Jeff Vande Zande

Jeff Vande Zande has had success with small press publishing, an experience which has helped him positively adjust his expectations about success.  Jeff discusses that along with his thoughts on book signings and reaching your target audience.

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

It’s a novel about poetry, Theodore Roethke, fathers and sons, and coming of age in America as an artist.  It’s the story of a young man who comes back to his hometown after an absence, only to find that he hasn’t grown up as much as he thinks.  Denver Hoptner graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in writing poetry.  He returns to his boyhood home in working-class Saginaw, Michigan, and discovers just how little the world of work cares about his degree.  He struggles, too, to come to terms with his widower father.  After he hears that there’s been a fire in the attic of poet Theodore Roethke’s boyhood home, Denver commits himself to saving the historical residence, even when no one else seems to care.  It’s in action that he finds his true poetic self.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I didn’t really have luck with agents.  I received a few letters that said something along the lines of “Beautiful writing, but not sure how to market this.”  In my experiences with smaller presses, I just found that the editors were more interested in the “beautiful” part and didn’t worry so much about the marketing part.  My experiences with small presses have been positive, if not overwhelmingly lucrative.

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

I suppose getting published from a small press is “traditional” publishing, just on a reduced scale.  So, yes, all of my books are traditionally published, but all from small presses.

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Anderson O’Donnell

Anderson O’Donnell specializes in dystopian fiction and constantly feeds his healthy addiction to the art of writing.  Anderson talks about making the most of social media and going beyond its superficial uses to enhance his marketing efforts.

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

Kingdom is a thrill-a-minute, bio-punk myth that manages to wrestle with the most pressing issues of the new millennium.  It’s a novel of tomorrow night, when the big party gets raided by the monsters we’ve been building for the last half-century.  Hip and hellish, wild and weird, Tiber City is the dystopian megalopolis into which we will all soon move—whether we know it or not.  Toss William Gibson, Andrew Vachss and David Fincher into the petri dish, irradiate them, then infuse the result with Transylvanian meth, and you’ll have some sense of what the reader can expect.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Frustration with how risk-adverse the traditional publishing industry has become.  I get it: sales margins are razor thin, and the natural inclination, in any industry, is to reduce risk.  But for the writing and publishing industry, risk reduction means going all in on books by a recognizable brand name—Snookie, for instance.  I mean, that’s their answer…Snookie.  But like I said, I can’t blame them.

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

No, I haven’t been traditionally published, but not for lack of effort.  I sent out query letters to a number of agents and publishing houses, and while Kingdom attracted some interest, nothing panned out.  But I received good feedback from a few other traditionally published authors, enough so I decided not to stick the project in the desk drawer.  I believe in Kingdom; and I think readers are going to respond to the world I’ve created.

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A.D. McLain

A.D. McLain writes across a variety of genres, most notably in paranormal romance, and has seen both the indie and traditional sides of publishing.  She discusses her latest work, Suriax, and explains the variety of direct marketing tools she uses to reach new readers.

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

If it was legal to kill, would you?  Welcome to Suriax, a city where killing is accepted as normal and laws mean everything.  Kern must grapple with questions of morality, destiny and a queen who wants him dead.  Throw in a pact with a god and you have an event that will change the people of Suriax forever.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I love the freedom to set my own prices, run my own contests and free promotions, design my own cover and have control over when the book is released.  Whether you self-publish or go through a publisher you have to do almost all your own marketing.  The only difference is how much you get paid for your work.

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

I went through publishers and agents for my first two books.  That experience was disappointing.  The marketing my publishers did for me was miniscule, and I was constantly sent emails on how if I just paid them x amount of dollars they would do some additional marketing.  After six years of doing all my own networking and learning everything as I went along, I met other authors who went the self-publishing route.  The free services provided by sites such as Smashwords and Createspace are a far cry from the vanity publishers of the past.  There isn’t as much of a stigma now in self-publishing.  I don’t think I will ever go back to the old way.  I learned a lot from my other publishers, and I don’t regret the experiences, but I am glad I have another option.

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Jessica Caris

Jessica Caris likes to explore the boundaries and ranges of the human experience with her writing.  The author of Breeding in Captivity and a former television writer and literary publicist, Jessica discusses her focused marketing techniques.

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

Naomi Carter is a fast-rising, romantically-challenged professional, who aches to get married and have a family.  After many first dates which never lead to a second, she is introduced to a handsome client.  A whirlwind courtship ensues, and she blinks an eye and is married, finally!  Like bad egg salad, things spoil quickly, and she suddenly finds herself pregnant, mother to a toddler, and divorcing. With all of her accounts mysteriously cleared, our spoiled princess is broke.  Travertine gives way to Pergo and Hermes is replaced by Target.  Just as she clawed her way up the corporate ladder, our heroine finds the moxy to overcome circumstances that would have reduced many women to a long “goodnight” with a fistful of Vicodin and bottle of Belvedere.

This book will remind any woman, young or old, married or single, who has ever thought her life was “ruined” or “over”, that a superhuman strength she never knew existed, resides deep within her.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I’ve always been a writer in some capacity.  I’ve written for TV at CNN and Bloomberg and as a corporate writer have had articles published, mostly in national trade magazines, such as Barron’s, Career College Central or Tennis Magazine, to show the wide and wacky range of industries I represent.  The dream to write a book was always there but when I was pregnant and going through a divorce, I was incredibly hormonal and emotional. The experience inspired me to finally embark upon my first book.  I eat books for dinner some nights, and when I was going through this transition in my life, I was disappointed at the lack of fiction writers brave enough to cast a single mother as a heroine, and one who was inspirational, fun and funny.

My father is a beautiful writer and a clean, Spartan, funny one.  When I got those first few sentences out, he was tireless in his encouragement. It’s so hard not having a perception of whether your manuscript is good or birdcage-worthy.  He saw that it was a catharsis during a time of crisis and probably knew it was emotionally beneficial for me to work on it.  He never got bored hearing about how I was developing my character or changing the narrative voice or killing a scene.

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Larissa Hinton

YA writer Larissa Hinton is always working on both her writing and her marketing efforts.  Read more about some of the specific services she uses and her advice for finding your target audience.

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

An anthology that will quench your thirst for more than the ordinary.

Everblossom is a journey through poems and short stories that may seem ordinary on the surface but which digs a little deeper as the world not only shifts, but changes.

The author who brought you Iwishacana/Acanawishi now brings you a dash of everything from dark fantasy to the paranormal to even romance.  So prepare yourself to delve into the three stages of the flower from bud to blossom then back to seed; you’ll go through them all with a whole new perspective on what it all truly means.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

Ah, the question everybody wants to know.  Well, before I self-published, I was a staunch traditional publisher junkie.  I sent out query letters to publishers and agents every summer.  And I dreamed of that one day of getting the dream contract.

When the dream became a reality, I could hardly believe it.  There I was, the email of my dreams congratulating me on obtaining a contract and all I could do is cover my gaping mouth and think, “Oh.  My.  God.”

But of course, the contract was faulty so I walked away.  That was the hardest thing I had to do but I survived and started querying once again.  The more I queried, the more I got frustrated that no one saw my talent.  If I was talented to get a contract once, I could get it again. That’s what logic says.

And during this time, a lot or people from Critique Circle loved my book and wanted to buy it and were wondering when I was going to be published.  And it wasn’t just one person, it was multiple people.

Yet no contract came.  Instead, a professor talked about self-publishing and spouted about how much more money an author could make, but I just ignored him until Amanda Hocking’s story came to light.  Then came JA Konrath’s blog.  I read it and I couldn’t help but agree with his arguments.  And he made me laugh.  So after puzzling over the logic and what I thought was my dream of trad publishing, I decided to self-publish.

In short: I decided to self-publish because I was tired of waiting for someone to give me the green light.  Instead, I decided to believe in my books and my readers to find them.  I decided to self-publish and not look back.  And I’m glad I did.

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Glenn Langohr

His time in prison, and the life he turned around afterwards, form the basis of Glenn Langohr’s writings.  Learn how he got all seven of his books in the top 100 of their categories and what you can learn by studying other authors.

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

Curious about the drug war, gangs, or the atmosphere in the hardest core prisons in California?  I take you on a journey from a runaway childhood, to addict and drug dealer, into the drug war for an inside look at Mexican cartel wars, corrupt narcotic detectives and a California Prison Union bent on breeding bigger criminals.  Here’s a couple of reviews for my crime thriller, Underdog (Prison Killers Book 4).

“Ex-con Langohr can describe the hell of life inside better than any other writer.  His vivid passages on just surviving in prison describe a nightmare we’d rather not know about.  He compares the plight of abandoned dogs, locked and horribly mistreated in rows of cages in animal shelters, to California prison inmates, locked and abused in the same cages.  Not a book for the faint of heart.  We who sleep peacefully in our beds at night, unaware of the savagery going on behind prison walls, can only thankfully say: ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’.”  John South, American Media

“With lazer-like precision Glenn Langohr lays bare the festering under-belly of our criminal justice system in a driving, graphic narrative that somehow finds the humanity in this most inhuman setting.” Phillip Doran, TV Producer and Author

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

My first novel Roll Call was written from prison and when I got out, I read the Publishing Guide for Dummies and studied a lot of other self-publishing guides.  What I learned excited me to the point I went with Amazon and Createspace to put it in print and on the Kindle.

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

For all seven of my books, I’ve gone indie.  I love the control and freedom of being able to lower the prices, personally engage with readers, and not have to give most of the profits away.  I have published a few articles about the drug war and prison conditions in magazines to build up the expert status on the subjects.

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Gary Goldstein

Gary Goldstein turned his personal struggles into an inspiring story about the wages of addiction and the mistreatment he endured in prison.  Learn more about his unorthodox and creative marketing approach and his advice to new writers.

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

Jew in Jail is the remarkable true story of the nearly six years I spent incarcerated for robbery, which was a direct result of my past addictions to alcohol, drugs and gambling.

If you are fascinated by prison tomes, this book is for you.  It deals with not only the ins and outs of the New York State prison system, but my attempts at recovery from a lifetime of alcohol, drug and gambling abuse, all the while dealing with the constant prejudice and mistreatment I experienced at the hands of the corrections officers and my fellow prisoners alike.  If you have ever been an addict, or know a family member, spouse, friend, or co-worker who is currently battling an addiction, then this book will open your eyes and provide insights into this dreaded disease, and what it takes to get clean and sober.  Read Jew in Jail today.  It just might save your life, or the life of someone you love!

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I had a story to tell, and wanted to help people avoid all of the mistakes and pitfalls I made in life.

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

No, Jew in Jail was self-published through CreateSpace.  As a first-time, unknown author, I found it difficult getting accepted by traditional publishers.

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

Being hands-on, I like the fact that I am involved in every aspect of the process.  But, by the same token, doing so much of the work pertaining to the marketing of my book leaves little time for anything else.

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Jeff Rasley

Jeff Rasley’s experience with traditional publishing left him disillusioned and inspired him and his wife to start their own indie publishing company.  Read more about Jeff’s journey and how he learns the ropes of self-publishing.

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

Monsters of the Midway:  The Worst Team in College Football? is my most recent book.

In 1969, amidst the culture of sex, drugs, rock and roll, the draft lottery, the anti-war movement and radical feminism, the University of Chicago resurrected its football team after it had been dead for 30 years.  A small town Hoosier kid who just wanted to get the best education possible joins the team to build his resume.  His teammates are jocks, pot smokers and nerdy intellectuals.  Along with his teammates he is swept into the tumult of the late 1960s.  He falls in love with a radical feminist who demonstrates against the return of football to Chicago.  He rooms with a secular Jewish kid taking ballet whose father has begun manufacturing something called a computer chip.

An assistant coach rides Jack for not fully committing to the team.  His favorite professor chides him to concentrate on his studies. What sustains Jack through the bewildering cultural milieu, and the pressure of balancing sports and studies, is the tolerant understanding of his head coach, reconciliation with his girlfriend, and the friendship of his teammates.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I thought I was very lucky to publish my first book the traditional way and the publisher even spent some money on a publicist.  But the publisher refused to use the title I had chosen and used one I did not like; issued the book on an “accelerated schedule” six months after it was finished; published with a few typos despite three levels of editing; demanded I engage in time-consuming and unproductive promotional events; let the publicist get away with doing nothing except mailing the book to reviewers and libraries;   and lost interest in promoting the book when sales did not quickly reach best seller level.

I have since published five direct.  The titles are my own choice and the books are published as soon as they are finished.  Now, I still find myself engaging in time-consuming and unproductive promotional activities and I might have missed some typos.  And I sure wish someone would pay me an advance.  But, the gain in control and responsibility is worth the sacrifice.

My wife, Alicia Rasley, has published twice as many books as I have.   We have become so jazzed about the process of direct publishing we started our own indie publishing company to help others through the process of direct publishing.  It’s called Knowledge Capture Publishing & Editing.

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JK Mikals

JK Mikals, author of A Chip in Time, has found the self-publishing process enjoyable and educational.  She discusses how she listed all the marketing tasks she wanted to use and which methods ended up on that list.

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

Unkempt, lonely and full of self-pity after her recent divorce, the last thing on Cybele’s agenda is saving the world.  But saving the world is exactly what the Goddess of Time insists that she do.  Dead bodies are multiplying in Xanadu and the surrounding loco-weed filled mountains.  Fertility gods are reluctant to mate.  And worst of all, her only supplier for the Sacred Brine Shrimp so key to all godly technologies (and addictions) has run mad and can no longer supply them.  So when the goddess finds the naïve but well-meaning Cybele through a cosmic computer glitch, she is desperate enough to snatch the girl into the Akashic Records.  There, an appalled Cybele is equipped with special cameras and a crew of ghosts, told to re-arrange certain life sequences for different outcomes and to film her efforts to prevent future rewrites.  She is to give the head fertility god an attitude adjustment and then repair the time warp – she is to save the world.  If you like sci-fi, fantasy and/or romance novels, don’t take it all too seriously and like to laugh, you’ll love this book.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I’ve always been a do-it-yourselfer.  If I can possibly get my hands dirty with a process, then that’s for me.  If I were a guy and had been born 50 years sooner, I would have done the freighter-around-the-world thing just so I could have that background for writing.  I have really enjoyed learning how to publish and market.

3. Have you been traditionally published? 

Hee.  I guess you could say so.  When I was a freshman in high school my brother found an essay I had written about our grandfather.  I guess Bro thought it was pretty good, because he sent it off to Readers Digest.  And they apparently also thought it was decent, because they published it in The Most Unforgettable Character section and sent him a check for $25.  He never breathed a word until we were both in our forties.  I was also privileged to write and edit a stack of computer instruction books, and a whole lot of software specs.  As to novels, Chip is my first finished child and I obviously chose the indie route.

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

Self-publishing has been loads of fun for me.  I published on Smashwords.com and on Amazon.com and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

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Ken La Salle

Ken La Salle is active on a variety of artistic fronts, and his book, Climbing Maya, premiers today from Solstice Publishing.  Ken recounts his journey to self-publishing, recommends some vendors he’s used, and points out which methods you should avoid in your marketing.

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

Climbing Maya asks the question: “What is success?” and doesn’t let go until it has the answer.  Is it fame?  Is it family?  Do the old answers of career and money really hold up?  How can we have one word for something that means so many things?  How is it the dictionary gets it wrong?  When I lost my job, I looked to one friend taking care of his dying wife and another friend killing himself with alcohol, and decided to find the answer.  Climbing Maya weaves my search for an answer in the storyline of what happened to my friends and myself as we came to terms with this pivotal question.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I certainly did not become an indie writer out of any choice.  As a matter of fact, I’ve always pushed marketability and accessibility in my work.  I thought those two goals would help me find the mainstream.  As it turned out, however, they had little to do with it.

When I first conceived of Climbing Maya, of writing a book about success, I was unemployed and trying to think of ways I might be able to sell my writing.  I sat with my wife one night and said, “I could write a horror novel or I could write a philosophical memoir on success.”  You know, I wanted to give her clear choices.  Not surprisingly, my wife who is an incredible supporter and friend said, “Write what you want to write.”  So, I wrote Climbing Maya.  I later went back and wrote the horror novel, a zombie book called Wormfood Island.

Wormfood Island was picked up by Northern Frights Publishing, a small publisher out of Canada that is run by one of the best guys around.  Unfortunately, Northern Frights had to exist in a rotten economy and Wormfood Island did not come to pass, which hurt a great deal because I thought the horror novel would be the most marketable.  Around this time, I had a lot of my writer friends tell me I should be self-publishing.  You know, get on the digital bandwagon.  While I felt (and still feel) that mass exposure through a larger venue is the way to go, I knew there was some work that I could release myself, work that might have been too far from the mainstream for some and other work that I hadn’t considered approaching a publisher with, such as my compilations.

In the same month that Northern Frights had to back away from Wormfood Island, I got word from the woman who is now my agent about how much she loved Climbing Maya Climbing Maya is now being published by Solstice Publishing.

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