Gilly Fraser

Gilly Fraser has been traditionally published and so has seen both sides of the writing profession.  She advises indies to edit their books and work tirelessly to get them in the hands of 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 my book Forbidden Love and Other Stories were to be reborn as a curry, it would be hotter than a korma, but not as spicy as a vindaloo.  It would probably be something like a Chicken Tikka Masala!  The four short stories in this collection have nothing in common except romance, and a touch of humor.

In Slippery When Wet, Maxine has to decide if she’s living a dream come true or a nightmare when the man of her fantasy turns up unannounced in a swimming pool.

In the title story Forbidden Love, rock star Jake Lee is drawn back to his roots and the girl who first inspired him.  But has he left it too late to go home?

In The Great Pretender, a tale of love and retribution is played out through the ages – but not unobserved.

And in Melissa and the Cowboy, lust can happen along at the most inopportune moment.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I love the independence of it.  It’s not an easy option – far from it – but I relish the opportunities and the freedom it affords to the writer.  I’m aware that this freedom is open to abuse by those who are content to publish sub-standard material and so it’s up to those writers who genuinely love their craft to produce the very best work possible.

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

Yes – I had nine books published by Mills & Boon under the pen-name of Rachel Elliot and I’m very proud of that.  I hope the rights will soon revert to me so that I can publish the backlist, though I’m quite keen to rewrite the books to some extent to make them fresh and up to date.

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Kathryn Jones

Kathryn Jones has worked with a local publisher, but chose to self-publish after learning she could make more money doing it herself.  Here she explains her use of postcards and CreateSpace as part of an overall marketing strategy.

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

Struggling?  Want to make your life better?  Perhaps you feel as if your life is already taking you down the right path.  Want to improve it?  Try talking to God.  Conquering Your Goliaths: A Parable of the Five Stones is for anyone desiring to travel beyond mediocrity, pain and fear.  Want to take your life to the next level?  You’ll want to read this book.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I like having my hand in all of the variables of publishing: book cover creation, formatting, marketing….

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

Not traditionally in the sense of a national publisher picking up my book, but my first book was published by a local publisher.  I did most of the marketing and figured that I could make more money doing the book myself while still being able to market my book.

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

I love it!  My husband is a big help; he has learned to do all of the formatting, all of the technical stuff to get a book looking great, and I help him decide on a cover and the general layout of the book.  CreateSpace is a great place to get your work published.  Less than $50 is spent getting a title in print, and books are printed as they are sold (POD) so the investment is small.

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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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Paul Mila

Paul Mila, author and underwater photographer, makes the ocean an integral part of his writing.  Although he uses social media, he also makes presentations at trade shows and speaks before groups to market his book.  He discusses this and a host of other techniques he suggests.

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

Dangerous Waters is the perfect book if you’re looking for an enjoyable, easy beach read while relaxing under a coconut palm.  Appealing to divers and non-divers alike, the story is a fast-paced, action-adventure thriller about a young woman’s struggle to overcome adversity.  Dangerous Waters has all the ingredients for a gripping undersea adventure: ferocious sharks, friendly dolphins, nefarious criminals, and enough chemistry between an athletic, sexy heroine and a bold, yet sensitive, hero to spark romance in the steamy Caribbean.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I accidentally fell into the indie class as a result of deciding to forge ahead despite rejection from the traditional publishing channels.
My philosophy: I’d rather be self-published than non-published.

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

Nope.  Why not?  It’s not for lack of trying, since I sent numerous query letters to agents for each of my three novels before deciding to self-publish.  Who knows why the traditional community of agents and publishers rejects authors and manuscripts?  They have many reasons.

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

Self-publishing has been both wonderfully rewarding, and also extremely frustrating.

Rewarding because of the many unsolicited e-mails I’ve received from readers who enjoy my books, and from the incredibly interesting people I have met, and with whom I have become friends, along my literary journey.

Frustrating because you are continually fighting the never-ending credibility battle: convincing bookstore to carry your books, convincing reviewers to review your self-published book, convincing people to buy your book.

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Petra Kidd

Petra Kidd is a short story writer who is new to self-publishing but has already learned a great deal.  She explains why marketing must be a constant focus of authors, why she doesn’t use KDP Select, and why she works hard to avoid spamming potential customers.

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

The Eight of Swords takes you through Jayne Patchett’s thoughts and emotions when she arrives home to find a family of Romanian gypsies has taken over her house.  It makes you wonder what you would do in the same situation.  Her reactions might surprise you and you will be compelled to read on to find out what her actions are upon this discovery.

It’s a short story but a big story!

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I had been studying the rise in e-publishing with interest for some time.  The idea of having total control over the cover design, format and getting instant feedback particularly appealed to me.  I am not a terribly patient person and I like to see results quickly.

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

I wrote a couple of novel manuscripts around ten years ago and spent some time sending them out to agents only to receive rejections. Although I was keen to carry on writing, I’d just started a business and that took over my life so seeking a traditional publisher went by the wayside.  In a way I am glad I didn’t have success at that time.  With hindsight I can see how much my writing has improved and I have learned a lot over the past ten years.  I wrote a weekly column for the Eastern Daily Press around five years ago and that was a real turning point for me.  It was very encouraging to have such a large regional paper be prepared to pay me for my writing and it gave me confidence to continue.

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Malika Gandhi

Malika Gandhi, author of Freedom of the Monsoon, is a writer who’s chosen the indie route after being denied the traditional route.  She talks about her book and all the work she did to learn how to self-publish the right way.

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

Ever wondered what your life would be like if it was suddenly turned around by one thought, one action?

Ever thought you were safe?

Ever sacrificed in honor of your country?

1942 saw the beginning of an Indian ‘war’ against the British Raj as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s cry of Quit India was felt across the subcontinent of India.  Meet Rakesh, Dev, Pooja, Amit and Sunil; five individuals with their own story to tell.

Read how they fought, sacrificed and hoped for a ‘Free India’ as they struggled against the horrendous happenings of the Independence Era.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?  Have you been traditionally published?  Why or why not?

Like so many, I tried the traditional channel of becoming published and like so many, my manuscript was declined as the clientele lists of the publishers and literary agents were full and couldn’t possibly take on any more.  Taking a step back I reflected on what to do – keep trying to have my manuscript accepted or try self-publishing?

My editor, John Hudspith (see his website, kimissecret.wordpress.com), pointed out the benefits of going down the indie route.  The more I researched into this, the more I became convinced to try this.

Becoming an indie writer was like a breath of fresh air which gave me the opportunity to have my book published far quicker than going through the traditional route.

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

I find self-publishing exciting.  It is a beautiful journey into one’s creative ability.  It is hard work but which comes with self-satisfaction.

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Barry Finlay

Barry Finlay has turned the adventure of a lifetime into Kilimanjaro and Beyond, available on Amazon and other platforms.  Barry has done book signings, presentations, and used social media – among other techniques – and shares his thoughts here.

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

Kilimanjaro and Beyond is a true life adventure about my journey, at age 60, from the couch to a mountain top and beyond with my son.  It describes the mental and physical challenges of scaling one of the world’s seven summits.  But it also describes my family’s work to use the mountain as a platform to raise enough money to build a classroom and drill a well in one of Africa’s poorer communities.  It is the story of the satisfaction one can achieve by helping oneself and others.

Kilimanjaro and Beyond leaves us with two messages.  The first is that it is never too late to pursue a dream.  The second is that every mountain top we face is within reach if we just keep climbing.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I realized when I started to make presentations about my journey after we returned that I had a story to tell that was interesting and inspirational for people.  I decided that it was a story waiting to be written and that I wanted to write it.

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

I have not been traditionally published.  I sent a few feelers out but I really didn’t pursue it seriously after reading about other author experiences.  I wanted the book to come out as soon as possible so the self-publishing route seemed to be the way to go.

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

It has been a good experience although I think every self-published author will tell you that writing the book is the easy part.  Making people aware of it is much more difficult.

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Paul Fox

Paul Fox is a science fiction and fantasy writer who stays busy with new writing projects.  Paul explains why he has avoided using press releases and instead focuses his marketing campaign on email and social media.

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

I have a quick-read fantasy novella, Sea-Change, that’s available as an e-book or paperback.  It is the story of a young bride-to-be, betrayed by her fiancé, who escapes her captors and makes use of ancestral lore to change her dismal fate and seek revenge.  By invoking the ancient powers, she becomes, in fact, the son her father never had.  But she has only two weeks, until the time of the new moon, to get back to her home country and confront her betrayer before the spell ends and she becomes a woman again.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

My initial motivation was to publish a small collection of poetry, which is a hard sell by the traditional routes.  I wanted it available to present as a surprise Valentine’s Day present to my wife.  This first book was only available in PDF format, but I learned enough from the process to encourage me to self-publish again in 2011.  This past year (2011) I expanded that first book of poetry and published it as a second edition.  Further, I had a novella-length story that proved to be too long for most magazines and too short for traditional book publishers, and so self-publication seemed to be the answer.  To date this has been, I think, a good choice.

3. Have you been traditionally published?

No, I haven’t, at least not yet, been traditionally published; not with book publishers at any rate.  I do have a magazine credit as one of 14 authors who collaborated on a story-in-the-round that appeared in the Jan-Feb-March 2010 issue of Golden Visions Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

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

The best part is that you know where you are in the process at all times.  I’ve also had to learn a lot about such things as: book and cover design; e-book requirements and distribution strategies.  And then there’s the marketing.  Overall I like the control one has over the final product.

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David Therrien

David Therrien is a writer in the inspirational Christian genre who is looking to become professionally published.  He explains which methods have worked and which haven’t, as well as what indie authors should prepare for when they’re ready to market.

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

I see so many hurting people in my life and this world.  There is a lot to take their minds off of their problems (for a while) but not much to change the way they see their problems.  I like to write true stories based on biblical principles to give people a more encouraging and optimistic outlook on life.  All is not forsaken.  They can salvage their lives and live in hope.

2. How have your sales been?

The books I’ve been able to sell, a few hundred of each title, are from my own personal marketing.

3. You have not been traditionally published. Why?

I am in the process of looking for a professional editor so I can submit a few of my titles to a traditional publisher.  I believe I have a few titles that would hit the mark with quite a few people.

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

I love writing.  I feel it is something I can offer to my fellow-man.  Everyone can make a contribution in some way and writing is my way. (I hope).

5. What sort of marketing techniques have you used to sell your books, and which ones have been most successful?

I have used Facebook, to no avail.  I have used the newspaper, to no avail.  I have used the radio, to no avail.  I believe it is my faithful following that just keep buying my books.

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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.)