Today I have Derrolyn Anderson, author of the Marina’s Tales series, here to answer some questions about the act of publishing.
Everything I read on the internet said the first step was to get a literary agent to represent your work. I saw horrific pictures ridiculing the giant slush-piles of unrequested manuscripts that show up at publishing houses, so I took that advice. I wrote and re-wrote a query letter, sending it out to a dozens of agents and waiting for a response. And waiting… And waiting… My visionary entrepreneur of a husband suggested that I go ahead and self-publish, but I insisted that I needed the validation of an expert in order to be taken seriously. I finally got a request for a partial and then… crickets. When my daughters came back from shopping one day to announce that Snooki had a (hardcover!) book on the shelves I finally gave up.
I went onto the Amazon Kindle website and watched their informative video about how to format and submit my books. I followed the simple instructions and… TA-DA! I had a book available for purchase within twenty-four hours! I did the same over at Barnes and Noble PubIt, amazed at how simple it was. Then I discovered Smashwords, and boy, are they set up to assist indies! You could go directly to Smashwords, follow their style guidelines (written up in a free e-book that I downloaded onto my free Kindle app from Amazon) and they will convert your book into all of the e-formats and distribute it to a myriad of e-retailers for you. You can also have your books printed to order on paper through Amazon’s Createspace, but I haven’t looked too far into this. The numbers simply don’t work out for me.
The trickiest part is the formatting, but I recommend going to Smashwords and downloading Mark Coker’s free guide to formatting e-books, The Smashwords Style Guide. I’m a bit technologically challenged, but I was able to figure it out without too much difficulty. If it’s too much trouble, Smashwords provides a list of individuals who will format your book for a fee.
Yes, yes, and yes—If you’re willing to work at it.
The best part about e-publishing? NOTHING IS SET IN STONE! I’m a visual artist, so I decided to work up my book-covers myself. I think I did OK, but I decided to improve on them after getting some lukewarm feedback from readers. I simply uploaded the new covers and within a few hours they were changed. With e-books, you get to have an instant do-over! If only life were as kind… I also did my own book editing, and when one of the first reviewers found a couple of typos I could have died. But guess what? I fixed the problems (they were little things, like an extra “the”) and re-uploaded the books. Problem solved immediately. I would highly recommend getting a second pair of eyes to peruse your copy before you publish, but if you do find a problem, you have the ability to remedy it immediately.
A quick tip: I recommend reading your book, word for word, out loud. Your family may think you’ve gone round the bend, but it helps to avoid the tendency we all have to fill in the words in our minds. As we all know, there’s a big difference between meaning to say something and actually saying it!
The second best part? I own all the rights to my books for all eternity. I would have signed just about anything in order to get my books accepted by traditional “dead tree” publishers. By self-publishing e-books, I have all of eternity to find an audience for my books, and I don’t have to rely on a publisher who may or may not do a good job of promoting my book. Which leads to the next question…
Promoting my book! Obviously, when you self-pub the marketing is entirely up to you. So far, I’ve been focusing on the book-blogging community, and I’m getting a lot of great feedback and exposure from all the wonderful book blogs (including this one!) I’ve approached for reviews. I’ve yet to spend any money on advertising, but now that sales are picking up a little, I may consider it in the future. I’m not a real big social-networking person, and as a matter of fact I think I may be the last person on earth who isn’t on Facebook. I run a small business, have three busy daughters, lots of pets and a garden that always needs watering—I just don’t need one more thing! Simply scratching out the time to write can be a major challenge.
However, I probably should do more to stand out from the thousands of YA books out there, and now it seems that I’m going to require a book trailer as well… The good news is that the information is all out there on the internet, so when I’m ready to get with the program, I’m certain that the program will reveal itself to me.
As of right now, my focus is on telling the best stories I can, and writing makes me happy, so I’m going to keep plugging away no matter what. And who knows? There’s always an offhand chance that some ginormous publishing house sees the light and makes me an offer I can’t refuse! After all, Snooki is living the dream… why not me?
About Derrolyn Anderson:
Derrolyn Anderson is a visual artist and writer who specializes in young adult fiction. She is the creator of the “Marina’s Tales” series, and is currently hard at work readying the third installment for its imminent release.