A Little Help For My Independent Author Friends.

An independent author juggles a lot. We write, edit, design, host websites, blog, do promotions, and generally try to find as many ways as possible to connect with our readers. We are used to this, but often times what we have on our plates is enough to deal with. That is why, when it came to the Vintage Jane Austen Project, we, as group of authors who already handled plenty with the books we have individually on the market, decided to hire someone to help with the design of the project and promotion.

Fortunately…we had Deborah.

The first thing Deborah O’Carroll did for us was design in this amazing website. (screen shot below) Not only is the design beautiful, clean, and very functional, it was so nice not to have to design it ourselves! Deborah also helps us by doing promotional posts and keeps us in contact with our readers by managing the Vintage Jane Austen email. I know a lot of independent authors could use some help, so below is an interview I did with Deborah.

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Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into helping indie authors with their novels.

I’m a writer of fantasy of all kinds, a blogger, punctuation enthusiast, and list addict. I love all things Celtic, Faerie, and Tolkien, and believe that Diana Wynne Jones books are gold. You can usually find me typing away at one of my many novels, endlessly rearranging my bookshelves, or haunting library book-sales. I’m secretly a chocolate-loving otter.

How I got started was almost accidental! One thing led to another and all that… I started out in small ways, doing things I liked for people I knew, and slowly began to realize there are certain things I enjoy doing, have developed a talent for, and can turn into a job to help others.

pagedreamerbuttonnewI started out reviewing a few books by some authors I had met, and I discovered I love reviewing books. I beta-read unpublished books by fellow writer friends, and discovered that I love catching typos and have a knack for editing. (I don’t beta-read much anymore because it’s so time-consuming and I’m not much of a critic, but my love for editing has remained.) I started out blogging because I enjoyed it and wanted to build an online presence as a writer, and eventually started getting asked questions about how to do this or that on WordPress. I helped a few people with that, and designed the Vintage Jane Austen website, which, along with my years of blogging, led to the realization that I love designing blogs and websites.

Mostly, I know a lot of people in the online writing and bookish community, and I just love helping people. I guess that’s the main thing behind all of this. :)

What services do you offer authors in search of some help?

Briefly: I edit books, review books, and dabble in graphic design and web design. To expand on each of those a little:

I review books, honestly but kindly, in exchange for a free copy. (My book blog is here. https://thepagedreamer.wordpress.com/)

I offer a freelance copy-editing service (essentially catching typos and smoothing wording and the like).

I also do web design with WordPress—my main project in that area so far has been the Vintage Jane Austen website. Involved with the web-designing, I do some basic graphic design as well, such as making 3D images of book covers and so on.

What does the process of working with an author look like?

Hmm, tough question. It mostly involves a lot of emailing… There can sometimes be a lot of patience involved as well, on both sides, while things work to fall into place. Reviews are pretty straightforward—talk with the author a couple times, review their book, send them the links. Editing is a little more in-depth, and I’ll usually talk back and forth a few times. With web-design, there’s a lot of discussion and examples, previews, and ideas of theirs and suggestions on my part. On the whole, I’ve had a delightful experience with authors so far, and it’s been fun seeing these projects come to their conclusion. :)

 What is your favorite part of this job? 

I’ve always loved words and am something of a perfectionist, so I’m passionate about blogbuttonroadridding the world of typos and other errors, and love helping to make books the best they can be. I’m also a lifetime reader, so getting to review books is a dream, and I love being able to share with the world about the books I’ve found to love. I enjoy reading and am more of a book-lover than a book-critic, so while I’m honest in my reviews, I often find more to love in a book than to dislike, and I think that’s important—to share the beauty in books, not just the errors or things one doesn’t like. I also love creating, and the feeling of surmounting the obstacles of design, finally ending up with a finished product (like a website) which is clean, beautiful, and complete.

But most of all, across all three of these “jobs,” I love helping other writers bring their dreams to light, and in that way, somehow, making the world that much brighter.

How can an author get in touch with you if she/he would like to talk about your services?

Shoot me an email at deborahocarroll(at)yahoo.com—I don’t bite! :) You can also find me on my blog, The Road of a Writer: deborahocarroll.wordpress.com, and on my review blog, The Page Dreamer: thepagedreamer.wordpress.com, where I (naturally!) review books. ;) I love making friends with fellow writers and readers, so I’d love to hear from y’all!

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Meet An Indie Author Cover Designer

When I went 100% independent author, I decided to design my own covers. I have Hannah_BioPhotoPhotoshop and a creative background, so it didn’t seem too daunting…albeit very time consuming. But when I got involved with the Vintage Jane Austen Project, we all agreed we needed to have an outside source handle the covers. All five books needed to feel cohesive. This series might have been authored by five different writers, but that didn’t mean we wanted five different cover styles!

We floated the idea of “Jane Austen in the 1930s” to several cover designers and asked them to give us an idea of how they would translate the concept visually. Enter, Hannah Scheele, who was head and shoulders above the other samples we received. Below are the five covers she came up with for us, which I think are perfect both for the series and the Historical Romance market. So, I decided to do a little interview with Hannah to talk about the process.

Final Jane 1930 CoverHow did you get into book cover design?

I started out designing covers for my sister’s books. Those projects were big learning experiences and I loved every minute of working on them. It was then I discovered how fun and challenging graphic design can be, and also how rewarding.

What does the process of collaborating with an author look like?

It really depends on the author. Some authors are very particular and some are more flexible. Every time, though, I find the author has a specific vision of what the cover should be like and I need to figure out how to take what they’re describing and translate it to myself so I come up with something that works. I think of it as like being a hair stylist— your job is to make everything pretty, and you have to communicate with each person as an individual. What works for one will not necessarily work for another.

Was there an inspiration behind the Vintage Jane Austen covers?Sarah S.

Not really a specific one. I just wanted to create a look that would appeal to the growing number of people who get excited about the Vintage era— romantic, but not too escapist.

Do you keep an eye on book covers currently on the market, or do you just go with what you think will suit the book best?

Every story is different, but I am influenced by book covers on the market. I feel I’m going to produce a better result if I’m open to other people’s good ideas. Never limit yourself to just your own ideas or you will stop learning and improving!

Rebekah Are you currently accepting new authors who might need a cover designer? And if so, how can the get in touch with you?

Anyone who is interested in reaching out to me can contact me at my email HannahScheele(at)gmail.com.

Thanks for hanging out with us today, Hannah!!

Kelsey  EmmalineCover_Final

 

My Indie Story + Giveaway

Bio PicYes, I am ending the month of Indie Author April by actually interviewing myself. Strange, I know. But I’ve been asked before to write about my publishing experience, so I figured this might be a good opportunity to go about it. And, yes, this does end with a chance to win one of my books. :)

First tell us a little about your books.

My first mystery novel, Only Angels Are Bulletproof, was published in 2008. Since then I’ve published two novels in The Father Christmas Series, and have one novella, The Moment Max Forgot Me, available as a free download.


Angles CoverWhat formats of Indie Publishing have you used?

I used a self-publishing house for Only Angels Are Bulletproof. Both Christmas novels were published through Kindle’s ePublishing program. I used Smashwords for The Moment Max Forgot Me. They will host free books.

Do you have one you prefer above another?

While I enjoy the fact that a self-publishing house allowed me to have physical copies of my book, did editing and cover design for me and set up a few interviews, over all I’ve had a much better end result from Kindle’s program. Straight to the point, I lost money on a self-publishing house, but I’ve actually been able to make a little on Kindle. Their system is pretty comprehensive, including providing yearend tax statements.

Is there a reason you chose the independent route?

I think my initial decision to independently publish had a lot to do with both fear and impatience. Just the slightest bit of research on the publishing industry will scare you into certainty that your book will never see the light of an editor’s office. I was in my early twenties at the time, just coming off the recovery of a serious illness and not the least bit ready to face rejection like what I was reading about. I mean, really, are we ever ready?
However, in the end I’m glad I chose this route to start with. It allowed me to build some confidence, know trials and frustrations and failures in its own way, connect with readers and have amazing experiences like book signings and school events. Did I tell you I got fan art? (look here)

Do you do your own editing, cover design, and promoting as well?FCC JPEG 1

Nowadays I do it all. I actually love cover design. I did both Father Christmas Novels and The Moment Max Forgot Me. Photoshop and I have fond feelings for each other. Editing and I are trying to get along. I’m kind of an intense, get it all on the paper at once, writer. So, without the help of some very patient family member-proofreaders, I would be incoherent. I am looking into a professional proofreader, but I’ll just have to see what is in the budget for this year.

Any technical issues?

Kindle does not format itself!!! If you have never published through Kindle I will stress above all else that you have to learn how to format. If you just write a manuscript in MS Word and hit upload you are going to end up with tons of weird gaps and breaks in the middle of your sentences. Do your research on this one. Kindle doesn’t get along with most word-processing programs and its “Preview” feature lies!

What did you not expect when you came into the Indie world?

I didn’t expect to have to become so technical. When I started writing I was typing up simple manuscripts on a shared family computer. These days I work off of dual screens, know how to write some basic code, design and support my own website, Photoshop covers together and feature my work on multiple social media platforms. I’m no IT wiz, but I have to know my way around.

Are you considering traditional publishing any time in the future?

Yes. I would still like to traditionally publish a book and am currently working my way towards that goal. My life never works out the way I think it should and sometimes it just plain works out irrationally, so we’ll just have to see how things go.

FCP JPEG 1Any last words of advice for fellow Indie Authors?

Tons! Pay attention to your proofreading and formatting. A good cover is unfathomably valuable. Always be good to your readers and cordial to your critics. Try not to get bogged down by the people who are still trashing independent publishing like carriage company owners at the advent of the automobile, but also don’t be afraid to take a step into the traditional publishing world. And don’t Indie Publish if you aren’t going to enjoy at least a little bit of the ride. ;)

Finally, since this business is all about word of mouth, do you have any Indie Writers you enjoy?

All of the writers featured here over the last couple of weeks come highly recommended. Please, check each one of them out!
Tyrean Martinson
Loretta Boyett
Sarah Scheele
Warren Baldwin

And now for the giveaway!

Enter to win a $5 Amazon Card + a free copy of any of my books. By leaving a comment. (The Moment Max Forgot Me is always free, so don’t pick that one)Free MFM

And thank you again to all of the authors and readers who have joined me over the last month. I learned something from each author’s experience. Hopefully this month has helped writers considering this route of publishing, or opened someone up to the idea of reading independent authors.

Indie Author April: Loretta Boyett + Giveaway!

Week two of Indie Author April has brought Loretta Boyett, author of Deadly Betrayal here to talk with us about her walk through the Independent Publishing world. One of the biggest things I’ve learned in this process is how each Indie Author has something to teach me through their experience.

First tell us a little about your book(s).

I write Christian romantic suspense and have one published novel, LorettaDeadly Betrayal, the First in my Hidden Danger Trilogy. You can check it out on my blog.

The last two Hidden Danger novels were already started when my twenty-three-year-old granddaughter, Melissa, who was like a daughter to me, died. I fell apart and have been too devastated to write much since. However, now I’m finally ready to dive in once more and hope to complete those two soon.

What formats of Indie Publishing have you used? (ex: Self-publishing House, Kindle, Smashwords, Create Space)

I used Book Baby to self publish my ebook because I knew zilch about publishing and they were offering a premium package at a special price of $149. One great thing about Book Baby is that they pay me everything they receive from sales, taking no percentage for themselves. They also offer their ebooks on many sites and formats in addition to Amazon—iBook, Nook, etc., but that’s not as important now as it was then because Amazon has free apps that convert ebooks into these formats.

For my paperback, I used CreateSpace. They are wonderful to work with. I will definitely use them again. One big advantage is that they offer the book on Amazon as a Print On Demand that ships quickly, and you don’t have to buy books from your publisher and then pay to ship them to Amazon. This saves a lot of money. Also, they are very reasonable in the price I pay to order copies that I sell myself. I usually make $8 – $10 profit when I sell autographed copies.

Do you have one you prefer above another?

I learned a lot from Book Baby but don’t think I will need their help any longer. My next ebook will probably be published with Amazon Kindle. I published a short poem with them just to see how they work and am totally satisfied with their process. CreateSpace will definitely be my choice for the paperback.

Is there a reason you chose the independent route? 

  1. I want to own my book, not sell it to a company who can make any changes they want without my approval. (I have friends who’ve had this problem.)
  1. I love the challenge of learning how to do new things. Self-publishing was definitely a challenge, and I learned a whole lot.
  1. The Lord called me to write, so I don’t do it for the money (good thing, huh?), but I do make a lot more from book sales than I would if I had to pay a publisher and agent their cut. And, let’s face it. We have to do most of the marketing anyway, whether we go with a publishing house or self publish.

Do you do your own editing, cover design, and promoting as well?

Editing: Although we all must self-edit, every book should be professionally edited before publication. I have a great editor/teacher/mentor who also taught me how to write fiction when I first started.

Cover Design: Hiring a book cover designer is expensive. I knew that Emily Ann Benedict had created her own cover for one of her books and questioned her about it. Following her advice, I designed my own cover using Photoshop and really enjoyed the process. For the front cover, I received directions for dimensions, etc. from Book Baby. For the back cover and spine, I obtained the necessary information from CreateSpace. I had difficulty doing the spine, so I paid CreateSpace $45 to do it.

Promotion: I’ve done very little marketing because of my granddaughter’s death. I attended two book fests, but children’s books seem to be what most people buy at these gatherings. Most of my paperback sales came from autographed copies bought by family, friends, past students, my physicians, and others whom I met in different places. I usually carry a book with me and have a box full in my trunk. I’ve sold quite a few just by having one out where it can be seen. I sold five one day in the beauty shop while I was waiting on my husband to pick me up. I had bookmarks printed and put one in every paperback I sell and everything I mail, including Christmas cards and bill payments.

Deadly Betrayal Bk CoverAny technical issues? None that I remember.

What did you not expect when you came into the Indie world?

Being somewhat ostracized by some published authors, although this was not true of many who interviewed me on their blog. This might not be a problem now since a lot of “published” authors are beginning to self pub themselves, and self-published books can now be listed under Fiction Finder on the ACFW website.

Are you considering traditional publishing any time in the future? Not right now.

Any last words of advice for fellow Indie Authors?

— Hire a good editor. You don’t want to put your name on something that isn’t professional.

— Prepare in advance for your book release.

— Bookmarks are excellent, inexpensive giveaways. Also order a poster of your book cover to use at book signings. I used UPrinting.com for mine and they did an excellent job.

— Get an article about your book in your local newspaper, if possible. The small, neighborhood ones are easier.

— Schedule as many book signings in advance as possible.

— Of course, post an announcement on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Linkedin, Pinterest, etc. and have your Facebook author page and website ready to launch (or already out there.)

— Don’t hesitate to ask questions of other Indie authors. Most are quite willing to help you.

Finally, since this business is all about word of mouth, do you have any Indie Writers you enjoy?

This is an interesting question because it is becoming difficult to tell a self-published book from one published by a small publishing house—unless, of course, you know the names of different publishing houses. Also, a lot of famous authors are creating their own publishing house. For example, Angela Hunt, whom I read often, now has her own publishing house, and, therefore, could be considered self-published. I believe Emily Ann Benedict was the first self-published author I read. I also read a short story self-published by James Scott Bell. Catherine Leggitt’s first novel in her Christine Sterling Mystery series was self-published by WestBow Press, but the series was later picked up by Ellechor Publishing House, LLC. Right now, I’m reading a self-published novel by Jessica Nelson, who also publishes novels with Love Inspired. Rosemary Hines is another self-published author I’ve read. There are others I’m sure I’m missing. The point is, I think self-publishing is here to stay.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences and answer my questions, Loretta!
As with all Indie Author April posts one reader will receive a $5 Amazon gift card.

To enter to win, please leave a comment on this post with your email address. Additional points given for following Loretta’s Blog and Twitter Account!

Indie Author April – Tyrean Martinson + Giveaway!

Okay, it’s not quite April yet, but to make the weeks even ouTyerant, we’re starting out our month of talking with Independent Authors from across the board about their experiences in this brave new world of publishing right now. And I’m happy to start this month off with one of my favorites – Author, Tyrean Martinson. (Read to the finish to find out what this week’s giveaway entails.)

First tell us a little about your book(s).

My first two novels, Champion in the Darkness and Champion in Flight, follow the action-packed journey through doubt and into faith of Clara, the youngest Champion in the history of Aramatir. The third novel in the trilogy, Champion’s Destiny, will reveal another layer to her story and include a climatic showdown with the Dark Sisterhood, but it will also open the doors for more books of Aramatir. I started out with a heroine and a sword, and I’ve found a whole world of characters I love.

I’ve also put together a few collections of short stories and poetry, Dragonfold and Other Adventures, and Light Reflections.

And, then, this year, I’m on a huge push to get some of the work that’s been foundering on my laptop out into the world including a collection of writing prompt books: A Jumble of 500+ Writing Prompts in e-book, a Pocket-Sized Jumble of 500+ Writing Prompts (paperback), and two Jumble Journals; and some writing curriculum books that I’ve used for my home-school co-op writing classes: Dynamic Writing 1-3.

ChampionWhat formats of Indie Publishing have you used? (ex: Self-publishing House, Kindle, Smashwords, Create Space)

I’ve used Kindle, Smashwords, CreateSpace, Nook Press, Lulu, and Kobo.

Do you have one you prefer above another?

I like each of them for different reasons. Kindle is an easy platform with checks and balances. Smashwords and the Smashwords Style Guide are invaluable tools for knowing that the formatting of an e-book is just right. Kobo was harder for me to learn, and took longer to upload, but I think it reaches a different audience than Kindle and Smashwords. Nook Press provides a way to upload e-books for the B&N site, again, gaining another audience – although Smashwords books also show up at B&N after about a month.

Createspace and Lulu are the only print-on-demand services I’ve used, and they also have their pros and cons.

Createspace is fast, and there are a number of helpful pages for understanding web sized in flight (1)how to format the interior and cover of a book. I learned a great deal with the first book I created with Createspace. Also, Createspace offers a print and on-line proof process, and once the book is proofed, it goes to print via the Createspace store within a few minutes to a few hours. Shipping is fairly fast, too.

Lulu has many of the same options as Createspace, but the platform uploads at a slightly slower rate. Lulu only offers an online proof process and not a print proof; and although the books may be uploaded to the store website right away, the print-on-demand and shipping process is slower than at Createspace. However, one feature I really like at Lulu is that I can order a “private” print run; this is a way to either do a print proof or to create books that I don’t plan to sell on the marketplace like the books I create for my home-schooled co-op students at the end of the year with selections of their work.

Is there a reason you chose the independent route?

Two reasons: I didn’t know all of the small press options out there and I couldn’t seem to find an agent or a press that might be interested in Christian Fantasy fiction, especially Christian Fantasy fiction for YA readers with a strong, sword-wielding heroine. When I first wrote Champion in the Darkness, it seemed like Christian Fantasy books only had heroines who could knit, pray, or prophesy. The fighting was all generally left to brawny guys on white horses. So, I felt like my book with a young swords-woman wouldn’t fit in the traditional path. After a great deal of research into agents, presses, and indie publishing, I went straight to indie publishing without writing a single query letter.

Do you do your own editing, cover design, and promoting as well?

I’ve received editing help from a teacher, a gardener, an engineer, and a kind friend; and I work on editing myself. I’ve also had a few critique partners. However, I still have found some embarrassing mistakes after publication, and those are especially embarrassing since I teach writing to teens and I’ve taken college level (400 series) grammar.

With cover design, I’ve had some beautiful artwork created for me by my niece, and I’ve found inexpensive art that I’ve learned to manipulate and use for creating my book covers.

Although I have tried a few paid promotional services and may again, I have done most of the promoting myself. It’s hard, constant work, but I just keep at it.

Despite feeling shy, I’ve approached bookstore owners, home-school co-ops, and a few Pastors with my books. It’s terrifying and hard to start those conversations, but I’ve found that people actually respond pretty well.

Any technical issues?

I’ve had many. I can’t stress enough the need to back-up work every day in multiple ways – a wireless download every day is great, but I had my system break down on that part before my whole laptop died and lost my copy-edited perfect copy of my first novel. I recommend having a wireless download system and e-mailing a copy every single day. (I e-mail the copy to myself at a different e-mail account.)

What did you not expect when you came into the Indie world?

I don’t think I realized just how many indie books are being published daily, weekly, and monthly. The book market is a tough, competitive market. I’m still working on how to deal with that.

Are you considering traditional publishing any time in the future?

Yes, I have a MG paranormal novella, Eight If By Sea, coming out this year. It’s part of a thirteen book series, written by several different authors. I was hired and contracted for my part in the project (the fifth book) last December. One of the best parts: I didn’t have to query for this one either! :)

On a more traditional query path, I hope to have a project that’s ready for that by the end of this year. Then, I’ll be working on Indie publishing and querying traditional presses next year.

Any last words of advice for fellow Indie Authors?

Just keep writing. Just keep working. Create the best product you can.

If you need editing help, get it. If you need cover design help, get it. If you need marketing help, get it.

However, in all these areas, research first. Just because a place is offering an expensive service does not mean it is a good service. I’ve met authors who have spent $5,000 on services and have sold less than 100 books. That’s not a good investment return; and I know I don’t have that kind of money to waste.

Finally, since this business is all about word of mouth, do you have any Indie Writers you enjoy?

I could create a huge list here, but I’m just going to name three:
-I really love Emily Ann Benedict’s romantic Father Christmas series. :)
-For MG urban fantasy, I’m a fan of Jeff Chapman’s Give Me Your Teeth. The cover for it looks a little scary, but it’s a really sweet story about facing fears and bullies.
-For speculative fiction which ranges the gamut of fantasy, sci-fi, space opera, and horror, I’m a fan of Milo James Fowler who is both Indie and traditionally published. His faith is presented a little bit more like Tolkien’s LOTR in the world-building, but it’s definitely there.

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Thank you so much for stopping by Tyrean! Not only did Tyrean take the time to Jumbleanswer my questions, she also offered, in addition to the $5 Amazon card we are giving out each week, a free e-copy of her book, A Jumble of 500+ Writing Prompts.

To enter to win, please leave a comment on this post with your email address. Additional point given for following Tyrean’s blog, Everyday Writer, and Facebook page.

Indie Author April

The world of publishing has changed dramatically over recent years. Independent authors have taken the world by storm, especially since Amazon jumped into the market with their Kindle Select Program. And while, yes, the debate still rages about whether or not this is good, quite loudly in some corners, the facts can’t be denied. Indie Authors have changed the face of the market. We also have a way of congregating.

Over the past several years of my writing journey I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many fellow indie writers and over the next several weeks a few of them have agreed to jump over here and share their experience and advice with us.

We begin on Monday. I hope you can join us!…Oh, yes, there will be giveaways.