How Free is Self-Publishing?

It costs absolutely nothing to publish a book. Nothing.

free

There are free word processing programs like Google Docs. You can use a library’s internet and computer. Platforms like Draft2Digital and Amazon’s KDP will provide you with some kind of book identification number so you don’t have to buy ISBNs for your books.

All you need to do is write, make a cover in Canva using their free website, use a free for commercial use picture from Pixabay, Pexels, or Unsplash, and you are a published author. All for free.

But when isn’t that a good idea?

Do you know Amazon has over 7 billion books in their Kindle store? And writers publish more every day.

So not only are you competing with everyone you know on Writer Twitter, you are competing with writers who are not on Twitter, big time indies who don’t have much time for social media. You’re competing with traditionally published authors, and those authors range from anywhere between The Big Five to tiny university presses.

You’re competing with writers from the US, Canada, (do you know how many writers I know who live in London, Ontario? A lot!) the UK, Australia, and many other countries.

Over 7 billion books.

Okay. What what is this blog post really about now that I’ve made you feel like crap?

Spending money.

Self-publishing is free.

Until it isn’t.

I do everything myself. For my trilogy, and Wherever He Goes, I wrote them, edited them. I formatted them and did the covers. The orangy hue on the third is my fault. I didn’t have the skill to fix it. It doesn’t look bad on screen, but the paperback could look better. That’s just the way it is, and I accept that.

What can you pay for when you self-publish?

  • Editing
  • Formatting
  • Cover

Those are the three big ones. But we can go further:

  • Beta Readers/Critique Partners/Book Coaches/Book Doulas
  • Blurb writing
  • Reviews/Arc review services like NetGalley
  • Advertising, ie, Facebook ads, Amazon ads, Promotions
  • ISBNs
  • Paperbacks for giveaways
  • Giveaway fees like on Goodreads

No one is saying you have to pay for all of that–or any of it.

It’s up to your discretion how much money you want to pump into your books.

See, this is the problem. No one wants to admit that they publish their books to sell them. Which leads an author not spending one dime on their books.

They are publishing for themselves. I repeat this over and over again like a broken record:

If you only publish for yourself you have no right to complain if your books do not sell.

But if you can admit you want people to pay to read your work then you have to take a hard look at your book.

Is the cover you made yourself doing the job?

Is your blurb up to snuff or is it confusing and off-putting?

Are there typos in the first few pages of the Look Inside?

If you can’t put out quality work yourself, then you’re going to need help.

It’s that simple.

And that difficult because saying you need help is a lot easier than being able to afford said help.

That being said, you can teach yourself how to do these things.

If you just shut down on me, it’s because you don’t want to take the time to learn. That’s okay. I wear clothes every day. That doesn’t mean I want to learn how to sew.

But what I’m trying to tell you is that you must find a happy medium between doing things for yourself and hiring out the help you need to make your book desirable to readers.

Because remember, readers have 7 billion choices.

Listen, my books aren’t pretty. Use the look Inside Feature for any of my books and you’ll see basic formatting. The embellishments are non-existent.

That’s fine. I taught myself enough to get by, and that’s good enough for me.

Readers aren’t going to care if you have fancy chapter headings if your story sucks.

So, being I’ve published a few things, I can suggest where you should put your money–if you have any, or where you should ask for favors from friends–if you have any. Just kidding!

  1. Editing. If you’re a newbie writer, this means a developmental edit as well as a line edit and proofing. Plot holes, flat characters. Developmental editing can be more of a job for a critique partner or someone from your writing group. Ask someone who reads your genre so they have a handle on the tropes and feel for the type of genre your book is in. Once you have a stellar story and a solid look inside sample, you need a good cover.
  2. Cover. Canva.com offers design classes. You need to train your eye and learn what makes a good cover. It can make or break your book. Plus, if you push your book in any way, ads, promos, giveaways, your cover will be the selling point. Look at your genre on Amazon. Look at templates. Try to duplicate them yourself in Canva. You may need to spring for a photo, but that’s not as expensive as you might think. I buy mine on canstockphoto.com for seven dollars apiece. Photos are even cheaper if you buy a credit package.

    A word of warning though. I write romance, and slapping some text onto a smiling couple is a lot different than making a cover for an Urban Fantasy novel. Fantasy, of any kind, requires a certain kind of cover. Negotiating a price with someone on Fiverr is a lot better than publishing a book that does not have an appropriate cover. Your sales will stop before they even start. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

    Sometimes you can find a pre-made template that’s cheap.

    Sometimes you can even find a photo on a photo site that is already doctored to how you need/want it to be. Set aside hours, days, if not weeks, to click through pictures. I’m barely 20,000 words into my next book and I’m already looking at photos.

  3. Formatting. Formatting for Kindle takes five minutes. All you need to do is set the options in Word so when you upload it into KDP it converts correctly. If you go wide and you use Draft2Digital, you don’t even have to do that. (Smashwords is a different story, and your Word file has to be formatted correctly or it won’t convert through their “meatgrinder” and they won’t publish your book.) Draft2Digital seems easier to work with, but I’m in KDP Select and haven’t used either of those services.

 

What is the cost of self-publishing? It can cost as much or as little as you want to put into it.

Someone opening a business always needs to invest. Paying for services is investing in your book business.

I used to think that I didn’t want to invest in my books because I may never get that money back. But that was incorrect thinking.

If my books are well-written, have a nice cover, and are formatted as to not turn anyone off from reading it, eventually, I will see that money returned to me by way of sales.

My books will be sold for years and years.  As I slowly make a name for myself, my sales will increase. It will take time, but I’m in it for the long haul, and I have patience.

I’ve put money toward my books by way of taking the time to learn how to do things for myself. I read lots of editing books. I read tons of blog posts about what makes a good cover. I’ve practiced making covers. I’ve learned to format my files. It took time. But time is money. I’ll eventually see dividends on the time I invested in my books.

time is money

It’s a personal choice.


This blog post begins a self-publishing series about how you can do most of these things by yourself if you want, and where to look if you don’t. I’ll give you the resources I used to learn and you can decide for yourself if it’s easier for you to hire out, or if you can’t afford it, where you can spend time learning things on your own.

Look for my next blog post about editing resources.

Thanks for reading!

 

Thoughts on the RWA

rwa header

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America. I like being part of a group of people with similar interests. I was especially proud to belong when they stepped up to bat during #cockygate. (For those interested in following along with the hashtag on Twitter, look here.) I feel it’s an organization that has my best interests at heart as a writer and author and wants to help me succeed. In fact, I’ve been a member for a while now, and I haven’t even started to explore all the resources they offer their members.

I was listening to the Sell More Books Show and they featured a blog post by Allison Brennan who left the RWA because she felt like the organization operated more for indie writers than traditionally published romance authors.

While I don’t have a problem with the RWA operating this way because I am an indie author, I did notice this, too, as I paged through the Romance Writers Report. I’ve read articles about marketing, discoverability. How to work with editors and book cover designers. These articles are written with the self-publishing author in mind (trad-pubbed authors don’t have to worry about editing their own books, or hiring their own cover designer). Even in the June issue I have on hand, some of the articles include:

  • Romance Law School is Now in Session: How to include law in your fiction in a realistic manner.
  • Fifty Ways to Show the Spark without the Heat
  • Proofreading Hats

I’m not saying traditionally published authors don’t need how-to articles like these, but I am saying that indie or new writers could find more value in them. I suppose a veteran writer could use the Fifty Ways article for writing prompts, or read the Romance Law School is Now in Session article for ideas on how to write a new series featuring a lawyer. But the Report also features ads, and they are geared to the indie writer–lots of editing, proofreading, and formatting ads no traditional published author is going to need.

So the question is, is this the right move for the RWA?

They want to support all their members, and if indie membership outweighs traditionally published author membership, then perhaps it is a good direction for them to take.

However, it feels like there are more organizations aimed at supporting indie writers than ever before. The Alliance for Independent Authors is very supportive offering an array of services from podcasts to a services directory where an author can find professional editors, cover designers, and formatting professionals. There are other organizations as well, such as the Independent Book Publishers Association.

There is support for us indies. So does Allison have a point? Where do traditionally published authors go for support if they find RWA lacking? Do they even need support? After all, they are where a lot of us hope to be someday. Is the RWA pushing them from the nest because they are ready to fly? Do traditionally published authors get enough writing and publishing support from their publishing houses and their agents? Where do they go for networking opportunities if they are slowly being ousted from the organization?

Allison does make a good point, too: if all the traditionally published authors leave the RWA because they don’t feel RWA has anything more to offer, what becomes of us who look up the traditionally-published authors? Who would judge the RWA contests? Who would be our mentors? Who would be our professional critique partners and our chapter leaders?

But let’s be honest, here, too. If the RWA wants to support writers, and by support, I mean, help them make (more) money, then self-publishing is a viable way to go. At least for romance. (If you want to read about indie romance authors dominating the self-publishing industry, click here.)

To me, it makes a lot of sense for RWA to shift. After all, the distinction between traditional and indie publishing is blurring more and more every day. And a lot of traditionally published authors are still the ones who do a lot for their books: marketing, platform building. Some authors have to set up blog tours, book signings, that kind of thing.

Being a traditionally published author today doesn’t even guarantee you’ll end up on a bookshelf. Maybe a virtual bookshelf, but the chances of seeing your book at Barnes and Noble shrink every day. I took a quick peek at Harlequin’s mail service, and if you subscribed to every line and subscribed to the maximum they mailed you in that line every month, you would receive 86 books a month. It isn’t possible that every book would find shelf space, even for just four weeks.

So what does it mean to be traditionally published? To pass the gatekeepers? Is this Allison’s main guff with RWA supporting indies? Perhaps she wants the RWA to nurture us to being published traditionally. But not one way is going to be the right way for everyone.

The publishing landscape is changing. Maybe Allison Brennan doesn’t want to see it. Maybe she sees indies as her competition, not her colleagues. Maybe she sees herself as better because she’s traditionally published. The problem is, that way of thinking divides indies from the traditionally published authors, and that’s just not the way things are anymore.

One day traditional publishing won’t give Allison what she needs, and then she’ll need the RWA to help her gain her footing in a constantly changing publishing landscape that she’s refused to acknowledge.

rwa missionRomance writers are all the same. We all want the same thing. To write quality books and make a reader swoon over a happily ever after. And the RWA supports that, no matter how those stories are published.

Issues like #cockygate affect all of us, and we all need an organization like RWA to have our backs.

I’m proud to belong.

The Wedding Date–A crabby book review

the wedding dateWhen I saw The Wedding Date at Target, I picked it up. The premise was a trope I have always enjoyed–a fake date that turns into a real relationship.

When Alexa meets Drew, it’s in a hotel elevator that has stalled. Drew is there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding. Alexa is at the hotel visiting her sister. They get to talking; sparks fly.  That she is black and he is white does nothing to the story. In fact, because the author does not use the character’s skin color as neither a negative or positive plot device, I forgot by the middle of the book they are even different in that way. I didn’t care, anyway.

Drew and Alexa are from different California cities, and throughout most of the book, they are flying back and forth to see each other on the weekends.

Drew is a pediatric doctor, and Alexa is the chief of staff for her city’s mayor. Their occupations are thrown into the plot as little side bits in an attempt to deepen their character arcs, and it doesn’t work that well. (More on that later!)

As most long-distance relationships go, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, and I have to admit by the middle of the book I started to skim.

The book ended how I would assume a romance would–happily ever after. And no, she didn’t relocate–he did. As a romance writer, I can appreciate the author made her male main character give a little, as a lot of times in books it is the woman who makes the compromises to keep the relationship going.

But also, as an indie writer and self-published author, I have to ask, “How the F did this get published?”

This is probably one of the most annoying things about traditional publishing. Traditional publishers can publish crap, while good indie writers can’t get an agent to save their lives.

I’m not saying this book is crap or didn’t deserve to be published–but I am saying this book could have used a lot more editing.

One thing that turned me off almost from the start was the use of repetitive words and phrases. As an indie, we’re taught word needs space–but this also includes phrasing. Can your female main character look up at your male main character 10 times a page?

Yes.

Does it read well?

No.

I would have loved to get ahold of her Word document and do a search for a list of “naughty” words.

Someone needed to because Drew kept putting his arm around Alexa’s waist, and every time I read it, it made me itch.

The story itself began to grow repetitive and mundane, and like I said, about the middle of the book I began to skim. There were only so many times I could read about them flying back and forth, having sex (that mostly faded to black, so I didn’t even have the sex scenes to look forward to) and taking the texts they sent each other when they weren’t together in the wrong way.

The ending came out the way I expected, but Alexa’s job, her sister’s backstory, and a kid with cancer made the plot some kind of soupy mess.

I want to be clear here. I am not blaming the author. She had a good premise, and she put forth a good effort.

Who I am blaming is her publishing house and the editing they failed to give her.

There are a few reasons for this:.

  1. They wanted to push the book out for marketing reasons or to catch a trend.
  2. Maybe the editor who acquired the book left the publishing house and little attention was paid to the book after that. (After listening to podcasts about the publishing industry I am surprised at how often this happens, and how much this hurts the author and the book.)
  3. The editor the author was stuck with was new or had too much on his or her plate.

No matter what the reason, however, it is frustrating for an indie author to buy a traditionally published book full of mistakes we are told to stop doing in our own work.

And it’s frustrating to know an author can get a book deal when indies who have stellar books in their possession can’t find agents.

There are probably reasons for this, too. She knew someone in the industry and she used her connections. She may have won a contest. Or simply, she just got lucky.

But that won’t give me my $13 back plus tax.

And I suppose the one thing that makes me the most upset is that the midlist is shrinking. Big publishers go for the big books, the books that will bring in millions like James Patterson’s and Bill Clinton’s The President is Missing.

Few midlist books are printed every year. In fact, there are imprints who publish digital only books like Carina Press. This is disappointing to an author who hopes to see their book on a shelf. Any shelf.  Even Target. Maybe especially Target. It’s not an accident the book section is across the aisle from Toys.

What can a writer hoping to query and publish a book take from all this?

That the publishing industry is broken?

We knew that already.

It says to me I may never want to be a part of a traditional publishing industry.

Because I expect that if Roxane Gay, who is a New York Times bestselling author, would be willing to blurb a book, and that book is a Target Club Pick, it’s going to be good and worth my money.

And again, this isn’t a blast on the debut novelist. It’s a blast on the publishing industry that would publish a book that needed so much more work.

I know books aren’t for everyone and this particular book, or perhaps even author because I’ll never read her again, just wasn’t my cup of tea. (I drink coffee anyway.)

But a scan of reviews on Amazon told me it wasn’t a cup of tea for others as well. (Who also may only drink coffee.)

Even someone reading The Wedding Date as a reader and not a writer can still say a book grated on their nerves even if they can’t pinpoint why.

I don’t expect to like every book I read–that’s a given. But with the resources of a large publishing house–this book was published by Jove, an imprint of Penguin–I shouldn’t dislike a book because of the editing or lack thereof.

jasmine guilloryI wish the best to Jasmine Guillory.  I hope she can come into her own as a writer without help or she seeks it out on her own (if she happens to read reviews) because her publishing house certainly isn’t going to give her any assistance.

What do you think of the plight of a first-time querying author? Do we have a chance, or should we just give up?

Let me know!

Deciding What’s Really Worth It

Because of some personal circumstances, I went back to full-time work a couple weeks ago. To say that I have not adjusted well is an understatement. I don’t want to sound whiney, like a little kid being made to do something she doesn’t want to do, but it’s definitely a rude awakening when all of a sudden all the writing time I’ve enjoyed is gone.

I know most, if not all, my adult writer friends also have some kind of full-time job, and many of those also add small children to the mix. There, at least, I am fortunate. My son is 18 and will be graduating from high school soon. My daughter is 12 and as soon as she comes home from school, she runs and hides, all her energy gone from putting up with her peers all day long. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have laundry to do, dinner to make. By the time I have a free moment, I am spent. Not maybe physically, but emotionally, all I want to is mindlessly scroll Twitter until it’s time for bed.

So, lately, I’ve been exploring what I can give up, and what I want to keep, in order to have the time and energy to keep writing.

office-620822_1920And it’s more than that, too. I consider myself an indie writer, publisher, marketer of those books. That means staying on top of publishing trends, practicing writing, reading about craft. I just finished Stephen King’s On Writing. There is always something to do when you are an indie writer: build your platform, market your books, run ads.

What do I do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? Let’s explore:

Daily:

  1. There isn’t anything that I do absolutely every day, except be on Twitter/Facebook (and I can’t even claim I post regularly on my FB author page, either!). I enjoy it, and I follow influencers, top people in the publishing industry. Agents, editors, other writers. It’s easy to write this off as a time waster, but if you follow the right people and use it for more than watching weird gifs, it can be a great networking tool. I’m fortunate to have the account I do, and for that reason alone, I like to try to keep up with it. I have a lot of friends and support on there. Sometimes I do fall behind, and for that, I apologize.
  2. I should add writing to this, but for the most part, I can’t. Sometimes I am physically unable to write. Lack of time or whatever, sometimes I just can’t. It doesn’t help that right now I am formatting and creating my cover for my current novel. Any free time I have is going to that just to get it done. I’m tired of looking at it, and I would love to start a new book.

 

Weekly:

  1. Listen to podcasts. I try to keep up with these as they come out. To give myself a podcasts-2633018_1920two-fer, I try to go for walks as I listen, to get my exercise in. There are two that I absolutely love: The Sell More Books Show and Print Run Podcast. The Sell More Books Show talks about indie news, and I keep up on a lot of things going on in the indie-publishing world. Print Run is run by an agent and editor out of Minneapolis, and they talk about the traditional publishing industry. They’ve opened my eyes to a lot of things, and to their credit, they are candid about their jobs. Others that I try to listen to:
    a) The Science Fiction and Fantasy Podcast. I don’t write fantasy, but a lot of the guests on there talk about their marketing strategies that can work for everyone.
    b) The Creative Penn. Joanna runs a great podcast and keeps you updated on everything from indie news, craft, author interviews and more. At this point, she’s a staple of the indie writing community.
  2. Write. Finally, I can put this on the list. I would go nuts if I couldn’t write. Even when I have to write longhand at work, it’s better than nothing. When I was working part-time, I could write 5,000-10,000 words a week. Especially if the story was going well. Now, well. I haven’t been working long enough to fall into a routine to see how far I can push my limits. And now with summer coming, I just don’t know. All I can do is my best, and so far, I feel like I am failing miserably.
  3. Read craft books/editing books. Being I can read at work if it’s slow, (no internet/computer/device access though, that’s why I buy my books in paperback) I can read a lot. I read Stephen King’s book in two days. I read lots of books, which is a major boon for me. It’s harder to write at work on certain days since a) I can only writing longhand and 2) if it’s busy, I lose track of what I’m doing and my writing becomes choppy. It depends on the day, and what calls I’m scheduled to take. Weekends are better for writing.

 

Monthly: 

  1. Blog. My blogging schedule leaves a lot to be desired. Some of my most dedicated arms-3404941_1920friends will crank out two blog posts a week. I can’t do that. Not only do I not have time, Good Lord, where do they find the content? I’ve added book reviews to my blog schedule (of craft and other non-fiction books) just to add some filler. But contrary to what others say about how important blogging is to your platform, this is the one that I let slip first.
  2. Helping others. Sometimes I’ll edit for free for someone just because I know how hard it is to find help at a reasonable rate. While I limited that to once maybe every three months, or when I come across someone who really needs the help and have nowhere else to turn, I fear I may not be able to do any of that anymore. Which saddens me, because I really enjoyed it.
  3. Author interviews. I don’t do this often, but this falls into blogging, and while it might be easy to email questions, formatting the answers into an enjoyable blog post (see my lovely interview with Aila Stephens) can take a lot of time.
  4. Spend some time on Goodreads. I try to add all the books I’ve read to my shelves, and give a star review, even if I can’t write a quick review on there. Sometimes I’ll try to copy and paste the review I write for my blog into the review on Goodreads, like I did for The Continent.

 

So, obviously, as an indie writer, you need to make time to write. If you’re not writing, you’re not doing much of anything. But if you are writing and publishing, it’s hard to figure out what you can drop since you’re running two or three businesses single-handedly while working a job and raising a family.

business-3385079_1920What could I drop? Blogging, probably. I blog for indie writers, and well, indie writers don’t read indie books. That is not where my audience is, and it was one of my mistakes when starting up my blog. I could give up Twitter, but it’s my main source of writerly companionship. Sometimes I don’t walk as much as I want to, and that’s sad, because MN weather is really nice right now, and I don’t want my podcasts to pile up (when I don’t walk, I listen to podcasts to make the chores and errands go a little bit faster).

This probably isn’t a good time to figure out a writing schedule since I’ve only been working full-time for three weeks, and in that time I’ve been editing Wherever He Goes and have moved on to formatting and creating the cover. I’ll have a more accurate depiction of how I can figure out a writing schedule when I start my next book.

All in all, I’ll just have to try to find some balance like everyone else I know. Pull up my big girl panties, and write when I don’t feel like it. Walk when I’d rather take a nap. Be careful not to burn out.

Lots of people seem to have a handle on it, and lots of people seem like they don’t, too. I’ll just have to look at this as a speedbump in my writing career. It’s not easy to think that way, since I write romance, and romance is notorious for the pressure. It’s not unheard of for a romance writer to publish anywhere from 5-10 books a year. I’ll never get to that point. Even if I didn’t have to work, at all. I’d never make it.

So, I’ll echo the advice I hear over and over, and something I have even told others: Find a balance. Do the best you can. Work with what you have.

It’s all you can do.

My Next Few Weeks

Vania's AprilMay Plans

Last week I finished Wherever He Goes. At 77,863 words, it’s one of the longest books I’ve written, and I’m very proud of how the story came out.

What does this mean for the next couple months in terms of my writing schedule?

Take a look:

Plot out my next book.
I left a few threads open while I wrote Wherever He Goes, and I need to decide if I want to close them up or write a companion to the book. The companion would be about Aiden’s brother Dylan. I foreshadowed a few things about him, but his story isn’t fully developed in my head yet, so I need to think, do I want to leave the threads loose in case his story comes to me, or tie them off and move on? I’m hoping a solution will come to me while I edit. For now, I have another book I need to plot out that has nothing to do with Wherever He Goes. I want to get most of the bones of that book written down before I forget any of it.

I start edits on Wherever He Goes on April 2nd. My editing process is long and contains many steps, mostly because I edit myself, but mostly because even if I did pass my book on to an editor, I would give them as clean a version as I could. My editing process includes:
Initial read-through. This is where I fix blatant typos and plot holes I noted while writing that I didn’t go back and fix. I’ll fix character discrepancies and repetition. I’ll fix my characters’ overall arcs. As I get to know them, my writing loosens up, so I’ll even out the flow of the story. All this is easier on the screen.
Print it out. I need this step because this is where I put my chapters in (I write without breaking up my book) and make sure the plot makes sense. I have an easier time with this when I can “see” the book laid out in front of me. Often this is when I beef up scenes or take out parts that don’t need to be there.
I listen to my manuscript. I have Word read my book to me. This is where I do line edits, and I pay special attention to dialogue and syntax. One day I’ll do audio for my books, so I pay special attention to this step. This step gets rid of wordiness, and it takes about four to five days to listen to it all.
I proof the proof. You can see a lot of typos and long paragraph blocks that need to be broken up when you read the proof you order from CreateSpace or wherever you publish through. You can find repetition, errors, and there have been times I’ve caught huge consistency issues. Always read your proof as a reader would. Take your time, sip on some coffee, tea, or other beverage (keep it non-alcoholic so you have a clear head). This step takes me about three days. I take my time because this is the last step, and the last time my eyes will be on it.

After I edit, I’ll put in the changes and order another proof to make sure my formatting stays perfect.

I don’t have a pre-order set up for Wherever He Goes, no blog tour set up or anything. I did a successful Freebooksy for my first book in my trilogy, so I know I have readers out there. I’ll do a soft release for this book because I hope I’ll already be a few thousand words into my new book.

I’ll still continue to blog. Lately, I’ve been doing more book reviews on the non-fiction I’ve been reading. I have a lot of time at work and I’ve accumulated a pile of books that could be useful to other indie authors. Plus, it’s content, and I’m horrible at blogging consistently.

I’m going to basically stop doing Twitter giveaways. They are useless. There is too much free stuff out there and they are a waste of money. No offense to the people still doing them–I wish you well. This includes doing a Goodreads giveaway. Until I can know for sure you get the bang for the buck, a promo site like Bargainbooksy may make more sense. And cents.

Summer is a time when things slow down, and people take vacations, do things with their families. I still would like to try to write 1,000 words a day and publish another book by the end of the summer. Trying to stick to a three-book a year schedule may be tough because I have to have a whole book in my head before I start writing. I have bits and pieces of plots bouncing around in my brain, but nothing fully realized yet. So I have this next book to plot out, then I hope something comes to me.

Vania's AprilMay Plans (1)

That’s what I’ll be doing for the next little while. I’m excited to release Wherever He Goes. I have the cover tentatively worked out, and you can see it on my Facebook Author Page.

I don’t have any writing conferences to attend this year–a few things take precedence like my son’s high school graduation. I also have a few things going on I don’t have the liberty to discuss, but I’m going to guess will be very time-consuming.

I also need a couple days to make box sets of Summer Secrets and my Tower City Romance Trilogy. It will be a pain in the butt, but worth it!

I’ll be busy between now and Fall, but I’m looking forward to the challenges!

What are your plans for the next little while?

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

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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.

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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.

Author Interview: KT Daxon

Today I spoke with author KT Daxon. We chat a lot offline, but we moved our discussion online so you could listen in on what her publishing experience was like, the roadblocks she ran into, and if there were any silver linings to the whole thing (of course there were!) Join me as I grill chat with KT about how it felt to release her first book! KT Interview

Vania Margene Rheault: I think I read somewhere you’ve worked on your book for about four years before your editor got a hold of it, is that right?

KT Daxon: Yes, that’s correct. Broken Tomorrows began as a Nanowrimo project in 2013. I’ve rewritten it like 80 times and shaped it into a piece of work I was comfortable sending to my editor.

Vania Margene Rheault: How did you start writing it? What compelled you to sit down and try to write a book?

KT Daxon: I had participated in NaNoWriMo two years before, though that book never saw a second draft. When we moved to Virginia, I had a rough start to the year and sought writing as a way to manage the dark cloud that loomed over me. Writing the first draft was a form of therapy that turned into a passion. 1

Vania Margene Rheault: I think writing is a form of therapy for a lot of people. How did you come up with the plot? I have to admit, your twist surprised me.

KT Daxon: Some people have told me the twist was confusing, others, reacted the way you did, surprised. The original plot is a 180 from what Broken Tomorrows ended up publishing as. I wanted to write about a single mom running from a past, but as the years went on the plot changed. My antagonist, Landon transformed into a guy I actually began to care about. In the end, it became his story as much as my female main character, Gabby’s.

Vania Margene Rheault: When you think of plots, or need help nudging loose an idea, do you brainstorm with anyone? Use writing prompts?

KT Daxon: Most of my plots are pulled from real life events, some happen to me, others to someone else. For Broken Tomorrows, I had a friend read the first draft and we talked often about different aspects, including figuring out plot holes. Luckily, the story has changed since the last draft she read, so she gets to read the twist and all the new goodies I’ve included. I only use writing prompts if I am 100% without an idea.

Vania Margene Rheault: You’re already writing another book, aren’t you?

KT Daxon: I am! I’m very excited about this new work in progress and I think that if I can get it to work like I envision in my head, it’ll be a great addition to any bookshelf.

Vania Margene Rheault: How will you mesh that sentiment, keeping your story your own, while improving your story from beta reader feedback and editing advice?

2KT Daxon: It won’t be easy, but I think if any writer were to listen to their editor/beta readers advice with an open mind, and then consider the possibility of making a change that has a meet in the middle aspect to it. I’m trying to think of an example with Broken Tomorrows but I’m blanking right now. Bottom line for me is I need to be open-minded to the suggestions the editor/betas are giving. To understand and know that it’s not because they want to take over your story, but they really are there to help and at the least cause you to pause a moment and consider the possibilities.

Vania Margene Rheault: Sounds like you’d have to think seriously if you ever decided to query. The editing process for books that have been picked up scares me, honestly.

All this background information has been fun, but let’s get to the real stuff, shall we? You launched, ah, early. I’m sure you’re not the first person who has done that. How many plans did that mess up?

KT Daxon: When I hit “approve proof” and published earlier than planned, I won’t lie, I panicked. I had planned to publish on my 35th birthday, make it a big party/celebration day. I had an ARC contest set up, an Indie Feature spot right around the launch date, my bookmarks and swag hadn’t been ordered yet…it got scary. But, it all worked out in the end. The four people who entered the ARC contest ended up getting autographed copies of my book, the indie feature is still on which will be helpful, and my swag is here so I can work on marketing. It also allowed me to begin my next WIP, so, all in all, it worked out.

Vania Margene Rheault: The process of putting the book together after the final manuscript is ready sounds daunting. How did you go about the cover and formatting? How did you decide what platforms to publish on, and what vendors to use?

KT Daxon: I had planned to do the cover myself, but I had to admit to myself it just wasn’t something in the cards for my debut novel. I’m still learning. I was lucky and had a couple of offers for assistance and stumbled upon my cover designer, Aila Stephens. She offered to the read the book to get a good idea as to what we could do and I was thankful for that consideration. I think she did an excellent job and between the two of us, she produced a solid cover. As for formatting, I got lucky there too and a friend helped me with that as well, Rebecca Yelland. CreateSpace has a template that even I seemed the screw up so Rebecca used it to shape up my paperback. A few adjustments from myself and we whipped it into shape. As for what platforms to publish on; that is something I’m still learning. I used CreateSpace and clicked all the channels I qualified for.

Vania Margene Rheault: With so many books being published every day, launches don’t go as well as we hope, or think they will. Care to share numbers? How did your launch really do as compared to as how you hoped it would?

KT Daxon: I wasn’t sure what I expected for launch day, but as of this interview 3/16 I am just under 30 books (paperback and e-book combined) sold. It could have been worse but had hoped it would be better.

Vania Margene Rheault: I don’t think I sold any of Don’t Run Away the first week. But that was my fault–I didn’t tell anyone it was available.  What are your marketing plans for the foreseeable future?3

KT Daxon: For Broken Tomorrows, I am going to try something risky next month. To celebrate my birthday and make it fun for everyone, it’ll involve gifts! But, those details are a secret, so readers will have to be on the lookout on my social media and website on April 1st. 🙂 I’m also going to renew my bookmark order and distribute those pretty much anywhere I can; dentist office, airport, housing office, and anytime I go out to eat. Just today, I left one with my receipt for lunch asking the waitress to share with a reader in their life. I also plan to craft a Facebook ad soon and use that to promote on FB in May.

Vania Margene Rheault: That’s a great idea! How are you going to promote that? I notice you’re quite visible on Instagram. Is that your primary social media choice, besides Twitter?

KT Daxon: Twitter is my primary social media choice because there’s more engagement here. Instagram is next because it’s easy and I also get a bit of engagement. However, I’m on FB as well but it kinda lacks in engagement. I plan to post a video, but Instagram only allows for 1 min videos, so that’ll be my challenge. I’m currently working on a “script” for the video now, LOL.

Vania Margene Rheault: Right. I’m rarely on Instagram, so I’m not sure of all the ins and outs. Do you have a tentative publication date for your next book?

KT Daxon: The only publication date I have for the next book is Spring 2019. Ideally, I’d love to publish in December of this year, but with my upcoming move, I need to be realistic.

Vania Margene Rheault: Right, as you know these things sound quick, but once you’re in the middle of things, you never know what can slow you down. Now that you’ve had your launch and you’ve gone through the publication process, can you share one thing that surprised you the most?

KT Daxon: One thing that surprised me the most was how hard it was to sell a book. I didn’t automatically think my book would be flying off the Amazon shelves but, selling a book is hard work!

Vania Margene Rheault: Yeah, it’s difficult to get your books out there. It’s something us authors struggle with on a daily basis. Is there anything else you want to add before we wrap this up for the evening?

KT Daxon: One thing I am learning is that you have to spend money as a self-published author. Biggest lesson learned is that writing is not a job; it’s a craft that when passion takes ahold of it can spin into a spectacular journey. I just want to add that I recommend our readers to feel free to download the preview offered on Amazon and keep an eye out for the giveaway information to be posted.

Also, final thought: If writing is your dream, if writing is your passion; never ever give up on it or yourself. There will be days where you’ll want to burn your laptop, but the reward of publishing is so worth the bad days.

Vania Margene Rheault: Sounds like advice we all need to hold on to at night! Thanks for chatting with me, tonight, KT, and for being so forthcoming. It’s always a nice reminder that while things look rosy on the outside, the reality is, writing and publishing is a struggle. Good luck and keep us posted! I know we’ll all be looking forward to your contest.

KT Daxon: Thank you for having me! It’s been fun, as always. I’ve enjoyed sharing some background information on my book and the whole process. Have a great night, Vania.

Vania Margene Rheault: Goodnight!

kt's cover

Look for KT’s book on Amazon, now available on Kindle and in paperback!

Follow her Amazon author page.

Check her out on Goodreads.

Check out KT’s Instagram here.

And follow her author page on Facebook!

And as always, follow her blog, on her website!

Thanks for reading!