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.)

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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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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H.P. Stephenson/Kathryn Tedrick

H.P. Stephenson and Kathryn Tedrick are the authors of War of the Staffs: Quest for the Staff of Adaman.  In this interview, they discuss why they use blogging and social media – and why they advise against using a marketing firm.

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

A powerful vampire wizard named Taza is brought through the void by Adois, a vengeful goddess who lends him her staff so that he can take over the planet, Muira, and turn it from good to evil.  He convinces a race of dark elves to take on the cloak of vampirism, but his careful planning is jeopardized when Prince Tarquin is born to fulfill a prophecy.  Tarquin, however, cannot succeed alone, and when Morganna, an Illanni noble woman, threatens Taza’s plans, she prevents her cousin from destroying the prophecy.

Tarquin is sent to the dwarvan militia to learn combat and survival skills by joining an elite group of soldiers known as the Borderers. He is championed by the wizard, Celedant, who begins his search for the Staff of Adaman – the only object capable of defeating the Staff of Adois.

Book one of the trilogy, The Quest for the Staff of Adaman, begins with the search for the first of two pieces of the ancient staff as Taza’s assassins hunt the prince to thwart the prophecy.  Tarquin, however, is not the only target.  Celedant must confront not only assassins, but powerful and dangerous creatures that Taza brings through the void to destroy him and the growing resistance among the dwarves, wood elves, and high elves.  But first, Celedant must take the final test to become a Master Wizard.  If he passes, he will be able to battle the Staff of Adois and the monster that wields it.  If he fails, not only will the world be overrun by evil, but Celedant will be lost in the Dragon’s Tear for all eternity.

[We] both love epic fantasy and have always wanted to develop our own series.

2. You’ve not worked with a traditional publisher.  Why?

We tried to go the traditional route, but although several seemed interested, they didn’t want to take a risk, or else did not handle epic fantasy.  So with so many people self-publishing e-books, etc., we decided to give it a try.

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