Tag Archives: self-publishing

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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Learn How Author Nicky Wells Self-Published Her Writing!

*Author Nicky Wells is here to tell us all about her fabulous debut novel, Sophie’s Turn, and to give you the 411 on Self-Publishing! 

*Come back tomorrow to read my review of Sophie’s Turn and enter for a chance to win a copy!

1)Why did you decide to take the route of self-publishing?

That’s a really good question.  The market for my kind of writing (ok, let’s call it what it is: chick lit, aka commercial women’s fiction) is very crowded. Agents and publishers alike appear less than willing to consider new talent.  So, I decided to take matters in my own hands.  Self-publishing in electronic format is risk free for the author.  At the same time, I get to say where I publish, when I publish and at what price.  The royalty program for potential earnings is very transparent.  Moreover, if I change my mind on any content (or spot those dreaded typos after publication), I can overwrite the file as often as I like without even interrupting the sales process.  So I am 100 percent in control: what’s not to like?

2) That truly sounds wonderful for an author actually. So how did you do all of it?

I was lucky to have a fully complete draft of Sophie’s Turn before I decided to self-publish.  I had done several rounds of self-editing over the years, but also had friends, family and work colleagues review and proof my work.  That part of the process was iterative, and even then I’ve still found the odd mistake here or there after I published (but… I’ve corrected them all, as per above!).

When I decided to self-publish, KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) was an obvious choice.  The company’s link to Amazon meant that I could reach a global market, but it also made it trustworthy for potential customers.  The next step was to take my beautifully and traditionally formatted file and strip out anything that looked remotely ‘book-like’: for conversion to e-book, you need no page numbers, headers, footers… not even page or paragraph breaks, except to mark chapters.  That turned out to be surprisingly labour intensive!

My husband designed the cover for me following a joint brainstorming session, using traditional methods (i.e., pen and paper) here at home.  The result was a beautifully crafted—and it really is crafted—cover page that made my heart sing.  We scanned it, converted it into the right format and size… and there it is! Can I just comment that covers are somewhat contentious issues for female romance writers at the moment, as quite a few writers (and publishers) seem to distance themselves from the classic ‘chick lit’ design (pinks, pastels, that kind of stuff).  I have to confess, I went the other way: I wanted a pink background, purple writing, a flower, a butterfly. I wanted to signal that this is a cheerful, happy book that will entertain and make you smile.  And never mind the battering chick lit is receiving in the press right now, I stand by our cover design for Sophie’s Turn.

Once I had the text file and the cover image sorted, I needed to convert everything into e-book format.  For Kindle, I used an application called MobiPocket Creator which was really easy. And that’s it! Upload the whole thing onto the KDP website, put in all your details… and you go live within about 24-48 hours.  I nearly cried (well, ok, I did cry) when I first saw my book appear on Amazon for the world to see!

3) You have such a beautiful cover–way to go! Congratulations on becoming an author. Now that you’re work is out there, have there been any challenges that you’ve faced?

The biggest challenge, and one that I naively didn’t anticipate at all, is having to promote my own work. When I uploaded Sophie’s Turn to Kindle, I didn’t have a Facebook account (let alone a Twitter one) and I didn’t really know what a blog was meant to do.  That all changed within two weeks, and it was an overwhelming learning curve. I’m still not sure I’m quite there!

That accomplished, I kind of assumed I’d get on with writing the next book.  O-ho, not so! Turns out I need reviews, lots of them. And interviews. And give-aways… the whole virtual book tour!  Little did I know how much work and mental effort would be involved. That was a complete shock!  Now that I have started to establish ‘my platform’, things have calmed down a little.  The challenge is to keep the promotional side of things ticking over while getting down to writing the sequel!

4) I’d have to say that online promotion is one of the hardest challenges facing authors today. It takes a lot of effort! What’s been the best part so far being an author?

Absolutely the best part of being an author is when people get back to you and tell you, not just that they really loved your book, but what they loved about it! One reader told me a particular scene set in a particular place here in the UK made her realize after eight long years that that time when her date didn’t turn up, she wasn’t being stood up…. She and he were in different (but very similar sounding) places! Another person told me she really loved the slugs extermination scene… and yet another person felt she was ‘there’ with Sophie in that hotel with Dan… That level of feedback makes it all worthwhile!

5) What tips would you give to writers who want to self-publish?

Acquire a thick skin, fast! Don’t expect too much, too soon. Build your platform before you self-publish (not after, like I did) (still works, but it’s much harder). Find out about bloggers that review books of your genre, and send them preview copies—have reviews lined up before you publish!  And don’t give up!

6) Hear, hear! How did the idea for your book come to you? 

The idea for Sophie’s Turn was born one night when I was watching TV with my husband.  I should tell you that I’ve always had a soft spot for rock bands (especially singers) and do still to this day.  So when a program featured one of my all-time favourite movie stars or rock stars (can’t remember now who it was), I made some delighted noises, and my husband teasingly said something like, ‘oh dear, if he ever proposed, I wouldn’t stand a chance!’ I laughed it off, but it did get me thinking: what would I do, if…? And suddenly, I had the core conundrum at the heart of a beautiful story.

 In terms of taking the plunge, that wasn’t such a big deal for me. I’d always wanted to write a book, and the time was right for me to do so, especially after I found my story.  I spent several weeks planning the plot (in several layers of detailed drafts) until I had a ‘storyboard’ that I could put up on the wall.  That was a complete blueprint of everything that would happen in the novel, from start to finish. Obviously there were changes along the way, and my characters took me for the odd ride or three…. But that’s in broad terms how I worked. Full length wasn’t hard to achieve! I’m chatty and prolific… so once I get going, I just produce.  In fact, the book you are reading now is actually… ooh, I’d say, a good 10,000 words shorter than the original first draft!

7) Wow–way to go! So did you tell everyone you were writing a novel?

I told a few people when I first started writing.  My husband obviously knew, as did my mum and his parents.  We’d only recently moved into our new house, so I didn’t really know any local people then and it was a pretty secluded time for me—which worked out just fine.  It wasn’t a big secret, but I felt a bit self-conscious about it all until it was actually done.  By then, I’d made loads of mummy-to-be friends and met most of the neighbours, so I had a little ‘coming out’ season when the first serious draft was ready to be presented to the world.  Which means, I printed out five copies (that was a lot of paper), whole-punched them, stuck them into folders… and distributed those copies far and wide.  I got some invaluable feedback from that, and quite a lot of curious questions.

8 ) That’s a brilliant idea. What’s it like being a mom of two boys and a writer at the same time? 

Busy, I think is the overriding reaction here.  The boys are both full-time at school now, so I get most of the day to do my own thing. That said, I do volunteer in a local primary school and I’m also having to find some sort of paid position as a teaching assistant somewhere soon to help with the bills… 🙂 But when I’m at home, I write.  Simple as that! The hard thing is stopping in time to collect the boys from school, and then switching out of writer mode into mummy mode. When you really get immersed in your writing project, it tends to be with you at all times and has no respect for clear-cut boundaries. I get around that by carrying a little notebook so I can scribble down ideas at least when they come to me.  I do find that I can be really distracted, and I have been known to hold conversations with my characters… no wonder some people think writers are a little… mad.

9) Lol! Tell me all about your debut book, Sophie’s Turn:

I see Sophie’s Turn as a modern day fairy tale, and it would make a terrific film in the vein of Notting Hill! I call it a ‘rock star romance’ because it involves a rock star, but it also rocks! (sorry, bad pun!) (but very true!).  Sophie’s Turn tells the story of one young woman’s entanglement with a rock star… never mind her very recent, but very prior, engagement to her boyfriend Tim. The novel describes how Sophie gets into this impossible situation and how she turns it around. It will make you laugh, and just occasionally it might make you cry.

10) Love it! Are you writing a sequel or working on anything new?

Yes, I am working on the sequel.  It features Sophie and Dan, as well as Rachel and someone else… I can’t give away too much here so I don’t spoil Sophie’s Turn for folks who haven’t finished reading it yet!  Rachel will have a much bigger, and not always pleasant, role to play.  And there will be at least one wedding… possibly two. But who’s marrying who, and why?  You’ll just have to wait! I’m hoping to bring the sequel to market within the year.

11) Now I can’t wait for the sequel, thanks for the extra hints! You live in Bristol! What a lovely place, can you tell some of your favorite things about it? 

Where to start? The air smells of the sea, even though we’re technically only on the Bristol Channel.  There’s a lovely harbor in the city which means you can get that holiday feeling any day of the year, taking ferry boat trips, licking ice creams…. The Downs (a huge expanse of wide open grasslands open to the public) are a fantastic place for walks, picnics, kite-flying, that kind of thing.  And Bristol is a really friendly place with a relaxed pace of living.  When we first moved from London, I felt I was on a perpetual holiday!

Thanks, Brittany, for your amazing questions and for hosting a stop of my virtual tour for Sophie’s Turn on your blog. I really appreciate the support! 🙂

 You’re more than welcome!

*Come back tomorrow to read my review of Sophie’s Turn and enter for a chance to win a copy!

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Writing: To Self-Publish Your Novel or Not?

I’m sharing what I’ve learned since trying to publish my book! I’ve also got a list of must-read articles for writers.

It’s official. It’s been a year since I wrote my first full-length YA novel. I did everything I was supposed to do.

1) Write the best book I could.

2) Spend a good amount of time drafting up a query letter.

3) Wait, like the lonely kid in the cafeteria, for an agent to sit down with you.

4) Get super excited when a 1 agent asks for the full manuscript.

5) Step away from the brownies when they decline it.

6) Try not to take a host of rejection letters personally. Or the host of, “Good work but no” letters.

7) Find a miraculous way to keep yourself upbeat! Ask for a very dry martini.

Ok, maybe that last part wasn’t so by the books but after letting the rejection get to me and letting my novel, that I lovingly cared for at one time, gather dust, I now know this is what my list should have been:

1) Write the best novel I could.

2) Leave it for 2 weeks. Don’t query, just have fun. Hang out with everyone you used to when you weren’t typing away.

3) Give it a brutal edit. Let a couple people read it. Listen to their advice. Try to see what your novel is missing or what you could take out to make it even better. Make your novel as print-ready as you can make it.

4) Query and look at your options for self-publishing.

5) In the meantime, do all your promotion research. Where do you want to start your blog tour? How are you going to get your book out there?

6) Publish your book no matter what.

Why would I publish my book? Having an agent is wonderful…it really is but waiting for an agent can take years…. and waiting those years can really detract from writing. Many things can influence a whether or not a book is picked up by an agent: economy, climate, mainstream fads, etc. So why not self-publish in the meantime?

I can become an author while I wait for an agent to pick up on me. With each new book, I can seek representation for it first. If I find no one, I can still put my work out there and hone my own skills in the meantime with each book.

In fact, many traditional authors themselves are now self-publishing in between their own books because it has become so popular. The publishing world is changing. It’s becoming more of a salad as opposed to a melting pot of conformity. After all, no artist needs to wait these days. It’s not like music artists are still waiting to be “found” in L.A., they’re using and abusing YouTube from their own home…like they should be doing.

After I couldn’t get an agent, I stopped writing fiction. I did freelance instead. I kept writing but I couldn’t pick myself up again. I was focused on the wrong thing. What I really should have been considering is if my book ready to be published that day. It wasn’t. I didn’t have the heart to change it much at the time.

But if I look at it through a different lens, that I can publish it myself, I can see what’s good and what needs to be changed much more clearly. I needed to do more work…which I intend to do now by giving it a massive edit.

Then, I can query it to new agents and see what happens. Either way, it’s all about my work and my writing. It’s not about who or how my work became published. It’s all about doing what you love.

And guess what? My mind is whirring again with that same old writing energy I’m used to. I can edit my 1st book when I feel like it. Right now? I’ve written my first couple of pages on a new book idea that’s been bugging me.

Just the last time, the quote I found from Jennifer Weiner rings true, “Tell the story that’s been growing in your heart…the characters you can’t keep out of your mind, the tale that speaks to you, that pops into your head during your daily commute, that wakes you up in the morning.”

*Thus this week, I’ve Gone Writing. I’ll be back next week with new interviews on writing tips, new books, and contests full of free books!

*In the meantime, I leave you with just a few of the best writing articles I’ve stumbled upon lately:

The Common Writing Advice That’s All Wrong

7 Writing Tips from The Princess and the Pea

Why We Need Pain to Write

How Do You Start Writing?

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