Barry Finlay

Barry Finlay has turned the adventure of a lifetime into Kilimanjaro and Beyond, available on Amazon and other platforms.  Barry has done book signings, presentations, and used social media – among other techniques – and shares his thoughts here.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me one of your books in five to ten sentences.

Kilimanjaro and Beyond is a true life adventure about my journey, at age 60, from the couch to a mountain top and beyond with my son.  It describes the mental and physical challenges of scaling one of the world’s seven summits.  But it also describes my family’s work to use the mountain as a platform to raise enough money to build a classroom and drill a well in one of Africa’s poorer communities.  It is the story of the satisfaction one can achieve by helping oneself and others.

Kilimanjaro and Beyond leaves us with two messages.  The first is that it is never too late to pursue a dream.  The second is that every mountain top we face is within reach if we just keep climbing.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I realized when I started to make presentations about my journey after we returned that I had a story to tell that was interesting and inspirational for people.  I decided that it was a story waiting to be written and that I wanted to write it.

3. Have you been traditionally published?  Why or why not?

I have not been traditionally published.  I sent a few feelers out but I really didn’t pursue it seriously after reading about other author experiences.  I wanted the book to come out as soon as possible so the self-publishing route seemed to be the way to go.

4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?

It has been a good experience although I think every self-published author will tell you that writing the book is the easy part.  Making people aware of it is much more difficult.

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Paul Fox

Paul Fox is a science fiction and fantasy writer who stays busy with new writing projects.  Paul explains why he has avoided using press releases and instead focuses his marketing campaign on email and social media.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me one of your books in five to ten sentences.

I have a quick-read fantasy novella, Sea-Change, that’s available as an e-book or paperback.  It is the story of a young bride-to-be, betrayed by her fiancé, who escapes her captors and makes use of ancestral lore to change her dismal fate and seek revenge.  By invoking the ancient powers, she becomes, in fact, the son her father never had.  But she has only two weeks, until the time of the new moon, to get back to her home country and confront her betrayer before the spell ends and she becomes a woman again.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

My initial motivation was to publish a small collection of poetry, which is a hard sell by the traditional routes.  I wanted it available to present as a surprise Valentine’s Day present to my wife.  This first book was only available in PDF format, but I learned enough from the process to encourage me to self-publish again in 2011.  This past year (2011) I expanded that first book of poetry and published it as a second edition.  Further, I had a novella-length story that proved to be too long for most magazines and too short for traditional book publishers, and so self-publication seemed to be the answer.  To date this has been, I think, a good choice.

3. Have you been traditionally published?

No, I haven’t, at least not yet, been traditionally published; not with book publishers at any rate.  I do have a magazine credit as one of 14 authors who collaborated on a story-in-the-round that appeared in the Jan-Feb-March 2010 issue of Golden Visions Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?

The best part is that you know where you are in the process at all times.  I’ve also had to learn a lot about such things as: book and cover design; e-book requirements and distribution strategies.  And then there’s the marketing.  Overall I like the control one has over the final product.

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J.L. Manning

J.L. Manning is the author of The Night Watchman.  He offers several tips for promoting independent books and suggests authors be patient until their books are what they really want them to be.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me one of your books in five to ten sentences.

The Night Watchman will be a good read, because you’ll feel for the main character’s predicament like you’ve never felt for a hero.  This book gives you a different view towards a superhero that starts out as less than a man.  As this book moves along there is racing that gets dangerous, and a relationship that is unwise.

2. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books.  Which ones have been the most successful?

I have used a number of techniques that didn’t promote sale.  I feel the best way to promote sale for indie books is through reviews, because word of mouth is too slow.  Post these reviews everywhere.

3. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?

Be more patient, don’t publish because you can, make the book ready to sell.

4. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?

Don’t spend too much; use a local printing press; make an e-book.  After selling one hundred books to strangers, and getting reviews, and rewriting the book, send out queries.

5. What projects are you currently working on?

I’m finishing a book about aliens coming to earth to work and join the earth’s community.

6. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?

My books help you dream of new places and new situations.

7. How can readers learn more about your books?

http://www.jlmanning.net/index.html

Kathi Holmes

After Kathi Holmes was paralyzed, she turned her recovery experience into an inspirational story, I Stand With Courage: One Woman’s Journey to Conquer Paralysis.  Kathi explains how instead of relying heavily on social media, she reached out first to local venues.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

Was it a miracle, God-given determination, or both, that lifted Kathi from the paralysis that blindsided her, confining her to a wheelchair?

No one wants to face such a life-changing health crisis, but Kathi takes us on her journey of creating a new life with a disability.  With a husband also hospitalized, she is alone in her battle.  A rehab center becomes her home while she searches for strength of body—and mind.

See how acceptance, determination, courage, and faith can overcome the challenges of everyday life.

Reading about her progress, you realize she is just like you—an ordinary person who accepts and achieves the challenge to accomplish extraordinary feats, inspiring us by her power of faith and determination.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Family, friends and acquaintances told me how my determination was motivating to them.  I wanted to share a story of inspiration and hope to others facing live challenges.

3. You have not been traditionally published.  Why?

I chose self-publishing because I could publish quicker than by submitting my manuscript to traditional publishers.  Also, traditional publishers have cut back on marketing and much would be left up to me either way.  Self-publishing has a much better image and is no longer considered second rate.

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Debra Borys

Debra Borys stays busy with a number of writing projects: from freelancing to writing novels.  Having experience working with a start-up press, she gives insight about the amount of promotional work all authors must do, and some of the methods she’s already adopted.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?

The short stories I had self-published are Red Light, Green Light, Peeling the Onion, and Weeping Widows, a collection of mini-mystery stories.  The mini-mysteries are written for fun – I call them my cynical stories because of the narrative “author” Evelyn A. Archer.  Three of the stories in the collection were previously sold to print magazines.  Also previously published in magazines were Red Light and Onion.  Both are about street kids, one story set in Chicago, one in Seattle, both cities where I volunteered with the homeless.

Painted Black is a suspense novel about a missing street kid named Lexie Green, who at fifteen years old is selling her body to survive. When reporter Jo Sullivan realizes no one seems to care about what might have happened to her, she teams up with Lexie’s friend Chris to learn the truth.  When Jo and Chris investigate Sloan and Whiteside’s funeral home, they put themselves in danger of becoming part of a bizarre collection of freeze dried corpses.

The original idea for the suspense plot for Painted Black came from a news article I read years ago in the Chicago Tribune.  It was about a new method of preservation being used by taxidermists who freeze dry people’s pets to produce lifelike replicas that would last indefinitely.  One person they interviewed stated that freeze drying could be used on people as well, and compared the process to cooking pizzas in an oven.  He sounded so bizarre and unconcerned that it immediately sparked an idea for a character based on him and became the premise for my story.  In my research, I actually found an article in a mortuary magazine about a firm that did preserve a man in this manner.

The idea to use homeless kids as important characters came about from my experience volunteering with The Night Ministry in Chicago.  I was struck by how many times homeless people are treated as sub-human, like they don’t matter.  Some people seem to have only contempt for someone who is homeless even when they know nothing about the circumstances.  Most people just want to pretend that the homeless don’t exist, walking by them with averted eyes.  I would like to make these invisible people visible so we can find solutions to the problem, not ignore it.

I want my readers to understand that the important thing to recognize about homeless people is that they are people.  The homeless part is incidental.  I’m hoping that while my readers are all wrapped up in the suspenseful story in Painted Black, they will somehow subtly have their eyes opened up a little to see that the street people I’m writing about – the same people they walk past on the street without looking at – aren’t really all that different from themselves.

If even only a few people get that, then I’ll feel happy.  I’d be even happier if it inspires someone to make a move to do something about it – volunteer at a local soup kitchen, advocate for improvements in social services, or even just say hi to that homeless person they pass on the corner every day on their way to work.  I am donating 10% of any author profits from Painted Black to The Night Ministry and to Teen Feed In Seattle, in appreciation for the work they do.  I encourage anyone who reads my books to also support any program working to eliminate homelessness.

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David Therrien

David Therrien is a writer in the inspirational Christian genre who is looking to become professionally published.  He explains which methods have worked and which haven’t, as well as what indie authors should prepare for when they’re ready to market.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?

I see so many hurting people in my life and this world.  There is a lot to take their minds off of their problems (for a while) but not much to change the way they see their problems.  I like to write true stories based on biblical principles to give people a more encouraging and optimistic outlook on life.  All is not forsaken.  They can salvage their lives and live in hope.

2. How have your sales been?

The books I’ve been able to sell, a few hundred of each title, are from my own personal marketing.

3. You have not been traditionally published. Why?

I am in the process of looking for a professional editor so I can submit a few of my titles to a traditional publisher.  I believe I have a few titles that would hit the mark with quite a few people.

4. You’re relatively new to self-publishing.  How have you liked it so far?

I love writing.  I feel it is something I can offer to my fellow-man.  Everyone can make a contribution in some way and writing is my way. (I hope).

5. What sort of marketing techniques have you used to sell your books, and which ones have been most successful?

I have used Facebook, to no avail.  I have used the newspaper, to no avail.  I have used the radio, to no avail.  I believe it is my faithful following that just keep buying my books.

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Rick Bylina

Rick Bylina is the author of One Promise Too Many and A Matter of Faith.  A NaNoWriMo winner, Rick explains what marketing techniques have worked for him as well as why he chose to not traditionally publish in the middle of talking with an agent.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them? 

My background is in technical writing and project management, and One Promise Too Many started as a short story written in 1991 about a technical writer being laid off.  The story sucked, but the idea stayed with me and grew.  In 2004, I wrote the majority of the book that currently exists and then spent a long time “getting it right.”  The first draft (83,000 words) of A Matter of Faith was a NaNoWriMo winner in 2007.  I had this one-page idea of what I wanted to write, plus the ending, and then, after about 6,000 words, I was bored with it.  That’s when I introduced another character that didn’t exist in the original outline.  I couldn’t write it fast enough after that.

In One Promise Too Many, Roger Stark, Marshfield’s newest detective, is paired with ex-NYPD detective, Ed Jones, “…fresh from a boring retirement…,” to investigate the abduction of a volatile CEO’s five-year-old daughter.  Despite past entanglements with the CEO, Stark promises him that he’ll find his little girl by the 42-hour deadline imposed by the kidnapper.  However, Stark doesn’t count on an elusive schizophrenic suspect or that the kidnapping is a ruse to divert attention from another far-reaching crime by a vengeful person playing by a different set of rules.

Told from Stark’s and the schizophrenic’s point-of-view, the story explores the collision of styles between Stark and Jones as the stress of the investigation intensifies.  It shows the struggles of the schizophrenic as his hold on reality slips away while trying to solve the kidnapping the police suspect him of having committed, and his uncertainty about whether or not he could have done it.  One Promise Too Many also demonstrates the depths to which someone will go to extract revenge on people once loved, regardless of who gets hurt.  It combines strong elements of a police procedural with the soul of a literary classic that should keep readers turning pages fast enough to create a breeze.

A Matter of Faith: After the sudden death of her father, Faith Moreno has to cope with newly revealed family secrets, navigate church politics and prejudices to keep her job as the music director for St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, and overcome religious dogma to pursue the man she loves — the broodingly handsome Father Pat, someone she has had a crush on since high school.  Is his kindness and attention to her Christian compassion or does he have an agenda of his own?

When someone vandalizes the Moreno house, Detective Roger Stark is called to investigate.  He starts to wonder if something bigger and more sinister is going on.  With his partner on his honeymoon, Stark weaves his way through scant and conflicting clues, a chorus of suspects, and whether or not God has already predetermined the outcome.  Does Faith Moreno’s romantic pursuit of Father Pat help Stark bring a murderer to justice or just mark her as another victim?  The meaning of the shocking outcome is all up to a matter of faith: Faith’s, Stark’s, and the reader’s.

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Thomas Sullivan

Thomas Sullivan has turned his driver’s ed teaching experience into a writing endeavor with his book, Life in the Slow Lane.  In this interview he discusses how he’s used blog radio and audiobooks as part of his marketing strategy.

1. Tell me briefly about your book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?

I taught driver education for a third rate company in Oregon.  We used aging cars that broke down and had far too few instructors for our volume of students.  We actually had one car from the Dirty Harry era, an ancient Chevy Malibu with a “Three-On-The-Tree” shifter attached to the steering column.  My book is about trying to be a good teacher amidst all the confusion and chaos that enveloped the situation.

At first I just jotted down episodes to fill time gaps between lessons.  But then I realized that I was in an industry that affects millions of kids and parents each year, and they were increasingly being taught by shady companies like the one I worked for as public schools bowed out of doing the teaching.  And no one seemed to be writing about this strange shift happening in a big part of teenage education.  So part of my motivation was expository, to shed some light on a little-known industry.  The other reason is that the kids always reacted to ridiculous situations with humor and grace, and I wanted to celebrate that quality in my own peculiar way.

2. How have your sales been?

Pretty slow, but steady.  The key seems to involve “getting the word out,” which I’ve been doing a lot of lately.

3. You have not been traditionally published.  Why?

At first I tried the traditional route (i.e. NY agents and publishers) and found a bit of interest.  But I think my style of humor works better with smaller, non-traditional publishers less restricted by the urge to appeal to the broadest audience possible.  The folks at Uncial Press and Cool Beat Audiobooks are quite funny and gave me a lot of latitude in how I wrote the book.

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Stephanie Briggs

Stephanie Briggs has published her first book and has gone from never using social media to integrating it into her marketing campaign.  Here she shares what works for her and how a published author inspired her to try self-publishing.

1. Tell me briefly about your book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?

Summoning The Strength is a fictional story about the amazing qualities of ordinary women in the life of the main character, Katherine Doyle.  Katherine grows up in Virginia during the 1950’s and 60’s.  She goes to Syracuse University in 1972.  She is a typical idealistic, naïve, and determined young woman of that era.  Her attitude is much like my own.  It isn’t autobiographical.  However, as the cover says, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and daughters make the same journey no matter the vehicle.  The story captures the nature of a life well lived and shows how the worst of circumstances can help us discover the best of ourselves.

I was introduced to a circle of intelligent, independent, and hilarious women by a friend.  A discussion of a personal nature turned into a writing exercise, and then for me, an obsession.  I began to experience something that caught me completely by surprise.  I needed therapy.  Not the per hour kind, but the sit still with your emotional baggage until the bus to epiphany comes along, kind.  During this time, my most cherished friend of 23 years was losing a two year battle with cancer.  The pace of the story was affected by this event and the fact that I strive to be concise.  That surprise notwithstanding, I wrote almost without pause day and night.  (No kidding.)  I wanted to share the story and the writing experience with my friend and I read parts of it to her while we spent the last month of her life together laughing and reminiscing.

2. How have your sales been?

Do you hear what I hear?  I think that is the sound of crickets.  Not to worry.  Cha-ching would not only be an unrealistic expectation but also not what I am going for on my first time out of the gate.  It would be dizzying euphoria but isn’t necessary for my happiness. (Short answer: SLOW)

3. You have not sought a traditional publisher.  Why?

I read an article on CNET written by a published author talking about self-publishing.  The article compared the ever shrinking “brick & mortar” publishing houses to the trendy, although less-respected, self-publishing camp.  It extolled the virtues of self-publishing’s quick turn times and low production costs.  It also gave an honest assessment of the quantity over quality marketplace.  There were also some comparisons of the different options available to authors looking for ways to express themselves without the expense of agent or attaché.  I was sold.  I had something to say.  I channeled my inner James Bond and I didn’t look back.

4. You’re relatively new to self-publishing.  How have you liked it so far?

I have been pleased with CreateSpace.  The free tools, reasonably priced upgrades, and prompt responses from member services during the creation process made my first publishing experience a positive one.  I have also connected with like-minded, kindred spirits I never expected to meet.  (I am still smiling.)

5. What sort of marketing techniques have you used to sell your books, and which ones have been most successful?

CreateSpace provides a free bare bones e-store.  I have dressed it up as much as I can with a sophisticated grey background and banner photo I took last spring of some pink tulips.  (You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.)  There is a link to my e-store on my blog.  I use the WordPress platform for jumping out there with fresh content to attract readers who like my writing style.  RSS feed of my posts go to my Amazon author page and Summoning The Strength’s Facebook page.  I share my posts on LinkedIn, Google, and StumbleUpon.  (I don’t Tweet.)

I also belong to a few writers’ groups which have yielded one very nice book review and this awesome interview.  Shameless self-promotion and begging seem to be the top tier money makers right now.

I sent copies to buyers for a couple of indie book stores and reached out to the airport book retailer Hudson News.  No takers from the indies yet, but I did receive a snarky email from the buyer at HN saying they don’t waste their premium space on vanity press (only best sellers need apply.)

6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?

I avoided spending money on ads or email blasts popular with the scam-spam set.

Once my book sales break say 50, I will probably discontinue approaching strangers in the grocery store and at my favorite neighborhood bar & grill, which can be hit or miss.  This technique can also be embarrassing if a conversation starter in the produce department goes terribly wrong.  Plus it will become cost prohibitive when I have to start driving across town for avocados or a beer since the price of my book is only $9.99.

7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?

I can do it.  I had never used any professional or social networking sites.  I am not tech savvy.  I leaned into the learning curve and am happy to say, I hung in there.

8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?

Hire tech support.  I have a love/no love relationship with technology.  My creativity flourishes when I discover a great tool or resource.  I sometimes become bogged down trying to navigate through the sheer volume of information required to learn how to use them properly.

9. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers.  What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?

Reject rejection.  Feedback is just feedback.  Listen to it.  Focus on the positive. That right action alone will yield positive results.  When you make the most of the network you already have in place, your connections will multiply.  Be selective when joining online groups and try not to criticize, condemn, or complain in a public forum. People get enough of that in the news media and they will tune you out double quick. I know because that’s what I do.

10. What projects are you currently working on?

Each time I post to HonieBriggs.com, I learn something.  I’m using those eureka moments to build a bank of ideas for two books.  One is a follow up to Summoning The Strength.  Consistent feedback says people want to know what happens next.  There is more to the story worth a second book.  I also have an idea for a light-hearted look at my own growth and evolution as a person.  The working title is Baptist to Buddhist, My Forty Year Journey.  Because people can sometimes get hung up on religious labels, it is only a working title at this point.  You can see the style of that kind of book in my blog posts.

11. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?

My writing is word play with a purpose.  (That is my idea of fun.)

12. How can readers learn more about your books?

Visit honiebriggs.com for all things noteworthy.

Shop Honie’s e-store or Amazon for all things written by Stephanie Briggs.  There is more than one author named Stephanie Briggs out there.  (Accept no substitutions.)

Rozsa Gaston

Rozsa Gaston approaches her writing with energy and a love for life.  She has also invested time in a unique marketing technique involving bookmarks and reverse psychology, and she shares some of her ideas here.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?

They’re about self-discovery and self-acceptance.  Paris Adieu, my latest book, has two themes: 1) how to be comfortable in your own skin and 2) how to fake it till you make it.  Paris Adieu’s heroine, Ava Fodor, is clueless about both at the start of the book.  By the end, she’s figured out a thing or two – thanks to the insights living in Paris has given her.  Ava studies French women, French food, French attitude – while French men study her.  By the end of Paris Adieu, she’s more or less transformed herself into the woman she wants to be.  And if she hasn’t entirely, at least she’s learned how to fake it till she makes it.  But where to take her act?  Back to New York, of course, where Ava grasps that her newfound sense of self will work for her in a way it never will if she stays in Paris.  After all, she’s not French.  What she is, is fabulous.  I’m still working on both themes.

2. How have your sales been?

Slouching toward fabulous, darling.  Why do you think I’m doing this interview?

3. Have you sought a traditional publisher?

I have and will continue to seek one.  In the meantime, I want to spend my time writing books, and sharing with like-minded people in cyberspace – which means all over the world – instead of sending out query letters that never get a response.  No interaction dulls my interest.

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