2018 Book Charity Drive…and Then Some

I don’t talk about my first book much anymore. It’s not that I don’t like my book — I’m still quite proud of it, in fact. Even though the book is reviewed well on Goodreads and on Amazon, there’s still plenty I could have done better in the book. Hell, I wrote an entire post talking about what I’d change in various stories if I had a chance to re-write the book on the one year anniversary of my book’s publishing.

One thing I wouldn’t change, however, is that I’ve used the proceeds from my book as a way to raise some money for charity. In 2016, I raised money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, while last year I raised money for UNICEF. As you might imagine from the title of this post, I’ll be doing the same thing this year, only with an added twist that I’ll get to in a bit.

Let’s start with the basics. If you buy a copy of my book, An Epilogue to Innocence, between now (November 19, 2018) and Christmas, all proceeds from your purchase will go to charity. I’ve chosen to put all proceeds to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, just as I did in 2016. I made the active choice to go with UNICEF last year, and though I don’t regret that choice in the slightest, I feel that the work the AFSP does is incredibly valuable.

I’ll do an update post at some point in the drive to give you all insight as to how the drive is going. I likely won’t do weekly posts like I did in 2016 (as I just don’t have time for it this year), however I will make sure to give some updates as to how things are going. For those unaware, CreateSpace and Amazon merged this year, so unlike previous years were there was a preferred link to buy my book, that isn’t the case this year.

Additionally, all pledges to my Patreon for the months of November and December 2018 will also be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This won’t just the the amount I get at the end1As Patreon takes a small cut of pledges., it’ll be the whole pledge made. I’d like to do something additional as a thank you to patrons who pledge during those months, so if you have any ideas, share those in the comments. If you don’t already support me on Patreon, click the button below and start doing so. I’d love to see you stick around past December 2018, however if you want to just pledge to me when I’m donating to charity to get the perks, that’s fine by me too.

And…rather unexpectedly since I initially wrote this post in early October, some other creators and authors have decided to also donate proceeds from their work, money based on viewer/listenership, or their time to help us out. A current list of those also taking part in this event can be found below.

Creators

Folks Helping With Marketing

Finally, if you see this post, anything you could do to spread the word would be immensely appreciated. I feel like part of why I saw such a drop off from the 2016 drive to the 2017 drive was the more limited word of mouth marketing I could do during that time. While I’ll be more active pushing the charity drive on social media this year, any help you all could provide would be greatly appreciated.

2017 Book Charity Drive

Hi all.

From today, November 12th through Saturday, November 18th2Which also so happens to be my 30th birthday., all profits from my book, An Epilogue to Innocence, will go to benefit UNICEF.

Buy it hereAmazon (Paper Copy) | Amazon (Kindle Copy) | CreateSpace | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | IndieBound

For those not aware, UNICEF is a charity that does a ton of work around the world to improve the lives of children. Their goal is to provide every child with safe shelter, nutrition, protection from disaster and conflicts, and equality. I also realize that last sentence comes directly from their site…that said, it’s difficult to put into words the profound impact that UNICEF has across the world.

Last year’s charity drive for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention did okay. It didn’t raise much, but even the $50 gift the charity drive was able to reach helps. I’d like to match, if not exceed that goal this year. To do so, around 25 Kindle copies of the book would need to be sold…or around 22 physical copies3There’s different royalty rates depending on book type and sales source. See the IAQ section for more info.. If you can buy a copy and help out, awesome. If you can’t, but want to share this post to help out, that’s great too. If you just want to donate to UNICEF because it’s a great cause but don’t care about my book, wonderful4Though I, admittedly, do like when people buy things I worked hard on..

That’s the main point of this post. I’ll publish results sometime early next week. I’ve also listed some IAQs below, for those who care…or wish to read my rambling more.


IAQs

Q: Why not donate to the AFSP again this year?
A: I likely will personally. That said, I wanted to use my book to raise money for a different group this year.

Q: You did a Twitter poll taking suggestions for who to donate to. Planned Parenthood won. Why not them?
A: I had been debating really hard between UNICEF and Planned Parenthood even before that poll went up. The low number of votes on the poll made it harder. Ultimately, I chose based on which charity had the lowest overhead — meaning the best percentage of money being donated actually going to its programs. UNICEF’s total is 87%, while Planned Parenthood is 76%.

Q: Wait. Why is this section called IAQs, not FAQs?
A: Because I highly doubt most people actually thought these questions. Or cared.

Q: How much money goes to the charity per book sold?
A: Without getting too much into the weeds about CreateSpace/Amazon merging together, it looks something like this. Profits do vary slightly for non-US sales.

  • New paper copy sold on Amazon = $2.26/copy
  • Kindle copy sold on Amazon = $2.06/copy
  • Paper copy sold on CreateSpace = $3.86/copy*
  • Paper copy sold on Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, or Books A Million = $0.66/copy

Q: What’s with the asterisk on the CreateSpace line?
A: CreateSpace is becoming part of Amazon’s KDP publishing and inheriting their profits, which are very similar to the Amazon royalties above. I don’t like that less money goes to a charity just because I’m making less money, as this change occurred November 1st, even though I wrote this charity post in mid-October. So. If you buy the book off CreateSpace, UNICEF gets the old royalty rate. Because children who need immunizations > profits.

Q: Can this section be over?
A: Sure. Here’s a link to go see a bunny.

When You Give Up What’s Yours

A couple of months back, I made a plea on Twitter asking for post ideas. I took one of those ideas — a short story prompt challenge — and have run with it. That said, I wanted to start getting to a few of the others. One of my favorite people to follow on Twitter, Eve, suggested I talk a bit more about self-publishing. I have a couple of different posts in mind where I want to do that. One of those posts, which will come at a later date, will go into deeper detail on my experience as a self-published author5Which, to be fair, is more of what Eve was looking for, I think., expanding on this post I wrote last year.

As for this post though, I want to go down a different, more philosophical path. In a recent Vlogbrothers video, John Green talked about how he felt knowing that his newest book, Turtles All the Way Down, was going to the printer for final printing, meaning he wouldn’t be editing it again from that point forward6Apologies in advance to my wife, who generally reads my blog posts, but will be caught by surprise by watching a video that features the sound of John Green’s voice — which she strongly dislikes..

Around the 48 second mark of the video above, John talks about how Turtles All the Way Down was his book and his alone for the better part of six years. But, from the point at which it got to the printer forward, the book was no longer his. It belongs then (or now?) to the reader.

I hate that feeling — the feeling that your work, your creativity, and your art no longer belongs to you. I know part of why I dislike it. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good of a writer you are, and no matter how well you vet your work for any problem that might arise, someone is going to hate your work. It happened to me and it took me the better part of a year to get to the point where I could talk about it without sounding like a total asshat.

I know that I have plenty of room to grow as an author. I know that my writing will continue to improve as I put more work, more time, and more effort into it. I know that most people don’t write a book that’s considered to be a classic as their first work7Unless you’re Harper Lee, apparently.. I also know that reception of my book has been generally positive, at least if Amazon and Goodreads are to be believed. But still…there are critiques that have been made that I can improve upon. And I hate that I can’t do that.

There’s plenty I can do better going forward. I can flesh the short stories I write out better — be that as a novel or just as longer short stories. I need to do a better job of writing more diversely. Even from a non-writing standpoint, I need to learn how to market myself as an author and writer better. I absolutely can work on those things going forward. Even if the effort that it will take to complete those actions is significant, I believe I have the capability to do those things.

But the work I’ve already done…that eats at me just a little.

As John Green says in the video a bit earlier in the post (and I’m paraphrasing here for brevity): I just really want people to like my work, but if they don’t there’s nothing I can do. And I agree with that sentiment, mostly. I do really want people to like my work. I’d love for them to love my work, to tell all of their friends about it, then those friends tell their friends, and eventually I get picked up by an actual publisher8Again.. That’s the dream. The sales over the last six months tell me that said dream is not realistic — not with this book, at least.

To say there’s nothing I can do is a complex thought. On one hand, there really isn’t anything I can do about the book that’s already out. Unlike John Green, I’ve re-read my own book a few times since it published. Doing so has allowed me to see how my tastes for my own writing have changed, not to mention to take ideas from previous works and build ideas upon those thoughts for future works. On the other hand, there’s plenty of things I can do to work to improve myself constantly as a writer, as a person, and as a citizen of modern society. After all, in order to be a successful writer, its critical to understand that those three roles do have overlap. I’m still learning what that overlap is.

One Year of Being a Published Author

June 27th, 2016 was a monumental day for me. It was the day that my first book, An Epilogue to Innocence, went on sale. It was available at that time via direct purchase on Kindle, as well as available for pre-order via CreateSpace and Amazon9Technically paper copies didn’t ship until July 10th, 2017, but because digital copies were available on June 27th, I’m counting that as the book’s birthday.. I’ve shared quite a bit about the publishing process, as well as the twist and turns things took both before publishing and after. If you care about reading those stories, click on the links in the previous sentence. What I’d rather do today is to have a bit of reflection on my book, on being an author, and on what I could have done well/did do well in the process.

When a fellow author found out I was going the self-publishing route, they gave me a bit of advice regarding sales. They told me not to expect to turn a profit, rather I should expect to lose money — potentially a significant amount — if I took my book to market. While their statement was technically wrong, the spirit of needing to temper my expectations for my book’s sales was correct. My book broke even last December, as sales related to a charity drive I did were just enough to edge into profit territory.

That said, even with a handful of sales this year, the amount of money I’ve pocketed is minimal. I went from first draft to published product with minimal financial cost on my end. I’ve run zero advertising campaigns anywhere that I had to pay for. Every review that’s been written for my book either falls into the category of pre-release readers who wrote reviews or people who have submitted their own reviews out of their own kindness. My costs were the cost to have the book edited, the cost to get a ISBN from CreateSpace, and the cost to have a handful of copies shipped to me that I in turn mailed out to people I had promised copies of the book to. With all that said, I think the amount of money I’ve personally made off the book is enough to buy a Chipotle burrito for my wife and I. No guac or drinks though10No guac isn’t an issue. I don’t like avocados. If people who complain about millennials are to be believed, this means I’ll be able to buy a house one day..

Speaking of that charity drive, it was definitely both the most rewarding and most disappointing part of my first year as a published author. On one hand, I got to donate a bit of money to a cause I care a lot about — the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. On the other hand, the amount of money raised through the charity drive fell short of one-quarter of my mental goal for the drive itself. Limited advertising was definitely a reason for that, however I also think that other deserving causes got far more attention than suicide prevention in the wake of the 2016 US election. Had I hitched my wagon to a different cause, I think it would have done better. But suicide prevention is a cause I care a lot about, so I have no regrets about choosing the AFSP for the donation.

As for my book itself, shortly after I published, I saw a video from someone (I think John Green?) talking about how the most stressful part of being an author is seeing people misinterpret work you’ve written, and since it’s already published, you can’t change it. That idea, combined with the fact that I re-read my book so many times as part of the publishing process and wished I had changed some things, made me go back and think about each of the short stories in the book.

  • Ljepota Oni Izlučivati – This story ended up being one of the few in the book that I didn’t have any strong opinion changes about even after a year after the book went to market. If I had the opportunity to do it over again, I wouldn’t have led off the book with this story, however it definitely would have stayed. A year on, no one has found the hidden storyline within this story, so I feel like it was written really well for what it was meant to be.
  • Phosphor and Fear – This was the original story that was supposed to start the book, however I was convinced not to lead the book with it when someone told me that no one’s going to want to keep reading the book if I lead off with depression art. Unnecessary mental illness jokes aside, I think this story would have benefited from being a bit longer, particularly after the story’s time skip. The fact that I’d go back and change this one to make it longer has impacted some of the work I’ve done over the last year, particularly the first two chapters of the AI Project series that I posted this spring.
  • A Delayed First Date – Meh. It was a good premise. I took a risk trying to write from a point-of-view I didn’t understand. Even with research and interviews to try to write it better, this story hasn’t aged well to me. I mean, it’s fine. It’s not boring. I still love the concept. But I don’t like this specific story as much as I used to.
  • Soma – It was my favorite story before I decided to compile the book into a published entity. It’s still one of my favorites I’ve written a year on from publishing the book (though not my favorite anymore). I really need to keep focusing on adding heavy amounts of emotion to my writing. When it works, it really works. This is one of the stories in the book that I’ve received almost unanimous positive feedback about. Nothing I’d change here.
  • Elk Ridge – I’m so confused by this story and the reader reaction to it. Both me and my editor thought this was the weakest story in the book, even after adding quite a bit of length to it. Yet most people who have given feedback thought it was one of the better stories in the book. The ending is what seems to be divisive. I personally hate the ending and would re-write it if I had the chance. The whole ghostly spirit being released from a demolished building angle is kind of cliche and the longer it’s been since I published11Spoilers. But it’s my book. So I get to spoil it if I want to. Please buy my book.[/modern_foonote], the less I like it. Readers liked it though. I have no idea what people want.
  • The Strongest Feelings Are On the Inside – The reaction to this story was by far the most surprising of any story that went into the book. I received ZERO negative feedback on this story prior to publishing. Considering it was one of the few stories that had been on the blog prior to going in the book, this was doubly confusing. People were split down the middle as to what they thought was the biggest issue with this story — either it was too long compared to the rest of the book’s stories[modern_footnote]Probably valid in hindsight. or they were upset that the story’s main villain was bisexual. Remember what I said about stuff getting taken out of context? In context, it’s a story about a woman who loves someone of her same sex who doesn’t love her back and she doesn’t feel totally comfortable with it because of her religious background. She then tries to repress it with a deeper dive into cult-like religious practices to try to “fix” herself. Then, when her love dies, she has a mental break, using her warped religious views to exact revenge on those who hurt her beloved, going so far as to kidnap a lookalike and treat that lookalike as if she were the departed woman. Then the villain chooses to die once she finally has closure through that surrogate. That wasn’t the takeaway by some readers though. It’s a learning experience on a lot of levels.
  • Awkward? – The other story in the book that I didn’t particularly like but people loved. It was the closest thing to a light-hearted story in the book, and it was only included to serve as a change of pace following the previous story. Most people thought it was funny. I found it corny. If I did it all over again, this and A Delayed First Date would be cut in favor of making other stories longer.
  • Use As Directed – Along with Awkward First Date, this is the story I did the most research for prior to writing it. I’m really happy with how it turned out. Feedback was largely good, it had a neutral ending that I liked, and apparently I did a decent job at representing a perspective of someone with a mental illness fairly and objectively. This story makes me happy.
  • Laments of a Disillusioned Twenty Something – Oh my fucking god I was so whiny in this story. I’d re-write this story to be something more like what happens in one of the other short stories I’ve written if I had it to do again.
  • Tia – This has become my favorite story in the book over time, however as one reviewer said, they really wished it was longer. I agree. It’s a very powerful story, but I could have done so much more with it. Definitely my biggest disappointment story-wise for that reason.

As for me and how being a published author has impacted me…it really hasn’t. As I mentioned, there hasn’t been a financial impact of any kind. It’s not like my social media life has taken off[5]. Even though I still a see a copy or two of my book purchased every now and again, the book sits largely dormant now. I definitely haven’t been able to make a career change to be a full-time author…not that I’d be able to if currently proposed healthcare plans pass anyway.

I’m still writing though. I’m working on a couple of different projects as a writer, as well as trying to get some work together as a copy editor. If anything my real job prevents me from writing as much as I want or need to due to mental fatigue. That said, it’s largely been a positive experience, in spite of my gripes. I’ve learned you can’t please everyone, even if you have the best intentions. I’ve learned that I can produce quality work. And I’ve learned above all else that I love writing — even if my family still doesn’t know I’m a published author, even a year on.

AETI: Free Kindle Book Promotion (#3)

Hi there. It’s May, which means it’s been around three months since I did my last free Kindle book giveaway. The last one went over super well — flatteringly so even — that I decided I wanted to do another one. I’m not expecting downloads anywhere close to what happened last time, however I figured I’d get my book out there for free.

So…if you haven’t picked up An Epilogue to Innocence on Kindle yet, you can get it for free from Monday, May 8th at midnight Eastern until Friday, May 12th at 11:59pm Eastern. For those of you who have already picked up the book and read it, thank you so much. If you would consider reviewing it on Goodreads or Amazon, that would be lovely. Better yet, if you could consider encouraging others to download the book (and spread the word about the event), that would be lovely too.

Oh…and if you’d like to financially support me and my writing, pick up a paperback copy of An Epilogue to Innocence while you’re at it. That’s your call though, of course.

Thanks so much for your time and attention.