Why Did I Indie Publish?

Since self-publishing The Purple Door District, I’ve received a lot of questions about why I decided to go that route. Well, I want it to be clear that I actually hope to become a hybrid author. My goal is to self-publish some books and traditional publish others.  I want to experience both worlds and see which one works the best for me. For all I know, indie publishing will win out.

The first answer to this question is easy. The Purple Door District is a component of a larger series called Fates and Furies that I write with my co-author, AE Kellar. We decided early on that when we published the books, we wanted to go the indie path. We’d have more freedom that way and we could keep all the important elements in the book without the fear of having a publisher take them out. We wanted control of the cover and the publishing schedule. We both have tight schedules and sometimes we just can’t write together. We didn’t want the pressure of a publishing house coming down on us, insisting we had to have work done at a certain time when it just wasn’t feasible.

Now, that being said, we still want to put work out consistently, but indie publishing is more flexible and more forgiving when it comes to time frames. If we have to push publication dates back to make the book better and stronger, then so be it. So, The Purple Door District was guaranteed to be self-published.

But what about my other books like Dragon Steal or Traitors of the Crown? Why not self-publish those?

Well, again, I want the experience, and I feel like those books might do better with publishing houses that focus on the same type of topic.

Indie publishing is an adventure, to be blunt. You have control of everything. Writing. Editing. Choosing editors/proofreaders. Finding the cover. Marketing. Formatting. Publishing. Distribution. You wear all of the hats, and while that can be daunting, it can also be extremely enjoyable and rewarding. I went from having this book I was just posting on patreon with a rough cover to a published copy in my hand and in bookstores. I spent six months doing my marketing and printing campaign, and I honestly couldn’t be happier.

I was relieved that I could choose my own cover. Often in traditional publishing, you don’t get a say in it. In my case, I found an artist, and she and I worked together to perfect the cover. She willingly listened to my suggestions and adjusted the art so it turned into the lovely piece it is today. Likewise, I found artists who could make character images for me, and I was the only one who could say if it matched my vision. I had the final approval. You don’t always get that in the traditional world.

I also was able to choose my own editors and proofreaders. I went with people I trusted, who had worked with me either for a long time or had demonstrated a passion for the craft and my book. Our relationships became harmonious, and we were able to message each other without having to worry about a publisher watching over us.

Indie publishing is no longer as taboo as it used to be. Authors are spending money to acquire editing services, and more freelance editors are appearing everyday. One of the biggest things I love about indie publishing is working with the community. I’m not the only one benefiting from publishing the book. Editors, proofreaders, artists, PA specialists all have a hand in the book and receive payment for their work. I’m proud to have met so many incredibly talented people and it brings me great joy to promote them on my website.

Indie publishing is a lot of work and a ton of money (depending on how you want to do it). You can indie publish and not spend a dime except for purchasing books. Or, you can put more of your cash into it to create a bigger marketing strategy. Again, the choice is yours. You have control over your own process. And you don’t have to worry about a publishing company folding and dropping the series you’ve been working on (it’s happened before).

I’m not waiting for anyone to promote my materials or set up book signings for me. I do it all myself and go where I think I’ll have the most success. Walking this path has turned me into a stronger and more knowledgeable writer that I’m not sure I would have received from traditional publishing alone. Yes, in traditional publishing you still have to help market, but not to the same extent as indie.

I give a lot of credit to those who have self-published before me, and those who will after me. I feel like may of us have become a close-nit community because we all know the struggle of creating and promoting our books. The writing community is incredible, and no matter if you choose to self publish or traditional publish, I hope you’re proud to be part of the community.

2018 Wrap Up and 2019 Goals

I can’t believe that 2018 is finally over. It felt like the year that just would not die! I made resolutions last year, but most of them I don’t even  remember, except for wanting to start querying Dragon Steal, which I did manage to accomplish. For this post, I’d like to go over some of the awesome (and not-so-awesome) things that happened this year and cover my goals for 2019.

2018 in Review

  • Finished editing Dragon Steal and submitted it for publication.
    • I’ve received several rejection letters but recently got a full manuscript request. While the rejections have hurt, at least the book is out there!
  • I created my own website and started developing a branded persona on twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. I have over 1,000 followers both on twitter and on instagram.
    • Even better, I’ve met a ton of amazing authors and creators through these sites who I can’t wait to work with next year!
  • Wrote, edited, and published The Purple Door District.  I can’t believe I developed my own marketing and indiegogo campaigns, formatted the book, published it, and held a launch party all in the space of six months. The question is, can I do it for PDD2?
  • Had “Latte with a Shot of Poltergeist” and “Frozen Heart” published in anthologies.
  • Submitted more short stories and poetry than I ever have before. While I received a lot of rejections, I at least received a few publications.
  • Officially launched The Writers’ Rooms with my co-Director, Alexandra Penn. We also finished our Articles of Incorporation and got certified as a non-profit corporation.
  • Helped develop the concierge anthology through The Writers’ Rooms.
  • Returned to my college and taught a few classes about publishing and NaNoWriMo.
  • Wrote 50k words for The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Lost about 45 lbs through exercise and healthy eating.
  • Attended my first book signing event with other authors and signed up for even more in 2019.
  • Hosted giveaways for my book and swag that was developed by local creators.
  • Started my patreon account to help raise money for my writing career.
  • Received honorable mention in Writers of the Future.
  • Truly started my profession as an author.

It’s been a really big year for me writing wise. I still can’t believe that six months ago I decided to publish The Purple Door District. It seems like ages since I made that decision. I’ve managed to publish a few pieces of work this year, including on wattpad and patreon.

Next year, I hope to do even more, but also find a way to take care of myself at the same time.

2019 Goals

  • Focus on my mental health and take better care of myself mentally and physically.
  • Find an agent and publisher for Dragon Steal.
  • Finish writing and publish The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Work on Fates and Furies with my co-author, AE Kellar, and hopefully publish the first book, if not in 2019, then in early 2020.
  • Submit more short stories and poetry for publication.
  • Start working on The Purple Door District #3 and Dragon Steal #2
  • Return to working on Traitors of the Crown.
  • Lose more weight for health reasons and get healthier.
  • Attend multiple writing conventions to both sell my books and to meet other authors.
  • Start my path to becoming a full-time author.

These are pretty ambitious goals, but I think most of them are possible. I really do need to focus on my mental and physical health, though, because I managed to break myself a few times while working on PDD. If I can’t hold myself together, I won’t be able to accomplish any/all of this.

I’m really proud of what I did this year. It’s my biggest year as an author, and I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds. I’m also a little scared. What if next year doesn’t unfold as well? I guess that’s all part of growing up and making plans as a writer, though. Some years you’re going to make it big, and some years are going to be a lot slower. I hope 2019 is still a fantastic one.

What are your goals for 2019? Feel free to share them below! Also, let me know what topics you’d like me to cover this year!

Happy Writing!

Erin

Creating a Book Launch: Reflection

It’s been a week since I launched The Purple Door District. It’s hard to believe that it’s over already after so many months of work. I’ve had people ask what went well, what didn’t, what would I like to change, and so on and so forth. After some reflection, I thought I’d share a few tidbits for anyone else who’s preparing to launch their book. As I say in many of my posts, these are just ideas and not the true method. What works for me may not work for you, but it may give you a place to start.

To make this a little easier, I’m going to divide this into three sections: what I did, what worked and didn’t work, and what I’d do next time.

Warning: This is going to be a long one!

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What I did: 

  • Indie Publishing: I gave myself 6 months to launch my book so I could build up an audience and get my social media platforms off the ground. Keep in mind, I was mostly starting from scratch. I had Facebook and Wattpad, and I had just started on patreon, but that was about it. I decided to go the indie publishing route, which meant I had to do all my marketing by myself, hence the six months of preparation.
  • Cover reveal: I revealed the cover of the book about a month in so that it, and the title, could get out and attract attention.
  • Social Media: I started building up my social media. Twitter and Facebook brought the most people to my website (according to the analytics). I also created an Instagram account. I bounced back and forth between these three, and featured special topics on Instagram like my Book Love Tour, author interviews, and blog entries. I created a schedule for myself to write a blog post every week, which I’ve managed for a few months now. When I got closer to the book release, I created a Goodreads and Bookbub account, per the suggestions of other authors. Through all the social media sites, I worked to build my audience and find fellow writers who might be interested in the book, and who I could help.
  • Website: I developed my own author website to host information about my books, author interviews, my literary projects, details about the community, my volunteer work, etc. Basically my website is a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to know about me and my work. You can find all my social media through it.
  • Patreon: In December 2017, before I even decided to publish PDD, I started posting a chapter or two every month. This meant I had early readers and got a few people interested in the book. I intend to do the same thing with PDD 2.
  • Interviews: Through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, I found people willing to do interviews with me to help promote my book. I worked to space them out over the months so there was always something fresh for people to read. In the same vein, I interviewed other authors to show them support. It’s been a lot of fun getting to meet so many different people.
  • Libraries/bookstores: I started contacting libraries and bookstores who might be interested in carrying my book. In the end, I had three bookstores in the local area who wanted them, and another in the works. Libraries are a little more reluctant to take in indie-published books, but I did manage to get a couple to agree to carry the novel.
  • Press: I wrote press releases for my book launch in hopes that it would help bring more people to the event and also share the news about the novel to more people.
  • Swag: I developed some of my own swag and also brought on people to create art, necklaces, and sand bottles for my book. My intent was to give them support while also helping to promote PDD. It was a lot of money, but the results spoke volumes.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: Indie publishing is not easy, as many of you probably already know. I started up an Indiegogo Campaign to try to offset some of the costs. I spread it out over a month, aiming to gain $4,000.
  • Book Launch Location: I picked a special location for my book launch. The Makers’ Loft seemed like a fitting place because it is all about representing indie artists. It has a great space, and it is still new and starting out, so I wanted to bring publicity there as well. Plus, their marketing team is really good. I’m really glad I chose it.
  • Giveaways:  I did several giveaways over the course of the 6 months. In the beginning, I was just offering swag as gifts (necklaces, posters, etc) because the book wasn’t done. Then I started giving away the e-book, and finally I offered up the published book in bigger contests that ended up helping me build my newsletter.
  • Newsletter: I developed a newsletter to keep people updated on what I’m working on. It helped me keep people interested and connected me with my readers more.
  • ARC: I gave out advanced reader copies to people I knew would finish the book and provide reviews on Goodreads, and later Amazon. I hoped that the numbers would get me closer to the 50 count which triggers Amazon to start promoting your book.
  • Paid Ads: I spent a little money on ads for the newspaper, Facebook, Bookbub, and I think a couple of other places to garner attention.
  • Connections: I worked with my author connections to gain more information about how to launch my book. I also got PDD out word-of-mouth and developed a street team to help me share information about the book around social media platforms.
  • Signings: I set up two signings on the day of the book launch, as well as several others in the future so people would know right away where to find me if they couldn’t make it to the actual launch.

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What Worked/ What Didn’t 

  • Indie Publishing: I’m actually really glad I went this route. I’ve learned a lot about indie publishing over the past six months, and I now have a better idea of what I’d do in the future. It costs a lot, I’m not going to lie, but you have a lot of freedom that you may not have with publishers.
  • Cover reveal: This was a great way to gain attention. I found an amazing artist who really hit the nail on the head. People loved the cover, and that kept bringing an audience back to me. Or at least made people pause when they scrolled through it. Cover reveals are great media pieces, especially if you have an incredible artist. Start it early, and get your name out there.
  • Social Media: I probably made my social media life a lot harder than it needed to be. Facebook and Twitter both brought people over to my website. Whether that will lead to sales remains to be seen at this point. It’s something you definitely need to do to keep up your audience, but the amount of social media presence is really up to you. I think Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram get me my best audience. Wattpad and patreon fall a bit more to the wayside. At the very least, this is a great way to gain connections and find out about other signings, and bond with writers and readers. Recently, my blog posts have started to gain more attention.
  • Website: A must have. I spent more on this than I had anticipated, but it’s worth the cost. I have a store where I can sell my books. And it’s a one-stop-shop for everyone. If I only have one piece of social media to offer up, this is definitely the one I give. I update it every week, too, and that seems to keep the numbers up.
  • Patreon: To be honest, Patreon is not one of my successes. It’s gone well for other writers, but I’ve really struggled with gaining an audience. I’m hoping that now PDD 1 is out, that’ll bring more people in for PDD 2. Part of me wants to give it up completely, but I still think there’s worth in it. If anything, it keeps me on task because I have to post something every 15th of the month.
  • Interviews: This was a big help. Interviews introduced me to new readers and audiences. They made people see that I’m very much a human, and they got to know me and my view of working as a community. I would say get as many interviews as possible, and research if there’s a good response turn out for that interviewer’s blog.
  • Libraries/bookstores: I didn’t have as much success as I would have liked, but I don’t think I tried as hard as I could have. I’m still reaching out to bookstores and libraries, but I’m finding that they prefer to agree to carry your book once it’s printed. That being said, I did just receive my first paycheck from one of the bookstores!
  • Press: This was a dud, but that was my fault. I did reach out to newspapers, but I neglected to reach out to tv and radio stations. I think I just ran out of time, which was an issue. I sent press releases to four local papers and only had one respond.
  • Swag: While this turned out to be a lot of money, the swag really caught people’s attention. When I couldn’t give out the book because it was still in progress, I could at least offer bookmarks, jewelry, and other items. They were all very eye catching, and they’ve served to help bolster the world of PDD alongside the book.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: The campaign enabled me to pay for my first shipment of books, but it definitely didn’t land where I expected. There are a lot of ways in which I would improve on it (more below).
  • Book Launch Location: The location was really great. The only downside is the website has slightly confusing directions, so some people got lost, but they still managed to show up. I had at least 30 people stop by in a 2-hour time frame.
  • Giveaways:  On one hand, not many people participated in the giveaways. It almost felt like, what was the point? On the other hand, the people who won were ecstatic and let me know about it, and that felt wonderful.
  • Newsletter: I suck at newsletters, hah! This is still a work in progress! Now that I have about 250 people, I’m hoping that will lead to some sales.
  • ARC: Definitely glad I did this. My ARC folks came through for me and helped me get several reviews both on amazon and goodreads. I’m talking with even more people about doing reviews, so I hope my #questto50 makes it on amazon.
  • Paid Ads: Honestly, I don’t think these were worth the money. Unless you’re willing to spend $100s of dollars, I don’t think they give you much turn out.
  • Connections/Signings: Personal connections with people and in-person signings definitely were great successes. I’ve met so many incredible people over the last six months, and many also ended up buying my book to show their support. I did the same for their books as well. The biggest success came from working with the community. They always say you should build an audience, but I’d much rather build up true connections with people and have us help each other. Rising Tide, as Brian K Morris says.

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What I’d Do Differently

  • Press: I would reach out to more press outlets about my book. One suggestion an author made to me was to send formal invitations to newspapers, tv, and radio stations. If you can get a big star to come, that’s something you can talk about and attract more people. I’d also write more press releases to introduce my book.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: If I did this again, I’d give myself two months instead of one to raise the money. One month wasn’t enough. I would also promote it more, and likely do that through press news. My tiers would be more reasonable as well. I wish I could have given out more stuff to people, but I was still in the early stages.
  • Relevant Signings: I’m working on this now, but I would have set up a signing in Chicago right off the bat. The book is set in Chicago, after all. I should have reached out to Chicago bookstores and media as well.
  • ARC: I would find more ARC readers for the book. I’ve received many incredible reviews (thank you, everyone!) But getting more reviews right away would be helpful.
  • Time/Self-Care: Give myself more time to breathe. During the six months, I thought I was going to lose my mind. There were plenty of tears and nights where I felt like I couldn’t do this, and that I’d turn into a failure. It was because I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating well. There were other factors that made self-care difficult, but the book launch was one of those major stresses in my life that I’m both happy and sad is over. I’d definitely give myself a day (at least) every week where I didn’t work on anything.

I told you, this was going to be a long one. Overall, I think the book launch was a big success. In 7 days, I sold about 70 books, and I have interviews and signings coming up over the next few months. I’m working to attend bigger conventions that might bring more attention to my book, and to me as an author. Maybe I’ll even find an agent to represent me for the other stacks of books I have waiting in the wings.

As a final note, I want to again thank everyone who has supported me through this journey. You all are incredible and I can’t thank you enough.

As always, if you have a topic you’d like me to discuss, post it below!

Happy writing!

Traditional Publishing 101

Ever since finishing two of my books, I’ve had to ask the tough question of whether I want to go indie or traditional with publishing. Well, I don’t like making decisions, so I decided to be a hybrid. While I’m indie publishing The Purple Door District in December, I’m also trying to go the traditional route with my other book Dragon Steal.

But what does it take to publish a book traditionally? I had a friend ask me this question recently, so I thought I’d toss up my own thoughts on the whole process. Keep in mind, this is just based on what I’ve learned through my own journey and studies. If you have advice about publishing, feel free to post it down below.

Warning! This is going to be a longer topic. I originally wrote this for The Writers’ Rooms, and I’ve expanded upon it for my readers here.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing

  • They know their stuff. Traditional publishers are in the business, so they know how to get the job done. They have a team of people who can do all the little fiddly bits (covers, back matter, editing, marketing, legalese, rights, taxes…) so you don’t have to do it on your own. It saves you a huge headache. 
  • Legitimacy. Because of the gatekeepers, people know that if a book is good enough to be published traditionally there’s a certain expectation of quality–or at least of whatever quality the publishing house is known for. (Note: this does not mean that indie publishing is not legitimate. There’s still a stigma against self-publishing, but it’s dissipating day by day).  
  • Marketing. You don’t have to do your marketing alone! A team will help you, though you will still be expected to market your story somewhat.
  • But… They take whatever they think is marketable. This can mean a distinct lack of freedom for your writing, since they’re less likely to take “risky” work.
  • But… Publishers are ultimately in it for the money, and will drop writers for the slightest reasons. Even well-established, upper-mid-range authors will find themselves struggling sometimes. Or, a publishing house could drop an author partway through their series and battle over the legal rights of the original books. 
  • But…It takes FOREVER to publish your book. For YA, sometimes a book that’s acquired doesn’t come out for two years. By then, the hot market could have moved on and you’ll have missed your “hot topic” window. 

First Step: Query Letter, Pitch, and Synopsis

  • Query Letter: This is essentially a sales pitch to an agent to get them interested in your book. It’s a brief piece that describes the story, provides word count, relates the book to other familiar genres/books, and gives a little background about the author. This is often one of the hardest things to write asides from your story. Make sure you find a good guideline example to follow and adhere to anything an agent requests in the query letter. You can check out my blog post all about writing query letters here
  • Pitch: The pitch is your elevator speech. You want to wow the agent, editor, publisher with a 5-second pitch, 30-second pitch, or 1-minute pitch. Think of it as 1 sentence, 2 sentences, and a paragraph about your story. Throw in something unique that is going to catch the listener’s attention. A great way to get practice is by participating in pitmad on twitter, which happens quarterly. You put your pitch on twitter at the same time agents and publishers are looking for the “next best thing.” If they like your tweet (or contact you directly), it means they’re interested in your piece! The next one is on December 6th, so get those pitches ready! 
  • Synopsis: Your synopsis is basically a long summary of your story. In about two pages, double spaced, you have to introduce the agent to your protagonists, antagonists, your world, your plot, and everything that’s unique about the story. This includes (gasp) the ending! They want to hear it in your voice, not just a simple retelling. This piece is vital, because it may make your break your chance at getting to talk to an agent. If you’re interested, I can write a blog post about constructing a synopsis. Let me know below!

Additional Resources:  

Tactful Ways to Say Awkward Things in Your Query Letter, Medium.com

The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter, Writer’s Digest

7 Tips for Pitching to an Agent or Editor at a Conference, Writer’s Digest

Step Two: Finding an Agent/Publisher/Editor

  • Research: Look for Agents who are requesting your genre. One easy way to do this is to find out the agents of some of your favorite books that are similar to yours. Books like “Guide to Literary Agents 2018” can help you not only find agents, but develop your query letter too. Don’t just query to a random agent. They need to be looking for the thing you’re selling. You can also check out Query Tracker to see what agents are looking for. Once you do find an agent, model your sample chapters, query, and pitch to their standards. Also, by no means should an agent ask for money up front (but we’ll get into that in the red flags section). 
  • Response: Response time can take a very long time, even 6-months to a year. You can query to multiple agents, but if an agent accepts you, you’re responsible for letting other inquiring agents know that you’ve accepted an offer. Typically, if an agent is interested, they’ll request a few chapters or the full copy of your book. Query Tracker is great with indicating response time for agents as well. 
  • Rejection: Everyone is going to get rejected at least once. J.K. Rowling was rejected by multiple agents before she found one. If a rejection says something more than, “I’m not interested,” consider that a success, because it means the agent thought enough about the story to write you a longer response. If you want a better idea what it means to receive rejections, take a look at my blog post here. It might help you out a bit. 
  • Acceptance: When an agent accepts your piece, it’s up to the agent to take the book to an editor and a publisher. She will try to sell the book to a publisher through an act called acquiring. Once a publishing house accepts it, the agent, publishing house, and editors will work with you to perfect your book. Keep in mind, an editor may require heavy changes to your book, so be open minded.

Additional Resources:

Guide to Literary Agents, Writer’s Digest

Step Three: Contracts

  • Contracts: A book contract is a legal-binding agreement between the author and the book publisher that outlines rights, obligations, and money earned. In a traditional agreement, the author retains the copyright and the publisher purchases the right to distribute the book in many forms (paper/ebook/audio, etc). The contract is usually dictated by the the literary agent on behalf of the author. Make sure you get everything on paper and you retain the rights to your book.

Things to Consider About Contracts

  • Rights: How long do they keep rights to publish your book? Is it for a year or several? Will they relinquish the rights to your book if their company goes down?
  • Series: Is your contract for a single book? Is it for a series? Will they reprint your previous books when the new series comes out? Do they have the right to cancel the contract halfway through the series?
  • Non-Compete Clause: This clause says that the author can’t write another book with the same subject or name during the life of the contract. While this may not matter to you, it’s something to keep in mind.

Additional Resources:

What is a Book Contract?, The Balance

Five Publishing Contracts Red Flags, Alina Popescu Writer

Red Flags in Traditional Publishing

  • Contract Publisher Retains Rights: Sometimes when a publishing company likes the idea of your book, and has had a similar one already suggested, they may ask you to write the piece, but all rights remain with the publishing company. If you’re more interested in royalties than having your name credited to you, this is fine, but if you want to retain rights to the book, this is something to watch out for during the contract phase.
  • Publisher Requires Money to Publish Book: Back away. You should not have to pay the publisher to publish your book. You should receive royalties, and you will work with a literary agent to figure that out.
  • Literary Agent Who Charges Upfront: Literary agents do not receive payment until the book is published. They will receive a portion of the book sales.
  • Promised Publication: Some websites will promise to publish poetry, books, essays, etc. if they’re submitted to the site. These are generally not places you want to submit your work to. While they might, indeed, publish it, they will ask you to pay for a physical copy of the piece and will publish it to other locations.
  • Agent/Artist/Editor Problems: Sometimes the relationship between the author and the agent, artist, or editor does not work. Authors have pulled back from agents before because either the agent failed to uphold their end, or the relationship just was not positive. Some artists who design covers may not have the author’s best interest in mind and may produce work that does not jive with the book. On the flip side, an author may express distaste in a book cover that the artist created (I’m looking at you Terry Goodkind), but the publisher will print the book anyway. And sometimes authors and editors bump heads. Do what’s best for you and your book.

After that, you will work with the marketing team to get your book out in bookstores and in libraries. You’ll set up tour dates to do readings and signings. Interviews both online and on television will become your new best friends. But keep in mind, the marketing team won’t do all of the marketing. You’ll have to do some of it yourself. For more tips on marketing, check out my post here.

Like I said, this was going to be a long one. Hopefully it’ll help get you started on your path to publishing your book. And if you’re going to try out for pitmad, let me know! I’d love to cheer you on.

Happy writing!