Becca Chopra

Becca Chopra chose self-publishing rather than bother with sending out query letters to traditional publishers.  Find out which vendor she recommends for her marketing materials and learn about a website with free advice for indies.

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

Chakra Secrets is a memoir and more.  Follow me on my path from aspiring actress to yoga teacher and chakra healer.  Navigating betrayals and loss, tormented by guilt, I explore kundalini, tantric sex, past-life regression and mind-body tools as I earn my credentials as an energy healer and finally find love and light.  You’ll not only learn my personal secrets, but the “instant” healing tool I learned in Hawaii that you can use anytime, anywhere to eliminate pain, stress and clear the path for healing on all levels.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I didn’t have the patience to send out query letters to agents.  Rather, I decided to self-publish and save myself a lot of time.

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

No.  I haven’t tried – but I won’t turn down a traditional publisher if they approach me.

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Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald has been writing in a variety of formats for years, and has enjoyed the self-publishing process. Find out why she likes the free promotions on Amazon’s KDP Select, and which vendors she chooses for her marketing.

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

Have you ever noticed that two people can be faced with the same crisis and while one becomes hopelessly mired in a web of negativity and feelings of helplessness, the other is able to overcome adversity and bounce back stronger than ever?

The hard truth is that from time to time we are all going to stumble; encounter unexpected detours, and fail. No matter how much we try to outrun or sidestep adversity, it is going to happen. So the real question then becomes not how to avoid obstacles, but how to use them to our advantage.

By choosing to look at all experiences as opportunities for growth and greater long-term resilience, we are able to approach life on a whole new level and embrace our experiences with much more enthusiasm. Adversity can present us with the opportunity to realign ourselves with what is really important in our lives and in the process strengthen confidence in ourselves and our abilities.

The good news is that research has proven that resilience is not a genetic gift for the lucky few. It is a set of skills that can be practiced and mastered over time and Stepping Stones to Greater Resilience is a self-directed learning guide that shows the way.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I’d have to say I was technically an “indie writer” long before the term was coined. I live on a small island so it’s natural to end up a sort of jack of all trades. In every job and volunteer position I’ve ever held I’ve ended up as the official scribe and written everything from materials for fundraising to scripts for travel industry promotional films and public relations kits, to marketing materials for the local arts and cultural center. I even co-authored a native Hawaiian cookbook for a local nonprofit. So I was already comfortable with the role of an independent writer when I began blogging a couple of years ago and over time that naturally evolved into my first book.

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

To be honest I never considered approaching a traditional publisher. What I find most appealing about self-publishing, particularly in a digital format, is having the ability to try new things and control the process, which suits my independent and creative nature.

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

Overall I love it. Of course with anything in life there are pros and cons and this is no different. I had no clue what I was doing when I started, so I faced a huge learning curve. Fortunately I’m not shy about asking questions or trying new things and I have learned to define my occasional stumbles as ‘growth’ opportunities.

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

While I don’t view it as a long-term strategy, I am a big fan of Amazon’s KDP program as an opportunity for new authors to get their work into the hands of large numbers of readers. I know there are a lot of people who view the ‘free’ promotions as a negative, but my experience has been that my sales spike sharply right after a free day, so for me it’s worked well.

My blog has been a very important tool as well. I’d already been blogging for a couple of years and had a good size following before I published my first book, so there’s been a lot of support there.

Otherwise I’ve found author communities to be incredibly supportive. Most authors are very generous with advice and cross promoting on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

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

Living on a small island tends to automatically eliminate a few of the traditional promotional activities. For example there is only one bookstore here, it’s on the other end of the island and I’ve never known them to host author readings or book signings.

I have listed my books in quite a few directories, as well as sites such as Goodreads, but don’t invest a lot of time attempting to pursue readers on these sites. It’s not that I don’t see the value of every single reader, it’s that you have to draw the line somewhere or you’ll end up spending more time promoting than writing.

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

I don’t do a lot of direct mail because of the expense, but I do think it’s important to have a quality business card and media kit. For business cards and postcards, actually any business materials, I go with Vista Print. Their prices and service are excellent, but what I also like is how user friendly their platform is when it comes to customizing your materials. As a hands-on artist that is very import to me.

Another vendor I love and have used for years is Zazzle to create promotional materials like logo pins and t-shirts and you can customize pretty much every item they carry. Again the service and pricing are terrific, but the best thing is that unlike most promotional outlets they do not require bulk purchases. So let’s say you have a special event coming up and you want to create a logo pin or t-shirt promoting your book just for you to wear, you can do that!

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

It was quite an eye opener to learn how many professionals continue to only review books that have been published traditionally. As if that weren’t challenge enough, I’ve also learned just how tough it can be to get professional reviews for nonfiction books. I had no idea there were so many reviewers who will only review fiction.

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

I now have a far better understanding of the value of creating a ‘launch event.’ I’ll be publishing my third book in a couple of weeks and I’m doing a lot more advance work like building an ‘interest’ list, working with affiliates and offering special bonuses for the launch. I’ll keep trying new things and evolving the process with each new publication.

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?

Take a deep breath and plan for the long haul. Don’t believe the people who tell you you’ll never make a dime, or the people who try to sell you a formula to make an ‘easy’ bundle. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, just don’t repeat them. And, most important of all, write more than you promote. It’s very easy to get caught up in the promotion of your current book and let days and weeks go by without writing a word. Whatever you do, keep writing.

11. What are you currently working on?

The name of my new book is It’s Your Time Now – A Guide to Living Your Life by Design.

Most people are familiar with the term ‘life design’ but few people really understand what that really means, or where to begin to live life intentionally when you’re already up to your eyeballs in life and responsibilities. This book is a guide to bring into focus the steps to begin the journey to mastering your life by design.

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?

Life doesn’t get easier – we get better.

13. How can readers learn more about your books?

Either at my blog, IGG – Tips, Tools & Tantalizing Ideas, or my new Facebook page, Living Your Life by Design. Both sites include links to download a free chapter and to the product pages at Amazon.

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.

K. Ford K.

K. Ford K. went from freelance writing to indie publishing, finding frustration along the way with traditional publishers.  Now enjoying the freedom of self-publishing, K. discusses the varied tools she uses to reach readers.

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

What if a timid, sexually-inhibited woman suddenly developed the psychic ability to see what everyone else needed to be blissfully happy in bed?  And what if she started blurting out sexual advice against her will?  That thought was the seed for my new novel, The Concubine’s Gift, and the poor, long-suffering character of Bernice Babbitt was born.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I became an indie author by choice.  I was a freelance writer, publishing articles and short stories in newspapers and magazines and had several near misses with major publishing houses.  Many times they decided to publish my novels and then changed their minds at the last minute.  I was starting to feel like I was in an abusive relationship.  Editors told me they loved my work; I cozied up to them and then they slapped me with a rejection. After awhile I was back and the same thing happened all over again.  ‘Indie-authorhood’ has been wonderful.  I love being in charge of my own career and being able to make all the editorial and marketing decisions about my novels.  I’ve been lucky in that readers have been very supportive.

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

Some of the marketing techniques that have been the most successful were getting book bloggers to review my book and being active on the Goodreads site.  I have hosted lots of book giveaways and those are always fun.

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

I have my novel listed on Amazon’s KDP Select.  The best thing is the free days of promotion but I think I will discontinue after one more month so that I can list the book on other sites such as Smashwords.

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Christos Jonathan Hayward

Christos Jonathan Hayward has worked hard to hone his style over the years, producing numerous Orthodox Christian writings.  Read about his shift from hardback books to e-books and which site he avoids in marketing his book.

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.

My website at JonathansCorner.com since 2001 has housed twenty years of writing and creative work.  The very best have been crystallized into The Best of Jonathan’s Corner: An Anthology of Orthodox Christian Theology, and some people are already calling it a classic.  All my other books have gotten five stars with the Midwest Book Review; this one is set to have a review out in April.  It’s a collection of the best religion, spirituality, and faith works that I have to offer, and it has also been called an excellent entrance point to my vast collection of works. (The total collection is a fair bit longer than the Bible–there’s a lot there.)  And if you buy one e-book of mine, I don’t think anyone would object to your choosing this one.

That, and take a look at the foreword.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Well, two things.

First of all, impulses to creative writing.  Second, these impulses came just when the web was appearing, and helped me begin to establish a presence, when by sheer random luck I got into the web before it was important.  I don’t think I accomplished something so much as being in the right place at the right time.

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

I’ve been published with Packt Publications, a professional programming book called “Django JavaScript Integration”.  The experience was overall positive, but I don’t know if I’ll go that route again.

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

It’s been a nice “a la carte” way of publishing.  Normally the author does most of the publishing with or without a publisher’s support; this was pointed out to me by a friend who’s an editor, a published author, and chose to go indie with her own Waltzing Australia.

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Moushumi Chakrabarty

Moushumi Chakrabarty is a short story writer who is working hard to build a web presence.  Read about her use of free book promotions and why she feels it’s the best marketing method she’s used.

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.

You love stories, right?  It’s great that we met.  Try my e-book, Threshold.  It’s a collection of six stories about people and how they navigate through life.  Meet some of the protagonists – a child aged 12, a woman whose daughter is missing, a man trapped in a marriage thinking of the unthinkable, a childless woman, another embarking on a journey of self discovery.  Echoes of their predicaments resound in your life, too.  Try it!

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I have been writing for a long time, but found it increasingly time-consuming to convince a publisher to take me on for a new project.  I decided to try going indie since I see it is the way of the future.  What I basically want is feedback, and the idea that my stories are actually being read instead of languishing in a file on my computer provided a strong impetus.

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

Yes, I have been traditionally published.  My two books are non fiction – my subject is the women’s movement in Canada and its main players.  They are called, Fighting for women’s rights – The extraordinary adventures of Anna Leonowens and Champions of women’s rights – Leading Canadian women and their struggles for social justice.  Personally I feel fiction has a greater chance of success in the indie publishing world.  But it’s early yet, so we’ll see.

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Petra Kidd

Petra Kidd is a short story writer who is new to self-publishing but has already learned a great deal.  She explains why marketing must be a constant focus of authors, why she doesn’t use KDP Select, and why she works hard to avoid spamming potential customers.

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.

The Eight of Swords takes you through Jayne Patchett’s thoughts and emotions when she arrives home to find a family of Romanian gypsies has taken over her house.  It makes you wonder what you would do in the same situation.  Her reactions might surprise you and you will be compelled to read on to find out what her actions are upon this discovery.

It’s a short story but a big story!

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I had been studying the rise in e-publishing with interest for some time.  The idea of having total control over the cover design, format and getting instant feedback particularly appealed to me.  I am not a terribly patient person and I like to see results quickly.

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

I wrote a couple of novel manuscripts around ten years ago and spent some time sending them out to agents only to receive rejections. Although I was keen to carry on writing, I’d just started a business and that took over my life so seeking a traditional publisher went by the wayside.  In a way I am glad I didn’t have success at that time.  With hindsight I can see how much my writing has improved and I have learned a lot over the past ten years.  I wrote a weekly column for the Eastern Daily Press around five years ago and that was a real turning point for me.  It was very encouraging to have such a large regional paper be prepared to pay me for my writing and it gave me confidence to continue.

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