Jeff Vande Zande

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

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

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

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

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

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

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

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A.D. McLain

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

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

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

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

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

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

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

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Christos Jonathan Hayward

Christos Jonathan Hayward has worked hard to hone his style over the years, producing numerous Orthodox Christian writings.  Read about his shift from hardback books to e-books and which site he avoids in marketing his book.

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.

My website at JonathansCorner.com since 2001 has housed twenty years of writing and creative work.  The very best have been crystallized into The Best of Jonathan’s Corner: An Anthology of Orthodox Christian Theology, and some people are already calling it a classic.  All my other books have gotten five stars with the Midwest Book Review; this one is set to have a review out in April.  It’s a collection of the best religion, spirituality, and faith works that I have to offer, and it has also been called an excellent entrance point to my vast collection of works. (The total collection is a fair bit longer than the Bible–there’s a lot there.)  And if you buy one e-book of mine, I don’t think anyone would object to your choosing this one.

That, and take a look at the foreword.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Well, two things.

First of all, impulses to creative writing.  Second, these impulses came just when the web was appearing, and helped me begin to establish a presence, when by sheer random luck I got into the web before it was important.  I don’t think I accomplished something so much as being in the right place at the right time.

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

I’ve been published with Packt Publications, a professional programming book called “Django JavaScript Integration”.  The experience was overall positive, but I don’t know if I’ll go that route again.

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

It’s been a nice “a la carte” way of publishing.  Normally the author does most of the publishing with or without a publisher’s support; this was pointed out to me by a friend who’s an editor, a published author, and chose to go indie with her own Waltzing Australia.

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P.I. Barrington

P.I. Barrington blends sci-fi and romance in a unique and accessible way with her book Isadora DayStar.  Read why she prefers traditional over indie publishing and how she uses reviews in her marketing strategy.

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

When drug-addled assassin Isadora DayStar finally snags a major interplanetary killing job, she thinks it will both support her habit and revise her status as the laughingstock of her profession.  Instead, she embarks on a journey that brings her face to face with her tortured past.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

First, I think I wanted to see what I could do with a novel that didn’t have too much romance and, more importantly, how people would respond to something darker in sci-fi.  Also, I think I wanted more control of what I was writing, how I was promoting it, breaking out of rules of genre and publishing.  I wanted something that both men and women would find interesting rather than staying within the usual boundaries of what women read which is mostly romance.

I wanted to bring women to the idea of reading something outside their comfort zone that was still interesting and engaging to them.  I also desperately wanted to have men read and respond to my novels too.  I thought they would respond positively by the grittiness as opposed to tossing the book thinking “Ugh, romance.”  The first man to review it loved it so much he compared it to Gene Roddenberry.  I wanted to be free enough to write something commercially viable and attractive to both men and women.

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

Both now with Isadora.  I personally prefer traditional publishing for several reasons. First you have editors who are generally excellent and are just as committed to making your work a success.  They double check your work and let you know what needs to be fixed.  I have no problem with that at all.  Second, the responsibility of creating cover art for your novels is not on your shoulders and I was blessed with literally the best cover artist in the world for my first trilogy, Future Imperfect.  Third, psychologically, you have the security of a publisher behind you, regardless of how much they participate or don’t in your promotional efforts.

I first tried a traditional publisher rather than self-published because I wanted the experience of working with one and for the reasons listed above, including to see if I was good enough for someone to accept my work.  I have no complaints about that experience whatsoever.  It taught me so much and I’m so appreciative of that.  It boosted my professionalism and made me take my writing seriously.

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

It’s much more work.  As I said, with traditional publishing, you have people who double check everything and help you polish your manuscripts and create your book covers.  With self-publishing, you’re responsible for all that.  It’s more frustrating doing it yourself, especially trying to stay on top of things on your own.  As I said, self-publishing is a lot more work but the freedom you gain with it balances it out for the most part.

5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?

Usually, creating a professional relationship between myself and reviewers works well for me.  I approach them personally and try to be as professional as possible at the first contact.  I make sure to let them know I am appreciative and I also make sure they know that I want as honest a review as possible.  I used to be a newspaper reporter so I still believe in not influencing the press so to speak.  Amazingly, that very first man to review my work was completely unsolicited.  He got word of it via a Facebook remark, picked it up and loved it—I thanked the person who mentioned it and the reviewer as well.

Courtesy goes a long way.  I’m just about to start my very first blog tour this month (April) and I’ve never done one before so I’ll see how that goes—I think it will be pretty positive.

6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?

Well, lately I’ve been staying away from big book sites like GoodReads or Shelfari and a lot of group sites.  I’m not good at them and it leads to frustration for me.  Plus I don’t have the time to devote to them as they need; you really can’t take advantage of what they offer unless you participate regularly.  I’m always writing—always.  Plus, I’m not a people person so that makes it more difficult too.

7. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?

If I’d known people would respond so positively and that you could submit to agents and editors as a debut author, I’d have done that.  I thought you had to have all these writing credentials so I went with publishing first.  But I’ve seen so many agents and editors who have accepted authors with nothing published before that I regret not researching that first of all.

8. What projects are you currently working on?

I must tell you first off that I am very superstitious about talking about things before they happen—comes from years of working in Hollywood!  Let’s see, what can I tell you?  I am working on two sci-fi projects (both with definitely more romance than my previous stuff—it’s a major plot line actually) a mystery, and a sci-fi novella I started years ago.

9. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?

P.I. Barrington is the brand.  Under that banner there are different genres: sci-fi, commercial, horror shorts on occasion, a little bit of romantic-type stuff.  P.I. Barrington is the brand that I want people to associate with intense writing; I want it to be instantly recognizable as quality work.

10. How can readers learn more about your books?

They’re available on Amazon.com, Smashwords.com, and DesertBreezePublishing.com.  I also have an official website with information at thewordmistresses.com (my sister, Loni Emmert, and I both co-author and write independently).

Blogs: pibarrington.wordpress.com, thewriterlimitsauthors.blogspot.com, and occasionally a column or two for CuriosityQuills.com.

Mike Maher

Mike Maher crafts fiction from his own real life experiences with The Colour Party – A Novel, about a young Irish-American political activist.  Mike discusses why the self-publishing route was a much better fit for his 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, The Colour Party – A Novel, is not limited to one genre.  It’s an autobiographical novel set mostly in Dublin and New Orleans a few years ago.  It has the Northern Irish war as a backdrop.  And it shows an average young American who goes there planning to write a book but ends up being drawn into the conflict.  Nick Marr, the protagonist, also travels back to America on some risky business.  The bulk of the story is taken from real life.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I always dabbled in writing.  One reason I quit college and traveled around getting involved in things I saw was to have something to write about!  But the war that I thought would last five years tops dragged on much longer.  By that time I lost interest in commercial writing.  I just wanted to write a sort of memoir for my family.  But Amazon’s CreateSpace seemed too good to pass up.  Since self-publishing last August I’ve gotten positive feedback.  So I decided to try reaching out to more readers.

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

No, I have not been published before.  Some parts of my story were too controversial.  So I never was ready to go public, and didn’t have the time anyway.

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

My experience with self-publishing has been quite positive.

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Nancy Popovich

Nancy Popovich’s latest book, Malice & Murder, developed from a spy series she wrote and is currently the focus of her marketing and promotion energy.  Read about her methods as well as the learning curve she experienced as an indie writer.

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

If you enjoy reading the adventures of ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances, continuing characters that grow and evolve, and the escapades of a group of agents from various intelligence agencies, you will love the four books in the Spy Series (Spies & Lies, SecretsBacklash and The Puppet). The action moves them back and forth from Canada to England, and Paris.  Family ties take on new dimensions as our intrepid group reacts to the situations and revelations thrust upon them.  The climax of the last book in the series, The Puppet, is the springboard for my latest book, Malice & Murder.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

See #3 below.

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

I have not been traditionally published, and it was not for lack of trying.  I could paper a room with rejection slips – and not all agents and publishers answered my queries. After a length of time, I stopped beating my head against that particular brick wall. My stories sat on my computer for almost ten years.

In answer to #2, when I discovered that it was possible to indie publish, I took the plunge, sink or swim.

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

I like the control of self-publishing.  But it requires dedication, business sense and hard work.  Make no mistake, the fun part is writing, but self-publishing must be approached in a business-like manner.  A self-published author must do for themselves or hire assistance for all that is done by traditional publishers—professional editing, beta reading, cover design and publicity.

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P.B. Dillon

P.B. Dillon, sci-fi author from New Zealand, turned away from traditional publishing after a bad experience.  He discusses that and which methods he now uses as an indie author.

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

The Mage-Wrought Warrior is a fantasy series, the first two books of which are Mage-Wrought and Urgitwoods.  It’s the story of Lito, a hero like no other.  Given life by Garvin, he must struggle against impossible odds to save the life of Tyrealla, Garvin’s daughter – all the while wrestling with the riddle of his own existence.

It won’t be easy: they’re about to be attacked by the Kelits, fierce warriors who paint themselves blue and file their teeth.  Their leader is a Dark Mage who will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal.  The Dark Mage seeks immortality – which he believes he can gain through the use of a jewel that forms part of Tyrealla’s favorite necklace.

Added to this are the complications that Lord Cirovan believes Lito was made to protect him; Tyrealla treats him as if he were repulsive; and, because of how he came into being, Lito doubts that he qualifies as fully human.

Will Lito be able to help defeat the invading Kelits?  Will he be able to save Tyrealla from the Dark Mage?  Will he win her over, or learn to accept who and what he is?

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Publishing has changed.  There’s no mystery to it any more.  If you are online, you have access to all the tools you need – and unless they think they’re on to a major bestseller, I’m not sure traditional publishing offers any additional value.

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

Yes.  I was hugely naive and thought it was the right thing to do at the start of my career.  It took ages; attracting an agent/publisher from New Zealand (where I live) isn’t easy, partly because of the geographic separation which should mean nothing but does.  And then, when I finally got my book deal, I realized that I no longer had control over the cover, the editing, or even the book title – and was still expected to do all the marketing myself.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience.  Turned me away from writing for a number of years.

As soon as the rights reverted to me I decided to start doing it myself.  That was mid-way through last year.  Now I’m in control and can do things my way, and it’s much better – and I’ve already sold more copies than the traditional publisher did.

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Kathi Holmes

After Kathi Holmes was paralyzed, she turned her recovery experience into an inspirational story, I Stand With Courage: One Woman’s Journey to Conquer Paralysis.  Kathi explains how instead of relying heavily on social media, she reached out first to local venues.

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

Was it a miracle, God-given determination, or both, that lifted Kathi from the paralysis that blindsided her, confining her to a wheelchair?

No one wants to face such a life-changing health crisis, but Kathi takes us on her journey of creating a new life with a disability.  With a husband also hospitalized, she is alone in her battle.  A rehab center becomes her home while she searches for strength of body—and mind.

See how acceptance, determination, courage, and faith can overcome the challenges of everyday life.

Reading about her progress, you realize she is just like you—an ordinary person who accepts and achieves the challenge to accomplish extraordinary feats, inspiring us by her power of faith and determination.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Family, friends and acquaintances told me how my determination was motivating to them.  I wanted to share a story of inspiration and hope to others facing live challenges.

3. You have not been traditionally published.  Why?

I chose self-publishing because I could publish quicker than by submitting my manuscript to traditional publishers.  Also, traditional publishers have cut back on marketing and much would be left up to me either way.  Self-publishing has a much better image and is no longer considered second rate.

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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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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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