Jeff Vande Zande

Jeff Vande Zande has had success with small press publishing, an experience which has helped him positively adjust his expectations about success.  Jeff discusses that along with his thoughts on book signings and reaching your target audience.

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

It’s a novel about poetry, Theodore Roethke, fathers and sons, and coming of age in America as an artist.  It’s the story of a young man who comes back to his hometown after an absence, only to find that he hasn’t grown up as much as he thinks.  Denver Hoptner graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in writing poetry.  He returns to his boyhood home in working-class Saginaw, Michigan, and discovers just how little the world of work cares about his degree.  He struggles, too, to come to terms with his widower father.  After he hears that there’s been a fire in the attic of poet Theodore Roethke’s boyhood home, Denver commits himself to saving the historical residence, even when no one else seems to care.  It’s in action that he finds his true poetic self.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I didn’t really have luck with agents.  I received a few letters that said something along the lines of “Beautiful writing, but not sure how to market this.”  In my experiences with smaller presses, I just found that the editors were more interested in the “beautiful” part and didn’t worry so much about the marketing part.  My experiences with small presses have been positive, if not overwhelmingly lucrative.

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

I suppose getting published from a small press is “traditional” publishing, just on a reduced scale.  So, yes, all of my books are traditionally published, but all from small presses.

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Announcing my new e-book conversion business

I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new e-book conversion business, E-Literate, specializing in formatting manuscripts for sale on the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.  Because this is a small business, the costs are lower and the turnaround time quicker.

Properly formatting your book is essential to making sure it’s readable on the Kindle and Nook.  But the formatting process can be time-consuming and frustrating.  That’s where we come in.  We do all the intricate formatting necessary to turn your manuscript into a readable file on both e-readers.  The file is then tested and re-tested to check for the highest accuracy possible.  Finally, we send you the file so you can upload and sell it as an e-book.

Pricing is based on the length and complexity of the manuscript, but our rates are highly competitive.  For more details or for a price quote, send us an email at indiewriting [at] gmail [dot] com, or visit our Facebook page.  We look forward to doing business with you!

Kevin Kierstead

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

We are focused on small-time threats in America right now: terrorists, “lone-wolf” scenarios, gangs, etc.  We don’t see a real threat in the way of an entire country attacking us.  China, though, is fully capable of attacking us and they have a massive amount of strength–the only thing holding them back, if they decided to do it, would be the threat of a nuclear strike, so this book ponders what might happen if they could figure out a way around that problem.  Ultimately, though, with that as the background story, this is a story about survival after a devastating tidal wave that was over 100-yards tall.  One young man, one young dog, one young woman and one old man come together in unlikely ways and begin to fight through their struggles together.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

Honestly?  I have a problem with authority!  But it wasn’t just that.  I did the whole agent/publisher dance on and off for 20 years.  Back in 1994, when I finished my first novel, I had it accepted by an agency called the Thornton Literary Agency and it was scheduled to be published under the Electric Umbrella but their company went into a hiatus and the rest is history.  That kind of unpredictability along with the growing trend of agents/publishers chasing “what’s hot” vs. looking for new talent in any genre is what pushed me here.  I love nothing more than having total control over my work.  Except for writing.

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Victor Dandridge

Victor Dandridge is a cartoonist at heart, and channels his creative energies through his publishing outfit, Vantage:Inhouse Productions.  Find out the surprisingly simple marketing methods that work for him, and why he doesn’t like doing public readings of his work.

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

The end of the world began eight minutes ago.  You didn’t know, you can’t stop it, and now the end is here.  What story would the last eight minutes tell of you?

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I’ve been a fan of comics since I was a kid and have always wanted to work in the industry, initially with the goal of being an artist.  And through the years, I started writing my own stories for the comic universe I had created and things just spiraled from there.  I’ve been a part of the small-press comic community for some years and took the opportunity to challenge myself by writing something different.  With my roots already being so tied to self-publishing, it was only natural to pursue doing even a novel that way.

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

No, my plan has always been to establish myself on my own a bit more before I attempt to go traditional.  I want to see what I can amass on my own so if I did decide to try something more mainstream, I know what I’m bringing to the table.

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Patrick Turley

Patrick Turley has worked to create a niche for his Marine-based book and to give it the publicity effort it deserves.  Learn more about which methods work particularly well for him and why he feels every marketing approach should be considered.

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

The only existing first-person, insider account of Marine Corps Boot Camp, documenting the good, the bad, the ugly and the hilarious in the making of the Few and the Proud.  A microcosm of how the “slacker generation” responded to a nation in need in the shadow of terror, Patrick Turley walked, ran and double-timed through the place and captured it in his book Welcome to Hell: Three and a Half Months of Marine Corps Boot Camp. From the moment the drill instructor said “Welcome to Hell!” Turley and his fellow recruits felt a sense of foreboding that proved well founded. The author, who endured and survived the foreboding, looks back and captures those anxious times with a sharp line for detail and a smile for the people, DI’s and all, who shared the three and a half months.  Former Marine and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright John Patrick Shanley, after reading a draft of Welcome to Hell, put it in complete perspective: “It’s great to have gone to Marine Corps boot camp.  It’s terrible to be in Marine Corps boot camp.  It’s fun to read about Marine Corps boot camp.”

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I feel like this is an important story to be told and a niche one that can carve its own market out as well as being an excellent and well-rounded story for a much broader mass appeal.

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

No.  The industry for traditional publication is evaporating before our eyes.  Without a big name to command your own audience, mainstream publishers aren’t particularly interested in first-timers anymore.

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Mike Madden

British indie author Mike Madden has written several books in several different genres and finds success and challenges in each one.  He details his success with Amazon’s KDP Select and discusses the other ways he’s marketed his work.

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

Mmm…No1…Cookbook was originally conceived so that I could keep all of my recipes in one place.  I am an avid cook (not chef!), and have around 40 cookbooks, as well as newspaper and magazine cutouts and handwritten recipes handed down from my mum.  This way all of my recipes are in one handy place, on my Kindle, and I can easily take that to the shop as my shopping list.  The recipes can be described as “Every Day Cooking For Every Day Lives”, there’s nothing too fancy in there, and they range from starters and soups, to main meals including lots of curries, and finally desserts and cakes.  I find that television chefs use too many obscure ingredients, and they seem to have every utensil under the sun to aid preparation.  These recipes are essentially very simple, and are presented in an easy step-by-step format.  The book was originally designed for the Kindle, so even in the paperback version there are no pictures, but do you really need to know what Key Lime Pie or vegetable soup look like before cooking it?

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I am only an indie writer because I have not yet been “discovered” by a major publishing house!  Seriously though, I do not choose mainstream formats, preferring instead to challenge the market.  A cookbook on Kindle?  On Amazon.co.uk there are less than 1,000 available compared to 90,000 paper cookbooks.  No market or a gap in the market; I’ll let the market decide.

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

As I mentioned earlier, I do not write in mainstream formats so am unlikely to appeal to a traditional publisher just yet; however, I have had plenty of praise for my writing.  My adult humorous novel Stags! reached number 1 on Amazon’s Free Kindle Humour list, and is currently in 3 Amazon bestseller lists for paid books.

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

Self-publishing is great for getting your work out there quickly and relatively easily, but it is also a great tool for learning.  I knew nothing about fonts until I self-published Stags!, and I knew nothing about Kindles until I started to look at that medium too.  You quickly realize that marketing is the hardest thing in the world, and the realization that no one will buy your book just because you believe in it is a harsh lesson, but one that all indie authors must learn quickly.

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

I have tried book signings; for instance, my children’s picture book Ole And Zac And The Port Of Tumbattle has a pirate theme, so I sat outside a couple of local Tesco supermarkets dressed as a pirate and signed copies.  A book signing for Stags! was featured at the Levenshulme festival, as a result of which I got coverage in The Irish Post.

These are fine for small coverage, and I realized how much fun it can be to dress up as a pirate, but by far the most successful marketing technique has been via KDP Select.  This allows you to offer your book free for up to 5 days every 90 days, but during this time you must push it.  Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Goodreads, anything you can think of.

But it can’t just be a one way thing.  Follow blogs and they will follow back, but you must participate.  Download other free books and engage with other authors.  Contact Pixel Of Ink, Kindle Nation Daily, Digital Book Today, and others, and consider a paid promotion which can be done for as little as $29.99.

If you are successful you will get thousands of downloads.  Stags! got around 5,000 in 5 days, and then the fun really starts.  If you have done it right you should continue to push, push, push when it is a paid download again. Stags! hit around 200 paid downloads in the first week and then sales started to taper.  Bear in mind that the more sales you get, the more Amazon will “recommend” your book.

If you can get it into the top 20 in any category this will generate more sales.  When a potential customer looks at a bestseller category the first page has 20 entries.  A few will go to the next page of 20 entries, but after that visitors dwindle.  It’s a bit like getting on the first page for a Google search.

The next phase is to drop the price to less than $1. This hits the bargain promotions and sales will get an uplift. Continue to expand your network, and make use of your free KDP Select days every quarter.  There is no such thing as overnight success.  You have to work at it.

6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?

I disregarded local newspapers and trying to get book reviews.  There is just simply not enough coverage.  If you have enough friends they will cover the local area for you, and even in your own area, if someone does not know you personally they will not be inclined to buy your book.

7. Which services or vendors do you recommend for the marketing methods you used?

Business cards and flyers are invaluable, but cheap and cheerful will do fine.  Make sure they have your email address on, mobile number if you really must, book details including website and blog details, and Amazon, Amazon, Amazon.  Amazon is king and is a very trusted site.  If your book is on Amazon people trust it.  In terms of internet marketing there are tons of free sites that will push your free days, including Pixel Of Ink, Digital Book Today, etc.

8. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?

It’s all about the marketing.  Apart from your family and friends no one will buy your book – you have to sell it to them. Or get Amazon to sell it for you by exploiting the free KDP Select feature as described.

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

For paperbacks I now exclusively use Createspace.  I have used Fast-Print, but only because Createspace did not support UK distribution.  Now they do.  Createspace is quicker and easier to use, produces a better quality product, and the finished book gives more profit to the author.  The only caveat to this is that the Createspace cover designs are limited, but I would not be surprised to see them expand these in the near future.

10. Indie authors face the challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie just starting out?

Start slowly and dedicate at least an hour per day to it.  Don’t expect it all to happen overnight, and do not disregard any channel.  It is a learning exercise as much as a marketing exercise, and by the time you get to book number 10 you will be well on your way to becoming an expert!

11. What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a sequel to Stags!, the working title of which is Infidelity.  I got some really nice fan mail after my latest marketing exercises, and that prompted me to finally put pen to paper, metaphorically speaking.  I am also looking to produce a book of dark poetry in collaboration with a friend who does some terrific illustrations.  In the pipeline there is the biography of an English rock and roll singer, but he is based in Madrid so there are a few logistical issues with that one!

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

Having launched three books in three very different genres, each one challenging the market in a different way, it would have to be “Laughing in the Face of Tradition”.

13. How can readers learn more about your books?

You can visit my website at michael-madden.co.uk and my blog at mmm-number-1.blogspot.com.