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.)