Ebook Giveaway + Why Do Traditional Authors Self-Publish?

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:

Simply leave a comment answering the following bolded question!

Rules for this contest:

*You can enter anytime from right now up to Sunday (May 27th)Those who comment will be entered to win. When you comment, you will be asked for your email address. This information will not be made public. It will only be used to contact the winner. You must provide your name.

For additional entries and chances to win:

*Subscribe to this blog!

*Become a member on Facebook: The Write Stuff

*Follow me on Twitter

*Twitter, Facebook, or Blog about the contest (you must provide a separate comment that you did this with a link).

Every name is assigned a random number. The more you enter, the more numbers are assigned to your name. The range of numbers is put into a Random Number Calculator and the winning number is chosen! I’ll announce the winner on May 28th! Once contacted, the winner will have three days to respond to me as an acknowledgment of being a winner. If I do not receive a reply within the allotted time, I will pick another winner. Good luck!

*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)! 

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Your Healthy Living Update

Family

Are your children starting to flee from the nest you’ve built, making you an empty-nester? If so, check out these Three Helpful Tips for Empty Nesters!

Were you spanked as a child? Do you plan to spank your children? The debate on spanking has raged on for years but what does the latest research have to say on the topic? What are the Effects of Spanking?

Mind & Body

Are you a multitasker? Does your job or home life require you to juggle several things at once? Then check out this article on how you can be more efficient and less stressed: Multitaskers: How to Increase Your Focus at Work.

Have your ever noticed that the Grass is ALWAYS Greener when you’re trying to achieve your dreams? According to neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson, that may be because your going after your dreams with attachment instead of aspiration. Learn more about the difference here: How to Achieve Your Dreams.

Sex & Relationships

You’re single and you don’t know why can’t find someone to date. Check out this article, Is Dating in the Modern World More Difficult?, to learn 6 reasons behind why first dates are failing in record numbers.

Everyone knows about The Sex Talk that parents give to their children about sex…and its consequences. But have you and your partner had your own sex talk? According to certified sex therapist Laurie Watson, this is one conversation every couple should have: Talking with Your Partner About Sex.
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The 10 Best Makeup Tutorials on YouTube + Redecorating Tips and 2012 Trends

Are you tired of your make-up routine? Are you dying to learn the hottest makeup trends for spring and summer?

Then no look no further, I conducted extensive research to provide you with The 10 Best Makeup Tutorials On YouTube! So you can learn more about makeup in a matter of minutes.

Ok…so…I also have a confession to make: my husband and I recently moved to a new home and I was at a loss on how to redecorate. That’s why I interviewed Home Decor Guru, Phil Tracey, for Betty Confidential to find out the best redecorating tips and the 411 on the hottest decorating trends for 2012!

Check it out: Decorate Your Home in Spring’s Fun Colors and Trends.

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Writer’s Digest: Guide to Literary Agents Blog

Let today go down as the coolest day in history…

Why is today the coolest day you ask? It’s because my first interview for the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, over at Writer’s Digest is up!

I interviewed the fabulous agent, Elizabeth Evans from the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.

If you’re in the market of writing nonfiction and you’re wondering:

What’s a common mistake that occurs when someone sends in a nonfiction book proposal?

What’s the biggest chapter one non-fiction no-no?

What’s the best way I can build my platform?

Then, this is one interview you can’t afford to miss! 

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Your Healthy Living Update

I wanted to kick-start this Monday with a few of my healthy living articles. And let’s be honest, who couldn’t use more healthy lifestyle tips?! So grab your latte energy drink green tea and get ready to learn something new:

Family

Did you hear about the 6-year-old boy that was a placed into police custody after he threw a tantrum at an elementary school in Indiana? This article discusses the incident and offers 3 tips to help parents Reduce Your Child’s Behavioral Problems in School.

Now that summer is underway, are you having a hard time getting your kids to walk away from their Xbox and step outside to play for a change? It may be because our children are suffering from what is now being called, “Nature-Deficit Disorder: A Generational Nature Gap.”

Mind & Body

With the ever-depressing news coverage these days, it shouldn’t be too surprising that many people are fearful and suffer from anxiety. According to neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson, humans have been bred to be fearful. Check out why that is and how you can change it: How to Overcome Fearfulness.

Did you find yourself identifying with Charlize Theron in her latest movie, Young-Adult? If so, here are three-must-read tips on How to Enjoy Your Life!

Sex & Relationships 

Did you know that there are Five Common Barriers to Listening? I’m guilty of #1….ok and #2

Do you believe that some couples simply fall out of love with each other? According to clinical psychologist and marriage counselor, Dr. Randi Gunther, that doesn’t happen. Learn why: Have you Fallen Out of Love?

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My Second Article Spread for a Magazine!

As some of you know, I’ve been a fashion and beauty writer for the magazine CHAOS

And guess what? My latest article FINALLY came out!

For the piece, I interviewed a new up and coming New York illustration artist, Rachel Kolby, on her artwork. In my article, I talk with Rachel about why she decided to pursue a career as an artist and the difficulty of pursuing that career in our struggling economy.

Here is a small excerpt from the introduction: “For a moment, the world has stopped. You’re not worrying about whether or not you’ll have a job tomorrow. You’re not thinking about the fact that you’re late again on the rent. It doesn’t bother you that your tire is flatter than a sheet of paper. Your troubles are still surely there but they can wait. They aren’t bothering you for a few minutes because you’re standing still. You’re eyes are locked onto something. You can’t tear them away from it. It captures you. It speaks to you. It’s as if someone looked deep into the very core of your soul. You’re admiring a piece of art.”

Check out my 8-page article spread in CHAOS, Winter Issue #13, it’s titled, “Stop suppressing and start expressing: CHAOS meets Illustration Artist Rachael Kolby.” My article is on pages 106-113. But to save you from having to look through 320 pages to find it, you can simply click on the images below for a full-size view of each page to read it!

The Write Stuff has had Plastic Surgery!

So do you remember how I pondered that this blog is two years old and I think that each human year roughly equals 15 years in blog time…so that makes The Write Stuff 30?

Well like anyone approaching their advancing years, I’ve decided to put The Write Stuff under the knife and pull the pages a little tighter around our blog’s face.

In fact, the entire blog just underwent a MAJOR FACE LIFT! I’ve changed every single page. Check it out and let me know what you love about the changes!

I even updated my website and my Twitter page.

The Write Stuff is Changing!

As I look back at the year 2011, it has flown by much too quickly…and while I have accomplished a lot, there are things I still haven’t finished.

As a writer who’s seeking publication, one of the first things you hear is to get a blog. It’s looks wonderful to publishers, it gets your name out there, and it gets you into the habit of writing. Now that I’ve had this blog for two years, I can honestly say it’s all true.

My blog is what pushed me to start writing on a regular basis. I’ve interviewed dozens of authors and discovered invaluable tips. It’s the reason I actually wrote my 1st complete novel, a dream I had since childhood. It’s what has connected me to other book lovers, writers, authors, and even publishers.

I’ve met a whole host of wonderful people and I can’t tell you how much each and every comment I’ve received means to me. All and all, it’s been a ton a fun. But, I didn’t set out to have the most famous blog ever or run this website like a mini-empire even if I secretly want to...in fact it’s like The Ring in Lord of The Rings…it’s My Precious, my sweet. The more I multitask to meet all my deadlines at hand from freelance work and establish new interviews for this blog, I end up looking more and more like Smegal with my husband urging me to let go of the keyboard and go outside for some sunlight.

As fun as blogs are they can be quite distracting and I don’t just want to be someone who interviews authors or reads and reviews their books and leaves the dream with them. I want to be that author instead.

So, I’ve decided to change up my blog. While it’s been a source for author interviews, the 411 on new books, and a host of giveaways in the past, I want to focus solely on writing for a period of time.

That means I’ll be blogging about writing, my journey as I pursue my dream to become an author, any new books I read on writing, tips I find for writers, any writer events I attend, how my book editing is going, if I’m writing something new—pretty much anything that serves to help me actually keep creatively writing everyday and helps other writers accomplish their dreams too!

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Please Eat Cake Today and Celebrate: 2nd Blog Anniversary

I have a *HUGE* request to make of you today. Would you please eat cake? We’re celebrating our 2nd Blogversary and it’d mean a lot to us. It doesn’t even have to be cake…cupcakes or brownies are allowed as is any type of cheesecake. We’re flexible like that at The Write Stuff.

I’ve been wondering how old this blog really is if it was being compared to humans. Let’s be honest. There are a lot of blogs don’t last that long. They tend to be picked up and dropped like hot cakes depending on the week, month, or in some cases years. So how old is The Write Stuff? I’m going to say that each human year roughly equals 15 years in blog time…so that makes us 30.

And just like anyone who’s reached this…shall we say milestone, we don’t celebrate on the exact day. No, no, we let it go until it’s 2 months later and we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that time has in fact flown by and we’ve decided we might as well throw a party! You see, our Blog-B-Day was technically on February 11th. So we hope you understand our predicament. The important thing is that we did decide to celebrate despite our milestone! And who can pass up a chance to eat celebratory cake?? 

This is about the spot in the blog post, where I brag tell you all about what the last year has brought me. And since I’m pretty proud, here it goes: 🙂

1) I became a Fashion, Beauty, and Style freelance writer for the online magazine, Betty Confidential, which was over 2 million visitors per month and was voted by Forbes as one of the top 100 websites for women. This position led to a pile of shockingly fabulous articles that plunged me into the world of Gucci and Marc Jacobs. This led to a few other fashion articles for the website, LipglossCulture.com as well.

2) As a result, I had the amazing opportunity to write my first big magazine spread for CHAOS magazine. I interviewed an international fashion designer, Christina Krämer who is located in Switzerland, about her new environmentally friendly label. My article was titled, “Mother Earth in Heels,” and it was 6 pages long! I about died when it came out…and I incidentally should have another article coming out soon for CHAOS!

3) I finally got the chance to dabble in newspaper! I became a Restaurant Reviewer for The Coloradoan, a newspaper that covers news for Northern Colorado. My job was to check out local restaurants in Fort Collins, CO and critique their food which I did for three mouth-watering restaurants. It was a blast. There’s no other way to put it. I also wrote an article for The Woodman Edition, a weekly newspaper in Colorado Springs, CO for a local feature on the hottest hiking spots for summer.

4) Last but not least. My greatest accomplishment to date: I was given the amazing opportunity to combine my degree in Psychology and my own personal research into the field of Health and Social Psychology with writing when I became the Healthy Living Expert for Health Daily Online. My section includes the subchannels: Mind & Body, Sex & Relationships, and Family. If I haven’t said much about this, it’s because I’m busy writing weekly and keeping tabs on the latest research out there for each section.

In fact, I’m coming up on my 300th article in a few short weeks!

5) I wrote my first YA novel. 65,000 words baby. All I have to do now is cut that puppy up into little editing pieces and but it back together. As you can see, it’s a mystery as to why I’ve been putting this off lately.

This year has been full of opportunity and I’m incredibly thankful. I’m *VERY* thankful to each and every one of you that has followed my blog. A writer is nothing without support and interest, so I really thank you.

I also wanted to tell you that changes are coming to The Write Stuff…so stay tuned for my new post next Monday!!!

AND DON’T FORGET TO EAT CAKE!!

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Get the 411 on Magazine Writing: Interview with Award-Winning Writer Meryl Davids Landau

*We’re interviewing award-wining writer, Meryl Davids Landau, whose work has appeared in GlamourO The Oprah Magazine, More, U.S. News & World Report, Self, RedbookThe Huffington Post and Whole Living and Reader’s Digest. Her work was nominated for a prestigious National Magazine Award. She is also a certified yoga teacher and recently became a debut author with Downward Dog, Upward Fog!

She’s here to give us the 411 on Magazine Writing! Without further ado, here is the interview:

1. Meryl, you’ve written for national magazines for over 20 years. Why did you decide to pursue a life in writing?

I’ve always loved to write. I adore that feeling when you’re plugged in and the words are flowing out your fingertips, and then (usually after a number of revisions), having something that will interest, inspire or intrigue people who read it. When I first got out of college, though, I figured I should aim for a more “practical” career, so I started in public relations. I found pretty quickly that what I most liked to do in that job was the writing, while the other parts didn’t excite me. After a few years I switched to magazine writing. I freelanced for magazines for more than 15 years before I started my novel. Today I do both fiction and nonfiction writing, plus blogging for Huffington Post and other sites. I think the combination of various types of writing keeps it fresh for me.

2. I think that’s one of the best facets of writing. It’s a a career that allows you to keep trying new things and expand into new areas of interest. Since you’ve written for so many famous publications, do you have any tips for pitching to a magazine like Reader’s Digest or O, The Oprah Magazine?

My advice for people who want to write for large national magazines is to first get experience writing for lesser known publications on the same general topics you want to write about for the big publications. (I often write about health, especially holistic health.) Then read several issues of the magazine so you can see the kinds of stories they favor. Finally, come up with several great ideas that fit their parameters and flesh them each out to several-paragraph queries. Magazine editors often assign articles to writers they don’t know because the ideas they’ve come to them with prove irresistible.

3. And how exactly did you contact these magazines?

The best way to find contacts is by looking at a magazine’s masthead. Editors are usually broken down by the topics they cover. (If they’re not, you can always call the main number for the magazine and ask who edits, say, their parenting or fitness (or whatever) stories. Targeting your query to the right editor is very important, because most are too overworked to forward a wayward idea, no matter how good, to the right editor. On the topic of rejections, it’s important to remember that rejection is part of pretty much every business, and magazine writing is no exception. The biggest scarcity for print magazines is space; they can’t say yes to every great idea because they don’t have the room. Don’t take it personally if a magazine rejects your idea; just send it to other magazines with similar styles and demographics. A “no” from one doesn’t mean a “no” from everyone. Over the years I’ve had ideas rejected from magazine editors I knew well, only to be eventually accepted by other publications where I didn’t have any direct contacts.

 4. There are two things a writer is always looking for: how to keep inspired and how to improve their craft. Are there any writing books or websites that you’ve found particularly helpful?

I think reading books on writing (my all-time favorite is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird) is always great, no matter what level of experience you have. I’m a member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors; they have an insightful website, and also hold a really good conference in New York City each spring. But my main advice to anyone who wants their writing published more broadly is to not get discouraged if you get rejections. Just keep at it. That’s as true for novelists as it is for magazine writers.

That’s very true. Rejection is something every writer always has to face whether its in magazine or book writing. Sad but true!

Over the last few months, I’ve recently become more and more in touch with mediation, yoga, and Zen teachings as a part of my job as a Healthy Living writer. I’ve been wondering at the back of my mind, that of it helps a ton for managing stress and daily annoyances, how can it help my writing?

5. I’d love for you to tell me more about your journey into yoga, mediation and Hindu philosophy and how it has helped you as a writer. 

Yoga and meditation play a huge role in my novel, and in my life. I personally got into yoga in my twenties, when I was at the gym, and a woman seemed to float by my exercise bike. Someone mentioned that that was the yoga teacher. I didn’t know much about yoga, but I knew I wanted that same serene energy she had, so I went to the class. I was hooked immediately, and eventually studied to become a yoga teacher. Yoga is so much more than physical poses; it brings you beyond your mind into that deep place within. I believe. as my character Lorna comes to see, that when you have a connection to your spiritual essence, life is richer. Lorna finds that mostly through yoga and meditation (and the philosophy behind those practices, which include love, forgiveness, and nonjudgment). But my hope is that readers feel inspired to do any spiritual practices that move them, not necessarily the ones that appeal to Lorna. It is my aim in writing Downward Dog, Upward Fog that women feel both entertained by the fun story and called to bump up whatever practices bring them more inner peace.

*I want to extend a HUGH THANKS to Meryl for visiting us at The Write Stuff! 


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