September Gray

September Gray is the author of Chasing Dolphins, a story she was inspired to self-publish when the traditional process took too much time.  In this interview she explains why she thinks indie authors should support one another and discusses the importance of good editing.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

Here is an excerpt from a customer review on Amazon.  This reader sums it up as well as I could: “I liked this.  It’s not often you have the (pleasure?) of finding a readable main character who is a great deal less than perfect.  Charlene comes across as flawed, battered by life, but believable.  Her background has made her needy, malleable, and low on self-worth.  She drinks too much, smokes too much, isn’t much of a mum, picks up hordes of unsuitable men, sleeps around, etc., but is nevertheless likeable.”

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I’ve had a few short stories published in magazines.  I also have friends who have been traditionally published and I watched them spend literally years mailing out query letters before they finally made a sale.  The last straw for me came when I heard from an editor who claimed to love the story I’d sent her.  Three months later she sent me a rejection slip stating she couldn’t find a hook for the story, but would love to see more of my work.  I’m not always a patient person, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

3. How have you liked self-publishing so far?

I just want to get my stories out there before readers.  It doesn’t matter to me how I do it.  I think a lot of writers are divided right now: go indie or go traditional?  For me, it isn’t one or the other.  If  a publishing house offered me a decent contract I’d consider it.  I’m just not willing to put my writing career on hold until that happens.

4. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books.  Which ones have been the most successful?

I enjoy being active on Goodreads and Twitter.  I promote others as much as possible.  If you are helpful to others, you are going to get noticed faster than if you come off as self-serving.  I’ve had other writers give me back links or a mention on their blogs as a thank you for doing the same for them.  This doesn’t have to be a competitive business.  It works best when we are all scratching each other’s backs.  On the other hand, I don’t promote anyone’s work unless I believe in it.

5. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?

I would have someone other than myself do the editing.  It’s hard to be objective about your own work.  No matter how hard you try to catch every typo, you are likely going to miss something.  Formatting is a nightmare for me, so fixing those mistakes once they’re published can be a real problem.

6. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?

I write about somewhat disturbing, yet sympathetic, characters with a dark sense of humor.

7. How can readers learn more about your books?

Check out my Amazon author’s page here.

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Patricia Herlevi

Patricia Herlevi reflects on her music background as she discusses her book, Agnes et Yves: Ma Vie en Bleu.  Learn how she makes marketing work without having to break the bank.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

“French Kiss” meets arts journalism meets Parisian artists meets Katherine Hepburn.  In hot pursuit of an affair with a Spanish Don Juan, Francophobe Agnes’ plans are derailed by a French painter and transportation strike.  Bonjour Paris!

I wrote this novel as an old fashion style comedy with some mistaken identity, especially around “Pablo”, plots twists, and a surprise ending.  I adapted the novel from a screenplay of the same title, but for the novel I brought back the mother character, and brought in more psychological baggage which I dealt with through comedy of errors.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Thinking back to my music career which spanned from 1986 to 1996, I have a knack for do-it-yourself projects.  I also think that it is a real confidence builder to take on a project yourself and see how far you can take it.  My motivation for going it independent with music came from a music industry with a closed door policy.  I sent out over 50 demo tapes over the years, and received a large pile of rejection letters.  I still wanted to record and perform music so I found a way to do that without a recording contract.

Now that I am authoring books, I thought I would see how far I could go on my own in building a target audience, and cooperating with other independent authors.  The learning curve is steep, especially at my age, but I have to admit, I enjoy the challenges.  Those challenges spark creative solutions.

3. Have you been traditionally published?  Why or why not?

No, I have not traditionally published any books yet.  I am not averse to publishing books traditionally.  I contacted agents and went the normal route, receiving a fair share of rejection letters and some encouragement.  Then a friend suggested I try Lulu.  At first this felt daunting so then I went with CreateSpace instead.  Since my novel has commercial appeal, especially for the Francophile markets, I don’t know the reasons why it has not been picked up by a commercial publisher or agent.

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Lisa Winkler

Lisa Winkler is a journalist, educator, and of course indie author, having self-published her debut book, On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America.  She discusses her experiences with both the Kindle Select program and book promoters.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

Growing up black in Brooklyn, Miles Dean wanted to be a cowboy.  He galloped through the streets on his bicycle, ambushing outlaws on street corners, imitating the heroes he watched on television westerns.  More than three decades later, Dean, a Newark, NJ schoolteacher, rode Sankofa, his 11-year-old Arabian stallion, from the African Burial Grounds in lower Manhattan to the California African American Museum in Los Angeles.  Dean used an unpaid leave of absence to follow his childhood dream: his 5,000 mile- journey through12 states took six months.

Conceived to celebrate the contributions of African Americans in US history, this inspirational story brings the reader into large cities and small towns, connecting with the horseback ride and the many people Dean met.  Through his daily regimen of riding his horse, the reader witnesses the physical and emotional discipline required to complete such a journey.  It’s a story about an ordinary man who accomplishes something extraordinary.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I had submitted my book proposal and sample chapters to over100 agents.  After researching self-publishing, I felt this was the way to go.

3. Have you been traditionally published?

I have had articles and essays published.

4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?

It’s been an enormous learning experience.  I am finding that the marketing can take control of your life—but traditionally published authors need to do their own marketing these days as well.

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Frank Coles

Frank Coles brings a wealth of experience to his writing and has enjoyed success in indie and traditional publishing.  Learn how he’s mastered marketing across a variety of media (social and traditional formats) and why reviews are so important.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

Dark Market (Assassin’s Rule): Kill anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Never get caught.

John Savage is a special force of one.  A corporate investigator who had to leave when an investigation went wrong.  He’s become a 21st century warrior serving overseas, but not for any one government, only the highest bidder.

When he finds a dead body with links to his old life, he returns and finds that what forced him out was only the beginning of a conspiracy to commit murder on a grand scale: the Dark Market, in which anyone can take part and anyone can be a victim.  Now Savage must battle to finish what he started.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I get a buzz from writing, the blank page is like siren call from another world for me.  I’ve been writing professionally in one way or another for nearly two decades – TV, journalism, advertising, branding.  Writing has taken me to the North Pole and all around the world.  Then I became an ‘author’ four years ago.  Since then my writing output has dropped.  It became all too much about guessing what agents, editors and sales departments were up to.  Learning all about the shadier parts of the business that are in plain view and pitching all the time – but so slowly – because the business is so slow.

Now don’t get me wrong, my bread and butter has always been pitching, whether it’s TV programs and formats or journalism and brand concepts.  But there is a big disconnect in publishing between, well, everything: traditional and indie, agents and editors, slush piles and proper business development, taking risks and playing it safe, publishing times.  It’s a book in itself!

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Dale Stanten

Dale Stanten reflects on her dysfunctional upbringing and her determination to overcome it with her book, The Hooker’s Daughter.  Learn more about her favorite marketing technique and the most important thing she’s learned about self-publishing.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

In 1950s Jewish Boston, my mother established a home-based business as a prostitute to remedy her husband’s inability to provide for his family.  At age six, I was answering the front door for johns.  Kids were forbidden to play with me and even the Girl Scouts asked me to leave.  What a terrible irony, in a family with so many strange and twisted realities, that my gay sister, “coming out” at age 16, was the only thing my parents focused on as contemptible.  My memoir is a story of survival driven by my ability to extract positive qualities from a dysfunctional life.  My unconditional love for my mother challenges the reader to examine beyond that which is socially acceptable and identify that which is universal.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I started writing this book 12 years ago so my children would understand their mother’s background.

This book began with my efforts in a writing group which met in the back room of a local bakery-café.  The group was both fascinated and shocked by my story as it emerged, and eagerly awaited each new installment.  I was touched by this unselfish outpouring of interest and found welcomed motivation in their support.  It was a difficult decision to expose myself by publishing this memoir.  What would people say?  Am I being foolish?  Why am I doing this?  I had periods of doubt and anxiety and many sleepless nights.  However, making my private life public finally devalued the impact of the gossip and embarrassment and the baggage I did not pack.  No nore secrets!

3. Have you been traditionally published?  Why or why not?

Today, a traditional publishing house requires the author to do the majority of the marketing and publicity.  Unless you have a platform and your name is Clinton or Bush, it is difficult to obtain any assistance.  Ultimately, I decided to self-publish.  This gave me more control of the process.

Marketing can absorb a great deal of time and effort.  However, I love marketing!  I built my original business from nothing and understand that personal contact and follow through are very important.

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Kenneth Weene

Kenneth Weene works through a small publishing house through which he and other authors do their own marketing.  Learn more about that, Kenneth’s book trailers, and his advice on how to properly use social media in your marketing efforts.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me one of your books in five to ten sentences.

Set in a small bar in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne tells the collective bittersweet stories of the people who make the place their home – people who have not fallen off the social ladder but who are hanging on desperately at the bottom. These integrated stories of men and women, who may not be successes but who still are so very human, offer laughter, pathos, and a sense of camaraderie.

2. Have you been traditionally published?  Why or why not?

My books are halfway between traditional and indie publishing.  All Things That Matter Press is a small house so we, the authors, have to do the marketing ourselves.  But as a publisher they offer cover design and editing as part of the contractual deal.  They take no money but make their profit from our sales.  Would I prefer to move to a “larger” house, one that could provide more marketing service?  Sure.  But I do appreciate the sense of family that we have created.  The owners of All Things have been very supportive, and many of the authors work together and are wonderfully supportive.

I must admit that I would never want to self-publish or go with one of those “indie publishers” that sell their services.  That would feel like I was their mark rather than their valued writer.

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Michael Davidson

Michael Davidson has not only become a successful indie author, but has used his experience to create his own publishing company.  Learn more about his imprint and his success in using book reviews to publicize his writing.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

The last time I pitched my book I hit the batter.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Austin Nights is the unadorned love story of two people who move to Central Texas from Miami Beach, one lost, the other lost but with direction.  And there’s a cat.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Other indie writers.  Seeing them do it.  Realizing it was possible.

3. Have you been traditionally published?  Why or why not?

Some short stories of mine have been traditionally published, both in this country and in Canada.  I went through the usual process of submitting material, getting an excited response from the editor, making changes, and getting remunerated with either contributor’s copies and/or a check.  No matter how meager the check was, it, like the contributor’s copies, rocked.  This was all the motivation I needed to keep trying.

After I wrote my first novel I sent out query letters to agents and got a couple manuscript requests.  I remember Barbara J. Zitwer’s response.  She represented (and still represents) the author of Matchstick Men, and she said if I worked on the pacing of my novel she’d like to read it again, but, as it stood, it didn’t work for her.  Not fast enough.

Rather than work on the pacing, I tucked it away in a box and started writing other stories.  It’s still in a box, high in my closet, and I never communicated with Barbara J. Zitwer again.  Maybe, once I get done with this interview, I should send her a query letter concerning my latest novel?

4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?

Love it.  Like anything else, you learn as you go along, and it feels great when you start seeing your work find traction in the Amazon rankings.  Like there’s hope.

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