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Author Interviews II: Laurie Gifford Adams Shares on Self-Publishing

Laurie Gifford Adams began writing young adult novels during her career as an educator. Adams is the author of Finding Atticus, www.RUinDanger, Over the Edge, and Before I Knew. A former Prattsburg (NY) High School schoolmate of W2I Team member Darcy Hendrick, Adams has agreed to share her self-publishing experiences for our informational series of author interviews on the pros and cons of this publishing option.

What book did you first publish using a self-publishing provider or system? Title: Finding Atticus (2009); genre: middle grade contemporary.

What publisher or system did you use? I-Universe.

When was the book published, and how long did the project take from start to finish? I started writing the book in October 2008 and finished in February of 2009. I had planned to send it to agents and editors, but I used my English classes as first readers, and they liked it so much that they wanted copies. That’s when I decided to have a few available for them. However, subsequent events [led to my decision] to just leave it as self-pubbed because it had taken on a life of its own.

How many self-publishing companies or products did you investigate before choosing? Three or four.

What factors led to your choice? I-Universe was very easy to deal with. They took the guesswork out of the process. (However, their prices doubled after I published Finding Atticus, and I wasn’t thrilled about paying to have it published.)

How many up-front costs did you incur to publish your book? With Finding Atticus and www.RUinDanger, the family internet safety book that I co-wrote, it cost under $500 to have everything done . . . ISBN, cover, etc.

How long did it take to recoup these costs (if you have), or what is the projected time frame to recover them? Did the publisher give an accurate projected time estimate? I recouped the cost on both within a few months, but that’s not always the case. I didn’t receive an estimate from the publisher.

How much control did you maintain over the process (editing, revision choices, cover design, illustrations, book type (font, print size), and book description for marketing purposes? With the first two books through I-Universe, I didn’t have control over books size, type, font, or price. That’s the reason I switched . . . [to] Createspace. With Createspace, it’s more work, but it’s way cheaper to get a book out and you control almost everything—to a point. I’d still like my hard copy book prices to be lower, but I have them as low as I can go.

Did you hire a professional or use services provided by the self-publishing company for any of the following?
Cover design: With Finding Atticus, I sent . . . a cover photo and [the publisher paid an artist to design] the covers. With Over the Edge and Before I Knew, I hired a cover designer, and for time’s sake, I also hired the interior designer because I didn’t have time to figure it all out. One of my critique partners did all of that herself, so she has almost no upfront money invested. Personally, I’d rather pay a professional who knows what they’re doing and can deal with any issues.

Illustrations: N/A

Editing: This was all me, my first readers, and a couple of people that were willing to edit for me. The important thing is to have others, not just one other person, go through your books for not only grammatical edits, but also for plot concerns. I can’t stress this enough. On the current book, I have nine first readers and two people working on edits and plot holes for me. I don’t pay . . . them, but I do acknowledge them in the books and give each a signed copy.

Layout/design: I choose to hire someone to do this, because I just don’t have time.

Did you self-publish in print or e-book format, or both? Did the self-publishing company (if used) provide software services to create book files for printing or e-book conversion of your manuscript? I have books in both formats. The companies and designers I hired took care of all of this for me since they had the expertise . . . . My critique partners do all of this themselves.

What software or process was used? I have no idea.

Did you type the manuscript in this system, or was typing provided by the company? It was provided by the company.

If you purchased software yourself, what was the product? What was the cost? My critique partners have used Canva and other programs.

How much learning curve and time were required for typing/file preparation? Based on what one of my critique partners has done, it . . . could be a full time job. Hence, why I hire this out.

How many books (if print) did you have printed initially? Did you use/are you using print-on-demand? I use print-on demand, but I always order author copies (which you can purchase cheaper than the cover price) so that I have them on hand. The good part about print-on-demand is that they’re sold as people want them. The bad part . . . is that most bookstores aren’t willing to take a chance on the books because they can’t return them if they don’t sell. I do have a couple of [local] bookstores that . . . have had good success selling my books.

Is the book being marketed in stores (print)? Only in a select few stores.

Is the book being marketed online? If online, what sites offer your book? My books are available through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, Barnes and Noble, KDP.

Advice for authors who are considering embarking on a self-publishing adventure:

  • Do read and re-read your story many times.
  • Do have multiple “first or pre readers.”
  • Do have a couple of people who are willing to go through and check grammar, spelling, etc.
  • Do listen to critiques, but don’t feel that every suggestion needs to be used. This is your story. You know what point you’re trying to make.
  • Do listen if a reader tells you something just isn’t believable or it’s confusing. You know exactly what you’re trying to say, so it’s likely you’re not going to see it, even after it’s pointed out. Listen to them. If they say more detail is needed, take a good look at what you’ve written.
  • Do work with other writers.
  • Do join writers’ groups. The smartest thing I ever did was to get involved with other writers because, especially in the beginning, most of them knew way more than I did about writing, about publishing, etc. Surround yourself with these people.
  • Do attend conferences. I have attended many local and national conferences, and I can hear the same thing five different times, and each time I take something different away from it.
  • Do attend writing workshops. Everyone can learn, even those who are multi-published.
  • Do read books within the genre you’re writing. It’s important to see what’s out there, and it’s also important to see what is appealing to readers. You can also study style.
  • Do find a “platform” that helps your books stand out. For example, I’ve chosen to use an “education” platform. In my Finger Lakes Series, every book has dogs who are used as assistance, emotional support, or as therapy dogs. Think about the themes in your books and make sure you’ve backed them up with your plot.
  • Do keep your audience in mind. Whom are you targeting for your books? Who do you think/hope will read them?
  • Do expect to do a lot of self-promotion and marketing. People don’t know you have books out there if you aren’t out there yourself letting people know.
  • Do take advantage of the multiple social network opportunities to market yourself and your books. (But don’t overdo it . . . see a response in the “don’t” section that addresses this.)
  • Do accept opportunities like this one to participate in a blog interview, speak at a library or bookstore.
  • Do donate books to causes. Even though this seems like a loss, I write this off as “marketing and publicity.” I occasionally run contests either on FB or on Goodreads.
  • Do realize I am not an expert in this. I am still learning so much all of the time, but I listen and explore. I’m always looking for new opportunities to share my books.
  • Do realize that it will take a while to build a readership.
  • Do encourage others to promote your books and to write reviews for you. These are extremely important in raising an author’s profile on Amazon, etc.
  • Do write reviews for others as well. It matters. It’s important to give more than you take.
  • Don’t listen to every critique or comment you get. Every reader is coming from someplace different and will have a different opinion. Listen to them, but be picky about how much you really believe you need to change your story. If you hear the same comment more than once, then it’s definitely a concern.
  • Don’t give up. This is not easy. You have to constantly be looking for ways to market your book, get attention for your writing, etc.
  • Don’t jump all over in genres if you can help it. It’s difficult enough to build a readership without confusing them. If your readers are expecting your books to have a hometown, folksy feel, and you suddenly have a book that is about city life, you might lose readers. If your readers are expecting a nice contemporary story and the next one is . . . vampire, unless they like to read across genres, you’re probably going to lose them.
  • Don’t make your only contact with readers about your writing or books. Readers like to get to know the authors, too. You don’t have to go crazy with personal stuff, but readers like to know you’re “real” and they like to be able to identify with you in some way. If all you do on social media is market your books, people will quit looking.
  • Don’t buy hundreds of books thinking they’re going to be easy to sell, because you’ll probably have that inventory for quite a while unless you happen to get lucky with an event.
  • Don’t think every opportunity to go somewhere with your book is going to result in hundreds of sales. Sometimes you . . . sell one book — or none. But you’re putting yourself and your name out there.

If it’s . . . going to cost you a lot to be involved with, seriously consider the ROI (return on investment). If you have to pay an [event] entrance fee of $100 to have a table, when you figure out your profit, [don’t] figure it based on how many books you sold that day. . . . [I]f you paid $10 for [each] book from the publisher, and you’re selling it for $13, you’re only making $3 profit on each [sale]. So, in order to break even at this $100 table, you have to sell 34 books (. . . [to] be $2 ahead). Too many people don’t think about their initial investment . . . instead, in this scenario, they’ll say if they sold 34 books then they made $440, but they didn’t. They actually cleared $2 because they have to figure in the initial investment of $340 (34 books x $10 the publisher charges them), then $100 for that table. . . . [Y]ou already have $440 invested in this event before you sell anything. (That looks convoluted, but it’s the case.)

In this scenario, the author has earned $2 above expenses, but it has yielded possibly 34 more readers and name exposure, and there’s no telling how valuable that might be.

Author website/contact information:
LaurieGiffordAdams.com
Facebook: AuthorLaurieGiffordAdams
Twitter: @LaurieGAdams

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Reflecting with Illustrator and Author Tony Snipes

Tony Snipes illustrates and writes with passion. He shares that passion and his love for God as he helps others discover their purpose. Tony will share his talent as he returns to Write2Ignite this year to present two workshops.

In the adult workshop “A Mirror or a Flashlight?,” Tony will guide others to discover their power of creativity. The teens will enjoy Tony as he teaches a hands-on workshop, “Sketching Faces.”

Tony’s life brims with many things, including his precious wife and three daughters, but we’re glad he took a few minutes to chat with us.

Tony, what three things are most memorable to you about 2014?

The day we gave our daughter her first car, my last Art Slam Live event, and Christmas morning.

Was it your last Art Slam event or was there something extra special about the last one you hosted?

Yes, I still host the Art Slam Live event. I should have said the “most
recent” rather than “last”. The most recent event is when we actually
partnered with the city of Mauldin, SC. It led to more credibility. We are
partnering with them this year as well!

That’s great! And, I bet your prayer level went up as well with that first car!

BIG yes on that!

First cars, first sweethearts, and first jobs will always be memorable though. What was your first job?

Working for the Housing Authority for the summer when I was thirteen years old.

What type of work did you do for the Housing Authority at age 13?

It was a part of a city-wide summer program for kids. Another
young man and I assisted the maintenance team of an apartment complex. We didn’t
fix anything ourselves, just helped a LOT on the clean-up side of things.

That early exposure to maintenance and clean-up probably makes you a great husband today!

Tony,  you’ve done a variety of work over the years. At what point did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I knew I wanted to write my first book around 2003 when I began collecting my thoughts in journals.

Looking back over your writing journey, what is one thing you wish you had known earlier?

I wish I had known more about the marketing side.

Anything specific about marketing?

Yes, how to build a following before you launch your book. It’s much
easier to do that now that we have social media. Also, not to look at
authoring a book as a method of getting rich, but rather looking at it as
a form of a “magnified business card”. Being able to put “the author of”
at the end of your name adds significant awareness to your personal brand.

Do you have any recommendations, of books or websites on marketing, for our blog readers?

Yes. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt. Great book on basic methods of building a following!

What do you hope to learn this year?

How to perfect storytelling.

If awarded one day to talk with three authors (from any time period), whom would you choose?

Dr. Myles Munroe for his awesome books on purpose and the Kingdom principles of business; marketing guru Seth Godin; and entrepreneur expert Dan Miller.

The theme for Write2Ignite 2015 is “Shine.” What three helpful hints would you recommend to writers to make their work shine?

  • Tell great stories.
  • Have a marketing strategy.
  • Build your following, even before you launch your next book, using social media.

Tony, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

Readers, you can connect with Tony at ArtLessonsfromGod.com and TonySnipes.com and on Facebook.

 

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Reflecting with Publisher and Author, Cheri Cowell

Cheri Cowell

This wintery week, we’re catching some rays of joy with Cheri Cowell, owner and publisher of EABooks Publishing. Also a published author and speaker, Cheri will present two workshops at the 2015 Write2Ignite Conference: “How to Evaluate Your Options: Traditional Publishing, Independent Publishing, or a Combination” and “Why You Need an E-book/Audiobook: Taking Advantage of this New Trend.”

The conference is only a few weeks away. Remember to take advantage of that early bird rate before February 28. Until then, let’s get better acquainted with Cheri.

Cheri, we’ve been asking our workshop presenters for three of their favorite 2014 moments. What were yours?

  • My husband I spent two weeks in Hawaii with family and friends.
  • We added a door from our bedroom out to the hot tub–no more traipsing through the kitchen dripping wet.
  • I completed my family ancestry scrapbook–a history of God’s faithfulness through the generations.

I’d love to see how you did the family ancestry scrapbook! How far back did you go in your family? 

I started with me as a baby, then went to my parents, who then have two “trees,” which I traced back through my two sets of grandparents as far as I could go. One I’m able to trace back to the 1700s.  

That’s wonderful. All writers should take time to do that. We’re often so busy with “outside” writing that we forget to write important things like this for our families.

What was your first paying job?

My first job out of high school was a barista—before there was such a word. I had to pass a coffee and tea test every quarter to keep that job.

At what point in your life did you know you wanted to pursue writing?

I have a degree in children’s theatre and then became a youth pastor for 15 years, and when that career ended in 2000, I had no idea what I was qualified to do. Thankfully, God did, and He opened doors I didn’t even lean against.

Looking back over your writing journey, what is one thing you wish you had known earlier?

It’s about the relationships, and relationships take time.

What do you hope to learn this year?

I’m currently studying Nehemiah, and what I’m learning is preparation takes time.

You’ve mentioned learning several things “take time.” Sounds like you’re practicing patience!

The take time message is very strong this year as I have several things that are almost ready to “give birth,” but if I get impatient, they will not be in God’s timing, and I could mess things up. So patience is key.           

Do you remember one of your favorite books from your childhood? What made it special?

I nearly cried when I found a dog-eared copy of Mister God, This Is Anna in a used bookstore because that story about a little girl with a special relationship with God told me that my special relationship with Him could impact lives.

What was one of your favorite books when you were a teen?

I love history, so The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom had a huge impact on me.

If awarded one day to talk with three authors (from any time period), whom would you choose?

Any of the gospel writers, C. S. Lewis, and Os Guinness.

The theme for Write2Ignite 2015 is “Shine.” What three helpful hints would you recommend to writers to make their work shine?

  • One of my favorite tips is to read your work, beginning at the end of the piece, read sentence by sentence, back to the beginning. It is the best way to hear mistakes in grammar and spot mistakes in punctuation.
  • Work on something else, and then come back to your piece with fresh eyes.
  • Find a good critique group/partner who will be honest with you about your work and help you shine as you help them/him or her shine.

Thank you for taking time to share with us, Cheri. We look forward to learning more from you at the Write2Ignite Conference.

Readers, you can connect with Cheri at www.info@eabooksonline.com, EABooksOnline.com and CheriCowell.com.