Lisa Winkler is a journalist, educator, and of course indie author, having self-published her debut book, On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America. She discusses her experiences with both the Kindle Select program and book promoters.
1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book. Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.
Growing up black in Brooklyn, Miles Dean wanted to be a cowboy. He galloped through the streets on his bicycle, ambushing outlaws on street corners, imitating the heroes he watched on television westerns. More than three decades later, Dean, a Newark, NJ schoolteacher, rode Sankofa, his 11-year-old Arabian stallion, from the African Burial Grounds in lower Manhattan to the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. Dean used an unpaid leave of absence to follow his childhood dream: his 5,000 mile- journey through12 states took six months.
Conceived to celebrate the contributions of African Americans in US history, this inspirational story brings the reader into large cities and small towns, connecting with the horseback ride and the many people Dean met. Through his daily regimen of riding his horse, the reader witnesses the physical and emotional discipline required to complete such a journey. It’s a story about an ordinary man who accomplishes something extraordinary.
2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?
I had submitted my book proposal and sample chapters to over100 agents. After researching self-publishing, I felt this was the way to go.
3. Have you been traditionally published?
I have had articles and essays published.
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
It’s been an enormous learning experience. I am finding that the marketing can take control of your life—but traditionally published authors need to do their own marketing these days as well.
5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?
I’m trying to use LinkedIn and Facebook. I participated in the Kindle Select free promotion and reached 795 free downloads in a week—but that hasn’t helped sales. There are no “fast” fixes. I believe sales occur one at a time. I’m trying now to schedule talks in local libraries.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
I haven’t been at this long enough to answer! But I haven’t done any contests or giveaways other than the Kindle one. Not sure I will or not.
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
I loved the control of designing my own book. However, there seems to be a stigma from libraries and bookstores when you say your book is self-published. It’s a very long haul.
8. 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?
I did invest some money in a book promotion person. He got the book reviewed on Amazon and has arranged a few radio interviews. But sales haven’t jumped from either of those efforts. I think it’s important to realize that all authors are competing for readers who have so many ways of obtaining material, and a great wealth of choices in their reading. You need a thick skin and nearly as much perseverance as you had when writing!
9. What projects are you currently working on?
I signed up for a memoir class. I write a blog, accessed through my website, lisakwinkler.com, and am working on the educator’s guide to accompany my book.
10. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
I’m a non-fiction writer available to freelance journalism projects or personal histories.
11. How can readers learn more about your books?