It started out as barbed remarks. A competitor messaged me, saying hi, how was I doing? My picture looked so nice! He would rather lose to me than anyone else. He’d read my sample, and honestly my writing wasn’t very deep. I used phrases like “giggling”. Not very mature, or, apparently, good writing.
Then came the protests against my legitimacy as a candidate. Among the complaints that I wasn’t actually living in Fairfield at the time were phrases like “young girl”, and other swipes at my validity as an author. The judges kept me in the contest, but did little else to calm the storm, so several evenings were spent at home, crying in frustration as I tried not to engage. I wanted to defend myself, wanted to call out the unfairness of my work and myself being so constantly criticized for being what they were and for succeeding at it.
I was a young woman trying to publish a book about a young woman. How dare I?
My friends and family helped me weather the storm, some of them going to battle for me, others helping me laugh at the more ridiculous aspects of the farce. We kept asking for votes, kept getting support, and forged ahead, keeping a careful eye on how we were doing. A month after the contest opened, it closed, with a radio broadcast of the readings again, ending with the announcement of the winners.
I had come in with the most total votes. But, because of “a margin of error”, I was declared a co-winner with the contestant with the second-most votes. We were both going to be published. I tied with the man who had tried his damnedest to get me kicked out.
I wish I could say I walked away from this with my head and my book held high, and never looked back except to thank the people who had so lovingly supported me. I wish I could say that I didn’t feel like there was someone who the contest winners had clearly wanted to win, and it wasn’t me. I wish I could say that I silenced forever the little voice that popped up and asked, “Do I deserve this?” But I can’t.
What I can say, however, is that I did it. I wrote a book, a book that I love, a book that I’m proud of, and people can buy that book. I have given signings, gotten reviews, both good and bad, and have seen my book on the shelves of more than one bookstore. And I’m working on a second one. And a third.
I think I’ll always have to deal with people in the writing world telling me “you don’t count” simply because of who I am and what I write. But I’m fortunate enough to have a strong countercurrent against that, and people who want to listen to the stories I have to tell. Not everyone has that. I was lucky to have the opportunity that I did, and even luckier that there were so many people in my life, whether in the center or the periphery, who stepped forward and said, “I want to see this published.” That was the force that won and overruled the voices saying “no”.
For more on the process of working with a publisher check back in next week! Read my review of Untold here or an interview with Amy here. You can find Amy on Facebook and her Website.
Why do you care? You can do the same thing! Here are three reasons you should be giving out ARCs!
- Early Reviews: Reviews are key aspect of your marketing campaign.Don’t have a marketing campaign? Well you should, and at the top of the list should be reviews. Customers look at your cover, then read your blurb, then read your reviews if buying online. Sometimes they won’t even open your book if you don’t have reviews. So, give away ten ARCs about three months prior to release (If possible, earlier is better but sending anything out pre-release is better than sending nothing). Tell readers that the reason you are giving them the copy is for an honest review. The reason I say to give ten out is because not every copy will get a review. Life happens, people get busy and reading the average novel takes 6-8 hours. That’s a lot of time you’re asking for so don’t be a pain and DO NOT ask the readers about the reviews until the three month period has passed. When you do ask them about it be gentle not demanding. A simple “Hey, did you get a chance to read my book yet?” will do.
- Typos: Every book has typos. They’re really hard to avoid. So when you hand out those advanced readers copies ask readers to use a post-it or take notes about typos and give them to you. One of the beauties of being an indie is you can update the book anytime. Hopefully you catch most of the typos prior to release but if you find one after don’t hesitate to fix it.
- Word of Mouth: Before Amazon and Goodreads, most readers found new books and authors when a friend or family member pointed them in that direction. The more ARCs you give away the more readers you will have at your launch. While the launch is more important to traditional publishers, you still need to pay attention to it. If you can get your book in Amazon’s top 20 for its genre or category you will be more likely to have steady sales simply for being seen. Having those early reviews and recommendations are well worth the cost of the ARCs themselves.
**BONUS** eARCs are just as helpful and don’t cost anything to create or send!
Marissa Frosch is the head of marketing at Amphibian Press and also writes under the pseudonym Cameron J Quinn. The first of her Starsboro Series is due out on January 16th. She can found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, her blog and her website.
When I got the idea for Untold I had the feeling, “this is one I think I can go all the way with.” I’d had the thought before (“I’ll publish this one, I know I will!”), but there was something special about Untold. Maybe it was because it was the first novel I’d started drafting that had a strong focus on plot, instead of solely characters/setting, or maybe it was because I was staring down the barrel of my last year of college and needed a plan for what to do after. Whatever the reason, I picked up the idea and ran with it.
I’m not sure how long I would have kept it to myself if my old boss hadn’t shared a link to a contest online. Applicants, who were supposed to be from the town where I went to college, were to submit a full-length edited manuscript and cover letter, the judges would select six finalists, the public would vote on their favorite option. The winner would receive a publishing contract with 1st World Publishing.
I had graduated and was back living in New Hampshire at that point, and Untold wasn’t quite what I would have called “finished”, but I felt confident I could bring it up to snuff on time. I emailed the judges and asked if, even though I wasn’t currently living in Fairfield, Iowa, could I be allowed to enter the contest? I had, after all, only recently left, I was still registered to vote there, and I really, really wanted to be allowed to enter. The judges said yes.
What followed was a month of scrambling: throwing out the ending of Untold and adding a new one, shifting character names, descriptions, and motivations, writing and rewriting pivotal scenes until I was ready to scream and then, finally, submitting the manuscript one afternoon when I was home alone, so there was no one around to ask if I was ready. I attached my carefully worded cover letter, hit send, then went outside and yelled.
I received the email telling me I was chosen to be a finalist the same night that my father-in-law passed away. My husband and I had made an emergency trip to Holland to be with him in his final days, and for those two weeks were like being in an alternate universe. The language was different, so were the people, and something that I had imagined to be full of only grief was laced with a surprising amount of love and joy. In this setting, it was hard to believe that the email saying I was moving on to the next stage of the contest was something that would follow me back into my real life.
But it did. A month later, we were back home and the contest was open.
The contest started out being so much fun. Each of the finalists read a ten-page excerpt from our books, and these excerpts were played on a local radio station in Fairfield. People were reading our samples, commenting (not all nicely), and voting for their favorites. It was exciting, nerve-wracking, and gave me some more time to tweak a few scenes that I thought were less-than-stellar. My husband was the force behind the campaign, asking every single person he knew on Facebook to vote for me, while I dithered shyly over whether or not to ask some of the people I had gone to high school with. My friends were sharing, my family was cheering, and the whole thing felt sportsmanlike and fair. Until I started to win.
More from Amy next Thursday when she will go into the reality of a contest where other contestants won’t lose without getting dirty! Read my review of Untold here or an interview with Amy here. You can find Amy on Facebook and her Website.
- DRM – Digital Rights Management is something you can chose to enable when publishing digitally. It helps prevent the duplication of copyrighted material — in this case, your book. This can also backfire and prevent you from backing up your own finished work. I’ve never chosen to enable it when publishing my work. The reason? I want everyone to read my book, not just those who can afford it. There are many people in this world who can’t afford their next meal, rent, education, let alone a luxury like a new book. They still deserve to read. If that means they log onto PirateBay and download a book for free, then I’m all for it, and think they should be able to. Maybe they’ll be my next biggest fan.
Much of my work involve diverse characters, and LGBT, non-white youth make up a huge part of marginalized (read: impoverished) people. Maybe downloading a book that has someone who looks like them in it would make their day. I’d rather they feel better about themselves than make money.
- Review Copy Resale — So when our books first come out we often send out copies for review, or as prizes during events. It drums up interest and garners more readers. Apparently some authors have issues with their review copies being resold, even going as far as stamping the first page with “Review Copy: Not for Resale.”
I think this is bad business. Maybe they’ve never had to scrounge through their change jar to afford a book to read, but I have, and many readers do, too. Selling review copies to a used book store might not get the author a few bucks, but it allows someone who isn’t able to afford that shiny new paperback to buy their next book. Reviewers read hundred, maybe even thousands of books a year. It’s ludicrous to expect them to save every single book they ever read. I’d rather my book end up in a new reader’s hands than in the dump because I’d stamped it with scarlet letters.
- Be Smart — Many pirating sites have viruses and other horrid things accompanying their downloads. If you’re downloading a book, be smart. Use a trusted site. If you have the money then buy the book from a site that actually gives the author a royalty — Smashwords and D2D give the author the most. But if not, be smart. I don’t agree with pirate sites charging money for my work, but I don’t care if they offer free downloads.
Amphibian Authors in no way condones or promotes the sale of stolen material. This post is directed at authors whose work might be pirated.
Indie Doesn’t Mean "Alone"
Writers and readers both have the reputation of being solitary creatures. We may find big, noisy parties or other social events to be draining or stressful. Some of us find it difficult to be in the spotlight at signing events or public speaking engagements. I have an extensive background in theatre and teaching (which are more related than you might think), so those things come naturally to me, I’m happy to report. Even so, I had long embraced the true meaning of the word “independent,” from which “indie” is derived, since I began writing and publishing back in 2012. However, in December, I met with a local social media guru who encouraged me to start a Facebook group to help launch my self-publishing consulting business, Mountains Wanted Publishing. It may be some time before my business gets off the ground, but I did take her advice to start the group.
I can’t tell you what a difference the group has made to me both professionally and personally. I guess I should have realized there were dozens of other indie authors out there facing the same challenges I face, but I didn’t expect them to be so open and supportive of me and each other. I post a Question of the Day to stimulate conversation, but members feel comfortable jumping in to post their own inquiries as well. It’s not a group for blatant self-promotion, and everyone respects that. I’ve only had to remove a few people for violating that rule. I know drama tends to rear its ugly head in some groups, and let’s face it, some of us are in direct competition for readers in the same genres, but so far I have seen nothing but love in our group. Though still relatively new, it seems to be growing and flourishing. And I can honestly say that through my peers in the group, I learn something new about writing and publishing every single day.
Even though I’m a social person, and I’ve grown accustomed to working in a collaborative environment in my other careers, I had shied away from establishing a support network of indie peers. For some reason, I thought I had to do everything on my own. I am so glad I got over that and took the leap. If you’re looking for a group where you can pose questions, join in discussions, make friends, and engage with other indie writers about both your proud moments and perils, I welcome you to join us.
Krista Venero of Mountains Wanted Publishing also writes women’s fiction as K.L. Montgomery and erotic romance as Phoebe Alexander. Krista has written since she was a young girl, but credits her husband with convincing her to self-publish. She lives near the beach and has three sons, three cats, and three “day” jobs in addition to her writing career. Needless to say, Krista is often seen drinking coffee and lamenting about there not being enough hours in the day.
Find K.L. Montgomery on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram if you are looking for Women’s Fiction.
Find Phoebe Alexander on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram if you are looking for steamy erotic romance!
And Check out Mountains Wanted Publishing on their Facebook Page.
Exclusivity, Why You Shouldn’t
The first name that comes into most new author’s minds is Amazon. Amazon is a wonderful place for readers and authors alike, but they are also tricky. You, in theory, can gain traction by joining Kindle Unlimited but with that little white box of possible downloads, comes an exclusivity clause. You may not sell a digital copy of your book anywhere else but on Amazon.
On the plus side, you can always give it a try for three months. This is recommended for new authors but in my personal experience it hasn’t made a huge difference. How much it pays off seems to depend on genre, so do your homework to see if it’s worth it.
Here are the 5 main reasons you should look into other options:
- Changes in the game/rules: Amazon is a business and above all, they want to make money. They love to mess with algorithms and even who can or cannot review your book. When they make changes to royalties or when it pays you, you have no other option but to deal with it.
- You are running a business: You are. Being an author, whether traditional, hybrid or indie, is a business. You need to think with your business hat on. If you opened a flower store would you only sell to mothers? No, you would sell to everyone. Choosing to be exclusive to Amazon or any other retailer shuts out other readers. Not all devices can read a .mobi file (The file type used for Kindle) in fact, most eReaders take an .ePub file. As a business, you don’t want to alienate readers and you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket.
- It’s not as difficult as it might seem: There are two truly amazing choices in distributors out there for eBooks, we will talk about hard copy distribution in another post. So, for eBooks there is Smashwords (SW) and Draft2Digital(D2D). I chose SW really only because D2D is a younger company and they didn’t have quite as much reach. They are quickly growing though and you don’t have to worry about formatting your book. D2D will do it for you which saves time and money. These two also pay higher royalties to authors. I have recently made a switch from buying on Amazon to buying on SW because I know the author sees more of that money.
- There’s a great big world out there: Though it’s called the world-wide-web, that doesn’t mean the same websites are common or even accessible everywhere. Though Amazon is big in the U. S., Kobo is much more popular in Canada. Do some research via other authors in your community who might live, or sell, in different countries. Be prepared to act as a middleman if someone shows an interest but can’t access your distributor — and don’t forget to ask them how you can make it easier for other readers in their region!
- There is no magic trick to sell books: You need time. Time to market your books, time for your book to circulate. Exclusivity makes this more difficult. Imagine you were planting a garden. If you plant your seeds and leave them alone. Some might grow, but others will get strangled by weeds and eaten by animals. Weeding, watering, marketing. They take time and effort to achieve the desired goals.
Marissa Frosch is the head of marketing at Amphibian Press and also writes under the pseudonym Cameron J Quinn. The first of her Starsboro Series is due out on January 16th. She can found onFacebook, Twitter, Goodreads, her blog and her website.
What the F*%# is an ISBN?
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. You wanna know, what is an ISBN? It stands for International Standard Book Number, and it’s an identification number for your book. They can be purchased in bulk (blocks of 10 or 100) or one at a time. You need one for each format of your book. That sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Originally, you were supposed to have one for each version (mobi, ePub, etc.) of your eBook as well as your paperback, hardcover, and audio books. However, since Amazon assigns its own number (ASIN) to your book, and pretty much ignores your ISBN (You still have to provide one to be the publisher), now it is not required to have separate numbers for you mobi file and your ePub file (though some still recommend it) as long as the content is the same.
Once you check out the prices of ISBNs you’ll see why having as few as possible is a benefit. We recommend having one for your ebooks and one for your paperback versions. If you plan on only publishing one or two books, buying them separately can be a bit costly, and many one-time publishers choose to have their distributor provide one for this reason. If you’re like us, however, and are developing a career as a professional indie author, buying a block of ten is the best solution. We use Bowker to purchase ours, and Bookow to create our barcodes.
Let us know if you have questions or have other great publishing resources in the comments!
Marissa Frosch is the head of marketing at Amphibian Press and all writes under the pseudonym Cameron J Quinn. The first of her Starsboro Series is due out on January 16th. She can found on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.
Self-Published Vs. Indie Author
You might be an Indie if:
- You are Goal Oriented: If you are looking to create a fan base and earn a living from writing full time, you are on your way to being an Indie.
- You Care About the Product You are Sending into the World: Indie authors take the time to create an exceptional product that will help them reach their goals. That means professional editing (Your family members DO NOT make good editors, sorry. You need an open honest pair of new eyes), professional cover design, and formatting.
- You Have an Entrepreneurial Mindset: Indie Author’s own a business. That’s right, writing books and selling them means you are a business owner! And with that you have all the responsibilities of making sure you are a success. That means proper book keeping as well as holding meetings with editors and cover designers. That email you just sent to your editor or agent was work. Cool right?
- You Once Dreamed of Being Traditionally Published: Or you at least thought about it. Seeing your book on the shelves of your favorite book stores… **Sigh** Maybe you found an Agent but they were unable to sell your book to a publisher. You got feedback like, “We really loved this book, but we can’t sell it right now.” So, you headed over to Amazon or Smashwords to see if that were really true. Yeah, you’re an Indie.
You might be a self-published Author if:
- You Just Want a Few Copies of Your Book to Give to Friends and Family: If your goal was simply to write the book but not to sell it to tons of people. You might be self-published.
- Cook Book: This isn’t to say you can’t be an indie and sell cook books, I’m sure that can be lucrative, but if you collected your Grandmother’s recipes for family members, you’re self-published 🙂
- Family History: I love this idea, but the chances that other people will find the Frosch family as interesting as I do are pretty slim… I think. So, that one will be for me and the other Frosch’s.
- Niche Text Books: If you know about something that could be interesting for a few people and you just want throw it out there. Self-Publishing is for you. 🙂 PS With proper marketing, niche markets can make decent money but most likely not life changing.
Self-Publishing is also a gateway decision! You might find yourself eager and on the indie path before you know it!
There you have it! I hope this helped your understanding of the two groups of Authors! We will touch base on Traditional Publishing in a future post!
Marissa Frosch is the head of marketing at Amphibian Press and all writes under the pseudonym Cameron J Quinn. The first of her Starsboro Series is due out on January 16th. She can found on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.
Now, if you want you mom to read your book and help you out that’s fine. But unless your mother is a professional editor with credentials and experience, you need more. Even if she has all that, I recommend going to someone outside the family. **A quick note about moms: Mine found a few errors after beta readers and my editor went through my manuscript several times. Fresh eyes are never a bad thing! Thanks Mama!**
Finding an editor can be tough. Most offer a trial of some kind. One editor I spoke with offered the first 750 words for free or $50 for the first… 2k. After the trial run I realized she wasn’t for me. At least not the project I needed edited. The next person was referred to me through a friend. After the trial run with her we hashed out the details about payment and a timeline and we have been working together ever since. I was lucky it only took two tries for me to find the right person for the job. If you don’t have any writer friends to recommend an editor, there are websites to help you. I found the first editor by adding #editing and #editor to a tweet. While I hope to find more reliable editors to share with you, for now I will have to recommend you check out The Creative Penn. Joanna Penn has always been a trusted source for me. And you may find other helpful tidbits on her site! She’s been doing this since 2009, I believe.
Some people use multiple editors. Content editors and line editors are two common ones. I use beta readers for content, but my editor will also help with content and continuity as she does line editing.
You need to decide what works best for you. However, make no mistake, you do need and editor. As an Indie Author, I strive to make my books look professional and complete. I have purchased and read many self-published novels that either didn’t have an editor or didn’t have a good one and it shows. Their stories aren’t bad. In-fact the thing that keeps me reading (If I keep reading) is usually the characters or the plot line. They just didn’t take the time to get an editor. The last thing I want when people read my book is for them to think: “This is a self-published author, I can tell.” I absolutely don’t want someone spending money on one of my books and feeling like I stole from them. As a reader, this has happened to me before. I won’t name the title here but you can bet I left a nasty review. I felt like I wasted my money and my time. It would kill me if someone felt that way about one of my books. And if you want to be an Indie Author, you know how I feel. So please, take the time to go through the list of editors and services Joanna Penn has collected for you and find one that suits your needs and your budget! Your fans as well as your bank account will thank you for it!
**Update** Hey guys this is post from the Creative Penn’s podcast and I think C.J. Lyons really hit home on why an editor is so important! Plus who doesn’t want to know how to sell a million books?
Marissa Frosch is the head of marketing at Amphibian Press and also writes under the pseudonym Cameron J Quinn. The first of her Starsboro Series is due out on January 16th. She can found on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.