Hi. Wow. It’s been a minute since I posted anything here. Life has been crazy with research and work and well, life.
Late last month I had the wonderful fortune to attend my second Novelists Inc. Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. That is one of two conferences I will not miss (the other is Historical Novel Society, when it is stateside). The programming is smart and meant for writers where I am–not beginners, but not household names either–okay, most of us.
The two sessions (well, actually it was four because both were two-parters) that I liked the most were Growth Hack a Bestseller by Entangled Publisher Liz Pelletier and You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Story by Houston Howard. Both were applicable to traditionally published authors as well as indies. But the interesting thing to me, as an indie author, is that they seemed in some ways to offer conflicting advice.
Let me explain. What I heard overall on the traditional side (not just from Liz) is that you should keep writing the next book, with the focus on it becoming a bestseller, rather than worrying about the books you’ve already written. (Liz’s talk was about how you can plan your way to writing a bestselling book and it was really, really good.) But on the indie side, there was a clear focus on diversifying the books you already have to gain more readers. What they mean by this is expanding your story in new formats. This is directly from my conference notes:
Houston calls this multi-platform strategy your Superstory. It begins with thinking bigger than a novel. In Superstory, you extend your story into multiple platforms and surround your novel with other things that can help it compete.
Superstory is NOT:
Promotions or advertising.
Online tools like new media/digital.
Multimedia (franchising, merchandising, etc.) in which you are giving your audience the same content in a different format (i.e. the movie version, the comic book version, etc.)
Continuing your story over multiple platforms (a.k.a. transmedia).
Each new piece of content is a piece of a puzzle, something unique that is only explored there and leads to something else. It is all part of the same story, but the story is expanded in a coordinated way. (i.e. anthology of the backstory of minor characters in your book series.)
So it could be that the book tells the story, the movie continues the story, then spins off into a video game, and ends in comic book, so that they all work together to create a different experience for the fans.
Think about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It began as a movie, got much more back- and front-story as a TV show and then continued on past the finale in the comic book realm with new stories.
I LOVE this idea! But there’s only one problem: There’s only so much of me to go around, and both things take time and money, two things I have precious little of.
I am seriously so inspired by his ideas. (I bought Houston’s book but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.) Without giving too much away, I can see:
The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy
An anthology of stories of the other characters (Elaine, Corinnia and Leodgrance, Mona, Vivianne/Merlin/Nimue, Lancelot’s backstory, etc.)
Jewelry line (I’ve had this in mind since I started the series).
Some kind of a tie-in to the history of Avalon.
Instagram visual series from one of the characters.
Music. The voice of Guinevere. (A friend and I actually talked about this one time.)
Video game. I’ve wanted to do one for ages, but that is far down the list.
I have a bunch of other ideas written down (but not to hand) for what I would have put into a companion guide.
Been Searching for You
The two additional books in the series.
A comic book version (which I’ve been wanting to do for a year or two now anyway – yes there ARE romance graphic novels).
Annabeth’s Millie Mysteries books (assuming I can figure out a plot and how to write a mystery).
An old-time radio show version of the Millie Mysteries.
Instagram visual series from Annabeth, and one from Mia.
Annabeth’s dream wedding board on Pinterest (which kind of already exists, but it is hidden).
Alex’s Pinterest board (you know he has one since he uses it in the book).
A podcast around women’s suffrage.
I could do stories about the other characters, especially Tennie, but I’m not sure if I want to go there.
Something with Spiritualism. I just don’t know what yet.
Fun stuff, right? But it’s also a lot of work–time I could be using to write/research my next book. You can see where I’m torn.
It’s especially hard because I don’t write full-time. On top of this I have ideas for seriously about 50 OTHER stories I want to tell, each of which could get its own Superstory list.
I’m not sure what the answer will end up being. Probably a little of both.
As readers, what would you like to see from me, either on the list above or something else? Or do you think I should just move on to new stories? I’m really curious.
I’ve known about this since December, but now I can finally talk about it! Just when I thought Daughter of Destiny had won all the contests it could… it won the Missouri Author Project for adult novels! As Library Journal states, “out of all of the submissions, these winning titles reflect the best indie and self-published eBooks each state has to offer in Adult and Young Adult Fiction.” This is huge because Library Journal is a very important publication in the publishing world, especially for libraries (hence the name). Its endorsements rank right up there with Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus.
Here’s full list of winners from all eight states that held the contest in 2018. (Where there are two, like in Missouri, one is an adult book and one is YA.)There will be an article in Library Journal as well and I will post that when it is available. If you have a subscription, you might want to check in the January issue. I’m hearing that is where it is, but I don’t see it online yet.
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to learn more about writing, finish your book or maybe even to self-publish, you’re in luck. I’m now offering online courses on writing, business and publishing for authors of all experience levels, from aspiring to multi-published, at Professional Author Academy.
Here’s a look at the courses:
Audio Books for Indie Authors
Audio books are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry and are a relatively easy way to make money on books you’ve already written. The process may seem overwhelming, but Nicole Evelina will guide you through a few of the ways of getting your book from page to earbuds. She’ll help you understand your options for production, the cost involved, how to audition narrators and guide them once you’ve selected your talent, what the recording and editing process entail, and how to get your books out to your audience.
Basic Branding for Authors When we hear the word “branding,” most of us automatically think “logo.” While that is one part of it, branding is actually so much more. It includes the way people feel when they interact with you, your “voice” both in your writing and online, and the image you project online and in person. In addition, branding encompasses your logo, author and book taglines and the fonts and colors you choose for your web site and marketing materials. Drawing on 15 years of professional experience in marketing and a master’s degree in public relations, as well as her own experience as an author, Nicole will help you understand branding through case studies of authors who do it successfully, as well as offer tips and exercises you can employ to discover your own brand.
Business Plans for Authors A business plan is a roadmap to success. Whether you’re published or not, indie or traditional, a good business plan helps you in defining your goals as well as action steps you can take to reach them. In this course, you’ll learn an 11-step process for writing yours that will take only an hour or two to complete. Plus, you’ll get to see a real-life example of a business plan from your instructor. You’ll also learn how to set your budget and think through your long-term and short-term goals, uncover additional merchandising opportunities that could lead to income, and plan for your next year’s worth of book releases.
Legal Issues for Indie Authors Being an indie author is more than just writing and publishing a book. Regardless of whether or not you choose to formally start your own publishing imprint, as soon as you make your first sale you are a business in the eyes of the law. This means you’ll have to pay taxes and make sure you follow local, state and Federal laws. In this course,* award-winning author and owner of Lawson Gartner Publishing, Nicole Evelina will walk you through the ins and outs of copyright, PCIP information and Library of Congress numbers, things to consider when starting your own publishing imprint, taxes and proper business record keeping. *This course should not be taken as legal advice. Please consult an attorney and/or tax expert before taking any action.
Marketing Plans for Authors In today’s publishing world, it’s not only indie authors who have to handle the lion’s share of marketing their book. Increasingly, traditionally published authors are being asked to shoulder the burden. So where do you start? Drawing on 15 years of professional experience and a master’s degree in public relations, as well as her own experience as an author, Nicole Evelina will lead you through creating your own marketing plan. You’ll learn how to:
Get an idea of the market for your genre
Research competitive and comparative books
Identify your strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats
Identify your target audience
Develop key messages about your book and yourself as an author
Plan what tactics you will use before launch, during your launch and after to gain and sustain sales:
Distribution – online and physical stores
Your web site content
Guest posts/writing articles
Tapping into online and real-life organizations
Using giveaways and ARCs to build buzz
Supplemental materials you’ll want to have on hand
Measure for success and evaluation of ROi
Nicole will share her own marketing plans with you, so you can see how one looks when complete, as well as provide handouts you can use as templates to create your own plan. Nicole has won international communications awards for her marketing plans and regularly writes them for her day job.
Self-published authors are more than just writers. We’re our own business managers, sales force, distribution team, marketers and more. This course will teach you everything you need to know to self-publish as a professional and produce books of equal or greater quality than traditional publishing houses.
This course is actually several courses in one, as I offer many of these modules separately. Here’s what you’ll learn:
The benefits of self-publishing
How to write a business plan
How to handle editing/proofreading
How to get a great cover design
Options for interior book formatting
Distribution: Ebooks, print and audio
How to sell your book to libraries and bookstores
Legal issues for indie authors: copyright, Library of Congress, forming your own imprint, taxes, recording keeping and expenses
Marketing and PR basics
Your digital media strategy: website, social media and branding
Steps to Self-Publishing Self-publishing a book is more than uploading it to Createspace and clicking “publish.” There are several steps necessary in order to produce a book that is equal to or better than those from traditional publishing houses. In this course, award-winning self-published author Nicole Evelina will walk you through everything you need to know about professional editing, cover design, interior formatting, production, sales and marketing in order to make your book as professional as possible. She’ll also teach you how to budget for the expenses involved and cover the advantages and disadvantages to choosing to publish independently.
Web Sites and Social Media for Authors By now we all know that web sites are a must for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in any field. This is especially true for authors whose sites function as not only as virtual calling cards, but as portals for sales and interaction with fans. In this course, award-winning author Nicole Evelina will walk you through everything you need to do to set up a site of your own, from choosing a hosting company and buying a URL to deciding what information to include and how to organize your pages. She will also show you how to incorporate branding and marketing best practices into your social media. In addition to using her own site and social media examples, Nicole will offer best practices from famous authors and show you how to emulate them.
Self-Editing Editing. That one little word conjures a range of emotions in writers. Some love it. Some hate it. No matter how you feel about it, it’s a necessary step to get your novel ready for publication. Nicole Evelina will teach you some tips and tricks she’s learned over the last several years that will make self-editing a much easier step. Highlights include how to:
Break your editing into rounds so that you don’t have to tackle everything at once.
Examine dialog, description, characterization and action.
Use a beat sheet to check pacing and balance of power.
Make every word count without having to agonize over every sing word.
Use advice from beta readers and contests to strengthen your novel.
Setting and Description in Fiction Setting and description are key to immersing your reader in the world of your novel. But how do you accomplish this without overwhelming your readers with pages of flowery prose? Nicole Evelina shares her tips for writing description that will leave your readers wanting to live in the world of your book without sacrificing pace.
Writing Historical Fiction Ever wanted to try your hand at historical fiction but didn’t know where to start? Award-winning historical fiction author Nicole Evelina will show you it’s not as intimidating as it may seem, even if you’re not a fan of research (though it helps if you are). She’ll cover research methods and sources, how research informs plot, how to handle characterization in other time periods, how to bring the past to life, mistakes to avoid, and more. Whether you’re just dipping a toe in the historical waters or have already published in this genre, you’re sure to learn something new.
Convenient and Reasonably Priced I know what it’s like to try to fit learning into a life already filled with work, family, writing and other responsibilities. That’s why these courses don’t require any homework and can be taken at your own pace. All courses include a welcome video and narrated Powerpoint slides. Many also include a recommended reading list and other handouts for reference or use as a worksheet or template.
Plus, they are cheaper than your average college course, which runs about $1,500/course (at $500/credit hour), or even many Writer’s Digest Online Workshops, which average between $200-$600+. I offer a tiered pricing structure based on the amount of information in each course. You can pay all at once or installments.
Basic – $100/course
Legal Issues for Indie Authors
Writing Setting and Description
Standard – $200/course
Audio Books for Indie Authors
Business Plans for Authors
Advanced – $300/course
Branding for Authors
Website and Social Media for Authors
Steps to Self Publishing
Premium – $500/course
Marketing Plans for Authors
Writing Historical Fiction
Premier – $1,000/course
Self Publishing 101 (This course is several courses in one, including Steps to Self Publishing, Business Plans, Marketing Plans, Legal Issues, Web and Social Media. If you bought the classes separately, you’d pay $1,400.)
Stay Up to Date
I’m planning to add new courses several times a year, so if you’d like to be notified when there is a new course or a current course goes on sale, please sign up for my course newsletter.
Future Planned Courses
Advanced Author Branding
How to Use Pinterest to Develop Your Story and Career
How Acting Can Make Your a Better Writer
Public Speaking for Authors
Starting Strong: Tips for Honing Your Novel’s First Chapter, Page and Line
Resources for Self Published and Hybrid Authors
Working with a Publicity Company: What You Need to Know
Building Strong Characters
How to Write a Query Letter That Goes You Noticed
If you have any suggestions for future courses, please email me at nicole[dot]evelina[at]att[dot]net. I’d love to know what you want to learn about!
And please spread the word about this new resource to all the writers in your life.
Once again this year, I was invited by a local library to speak on Indie Author Day. I was asked to speak about self-publishing and I wanted to share my speech here since not everyone was able to attend. Hope you enjoy.
I always thought I would be a traditionally published author. I hate to admit it, but I used to look down on self-publishing. I thought it was only for people who couldn’t make it with the big publishers in New York and was, therefore, inferior. Unfortunately, that’s a stigma that remains today. I said I would never do it. I’ve learned never to say never because I will end up doing exactly that. (I also said I would never blog and I’ve been doing that for six years now.)
Who Am I and Why Should You Listen to Me?
I’ll give you a short version of my history as a writer so that you can see how I came to have such an about-face of opinion. I started taking my writing seriously in 2008. Once I figured out that if you wanted to be published traditionally you had to get an agent, I started querying them. It took me two years and nearly 40 rejections to get my agent. I was with her for about two years. She was great at first and Daughter of Destiny did well on submission – it went to acquisitions three times at major houses – but no one made an offer, either because I was new or they didn’t know how to market Arthurian legend. Around the time my second book went on submission, my agent basically stopped doing her job for all her clients. When she wasn’t receptive to my suggestions for a better working relationship, I left her because I could see she wasn’t long for the industry. Not long after I began querying other agents, she stopped being an agent. I had a lot of interest in my next book, Madame Presidentess, but no offers. I wanted to have it published before the 2016 election, so there was a limited amount of time for me get representation because traditional publishing takes so long. At the same time – this was summer of 2015 – the industry was changing and I was beginning to see more indie success stories, both among my author friends and in the press, so I started opening my mind and investigating. In August of that year – on my birthday – I decided I would give it a go since most of my books had already been shopped, at least somewhat, so I had nothing to lose.
The Traditional Punishing Industry Today
Sadly, I’m not alone in getting SO close to traditional deal and then deciding I’d be better off doing it myself. That’s the thing: because publishers no longer want to nurture careers – they are only interested in the next best seller or at least what they think will be the next big thing – they are taking fewer and fewer risks with new authors or unusual subject matter (or in the case of historical fiction, time periods and places that don’t have a long history of strong sales). And because of that, agents have to be more selective in who they choose to represent, so it is getting harder and harder to break into traditional publishing if you’re not already a household name in some other way, like being a reality or Youtube star.
But despite this, there are still many valid reasons to try to break in. There is a greater chance of fame and riches with a traditional house, and foreign rights, movie deals, and other subsidiary rights are easier to exploit. Then there is the advance, where someone pays you for your writing, rather than you paying the cost of publishing, which is a clear financial advantage. Plus, there is validation in having a major publisher say your work is worthy, and there’s a lingering cache to being able to say you’re traditionally published. Some authors have no desire to be marketers and business people – all the additional things that come along with being an indie author. For those who want to just focus on writing, traditional publishing is likely the right path
However, there are disadvantages to being traditionally published as well. For one, you as the author have little to no control. Some houses will edit your book with an agenda in mind and even though it’s your story, you’ll have to change it how they want if you want it published. Most authors, with the exception of the really successful ones, also have no control over their book cover and varying degrees of control over the back cover copy, so they may or may not actually reflect the book inside. Traditional publishing is notoriously slow, and that limits the number of books traditionally published authors can publish. This is why many use pen names, so they can publish more books faster. In addition, royalty rates are very low, around 10%-12% and it is hard to earn out an advance. Finally, an author under contract at a traditional house faces constant instability and uncertainty. If your books don’t sell enough, your editor leaves, or the imprint goes in a different direction, you can be dropped. Lines and imprints can close. A friend of mine had that happen and lost three book deals in one day. And contracts can be canceled as well.
The Independent Publishing Industry Today
On the other hand, being an indie author brings with it great stability and control. You won’t drop you or cancel your contract. You can publish what you want, as fast as you want, without worrying about having to wait or change your name. For example, I’m at a bit of a disadvantage in the traditional publishing realm because I like to tell the stories of unknown women. Traditional publishers want marquee names. I also love Dark Age history, but traditional publishing only wants post-1066 time periods, unless its Greek or Roman, an concentrates most heavily on Tudor, Regency and WWI and WWII periods. Being my own boss allows me to publish where my heart is, rather than writing to trends that seem arbitrary. This is very important because the love and passion you have for a project shows up in your writing, as does the lack thereof. Publishing myself also allows me to ensure the book cover, back cover copy and all other details are exactly as I envision them and actually relate to the book. In addition, our royalty rates are often much higher than those in traditional contracts, up to 70%-90%. There are many reasons for this, but the most obvious is that we don’t have to pay a publisher and agent first.
But there are down sides to self publishing as well, and it’s best to go into it with your eyes wide open. Just as with traditional publishing, unless you are one of the few lucky flukes out there, you aren’t likely to get rich. The financial outlay is one of the biggest deterrents to self publishing. If you do it right, it will be a significant investment. I, for one, have yet to make a profit and I’ve been doing this for two years with modest sales. However, if you view that up-front cost as an investment in your company and your future – just as if you were opening a bakery or a flower shop – it is more bearable.
The other big downside is lack of visibility. Without a major publishing house behind you, it is very, very hard to stand out from the crowd. According to The Book Industry Study Group (BISG), more than 4 million books are published each year, 2.8 million of which are in English. That’s a LOT of competition. But, there’s nothing saying that if you were traditionally published you wouldn’t have to face the same situation. Unless your book is one the house anticipates being a big hit of the season – one of maybe 10 out of the hundreds of books published each quarter – you will have to do most of your own marketing. There is a general rule among traditionally published authors that a writer should save a percentage of their advance, anywhere from 10% to 90% depending on how much they got, for marketing. The bottom line is that no matter how you’re published, your book won’t be a success unless you work hard to make it so.
What Indie Authors Can Do to Be a Success
But the good news is, there are many things authors can do to become a success, and indie authors have even more control than their traditional counterparts. One of the biggest advantages we have is that we control the price of our books. That means we can set the price based on what our competitors are selling for, can price adjust if we see the marketing changing or sales are slow, and we can have sales anytime we want – all without asking for permission and fighting a bureaucracy. This gives us tremendous power in the marketplace. We can also sell and market however we see fit, without having to worry about possible conflicts or contract restraints. Blog tours, guest blogs, articles, advertisements, social media, public appearances are all completely within our control. It is up to us how big or small we take things.
I have five requests for anyone thinking of becoming an indie author – things that, if everyone who self-published did them the stigma associated with our manner of publishing would dry up very quickly.
Have your work professionally edited – no matter who you are, even if you are an editor by day or know someone who is really good at it, you need a fresh set of eyes to evaluate your work. There are inconsistencies, dropped plot lines, missing characters and spelling and grammar errors that you are too close to your work to see. The goal of indie authors should be to produce books that are indistinguishable from traditionally published works.
Use a professional cover designer – We like to use the phrase “don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but we all do it. Studies show that you have 10 seconds to capture a reader with your cover and book description. If a book cover appears homemade, we will judge the contents as inferior. That is the last thing that any author wants. Many people skimp here because they want to save money, but this is a mistake. Keep in mind that just because you or your child or grandchild or neighbor have some Photoshop skills does not mean you know how to effectively design a book cover. There is a science and entire hidden language to book covers that professionals know and that avid readers perceive. The fonts, images and placement are all done very carefully. For example, in romance, the heat level of a book is indicated by the way the characters are clothed and interact, as well as the colors used. You can get an idea of the language of your genre by looking at best-selling covers in your genre for the common elements; they work for a reason.
If you’re aiming to become a career author, treat it like a job – There is nothing wrong with self-publishing to have a book available for family or even just your own enjoyment, but here I’m talking to those who want to make being an author their career. You’ve heard the phrase “dress for the job you want rather than the one you have.” The same goes for how you view your job as an author and how much effort you put into it. Some people are lucky enough to write full-time, whether they are retired or just don’t have to work. Many of them put in at least as many hours as those of us who work office jobs, sometimes more. But no matter what your situation is, you can be professional about it, and regardless of how much or little time you have, your number one duty as a professional author is to write. If all you have is an hour a day, or weekends or vacation days, use that time to devote to your business. That is the only way to success. The more of us who act like professionals, the higher esteem in which we will be held.
Join professional groups for indie authors – No one writes or markets a book alone. In that regard “self-publishing” is a misnomer. The best way to keep up with the changes in the industry, learn best practices and get your questions answered is to join groups like the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). They are relatively inexpensive and incredibly valuable. Also don’t forget your genre associations and professional associations for all published authors like Novelists, Inc. and The Author’s Guild. Plus your local writer’s groups: here locally a few that accept authors of all genres include: St. Louis Author’s Guild, Missouri Writer’s Guild, and Saturday Writers.
Join groups like Self-e that are aiming to promote the best of the best of self published books – There are many groups out there fighting to showcase the best of indie publishing. This being Indie Author Day, I want to give a plug to our sponsors, Self-E. Library Journal, one of the most respected names in publishing, is the sponsor of this program, which connects indie author’s books with libraries and readers. It is free to submit your book for their consideration. Right now they are actively seeking adult and young adult fiction. They are also accepting nonfiction, poetry and children’s submissions, but are still working on plans for when they will begin actively reviewing those genres. When you submit your book, it will become part of your state collection, which means it is available to libraries all over your state. If your book is selected as a Self-E Select book, which means it is one of the best of all self-published books, you will be entered into their national Self-E select catalog, and be eligible for a review in Library Journal, which is right up there with Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus in terms of industry endorsements. All of my novels are Self-E Select designated and Daughter of Destiny was reviewed positively by Library Journal. Self-E also helps you connect with your local community, which is the best way to begin building your reputation as an author. In addition, they have an annual contest to select the best indie books in certain genres. If you are a speaker, you can also join their ambassador program, whereby if you’re selected, you’ll have the opportunity to speak and sell your books at events like this.
Looking to the Future
This is both an exciting and scary time to be an author. The industry is in flux and that can be frightening, especially because no one knows what will change from one day to the next or what the future will bring. But it is also extremely exciting because we have more options than ever before, especially as indies. With success stories like The Martian, 50 Shades of Gray and authors like Colleen Hoover, Bella Andre and Hugh Howey, we have proven that indie publishers mean business and we are here to stay.
There really is nothing you can’t do as an indie author if you put your mind to it. It might take a little extra work, but why not make your dreams come true on your own terms? Audio books, illustrated companion guides, foreign translations, stage or screen adaptations, aren’t only the realm of the traditionally published anymore. And if you decide indie isn’t right for you, there’s no reason you can’t go back to the traditional route or become a hybrid author who publishes both traditionally and independently. The flexibility is part of what makes being an indie author so great.
In her novel The Light of Paris, Eleanor Brown writes that the surrealist artists of post-WWI Paris were “making space for themselves without waiting for someone to give them permission.” That is exactly what indie authors are doing now. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be an indie author and represent such a diverse and thriving community. I say with full confidence that we are the future. I hope you will join me.
Last week, the New York Times Book Review announced they are eliminating several of their bestseller lists. Here’s the original article from Publisher’s Weekly. This will have profound effects on many authors, especially indie and genre writers. I emailed the following letter to the editors this morning. It not only expresses my opinions on this issue, but also voices my (possibly far-fetched) hope that they will someday add coverage of indie authors to their pages.
As both a long-time reader of the New York Times Book Review and an author, I have to say I am dismayed at the recent move of the NYT Book Review to remove many of the bestseller lists, especially the ebook lists. As an indie author who, due to the nature of my mode of publishing, is not carried in big name book stores, that is my only hope for ever hitting your lists. And I do plan to be on them. I still hold the moniker of New York Times Bestselling Author in high regard.
Whether you mean to or not, this move alienates a lot of authors, both indie and traditionally published, who rely on ebook and mass market lists to “earn our letters.” You are hurting traditionally published authors who are in digital-first or digital-only contracts, an increasingly common practice at major publishers, especially in the romance and other genre markets. In the traditional publishing world, foreign rights, bonuses, movie rights, and the money an author can demand on his/her next contract are often determined by making your lists. By eliminating many options, you are hobbling the very people you should be supporting.
In addition, readers are increasingly choosing ebooks over hardbacks/trade paperbacks for convenience and cost reasons, so you are essentially saying their buying choices don’t matter. Not to mention that eliminating the ebook and mass market paperback lists smacks of elitism and of a digging in/siding with the old guard traditional publishing industry in an era when prestigious publications like the NYT should be opening up to new modes of publishing.
Here’s the thing. Indie publishing isn’t the free-for-all mess it used to be. I, and many other indie authors like me, apply the same levels of rigor and professionalism to the production of our books as traditional houses – at least in part due to the hopes of selling enough to make your lists. We spend thousands of dollars of our own money on professional proofreading, editing, cover design and marketing. Yes, there are still those who slap their books on Createspace/Amazon without a second thought, but there are also low quality books produced by traditional houses. There will always be outliers.
We are no longer the authors who “couldn’t make it” in the traditional industry. Many indie authors are former traditionally published authors who have grown frustrated with increasingly anti-author contract terms and/or the antiquated slowness of the industry in an age of print on demand. Some are “hybrid authors” who publish some things traditionally, and some independently. Others, like me, have never been traditionally published and made the choice to go indie in order to control our work – our covers, our editing, our marketing, how/where our books are published – so that we are free to write the books we choose, rather than struggle with an editorial/publishing house agenda or idea of what will sell.
If you need proof that indies are professionals, look to the SELF-e Select books endorsed by Library Journal as the best of independently published books, or to the Indie BRAG Medallion honorees, who are put through a rigorous quality process before being honored. (Full disclosure: all of my books are SELF-e Select and one has earned the Indie BRAG Medallion.) Groups like the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLI) and Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) promote best practices among indie authors and reward those who produce high quality work. We’re trying to make our corner of the publishing industry better. We may not have traditional gatekeepers, but we want our best work to shine at a national level and make the same lists as our traditional counterparts.
That is why I am asking you to not only reinstate the ebook and mass market lists, but to cover indie books as well as traditionally published in your pages. There is room. Readers have written in before expressing dismay with the seemingly random essay/editorial/opinion sections that don’t adhere to what this publication is about: reviewing books. And I agree. Perhaps you can replace those with an indie book section. I’m not even asking for a weekly section, though that would be ideal; it could be monthly like your column that faces the back page that covers debuts or other groupings of books.
To date, the only indie authors I have seen your publication cover are those who were later picked up by traditional publishers. I’m happy for them, but they are the exception, rather than the rule, in our community. It would send a strong message of support to ALL authors if the NYT Book Review were to recognize indie authors and show you understand the changing nature of the publishing industry by keeping lists that allow a wider range of authors to be honored for outstanding work.
St. Louis, MO
If you agree or have your own opinions on this issue, I urge you to contact the NYT Book Review at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d also love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
I am giving this short speech today at the St. Louis County and St. Louis City libraries as part of Indie Author Day. I wanted all of you who couldn’t join us to be able to read it as well. I hope you enjoy it. Learn more about my speaking engagements.
When I was invited to be part of Indie Author Day, I was honored and humbled. I’m very proud to be an independent author and to be part of the first ever national day celebrating our work and our achievements. Our community has grown tremendously in the last five years, and now the books we produce rival – and in some cases outsell – those released through traditional means.
I want to be clear that I have nothing against the traditional publishing industry. I may even still join it in the future, but it isn’t what is right for me as an artist at this moment in my career. And that’s what being an indie is all about: taking control of your writing, your career, and the myriad decisions that go into it. We are no longer the ugly step-children who couldn’t make it traditionally; we are the entrepreneurs who chose to go our own way.
In her novel The Light of Paris, Eleanor Brown writes that the surrealist artists of post-WWI Paris were “making space for themselves without waiting for someone to give them permission.” That is exactly what we are doing as indie authors. We may cross traditional genre boundaries, write about subjects or in time periods that aren’t considered marketable, or simply want to do things on our own schedule. Whatever our reasons, we are producing our art without so much as a by your leave. We have something to say and aren’t waiting for anyone to give us a stage; we are building our own.
Now, being an indie author isn’t without its challenges. In declaring ourselves free of traditional constraints, we also take on the burden of being our own patrons, financing our cover art, editing, production and marketing. We take the financial risk that our work may not find an audience – or at least not enough of one to recover what we’ve invested. But such is the curse of every small business owner, from freelancers and flower shops to barbers and bakeries. We take a leap of faith that with enough hard work and a bit of luck, we will somehow make it.
We also face the seemingly impossible task of making ourselves known in a world where a new book is published every five minutes on Amazon, which is already home to 3.4 million books. But somehow, we still manage to find our audience – no matter how large or small. Whether we use Facebook ads, make book trailers or go the route of hand-selling and attending conferences or speaking engagements – we get out there and let people know we are here and why they should be interested in what we have to say.
Really, that is a challenge for every author, whether indie or traditional. But as indies, we have to do it ourselves, or if we’re lucky, with the help of a publicist. Without the endorsement of a big publishing house, we rely on the help of our tribe, other authors and readers whose loyalty we’ve gained, to provide endorsements of our work. They are our support system, our lifeline in times of crisis and uncertainty, and they can be a connection to new readers.
As indies, we may be perceived as being in this alone, but that is far from the truth. We have a vibrant, supportive community that is more generous than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I’ve found genuine well-wishes even from people who have written about the exact same subject as I have. In the corporate world, we’d be considered competitors, but I’m coming to realize that here we are really allies. Whether we share resources, write guest posts together or just silently cheer one another on, it is that support that buoys us and keeps us going in and ever-changing industry that doesn’t really know what to do with us.
We’ve broken the traditional paradigm and that scares a lot of people. I say let them be scared; we aren’t. You know who else wasn’t afraid to try something new? Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Ben Franklin. Madame Curie. Thomas Edison. Henry Ford. The Wright Brothers. And we can’t forget the Founding Fathers of our country. Without them we wouldn’t have iPhones, PCs, eyeglasses, X-rays, light bulbs, cars, airplanes or an independent nation – things we now take for granted. While few of us are on that grand of a scale, without us, the publishing world would be lacking in richness, diversity and, our readers would be still be searching for our stories.
It is the independent spirit of the publishing entrepreneur we gather to celebrate today. In the last five years, we’ve gone from being tentative explorers of the brave new world of ebooks to producing top quality work that makes the bestseller lists. Some of members of our community have even become breakout stars – such as Courtney Milan, Colleen Hoover, Bella Andre, Hugh Howey, and many others – authors who regularly outsell those who are traditionally published. We’ve done this through discipline and professionalism, by writing outstanding books, and applying business acumen to our work – for this is no mere hobby; this is our job, regardless of whether we have another that pays the bills.
With the rapid advancement of technology and gradual acceptance of our legitimacy as real authors, in another five years – even in one year – who knows where we can be. We may well be the new norm. How we get there is up to you and me, the indie authors of America. I, for one, am proud to celebrate us and our accomplishments – past, present and future – today.
As my speaking engagements finally wind down for the year, and I look longingly forward to a much-needed rest, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be speaking TWICE at the Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver, June 22-24!
I’m on a panel about Victorian society with several really cool authors, including my friend Stephanie Carroll, whom I met at the 2015 HNS conference. We’ll talk about everything from fashion to mourning customs, and spiritualism to suffragists. It’s such a rich time period and we’re blessed to have authors representing both Victorian England and America.
I’m also conducting a Koffee Klatch – an informal session where people sit around and ask me questions – about being an indie author. This really is an ask-me-anything session. I’ll be candid about the good and the bad, talk money and marketing, and what really goes into being an indie (hint: a lot of hard work). So if you’re going to be there, come prepared with your questions!
Remember, you still have five chances to see me this year, as soon as tomorrow!
St. Louis Writers’ Guild
Nicole will be presenting on writing historical fiction
10 a.m. – noon
Kirkwood Community Center
St. Louis, Missouri
Indie Author Day
Nicole will be speaking and signing books at two events
St. Louis County Library, Thornhill Branch (12863 Willowyck Dr., 63146)
12:30 p.m. – Networking and light refreshments
1 p.m. – National Digital Gathering
2 p.m. – Local Panel
St. Louis Public Library, downtown location (1301 Olive St.)
4 – 6 p.m.
Q&A and book selling/signing
Missouri Romance Writers Association (MORWA) Nicole will be speaking on working with a publicity company
October 15 (rescheduled date)
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis County Library – Oak Bend Branch
Nicole will be presenting on Victoria Woodhull
And after that, I am crawling under a pile of blankets and resting for a few months! But you know me, my idea of resting is reading and learning. But more on that in another blog post…
Holy crap, y’all! Camelot’s Queen was just awarded the Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion! That means it is designated as one of the best indie books on the market. Not only is this Camelot’s Queen‘s first award, it’s one that even Daughter of Destiny, which has won a ton of awards, did not achieve.
It should be listed on the Indie B.R.A.G. site shortly and they will be doing a series of promotions for it.
And if I can tell you a little secret, I like Camelot’s Queen even better than Daughter of Destiny.
I owe you several more blog posts, especially about the re-enactment of the election of 1872 and my trip to Oxford, among other things rattling around in my head. I will have them for you soon.
This is the blog post I’ve been waiting four years to write. I’m excited to announce that you will be seeing four (maybe even five) books from me in 2016!
That’s because I’ve made the decision to become an independent author. I’m even in the process of setting up my own company, which will be my publication house.
Here’s the publication schedule:
Daughter of Destiny (Guinevere’s Tale: Book 1) – January 1
Camelot’s Queen (Guinevere’s Tale: Book 2) – March 23
Been Searching for You (formerly He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not) – May 23
Madame Presidentess – July 25
And if the stars align, I’d love to have Mistress of Legend (Guinevere’s Tale: Book 3) published by the end of 2016, but that may be a bit ambitious, so I’m not making any promises yet.
All of these books will be available in e-book, print and audio formats. (Audio may come later than the others, depending on the production schedule. I’ll keep you updated.)
These books are the beginning of three series that I’ll continue in years to come:
Arthurian Legend – Obviously, this includes the three Guinevere’s Tale books, but I also plan to write Tristan and Isolde’s story (Isolde demanded it when she walked into my head all those years ago), as well as several novellas. I’m also planning a companion book that tells you more about the details of my Arthurian world – you know, all the stuff that didn’t fit into the books.
Love in the Windy City – Been Searching for You was supposed to be a standalone novel. However, my beta readers immediately came back and demanded more, as have several contest judges. I’m pretty sure that there will be two more books in this series. I don’t want to give away more than that until all of you get to read it and tell me if you agree there’s more to Annabeth and Alex’s story (and Miles, Mia, and Nick).
Heroines of the 19th Century – Madame Presidentess (about Victoria Woodhull) is the first of four books about three feisty, mostly unknown, real-life women of the 19th century. Victoria was the first female to run for President in the United States. Another woman I will write about was a Morman with dreams of a new life in California, who unexpectedly became involved with Indians in the Wild West (I think her story will be two books). The other is a French woman who made a certain brand of high-end wine a household name in a time when women simply did not work. Though they are from vastly different worlds, none of these ladies lived the traditional role set out for women of their time and the world is better for it.
Which one will I focus on once the third Guinevere book is out? I have no idea. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I have 22 books floating around in my head, so it will really be up to the muse and the characters what comes next. Well, that and how all of you react to the books once you can read them.
As many of you know, this has been a long journey with many ups and downs, and I want to make sure you know how grateful I am for all of you sticking with me, whether you’ve been here from the beginning or are just hopping on for the ride. I plan to keep you apprised of every step in the process and will give additional information as soon as I can. Look for cover reveals, early sample chapters, giveaways and more as publication dates approach.
Eventually I’ll get to the fun stuff like scheduling book signings and virtual tours (hope to get to meet some of you via Skype!), but right now I’m working on securing a cover designer, map illustrator (for the Guinevere books) and editor. Plus learning everything I can about self publishing. Before long it will be time to firm up the audio deal. Every day brings a new challenge, but it’s something I am having so much fun learning. For me, this is a career and a business, so I want to get it right.
Curious as to why I chose to self-publish? Find out my reasoning on Thursday, August 28, over at Spellbound Scribes.
Are you excited that my books will finally be out there? Which one(s) are you most looking forward to? Anything in particular you want to see in terms of marketing?