Monday, October 20, 2014

A Precipitous Fall into Self-publishing

Award-winning author, Meredith Bond, kicks off a four-week Book Blather series featuring indie authors.  Meredith is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published historical paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart”, Meredith’s romance novels include her new Medieval Fantasy series, the Children of Avalon, her Regency-set paranormal romances in the Storm series and traditional Regencies (without magic) in The Merry Men Quartet. Meredith teaches writing and publishing at her local community college and blogs on the two subjects every Saturday at
Welcome to Book Blather, Meredith.

How does one fall head-first into self-publishing? Well, actually, it wasn’t easy. It was kind of like falling uphill. It takes skill.
I teach writing at my local community college. I have for many years.
After hearing a member of the Washington Romance Writers (my home RWA chapter) speak about self-publishing, I was certain that that would a fantastic way to publish a textbook to go with my writing classes. Little did I know just what I was getting into!
My friend who gave the talk told me afterward that her husband had formatted her books into mobi and epub files to publish and the he could probably format my textbook for me. So I sent it to him.
And then I waited.
And waited.
And after a month I got back to him asking if he’d had a chance to format my book for me. He hedged and hawed and said that he hadn’t had a chance. Things were busy at work, he told me.
So I decided to see if I couldn’t do this myself. I had once studied computer programming (when I was a freshman in college eons ago when beginning programmers were still taught binary—we were past the punch-card era, but not by much). 
I did some research on the internet and found Guido Henkel who has a fantastic series of blogs detailing exactly how to format a book into HTML, and from there convert it to an epub and mobi file using Calibre. It didn’t look too hard, so I did it. Referring many times to a general on-line tutorial for HTML because, of course, a textbook has more than straight text like there is in a novel. There were pictures, bullet points, numbered lists and all manner of more complicated formatting.
But I did it! It looked great! So I published it.
I was then asked to teach a class on “how to get published”. I thought it would be perfect to include how to format a novel and self-publish it. So, as a test, I formatted a book that had been sitting in my drawer for a while after receiving a fantastic rejection notice from Kensington where my Regency romances had been published (essentially I was told that the book was great, but that they wouldn’t publish it because it had a paranormal element to the Regency romance and they didn’t publish books like that—this was in 2011). So I formatted the book (Magic in the Storm) and published it, carefully documenting the entire process as I went so that I could teach others how to do this.
It was so much easier than the textbook! But I realized—after it was available at three retailers—that I had no marketing strategy for the book. There had been no beta readers. There were no reviews. Nothing! I had a book published and had done nothing to get the word out. I scrambled to send it out—I think I sent it to about 30 websites and bloggers begging for reviews. I gave away many, many copies. I got about 5 reviews. Slowly, over the years, through many sales and much promotion, this book has a few more reviews now and it’s still one of my favorite, but I know better now. Now I know all the planning and advance work that should be done before a book is released into the world.
I also realized that formatting is kind of fun and really easy for me, so I now offer my formatting services to other indie-authors, as well as my advice on how not to publish a book.

I currently have ten books and an anthology published and am working on more, but now when I publish, I do so deliberately. I try not to fall into publishing a book, but step carefully. If I fall on my face now, at least I know that I’ve tried not to be quite so clumsy.
Check out Meredith's latest book here:

No comments:

Post a Comment