Sabrina Ricci

cover1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

The world will not end in 2012, Amara just knows it.  The 20-year-old college reporter is set on debunking the Maya calendar myths and restoring the peace. But when a covert group starts hunting her, she and her roommate Cayden are forced to uncover her grandfather’s mysterious past.

At 20-years old, Mahaway is the brightest scribe in Ox Te’ Tuun, a powerful ancient Maya city.  Then in 900 A.D., her life is torn apart by a greedy new king’s war.  She, her best friend Yochi, and a new friend Ichik must band together to fight back and save their home.  In doing so, they expose a deadly weapon, one that threatens to ruin everything.

Though these two young women live in different ages, their paths’ cross when Amara is tasked with discovering and stopping a secret before December 21 to save herself, and the world.

(On a side note, you’ll learn some interesting facts about the classic Maya reading my book. I did a lot of research, and tried to incorporate as much as I could.)

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

For a few reasons.  Writing is something I have to do—if I go for long periods of time without writing, I feel anxious and restless.  After getting my M.S. in publishing and working for a couple publishers, including Simon & Schuster and Random House, I decided that I really liked e-books and experimenting with different models.  Digital publishing has really leveled the playing field for indie authors, I think, and I wanted to learn everything I could about it.

I decided to write about the Maya and the 2012 end of the world predictions.  It wasn’t my first story, but it was the first one I’ve been able to actually finish and revise and polish enough to be worthy of publishing.

Aside from wanting to write an optimistic story to quell my mother’s fears (she’s insisting that I fly home to be with her on December 21), it gave me a hard deadline.  I’d recently heard about agile publishing, which is when readers give feedback to writers as they’re writing their books.  I thought it’d be interesting to apply to my book—plus it’d be cool to shape the story into something I’d know ahead of time people actually wanted to read.  I ended up getting more private feedback than public, but it was a great experience (see http://the2012ebook.com to get an idea of how it all turned out).

My interest in indie publishing also developed while I was in grad school at NYU.  My thesis project was a business plan for a subscription site of self-published e-books.  I’ve since been lucky enough to actually turn it into a startup. It’s called Write or Read (http://writeorread.com), and it’s evolved to be a tool for indie authors.  The site will provide authors metrics and insights, such as how long it takes people to read their books, and who reads them, which will ultimately help them to be more successful.  Being an indie writer has really helped me understand other writers’ potential needs, and I’m offering my first e-book, along with another indie writer’s e-book, as part of the initial testing period.  We’ll be launching the beta early next year, so I’m hoping we can be useful to other indie writers.

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

Nope.  A couple years ago I tried to go that route, and I sent off a bunch of query letters and actually got good responses (meaning they let me know they didn’t want my work, instead of making me wait and figure it out myself). Then I decided I’d be better off learning about the publishing industry, which is why I moved to NY and got my degree.  It’s worked out well—I love books so it was a good career move.

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

For the most part, I like it.  I don’t particularly enjoy doing all the marketing, but I believe in my work so I’m willing to do it.  One thing I find difficult, however, is being able to focus on everything I have to do.  I have to have such a different mindset when I’m writing and editing—it’s a different kind of creative—than when I’m marketing and promoting.  I try to keep things separate, so if I’m going to spend the day writing that’s all I’m going to do.  And then the next day I can worry about marketing.  But sometimes, when I’m frustrated with writing, I’ll think of all the marketing ideas I could try and be eager to start.  Other times, I’m tired of self-promoting, and want to get back to fleshing out my story.

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

The 13thCycle is my first book, and I’ve only just started marketing.  However, I ran a micropublisher/indie publisher called FictionBrigade, which produced flash fiction e-books, so I can share some of the techniques I used there.

I wrote a blog post, “Marketing Tips for Self-Published Authors” (http://www.digitalpubbing.com/marketing-tips-for-self-published-authors/), which gives a list of social media, bookmarking, and review sites that can help.  Going through that list is a good start (though, I don’t think everyone should try to do it all at once—social media can be exhausting and it’s a long process to build up a platform), but I’ve found that more personal techniques work better. By that I mean messaging everyone I know on Facebook individually, reaching out to book bloggers and personalizing my email requests, and not being shy about bringing up my books in everyday conversation (when the opportunity comes up).  LinkedIn is also great, but only if you take advantage of the groups.  I’ve joined a number of flash fiction and writing groups, and by being active in the forums (and not just spamming), I’ve found some success.  I think it might work better for certain non-fiction topics though.  Forums in general seem to work well—if you use them correctly.

For The 13thCycle, I’ve also been trying to find more readers via community sites, such as Wattpad, Bookrix, and Book Country.  Every day I’ll pick a site and read and comment on at least two people’s works, and if I like their stories I’ll friend them.  It’s taking a while to build a following, but I’m enjoying reading other people’s stories along the way.  I’ve also been following the advice of Kate Policani, another indie author who has some really wonderful marketing ideas.  Earlier this week I set up a poll asking people to vote on what they think my cover should be, and I think it’s helping my book get noticed.  Having the blog also helps too—it’s kind of a freebie, and I’m hoping readers get hooked enough they’ll want to buy my book to find out what happens in the end.

Kate gave me a few other tips, which I posted on my digital publishing blog (http://www.digitalpubbing.com/an-interview-with-kate-policani/).  I plan to try at least some of them with The 13thCycle, such as doing a virtual release party and giveaways.  But some of her tactics will take me time, such as writing a lot of books.

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

Yes, I’ve mostly stopped using Google Plus.  Not enough people seem to use it regularly, and when I post to the public, my message just goes out into the cluttered ether, similar to Twitter.  At least with Twitter I have a bigger following.

Another tactic is giving out book coupons/bookmarks.  For one of my FictionBrigade books, I made business cards. The front of the card was the book cover, and the back was instructions and links on how to download a promotional copy.  I think this could have worked, had I been physically able to give the cards to readers in my target market.  But that can sometimes be hard to find.

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

For business cards, I recommend Vistaprint.  They are cheap, their products look good, and they ship quickly.  And you can design and order just about anything from them.

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

It takes a lot of time and planning.  To market effectively, I need to have a solid plan and timeline.  And I need to start as far ahead of my pub date as possible, because it takes time to build a following, and book bloggers, because they have so much to read and review, often need a lot of advance notice.  The problem is, I’m not always able to get the review copy finished way ahead of time, or make the cover.  It also takes time to design and to write and revise, and I’m not comfortable sending out anything I think is just mediocre.  It’s hard, but rewarding.

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

I would give myself more time.  I keep going back to this, but I think it’s really important.  I probably should have started writing The 13th Cycle back in January instead of October.

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?

Research as much as possible before diving in.  Figure out the costs and find a way to get funding.  If that means crowd-funding, do marketing ahead of time to create buzz when you launch your campaign.  Don’t do things spur of the moment, if possible.  Find your target audience and plan how to effectively reach them.  Be patient, and know that everything takes time.

11. What are you currently working on?

I’m doing the final round of revision for The 13th Cycle, and will be making and releasing the e-book on December 13 (http://sabrinaricci.com/books).  Then I plan on writing a series of mini e-books on how to make high quality e-books, which can hopefully help indie authors strapped for cash.  I also have a long list of story ideas, and might try and write some short stories to give out for free.  And I plan on working on a full-length novel.  I have a couple ideas in mind, and making The 13th Cycle has given me the writing bug.

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?

My brand of writing is fast-paced, entertaining, and informative.

13. How can readers learn more about your books?

Visit my site,http://sabrinaricci.com/books.  I’m also a journalist and freelance writer, and my articles can be found at http://sabrinaricci.com.

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