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Posts Tagged ‘Indie Publishing’

My walk this morning reminded me of the indie publishing journey I’ve been on for the past few years, as I saw tansy and thistle growing along the fence line.

After much research and many trials, I created Tansy & Thistle Press…faith, fiction, forum. I already had a website, but I wanted to use create my own logo, describing the content of the site and the blog.

The creation of the independent business was a steep learning curve for sure, but I expected the choice of a name to be fairly simple, to think of something that portrayed what I write, and to polish it.

It turned out to be an exercise in frustration, as every name I tried was already used by at least one of the millions of people who have websites. I like the thistle idea, because we have thistles here, but it needed something more. It must have been my husband who suggested tansy, another type of invasive weed that grows heartily in our area. The tansy is yellow, the thistle purple, and I liked the sound of them together: Tansy & Thistle Press.

For the subtitle, I wanted to include fiction, because that is mostly what I write, and my faith always seems to come out in it, whether I plan it or not, which is also what I want to offer. But I also have a blog, and how does that fit in? Again, it was my brilliant husband who suggested the word forum, as a place to discuss faith and fiction and other topics.

I registered the business name and logo January 6, 2016, using the image above that a business on Fiverr created, and have enjoyed using it since. I continue to write, working on the third book in my In Search of Freedom series, and hope to have it available either for Christmas or shortly afterward. If life would stop interrupting, it would be easier, but I am enjoying this summer with family and friends, so at times, the writing is pushed back. But I will pursue it in order to tie up this series with Far Side of the Sea, as soon as possible.

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lorena-lake2dsc00179I am pleased and honored today to share my interview with author Lorena McCourtney. Her cozy mystery books, the Ivy Malone series, with her LOL (little old lady) heroine, have entertained and inspired me. She has also written two other mystery series: the Andi McConnell Mysteries and the Cate Kinkaid Files, as well as many stand-alone novels.

JANICE: Welcome to my website, Lorena. I’m interested to know how long you’ve been writing and how you came to it.

LORENA: I’ve been writing most of my life but doing it professionally since I was in my 20s. I started with juvenile short stories, mostly for the little Sunday School publications. (Are those even in existence anymore?) I went on to short stories for women and eventually got into novel-length romances for the secular market. When I finally decided that wasn’t for me (and the Lord gave me some serious nudges), I switched to Christian romances and then Christian mysteries.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

LORENA: That would be my mother, who wrote quite a few non-fiction articles. Because of her I knew how to submit short stories to magazine editors. (Which, unimpressed with my youthful “talent,” they quickly sent right back.)

JANICE: Haha! But it was a start. What’s your preferred genre?

LORENA: My preferred genre is what I’m doing now, Christian mysteries – with a touch of romance. I’ve done a few of the serious/intense type mystery, but I prefer more lighthearted stories. My Ivy Malone Mysteries, the Andi McConnell Mysteries, the Cate Kinkaid Files, and now my new Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mysteries are all lighthearted, with a touch of humor and fun.

JANICE: What’s your motivation? Why do you write?

LORENA: Writing is my one and only talent! It’s my way to serve the Lord.

JANICE: Not sure I believe that, but I’m very glad you are using your writing. Tell me, how and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

LORENA: I’ve always considered writing my job, a full-time job. I have a room set aside as an office in our home, and I do all my writing there. I know some writers like a busy coffee house or other place where people are around to write, but I need quiet and alone-ness.

I used to be a plotter. I’d have a short story or novel figured out from beginning to end before I started writing. But in recent years I’ve become much more of a pantser. I have a vague idea of where the story is going, but it’s definitely flexible. I’ve been known to change killers in the middle of a mystery!

JANICE: The pantser idea intrigues me, but at this point I feel I have to stick to plotting, especially with historical fiction (can’t change too much history!). Lorena, where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

LORENA: Ideas are everywhere. I keep an “Ideas” file folder and jot down anything that happens to come into my mind. If I get more ideas about a particular story idea, I give it a file of its own and keep adding to it. I’ve never waited for “inspiration” to write. As a job, I go to my computer and work on whatever the current project is. Sometimes I don’t get much done. I’ve never had daily word count goals. Some days all I do is rewrite – or delete – what I’ve done before. If I waited for inspiration or to be in the “mood” to write, I’d never get anything done.

JANICE: I completely agree that we can’t wait for inspiration to write, or the books would never happen. How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

LORENA: I usually do research on a “need to know” basis rather than doing a lot of beforehand research, though I may do some research on a setting before I get started. Also, except for two books in the Great Depression era, I’ve always done contemporaries. I think historical might need considerably more advance research than I do. For my writing, I’ll come to a hole in my story and then research that particular point. Such as with my latest book, “Something Buried, Something Blue,” I needed to know about windmills, armored car robberies, and the D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, and I researched each one as I came to it. I usually do research on the internet – checking more than one source to see if they agree. But with a setting I really like to go there and see it in person. (Also a great reason to travel!)

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

LORENA: What do I like most about writing? Well, basically, I can’t imagine life without writing. It’s just what I do. Least liked – it used to be deadlines. But now that I’ve gone from traditional publishing to Indie, I don’t have to worry about deadlines. In all honesty, this means I don’t get as much done as I used to. (Actually, I consider myself kind of semi-retired now.) But I keep plugging along and eventually get something done.

JANICE: I didn’t realize you had gone Indie. The best part of that, in my opinion, is compiling all you need and pushing the publish button. No waiting for months and years for things to happen. But with independent publishing comes responsibility for self-promotion. How do you handle this? What have you found to be the best methods of promoting your work?

LORENA: After many years of being a writer, I’m still trying to figure out promotion!

JANICE: Hmm. It is a challenge. Do you use social media?

LORENA: All I’m using at this time is Facebook. And thinking I should do more, of course.

JANICE: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

LORENA: As I said before I’ve always considered writing a job, so it’s never been something I squeeze in around other things. However, since I am in this “semi-retired” status I’m more willing to take time off for other things.

JANICE: I personally think reading is critical for a writer. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

LORENA: I’m currently reading a couple of mysteries on my Kindle, although I read a wide variety of materials. Anything that happens to catch my interest. I now much prefer reading on my Kindle to reading print. I like being able to carry around a lot of books to read, so if I lose interest in one I can just hit delete and go to something else. I used to feel that if I started a book, I was obliged to finish it. No more! I also like being able to increase the font size to what is comfortable for me, which I can do with my Kindle. I’m more interested in the contents of a book than in the physical way those words come to me.

JANICE: Oh yes, I love having dozens of books available to me on my Kindle. And I’ve also released myself from the obligation of finishing every book I start. On a personal note, what are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

LORENA: My favorite things are so ordinary, not at all unique. Reading. Eating. Taking a walk, especially on the beach. Travel. My husband watches a lot of TV, but it’s more background noise than actual watching for me. I collect old pocket knives and spurs, but I do it in kind of a lackadaisical way.

JANICE: Your collections are certainly unique. What keeps you going in your writing career?

LORENA: I’ve been writing so long that, even though I’ve slowed down considerably in my “semi-retirement,” I can’t really imagine not writing. Which isn’t to say I haven’t had a lot of discouraging times over the years. But you just groan and grumble for a while and then move on.

JANICE: Yes, because it’s what you do, same as with any “job.” How is your faith reflected in your writing?

LORENA: Earlier in my Christian writing, I often wrote about characters who had a problem or crisis in their faith. But these days I tend to prefer a main character who is secure in her faith, and her faith is simply reflected in how she faces situations or tackles problems in her life. My Ivy Malone character is a good example of that.

JANICE: A more mature angle. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

LORENA: That it’s way too easy to let writing assume too great an importance in your life. Well, it certainly is important. But there’s a big world outside the writing world, and a bad review or poor sales, or whatever other difficulty you’re encountering at the time, isn’t as important in the big scheme of life – and eternity – as it might seem at the moment. So is success.

JANICE: Thank you for those words. That’s a recurring theme that’s been popping up in my life lately. What are you working on now?

LORENA: The first book in my Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mysteries series, “Something Buried, Something Blue,” something-buried_smallis now out in both e-book and paperback, and I’m trying to get started on the next book in the series. I’ve had some 48 books published in my writing career, but it doesn’t get any easier!

JANICE: So I’ve heard! I’d like to encourage you to continue to face that challenge, because I’m anticipating more of Mac & Ivy. What is your ultimate writing goal?

LORENA: To keep doing the best writing I can for as long as I can. Although I can say I’m pleased that I’ve won a few awards along the way and did hit a New York Times bestseller list with one book.

 

JANICE: Ooh! Which book was that?

LORENA: It was the first book in the Cate Kinkaid Files series: Dying to Read. It made both the Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers list.

JANICE: Congratulations on that. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

LORENA: In the long run, I think that persistence, a general stick-to-it-iveness, is probably more important than talent. Of course talent never hurts! But I’ve encountered more than a few would-be writers with talent who make a great start with a book – but never finish it.

JANICE: Thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions, Lorena. It helps us to get a glimpse into your life and writing.

To purchase some of Lorena’s books—I’d highly recommend them, especially the Ivy Malone series—go to Amazon. You can also see her books in order HERE.

 

INSERT PHOTO, BOOK IMAGE. And links.

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Along with the innate freedom of self-publication, there have been a couple of major struggles to balance the euphoria.

One obstacle, which I have often referred to, is marketing. For those of us who aren’t inclined to narcissism, who don’t have a self-promotional bone in our bodies, marketing can be the bane of our existence. We just want to write, but if no one knows we have written, or what we have written, or how to access it, it won’t go beyond our own small world.

I encourage other indie writers—myself included—to reach for help in the marketing department. We cannot be all things to all people, but we can access the tools to gain our goals of promoting our work.

The second obstacle that comes to mind is that of placing our independently published books in brick and mortar stores. My first three books, traditionally published, were carried by local and larger center booksellers for years. I did arrange launches and presented my product, but the outlets were always glad to comply with my request. The reason: they could return any unsold copies to the publisher for a refund.

These same stores have either gently refused my request or passed it over, because they don’t have the same options of returning unsold books. My novels are released as POD (print-on-demand), so once they buy these books, they have no option to return them.

While I realize the difficulties for booksellers, I also think we need to find a way to promote and sell self-published books in the marketplace. There’s no problem with digital copies, of course, and I also publish e-books, but I have readers who either can’t or don’t choose to read digitally. When they ask if my latest books will be available in local stores, I have to direct them to the online store (Amazon or The Book Depository – no shipping cost for TBD), which also creates a barrier for some readers.

This is an ongoing issue that writers with more clout are working to fix, and although I don’t have that kind of influence, I’d still like to add any help I can by informing readers about these problems. Because the number of writers who are publishing independently is not waning; it’s growing steadily.

How can people help? One way might be voicing our concerns (not only as writers but as readers) to booksellers. A practical way to help indie authors is to request their books in bookstores.

 

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I think the most challenging aspect of Independent Publishing is staying with it. Remaining faithful in the face of uncertainty, whether that refers to actual skills or wondering when the monetary rewards will kick in.

I have memories of my earlier publishing experiences with a small royalty press. Although I had a say in a few things (very few), I left the details to my publisher and continued writing the next novel.

However, all the expectations of my previous publishing experiences have been turned upside down with indie publishing. Not only do I have a say in crucial decisions, I am the final word. It’s an entirely new portfolio, one for which I was not prepared. Wet behind the ears. Green. Unreasonably optimistic.

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But we don’t give up just because of challenges. There are many avenues to learning what we need to know to persevere in indie publishing.

We can google. We can search for books and blogs and articles that can help us in our journey. We can talk with people who are on the same journey, receiving encouragement from those ahead of us and giving encouragement to those a step or two behind.

The key is perseverance. That and faith in the One who gives gifts and the will to use them.

Verse for the day: II Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times,

having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

 

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I recently read a blogpost on the Novel Rocket site that tweaked my interest because it’s about indie publishing. It’s written by Michelle Griep, an amazing Christian author who, incidentally, has a great sense of humor. I’ve read a number of her books (Gallimore, A Heart Deceived, Brentwood’s Ward) and loved them. When I asked Michelle if I could repost her article here, she said, “You betcha.” So here is Michelle’s experience with independent publishing, so far…

You know those TV shows that feature some daredevil lighting his underwear on fire as he hops on a motorcycle and jumps over five semi-trucks and a baby, all while some scrolling type at the bottom of the screen warns you not to attempt this at home? Yeah. I feel like there should be some kind of warning to those considering self publishing because it’s really not as easy as it looks. Leastwise not if you want to put out a quality book.

So here is my attempt at enlightening those who think they’ll just slap up some type on Createspace and rake in a million bucks.

**pretend the following is scrolling across the screen . . . I’m not technologically savvy enough to do that and there’s no teenager around for me to collar**

  1. Covers are a pain in the patootie. Who knew there’d be so many decision to make? Color. Style. Artwork. Wording. Layout. Font. Sizing. Transparency. Bleed. And that’s just in the first consultation.
  1. No matter how many times you go through a manuscript, you can always find something else to change.
  1. A good editor is worth her weight in chai. I didn’t actually have the money up front to pay for a manuscript edit so I bartered for a lifetime supply of chai. So far it’s worked out pretty good. Of course, if she lives to be one hundred, I may be in trouble. Nah. I’ll be dead first. Hahahaha! Joke’s on her. . . wait a minute. Maybe not.
  1. If you put your book up for pre-order on Amazon, they give you a deadline set in stone to upload your final copy. If you’re late, oops! Your name is written on the Amazon naughty list and you don’t get to put up any more pre-orders for over a year.
  1. There’s way more that goes into producing a book than simply good writing, though that is a must. There’s book size, paper color, paper weight, ISBN nonsense, Library of Congress shtuff, a bajillion different kind of ebook conversions, yada, yada. Seriously, I had no idea.

It was an adventure putting out my self-pubbed book, Writer Off the Leash, but one that’s been a good education. Would I do it again? Probably. Will I leave the realm of traditional publishing behind? Nope. Each venue has their pros and cons.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

WOTL Front Cover Final

WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michelle Headshot 2 2015

 

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.

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“Starting your book is only the first five miles of a twenty-six-mile marathon that’s one-third of a triathlon (authoring, publishing, and entrepreneuring).”

― Guy Kawasaki, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

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Hello fellow writers and publishers,

Since the completion of my first indie publication, my focus has been on marketing. Oh joy! I’ve spent a good amount of time studying the topic through online courses and video presentations.

One of my favorite sites is LiveWriteThrive, an excellent writing blog by C.S. Lakin. Take a look at her current and past blogs for whatever fictional element you are studying.

I’ve also become aware of some good writing and publishing courses through Shelley Hitz of Author Audience Academy.

A few of my main conclusions from these various lessons are:

  • Selection of genre categories plays a huge part in book accessibility and sales
  • It’s important to identify niche genres that sell well but don’t have tough competition, as well as larger categories (requires a balance here)
  • It’s important to narrow our focus to target a specific audience rather than casting too wide a net
  • It’s important to understand how to analyze books in our niche genre with regard to cover design, keywords, and description, so we can categorize our books alongside best sellers in that genre
  • It’s important to keep praying as we do our best to follow trends and suggestions
  • Amazon marketing can be elusive, and sometimes downright ridiculous. For example, the first edition of my book, Other Side of the River, is currently listed at $1009.67 (for the paperback). Wish I could share in the royalties for that sale!

I am seated precariously on the wagon of building my email subscriber list. I have questions as to how assertive I want to be in collecting subscribers, because I react negatively to pushy emails. So that’s something I’m still working on.

I came across a suggestion to do one thing every day for three years (yes, it said years) with regard to marketing my book. Yesterday (May 16) I emailed reviewers of my first edition and asked them if they would be so kind as to transfer their reviews to the site of the current edition. Sometimes Amazon does this automatically, sometimes not.

Here’s one more thing required from the indie author: legal deposit of every form of your work. In Canada, where I live, I was directed to Library and Archives Canada—Legal Deposit. Since my print book is POD (print on demand), I was only required to send in one copy of my book. Make sure you check this out according to the law of the country in which you reside.

I found out that for the print version, I was able to send a gift copy to the address in Ottawa (gifting seems to be available for print books on amazon.ca but not for digital format). That meant purchasing the book and paying for shipping, but it was fairly easy to accomplish this online. In the process, I spent a few minutes on the phone with a lovely French woman. She was so much fun to talk with, which is highly unusual in the arena of governmental beaurocracy, that I just had to call her a second time!

For the digital format, all I had to do was send a .pdf copy of the book after registering with the digital records division.

Meanwhile, I think the best thing I can do as an indie author is to get back to work on the sequel.writer-1129708_960_720

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It always seems impossible until it’s done.

-Nelson Mandela

It’s done! Yes, Sir / Ma’am.
OtherSideOfRiver_cover_5.25x8

 

My first self-published title is available on amazon in e-book and print. Here’s the cover shot. Love the work by Fred Koop Design.

I’d like to say I now know how to format and upload, so the road will be easier next time. However…this time I copied my files from Scrivener, my writing program, to docx and then pdf for print, and to mobi for Kindle (I used Calibre to convert my docx to mobi). That was a stretch!

Next time I want to learn how to properly export the formatted files directly from Scrivener. So it will take a bit of time to figure this out, but once I do, it will save a number of steps in the process, and I can save the settings.

Just so you know, I have enrolled my book in the Kindle Select program, so it will be exclusive to Kindle for the next 90 days. After that, I will be free to upload it for Nook, Kobo and iBooks.

I’m very happy with the outcome of the book, but now I need to let others know. I’d long thought of starting an email list, but I didn’t even know how to begin. I thought it was the same as the list of people who follow my blog. Wrong.

The right way to begin is before the book is out. I didn’t do it that way, of course. But I wanted to learn how to make the email list work, so I took a free online course by Bryan Harris and jumped in with both feet. I made up a brief email note and sent it to every person on my contact list that could be even remotely interested. I asked if they would like to receive email updates about my indie publishing adventure. If so, they could send me their best email address and I would send them a link to my free e-book.

Important Point: You cannot use an email address to sell or give away product, or to send out advertising or blogs, without the express permission of the individual. That’s why even if you know the email address, you have to ask you for it before adding it to your email list.

I should have (famous last words) sent this ad campaign through Mailchimp, with which I have an account. I didn’t. Then the replies began to arrive and I was overwhelmed for several days, trying to keep track of who I had contacted, who had responded, and who had been sent the second email with the link to my free e-book. It was the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice Syndrome.” But that was only my first mistake.

I tend to make spectacular mistakes instead of small, neat ones. I realized, after I’d sent out the link to my free e-book, that it was only free to Kindle Unlimited users (who pay $9.99 or so a month for membership). Now what?

I called KDP in a panic and the rep said, “I think we can help you.” What a relief. I could set my book at no cost for 5 days. I did that immediately and that problem was solved.

And so the journey continues. The expectation of email list building is that you get 100 subscribers in a week, 1000 in three months, and 10,000 in ten months. Forgive me if I don’t have enough faith. But I’ll keep pursuing this at my own speed and see where it takes me. After all, I have a sequel to edit and format and upload…

I encourage any of you who wish to go independent that yes, you can do it. Keep at it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are always solutions to problems.

Till next time, all the best with your self-publishing journey.

NOTE: If you don’t know the difference between docx and pdf, between epub and mobi; if you have never heard of Calibre or Scrivener or Mailchimp, do not despair. You can learn. Take another look at Mandela’s quote at the top of this article.

Scrivener is my absolute favorite writing tool/program. It’s inexpensive (I paid $40 USD a few years ago) and it’s user friendly. I took two online courses, one for general Scrivener use and one for Scrivener compile, and have all the notes. Read more about it HERE and on my blog from January 27, 2015.

 

 

 

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