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.)

The issue is that editing is expensive, by most people’s standards (as it should be, when you’re paying for hours of someone’s skilled work), and it’s very, very possible for a self-published book to sell only a handful of copies, meaning that you never make the investment back. On the other hand, a professionally-presented book stands a better chance of attracting readers, and getting good reviews that attract other readers. Like a lot of things on this list, it’s a gamble. [Update: here is a post about that.]

Originally, I wasn’t intending to get The Rose and the Mask professionally edited. Given my fiscal situation (which might conservatively be described as “LOLarious”), I just didn’t think it was a sensible use of money. In the end, what changed my mind was looking back at the amount of work I’d put into it. I spent years of my life drafting and re-drafting this book and agonising over the tiniest of details (again, see the rest of this blog). After all that, the idea of readers dismissing it as slapdash because of whatever typos and plot inconsistencies I was inevitably missing was just too horrifying.

As it turned out, hiring an editor was the right choice for me—and an amazing experience. Yes, my editor caught a bunch of mistakes and inconsistencies that I’m glad will never reach paying readers, but I also learned a lot from the experience that I can use to write an even better book next time, right out of the gate.

Choosing Sales Channels

This is where it all starts to become a lot less writery and a lot more businessy. (Those are technical terms, keep up.) You’re choosing where you want your book to be available. The obvious answer is “EVERYWHERE!!!” but there’s a little more nuance to it than that.

With ebooks, the primary sales channels are Amazon (Kindle), Google Play (for Android Devices), Apple iBooks (for iPhones etc) Barnes and Noble (for Nook devices) and Kobo (for Kobo devices). Unless my extensive forum- and blog-lurking has led me astray, most self-published authors make the vast majority of their sales on Amazon.

Amazon have been at the forefront of the self-publishing movement for some time now, basically leaving all the other retailers scrambling to keep up with what they offer. For example, they are (as far as I know) the only retailer that incentivises authors to publish with them exclusively. By enrolling an ebook in their “KDP Select” program, authors agree not to make it available anywhere else (on a 90-day rolling contract) in return for certain privileges. The most notable of these is that the book will be included in Kindle Unlimited, where subscribers can read them for free – but the author gets paid depending on the number of pages read. It’s also rumoured that Select books get preferential treatment in terms of visibility on the site, but (again, as far as I know) that hasn’t been proven.

Essentially, then, your choice is mostly whether to enrol in Select or to use Amazon plus all the other channels (which indie authors tend to refer to as “going wide”).

If you want to make a physical, paper copy of your book available, there are choices to make there, too. Although, in my opinion, the stakes are less “where will I make more money?” and more “where will I find less stress?” Most self-publishers sell only a very tiny number of paperbacks, even the ones that are doing well in ebook. That’s basically a price thing: self-published books are usually sold on a “print on demand” basis. That means that—instead of a large number of copies being ordered at a bulk discount and stored somewhere until they’re sold—individual copies of your book will be printed to fulfil individual orders. But printing books one at a time is expensive, and that’s reflected in the retail cost of a self-published paperback, which, in turn, is reflected in the sales figures.

Offering a paperback for sale, therefore, is mostly a vanity exercise. It has a couple of practical upsides—for instance, Amazon will show the Kindle price as a “saving” on the paperback price—but those are only maybe worth the investment of time (and money, if you use any professional design or formatting services). But a lot of writers (including me!) want to see and touch a physical copy of their book, so that it feels real. And, if that’s why you’re doing it, you can probably take your businessy hat off for this one.

There are really only two main players for print-on-demand: Amazon (again) with their CreateSpace, and IngramSpark. Honestly, I can’t see much of a difference between them, so you’re in the wrong place for a detailed comparison. Since I plan to enrol The Rose and the Mask in KDP Select, I’m also going to use CreateSpace, thus centring everything on Amazon for the time being.

Formatting

While I actually think Amazon (primarily) have made self-publishing remarkably straightforward, there is, regrettably, slightly more to it than just uploading your manuscript straight to your Kindle Direct Publishing account. Your book needs special formatting—and it’s different for ebook and paperback versions.

Ebooks—and I’m thinking mostly of Kindle books, because I’m most familiar with them, but I think it’s the same for the other formats—actually don’t want much formatting at all. You can’t choose the fonts, you can’t number the pages (because ebooks don’t have pages) and so on. What you actually want is a complete absence of formatting—save for bold, italics and underlines, if you use them. And that’s actually a lot harder than you’d think, especially if you use Microsoft Word. Word is so clever that it often cycles right around to stupid, and what looks to you like plain, unformatted text is actually all kinds of complicated under the hood, and somehow contrives to look spectacularly crap on a Kindle.

Paperback formatting, however, is at the other end of the spectrum. The print-on-demand printer will print your book exactly as you provide it to them, which means you have to perfect every detail yourself. That means styling the fonts, making sure the words don’t break up across lines in a way you don’t like, that there are no pages with just one word on them, that the page numbers start and finish where they’re supposed to, that the table of contents has all the right page numbers on it, that the margins are the right size and none of the text disappears into the binding… Excuse me while I breathe into this paper bag.

Formatting is another thing that you can (and many authors do) pay a professional to do for you. Having read the above, you might think it’s worth it. Personally, I feel like I should be able to do it myself, so I’m going to—no matter how many inventive new expletives I come up with in the process.

Cover design

My guess would be that this is the thing self-published authors are most likely to pay a professional to do. I mean, there’s no connection between being able to write a book and being any good at art or graphic design. And, while a lack of editing might get you bad reviews, or lose you sales at the “download a sample” stage, a bad cover will stop readers from even clicking through to learn more about your book.

Again, though, this is something I feel I should be able to do, so—out of a combination of stubbornness and lack of funds—I did it myself. Those of you who’ve been here a while will have seen me make several different ones, each time thinking I’ve finished the job, only to redo it a few months later. Here’s the latest one, hot off the… well, fresh out of Photoshop.

the cover for

Honestly, I like it and feel good about using it, but I’m sure a professional could have come up with something much better, both visually and in terms of appeal to my target readers. This is definitely a case of “do as I say, not as I do”… if you’ve got the cash.

Marketing copy

Most obviously, you need a blurb—but this also includes any other writing you might use to sell your book. So, an author bio, your Amazon description, any additional writing for your website, stuff like that.

I’ve said that a lot of things are “the worst”, but writing a blurb is the woooooorrrrrrsssssst. I honestly thought that knocking out a few paragraphs about a book I know inside out would be easy, but it was horrible. You have so little time to catch someone’s attention, so you have to keep it brief, which is where knowing what you’re writing about very intimately is actually extremely unhelpful. And striking a balance between teasing people with your best plot points and giving away the entire story is very tricky, too.

You can see what I came up with over on the book’s website, if you can’t read it on the back cover above. My best tip would be to make a list of the key things you think are appealing about your book (in my case, that it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling, that the heroine is a thief, that her brother is Giacomo Casanova, that the setting is 18th century Venice and that the hero and heroine are trapped together by a curse) and then concentrate your efforts very firmly on conveying that as succinctly and intriguingly as you can. But honestly, I did that and it was still a giant headache, so what do I know?

Marketing

Nobody knows the secret to selling a large number of self-published books. People are doing it, but no one really knows how—or, if they do, they’re wisely keeping quiet about it because, once everyone knows and is doing it, it won’t work anymore.

However, there are plenty of things that might work. Here are some of the ideas I want to try:

A blog tour. Well, sort of. A blog tour is where, over a set period of time, your book is featured on a bunch of different blogs. Those blog posts could be a “cover reveal”, an excerpt from the book, an author interview or a review of your book by the blog owner. You can pay companies to organise one of these for you, and they’ll guarantee a certain number of posts from their “network”. I’m trying to organise my own by choosing and emailing bloggers directly. [Update: this did not go that well.)

A Goodreads giveaway. Goodreads offer two kinds of giveaway: ebook (which you have to pay a not-inconsiderable fee to do) and paperback (which are free apart from the cost of sending out the books). I’m not hugely interested in paying to give my work away for free but the paperback ones seem to attract a decent amount of attention so I’m excited to give one of those a try. [Update: I did!)

Paid advertising. Again, my budget can sort of be described with a sad trombone noise, so I’ll have to be very careful about this. But I like the idea of advertising on one or two popular romance blogs. Amazon have also just introduced pay-per-click ads, which I guess is kind of like the big publishers paying chain stores to include their books in promotions.

So, there you have it: an overview of what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks and will continue to be up to, into and generally all over until the release. Like I said above, I’m planning to expand on all of this in more posts, as well as update you on how all of this works out. It’s a learning experience, let’s put it that way!