I met Sami-Jo through a friend and through the years of writing we’ve stayed in touch. I asked her if she would be willing to answer some questions as her publishing journey has been a little twisty, and I always like to pick the brains of people who have had different experiences than me. I hope you enjoy her interview and sign up for her newsletter to stay in touch with her and her publishing journey!
You’ve been published by small presses up until now. Can you explain the pros and cons that go with publishing with a small press?
The absolute best part of having a publisher behind you is that they’re using their own money. Sounds shallow, but while writing can be pure magic, publishing is a whole other mangy beast that incurs a lot of costs for multiple editors, book cover design, formatting, and anything that includes a dollar sign to put out the best possible product.
The downside is that someone else has their grip on your work. They usually get the lion’s share of any profit, you’re bound by their publishing schedule (though it’s quicker than traditional publishing) when all you want to do is hit PUBLISH, and the author is still expected to do their own marketing. Oh! And they can go under at any moment. A plague amongst many small presses since the publisher is sometimes no more than a single person or two with some loyal people to work out all the kinks. When you’re in your groove and suddenly the publisher disappears, your books become homeless. It can be heartbreaking.
You’re looking at self-publishing for the first time. What do you think the biggest challenge of that will be?
Not knowing just how much I don’t know about the process is super daunting. There’s so much to learn if you want to do it right and make an impact right from day one. And, come on, who doesn’t want an amazing launch that catapults your book to the top of some fancy best-seller lists? It’s the dream, but it means more work and since I have a newly minted two-year old, spare time is in short supply. I have to-do lists coming out of my ears.
The series you’re working on will have several books in it by the time you’re done. Do you have any tips for how a writer can put together and publish a large project like that?
I never intended to write a series, but it’s the small things that can make you want to shave your head. Is this word usually capitalized? Does this character already know such-and-such about this character? Was this character’s eyes green or brown? It’s never-ending. A series bible can help by making extensive notes about things such as special words and how they’re used or spelled, having handy character bios including all physical attributes and important events, but be prepared to search back for things when needed. After multiple drafts and rounds of editing, some details are branded in your brain, but do yourself a favor, assume you won’t remember it all, and write it down.
Since you’ve been writing and publishing, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
That you can’t read and reread a contract before signing enough. Not a happy lesson, but an important one. When you’ve spent years on a project and plan on putting it in someone else’s hands, it’s takes an enormous amount of trust. And whether you know the people behind the label or not, publishing is a business and should be treating like one.
I think, during these times in particular, it’s difficult to stay motivated and on track. With a husband and a little one, along with a part-time job, how do you stay motivated to write?
I think the motivation comes for wanting something for myself. I loved writing before having my daughter and it took far too long to get back in front of my laptop, especially after losing my office to her nursery. Writing and publishing is something I enjoy. Being motivated and having the time to utilize that motivation is not always aligned and I repeatedly have to give myself a kick in the ass to get things done when the timing lines up. Motivation is not a one-time deal, it takes daily effort and prioritizing.
You’ve done everything from blogging on your website to vlogging on YouTube. What is your favorite social media platform and why? And can you give us some tips on how to find time for that in a busy schedule?
I tend to use Facebook the most. Some hate it, but I firmly believe that all social media platforms are as good as you cultivate them to be. Your domain, your control. I wouldn’t be published at all if it wasn’t for the writing relationships made on Facebook. If you can figure out your ideal reader, create content with them in mind, and try and have some fun while doing it, you’re golden. Social media is more to connect with people and, if they are readers, they may follow you and your titles based off how they feel about you as a person. These days, the author is as much the product as their book is. Create a bunch of things on a free day or weekend and then schedule their posts along the week or month when you know you won’t have time. There’s lots of programs that can do that for you.
In closing, what’s on your plate for the rest of 2022? And do you have the next couple of years mapped out?
My plan is muddy, but I can vaguely see it somewhere in there. Not ironclad, but my hope is to learn a few more (a million more) things about self-publishing, devise a re-release schedule for the 4 already published books in the Soul Seer Chronicles series while finishing up book 5 and tackling book 6 (They ALL need new covers). Also, to work on another series I haven’t announced yet. Oh, and developing my newsletter subscribers, marketing materials, and update my website. Phew. It’s fine. I’m fine. I can do this. The biggest drive is just to get my books back out there. Not being a published author right now actually feels odd and I’m not a fan. Though, being in control of my titles is super empowering and I am looking forward to reintroducing them to people all over again.
I, unfortunately, don’t have a lot going on for this post today. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, so there’s nothing to update you there. I’ve never needed the motivation or the camaraderie. I did NaNo one year about 5 years ago, and after a ton of editing, that book turned into Don’t Run Away, the first in my Tower City Romance Trilogy. Since then I’ve never needed to “get serious” or use it as a month to “start over.” I’m actually kind of glad I don’t depend on NaNo to get words down. What do people do the rest of the year? Anyway, I actually have a blog post about why I never participate, and you can read it here, if you want.
I am, however, 56,000 words into my new novel, and more than likely it will be a duet. My FMC has a sister who is introduced to my MMC’s business partner. It stands to reason they’ll have their own story, even though I don’t have a plot for them. I’m excited for the possibility of a duet since that is something I haven’t tackled, but at the same time, I don’t want to write it. Why would I force myself to write something that hasn’t grabbed me? Mostly because of reader expectations. When you have two secondary characters and they meet and there’re sparks, readers are going to want to know what happens. Can I rewrite what I have so there are no sparks, yes, but it felt natural they were attracted to each other. From one writer to another, you know what happens when characters go off and do their own thing. It’s difficult to rein them in and they end up doing what they want to do, much to our disappointment and disapproval. I like my two side characters, and I hope a nice juicy plot ends up in my lap by the time I’m done with this book.
My favorite meme when it comes to character vs. plot:
You might be tempted to tell me to do what I want, regardless of what readers will want after reading this book. That is the indie author refrain after all. I’m an indie, I’m going to do what I want to do, but the funny thing is, the indies on Twitter who say that the loudest also lament about how low their sales are. I could do what I want and let this be another standalone, or I could put my brain to work, think up a few things for these characters, and give my readers what I know they’ll want after they read this book.
Managing reader expectations is important. When they pick up your book based off an ad because you targeted a similar author, and they see your cover, your blurb, the title, they are going to expect certain things. The novel’s content will nudge them to expect certain things. If you’re writing about a group of friends, chances are each friend is going to have her own book–especially if your novel is tagged a Book One, and you indicate it’s part of a series. Your readers will expect that. Writing Book One and then never writing another book–I’ve seen authors do that. They might as well not even have published for all the good that did. So, if I set up for my characters to have their own book, then I should give them their own book. I nag about this topic too much, but Nora Phoenix has a great blog post about this very thing, and you can take a look at it here.
As an extra tidbit, even word count can make a reader happy or disappoint them. You should be well-read in the genre you’re writing, should know the tropes, general feel, and how long the books usually are. A great way to see how long a book is is to use this website Wordcounters. There you can look up a book or better yet, an author, and get an idea of their average book length. Some of the top billionaire romances right now range from 80-110k words per book. Some are longer, but very very few are shorter. The authors I looked up also have their books in KU, so I’m going to guess that a lot of them write with that in mind. Romance can go all over the place, but a lot of the novellas I see now are written to fit between books as extra content, and the main books are full-length novels. All of you know that I’ve been trying to write a reader magnet for my newsletter, and it would be great if I could write a shorter book for that. I’m trying, but first person takes up a lot of room, and my shortest book I’ve written since changing POVs is 74k, my longest, 97k. I still don’t know what I’m doing, but maybe one day I’ll figure it out. I need a plot for a 50k novel I can write in week, please and thank you.
My giveaway I’m hosting for Nina Romano’s interview ends Wednesday, the 10th of November. You can read her interview and enter to win this gift basket full of fall goodies and a beautiful paperback copy of her book, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley. I’ll ship anywhere in the United States and I’ll brave the post office to ship to Canada.
I got to know Nina on Twitter, and when she asked if I would interview her for my blog, I was all in! I’m so excited to share this interview with you! I hope you find something valuable in the interview I did with Nina. Thanks for reading!
You’ve been writing and publishing for many years. Do you have any advice for anauthor just starting out?
When I was starting to publish, I used to submit poems and short stories, nonfiction pieces every Friday. That was the day of the week I stopped writing and did the “business” end of writing. So pick a day to submit and make sure you send your writing out somewhere. This also can be a query to an agent, editor, or small publisher.
How do you keep the energy and momentum going over such a long period of time?
Each writing project brings with it a different set of problems to solve and research to be done because I mostly write historical fiction. It’s these various unresolved complications that spark interest.
I must say, I read a great deal of fiction, and when I read a well-executed novel, this, too, will boost my momentum and energy. With each new novel I write, I try to obtain a higher level of commitment to the piece in hopes that it’ll be more unique and render a better one than my last. I’m not in competition with anyone but Nina Romano.
We always say writing and publishing is a marathon, not a sprint, but what does that mean to you?
It’s the long haul dedication to excel, and with everything I write, I find challenges which in the short term equal the sprint and might be accomplished rather quickly. However, it’s the persistence to meet each task with the accrued knowledge from past experiences which aid in finalizing a new more difficult piece of writing. I never make it easy on myself—what would be the purpose of that?
Your books have won various awards, and I think that’s something a lot of authors, indieand traditionally published, hope for. Congratulations! I think what every author wouldlike to know, myself included, is does winning an award help with sales, or do you findit’s a personal achievement?
Thank you, Vania. I can’t really say that winning awards or making it to a finalist category in a contest helps with marketing books. I can attest to one thing—it’s a lovely satisfaction to know you have a winner or at least a mighty strong contender. It gives you confidence to continue to attempt achieving a degree of excellence.
I’ll bet there are many people writing today who just want to write—uncaring of prizes, awards, commendations. But the world we live in doesn’t afford us the luxury to do just that. It’s a competitive world, so we must endeavor, struggle, and strive to do our best. A finalist or first place win in a particular category is merely someone’s pat on the back saying, you’ve succeeded. But it’s a lovely accomplishment and we must celebrate all the accolades we can garner. It especially helps to remember these on a dark day when you receive a negative review!
You are published by various publishing houses and presses. Can you tell us a little bitabout what went into submitting and them ultimately publishing your books?
This is a loaded question—I could write an entire thesis on it. At one point I had an agent. To secure that agent I wrote eighty-four query letters. We went our separate ways, but I always knew I wanted a traditional publisher. For years, every Friday I would send out poems, short stories, nonfictions pieces, articles, blogs, parts of novels to literary journals, small magazines, and blog sites—in print and online. It’s relatively easy to publish individual poems and stories. When I had enough poems and a theme, I put them together and made collections—how? I began to write poems or revise them to fit the theme, which I then submitted to publishers. I did the same with stories. I submitted five poetry collections and one story collection to small, independent publishers, and they were accepted and published.
When it came to novels, I did things differently. Some of my novels grew out of short stories that I had published. I took back the novel, Lemon Blossoms, from the agent, and it became the second book of my Wayfarer Trilogy. I worked backwards and wrote the prequel to that novel: The Secret Language of Women. It took me nine years to get that manuscript into the shape I wanted. I then submitted the manuscript to three small, independent, traditional publishers. I received a letter after a week from Turner Publishing saying they wanted to publish the book. I then sent them Lemon Blossoms, which was accepted, and I was under contract with them to write the third book of the trilogy, In America, which was a great challenge because I had to do it in one year.
Can you give our readers any tips on successfully submitting a manuscript?
Make sure the manuscript is in the best possible shape it can be before submitting—that means completely edited and flawless with regards to research. I had many readers for all of my books—some critiqued for me and others only read. You can never have too many pairs of eyes on a manuscript before you decide to submit it. If a writer doesn’t have good readers, they should pay a professional editor.
Never assume or think that because an editor or a publisher asks for a partial or the entire novel that it will be accepted. It’s an exhilarating feeling, but by no means is it the gold ring on the carousel ride. At one time, I had eight agents reading one of my novels—not one took me as their client.
Don’t get discouraged. I could paper all the walls of an entire bathroom suite with rejections. A rejection is only one person’s subjective opinion. Read the rejection for any positive points to see if you can correct a flaw in the writing. Then, repackage the piece and submit it elsewhere.
I was told years ago that you have to have twelve to twenty submissions circulating in order to get picked up. Never waste time waiting for a single response from an agent or publisher. SEND! SUBMIT! REPACKAGE! MAIL OUT! And keep on doing it till someone sees the kernel of gold in your writing.
I am by nature a tenacious individual. I worked hard in school, but never quit and have four university degrees to prove it. I worked hard at writing and never quit, and that’s what every writer who wants to publish should do: work hard. Today, things are easy—you can self-publish. Amazon has a plethora of self-published books. Do they have merit? I can’t guarantee that. The old saying is: “Everyone has a story,” but that doesn’t mean everyone can write a story. My mentor John Dufresne used to say—if you can do or be anything else but to be a writer—do it. I took many writing workshops and seminars, attended numerous writing conferences, readings, author presentations and writing panel discussions. Writing is hard and not all succeed at it. But what is success, anyway?
Success for me is the thrill of someone reading one my novels. I’m doubly thrilled if it had for the reader an aspect of universality and hit a core with them and they wrote a positive review. My books haven’t made the BEST SELLERS list of the NY Times and they may never. Are the books of intrinsic value? Do they merit being translated into other languages—I believe so. Are they novels I’m proud to say that I’ve penned? You bet they are! And are they books that could be turned into a screenplay and be made into a movie? Yes, if someone with inclination and imagination decided to, that’s also a possibility. Writing abounds in a world of possibilities—it’s what you make of it. So my advice is this: persevere. Be persistent. Never give in or give up.
There is so much that goes into writing, publishing, and marketing. What do you find tobe the most challenging?
Marketing. Without a doubt. You can spend a fortune on a publicist—which I did and it didn’t pay off! I lost the advance payment of two novels! I say: don’t bother. You can take out advertisements that are costly but won’t be worth it—in fact, you can lose your knickers and won’t even break even. You can spend hours on social media and it’ll amount to the same thing—zero sales. And what’s worse it’ll be time taken away from your writing, or finding other ways to sell books.
What works? Word of mouth! And for me, personal contact with people almost always pays off. I’ve taught seminars and workshops at writing conferences, attended book fairs, given readings, presentations, and appeared on panel discussions. For me to garner sales is when I have a connection with people. Put me in front of an audience, a classroom full of eager future writers, or a group of readers and something clicks—I’m a people person and I don’t have an introverted bone in my body.
You’re re-releasing The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley. Can you tell us why you decided to make changes and if someone is thinking to re-release a book what they can expect and what to look out for?
I had originally wanted to publish this book with my new publisher Speaking Volumes, LLC.
Unfortunately, their acceptance came right after I’d already signed a contract with a small, independent publisher. The contract ran for three years and then I had the option of taking back the rights, which I did. I resubmitted the manuscript to SV. Why did I do it? The first publisher only wanted one book, whereas Speaking Volumes wanted a trilogy. In my mind, that’s a no brainer! Done deal!
But that’s my experience. Everyone else will have a different spin on why they would switch publishers, or re-write and release a book. I did a great many edits on this book, but it happens that sometimes when you fix something, another problem will arise. I hope the end product will be a finer one then was first published. I know one thing for absolute positive certain—the cover is a knockout and I’m hoping that readers will think the material contained therein is also!
I try to tailor my questions to the authors I’m interviewing, and I noticed you have givenquite a few interviews! Can you give our readers any tips on approaching a blog orwebsite and asking them to promote you and your novels?
I have been asked to write guest blogs and do many interviews, which are always fun and help give an author visibility. Some even help promote books, and although I’d like to say that sales improve, there are never any guarantees.
I’ve even approached people directly, like this interview with you, Vania. I asked you if you’d be interested in interviewing me. My advice is be polite and straightforward, and don’t take a “no” personally. If the answer is negative—just try someone else.
Is there anything else you’d like to add to the conversation before we wrap up?
I want to thank you, Vania, for these provocative questions and your valuable time. I very much enjoy talking about writing and books—so this was a great pleasure. My hope is that a writer who reads these questions and answers gains some personal insight they can put to good, practical use.
Thank you, Nina! That was amazing! I’m sure everyone who reads this will find something useful that they can use for their own writing and publishing careers. I love it when we can support and help each other!
Read on for Nina’s author bio and all her social media links:
Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University and a B.A. and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. A world traveler and lover of history, she lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She has taught English and Literature as an Adjunct Professor at St. Thomas University, Miami, and has facilitated numerous Creative Writing and Poetry Workshops at Writing Conferences throughout the States.
Romano has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has had five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks published traditionally with independent publishers. She co-authored a nonfiction book: Writing in a Changing World, and has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry.
Nina Romano’s historical Wayfarer Trilogy has been published from Turner Publishing. The Secret Language of Women, Book #1, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist and Gold Medal winner of the Independent Publisher’s 2016 IPPY Book Award. Lemon Blossoms, Book # 2, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist, and In America, Book #3, was a finalist in Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards.
Her Western Historical Romance, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley is a semifinalist for the Laramie Book Awards.
Her novel, Dark Eyes, an historical thriller set in Soviet Russia, is forthcoming in 2022 from Speaking Volumes, LLC.
With the way Twitter is now–the platform showing you likes and responses of people you don’t follow–you can interact with someone long before realizing you don’t follow them or vice versa. It was this way with Barbara. I interacted with her a bit here and there, saw her name pop up on my feed a lot, but didn’t realize until she followed me that I wasn’t following her. She’s been a pleasure to get to know and has been writing and publishing for many years now. She’s a strong supporter of the indie community, and she’s a part of the huge #writingcommunity and #amwriting communities on Twitter.
I was excited when she said she would answer some questions. I love hearing about other authors’ experiences, and I feel that we can all learn a little something either through the mistakes they’ve made, or how they were able to make something work for them. I hope you can find some of your own takeaways from this interview! Thanks for joining us!
You’ve been publishing for a while now. It looks like you released your first books in 2017. Did you write and publish before that, and how did you get into writing?
First of all, I want to thank you for inviting me to this interview!
I started this journey in 2002, which is when I wrote my first novel, “My Love is Deep”. Life happened, and I set it aside until 2015 when my husband encouraged me to publish it. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that self-publishing was an option, so I lost a lot of money by having it printed at a printing house and selling it locally through Facebook. I have always loved telling stories. I earned an A + in high school on a short story I wrote set in the 1930s. My teacher even made me read the story out loud and you can imagine how harrowing that was for a shy teen girl. I knew then that I would someday write a novel.
The indie publishing industry changes so quickly. How is publishing different now than when you first started, and do you think it’s better or worse?
As I mentioned above, I didn’t even know self-publishing existed. After losing $3000 out of pocket, someone finally told me about CreateSpace (now KDP). I honestly don’t know if it’s any different now than it was a few years ago. Self-publishing makes it far too easy for anyone to publish, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. What should come first, without a shadow of the doubt, is the story. That’s all that ever mattered to me. I am grateful that I have the outlet that allows me to share my work with the world, but far too often, I see stories published that are lacking in some way which tells me the author published too quickly, or without regard for the actual story.
You publish wide, meaning on all platforms. How did you make the choice to publish wide instead of enrolling your books in Kindle Unlimited?
Again, I didn’t know Kindle Unlimited with an option until later in the game. Now that I’m aware it exists, I still choose to publish “wide”. To me, exposure is everything.
You have a strong Twitter following. Do you think a strong writer’s platform helps you sell books? Where else do you like to hang out online?
Twitter is where I sell 90% of my books. You often read tweets from others saying that follower count doesn’t matter. I disagree. The more eyes on my books, the better. I dream big, and if I’m going to be honest here, I want to be a household name. I want my books read across the globe. It’s only logical that a strong following will get one there faster. I started at zero followers like everyone else. Did my sales increase along with my Twitter following? Yes, it’s obvious that they would. I don’t spend a lot of “leisurely” time online. My days are hectic, and extremely busy. When I have some time, I dive into reading!
In one tweet on Twitter you jokingly said your marketing manager (your husband) told you that you needed to crank up your marketing strategy a notch. Kidding aside, how do you market your books? And in conjunction with that, do you think being wide helps marketing or makes it more difficult?
Marketing is a necessary evil and my least favourite part of being an Indie author. However, I market mostly on social media (Twitter being my favourite platform). I am also a member of BookBub, AllAuthor, Goodreads, and several other sites that feature Indie Author’s such as Patric Morgan’s Indie Book Store. In the past, I have agreed to radio interviews, television interviews, and print media interviews. I often tell authors that they must do “everything they can” to get themselves and their books “out there”. It is part of the job description to market yourself. I do believe publishing wide helps a great deal with this. You can find me on Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Scribd, etc.
You write articles for www.writerspayitforward.com. Is writing non-fiction something you’ll always keep doing? Do you plan to write a non-fiction book someday?
I have always written opinion pieces. Two decades ago, I had my own column in the local Urban Weekly and I have worked for two city bi-monthly glossies. Today, I write guest blog posts partially for the exposure, (Think: Google search), and partially because I want to help my fellow authors on their journey.
Your bio says you’re a multi-genre author. What is your favorite genre to write? What is a genre you don’t think you’ll ever try?
Even though I started with Romantic Suspense, my favourite genre to write is Horror (including Paranormal Romance). There is something hauntingly beautiful about the dark and mysterious side of life. I’m currently working on my next horror. Despite the genre, however, there will always be love in my books. I think the only genre I will never try to write is Science Fiction. (I do write Time Travel.) I can’t imagine creating a whole world that revolves around Sci-Fi and I’m in awe of my fellow authors who can.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made since you’ve first started publishing?
Not starting sooner! Along with that, I’ll repeat what I said in my first answer – printing my first three books at a printing house.
If you could give a new author one piece of advice, what would it be?
Confidence is the key to great writing. Be bold, be brave, be different. Cherish your own voice and what makes you unique. There will only ever be one Stephen King, and frankly, I don’t want to be Stephen King. I want to be Barbara Avon.
Thank you so much Barbara, for taking the time to answer my questions! It’s always fun to get a glimpse at what other authors do as they are writing, publishing, and marketing their books.
The third 2020 prediction offered by Written Word Media is that authors will collaborate on marketing. I don’t think this is a prediction so much as it is them saying, indies will do more of it, or they will be forced to do more of it because it’s harder than ever before to get anywhere on your own.
This is where the evil networking comes in. A favorite marketing technique right now is newsletter swaps, but that comes with its own pitfalls. When you agree to recommend a book to your readers, you’re telling them, “I liked this book, and I think you’ll like it too.” You don’t want to lose trust of your readers because you swap with authors who may not be writing quality books. It takes time to read books by your fellow authors, and I would imagine it would be difficult for you to say, “I don’t want to swap with you. I don’t think your book is something my readers would enjoy.”
You also don’t want your book to be in a swap where the author has recommended a lot of books. Too many recommendations means fewer eyes on your book. Unfortunately, this advice is only good for authors who have a newsletter and you have hundreds to thousands of email sign-ups. Building a list takes a long time, and you may not be able to use this marketing technique for a few years.
That number seems extraordinary if you don’t have a newsletter yet!
The article also suggests that group giveaways will be popular marketing technique. I can tell you as an emerging author with no email list or audience that posting or tweeting about a giveaway to no audience is a huge waste of time. Group giveaways only work if every author in that group already has an audience who likes their work. And those are the authors who don’t necessarily need to market – they already have a solid readership. They are just rewarding their readers for being fans.
If you’re an emerging author, you can always network, and maybe one day you can be invited into a giveaway with other authors doing better than you. I know from experience banding together with other emerging authors won’t do much.
With my series, I have the potential to put together a really cute gift box of Minnesota items and include my books. I haven’t because anytime I try to give something away, I hear crickets. But that’s my fault. I haven’t cultivated an audience, I genre-hop under my contemporary romance umbrella, and I haven’t made connections with other romance writers. I don’t have a newsletter or reader group to announce my giveaway to. I could put together the cutest giveaway and no one will care. And that is the danger of emerging authors coming together. As an emerging author, you have to cultivate your own audience before you can market with others.
Another thing the article points out is that not everyone is trustworthy. In the era of scammers both on the publishing and author sides, you have to be careful who you work with. Everyone needs to do their share (time-wise and money-wise) and you have to market with authors who write good books or your book will be labeled terrible by association.
If you want any hope of being asked to collaborate in any way, your book has to be well-written, your cover must be spot on, and your blurb on point or no author will want to work with you.
What can you do?
As an emerging author, don’t worry about this right now. Work on your own audience. Your loyal fans will be the most important thing to your writing career. Then start slow. Honestly recommend books you like without asking for anything in return. Build your relationship with your readers with trust and integrity. Keep writing and producing good books. All this marketing talk won’t matter if you don’t have good books in your back list and if you’re not producing regularly.
I’m at a place where I’d rather throw some money at ads than network, and that’s only half the problem. I’m an introvert and don’t like talking to people, but I believe that this prediction or some variation will eventually come true – especially since I’m writing romance. There’s huge potential in the romance genre for group projects, and I can’t let myself shy away from meeting people. I could let some really good opportunities pass me by.
This is one of my 2020 goals for myself – be more involved in my romance groups and start a newsletter. Have I done either? I’m researching newsletter aggregators and I have started to post more online. Not enough to help but it’s a start.
I’ve been busy writing books, and I’ll be releasing seven this year. But I do have to meet in the middle and find a balance among writing, marketing, and networking.
How do you feel about this prediction? Are you ready to collaborate with your fellow authors? Let me know, and thanks for reading!
The first thing I did is redo the cover. It went from this:
I would say that’s an improvement. I don’t have the proof yet, and I suppose writing a blog post about the cover without the proof seems to be a bit too forward thinking, but that’s okay. I can post it when I get it. I know the title doesn’t seem to be centered, but uploading it into KDP Print proved to be one over-correction after another. The title may very well be too much to the left, but what’s what the proof is for.
At any rate, covers can go through a lot of revisions and just all around bad ideas before an epiphany is realized and you think of what you wanted to do all along, or you stumble upon the perfect couple at 2am when you shouldn’t have been awake anyway.
The first cover I came up with looked like this:
No one liked it. I put it on the Indie Book Cover FB group for feedback and while no one had anything BAD to say, no one liked it, either, and everyone agreed to take out A NOVEL at the bottom. I think I came up with a nice tagline to put in its place.
It left me a bit stymied because it has a grittier feel than what I had before, and gritty and kind of mean, more alpha, bad boy, asshole was what I was going for.
But I’m glad I posted it and listened to the feedback because one poster said she bought a premade using the same guy. She even gave me the name of the site. It’s a closed group, so out of respect I won’t post the cover, but I’ll give you the website and you can take a peek yourself if you want to see the cover she bought.
I played around with it some, putting into play some of the advice I received from the group; doing something different with the tint, but overall, I guess I felt it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do after all, I gave up for a little while.
That wasn’t even all that bad . . . but that’s okay. Trying out new things until you stumble upon something else that could be better is part of the creative process.
A lot of what goes through my head when I look at photos is, what is the steam level? That was one of the things I was aiming to up on this cover: fully clothed models weren’t depicting what my books were about. Where can I put my the title? Where can I put my name? With my limited skills, what can I do to it to make it stand out? This is important because my skills are LIMITED. I can only do so much in GIMP, and I need to know if the picture is decent as is, and if it’s not, what needs to change? A cluttered background? Can I get rid of that zooming in? The color? How real are the models. Do they look too model-y, or too human? A nice medium is what I shoot for. I probably looked at this couple while looking for others and I passed them by. Until almost a fully-formed cover with these two popped into my head, and I was able to create almost a perfect cover in half a hour.
I used what little skills I have in GIMP to fade the top and the bottom and using a few tips I learned from my friend Aila’s blog post about Canva, I was able to make the rest there.
Next week I’ll take you through how I rewrote the blurb and my process for doing it!
Plus, on Monday, I’m doing an author interview with my friend, Tom, whom I met at the Sell More Books Show Summit! His debut book will be live Monday, and I’m so happy to be part of his launch! Look for an awesome interview with him, and a $25 Amazon ecard giveaway, too!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re enjoying your week! I haven’t made much progress on my 3rd book in my series, as these days off this week just have flown by (plus the weather is gorgeous and I’ve been spending time outside!) but I still plan to have it done by the weekend. 12-15,000 words left. We will see! Wish me luck. 🙂
Dave was kind enough to let me interview him for today’s blog to celebrate his new release! Enjoy the interview and we hope you learn something from his rocky path to publication. Because, you know, nothing can go smoothly.
I’ve known you for a long time, though I can’t remember who introduced us, but for those new in the writing community, tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been writing since around 2002 – I picked it up when my wife and I moved back to Alaska from Maryland. I actually did a bit of writing when I was in High School, but I was mostly interested in video game storylines at the time. In any case, back in 2002, I was out of work and was sketching up ideas for a video game, but lacked the technical skills for game development, but story writing was something that seemed more attainable. I dabbled for ages, taking large breaks to build a house, learn how to make furniture, work briefly as a college teacher, and other various hobbies. Then in 2014 (I think?), I had a moment on my morning commute. It was one of those days that only an Alaskan commute can give you – loads of golden light spilling over the tops of snow-capped mountains. The moment amounted to: What the heck are you doing? Either you do this or you don’t do it. I concluded that I was entirely too stupid to know when I couldn’t do a thing, so I decided I was going to double-down and get serious about it. I finished the book I had been working on for about 10 years and later that summer started my second, Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, which was the one just published on the 5th of June.
This was one of the most informative experiences I’ve had yet with the business. On the whole, it was good in that the system was easy to use making the technical bits of the process manageable. That said, I would never recommend this avenue to most writers. You have to have a following of readers or supporters first. If I were a ‘personality’ with fans, I might have made the goal, but I didn’t have that. I’m a new author from the perspective of readers even now after having done rather a lot of self-improvement and several (unpublished) books under my belt. I think it’s hard to convince readers to buy a book from an unknown that won’t be ready for weeks or months. The other part of the experience was just how much other writers tried to help.
In a blog post from a couple years ago, you said the book was going nowhere and ultimately, you chose to self-publish. It seems like this wasn’t as easy decision for you. How did you finally decide to publish your novel on your own? (To read that blog post of Dave’s, click here.)
Honestly, that post was from a pretty negative place. I’d queried 30 or 40 agents and failed the crowd-funding even after tons of help from other writers. At the time, I really wanted to get an agent and go traditional. I was hoping that I might be that rare unicorn who manages to become a full-time writer. I think this book was the first step realizing that it’s not going to happen. Anyhow, fast-forward to last fall. I decided that I wanted to self-publish the Dark Queen of Darkness. This was mostly because I’d realized that an agent won’t pick up my work, and in even if s/he did AND I got a publishing deal, I’ve got a full-time job that actually pays the bills and I couldn’t meet their deadlines or expectations. I need to keep things on my schedule and my time, so self-publishing suddenly was the only viable route. This spring, after working with an editor, and meeting with a cover designer, I started looking at nuts and bolts bits of publishing, I realized I have absolutely NO idea what I’m doing. Even with all of the advice and what-not, I still don’t really ‘get it’. I decided, around that time, that I’d quietly release an already finished book in order to learn how to operate all of the software, navigate the platforms, and generally understand how all of these things work. The whole point of publishing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks was to ensure a smooth launch for the Dark Queen of Darkness.
There is a lot to learn. Even after six books, I always make a mistake when I publish. Every time. It’s infuriating, so I definitely know where you’re coming from. Luckily there is a lot of help out there, and you’ve been part of the online writing community for a long time now. Did you find they were a help to you during the publishing process? Did the networking pay off?
The writing community has been a huge help. Everyone I’ve engaged with has had something helpful to say or offered their time to read/comment or otherwise help me do a better job at the craft. Not to mention hours of encouragement. I think I pointed out your amazing help on cover design. I’d never have been able to work that out on my own. Actually, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have even tried to self-publish without the confidence I got copying your notes. So, yes, the networking has paid off and given me the confidence I completely lack on my own. If it weren’t for the writers on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, I’d probably have given up.
Yeah, I don’t think the moderator of that group liked my how-to tutorial. She shut down comments not long after I posted the entire thing. To be fair, I should have posted on the other FB page they have for the how-to stuff for cover design, and not the feedback page. But I hoped it helped a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have known. Anyway, this is your first book! What would you say was the hardest part about the publishing process?
I’ve got a whole bunch of ‘hardest parts’ I could go on for days. I was very nearly in ugly man-tears mid-day Tuesday over it. By far, though, trying to get all of the accounts set up and stuff uploaded. I still don’t have my book uploaded to Ingram Spark yet, because it won’t save the title and I haven’t got the foggiest clue as to why. Runners-up include: paperback layout (InDesign is spendy for me, and Vellum doesn’t work on my computer). The third is the business side. I’m still absolutely mystified about what royalty plan I should be taking. I got spooked by 70%, so went with 35% because if I’m making less money it must mean I’ve got less liability? I don’t even know. Those are just the starting points.
Definitely take the 70%. What Amazon allows you to take depends on how much you’re pricing your book for. Grab whatever you can!
Indies talk a lot about going wide. Is your book in the Kindle Unlimited program? Or did you choose to publish on other platforms like Nook and Apple Books?
I plan to go wide, but it’s going to be step-by-step so I can figure it out. When I do The Dark Queen book, I’m hoping that all of the pieces will be in place and it’ll go relatively smoothly across all platforms at once so I don’t have any terrible delays. Essentially, the goal is to add a second book to an existing platform rather than try to get it all set-up and hope I don’t experience any unexpected snags on launch day.
A) How did you come to that decision?
The decision on Kindle Unlimited is based on the hugely restrictive nature of KU. Plus, it’s possible to be completely banned from Amazon’s platform if you violate their TOS, which is a lot more restrictive in KU. After I saw Adam Dreece’s situation a few years back, I don’t know if you remember that, but I concluded that it just wasn’t worth it. Plus it leaves me with questions on stuff like: Can I sell locally at book fairs and things? What’s more, I’m not really sure it’s any more lucrative for someone who isn’t particularly prolific.
I remember Adam’s situation; it happened to a couple other big-time authors around that time, too. That would be scary–especially if you’ve grown to rely on that income. Joanna Penn encourages first time authors to learn Amazon first and then after the dust settles, so to speak, learn the other platforms. Which makes sense. Adam Croft endorses going wide from the get-go. They are two different animals, for sure, but depending on the kind of publishing schedule you have to stick with because of personal obligations, learning Amazon first may be an easier task.
B) If you’re wide, what aggregator did you use, and how was that experience?
I haven’t set up with an Aggregator. This is 100% because still totally new to this and just learned about that right now. Even then, I’m a bit of a control freak and would likely prefer to release per-platform on my own, where possible –at least at first. I don’t know much about Kobo, but B&N is trying to put together a system similar to Amazon for authors. I’ll use Ingram Spark to publish the books outside of Amazon’s platforms and they seem to have services that’ll get me there. I’ll likely change my mind after I research aggregators more and start to understand all of this better.
There is a lot to learn. Some would argue that Barnes and Noble is sinking, and fast. It’s probably one of the reasons why authors stick with Amazon. I have good feelings about Kobo, and you should go direct with them so you have access to their promotions tab. You have to email them for it, but you can only access it if you go through them directly. I use Draft to Digital for places like Apple Books, and yeah, Nook. They upload my book to a few places I’ve never heard of, as well. IngramSpark will publish your ebook too, if you can get them to work for you.
You released the paperback after the ebook. What was the reason for that?
In a nutshell: Impatience. I hadn’t planned on saying much or letting folks know it was out there until everything was ready and I could see it myself. It seems that every time I press a new button in this world, I learn something, new, profound, and sometimes expensive. I’m the sort of person that has to do a thing before I can really learn it, and getting things all ‘set up’ but un-launched is like a task waiting for a problem that will take 2 weeks to sort out. The paperback is ready, I just haven’t seen the proof yet. I was having trouble with the gutters, so I’m not convinced the printed copy will turn out – plus I’m concerned about the cover quality. When I hit the button to publish, I was really thinking that once it’s available on Amazon, I have something to point to in setting things up for Goodreads and the Amazon author page. Plus, I thought it might help a bit in getting Ingram Spark going. There are so many things to do in launching a book and this is all my first time.
You mentioned once you thought self-publishing would be expensive. Was this true in your experience? How did you save money? What was the biggest expenditure in the process?
My experience is that it can go both ways. Wine Bottles and Broomsticks cost a couple of hundred dollars when all costs are taken into account, before advertising. I didn’t get an editor, and I did my own cover. I’m not convinced this was the right decision. Dark Queen of Darkness has been very expensive so far. The dollar figure is likely to be a few thousand to get professional editing, cover, layout, and other things. I’m 95% certain I’ll never make that money all the way back.
Do you have any plans to market?
Yes, but not until I get everything in place. I want to do some testing with Amazon promotions and advertising on other platforms. When I launch Dark Queen of Darkness, I’ll do local events as well and will try to launch with a bit more fanfare than a retweeted post from my wife. I want to see what sort of return on investment might be reasonable.
I understand. I’ve gotten grief for pushing publish and walking away. But the community on Twitter is fabulous–there is so much support there. Every seems genuinely happy for you and cheering for your success. I usually tweet out a little something, but as you write more and publish more, you’ll find you need to break out of writer social media and find that reader social media. Easier said than done!
Thank you for chatting with me! If you have any issues with anything, let me know how I can help!
THIS POST IS ARCHIVED AS AMAZON DID AWAY WITH GIVEAWAYS IN 2019 AND HAS SINCE NOT REPLACED IT WITH AN ALTERNATIVE. THANKS FOR READING!
I was always curious about the Amazon giveaways–you know the cute little button at the bottom left of your books’ (or any products’ really) page. You have to scroll down pretty far to find it–after reviews and two sets of sponsored product ad strips.
You can give away paperback or Kindle versions, and it’s obviously cheaper to give away Kindle versions. Amazon makes you pay for your book, so if you gave away paperbacks, you’d be paying the price you set in CreateSpace or KDP Print, plus shipping. There’s no shipping with Kindle files, but there is tax. So make sure you’re looking at the correct page, and Amazon tells you which version you’re giving away–it’s in the blue to the right of your book’s cover.
Choose your number of prizes:
I’ll give away three Kindle file copies. I did five when I did my giveaway for Wherever He Goes, so I feel like I’ve already spent money on something that probably won’t do anything for me.
Add your photo. I chose a different pose of my author photo that I use everywhere else, but I still look like me.
The next part is where I royally screwed up because I had no idea giveaways ran that quickly, or that people would enter, or maybe I just didn’t understand the stats of a giveaway like this.
I did the recommend Lucky Number Instant Winner, and I chose 100 for the lucky number for the winning entry.
This is what it says if you click on LEARN MORE:
My giveaway lasted fifteen minutes. So When I chose 5 prizes along with the 100 entrants, 500 people entered my giveaway and every 100th entrant won a copy of my book. The fact that it only too 15 minutes for my giveaway to end blows my mind. So will be going with a higher number next time.
And then, of course, I have them follow me on Amazon.
I made it public of course, because the more the merrier.
To recap, I’m doing 3 copies of Don’t Run Away. I have the number of entrants set at 200 per prize so 600 people have to enter to win three copies. They all have to follow me on Amazon.
You would think this would be a great thing. But the thing is, most people enter giveaways just to enter giveaways. That is what they do. Just for the rush of winning, I’m assuming.
I don’t think this giveaway is going to go any slower than my other one, but we’ll see.
Click on no for not offering discounts, then click next.
This is the last page, and it’s laughable. It’s probably where my high expectations came in. The giveaway will end in 7 days? Yeah right.
Then you get your shopping cart screen and you purchase your giveaway. I didn’t screenshot that because you don’t need to see my stuff. After you buy it, you get this:
And you’re all set.
You get an email when your giveaway is live, and for me, fifteen minutes later, I got an email saying my giveaway was over.
Amazon doesn’t tell you how many followers you have, but at some point, hopefully when they email your followers when you release a new book, that some of them will buy it.
Don’t turn blue holding your breath.
While I was typing this up, my giveaway went live–I got the email.
We’ll see how long it takes for the giveaway to end . . . . go get something to eat. I’ll wait.
At any rate, did the giveaway for Wherever He Goes do anything for me?
Not really that I could tell. At least with my AMS ads, even with little results, those are still measurable. These giveaways seem like a waste of time and a waste of money.
Maybe I’ll do a Goodreads giveaway when my new book comes out.
It will be something to blog about anyway.
Did you have a good experience with an Amazon Giveaway? Let me know!
Well, apparently, not very well since I forgot to post the update. This time, this ad was a paid ad (meaning, my book wasn’t free), and I set the price of Wherever He Goes to .99. I thought, a dollar for a book, that’s pretty good, right? Heck, I spent three months working on it, I figured a dollar was a good price.
The problem is, with doing these ads, you just WON’T KNOW why your book doesn’t sell. It could be the cover, it could be your copy. It could just be that no one wants to pay. You never know.
So, in total, I sold 40 books on the day the newsletter came out and a couple days afterward. That is nothing compared to the 4,000 books I gave away during my Freebooksy ad I did back in February. You can read about that here.
As far as KU page reads are concerned, you can see that the newsletter created a bit of a spike, but nothing to write home about. And this is only for Wherever He Goes. My trilogy is still getting a few page reads, but I wanted to see what my ad would do for Wherever He Goes, and unfortunately, for 80 dollars, not much.
Here is what my ad looked like in the newsletter:
Would I do this again? I haven’t made back what I spent on the ad, so it will be a while before I try something like that again.
What I need to focus on is getting reviews, but for using any legit reviewing services, I need to pull my book out of Select because the one review service I contacted distributes the books through Bookfunnel. Amazon considers Bookfunnel as a distribution platform and will yank you out of Select if they catch you using it.
For my next book, I’m going to place my book with a review service first, before putting into Select and see what happens. Hopefully, if I get some decent reviews that way, readers will give all my books a chance.
And I think if I ever do another promo with Written Word Media (Freebooksy/Bargainbooksy) I’ll do the free one, since I kind of feel like I got more bang for my buck. At least, it sounds better to say I gave away 4,000 copies than say I sold 40. It would be great if any of that had turned into reviews, but so far nothing significant on that end, either.
But, that is my experience with Bargainbooksy, and if you’ve tried them, and have gotten better results, let me know!
Even though I said I wouldn’t do many giveaways anymore, it’s SUMMER and that means an opportunity to do a beach reads giveaway!
Let’s break out the beach towels, hit the beach, or the pool, or even the backyard and the sprinkler, and pull out those books while you bake out your brains and try to banish those hold-over winter blues!
I’m in the process of putting together a fabulous giveaway. Need a beach towel–I’ve got you covered. Hypo-allergenic sunscreen? Check! Pool-safe beverage container? Check! Cooler? Check! And most importantly, books.
Did someone say SHARK????
Lots and lots of books!
I’ve got my fellow author friends sending me books–all the books! And that means an awesome assortment for you to try your luck at winning.
Mystery/thriller, Women’s Fiction, Romantic Tragedy, and Contemporary Romance are just a few of the genres that will be included in the giveaway!
I’ll post a link soon, so keep an eye out for more information!