Emma won us over with the excerpt from her debut novel Under the Desert Moon in the excerpt blog poll, and I invited her to do a little guest post. She granted me the favor of sharing her tips on self-publishing! You’re about to get schooled, and you’re gonna love every minute of it:
Margaret was kind enough to invite me to do a guest post on her blog, so here it goes.
I only got serious about my writing late last year. Before then, I would write a short story when I felt like it, and play around with old novels that I couldn’t seem to finish. Every so often, I would submit a short story to a magazine for possible publication or draft a poem here and there. I even submitted a couple of novels to literary agents over the years, but I hadn’t set out a decisive plan of action for my writing career. I was a half-hearted writer, until I found Twitter.
Twitter coincided with my exploration of self-publishing. I had finally finished a YA novel called Under the Desert Moon and after two dozen or so rejections from literary agents, was considering self-publishing it. Right around this time, I found a blog online: Catherine Caffeinated, run by fellow Cork woman, Catherine Ryan Howard. Catherine is a bit of a legend in self-publishing circles and is one of the most successful self-published writers in Ireland. I downloaded her book, Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing from Smashwords, and started reading. This is a must read for anyone serious about self-publishing. Catherine provides a step-by-step guide from setting up a Twitter account and Facebook fan page, to creating an author platform via developing your own blog or website, and explaining, in simple detail, how to format your novel/project for eBook and paperback, and lots of other rational, practical advice. Catherine is a no-nonsense woman. She is not telling you that you will be the next Amanda Hocking, but rather how to treat your book as a business.
Anyway, right around the time of reading Self-Printed, I set up a Twitter account and a page on Facebook for my blog: Emma’s Ramblings on Supernatural Fiction. I decided to give self-publishing a go, but wasn’t prepared to send my baby (Under the Desert Moon) into the world just yet. So instead, I focused on a short story I had written a few years earlier called, “The Dead Beats”, an adult, vampire tale focusing on the intense relationship between rock star, vampire Tristan and his down-to-earth, human girlfriend, Alex. Since it was so short, I knuckled down and wrote another four short stories about Alex and Tristan, eventually calling the collection Night Sighs.
I found a few small eBook publishers online and submitted it. The Wild Rose Press got back to me with plenty of positive feedback. It was the nicest rejection letter I had ever received. They said it didn’t fit their romance guidelines, but if I was willing to re-write it, they’d be happy to take another look. Since Night Sighs consisted of five, individual short stories, it didn’t make sense to re-write it, but still buzzing from the kind words of that press, I decided to self-publish the book as an experiment. I hired an editor to proofread and copy-edit it for me, and in November 2011, armed with Catherine’s book, I sat down at my computer and began to format Night Sighs into an eBook. As luck would have it, I stumbled across a blogger advertising his cover design skills for free. Kit Foster was looking to build up his portfolio and he designed the Night Sighs artwork for me, at no cost.
So, the book had been professionally edited, had a lovely book cover and was ready to go, or so I thought. I hadn’t done my research properly about book tours and Night Sighs appeared on Amazon and Smashwords overnight with little to no fanfare. That’s when Twitter came in. From September to November, I had built up a few connections in the indie publishing world and learned a little about online book promotion. I sent Night Sighs out for review and found many fellow writer Tweeps willing to Tweet about it and even mention it on their blogs. Joey Pinkney and Ashley Barron, especially have to get thanks for talking about Night Sighs and me in its early days. Michelle Cornwell-Jordan, a lovely supporter of indie writers also helped me out a lot, as did Silvia from Darkest Sins and Nikki from Close Encounters of the Night Kind.
Self-publishing Night Sighs was an experiment, a learning project. Many writers are shy to talk about their sales. The truth is that many indie writers don’t recoup their initial costs. People say self-publishing is free. If you’re serious about developing a writing career, it isn’t. You have to pay for editing, book cover design, possibly advertising and if you’re not tech savvy, book formatting. Before a book is released into the world, a writer can have forked out anywhere from $400 to $1000.
So, how did Night Sighs do? I’m still waiting to break even. Why? Who knows exactly, but I didn’t promote it online ahead of publication, and it’s a collection of short stories, which are often harder to sell than novels. The feedback I have gotten on Alex’s and Tristan’s story has been positive, but the one criticism that has come up again and again is that it should have been a full length-novel, so I am working on a follow up now, called Night Whispers.
With my soon to be released, debut YA novel, Under the Desert Moon, I’m a lot more internet and book promotion savvy than I was last November. I found a lovely, small publisher, Soul Fire Press which took me on this year. The publisher, Jeremy Soldevilla has helped me a lot these past few months. Under the Desert Moon will be out in the Autumn, and right now I’m gearing myself up for a marketing campaign. This means organizing a blog tour, cover reveal, guest posts, writing about UTDM on my blog and website, promoting it on Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook. Writing is a business and these days authors have to do as much, if not more work than the publishers when it comes to promotion, if they want to see their hard work reach readers.
For anyone looking into self-publishing, I wish you the best of luck, but make sure to do your homework before you hit the Publish button.
What a post! I love it when successful authors share their stories, and Emma’s was a real treat. If I had more like these, I’d be foaming at the mouth…in a good way. Find her on her author’s site, Emma’s Ramblings on Supernatural Fiction, and on Twitter.
-The Story Addict