Welcome to the Jungle: Exploring New Territory in Self-Publishing
[Issue 92 was edited by Margo L. Dill]
What a difference a dozen years can make in the publishing industry, huh? When I was first looking for a publisher for my historical middle-grade novel, Finding My Place, back in 2007, I would have probably never chosen self-publication (often referred to as vanity publishing back then) because of the stigma attached to it and to be honest, because I’m not someone who goes against the grain. If most people thought self-publishing wasn’t worth it, then I wouldn’t have considered it.
But look at us now! Everyone reading this probably knows at least one self-published author. Not only that, but you also most likely know someone who is killing it at being self-published—supporting themselves, collecting royalties like the queen of the jungle, reaching bestseller lists. Some very successful traditionally published authors have now chosen to self-publish some of their lists (or even all of their list)! And so, I have a few projects that I plan to self-publish as soon as I complete them.
However, all of these authors self-publishing have turned the publishing environment into a bit of jungle! So in this issue, Angela and I thought we’d take off our editing caps and replace them with safari hats to lead you wise writers through the thick brush—finding editors and book cover artists plus marketing your books and keeping track of sales while avoiding snake pits and predators’ dens—to come out swinging from vine to vine as successfully as Tarzan.
There’s so much information out there already, we know; but here at WOW!, we’ve carefully built this issue, like you would a shelter on Survivor!, to help you sustain a long and successful career as a self-published author. (Who knows? Maybe you’ll become a millionaire if you find a good author alliance!)
A big, warm thank you goes to our freelancers and staff members:
To start us off on our jungle journey, we welcome back Karen S. Wiesner with her article, “I Want to Write a Series. Now What?,” which is excerpted from her book, Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas. Self-published authors often write a series because it’s one way to build a faithful audience of readers. In this article, Karen provides details on how to plan a series, including individual book arcs and series arcs, and how to organize and keep track of series details. Plus, she includes some exercises for building a series. Before you self-publish your books, you want to write the best story possible and build on your success of each book.
Next, we have an amazing interview with the talented Renaissance woman Jessica Bell, whom many of you know from her Writing in a Nutshell series. We welcome back freelancer Christy O’Callaghan who asks Jessica about everything from tips to get started with self-publishing to social media marketing in “Jessica Bell: Peeking Behind the Curtain of Indie and Self-Publishing.” If you feel like you’re sinking in quicksand, full of questions and doubts surrounding how to self-publish your work, then this is the article to read first. Jessica has experience as both a writer and a publisher, so she knows the ins and outs of the business.
When you self-publish, you’re the entire company—the creator and the bookkeeper, the marketer and the editor-in-chief. Of course, you can (and should!) hire professionals to help you; but in today’s “app-happy” world, you can also find websites and apps to make this easier on you, especially if you have a tight budget or want to DIY. We welcome author Kia Carrington-Russell with her article, “6 Programs that Authors Should Start Using Today.” Kia has self-published fourteen novels and is most known for her paranormal romance series, Token Huntress. The programs in Kia’s article help you do everything from tracking royalties to creating ads to finding interested reviewers—all necessary tools to navigate the publishing jungle.
Sometimes, when on an adventure in the wilderness, we need a trusted hand to bring us a dose of reality, so we can survive. We have that for you in this issue, with an interview led by seasoned freelancer and memoirist Dorit Sasson who spoke with Viki Winterton, the founder of Expert Insights Publishing, in “The Reality of Self-Publishing in Today’s Publishing Environment.” Viki and Dorit discuss how to decide if a traditional publisher can offer you more than you can offer yourself with self-publishing, as well as the importance of creative control, building a platform around your book, and more. This interview is full of gems for all levels of writers—ideas for beginners to experts published with multiple books.
Since I’m planning to enter the tangle of trees and vines soon, I’ll use this next amazing article as a guidebook for how to keep my finances under control and find my readers as I self-publish. We welcome back freelancer Pinar Tarhan with her article, “How to Finance Your Self-Publishing Efforts Through Crowdsourcing.” Pinar interviewed eight writers—Melissa Frey, Amy Zellmer, Bethany Atazadeh, Joanna Penn, Maxima Kahn, Ksenia Anske, Katie Li, and Jas Rawlinson—who are out there using programs like Kickstarter, Patreon, and Chuffed to provide funding for their book budgets and a built-in fanbase of readers. As I edited this article, I couldn’t get past the idea that these women are just like you and me—they really are! They’re brave, passionate writers who want to take control of their careers and are willing to put in the work to find their readers and ask for support.
Amazon (fitting for our jungle theme!) is the choice for many authors when it comes to self-publishing. The company makes it easy and beneficial to choose whatever program it’s currently using (once it was called CreateSpace; now it’s Kindle Direct Publishing—KDP) for authors to get their books to readers. We welcome freelancer Jane Ford with her article “How to Use Small Amazon Categories for Big Sales,” which shows us how to navigate through listing your books on Amazon and choosing categories, so interested readers can find you. She shows us with examples, some from her own books, on ways to work with niche categories to improve marketing and sales!
Book bloggers are like the howler monkeys of the publishing world. They create noise and excitement around the books they love and get the word out about new authors and book birthdays. WOW! staff member Nicole Pyles wrote an excellent article, “An Author’s Guide to Book Bloggers,” about how to find bloggers who want to read and feature your books. She provides detailed information on approaching them and ways to use their influence to help with marketing. She also interviews book bloggers—Tina Hartas of Trip Fiction, author Anthony Avina, Laura Brennan of Destination Mystery, Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows, Liz Mistry of Crime Warp, author Graham Smith, Stacey of Whispering Stories, Briennai of Bri’s Book Nook, and Philomena Cheekypee Callan of Cheekypee Reads and Reviews—who share their best tips. This is the perfect article for anyone with books already in the jungle or who will be publishing soon.
We thank Christy O’Callaghan for interviewing two strong and successful women for this issue. Her second interview with Patricia A. Nugent, an author who has self-published her own work and served as the editor of a collection of essays, is so inspirational you’ll have trouble reading the rest of our issue because you’ll want to get busy with your own work. In “From Grief and Rejection to Success in Self-Publication with Writer/Editor Patricia A. Nugent,” Christy and Patricia discuss why she chose self-publishing for her book about caring for her dying parents, what it was like to work as an editor, how she has sold more copies than she ever imagined, how to self-publish an anthology, and much more.
As we wind our way out of the jungle maze, we bring you one last huge twist to consider: hybrid publishing. Some authors want a mix of a traditional publisher and self-publishing, and they have a budget to support this desire. I was lucky enough to talk with Michelle Dim-St. Pierre, author of The Pinnacle Series, and featured her experience with Booklogix, a hybrid publisher, in the article, “Michelle Dim-St. Pierre Helps Us Explore Hybrid Publishing.” Michelle shares why she chose a hybrid publisher and what she has learned through publishing two books this way. Her advice is honest and practical, as she graciously explains her experience.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and ready to get out of the heat of the publishing world, then just remember that it’s never too late to live your dream. We want to make sure you don’t miss Nicole Pyles’s fantastic interview on The Muffin this month with “95-year-old author, Delana Close,” who self-published her book, The Rock House, the 2019 Independent Book Awards Winner for Historical Fiction. Delana started this project in 1955! If we all follow the advice that Delana tells Nicole, we can’t go wrong: “Perseverance and overcoming obstacles is my story as well as Abby’s story [in The Rock House]. Don’t give up; if you have a story to tell, find a way to tell it.”
Finally, we must thank Angela Mackintosh, WOW!’s executive editor, who works tirelessly day in and day out to bring us this encouraging, inspiring, and informative site as well as each themed issue, including this one! Without her vision and guidance, this timely and important self-publishing issue would been stuck in the middle of dark, dense underbrush. She always finds a way to shine her light through the trees and help us all journey to success. She is truly a treasure that we’re all lucky enough to have found. Plus, her artistic vision is divine, as she creates all the artwork for the issue and is also our webmaster! Thank you, Angela!
On to the issue . . . enjoy!