Marcia Barhydt

Marcia Barhydt has had success as both an indie author and a traditionally published author.  She talks about working with a publisher and networking with small groups to sell her book.

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

My first book, Celebrate Age, is a collection of articles that I wrote for Timeless Woman about a huge variety of topics of interest to women over 50.  The subtitle of my book is “Thoughts, Rants, Raves, and Wisdoms Learned after 50”.  I talk about a diverse selection of topics including how important our girlfriends are to us now, how it helps our lives to learn how to live in the moment, the pitfalls of online dating for older women, finding balance in our lives, jokes about older women and why they’re bad, and how to get out of the box we sometimes find ourselves in.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

For 32 years I was a flight attendant.  When I retired at age 55, I decided to do what I knew best and became a self-employed customer service trainer.  After about five years of doing that, I started writing a customer service column for a local paper and that led to me writing for Timeless Woman.

Since I didn’t get paid by Timeless Woman, I thought I could make up a small income if I turned my articles into a book.  And I also thought I might be able to touch more women, to give them my thoughts on some of the issues that we face today.  I knew nothing about publishing, so I decided to do it myself.  Ergo, an indie writer!

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

My upcoming book, One Small Voice, will be published by a traditional publisher.  And I’m doing that because I have the money to afford that now and, don’t laugh, but my publisher can do the formatting of this next book for me.  I did the formatting for Celebrate Age and it made me nuts!  I hated doing it!  Self-publishing left me with a good looking book; a publisher will leave me with a great looking book that looks more professional.

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

I was fortunate with my first book to know a woman, my printer, who gave me lots of tips about making the cover, the index, and formatting the pages.  I’m glad that I’ve self-published, glad for the knowledge and experience it gave me, and especially glad to know that I could do it again any time I wanted to.

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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.)

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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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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John J. Hohn

Author John J. Hohn has experience in marketing and sales that he’s been able to use, not only to drive plot, but to drive sales.  In this wide-ranging interview, John explains that background, as well as why he hired a publicist and why taking shortcuts can hurt indie writers.

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

I have published two books.  The first is a poetry chapbook entitled As I Was Passing By that I self-published in 2001.  I have been writing poetry since I was a boy and the time had come to publish a collection for my friends and family.

My novel, Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds, was first published in the fall of 2010.  It was well-received by reviewers with established credentials on the Internet.  I began the book after retiring from my position as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch in Winston-Salem, NC.  The book is the third novel for me.  The others are still in my file cabinet.  They represent my apprenticeship.

Deadly Portfolio flows out of my experience as a financial advisor, a position in which I had a unique perspective on the lives of my clients.  I came to know how they made decisions, how well they got along with their spouses, parents, and children, their trials at work or elsewhere in their lives.  I saw altruism and greed, generosity and miserliness.

The story is about four families and the tragedy that involves them all after one man, a financial advisor, bends the rules and makes an unauthorized trade in a client’s account.  His transgression sets off a string of events that ultimately claims the lives of three of the neighbors before Detective James Raker tracks down the killer and makes an arrest.

2. How have your sales been?

Sales have been steady.  I did not know what to expect at first.  I have sold approximately 500 copies, not including the Kindle version on Amazon.

3. What has been your experience with traditional publishing?

I tried to get an agent to represent my book for almost a year with no success.  I also sent queries to the few publishers who accept direct submissions.  I received a number of encouraging responses but no takers.

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Robert Brabham

I met Robert Brabham at a recent Charlotte Writers’ Club meeting and knew he’d make a good addition to the blog.  Robert is a short story writer whose genre is uniquely his own, and he shares his thoughts on writing and networking here. 

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

I was determined to have a book “out there” this year and culled together a mixed sampling of my short stories in Does This Knife In My Back Make My Butt Look Big?  Tales of Madness, Eisegesis, and Other Unpardonables.  It is available on Amazon and Lulu.com.  The stories fall under the appellation of speculative fiction, but run the gamut of literary, sci-fi, humorous, experimental, and a couple of out and out horror yarns.  I like to call my work “intense fiction.”  Faulkner said the job of the writer is to express the conflict in the human heart and I suppose that’s what I’m after.  When people ask me where I get my ideas, my response is: I don’t get ideas; they get me.

2. How have your sales been?

Sales have been more than modest without a substantial advertising campaign.

3. How does self-publishing compare with traditional publishing?

I have had success with some short stories with Down in the Dirt magazine, which publishes on demand with Lulu.com and is now available on Amazon.  The short stories also appear on their website.  Down in the Dirt is more of an independent soul and not a traditional publisher.  I self-published my collection of stories with Lulu.com and found their advertising offers prohibitive in cost and have been relying on social media thus far.

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Shel Horowitz

Shel Horowitz has worn many hats – consultant, copywriter, author, speaker.  In this wide-ranging interview he touches on numerous topics including marketing, the art of self-publishing, networking – and, of course, his books.

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

I’m fortunate that I have a gift for explaining complex concepts in clear, simple language – and that I love doing this.  I’ve been writing professionally since the 1970s, and writing books is an outgrowth of the many articles I’ve written.  When I have something to share that would be way too big for an article, a book makes sense.  I’ve done it eight times so far.

The ones still in print:

Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green, co-authored with Jay Conrad Levinson (the Guerrilla Marketing man): a guide to marketing in the green marketplace, including many advanced yet easy/inexpensive techniques for marketing in general.

Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers, a whole book on marketing books.

Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World, one of the best Marketing 101 primers out there.

The first two offer large bonus packages, by the way – things other people have offered so as to reach my audience. The Guerrilla book has $2000 worth.  It’s a good strategy.

2. How have your sales been?

Sales are modest, but the important thing is that the right people buy.  People buy my books and then hire me as a marketing consultant and copywriter, as a publishing consultant or as a speaker.

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