Author Interview–Aila Stephens

Everyone loves to hear how a launch goes. Was it successful? How many books did they sell their first day? Their first week? How many page reads did they have if they were enrolled in Kindle Unlimited?

Book launches are exciting.
◊Cover reveal!
◊Excerpts!
◊Author interviews!
◊Blog tours!

But what about after? There is always going to be someone else who releases a book and our attention will be jerked away by a shiny new cover.

What happens after the launch? What happens months after the first week of sales? How does an author keep the momentum going?

I spoke with author Aila Stephens to find out. Listen in—maybe she’ll tell us all her secrets.

astericks

You launched Sex, Love, and Formalities, the companion to Sex, Love, and Technicalities in November of 2017. How did that launch go for you? Can you give us a quick rundown of what you did to prepare? You hosted a giveaway, as well, correct?

Sure! I drank a lot of coffee. I panicked a little…no, no. I mean, yes, I did those things, but really, I talked Formalities up on social media a little more than I did when I launched its’ predecessor. I had much better-looking bookmarks printed up, and I spent a little more time and money on the book trailer than I did for the first one. I love having a book trailer for my books. It’s mostly a total vanity thing, but they’re still fairly rare in the indie community. Giveaways are pretty hit or miss, I don’t think that’s a secret, but I look at them as a necessary evil.

I did have a giveaway. It’s no secret that giveaways are pretty hit or miss, and there’s never any rhyme or reason to how many participants you get, but this one had decent participation. I gave away two signed copies of my books along with coffee and tea, a mug, and even a nice shawl to throw over the shoulders as it was quickly turning wintertime.

That was a great giveaway! I was bummed I couldn’t enter. You also did a free book promo for book one during the launch of book two using some of your free days allowed to you in the KDP Select program. Can you explain how you promoted that, if you did? If I remember correctly, your stats for that free book were rather impressive.

I promoted using Twitter and my Facebook author page.

I am going to strangle myself for this, but I cannot for the life of me remember exactly how many free copies of Technicalities were downloaded during those days, but it was several hundred—maybe even closing in on a thousand. I’d tell you concretely, but apparently, Amazon won’t let me go back that far. Whatever it was, the top ranking I got on Amazon that day was #14, for Women’s Fictions > Crime, and I believe it was #20 for Women’s Fiction > Romance.

That’s fantastic! Did your free promotion for book one bolster sales for book two?

In the weeks following that free promotion, I did have several thousand “normalized pages” of Formalities being read on Kindle Unlimited, which was very nice.

…If only all those free books and KU pages led to reviews, right?

It’s hard to tell if the sales of Formalities since then have been directly related to that free promotion, though I suspect most are.

Did you find it easier to launch book two since it was a sequel?

I did. I had so many—so very many—mistakes I learned from with Technicalities. I think that’s kind of a great thing though, learning from one’s own mistakes. I made a few with Formalities which I hope to avoid with the next book, and I’m sure I’ll make some with it that I’ll try and avoid with the one after that…and so on and so forth.

What are you doing, four months after your launch, to keep sales going? And are your methods working?

Still drinking coffee, still panicking. Ha! No. It’s not in my nature to go for the hard-sell. I do share pictures of my covers from time to time on Instagram, though it’s fruitless. What I think has helped me the most to see continued sells and KU reads has been my blog. I didn’t have the best track record of consistently blogging, but after my launch, I decided to make blogging my second priority to writing more books. I blog every Monday and every other Thursday. I’m still trying to wean myself from blogging just to other writers and figuring out how the heck you blog for readers, but I digress.

At the end of every blog post I include a small, hopefully unobtrusive, advertisement I made for my books and I link it to them on Amazon. I have noticed that I usually sell something on Tuesdays and/or Fridays, and my KU pages have remained rather steady.

This is a comfortable way for me to garner attention to my books without me feeling like a spam-artist.

Again…if only those translated to reviews.

What have you learned from either of your books to help you launch and maintain momentum for your next book?

I want to give a little more time between finishing the book and launching the book. With this next one I want to seek out ARC reviewers on YouTube (which, honestly, excites me and kills me a little on the inside), and I also want to spread out smaller, but still impressive, giveaways. I am still researching some launch tactics, but these are the main ones I intend to employ this go-round.

Do you have any tips for those who are seeing declining sales after their launch?

I would ask them what they’re doing to keep putting it in front of people. Like I said, there isn’t a soul out there who can say I’ve sent them an auto-DM going, BUY MY BOOK!! But I endeavor to have a quality blog I drive traffic to several times a month, in the hopes that by the time someone gets to the bottom, they’re intrigued enough to take a look at my books.

You can’t publish a book and then expect people to find it without a little elbow grease.

Have you ruled out paying for ads or promotions?

Not at all! I just don’t want to do it for two books. Once my next book comes out, I’ll shell out a little money for advertising and see what comes of it. Three is by no means the magic number, but I will chalk it up to research, too. I can’t afford to be anything except financially prudent with this, but I’m excited to see what happens with it.

I’ve read the best advertisement to promote your work is to write another book. Do you believe this is true?

Absolutely. I wish I had the ability to write full-time so I could crank them out faster. I think in today’s world, we’re all so accustomed to instant-satisfaction that we don’t want to fall in love with a book or an author if they’re not producing anything else. It’d be like watching The Paradise on Netflix and falling in love with it only to learn they shucked it after two seasons. We binge-watch in this day and age, and readers binge-read. This is why there is so much advice out there saying book series are the moneymakers.

…says the girl writing a standalone book right now.

Think of Harper Lee. To Kill A Mockingbird is a priceless piece of American literature, but for the longest time—fifty-five years!—there was only one published out there by Ms. Lee. I don’t know how well that sort of publishing schedule would work in this day and age. 😉

I guess the secret is to write such a thought-provoking, moving book, that your book is mandatory reading in all schools! Thanks, Aila, for taking the time to chat with me!

Vania, thank you so much for sitting down with me again for such a lovely interview! I am always honored and humbled that someone of your talent and expertise has time for little ol’ me.

And to all of your amazing readers, thank you so much for taking the time to get to know me!

Love ya, mean it!  -Aila

Aila always makes me blush. I hope you enjoyed her interview and maybe learned a little something about how to keep the momentum after your launch from drifting away. Help keep her momentum up by downloading free copies of her books here (March 27 and 28) and give her Amazon profile a follow while you’re there. 🙂

Aila is leaving her mark all over the interwebs, and you can follow her Instagram account, Tweet with her on Twitter, like her Facebook author page, and definitely give her blog a peek. She’s in the middle of a wonderful writers’ resources series you don’t want to miss!

Thanks for reading!

 

Quotes taken from the websites in the photo captions, and photos taken from http://www.pixabay.com and http://www.unsplash.com. Graphics created with these photos in http://www.canva.com.

Basic Rundown of Terms and What They Mean

It seems as if there is a lot of confusion in the way people post things online referring to who is what and what they do, and I see this mostly on Facebook. Let me clear up some confusion for any new writers who may be looking to self-publish in the near future. Here are a few basic terms and companies described.

  • CreateSpace
    CreateSpace is the paperback publishing arm of Amazon. This is where you go to create a paperback of your book, if you’re not choosing one from a myriad of other options. You can find free templates for your cover, and free formatted templates for the interior. They are free. You don’t need an account to download these. They also have a Cover Creator with templates and font/font placement. Choose a photo (available for commercial use) and the creator will create a cover in accordance with your book’s measurements. They also have a CreateSpace Community. If you have questions, they have most likely been answered 1,000 times already.
  • KDP
    KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. This the Kindle arm of Amazon. Some people only publish on Kindle (or e-reader/tablet if they go wide {see definition below}.) The set up is much easier than putting together a paperback. Just format your file, upload your cover art, fill out all the fields for price, etc, and you’re done. Your ebook will be published on Amazon in 12 hours. They say to give them 3-5 days, but it has *never* taken that long.
  • KDP Select
    KDP Select is OPTIONAL. When you enroll your book into this program, you are promising Amazon you are not selling your e-book anywhere else, in three month blocks. That means you are not published on Nook, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, or anywhere else e-books are sold, including your own website, during that time frame. This does not have anything to do with your paperback, and you don’t have to enroll in Select even if you don’t plan to publish your e-book elsewhere. It seems people use KDP and Select interchangeably, and this is not accurate. If you enroll in Select, your book will be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, or KU. Readers with KU subscriptions can read your book as part of their subscription costs, and Amazon will still pay you for the page reads. If you want to know more about Kindle Unlimited, look here. You can unenroll any time, but KDP makes you finish out your three months, so plan ahead if you want to begin selling your books on other platforms.
  • KDP Print
    KDP Print is the paperback arm of Kindle Direct Publishing. With CreateSpace closing their online store and the creation of KDP Print, it is rumored that eventually Amazon will shut down CreateSpace. Why have two services doing the same thing? I’ve looked around KDP Print, and the submission process is similar. Even the downloadable templates are the same. The only difference is how your purchase your author copies. There was a lot of complaining at first, because KDP Print didn’t offer the same things as CreateSpace does. They are slowly changing that, though, and to me, that’s another indication that soon you won’t have a choice between the two. I only hope their customer service remains the same. I’ve had to call CreateSpace customer service on occasion, and I have always received polite and helpful service.
  • Going Wide
    Going wide means that you are not selling your e-books only on Amazon. That’s it. Lots of people don’t understand what this means, or they get confused because they don’t realize there is more than one place to sell books. There are a lot of opinions on this topic and you need to do what’s best for you and your writing and marketing plan. Currently, I’m in Select, but I feel as I add more to my backlist, I will expand. It’s never good to have all your eggs in one basket, but it may be a while before I have more than one egg.You have a couple options on how to go wide: You can upload your file to all the places yourself. Kobo recommends you upload directly to them so you can take advantage of marketing opportunities. But you can’t upload directly to iBooks unless you have a Mac and can download the necessary apps. Most people use a 3rd party aggregator such as Draft2Digital to distribute their e-books. But be aware if you do this, your royalties are lower. You pay D2D to distribute, but then you also pay the vendor for selling your book.
  • IngramSpark
    IngramSpark is the other company indies use to publish their paperbacks. They have better distribution (CreateSpace uses them to distribute) and The Alliance for Independent Authors suggests you use CreateSpace to sell your book on Amazon and use IngramSpark for other distribution. CreateSpace will give you a free ISBN number, which is why a lot of indies go that route, and CreateSpace is free (besides taking their cut of your royalties) and IngramSpark is not. Also, IngramSpark makes you purchase your ISBN through Bowker. If you decide to purchase one from Bowker, however, you can use that one for both IngramSpark and CreateSpace. That is another personal choice, and you will have to do your research and see what is best for you. If you plan to do any book signings, IngramSpark is the way to go. That way a Barnes and Noble can order your book from IngramSpark and return any that you do not sell at your signing. The cost is on you, for returned books, but bookstores do not like to deal with CreateSpace, as they view Amazon as a competitor.
  • BookBaby, Lulu
    If it all seems too much for you and you just want to upload your book and walk away, there are reputable self-publishing companies who will help you. Though I haven’t used BookBaby or Lulu, I have heard they treat you well, and don’t pressure you to buy services and products you can’t afford. Be aware that if a company offers “editing” that they do a light proofread or line edit only, and if you want developmental editing or a deeper sweep of your MS, you will need to hire that out before you submit your book to these companies. These companies are legitimate as far as I am aware. Joanna Penn even had the founder of BookBaby on as a guest on her podcast, and Joanna would never endorse a company that is not on the up-and-up. She is a member of the Alliance for Independent Authors and they are committed to helping the indie-publishing industry.These are not to be confused with other self-publishing companies run by Author Solutions. Companies such as Author House, Xlibris, and iUniverse are listed on the Writer Beware website, and you should use extreme caution when deciding with whom you will publish.

    Thanks for reading this quick guide. If you’re new to the writing and publishing scene, it may seem overwhelming, and there is never a lack of information on the internet. As always, check and double-check before you make any decisions, and always, always, be careful if you decide to pay someone for a service. It’s nice to think you can trust people you meet online, but in reality, the only person you can, and should, trust is yourself.

    Tell me what you think! And let me know how I can help.

Happy writing Vania Margene

Results of my ad with Freebooksy

I figured with a few books out now, I should do a little marketing. I’ve been against it, claiming I needed a backlist before I started putting money into my career, but I thought since my trilogy was done, I could do a little promotion.

I’ve heard about various book marketing websites where you pay for exposure, and that’s what Freebooksy is. Essentially, you’re paying to advertise your book in their newsletter for one day. There are other promotions run by the people of Freebooksy if you don’t want to to go free with your book, but I did because 1) it didn’t bother me to give my book away and 2) I was hoping for a little read-through since the other two books were available.

My trilogy is enrolled in KDP Select, and I had never used any of my free days for any of my books before, so I went ahead and chose five days for my book to be free, then I went on Freebooksy and chose a day that I wanted my book in their newsletter. In the future, if I do this again, I’ll plan ahead to give myself time to promote the promotion.

A rep reached out to me, and she was very nice, but she wanted to put my book in the sweet category romance newsletter. I replied that it didn’t belong there as the book had four open door sex scenes. I’m not sure why she wanted to do that, unless she mistook my cover. Nikki and Dane do look cute together, but I didn’t choose to put a steamy couple on the cover because there is a fine line between contemporary romance with sex, and erotica. I didn’t want anyone mistaking my trilogy for erotica. I’ve written erotica, had my “taste” so to speak, and I’m more comfortable writing contemporary romance.

Anyway, this is what the ad looked like that went into their newsletter:

freebooksyad

You’re the one who writes the blurb, and I was afraid I didn’t spend enough time on it. You only get so many characters, and it’s difficult to try to convey what the book is about and still make it interesting in that short space.

My book was free from February 6th to the 10th. I started getting downloads even before my book went out in the newsletter. In total, while my book was free, I gave away 4,458. Between February 6th and today, February 15th, I have sold fifteen of Book 2 and six of Book 3, so you can see there was a small amount of buy-through (not necessarily read-through), and I lowered the prices of those books to .99 to go with the free promotion. Also, my page reads for Kindle Unlimited for all my titles went up from 0 to this:

page reads for KU

It’s not the best, of course, since even all those lines only represent $25.00 in sales. If you do the math, that’s a horrible ROI, at least, on paper.

Return on investment comes in many different forms, monetary being only one of them. I’m hoping now that I’ve given away so many books, people will remember my name, I’ll begin to foster some lifelong readers for future books.

My sales ranking did go up for a little bit, and I can give you a snapshot of those, though I didn’t take a picture every time my book moved up in ranks. And as everyone congratulated me, going up in rank in *free* books looks nice, but it’s not the same as going up in the paid lists.

awesome stats!3

These are the best stats the book got. I don’t know if it did much more than earn me a few bragging rights, but there it is.

Amazon did a nice thing, too and put my books together in an ad on my Author page.

tower city box set

You can’t buy them that way–I haven’t created the box set yet, and that is on my to-do list after I figure out my stupid cover for book three. (Yeah, still wrestling with it to get it exactly how I want it in paperback.)

If you were to ask me the best part about this whole promotion thing, I would have to say that it’s that people are starting to read my work. We all want people to read our stuff, but when they actually do, it’s nerve-wracking. So far I’ve been getting decent reviews. They’ve been saying my editing is solid, and there hasn’t been a complaint about formatting, which is a relief since I do all my own formatting myself.

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Overall, I would say the experience was a positive one.

If I were to give any advice to someone doing this I would say:

  1. Have more than one book out. I did prove that if you spend money advertising one book, you’re really advertising your whole backlist. Not many people bought books 2 and 3 who downloaded book 1, but it was enough I was happy they were available.
  2. Having a good cover is no joke. It doesn’t seem like a big deal when no one is looking at your books, but the minute you realize people are going to be choosing your book among a selection, suddenly you’re hoping it’s good enough. Be sure it is.
  3. Have a decent blurb. I shortened mine from what I wrote for Amazon, and I worried I didn’t spend enough time on it. Had I spent more time on it, maybe I could have gotten even more downloads.
  4. Have people willing to spread the word. I don’t know how many downloads came from my Twitter followers, or my followers willing to tweet about it. I don’t know how many downloads came from the people who liked my FB Author Page. I was also naughty and told everyone on my personal FB page that my book was free, and I know it’s against TOS to do that. I only did it once, on the day the newsletter went out. And I was lucky a few people shared that post.

I won’t be doing this again anytime soon, but it was fun to try something new and to get my feet wet. A little snowflake can cause an avalanche, and I’m hoping this is true in my case. But now that my trilogy is over and done, I need to relegate it to my backlist and move forward. I’m 31,000 words into a new WIP, and I can’t wait to share with you!

Happy writing Vania Margene

Indie-Publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–Imprints

Indie Publishing Chats

Imprints are fun . . . some say frivolous. But if you have any long-term plan to publish books, having an imprint is another way to claim your work. If you think really long term and are successful as an author you may want to publish other writers’ works. Joanna Penn, not long ago, created her own imprint. While she’s not accepting submissions, she certainly has what it takes in terms sales and exposure to draw in new talent under her imprint if she so chose. Never write-off something that could be part of your brand, as you never know what the future holds.

Let’s listen in to the chat I had with KT about imprints.

KT Daxon
What are imprints and how important are they? Personal preference or encouraged for Indie authors?

Vania Margene Rheault
Imprints are the name and logo of the publishing company you set up for yourself when you publish. They are a personal preference, but your name will be listed as the publisher of your book on CreateSpace if you don’t have one. They aren’t encouraged as much as owning your own ISBN numbers, but they go hand in hand.

KT Daxon
How does one set up an imprint?

Vania Margene Rheault
The first you have to do is make something up. Something you like, something short, though, so it doesn’t take up a lot of room. Something that means something to you. I’m a romance author, and I love coffee, so I made up Coffee and Kisses Press. BUT and this is a big BUT, you have to make sure it’s not taken by someone else. Coffee and Kisses Press was like, my 4th choice.c&k2

I had a friend draw the mug, and my son did the rest. I share this imprint with @drwillisbooks. David doesn’t write romance, but he wanted an imprint and they are kind of hard to think of. So many are taken.

KT Daxon
So you both use this when publishing?

Vania Margene Rheault
He only has one book under this imprint. He published other books with iUniverse, and they have their own imprint. But yeah, all mine are under this imprint. I bought my own numbers and I knew I wanted my own imprint from the beginning.

KT Daxon
You say so many are already taken, how do you advise other authors on creating their own? Coming up with names is difficult for me, and in turn drive me crazy until I figure it out.

Vania Margene Rheault
I’ve read up on it, and they say that if you think of something personal, it’s easier to be unique. Like your pen name. I know how you made it up, so I mean, keeping it close to your heart it’s easier. But I suck at stuff like that too.

KT Daxon
Would you recommend I use my pen name as my publishing imprint?

Vania Margene Rheault
I would suggest you think of something cute. Especially if you’re going to stay with writing romance. PillowTalk Press. On the shape of a pillow. LOL But I bet that’s taken.PillowTalk Publishing

KT Daxon
Hmm

Vania Margene Rheault
Actually, it’s not. That’s funny.

KT Daxon
Hmm, I don’t know if I’ll stay with romance. Down to Sleep is Romantic Suspense … the next book after this is likely considered Contemporary Romance? Hahahaha! Hmm …
How much does getting your own imprint cost?

Vania Margene Rheault
Nothing. You pay for it when you buy your own ISBN numbers. Unless you hire a designer. Then that would be an extra cost.

KT Daxon
Even better, LOL. So, when you buy your ISBN numbers, you will just include that during that purchase?

Vania Margene Rheault
You can look for ideas on Canva. They have logo templates. Yes! Great question. You need to have thought of your imprint name before you buy your numbers because there’s a field for it.

KT Daxon
I know what will be running through my mind now. LOL That’s all the questions I have for now on imprints…that I can think of. Oh! I have one more. How can you find out if an imprint is taken? Is there a site?

Vania Margene Rheault
No, you just Google it. Most of the time if there is a publisher or a press associated with it, it will be the top few search results. But I used all the search engines to make sure: Yahoo, Bing, Google. You get slightly different results, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

KT Daxon
I got one I will check out…where on Canva can you use to check for logos?

Vania Margene Rheault
If you go to Create A Design, it’s under the menu, Marketing Materials. I made mine before I knew Canva existed. I have a tab on my website that explains my imprint and the books that are published under it. You have to be careful on Twitter if you are ever approached by a “press” or a “publisher” who wants to publish your book. It could be someone trying to publish your book under their imprint, and they don’t have any real publishing experience or distribution channels. They run your book through CreateSpace, just the same as you would then take a cut of your profits. So be very careful when someone approaches you–especially during the pitching games like #pitmad.

KT Daxon
Good to know!

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, it’s kind of scammy. But if they have a pretty imprint and a website that looks legit, it’s easy to get taken in. Everyone wants a contract and not everyone is as careful as they should be.

KT Daxon
Is Press the only thing you can use or are their others?

Vania Margene Rheault
You can use press or publishing. Those are the two main ones.

Our chat fizzled out after that because KT started experimenting on Canva. She wants to keep her imprint a secret until she publishes, so I’m not allowed to post what she came up with during chat. But if you need ideas for yourself, Google imprints and click on Images for the results. You’ll get an idea of what you need to come up with. Here are a few other articles on imprints:

Should Self-Published Authors Create Their Own Publishing Imprints?

A Quick Lesson About Publishers, Imprints, CreateSpace, and Bowker

Why You Should Create Your Own Publishing Imprint

A long time ago, I also wrote a blog post about imprints. If you’re interested, you can read it here.

Thanks for reading! Next up we’ll talk about having your author photo taken, and the advantages and disadvantages of trying to remain anonymous online and still try to sell books! See you there!

Vania Blog Signature

It’s Beginning to Look a lot like . . . Something the Cat Dragged in

I’ve been blogging close to nothing these past few weeks. I’ve been sick, but not like, a flu/head cold/stomach bug thing that wouldn’t go away. I’ve had an infection in the cartilage of my nose, and while the pain has been annoying and uncomfortable, it’s been the antibiotics that have made me feel off for the past few weeks. I went through two courses in the past 24 days. I just finished my second course a couple days ago, and I think my body is finally getting back to normal. Though now I have some weird sinus/fuzzy ear/ face pressure thing that won’t go away. It can’t be anything bacterial-related since all the antibiotics I’ve been on would have killed it. I’m just biding my time, waiting to see if my body will right itself after all the drugs I’ve pumped into my body lately. (With the second round of antibiotics I was also put on Prednisone; that didn’t do me any favors.)

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Tired of this BS. I want to get better!

Anyway, so I’ve been fuzzy, sleeping, and my nose hurt until the antibiotics kicked in, and the tip of my nose still tingles and aches in the cold (I live in MN). I admire anyone who can function on a day to day basis with any kind of chronic illness. Not only does the pain do things to your body, it preys on your mental health. I couldn’t concentrate while waiting to see if the drugs were going to kick in or not. And yes, I have to force myself to stop poking at my nose to see if it hurts. The short answer, yes. Anything you poke at long enough will start to hurt. LOL

Through it all, any mental wherewithal I had went into my books. I released book one of my Tower City Romance on November 18th to little to no fanfare. My fault. But that’s okay. My second book is loaded into CreateSpace and KDP and is ready to go on December 18th. I’m editing and scrambling to get book 3 ready for release on January 18th. I might be behind on that one, and I may need to settle for the end of January, or even the beginning of February. I don’t want to sacrifice any part of editing just to publish, and I know Christmas is going to take a little time whether I want it to or not.

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On the bright side I already know the next book I’m going to write–it’s a stand-alone and once I get going on it, I should be able to write and publish it rather quickly. I’ve already got it plotted out, and I’ve been playing with the cover. I’m so used to dealing with a million words at a time (Summer Secrets was about 160,000 words all together and this trilogy is 210,000 combined) that working with only a 70,000-word book will feel like a dream come true.

Anyway, so that’s what I’ve been doing these past few weeks.

I’ve also been fiddling with what I can do to break into the reader/social media barrier that eludes a lot of writers.

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I read a lot of books so, for now, I’m going to focus on reviewing them. But not just any books. I’m going to read romances (what I write, naturally) pick at them, and compare how they are written to what I’ve learned in the world of self-publishing. That way I’ll be reading my genre, get a blog post out of it, but also I can compare what’s being published to what indies are “learning” in the Twitter Writing community. A win-win for everyone.

I’ll start with The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. I watched the movie with my sister and bought the book to compare. But that is another blog post.

I realize 2017 is coming to a close, and I’ll be writing another blog post or two about what happened in 2017 both in the publishing community and in my own career. I have a lot to share–if my nose and my ears stop doing weird things.

Fingers crossed!

 

Vania Blog Signature

Aila Stephens’ Interview and Giveaway (Updated post. The giveaway is closed.)

Aila StephensI got to know Aila wasting time networking on Twitter, and I read her first book, Sex, Love, and Technicalities, when it came out last year.

In celebration of her sequel’s release, Sex, Love, and Formalities, I’ve interviewed Aila, and I am also hosting a giveaway! (More on that later.) Settle down with a cup of coffee, and listen in to my interview with her! Enjoy!

You chose IngramSpark over CreateSpace. Can you explain why?
I was drawn to IngramSpark because of the reported quality of their paperbacks. I don’t know how many YouTube videos I watched where people had ordered copies from both Ingram and Createspace, and most authors liked the paper quality of Ingram better. I also liked the fact that my books would potentially be more attractive to brick and mortar stores—because you know, we Indie authors become household names so quickly. 😉
To be honest, I’m now convinced that using a combination of IngramSpark and Createspace is the way to go.

You published your first book in July of 2016, and now you are releasing the sequel in November of 2017. Can you give our readers some pros and cons of waiting over a year between books?
After SLT came out, life slapped me in the face. It wasn’t just one or two little things, it was more akin to a typhoon of problems pounding at my shore. I tried to keep writing during this rough period, but it was easy to see my creativity suffered and I knew I needed to step away if I wanted to even remotely be proud of my work. It stung…but in the long run, I think Sex, Love, and Formalities is better since I waited. The first storyline was weak—so I suppose that’s the pro. During the absence, I wasn’t writing, but I was thinking.
The cons are numerous. People forgot me. I wasn’t selling copies of SLT, therefore it’s hard to build hype around SLF. I will always worry I lost some of Briella’s voice.
All in all, I don’t recommend waiting over a year between books if it can be helped.

Sex, Love and Technicalities

The gorgeous cover for Sex, Love, and Technicalities. Love!

Now that you’ve released two books, can you tell us some of the things that surprised you about the self-publishing industry, or maybe the publishing industry in general?
It surprised me how much I enjoy the process. I love the fact that with self-publishing everything is up to me…which is also terrifying. There are a lot of rules. Marketing is the bane of my existence. That was one thing I hadn’t expected: How much I dislike marketing. I like creating marketing materials…it’s what to do after that baffles me.
I am glad I self-published these first two books. I think it was a great learning process, and I’m sure I will self-publish again. But the two books I am writing next, I plan to pitch. I’m still uncertain about how long I will pitch them before I decide to self-publish them, but I am excited to learn another side of the publishing industry.

Having gone through the publishing process twice now, can you tell us what you would have done differently the first time around with the knowledge you have now?
With the first book, I would have done more editing. I would NOT use IngramSpark for eBook publication. I also would have formatted the eBook myself from the beginning. I would force myself to market more.
With the second book, I wouldn’t have put my passion on hold for so long. I’d force my unsociable self to be more sociable.

In your opinion, what is the best part of the self-publishing process?
It may sound odd…but making my own book covers. I absolutely love making them. I hope people like them half as much as I loved making them.

sex love and formalities

The dazzling new cover! Her cover design skill is proven here. Great job!

Will you ever query and try for a traditionally published deal?
Yes. That’s the plan with the next two books. Alabama Rain is a book I’ve been working on intermittently for the last year and a half, which will now get my full attention. Then I have a project I’m currently outlining and preparing for which has a placeholder title of Underthings.

Thanks for having me, Vania! I am sure I speak for all your readers when I say thanks for all you do for the Indie writing community. You’re an inspiration!

Thank you, Aila, for taking the time to answer my questions. If anyone has other self-publishing questions, ask in the comment sections or tweet us. 🙂 We’ll be more than happy to help!

Please follow Aila on Facebook Twitter (mandatory to enter the giveaway) Goodreads and of course, follow her on Amazon! Keep up to date on her blog posts, and please take a moment to check out her website.

The giveaway for Aila’s release includes:
An assortment of coffee and tea
A coffee mug
Signed paperback copies of Sex, Love, and Technicalities
and Sex, Love, and Formalities
A $25.00 gift card to Amazon sent to the winner’s email address

The giveaway is open internationally, so don’t be afraid to enter!

Click here to enter!!!

 

Updated to congradulate Rebecca Yelland on winning the giveaway! I hope you all enjoyed Aila’s launch–she had a blast! Thank you all for helping make her day a huge success!

 

The Evolution of Don’t Run Away’s Cover

They say your cover is the most important part of your book. I don’t know who “they” are, or if that’s necessarily true, but your cover is important. It needs to convey your genre, it needs to be eye-catching. The font for your title and author name needs to look professional, yet suited to your genre.

This is a tall order if you want to do it yourself. Way back when I was new at this, I didn’t know as much as I do now, and I was adamant that indies could do their own covers. And you can. You should.

But let’s step back and figure out what a “good” cover is.

I wrote Don’t Run Away as a NaNoWriMo project in 2015. After I released Summer Secrets, I started editing it, I mean, really editing it, so that it was publishable. I took out all the head-hopping, the mixed up POVs, and I turned it into the book that’s going to be released on the 18th. So for the year I spent editing, I blogged about the publishing process and making your own cover. While I blogged about making your own cover, I came up with some doozies, that were, ah, well. See for yourself.

blog post 1

Yeah. I blogged about creating this cover. Did I say that I liked it? No. Am I embarrassed that I put something like that on the internet? Yes. But that was naivety and inexperience. Cover design takes practice and a good eye.

Did it get better? No.

back cover blurb

Then I came up with this piece of crap. Yeah, it’s better than that pink monstrosity above, but I would never buy a book that had this for a cover.

Luckily for me, lots of time went by, and I took a break.

When I was nearer to publication, I came up with this:

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And that’s not so bad. I even would have maybe used this. But the problem was, or is, is that Don’t Run Away is book one of a trilogy, so not only did I need to make one cover, I needed to keep in mind that I needed two other covers, and they needed to look like they belonged together.

I came up with these two for books two and three:

I mean, as far as covers go, they aren’t that bad. But ultimately, I turned all three of them down because, in the end, I felt the couples looked fake. When you look through sites like www.canstock.com or www.dreamstime.com there are three different categories of people. Real people:

canstockphoto11400894

You don’t want real people on your cover. I think this is where a lot of indies go wrong. Real people aren’t models, and the photographer didn’t touch up the photograph to make it look less real. I suppose if you found the perfect person, you could run the photo through some filters, modify it somehow so that she doesn’t look like a real person giving you a goofy look through some weeds. But you definitely have to do something to it. That’s where the pink “hell no” cover at the beginning of this post comes from. Real people don’t work.

The second category of people on stock sites are real, but they look better than real.

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She looks good, ya know? She looks like model material, but approachable. The photographer added some sunlight. Depending on your genre, these make perfect covers.

The third category of people are fakes:

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There’s a genre for actual models (erotica and porn), and I didn’t need anything like her for my covers. I needed my couples approachable. My characters aren’t billionaires, they aren’t sheiks, or princes, or even CEOs. My characters hold down-to-earth jobs and have real people problems. I needed my covers to convey that.

So I did manage to find this couple, and I was lucky to find two other couples that looked like they were taken by the same person. Two of them were, but the third was taken by someone else. I probably won’t write anymore trilogies, but if you do, or even a duet, or even more than three, make a plan for your covers because it’s a pain in the ass to change them. Not only do you have to go through the submission process again for CreateSpace, if you use IngramSpark, they charge you for every change you make. And you have to remember to change your cover on Goodreads, too. (Which isn’t the best because your old cover will always be attached to your book on the book’s page.)

Here are the three I chose for my covers:

canstockphoto11573436 (2)canstockphoto38274429 (2)canstockphoto46133644 (1)

I also decided to make the whole picture wrap onto the spine and back cover, so the position of the couple was important too.

Here’s how Don’t Run Away turned out:

don't run away cover

I’m pretty proud of it. And it turned out nice in person (ignore how goofy looking he is):

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Of course, even when you find the perfect picture, you need to play with font, where everything will go, that kind of thing. At first my cover looked like this:

Don't Run Away Experiment

And I didn’t have any qualms about it. But after the proof came in the mail, I realized the title was way too big. It didn’t need to be that large. My friend Gareth made the crack that, what, I didn’t need people be able to see it from outer space? No, I didn’t. So I fixed it, but then the spine was off:

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I was tempted to leave it, but I couldn’t. So again, I sent it in to be fixed, and it came back okay.

I guess my point is, covers go through an evolution of sorts, and it’s never too late to start playing around with fonts and photos.

Look around at other covers and see what’s popular in your genre. Maybe even see if other covers are using the same people you’re thinking about using.

I found this nice one while looking around:

fake running to love

The site selling it wanted $50.00 for it. I’m sorry, but I like mine better, and it was free. Well, did pay http://www.canstock.com five credits for the picture, which turned out to be around 4 dollars. The fonts I used were all allowed for commercial use for free and I downloaded them from http://www.1001fonts.com/. Be careful if you use this site because some are for commercial use, and some are not.

That ends my cover adventure for Don’t Run Away. If you want to know how I used the photo for the spine and back cover, let me know. It’s fun, and it solves the problem of what to put on the back. Some people don’t care about the back since you’ll sell more e-reader versions, but still. If you ever do a book signing or a giveaway, perhaps on Goodreads, you’ll need a paperback version.

Let me know your thoughts!

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