Tag Archives: Indie Publishing

Guest Author Jess Michaels on Fantasy vs. Reality

Hi friends! I’m excited to welcome Jess Michaels back to ALBTALBS! Twenty years and 100 books is an almost bewildering milestone and such an achievement. Without further ado … Jess!

Fantasy vs. Reality

Jess Michaels

The Broken Duke by Jess Michaels book coverHi everyone and a big thanks to Limecello for having me here today! If you don’t know who I am, I’m Jess Michaels, I write very steamy historical romance. I’ve been doing it for a while, too, because right now I’m counting down to my 100th book release. Time (and work) flies when you’re having fun I guess. 

When we started talking about what I might write about here today, I kept thinking about that meme “how it started, how it’s going”. You know the one, probably, it’s pretty popular on Instagram/FB/TikTok. Certainly, after over twenty years in this industry, I can see a difference, see the development of where I started and what I wanted to where I am and what I want today. 

For most authors, it starts with a dream. When I started out, I could perfectly picture what my future as a published author would look like. I wanted to write for one of the big publishing houses (which was the only way to really publish at the time…I’m old). I even knew the house I’d pick. And then I just knew it would all take off. I’d work really hard and write really good books, my publisher would see and support that, building my career. And…voila…success! Bestseller lists, being able to have an income as a writer, booksignings, whatever the trappings of “success” looked like from the outside. Continue reading

Exclusive Excerpt Upcoming Release: In My Skin by Shannon McKenna

Hi friends!! I’m super excited to share an (as you see) exclusive excerpt from Shannon McKenna here today! She’s been a guest at ALBTALBS a few times, and is a total sweetheart. And if you haven’t read her books before oh my gosh you definitely need to!!! … Shannon was kind enough to send quite the scene from In My Skin so I hope you enjoy it! 😀

Welcome to the secret world of the Obsidian Files! Book after book, the stakes keep getting higher for my genetically and biotech-modified heroes and heroines.

Luke has plenty of his own inner demons to fight, to say nothing of the long deadly shadows of his past, and the constant looming threat of his former captors and mortal enemies, The Obsidian Group.

The last thing he needs is to get broadsided by a feisty, gorgeous, indomitable woman. The stupidest thing he can do is give in to temptation.

But Dani makes him burn … and he just can’t resist the heat.

More than human …

Years ago, a group of stray teenagers were swept up into a top-secret experimental research program funded by The Obsidian Group, a shadowy cabal of super-rich global moguls. Brain stimulation, nanotech, gene modification and cybernetic implants were used to mold the runaways into lethal supersoldiers … and expand the boundaries of being human.

Obsidian’s attempts were spectacularly successful—if not quite in the way the researchers had intended. Their captive test subjects rebelled, burned the Midlands Research Facility to the ground, and vanished.

Now, years later, this band of rebels live under deep cover and keep their incredible abilities secret, trusting only those in their own tight-knit group.

But the shadow of the past keeps getting longer. The Obsidian Group hasn’t forgotten them—and they will never give up the chase.

The Obsidian Files are their stories …

In My Skin by Shannon McKenna Book CoverCome back to me…

Luke remembers a few things. Just not his last name, or anyone he ever knew. He knows that he’s a supersoldier, genetically enhanced and loaded up with brain implants. He just escaped from a year-long hell of captivity, and to protect his family and friends from his tormentors, he blocked his memories. Now he needs those memories back, fast…or he and those he loves will die agonizing deaths.

Luke’s dangerous plan to reconnect with his past—and stay alive in the present—has drawn his enemies’ attention to the tough and sexy Dani LaSalle. He’s duty bound to protect the luscious beauty from the evil pursuing them, but he can’t control the scorching desire she awakens in him.

Dani’s strict routine has been trashed by Luke’s explosive arrival. This rock-hard slab of valiant, smoldering manhood appears out of nowhere, saves her life, spirits her away to his mountain lair and bewilders her with tales of sadistic researchers, enhanced assassins. Is this gorgeous, problematic sex god just plain crazy—or is she? But Luke can do things with his mind that are just as wild as what he can do with that body…and she can’t say no.

And there’s no time to wonder. As their passion burns hotter, Obsidian moves closer…and Luke and Dani must place their lives and their hearts on the line just to survive…

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT Continue reading

Indie Author Spotlight: Rachel Grant

Can you guys believe it’s been four months? Time is just flying by – but as you see we’ve got an Indie Author spotlight, and the delightful Rachel Grant was kind and awesome enough to step in at the last minute. (So thank you!)

Concrete Evidence1. What made you decide to self publish?
My husband is a federal employee and his salary was our family’s sole income. Last January, fear of sequestration—it looked like he would lose 20% of his pay, possibly for as long as six months—pushed me to jump into self-publishing even though my agent still had one of my books out on submission. I could no longer afford to wait for New York.

2. What do you wish you knew when you started self-publishing that you know now?
This is a hard question, because I’ve learned so much—but I couldn’t have learned it without going through the process—so I don’t know if it’s possible to know the ins and outs of self-publishing ahead of time.

3. What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
Pros – I’m in control of my product. No one stands between the published book and me. Mistakes are all mine, but I can also fix them quickly. In August, when two weeks after publication it was clear my new release wasn’t reaching my existing audience, I was able to call my cover designer and we had a new cover with better branding uploaded at all vendors a week later.

Cons – I’m the one making final decisions, and I’m not a marketing professional. Creating and changing covers is scary, because they are so important. Even though I loved it, I also had a gut-level concern about the first cover for Body of Evidence. I should have listened to that.

4. How did you find your audience? What have been the most challenging issues in self-publishing?
I was amazingly lucky and benefited from some marketing emails sent by Amazon right out of the gate. I have no idea how it happened, but I’m grateful.

Definitely the most challenging issue is to expand my audience and keep the books visible after the 30-day new release period, which is so favored by Amazon’s algorithms.

Grave Danger5. [If you have been previously,] Would you go back to traditional publishing?
I wasn’t traditionally published and ended up being very eager to self-publish the book my agent had on submission, but if I were to receive a good offer from a traditional publisher, I would seriously consider it. I no longer feel the need for validation from NY, but I’d love to reach more of the print audience.

6. There is the perception it is faster to get a book to your fans if you are self-published – do you think this is true?
It’s definitely true that I was able to release each of my books far faster than a traditional publisher would have. But it still takes me a few months after a book is written, critiqued, and polished, because after that I go through multiple rounds of edits with an editor and proofreader, cover design, etc. I have my own production process to ensure the quality of the work.

7. Do you read the reviews on site or blogs?
Yes, even though they terrify me. I look forward to the day when I have so many reviews, I don’t even notice when new ones pop up. 😉

8. What advice might you have for someone who is considering self-publishing?
Hire an editor. Be professional. Don’t rush to put out a book that isn’t ready.

9. Have you noticed changes to self-publishing since you started?
(I haven’t been self-publishing long enough—my first book came out in April.)

10. Do you think there are any particular new trends that are emerging?
Fingers crossed the next trend will be for romantic thrillers with an even balance between the suspense and the romance. Also, I want archaeologist heroines to be the next big thing. 😉

Seriously, in romance, the push seems to continually be for books to be hotter. I enjoy a good hot book too, so I understand this. My books are sexy, but there are limits—there isn’t time for more sex when my characters are on the run. But I’m writing romantic thrillers, so my style fits my audience. If I were writing contemporary or new adult, I’d up the heat factor to fit the current market.

Body of Evidence11. Have you encountered the sentiment that self published books “aren’t as good”? If so, how do you go about overcoming that impression?
Honestly, I haven’t come across that in the reader community. The only times I’ve heard that sentiment is from other authors—and that has largely been on blogs or news articles that were not directed at me, and the authors are big names who have a lot to be thankful for from traditional publishing, an no reason to explore self-publishing. I ignore them.

Over the last several years, New York stopped publishing debut and mid-list romantic suspense authors, limiting my choices as a reader. The great thing about self-publishing is now I can find amazing romantic suspense at a great price. I’m not limited to the handful of authors that New York was willing to sell me.

More choices is always a win for everyone.

Yay! I hope you found her answers interesting, and educational. If that’s your thing. Do any of you read romantic suspense? Do you have any questions for Rachel? Let’s hear them!

*ETA: Rachel has very generously offered one person who comments her/his choice of one of her books in the e-format of her/his choice!

Indie Author Spotlight: Elle Lothlorien

Hi friends! We have Elle Lothlorien visiting with us! For friends in the states, it’s a holiday! And Elle is a perfect author to join us in celebration, because she is awesome. This is a great look into publishing in general, but of course self publishing specifically – interesting from a reader’s perspective, and I’m sure incredibly beneficial for authors too!

What made you decide to self publish?
Believe it or not, I used to be an aspiring thriller author! Way back in 2005, I had completed a historical/science thriller called Virgin. I queried for and quickly found an agent. My agent found an interested publisher almost immediately. Unfortunately, in the end the editor from that publishing house left to start a literary agency before a deal was finalized. Despite several rounds of submissions that lasted over a year-and-a-half, Virgin was never picked up by another publisher. To say that this was a huge disappointment would be an understatement. In 2008, I finally withdrew the manuscript from consideration, parted ways with my agent, and didn’t write another book for almost two years. That book turned out to be the romantic comedy The Frog Prince.

In June of 2010, after six months of querying, I had two offers of agent representation in-hand for The Frog Prince. One was from my “dream agent” who represented several New York Times bestsellers. Although the second offer was from an agent from a newer, smaller agency, I found her enthusiasm attractive. In the end, and for various reasons which aren’t worth going into here, I chose to pass on both offers.

Which, of course, left me right back where I was before I’d ever queried anyone: unpublished and depressed as hell about it. That was when my good friend and thriller author, Boyd Morrison, entered stage left. Boyd was the first author to leverage his indie-publishing success into a four-book, traditional publishing deal (with Simon & Schuster; he later returned to self-publishing after fulfilling his contract). I’m also very good friends with his wife Randi. She’d read The Frog Prince and really liked it, sure that it would be my “breakout novel.”

In any case, after my agent search hit a dead-end, Boyd called me and suggested that I upload The Frog Prince to Amazon for the Kindle. Honestly, I didn’t do it right away, because it seemed like the learning curve was incredibly steep (and it was). When I did finally take the plunge on July 30, 2010, I mostly did it so he’d stop harassing me about it. Four months later it became an Amazon best-seller…and the rest is history. I keep promising to buy him a drink someday to thank him, but I don’t really mean it (wink-wink!).

What do you wish you knew when you started self-publishing that you know now?
I wish I’d known the right questions to ask before I ever self-published. What did I think were “the right questions” in July of 2010? Oh, there was only one in my my mind at that time and it was this: “HOW do I self-publish?

The problem for any aspiring self-published author is that if you’re scrambling around trying to answer the question “How do I self-publish?” you are already asking the wrong question.

Here are a couple of sobering facts for you:

99.5% of self-published fiction fails.

Out of a sampling of 1,000 “successful” self-published authors, a majority were earning less than $500 a year.

Given those facts, what is the question aspiring self-published authors ought to be asking? Quite simply, it’s this: “SHOULD I self-publish?” Because those two questions are not the same thing at all.

As a self-published author (and almost certainly one with no money), it’s important to understand that you are the proud new owner of a business–whether you know it (or like it) or not. You are now the widget-maker, the marketing director, the PR rep, the agent, the graphic designer, the accountant, the customer relations department—even the intellectual property attorney!

The bottom line is that not everyone is (personality/temperament-wise) of doing this–no matter how good their book is. That’s because not everyone is business-minded. And if you don’t have a knack for business, you’re probably better off querying for an agent and going the traditional route because you will never make enough money doing this to make a living and you will be absolutely and utterly wretched.

Luckily for me, despite not asking the right question in the beginning, I very quickly realized my error when The Frog Prince became a bestseller after four months and I was thrown into the reality of “running a business” very early on. And (even more fortunately for me) it turned out that I had a knack for it. Not every creative person has a business brain. Unfortunately, to self-publish and succeed at it, you need both.

What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
Pros: The full creative control. You have a say in everything from book cover design to when to launch a marketing campaign.

Cons: The full creative control. When you succeed, you have the satisfaction of knowing it was all because of your own efforts. But when you fail, there’s no one to blame but yourself. That can be a crippling feeling.

How did you find your audience?
When I self-published in July 2010, there were very few self-published authors compared to now. Because of that, it was probably somewhat easier to “get noticed.” On the other hand, all that extra scrutiny could have very quickly worked against me.

That said, I actually didn’t find my audience—they found me. My first novel, The Frog Prince, became a bestseller in November of 2010, a mere four months after I published it, and with absolutely no marketing campaign whatsoever. I simply threw it up on Amazon to appease a friend and had no expectations that anything wonderful would happen.

For the first year or so after the book became a bestseller, people would ask me, “What did you do to turn your book into a bestseller?” and I would have to tell them that I hadn’t done a single thing. Now, of course, after having a longer time to think about it, the success of the book isn’t as much of a mystery. It all came down to The Book Cover.

When I designed the cover for The Frog Prince, I did it without knowing anything about romantic comedy, cover design, or even the standards of the genre. (I’d spent almost ten years writing thrillers, remember?) I didn’t read romance so it never occurred to me to look on Amazon to see what other book covers in the genre looked like (something I do not recommend, by the way; I was incredibly lucky). In fact, it wasn’t until The Frog Prince became an Amazon bestseller in December of 2010 that I really took a look at other book covers in the romantic comedy genre. And what I saw was a lot of variations on the following: pink, pink, pink, followed by hearts, wedding cakes, wedding dresses, wedding rings, and pink.

Which is not to imply that those covers weren’t good; most of them were professional, eye-catching, clever, and lovely to look at—on a bookstore self or full-sized on the Amazon Product Page. However, most readers don’t see your e-book cover for the first tie at full-size, they see it as a thumbnail. When you shrunk those lovely pink covers down to thumbnail size, you had…blah. Soft pink blah.

In my case, the suggestive selling ribbon on Amazon did all the work for me. The Frog Prince, with that little green frog on the cover, stuck out like a sore thumb(nail) in a sea of bland colors, indistinguishable graphics, or cluttered covers too complicated to decipher at that size. Readers clicked through to The Frog Prince Product Page from that little thumbnail…well, because they couldn’t help themselves. Many of them were intrigued enough by the Book Description to buy the book. And they told their friends, and they told their friends…

What have been the most challenging issues in self-publishing?
For me, they have been two-fold, one business-related and one personal:
1. Giving up creative control. The realization that I would eventually have to let go of the full creative control that I’ve cherished for so long took some time to come to terms with. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to “do it all.” Writing novels is difficult enough—and fans expect more content from you than they do traditionally published authors—but the pressures of growing and maintaining a thriving social media presence while designing book covers and developing enhanced content and negotiating audiobook contracts and the never-ending marketing and discoverability campaigns…it’s just too much for one person.

2. Giving up your life. Self-publishing—whether you’re putting out your first book or your fortieth—is not just a full-time job, it’s a full-time life. Even after you’re lucky enough to hire people to help you, the more books you release, the more commitments you have and the less real free time you have. It can be very difficult to balance work with family, friends, and romantic interests/a significant other. Of course, it would be no different than if you were a successful individual in any other business but as a self-published author, it often comes as a surprise since you are technically “self-employed” and can “set your own hours.” (I had a nice, long laugh after I wrote that last sentence, by the way.)

[If you have been previously,] Would you go back to traditional publishing?
I was never traditionally published but I do have an agent (Kim Leonetti, Book Ends, LLC) who is shopping subsidiary rights (foreign, entertainment, for example) but who is also trying to raise interest in a “print-only” deal with a Big Six Publisher. A print-only deal allows the author to retain their e-book rights (and their only income stream, most likely) while accessing the distribution channels of the Big Six so that the book can be made available in bookstores—channels that are difficult, if not impossible, for a self-published author to access.

There is the perception it is faster to get a book to your fans if you are self-published – do you think this is true?
Yes. Once the ink dries on a traditional publishing contract (and this isn’t even counting the months or years it took you to find an agent and for the agent to find the publisher), it will be anywhere from nine months to a year-and-a-half before your book will available for sale anywhere.

The “time to market” for a self-published novel is limited only by how fast you can create a book cover (or hire a graphic designer or crowd-source it) and have your book edited. For example, I wrote Alice in Wonderland in thirty-seven days. As I wrote, my beta-readers and editors were churning their way through the chapters so that by the time I got to “The End,” it was only few days and some last-minute editing changes later and the book was up on Amazon. That book currently has 105 reviews and an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars.

Do you read the reviews on GoodReads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble? would you like Amazon to have a rate and/or review system like GoodReads?
I not only read my reviews on Amazon, I respond to negative reviews. My controversial blog on this topic (“When You Wish Upon a Star, You Get the Pointy End: Why Authors Should ALWAYS Respond To Negative Reader Reviews”) was named one of the “Top 10 Digital Publishing Stories of 2012.”

I do also read the reviews for my novels on GoodReads but I do not respond to them because my book is not for sale on that site.

I prefer Amazon’s review system over GoodRead’s system—the latter of  which allows a reader to give a book 1-5 stars and not write a review. A rating with now review is, in my opinion, not helpful for either readers looking for a good book or authors trying to gauge reader reactions to their work.

Word is that Amazon is starting to delete reviews that say they got the book from the author; what are your thoughts on this as a self-published author? (Especially since most people disclose they received an ARC for review.)

I think this is silly. Traditional reviewers (i.e. from Publisher’s Weekly or Kirkus) have been receiving Advance Review Copies (ARCs) from publishers for decades—and continue to do so. I have never felt that by providing a book to a reviewer (which I have done) in any way affects their review. If it did, I would be insulted, quite frankly.

What advice might you have for someone who is considering self-publishing?
To do whatever you can to be the Wizard of Oz. What do I mean by that? When Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow go to see the Wizard of Oz, they want to believe that he is real. In the same way, readers want to find your work and love it. The majority of them don’t care about the turmoil in the industry—self-published versus traditionally published, pricing wars, sock puppetry, etc. By and large, they’re just looking for a few hours of escape in a good book.

So your job as a writer, and as a business owner, is to make sure that you never have to say “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” In other words, your self-published novel should be indistinguishable from a novel published and packaged by a Big Six publisher.

In practical terms, this means four things:

1. Create an eye-catching, unique, instantly descriptive cover. You have approximately three seconds to capture the interest of the reader, and get them to “click-through” before they move on, so make sure your book “pops,” and is professional-looking at-a-glance. Ideally, you should get compliments from people within the industry on the “professional-looking” cover you’ve created.

2. Edit your novel. And then edit it some more. And then edit it again. This is most likely going to require that you hire somebody. Yes. Does this cost money? Yes, but again—your aim is to never allow the reader to wonder, “Is this is self-published novel?” Self-published novels are notorious for being riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, continuity errors, and the like. And that’s just the copyediting problems! Ideally, you’ll be able to find someone to do hard editing on your novel, which means someone who can tell you where the story drags, or where the plot falls apart, or who will point out characters that were not fully developed, or who serve no purpose.

My novels go through three phases before they hit the virtual bookshelf:

1) Beta-readers: A group of anywhere from 5-10 trusted friends and fans are invited to beta-read my latest novel, usually as I’m writing it. They offer “gut reaction” feedback—basically a thumbs up or thumbs down for each chapter.

2) Hard editor: I have a team of three “hard editors” who whip the novel into shape as described in “Edit your novel” above.

3) Copy editor/proofreader: I have a personal friend who is a crackerjack proofer. She is the last person to read my books before they’re uploaded to Amazon. She finds any remaining continuity errors, misspellings, grammatical disasters, etc. that the 10+ people who had the book before her missed.

3. Write a good novel. Notice that I did not say that you need to write a great novel. That’s because for better or for worse, even a mediocre book will sell if readers perceive that your book is professionally edited and packaged. Such is the nature of consumer purchasing psychology.

4. Price your work competitively using “Goldilocks Pricing.” Ideally, you’ll find the “sweet spot” of pricing for your genre—one that’s neither too high nor too low. And notice my use of the word “work” here. You worked hard on your novel, and you must believe that it has value, because if you believe it does, then readers are more likely to believe it. In my opinion, a 99 cent novel (except during short promotional periods) is a flashing sign that tells the reader that they may end up getting what they pay for.

Have you noticed changes to self-publishing since you started?
Oh, my God, yes. I don’t even know where to start. Here are just a few:

1. There are millions more self-published authors now than there was when I started. The competition is cut-throat and fierce!

2. The “stigma” of being a self-published author disappeared the moment their novels were admitted to the New York Times bestseller lists.

3. The opportunities for enhanced content for e-books are exploding. (You can read about a memorial service video I created, produced and embedded in my best-selling novel Sleeping Beauty here or you can simply watch the video itself here.)

Do you think there are any particular new trends that are emerging?
1. Enhanced and interactive content within e-books. This is definitely a big one.

2. “Hybrid author.” This is an author who has a foot in both the self-published world and the traditionally published world—and who makes no apologies for it. (I would consider myself a hybrid author.)

3. Self-published authors taking control of and monetizing subsidiary rights. For example, instead of waiting for an audiobook deal to come along, I simply hired voice talent Leah Frederick to voice The Frog Prince myself (it should be out later this month on Audible.com). I negotiated the contract myself. This not only allowed me to keep the audio rights, but my royalties are much, much higher than if I had sold my audio rights to another company.

Here’s another example: since I own the rights to my book cover images and they are so popular with fans, I created an online store, DIVA Ink, where fans can buy merchandise with the images and taglines from the novels. This gives me yet another revenue stream.

Have you encountered the sentiment that self published books “aren’t as good”? If so, how do you go about overcoming that impression?
Of course! Unfortunately, it’s a sentiment that’s often justified. I don’t work to overcome the impression (how can you when some of them are so terrible?), I simply try to make sure that my work is the best that it can be and I try to teach other self-published authors how to do the same. Besides, the market usually very quickly takes care of sub-standard self-published books all on its own. Readers are very quick to share the news of a dud with their 600 friends on GoodReads, so it doesn’t take long to separate the wheat from the chaff.

And Elle also was kind enough to add her own “FAQ” section:

I would love a sequel to the The Frog Prince! I’ve seen the reviews on Amazon and GoodReads and I know I’m not alone. Will you ever write a sequel?
Since its release in August 2010, I’ve received many, many requests (some might characterize them as “desperate pleas”) for a sequel to The Frog Prince. My tongue-in-cheek explanation for not doing it is this: “Roman and Leigh will never be happier than they are at the end of The Frog Prince. They will never be more in love, never have better sex, and never be in better shape than they are in Chapter 32. What happens next? They get married, he starts leaving his dirty underwear on the floor, she never puts the lid on the toothpaste, they both let themselves go, and over the next 20 years they slowly start to despise each other. If they have children, it happens in half the time.”

My serious answer used to be that I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t jump the shark. They have a baby? Been done. Their pending nuptials are threatened? Done. The kingdom comes under attack by Mongol warriors transported through a wormhole? Hmm … maybe.

Recently, a fan on my Facebook page suggested that I do a Midnight Sun-like project for The Frog Prince. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Midnight Sun, it’s the Twilight story…told from Edward’s point of view. Stephanie Meyers abandoned it about half-way through after one of her friends leaked it on the internet but she put it on her website so you can still read as much as she wrote before she quit. I actually enjoyed Midnight Sun far more than I did Twilight. Reading about the man’s motivations in courting the woman was far more interesting to read about than the other way around.

When I read the suggestion that I re-write The Frog Prince from Prince Roman Habsburg von Lorraine’s point of view—well, let’s just say that I sat up a little straighter and I was DEFINITELY interested! In any case, I began writing Gilding the Lily-pad on June 29, 2013 and plan to publish it at the end of July in honor of the three-year anniversary of the publication of The Frog Prince. You can read Chapter one of Gilding the Lily-pad here.

Bio: Elle’s first self-published romantic comedy The Frog Prince became an Amazon bestseller in December 2010—a distinction it kept through the summer of 2012 when it peaked at #2 on Amazon’s Top 100 List for Humor. On Valentine’s Day 2012 her second novel, Sleeping Beauty, catapulted to Amazon’s Top 100 List for Romantic Suspense. In March of 2012, she published an alternate ending version of her rom-com Sleeping Beauty in response to fan feedback. In December 2012, both versions were named to Kindles & Wine “Best Reads of 2012.”

Elle’s appearance on Digital Book World’s (DBW) Successful Self-Published Authors panel in January 2012 was noted in Publisher’s Weekly. In February 2012, she was named to Expert Messaging Group’s “25 Self-Published Authors to Watch.” She is considered a “reluctant expert” on the topic of self-publishing and is well-known for taking advantage of her full creative control by pushing the envelope—and advising other self-published authors to do the same.

Elle has contributed to articles on self-publishing for both TIME Magazine and Writers Digest. She’s been interviewed by USA Today’s Happy Ever After with Joyce Lamb, GoodEReader with Mercy Pilkington, the Trash Talk Show with Barb Tobias and Your Book Is Your Hook with Jennifer Wilkov. In August of 2013, she will begin hosting her own radio show—“Dear Digital Diva”—on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.

In April 2012, Elle was invited to be a regular contributor to DBWs Expert Publishing Blog, an industry blog with 20,000 subscribers. She almost immediately created a firestorm of controversy by blogging that authors should respond to negative reader reviews—a blog that was later named one of the “Top 10 Digital Publishing Stories of 2012” for its “importance.”

And guess what? One lucky person who comments will get her (or his!) choice of a signed paperback from Elle’s back list! Whoo! And, I can’t promise this – as it’s the holiday and >.< everything is crazy so I haven’t had a chance to ask, but Elle might be willing to answer questions you might have too! So you know, nothing ventured, nothing gained! Go go go!

Indie Author Spotlight: R.E. Butler

Hi friends! Remember way back when, in January when I said I was starting a new periodic feature? Well! Today is our second installment! A look at Indie Authors and their publishing journey. Please welcome author R.E. Butler to ALBTALBS!

What made you decide to self publish?
The timing of traditional publishers.  I can write, edit, and publish a book whenever I feel like it.  I like being in control of my work.  For example, my latest book was slated to be out around the 22nd of March.  I had a fan ask if I could get it out faster so she could enjoy it on her birthday.  Some other fans jumped on the bandwagon, too, and so I buckled down and got the book out in time for her birthday.  If it was in the hands of a traditional publishing company the publish date would have been entirely out of my hands.

What do you wish you knew when you started self publishing that you know now?
The resources that are available to self-publishers.  With a little research on their part, an author can find beta-readers, critique groups, editors, cover designers, and marketing companies.  When I started publishing, it was just me and a friend that was my beta-reader and cover designer.  Neither of us really knew what we were doing.  When I finally started to make contacts in the industry, I was able to do more by outsourcing my editing and proofing, cover design, and marketing.  It freed me up to write more, as well as allow me to put out more professional work.

What are the pros and cons of self publishing?
The pros and cons are actually the same for me.  You’re in utter control of your career.  That’s a pro because you make the decisions about your book covers, your content, your publishing dates.  It’s a con because you’re doing the work of many people all by yourself.  It can be as much overwhelming as it is amazing.

How do you find your audience?
I blog, and am on Twitter and Facebook and I’m active on Goodreads.  When I wasn’t reaching many fans in the UK, I did a blog tour that focused on blogs out of that part of the world and increased my visibility.

What have been the most challenging issues in self publishing?
For me, the biggest challenge I face is getting books out timely on all distribution channels.  I publish to Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords, and all three have their own timelines for when a book is received by them and hits their virtual shelves.  Getting everything out in the same day is an art form that I’m still trying to master.

How do you approach editing and marketing?
I take editing very seriously.  Even with paid, professional editors, I still read through a finished book several times before I publish it.  I have a strict way I proof a final draft and I don’t stray from it.  It’s important to me that my books are as clean as possible, so that I can be proud of the work I’ve put out.  I never was much of a marketer, but I’m getting better.  I’ve been very fortunate to have a number of book review blogs pick up my series and showcase them, and I’ve got the most amazing, loyal fans that support me and my books.  I advertise on romance sites, and collaborate with the people that I work with to cross promote.

There is the perception it is faster to get a book to your fans if you are self-published – do you think this is true?
From what I’ve learned in following my favorite authors, I do know that it is true.  I can write my book, get it edited and ready to publish, and then publish it whenever I’m ready.  I’ve moved books from first draft to published in two months.

Do you read the reviews on GoodReads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble? would you like Amazon to have a rate and/or review system like GoodReads?
For the most part, I don’t really read reviews.  I watch them in an overview kind of way, to see how many reviews a new book gets after a certain amount of time, or what the average number of stars is, but I don’t really dig into the reviews unless someone contacts me about a review they wrote, in which case I’ll read it.  I really don’t think that reviews are written for the authors, but for other readers.  It’s so easy to get caught up with a bad review.  When I first published and the first bad review came in, it hovered in my brain like a demon, poking at me, taunting me.  I do wish that Amazon would go to a review system like B&N or GR, that would allow readers to simply leave a star rating instead of a worded review if they’d prefer.

Word is that Amazon is starting to delete reviews that say they got the book from the author; what are your thoughts on this as a self-published author? (Especially since most people disclose they received an ARC for review.)
As long as a reviewer states that the book was given as an ARC for an honest review, I don’t see what the problem is with ARCs getting reviewed.

What advice might you have for someone who is considering self publishing?
Do it!  Don’t just say you will, but get out there and do it!  If I have one regret about my writing career, it’s that I didn’t publish sooner.

Have you noticed changes to self publishing since you started?
I think that self-published authors are finding that they’re not so looked down upon as they were several years ago.  Even traditionally published authors are self-publishing, which is a huge nod to the self-publishing industry.  When I see self-published authors on best seller lists, it makes my heart sing.

Do you think there are any particular new trends that are emerging?
I’m not the trendiest person you’ll ever meet, but I do read a ton and from what I can see of the new books coming out and the best selling charts, the erotica/billionaire craze isn’t going to die down anytime soon.

So – what questions do you have for Ms. Butler? You can ask about her books, publishing, the weather, anything! And note – she just published her sixteenth book this past March, so you know – one would think she knows what she’s talking about. 😉

As incentive, R.E. has offered a $25 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble (winner’s choice), and another person their choice of an ebook from her backlist! Whee!

p.s. At this very moment, two of her books are free on amazon kindle! So you can check them out if you like. A Flash of Fang, and A Curve of Claw – NB I make no guarantees as to price, so caveat emptor!) 

Special Guest: Sahara H.

Hi friends! Can you believe we’re almost through February?! Eek! As you know, every month I feature a reader from the romance community. Cuz we’re awesome – and readers are the most important part of it. I always love seeing what everyone has to say, and what topics come up. I think you’ll enjoy this one. So everyone give a warm welcome to the wonderful Sahara H.! She’s also a blogger/reviewer at WLP!

When Things Are Too Quiet on the Western Front

I started really reading ebooks while in college. Two years ago, I received a Kindle for Christmas and entered the magical world that is online ebook retail. What drew me in were all the great deals I could receive on books with compelling plot lines even if they weren’t published by a major publishing house. For example, I quickly devoured Lani Wendt Young’s Telesa: The Covenant Keeper, a story of a girl who goes to Samoa and finds more than she bargained for in her family history. I also read and loved Tracy Rozzlynn’s Fast Tracked, a dystopian YA novel about a young girl, Alexandria, and how she quickly enters the high societal caste while leaving behind the boy she loves. The great thing about both of these titles was that they were reasonably priced and well written. As a result, I fell in love with the world of self-publishing.

Am I a self-published author? No. Do I review self-published books from time to time? Yes. Sunita over at Dear Author wrote a great post about the expectations readers have regarding pieces of published work. The point is that when I bought a book, I entered into a transaction; I paid for the entertainment that a book brings. I also like to think that a sort of customer relationship is built when a reader buys a book, especially with a series. For example, I read Series A because I enjoy the author’s writing style and continue to purchase his or her books. When the author is backed by a major publishing house and if sales are good, I don’t have to worry about the author continuing a series. In the case of a self-published author, do I have this luxury? No.

Many self-published authors do a great job in keeping readers informed on upcoming projects, release dates, and are engaged in online reading communities such as Goodreads. I’ve run into a few instances, however, where an author promises a book on a certain date and then postpones it. This is fine, as a reader I have to understand that in exchange for the convenient price and gratification I get from a self-published work, I must respect the author’s work schedule/real life commitments. But what happens when you’ve supported an author’s work, bought their backlist and shown commitment to a series and the author suddenly goes dark?

This is what I have a problem with. I know self-published authors are real people not chained to a desk writing for my benefit, but if I’ve made the commitment to support your work and you’ve established a relationship with your readers via Facebook, Twitter, a blog etc. then there should be some kind of explaination as to why reader expectations of a new book, the continuing of a series, etc. will not be met. Even a 140 character tweet such as, “I will no longer continue the series” “I don’t feel like writing anymore,” at least give me as a reader, an understanding as to what is going on. I may not like it, I may not be happy with your decision, but at least you as an author have respected the relationship we have built as writer and reader or producer and consumer. All I am saying for those in the self-published community is that if you’ve established a following and create expectations for a new release or the next series, don’t leave your readers hanging waiting to know what’s next.