There’s something incredibly surprising going on. For starters, according to the recent data collected on the reading habits of Americans, people are reading more books now that Ebooks are available. As a result, Ebooks and self-publishing have come together to create the perfect climate for writers. It’s now very easy for writers to publish books and short stories by themselves. And because more people are reading Ebooks, they’re self-published books are reaching more people than ever before.
But it’s not just aspiring authors who are self-publishing, many authors whom already have an agent and several books published traditionally, are also self-publishing their additional stories and books. So the big question I have is why? Why would a traditional author choose to self-publish?
Award-wining women’s fiction author and avid member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Marilyn Brant is here to answer that question!
Marilyn has three novels under her belt including her debut novel, According to Jane, which won the Romance Writers of American’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award. Every year since she became an author (check out her story into becoming an author here) she’s been churning out fabulous book (Friday Mornings at Nine) after fabulous book (A Summer in Europe)! But what surprised me the most was when I noticed she self-published 2 novels as a series of fun and flirty contemporary romantic comedies: On Any Given Sundae and Double Dipping.
These two novels made Marilyn into a #1 Kindle bestseller and she’s here today to give us the scoop on why she chose to self-publish:
1. As a best-selling published author, why did you choose to self-publish 2 Ebooks?
There are a number of reasons. In part, it was because it’s a long time between my print books (14 months, in my case, between Friday Mornings at Nine and A Summer in Europe), and I wanted to give my readers something fun to read in the interim. My self-pubbed romance books both touched on some of the themes I wrote about in my print/women’s fiction novels, particularly with A Summer in Europe, but in a shorter, lighter way. I hoped if new readers found me digitally first, they’d get to enjoy an inexpensive sample of my writing and, perhaps, they’d be interested in reading more.
Aside from all of that, though, my very first love was romantic comedy. I wrote several purely lighthearted romances prior to getting my first traditional book contract, and a few of those novels were quite close to being published in their own right. In the case of On Any Given Sundae, an editor really liked it, but the line she was considering it for was discontinued just two weeks after I finished writing the book and a new line was never created to replace it. So, for six years, I waited in hopes that a print publisher would appear, looking for books of that tone and length, but one never did.
I try to bring a fair amount of both romance and humor into my longer books but—as a reader myself—sometimes I’m just in the mood for a story that’s a short, entertaining read. Like wanting to watch a half-hour sitcom one night rather than a two-hour feature film. If both the sitcom and the film were written and directed by the same person, there would certainly be similarities in writing style and favored camera angles. But the sitcom has to be less complicated and faster paced than the film, and it has to be structured in a way that delivers the humor and the closure the viewers have come to expect from a half-hour comedy. The movie, of course, has different rules and more flexibility, needs to be longer and have multiple layers or subplots. For me, writing romantic comedies vs. women’s fiction is a lot like that. Different lengths, different expectations, but it’s all still in my voice.
2. How did you do it? What did you do for editing? And how to you get such fabulous covers?!
I’m thrilled you like the covers! Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs was the one who helped create both of mine. Kim and I have known each other for several years and, after I saw the lovely work she did for several other authors, I knew I’d want her to design covers for me when I was ready to self-publish my romantic comedies. We emailed back and forth about ideas until we had the images that I thought best represented each story, and she worked quickly and efficiently in bringing them to life. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result.
As for the other details involved in formatting and uploading the manuscript, I did all that work myself. I followed Mark Coker’s excellent guide for Smashwords and made sure to pay attention to every step. Initially, it was time consuming because I hadn’t had any background in formatting ebooks before this, but the directions were straightforward and, I think, anyone interested would be able to learn the process as painlessly as I did.
3. What did you like about self-publishing?
On the macro level, the challenges a writer faces between publishing traditionally and publishing on one’s own are exactly the same: Getting noticed by readers and staying noticed by them. On the micro level, however, there are some differences. With a self-published project, you have to learn how to handle wearing all the hats. You’re the one in charge of editing, proof reading, back cover copy, front cover design, marketing, advertising, pricing and distribution. You can hire people to help with all of these, but you’re still the one that needs to research a great cover artist, for instance, and you still have to be prepared to give a lot of input to your designer so he/she can craft just the right image for your story. The autonomy, however, is wonderful. With traditional titles, there’s a publishing staff in place to help you do all of those things, but having less responsibility also means having less control. You’re on the publishing house’s timetable and you can’t really move things along faster—or slow them down overly much—without it creating a problem.
On the financial side, there are no cash advances when you self-publish a book—it’s a pure leap of faith. One benefit to a traditional contract is that you’ll get some (typically small) amount of money upfront. But, with self-publishing, you do get a larger share of the royalties on what you sell and you can check your sales record at any time, day or night. (Still not sure if I should call this a “good” thing or not, LOL. The ease with which an author can become obsessed with his/her indie sales numbers is frightening!) With a traditional house, you usually don’t get a good picture of your opening month’s sales for six months to a year. I do think gaining the attention of readers and reviewers remains the biggest challenge for self-pubbed novels, but that’s a struggle with print titles as well. The thing I keep telling everyone is that BOTH methods are a lot of work. There aren’t any shortcuts to publishing a well-written novel. Period.
4. Do you have any tips?
The advice I’d give to ALL writers, whether planning to release digitally or submit to print publishers or do both, is actually the same:
1. Write what you love.
2. Polish it.
3. Figure out how to market it as effectively as you can.
4. Be as considerate and supportive of other writers as you’d like them to be toward you—online and off.
5. Make sure your inner circle is populated with people you trust and who genuinely care about you because this industry is full of a lot of ups and downs, and you need to know there will be friends and family who’ll be there, both to lean on when you need it and to celebrate with you.
5. Wow! Those are probably the best tips I’ve heard! So tell me all about On Any Given Sundae and Double Dipping:
I’d be happy to do that! On Any Given Sundae is a light romantic comedy about a shy dessert cookbook writer and the talkative ex-football star she once had a crush on as a teen. The unlikely pair find themselves left in charge of a small-town ice cream parlor for the summer, but can two people—who may have grown up practically next door to each other but who have next to nothing in common—create the perfect recipe for love? Maybe with a little help from their friends and a few sweet toppings…
As for Double Dipping, it’s a new contemporary romance that was inspired by my years as an elementary school teacher. Opposites collide when a dedicated second-grade teacher fights the school’s new financial director in order to reinstate a much-beloved autumn festival. But secrets, ambition, attraction and meddling family members complicate matters in this small Midwestern town. The book is part light mystery, part romantic comedy and entirely packed with delectable sweets—including a step-by-step recipe for making homemade chocolate-cherry ice cream!
6. What’s your favorite all-time dessert?
I have MANY favorites (I love sweets, too much, actually…), but I particularly adore gelato! There is nothing like the flavorful creaminess of Italian ice cream. YUM!
Thanks, again, for asking me to visit, Brittany! It was a pleasure to be here. ~Marilyn
You’re very welcome Marilyn! Thanks for stopping by The Write Stuff!
*To Enter for a chance to Win a Digital (pdf) Copy of Double Dipping:
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*What’s your favorite dessert?
For Example: Mine’s cheesecake! Chocolate-covered ANYTHING ties in at second place though. P.S. The picture to the right is a slice of Maple Sugar Cream pie (click here for the recipe)!