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Friday, April 6, 2012

Farm Girl: The Making and Selling of Books

My first published book, Farm Girl, was also the very first release 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.

WiDo's investor paid for 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 than on print.

Hiring a publicist? A waste of good money. Book sales happen more 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 are strapped for cash and will gladly take a free book. 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 we learned and experience gained from making and selling this first book have been invaluable. And I think that's the real worth of Farm Girl as WiDo's first release.

by KarenG Coming Down the Mountain: A Writer's Blog


  1. very interesting--it is a full-time job just keeping up with all the changes

  2. A super post for aspiring writers who want to be published. You have certainly been a forerunner for publishing in this decade. Well done for the Letter F.

    My theme is A-Z My Family Tree and F is for FANNIE and her FIVE Sisters. Hope you'll stop by...The BIG ARROW points the way...Sue-CollectInTexas Gal

  3. So what do we do... I am releasing my book next week and I am hoping for just a good word of mouth. Anyone want to read/review/ help me set up a tour...
    Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]

  4. Your insight and experience are valuable lessons for those of us who haven't made that far yet! Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Karen you are so right on and I've never heard it more succinct or targeted. Marketing your book is not for wimps but with your insight I'm sure you do great.
    Thanks for an interesting post.

  6. Excellent advice and information. I don't think print books will go away, but embracing technology and the viral world are priceless.
    A2ZMommy and What’s In Between

  7. Wow! How cool is that! Thanks for the inside info.., in case I ever decide to write a book for publication. It is very interesting. I learn so much every time I read a blog. Ruby

  8. Good ideas. Publishing has changed so much. F is for France, on my blog, I changed my focus and will write from prompts I create. Hard to feel centered when you are a new blogger.

  9. KarenG,

    great post! very informative. thank you for sharing your experience with your book.


  10. Note to self: Don't call bookstores. Thanks for the warning.

  11. Wow. What a fantastic post. I am impressed with your tenacity and overall success. Brava and Kudos!!

    Julie Jordan Scott
    twitter: @juliejordanscot
    F is for Frances E.W. Harper

  12. I end up reading a lot on my kindle! Have a great Easter!

  13. This is excellent information. Thanks for sharing what worked and what didn't.

  14. Thanks for the info, very useful :)

  15. Good Information. Why reinvente the wheel when wonderful people are willing to share their experiences. All we have to do is listen (or Read).

  16. Great "f" post and thanks for the tips.

  17. I was most interested in reading this as I had my second self published booked released last Dec.
    It took me 3 years to compile and much hard work went into reading proof after proof,

    Enjoyed your F post.


  18. Very interesting and I suspect a lot of hard work.

  19. Great insight, Karen, and thanks for sharing your experience with the rest of us.

  20. Interesting post. I worked for a text book publisher for a little while, I was their order processing/phone person.

    Calling schools and bookstores was a huge waste of time for us as well.

    Giving books to teachers didn't work to well either, cause the teachers would gladly take a free book, but saying, gave it to you last year for free, now buy a subscription, didn't go over well.

  21. Consider yourself a pioneer and take pride in the change you created. Good job!

  22. Teachers love love love freebies!

  23. Great info. Sometimes it's a matter of luck and timing. There are those rare occasions when an extraordinary publicist or the like will come your way and do what needs to be done, but it's always a chance you take.
    Lessons learned from losses incurred can often be better than any college course on marketing.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  24. very interesting...I just published my first book in Oct. and my husband is busily working 'all the angle's'...isn't it an amazing world we live in today?

  25. Thank you for sharing your insight and experiences.

  26. Great info, Karen. I'm not ready to publish yet, but your lessons learned will definitely guide me when I do. Thanks!
    Tina @ Life is Good
    Co-Host of the April A to Z Challenge
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge

  27. It's amazing how the publishing world has changed. It's not your grandmother's maketing anymore. That was supposed to be a tired platitude. Oh well. Thanks for the good advice.

  28. Love you to the point sum up of your publishing company and books. Can't wait to check it out. Thanks for sharing.

  29. There is a HUGE learning curve with the first book--it's overwhelming. Thanks for the post!

    Elizabeth :)
    A-Z Co-host

  30. Karen,

    As a "closet writer" with the dream of telling my story and seeing it published, this was very informative and valuable information. Thank you!

  31. Books have been around a long time yet things are still changing at an incredible speed.

  32. This was interesting; I had never thought of the changes that have happened with book releases.

  33. What cool insight...thanks so much for sharing it with us all! :)

  34. It's amazing how far the industry has come in such little time.

    Fellow A-Z bloggy buddy
    Mithril Wisdom

  35. Interesting post. It's pretty amazing how much the publishing industry has changed.

  36. Interesting insights. I think you've dispelled some urban legends when it comes to publishing.

  37. Technology and the way that people consume media nowadays changed the landscape for promotion and sales in many industries, especially music. I still buy books from stores....if I really want it. I can, however, understand the how and why publishers have taken a new approach to how they release material now as opposed to they way they did it years ago.

    So long as it benefits the author, the reader and the company, I say it's all good!

    Blog: The Madlab Post
    @MadlabPost on Twitter

  38. Wonderful information we need to know. Thanks for sharing.

  39. Great information for those attempting to publish. Thanks so much!

  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

  41. Great information. Thank you for sharing it!

    Visiting from the A 2 Z challenge.

    My blog

  42. wow interesting F, i enjoyed reading this.
    do check out my F at GAC a-z

  43. My novel came out as an ebook in November and has had slow yet steady sales. Now the print edition is out. Since it's a Civil War novel, I suspect print may do better since many Civil War buffs are older and prefer print. We shall see!

  44. Marketing strategies do need to change as technology for reading does. I think the future will see a change in bookstores, the ones that survive will eventually stock Indie books they believe in. Or maybe I'm optimistic :)
    Wagging Tales

  45. Great Post.
    Great Lessons for the one who are waiting for...

  46. I am sorry for the obstacles you have faced but sincerely appreciate the lessons learned that you are passing on to other aspiring authors. The writing world certainly has changed quickly in the past few years and everyone needs to stay aware of these changes in order to survive. Good luck with your book...

    Donna L Martin

  47. Such refreshing honesty...I love it!

    My husband and I have our own small publishing company, set up 15 years ago when he wanted to do a second edition of a beautiful book on refinishing bamboo fly rods and his publisher didn't.

    We published "Show Me How! Build Your Child's Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking" in Sept 2010. I've definitely learned a lot about social media and networking and blogging and how to get the word out and create buzz for a book...but it's only a fraction of what has to be done.

    It definitely is a full-time job to market and promote a book...I chuckled when I read your opinion of calling bookstores (they will take it on consignment...but it probably won't sell), giving copies to teachers (I've done several dozen school story and craft visits to kindergartens where I send home an activity flyer and bookmark for each child...a couple of the teachers have bought the book - I didn't give them to the teachers for free).

    Now I have a Show-Me-How Library Project going on this month...I'm donating 25 copies to libraries across the country and around the globe...people just need to leave a comment on my blog telling why their library should receive a copy.

    The best thing I ever did as far as promotion/marketing goes was to take Sandra Beckwith's Build Book Buzz online was fanstastic and reasonable. :)

    I look at it as a gardener, planting the nuture it and water it and hope the sun will shine and your flower will grow. You write the book...and try as many things as you can to get the word out...I believe that determination is an important element...just never give up on yourself or your book. :)

    Sorry this was so long a comment...but I really feel for you...and will check out your book!

  48. It's good to know these things, Karen...I'll look into the WiDo process. I haven't published yet, but this gives me another avenue. Thanks for the post!

  49. This is very interesting, Karen. The times they are a-changing, and we have to keep up. Reporting what you have learned through trial and error is a great help to the rest of us.

  50. Thanks so much for this post. Very interesting to know how these things can go.

  51. As a book blogger and retired librarian, I've seen this happen a good bit.

    Whether large or small, the publisher expects the author to be a big part of promoting their book through social media, appearances, signings, etc.

    If you have a local independent bookstore, it could definitely be worth your while to contact them for a book signing or to do a talk on a related subject.

    Likewise, your local public library or Friends of the Library group may have a venue or author talk series that would fit.

    The main thing is that these two are LOCAL - calling on big chain bookstores...pfft.

    Also consider using services like NetGalley which allow qualified reviewers access to your ARC/book in a special digital format within the time parameters which you set. You could do the same thing yourself, as long as you trust the reviewer/blogger to not allow the digital copy 'out into the world'.

    Publishing, reading, and libraries have changed swiftly in the last few years. If we - as writers, publishers, reviewers, and librarians - can leverage this rapidity to get more books (whatever format) into the hands of more readers, then we'll all make it!

    **Katy M
    Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at
    Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove


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