Ben Baker

Ben Baker is a prolific writer who has learned a few tricks throughout his career. He explains how authors can find and exploit their niche.

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

My latest published book is A Dog Named Nekkid. The title comes from one of the columns in the book. Imagine naming a dog Nekkid. Think of the fun. Put the dog outside. Company comes over. You get tired of them. “I gotta go outside and get Nekkid. Y’all wanna come?” So many variations on a theme.

That also marked my debut as a freehand cartoonist. I did editorial toons in college for the university newspaper, but drew those on a Macintosh. My daughter also drew some of the toons.

I have several others in the works: a science fiction/fantasy novel, memoirs, and a how-to book on dealing with an estate when you are the executor.

2. How have your sales been?

Poor. This is my fault. While I am good at sales and marketing, I do not enjoy it. Good? Yes. I have set new positive sales records for the places I worked in sales. I just do not like it. If I invested into the marketing, my sales would be excellent. I am somewhat like Nikola Tesla in that regard: lemme work and let someone else handle the business end.

This is why I love writing for brokerage sites. They handle the maths (maths is evil; the plural is correct), the marketing and the business. I write. I did have one client steal my stuff and leave a horrible review. I reported it with evidence of the theft and got paid. The client got banned. Dunno if the review is still up, nor do I care.

3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.

Self-publishing is great for me. I am also a graphic artist. Each week I produce a newspaper and a few times a year I produce a slick magazine. Layout and design for books is something I can do in my sleep. I’ve done books for several other people who did not have the know-how to design and format. I’ve done so many, including ghost writing, that I wrote a contract to spell out what I will do and the prices.

Because I can do layout and design, I control every step of the process. I pick the font, size, page size, count and quality. I keep all the rights. I set the price. I keep all the profits. My only out-of-pocket expense is printing the books I buy to resell.

Self-publishing is not for everyone because so many people think they have a great book (they do not) and it will just fly off the print-on-demand press to be a bestseller (it won’t). The last report of the POD industry I read said the average POD book sells fewer than two copies.

Marketing is what sells books. If you can’t get your butt up, moving and selling books everywhere and every chance you get, including forcing some chances, you will not make money. Continue reading

Matthew J. Hooper

Matthew J. Hooper understands the importance of hustle in selling a self-published work. Find out which marketing methods he’s used for his debut book.

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

My latest and first book is The Coldest Girl. It is about a little girl who just loves all things cold and the silly misadventures she gets into with all things cold. But there is a little more to her love of cold than one would think. My daughter was my inspiration for this book. The story says that the coldest girl was born on the coldest day, in the coldest place in the world. The rhyme repeated through the book is one my daughter said for a while. I honestly just added some funny scenarios to pull it into a story, then a great hook at the end to seal it.

2. How have your sales been?

Slow going to be honest. Launching a book during a pandemic may not have been the best timing. This is also a new marketing challenge for me. It’s been an adventure trying to figure out how to build an audience. I’m starting to figure things out and build things up.

3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.

The nice thing about self-publishing is that you don’t have to rely on being part of a company’s marketing strategy. That was the comment that came back from most of the publishers I dealt with. The big downside is you are on your own, so now you have to be writer, editor, and marketing. It can be a lot. Continue reading

Alexandrea Fokken

Alexandrea Fokken understands it takes patience to build your author brand. Find out which specific steps she recommends to grow your audience.

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

Harrison’s Hairy Problem is a story about an elephant named Harrison. Harrison the Elephant is a hairy elephant. From his head to his tail, Harrison is covered in hair. His only wish is to be hairless like all the other elephants he knows. The story is about self-love and learning that it is okay to be different.

I started writing Harrison’s story during the COVID-19 lockdown. My daughter has this rocking elephant that is very hairy, and I kept asking her what she wanted to name him. Being only nine months old at the time, of course she could not tell me. One day, we were playing with the rocking elephant and the idea just popped into my head. I quickly wrote down the story, asking my cousin and husband for ideas on what it should be about (either, no two elephants are alike or it’s okay to be different, which are similar lessons). The next thing I knew I was waiting for the copyrights and working on the illustrations.

2. How have your sales been?

For my first book, I believe sales are pretty good. It has sold over 150 copies in eight different countries. It has also been read out loud on two different YouTube channels and one podcast. I think that’s pretty good for my first story. However, I’m still learning how to market.

3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.

To tell you the truth, I chose to self-publish because I wanted to illustrate my story. A lot of publishing companies like to use their own illustrators, and I felt like I could get my story across better with my own doodles.

It was rather stressful doing it this way though, because I didn’t know what I was (and still don’t) doing. It would be nice to be able to take some of that weight of my shoulders and hand over to someone else for a bit. Continue reading

Margo Thomas

Margo Thomas believes in using social media to make valuable connections, not just to increase page likes. Find out why she decided to outsource her self-publishing efforts.

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

My latest book is called I Am College Bound. It is a college-prep planner for high school students. I work with high school students daily and realized that many of them make decisions about going to college with hardly any research. They choose their potential careers, college majors and colleges with limited information. As a result, students are going to colleges they cannot afford, to obtain degrees they are not truly invested in to pursue careers that will not pay them nearly enough to pay off their crazy student loan debt before they retire.

2. How have your sales been?

Sales have initially been sporadic. I published the I Am College Bound Planner early in the pandemic. I previously planned to participate in a number of in-person tabling events, but those plans changed. My ultimate goal, though, is to use the books to segue into speaking, training and coaching. I recently got an opportunity to speak to a group of high school girls who are preparing for college. The organizers agreed to purchase the planners as part of my fee. I got a call about another opportunity at a high school to purchase my planners as part of a grant. So, I anticipate increased sales in the near future.

3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.

I used KDP/Amazon self-publishing through a company called Junkanoo Publications & Consulting. I honestly did not want to learn the full process and was willing to pay a realistic price for it to be done. I do have access to my KDP/Amazon account, which allows me to make changes as needed.

The overall experience for me with self-publishing has been positive. I suppose the negative aspect of self-publishing is that I am responsible for promoting my books, which means that I have to learn and experiment with different marketing ideas. Continue reading

Bob Russell

Bob Russell is a Christian author who has been traditionally and self-published. He explains the many different ways he’s used to successfully market his books.

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

My recent e-books include three in the Christian Concepts Series: The Church, The Christ, and The Christian, plus one missions-oriented book.

My personal favorite is my e-book God’s Nature: Sonlight Sunlight, which shows amazing alignments between science and Scripture. This book has received great reviews from a wide variety of people from internationally-known theologians, women’s ministry leaders, full-time homemakers, and long-term prisoners. It is part of my Christian Concepts Series of three books which use biblical analogies to explain complex Christian topics in easy to understand and memorable ways. The original print version of this series received 11 literary awards. All of my books contain a “Think and Grow” section at the end of each chapter which is ideal for personal or small group study.

My most unusual book is one in which I edited the wire recordings of martyred missionary Jim Elliot (Jim Elliot: Recorded Messages). As a child I lived in the Elliot home for a time. Jim was one of my Sunday School teachers and his father was my spiritual mentor for years.

2. How have your sales been?

Because I write in a small niche market where having a strong name awareness is important, my sales have not been as strong as I would desire but they have been steady. It is important to note my writing goal: “I’d rather write what the Spirit guides and have no readers, than to appeal to more readers without the Spirit’s guidance.”

3. You’ve used both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Which do you prefer, and what are the pros and cons of each?

Previously, I published four print books through two publishing houses. Later I switched to self-publishing (five e-books and one print book to date). Using “draft2digital” has many advantages for me. It is much faster, I have better control, greater distribution options, higher royalties, etc. Continue reading

Bobby Nash

Bobby Nash has both self-published and been traditionally published.  Find out what he believes to be the pros and cons of each, and what they have in common.

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

In The Wind – A Tom Myers Mystery is the first book in a series of novellas featuring Tom Myers, the sheriff of Sommersville, Georgia.  Although this is the first book in the series, Sheriff Myers and his deputies have appeared in my novels Evil Ways and Deadly Games! and will also make a brief appearance in the upcoming Evil Intent novel before their second stand-alone novella comes out in 2021.

In In The Wind, an FBI/US Marshal task force has stashed Bates Hewell in a safe house in Sommersville.  Hewell is the star witness in the RICO case being built against Antonio Manelli, head of the Manelli crime family, an organization with a long history dating back to the 20’s.  When armed mercenaries attack the safe house, the agents are killed, save for two that are wounded.  Bates Hewell escapes into undeveloped Sommersville County with trained killers on his tail.

Sheriff Myers is understandably upset that the feds used his county without informing his department, but he sets that aside and begins a search to recover the missing witness before those sent to kill him.  When Tyson Monroe arrives, also on the hunt for the witness, Myers is skeptical.  Is Tyson Monroe there to help or hinder his manhunt?

2. How have your sales been?

Sales are okay.  They can always be better.  I am always working on ways to reach new readers.

3. You’ve chosen self-publishing.  How have you liked it so far?  Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.

I added self-publishing to my publishing plans a few years back. I still work for traditional publishers, both small press and larger publishers, but there are certain types of stories I want to tell that the publishers I work with aren’t as interested in telling.  So I set up BEN Books to do those stories in the manner and format that works best for those stories.  Most of my BEN Books releases are crime/action thrillers like the new Tom Myers series, the Snow series, and novels like Evil Ways, Deadly Games!, Suicide Bomb, and more.  It allows me to own and control my IPs and also do work for hire at other publishers.  The best of both worlds. Continue reading

Coral McCallum

Coral McCallum has worked hard to develop her indie author brand. Read more about the importance of social media and which marketing methods don’t work well.

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

It’s been about eighteen months since we last spoke. Back then I was working on book four in the Silver Lake series. Now, I’m just about to finish the first draft of book five, the final book in the series, Long Shadows. It’s due to be released early in 2021.

I decided five was more than enough volumes in the one series. As an indie author, it is
getting harder and harder to promote each book. Unless the reader is already invested in the characters, it’s tough trying to get someone on board by books four and five. I also wanted the story to still feel fresh and not just be repeating the same patterns. While Long Shadows will be the last in the Silver Lake series, it won’t be the last my readers hear from the characters….well, some of them.

2. How have your sales been?

Sales are still low volume. However, they are still ticking over and I’m still getting some royalties on a monthly basis.

3. You’ve chosen self-publishing.  How have you liked it so far?  Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.

I publish via KDP through Amazon and honestly can’t complain. You see folks online criticizing it but I’ve had no issues. I was somewhat concerned when they merged Create Space into KDP, but so far so good. I love their templates especially for cover layout. That’s probably the most frustrating part of the process as the assessment criteria seems a little inconsistent at times. One day it will accept the lay out then you change a couple of words on the back cover and the next day it rejects the whole lot! Continue reading

K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the award-winning and internationally-published author of Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. She writes historical and speculative fiction and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

K.M. just released her latest book on craft, Writing Your Story’s Theme. Here she discusses the book and the advice she has for new writers working to perfect their skills.

1. Talk a little about Writing Your Story’s Theme. What motivated you to write it and what do you hope authors will gain from it?

In contemplating what writing-craft book I wanted to publish next, I felt like theme was the obvious expansion and next step from the books I’ve already shared on story structure and character arcs. Theme is so inherent in both these subjects and is, in fact, actualized through a proper use of both, and yet it isn’t often drawn to the forefront and discussed in a concrete and practicable way.

2. Theme is the very essence of any story, yet you believe authors too often view it as more of an afterthought. Why do you think this is so?

Foundationally, I believe it is because theme is inherently such an abstract concept. As a result, we have something of a tradition in which writing instructors and masters  guide us to avoid consciously implementing theme because they don’t have a clear understanding of how theme emerges within stories. It seems a very nebulous, almost numinous, process. And it is. But story theory has given us clear approaches to both story structure and character arc—and within this process of harmonizing plot and character, we can see how theme itself emerges in a holistic and resonant way. It remains numinous, but becomes less nebulous.

3. You’ve created a number of guides to help authors improve their writing. Where does Writing Your Story’s Theme fit in among the others?

As I said, I feel like it is a natural sequel to the previous guides. I hope it stands alone, but because it builds upon the principles and terms I discuss in Structuring Your Novel and especially Creating Character Arcs, it would be my recommendation to start with those books. They lead right into Writing Your Story’s Theme. (And if you’re only going to read one of the books, I recommend Creating Character Arcs. Once you’re creating solid character arcs, then you’re almost certainly going to be creating solid story structure and theme as well.) Continue reading

Tracey Shearer

Tracey Shearer is a hybrid author with experience in both the traditional and self-publishing worlds. Learn more about the unique, reader-driven efforts she’s used to promote her books.

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

My latest book, Raven, is the second book in my Entwine trilogy. The trilogy is about three women with incredible gifts. Each book focuses on one woman, but all continue throughout. The trilogy is fun, but it also covers important themes such as friendship, sisterhood, acceptance of yourself – good and bad – and where there’s love, there’s hope.

In Raven, Kate is a widow with two young daughters living in a haunted Scottish B&B. She has a vision which reveals the existence of a black-ops military group who is determined to unlock the special gifts of people just like Kate through horrific experimentation. She’s got to trust in herself and her abilities to have any chance of success because if she doesn’t, she’ll lose those she loves. One of the other storylines throughout is whether or not she’ll open herself back up to love again. Of course, I have two hunky choices for her to consider. Haha!

Like with Entwine, the death of my parents motivated me to write and create a ghostly realm and to explore what happens when we die. My battles with cancer also motivated me. My most recent bout was in February before COVID hit. I know what it’s like to struggle with not being in control and also the incredible power of friendship. The support I have has really gotten me through all the surgeries and radiation.

2. How have your sales been?

I only have one book out, Entwine, and from everything I’ve read, I’m beating the indie author average – yay! Based on the reader support and excitement over the Raven release, I’m expecting to match or exceed Entwine’s sales as well. Plus, I did put together a killer book trailer for Entwine that has already generated some sales just recently. I’m learning more and more as I go along on this writing journey.

3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.

I had an agent who had to retire to take care of her hubby while she was trying to sell Entwine. Then I received a publishing contract from a small press that I turned down for being too restrictive. I decided to form my own publishing company and publish myself. It was the best decision I could have made. Having that control has been so wonderful. And getting my book out there rather than waiting another few years to go the traditional route has allowed me to build a readership right away.

I have a new agent that wants to work with me on another book and she told me she was so happy I self-published Entwine. She said she would have had to tear it apart to make it fit a publishing box to sell it. Because Entwine has elements of fantasy, suspense, thriller, mystery, romance, and the paranormal, it didn’t fit neatly into a publishing box. But she loves my writing, so she wants to work with me on something else.

Self-publishing doesn’t hurt your chances for being traditionally published on the level it used to. So many authors are going the hybrid route. The business end of things that I’ve learned about will make me an excellent author for a traditional publishing house down the line because I understand about social media platforms and followings, promotion, etc. Continue reading

Renee Marski

Renee Marski enjoys the control that self-publishing allows authors. Here she explains the importance of making sure your work is thoroughly edited.

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

My most recent book is book three in my fantasy series. This book follows Andy, one of the team members of my group of hunters. They are descended from the original fairytale characters, trained to hunt the monsters that plague our world. Andy has some issues he has to work through, after suffering a loss in book two. Andy and the team have to complete their third trial and stick together.

2. How have your sales been?

Sales have been up and down. I took a month off to just focus on me and so without promoting anything I didn’t really sell anything. But when I do promote, I get some good results.

3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.

I love self-publishing. I like the control I have, I can publish when I want, there are no deadlines except for the ones I give myself. But at the same time, being self-published means I have to do all the marketing myself and that is so hard to do. Especially when you’re just starting out and don’t know what you’re doing. Continue reading