Stephanie Briggs

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.)

Rozsa Gaston

Rozsa Gaston approaches her writing with energy and a love for life.  She has also invested time in a unique marketing technique involving bookmarks and reverse psychology, and she shares some of her ideas here.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?

They’re about self-discovery and self-acceptance.  Paris Adieu, my latest book, has two themes: 1) how to be comfortable in your own skin and 2) how to fake it till you make it.  Paris Adieu’s heroine, Ava Fodor, is clueless about both at the start of the book.  By the end, she’s figured out a thing or two – thanks to the insights living in Paris has given her.  Ava studies French women, French food, French attitude – while French men study her.  By the end of Paris Adieu, she’s more or less transformed herself into the woman she wants to be.  And if she hasn’t entirely, at least she’s learned how to fake it till she makes it.  But where to take her act?  Back to New York, of course, where Ava grasps that her newfound sense of self will work for her in a way it never will if she stays in Paris.  After all, she’s not French.  What she is, is fabulous.  I’m still working on both themes.

2. How have your sales been?

Slouching toward fabulous, darling.  Why do you think I’m doing this interview?

3. Have you sought a traditional publisher?

I have and will continue to seek one.  In the meantime, I want to spend my time writing books, and sharing with like-minded people in cyberspace – which means all over the world – instead of sending out query letters that never get a response.  No interaction dulls my interest.

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Jason King

Jason King is a fantasy epic writer looking to carve out a unique niche in the genre.  Here he talks about his book, which marketing tools have worked, and which ones haven’t.

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

My book is called Valcoria: Children of the Crystal Star, and is a fast-paced, high-action, epic fantasy.  Those familiar with the works of Robert Jordan, Jim Butcher, and Brandon Sanderson will recognize a similar flavor in my writing.  Valcoria has several main characters, and often changes narrative points of view, but the plot centers around a teenage street-thief named Yuiv, and a soldier-swordsman named Sitrell who are thrown together when their city is attacked by an invading army.  Through the efforts of an anonymous sympathizer, they escape execution and are given vital information that they need to deliver to the leaders of their kingdom.

As they undertake an urgent quest to save the kingdom of Amigus, Yuiv and Sitrell soon learn that they are part of something much larger in scope than simple political intrigue or war.  They are players in a conflict between two gods, one striving to protect Valcoria and mankind, and the other seeking to rule and destroy it.

2. How have your sales been?

I’ve sold more e-books than printed copies, which is what I expected and in line with the current industry trends.  It hasn’t taken off the way I had hoped, but the blame for that is on my lack of marketing, something that I am trying to remedy.

3. You have not sought a traditional publisher.  Why?

Originally, I was pitching my manuscript to agents and publishers, but wasn’t having much luck.  A friend suggested I try Amazon KDP, and so I published Valcoria myself as something of an experiment.

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Barbara Fleming

Barbara Fleming writes from personal experience with her book, The Backwards Buddhist: My Introduction to Dzogchen.  Here she talks about a variety of marketing techniques and why she would choose to only self-publish.

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

The beginning of the writing process was a challenge to write a book in a month.  The story, of necessity, was autobiographical so that it required no research.  Having just completed part one of recreating myself from the ground up by divesting myself of every spiritual thought or preconception I ever had from birth to age 50, it was a logical choice of subject matter.  The path I chose was so unlikely for me, it seemed a great example of the improbable becoming true.  My premise was I could choose to live in a world created by some perception of how things should be, I could just show up every day ready to embrace whatever arose, or I could experiment with any one of an infinite variety of combinations of the two.  Tibetan Buddhism is not the first place most westerners look to find their personal path, but it was mine, so that is what the journey is all about.  Finding a path with potential but no map and no fixed destination was my recipe for self-discovery.  Setting off on such a quest just because I could, and recording the journey to show the potential, complete with embarrassing pitfalls as well as triumphs, should anyone else want to do so, is the major point of the book.

2. How have your sales been?

Sales have been surprising.  My expectations were zero, so selling a few hundred was quite fine and I continue to sell.  The most surprising sales were triggered by the inclusion of my title on a college neuro-science course reading list, the subject being the Brain and Meditation, quite a hot topic these days.

3. You have not sought a traditional publisher.  Why?

I did not seek a traditional publisher because no one owes me any personal favors.

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Paul Xavier Jones

Paul Jones is a sci-fi writer who draws influence from his own family and lifetime of reading.  In this interview he discusses why he’s avoided traditional publishing and which marketing techniques have not worked for him.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?

My Epic Fantasy “Ameca J” series is a trilogy that takes place in the fictional world of “Mythrania” and is based on my two daughters.  The inspiration comes from a lifetime of reading fantasy and science fiction, and a genuine desire to promote “family” values for my two girls who were always fighting.  So the inspiration was, what if it was only the two of them, trapped in an unknown, dangerous world populated by strange and savage creatures?  Would the eldest girl step up to the responsibility of keeping the younger safe?

My first “Blake Trubble” novel is a sci-fi/thriller, the idea for which came to me while I was researching the first Ameca J novel, and in particular the Large Hadron Collider experiment situated on the borders of France/Switzerland.  As a big fan of the Alien, Predator and John Carpenter’s “Thing” movies, I wanted to create a similar paranoia but this time in a sealed facility 15 miles in diameter and located underground.  Throw in two deadly enemies and 400 hostages and an unknown menace, and you have some great ingredients for a classic sci-fi/thriller.  Blake Trubble is the name of the main character, a major in the SAS, and allows me to use quite a few cheesy lines, such as “You want trouble, you’ll get it.  Major Trubble.”

2. How have your sales been?

Sales are slow.  But that is because I’ve self-published and self-promoted, which takes more time to do than actually writing the books themselves.

3. Have you sought a traditional publisher?  Why or why not?

I have not sought a traditional publisher.  There are several reasons why not, the first of which is the inspirational stories of Amanda Hocking and John Locke, both impressive success stories of people who have self-published and self-promoted.  Another reason is I have no patience for writing submissions and synopses; if I’ve just written a hundred thousand word novel, I am not going to try and condense it into two pages for some lazy publisher or agent.  Finally, the true judge of a good book should not be a publisher or agent, but rather the public.

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Helen Carey

Helen Carey is both a traditionally published author as well as an indie.  She offers her views on both camps and what marketing techniques, including a YouTube video, she’s used in her own efforts.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?

I am best known for my London-based wartime novels, Lavender Road, Some Sunny Day and On a Wing and a Prayer which were all commissioned by Orion.  My neighbor in London had lived through the Second World War and her stories of people showing courage in adversity gave me the idea for a series of novels following the lives of a number of people living on one particular street.  In On a Wing and a Prayer one of the characters, Helen de Burrel, joins the SOE and is sent into Nazi occupied France.  A lot of readers told me that they had found the final scenes of that book very exciting as Helen evades the Germans to blow up the ships in Toulon Harbor.  I enjoyed writing those scenes too and it gave me the idea of writing a contemporary thriller or crime novel.

My latest novel, Slick Deals, is a pacy, exciting crime adventure set in Monaco, London and West Wales, where I now live.  The main characters are a chic London city-girl oil trader, Ella Crossley, and a rather scruffy American environmentalist, Nick Jardine.

2. How have your sales been?

All the books are selling well.  I am pleased with the progress so far.

3. You’re relatively new to self-publishing.  How have you liked it so far?

I have enjoyed having control over the content and design of the books.  Doing it yourself takes away all the frustrations about publishers failing to do things they had promised to do.  On the other hand there is the knowledge that if mistakes slip through they are your own fault!

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Andromeda Edison

Andromeda Edison helps promote independent authors, and draws on her deep experience with internet marketing.  Here she discusses her work and what she’s learned about e-books and self-publishing.

1. You’ve been in internet marketing since 1996.  Describe the sort of work you’ve done.

I started in search engine optimization in 1996 before there was a name for it.  I expanded and changed with the industry, so that I got involved in email marketing, blogs, social media marketing and others as these things came on the field.  In 2011 I expanded to e-books creation and marketing where all my Internet marketing skills can be utilized.

2. How has internet marketing changed since you first got involved with it?

Unfortunately this is a loaded question; a lot has changed since I first started, this could be (and is) a whole book.  When I first started there were very few avenues you could utilize: search engines, forums and email was it.  Now there are a lot of different ways you can go and you have to take a look at each one to see which ones will be best for reaching the public.

The fun part is that the changes haven’t stopped, just like technology evolves (check out the latest iPhone compared to the one before).

3. Your experience in this field is quite extensive.  What advice do you have for indie writers looking to use the web in their marketing efforts?

The Internet is becoming a world of interaction, you can’t just post information up and expect people to come to it.  You have to drive people to you and the way you drive people to you is going where they are and enticing them with some of what they are looking for.  Authors are mini-celebrities (and they get bigger based on how much they sell) and people love to be connected to mini-celebrities in a personal way so you can use this for all it is worth.

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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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Susan Hira

With a business background, Susan Hira knows how to approach self-publishing from a variety of angles.  In this interview she suggests a laundry list of marketing tips, including how she uses YouTube to promote her book.

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

Here’s a long summary of the book:

In Susan Hira’s bold debut, The Werwolf on Eagle’s Nest Mountain, Hira places the fictional child of the most infamous Nazi high up in the mountains of a Minnesota ski resort.  Written for middle school children to young adults, this mystery thriller adds a dramatic twist on history.

All Nick, Jack, and Mike wanted to do was have an epic snow session at a large resort.  But due to budget constraints, their new history teacher insisted that the ninth grade winter class trip be held at the Eagle’s Nest Mountain Ski and Snowboard Resort, a dilapidated dump with only three lame lifts.  When the kids attempt to shred the prime fresh powder in the Arctic Bowl at the top of the mountain, a sniper attacks and forces them to jump from a lift in mid-air.

Before the assassin can strike again, the boys decide to investigate and discover a secret lair inside the mountain used to warehouse and redistribute stolen goods.  They realize that all clues lead to an elite guerrilla movement started near the end of World War II known as the “Werwolf” organization and the long-lost gold and art plundered by the Nazis during the war.  The ringleader of the newly formed gang, a direct descendant of a Hitler Youth Werwolf, is raising money to fund the new regime.  Like an assault rifle firing at close range, the boys’ beliefs of good versus evil are shattered as they navigate the emotional fallout from those trying to live down the infamy of their ancestors, some with pride, while others with shame.

As Nick, Jack, and Mike battle for their lives armed only with skis and snowboards, they must figure out whom to trust – or their electrifying ride down the mountain will be their last.

I wrote this book because I injured my knee snowboarding and had to take a season off to heal and do physical therapy.  My father and I are snowboarding buddies and always shredded together, so I missed our time talking and goofing off when I was sidelined.  He is very knowledgeable about World War II, so he served as the historical editor on the book which allowed us to spend time together in a different way than in the past.  I think we both impressed each other with our contributions to this book!

Writing the snowboarding/skiing scenes were a blast!  I felt like I was on the slopes again; it made missing the snowiest winter in years bearable.

2. How have your sales been?

Not enough to quit my day job.

3. You have not been published by a traditional publisher. Why?

I knew when I started writing it that traditional publishers would not want to take a chance on a book for young adults that features a lot of World War II history including the Werwolf organization.  Also, I have a business background and enjoy the other sides of self publishing including marketing, accounting, and cost analysis.

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Scott Price

Scott Price writes in the spirituality and self-help genre and is the author of Power to Awaken: Totality.  His incremental approach to marketing is more focused on direct interaction with readers, and he shares his thoughts on that here.

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

I was motivated to create Power To Awaken: Totality to find a special place beyond the current mold of “pop-spirituality” and the simplicity of the message of being presented.  This book provides a retreat for the reader to find their own stillness, self-reflection and silence which leads them to their own experience based on who they are and what they believe to be true.  I just found in my reading that there is a lot of telling from a position of authority when “spirituality” cannot be told, it just is everything seen and unseen and it has to be known on a person by person basis.  Thus this book gives some topics for contemplation and then quickly exposes the importance of going beyond the mind and into a space of trust and deep listening to connect with higher powers.

2. How have your sales been?

This project has just been released.  Sales of the best quality PDF version of the book through my site have been the highest.

3. Have you been published by a traditional publisher?  Why or why not?

I am submitting to a couple hand-selected publishers in this specific genre and will see how it goes.  The best thing I can do here is let the quality and uniqueness of the content speak for itself.

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