Jenna Whittaker

13096190_1191304047568882_1555622748994703516_nAustralian author Jenna Whittaker stays busy but manages to make time for her writing.  In this interview she explains what self-published authors have to do to make their work a success.

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

My latest book is The Leavers. It’s a fantasy novel set in a marshland, bordered by an invisible barrier that nearly no one dares to cross. Novia, the main character, wakes up at the edge of it, and finds a Leaver – one of the ones who do cross the barrier, and never, until now, return. With his return comes desolation of the marshlands, the arrival of the beings from Beyond, and what you think is good and bad is turned on its head.

2. How have your sales been?

I’ve not gotten too much time for promotion lately; working on my current WIP, my part time job, and starting up my own pet sitting business! I get a few sales per month and I’m happy with that; I love every review that comes in!

3. You’ve gone the self-publishing route. Have you sought an agent or any work with traditional publishers? If not, why not? If so, what has been your experience?

I decided not to go the traditional publishing route.  I’m not sure why; mostly because of my impatience to have my book released, I think! My mother is a traditional/e-book publisher, so I made sure to have a properly formatted/edited novel ready for publication, based on what I’ve seen of her requirements and some of the more questionable submissions!

Self publishing is great, but only if you know what you’re doing or willing to put in the effort to learn. It’s vital to get a professional book cover, proper editing, and work on promotion constantly.

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Ethan Jones

Ethan Jones took some time away from his busy writing schedule to discuss his action-adventure series and why he chose the indie writing path.  Learn why book giveaways work for him and why indie authors have to invest so much of their own time and effort to make their projects a success.

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

Arctic Wargame is the first book in Justin Hall series.  Justin has been demoted because of a botched rescue operation in Libya, which was not his fault.  Now he’s a desk jockey.  Eager to return to field work, he volunteers for a reconnaissance mission, when two foreign icebreakers appear in Canadian Arctic waters.  His team discovers a weapons stash, along with a plan that threatens Canada’s security.  At the same time, the team falls under attack by one of their own and is stranded helpless in the Arctic.  It is now a race against time for Justin and his team to save themselves and their country.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I shopped my two novels, Arctic Wargame and Tripoli’s Target to agents and publishers over the course of 2009-2011.  I received some great feedback.  A few agents asked for a partial manuscript and two or three for a full.  But no one was willing to make an offer or sign a contract.  In the meantime, I kept writing.

I had not considered self-publishing because it seemed like a lot of work and I had truly hoped an agency or a publisher would pick up my works.  Upon the suggestion of a good friend, I dusted off my first novel, Arctic Wargame.  I found three great beta readers, all published writers, and we took a new stab at my gibberish.  Then I worked with two great editors and proofreaders, to create the best possible work.  After formatting it professionally, Arctic Wargame finally saw the light of publishing through Amazon.

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Diana Nixon

Belarusian author Diana Nixon has realized numerous benefits with self-publishing and has begun her own fantasy book series.  Learn more about the sites she uses to promote her work and the one thing any author needs to ensure quality writing.

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

The name of the book is Love lines.  It’s the first book of a fantasy series under the same title.  It shows the inner world of supernatural beings, their talents and powers.  Love lines is a story about beautiful love and true friendship. It’s a book for all ages with some humor and complicated relationship.

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

I’m a self-published author and I’ve never published my books traditionally.  Before publishing my first book I read a lot of blogs discussing the advantages and the disadvantages of self-publishing.  The control over the process was the main thing that made me choose self-publishing.  I can create covers I like, I don’t have to make changes about the book which I wouldn’t like, and I can choose marketing techniques I’m sure will be successful.  And finally, I want to be sure I have done everything possible and maybe even impossible to promote and sell my book, as sometimes the authors are not satisfied with the same work most publisher do.  I know how I want things to be done and I’m sure no one else can do them better than I do.

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September Gray

September Gray is the author of Chasing Dolphins, a story she was inspired to self-publish when the traditional process took too much time.  In this interview she explains why she thinks indie authors should support one another and discusses the importance of good editing.

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

Here is an excerpt from a customer review on Amazon.  This reader sums it up as well as I could: “I liked this.  It’s not often you have the (pleasure?) of finding a readable main character who is a great deal less than perfect.  Charlene comes across as flawed, battered by life, but believable.  Her background has made her needy, malleable, and low on self-worth.  She drinks too much, smokes too much, isn’t much of a mum, picks up hordes of unsuitable men, sleeps around, etc., but is nevertheless likeable.”

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I’ve had a few short stories published in magazines.  I also have friends who have been traditionally published and I watched them spend literally years mailing out query letters before they finally made a sale.  The last straw for me came when I heard from an editor who claimed to love the story I’d sent her.  Three months later she sent me a rejection slip stating she couldn’t find a hook for the story, but would love to see more of my work.  I’m not always a patient person, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

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

I just want to get my stories out there before readers.  It doesn’t matter to me how I do it.  I think a lot of writers are divided right now: go indie or go traditional?  For me, it isn’t one or the other.  If  a publishing house offered me a decent contract I’d consider it.  I’m just not willing to put my writing career on hold until that happens.

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

I enjoy being active on Goodreads and Twitter.  I promote others as much as possible.  If you are helpful to others, you are going to get noticed faster than if you come off as self-serving.  I’ve had other writers give me back links or a mention on their blogs as a thank you for doing the same for them.  This doesn’t have to be a competitive business.  It works best when we are all scratching each other’s backs.  On the other hand, I don’t promote anyone’s work unless I believe in it.

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

I would have someone other than myself do the editing.  It’s hard to be objective about your own work.  No matter how hard you try to catch every typo, you are likely going to miss something.  Formatting is a nightmare for me, so fixing those mistakes once they’re published can be a real problem.

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?

I write about somewhat disturbing, yet sympathetic, characters with a dark sense of humor.

7. How can readers learn more about your books?

Check out my Amazon author’s page here.

Robert Szeles

Robert Szeles wears many hats, including music producer, graphic designer – and, of course, author.  Robert discusses the hard work that goes into self-publishing and offers bountiful advice for the new writer just starting out.

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

When a monogamous guy and a polyamorous gal are brought together by two of the least respected gods of Los Angeles, Love and Romance, they find themselves on the bumpy five-lane freeway to love, contending with a vengeful ex-girlfriend, a dominatrix boss, an irresistible TV star, an egomaniacal TV producer, Hollywood backstabbing, and the greatest obstacles of all: themselves!  A sexy romantic comedy set in Los Angeles, where even gods are only as good as their last gig.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

The state of the publishing industry is in tumult and I thought I had a better chance at publishing myself.  Then if I have some success, I can always approach the major industry later with a successful track record, if that seems worth doing.

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

I have had a couple short stories published.  I haven’t pursued traditional publishing beyond that for the above reasons.

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

Liked?  It’s hard.  I imagine any kind of publishing is hard.  There are things that are wonderful, like the freedom and creative control, and there are things that are terrible, like the long work hours, lack of budget and lack of support from a company and its resources.  I can’t say I’ve liked it.  I like being a writer and author.  The publishing part is necessary if I want to be read, which I do.  But some of it is fun, like creating the book covers, which I do myself because I’m a professional graphic designer.  And my book trailer turned out fabulously, but it was two months of purgatory.

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Lorraine Fico-White, editor

I’ve personally known Lorraine Fico-White for a while now, and serve with her on the board of directors of the Charlotte Writers’ Club.  A professional editor, she discusses the role editors play in the writing process and how indies can make their books the best they can be.

1. Tell me about the editing services you provide.

I am a certified editor providing editing and proofreading services to authors.  Authors contact me before they self-publish or send out query letters.  I provide a free sample edit of the author’s work, evaluating the level of editing required and identifying ways to improve the manuscript’s marketability.  I also assist authors in developing personal bios and summaries for the book cover, creating discussion questions, and critiquing query letters and synopses.

2. What’s the difference between editing and proofreading?

Proofreading identifies grammar, punctuation, spelling, and typographical errors as well as formatting inconsistencies.  Basic copyediting includes proofreading in addition to ensuring content continuity, correct and effective word usage, and clarity of concepts.

Heavier editing includes basic copyediting tasks plus analyzing character and plot development, narrative flow, shifts in point of view, and organizational structure.

3. What role should the editor play in the writing process?

An editor assists the writer in making the book the best it can possibly be.  A great working relationship between an author and editor is critical to the success of a book.  A good editor will not change a writer’s voice, style or story. Instead, the editor offers a fresh, experienced perspective and respects the author’s work.  All edits must be approved by the author.

4. For each editing project you take on, what is your overriding goal?  In other words, what do you have in mind each time you look at a new manuscript or other writing?

My goal is to help authors achieve their goals.  Whenever I review a manuscript, I am always looking for ways to improve its marketability.  Errors and inconsistencies distract a reader, and the book could lose credibility.  If a reader loses interest, he/she will not recommend the book to friends and will not purchase subsequent books by the same author.

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Stuart Carruthers

Stuart Carruthers, author of As the Crow Dies, had two very good reasons for skipping the traditional publishing route: speed and creative freedom.  He explains why reviews are important and why you should create a buzz around your book before it’s released.

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

A high speed, action packed novella set in China.  Hong Kong resident and journalist Harry Patterson is sent to investigate a mundane story about a new CEO at a technology company.  But when there’s a murder and the secret service are involved, Harry’s world gets turned upside down and it leads him to discover more about the underbelly of China than he ever knew.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Fear of rejection!  But seriously I think it’s a sure fire way to get your book out to the public in the quickest time.

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

No.  I opted not to spend my time touting the book to agents for a couple of reasons: (i) speed; it takes a long time to get an agent and then if you get lucky, sell it to a publisher who then takes a year to get it to market (ii) I have more creative freedom; if the book doesn’t sell, I can revise the description and the content to push things in a different direction.

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

It’s early days, I only published the book at the end of January, so I haven’t really come to grips with marketing it or myself.

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Nancy Ellen Dodd

Editor and award-winning writer Nancy Ellen Dodd, M.P.W., M.F.A., teaches at Pepperdine University and has had extensive experience working with authors, including indies.  In this interview she touches on her work, what she’s learned during her career, and how to write your best work possible.

1. Describe your educational and writing backgrounds.

For more than 25 years I’ve invested thousands of hours of studying writing, including two graduate degrees: a master’s in Professional Writing (MPW, which is a multi-discipline approach to writing) from the University of Southern California and an MFA in playwriting at USC’s School of Theatre.  I have received numerous awards for my writing and some of my stories have been read on public radio.  I’ve also studied writing with several successful, award-winning writers.

My book, The Writer’s Compass: From Story Map to Finished Draft in 7 Stages, covers the full creative writing process. I’ve also published more than 130 articles and been editor of two print and two online publications.  Presently I’m academic editor of the Graziadio Business Review, a business journal for the Graziadio School at Pepperdine.  Currently, I teach screenwriting at Pepperdine University to undergraduate and graduate students.

2. Tell me briefly about The Writer’s Compass.

The Writer’s Compass is what I’ve learned after thousands of hours of studying writing and two graduate degrees.  Through this process I developed a story map based on the 3-Act structure chart and Aristotle’s and Freytag’s principles of dramatic writing to use as a tool for understanding your story.  For years I have been collecting and developing questions that writers should ask about their stories and I evolved these into a 7 Stage process for writing more efficiently with fewer drafts.  I’ve been using this method, teaching it in workshops, and using part of it to teach my screenwriting students for years.  I finally turned it into a book.

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Carol Newsome

Carol Newsome is the author of A Shot in the Bark (A Dog Park Mystery).  Here she discusses her unique book and how important it is for new writers to make a great first impression.

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

It’s about an artist, Lia, who’s friends with a serial killer and doesn’t know it.  When her writer boyfriend dies under suspicious circumstances, the dog park and its motley crew of denizens is the focus of the investigation.  Of course the handsome detective, Peter, crushes madly on Lia.  She’s struggling with questions about her relationship with the deceased.  Secrets come to light in Peter’s pursuit of the truth, and that complicates things.  And you’ve got this serial killer working to stay one step ahead of the investigation.

I’m a big fan of mysteries.  One thing I’ve noticed about our dog park is that people rendezvous in the parking lot and don’t think anyone is watching, but all of us doggie parents don’t have anything better to do than pay attention to who comes and goes, and speculate on what they’re up to.  I’ve been saying for years that we needed to have a dog park mystery.  So it was in the back of my head that this would be a fun thing to do.

I was motivated to start my book after an acquaintance asked me to help him edit his thriller.  There was a lot to like about the manuscript, but he was trying to write popular fiction, and he’s not a popular fiction kind of guy.  He thinks it’s junk.  He had a passive aggressive approach to feedback which showed up in his manuscript.  What could have been a nifty book was turning into a mess.  I wound up wanting to kill him.

So I quit his project, picked up a pen and took him out.

2. How have your sales been?

Sales have been steadily growing since I published in September.  Right now I’m averaging 2 sales a day.  Knock on wood.

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