Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Indie author love

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Today I'm featuring Part 1 of a 3-part series where I ask the same questions to three indie authors -- Lydia Laceby, Samantha Stroh Bailey and Heather Wardell. These three ladies are all self-publishing success stories, but their stories are quite different. Here's Part 1.

Lydia Laceby is the author of Redesigning Rose, which she self-published in June 2013.

Q: Did you try to go the traditional route first - agent, publisher - or did you prefer to self-publish?

LL: I decided to go straight to self-publishing. In between hammering out draft after draft of Redesigning Rose, I also devoured articles and blog posts about writing and publishing. The shift in the industry when I began writing to when I finished (two years later) was dramatic, and while I longed to see my book in a local bookstore I knew that self-publishing was the way to go for me. I liked having control of the process and knew with a little time and effort I could figure out how to do it all. I also knew that although I can be impatient, I’m also a perfectionist and I refused to present my book baby to the world before it was ready, one of the pitfalls I think may self-published authors fall into.

Q: How did you figure out how to put your book online?

LL: Hours and hours of research! I read countless how-tos and attacked the process knowing there would be a steep learning curve. I started researching whenever I set aside my draft to percolate. My only regret is that I didn’t take notes and now I’ll have to re-read and re-learn a few of the things when I publish my next one.

Q: What site did you post it on?

LL: Redesigning Rose is available as a paperback from Amazon (worldwide) and in ebook form from Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks and Google Play Books. I handle Amazon and Kobo myself while the others are outsourced through Primedia eLaunch.

Q: Did you do everything yourself or hire someone?

LL: Oh, I definitely hired people! I think this is one of the hardest parts of self-publishing. It’s either a DIY affair or you have to pay upfront for the costs. I knew I needed help and wanted the book to be the best it could be so I paid for two rounds of edits, a proofreader, and a formatter – there was no way I was fiddling with code myself, although I have plenty of indie-published friends who have done so successfully. I was also fortunate enough to secure professional help for my cover through a girlfriend who is a graphic designer.

Q: What was the hardest/most frustrating part?

LL: Paying for it all yourself is hard. You don’t know if you’re ever going to see those funds again, or whether you’ll earn anything for all the time and effort you spent writing the book in the first place! But if you search articles about writing and publishing, you’ll quickly learn writing is a labour of love. There’s no get rich quick scheme here. Marketing can also be challenging. It’s an ongoing effort. But from what I hear, traditionally published authors face the same issues with marketing.

Q: What was the most rewarding part?

LL: Seeing the sales numbers rise! And finding an incredibly supportive online community of indie-published authors that I couldn’t imagine living without now. I have dinners regularly with a group of women I’ve met in Toronto and am astonished they weren’t in my life just a year ago!

Q: How did you decide how to price your book?

LL: I studied the indie market. I researched novels similar to mine and what the authors were charging. I knew I didn’t want to go too cheap and undervalue my work or have potential buyers skim over it because of price. I also knew for sure that I never wanted to give it away for free, even for a limited time. I have dozens of “free” books gathering dust on my Kindle. I’m a firm believer that when the majority of people purchase a book they’re more likely to actually read it than if they downloaded it for free. I’m sure there must be some “buy-in” marketing mumbo jumbo for this, but I knew what I did with the free books and when I asked around I found others did, too. (This isn’t to say success can’t come from a “free” strategy, it can, particularly if part of a series). I also didn’t want the negative reviews that can come from making your book free. When it’s free, everyone and their grandma will snag a copy. Grandma may not like it. And she may voice her opinion on Goodreads. And she may not be one of those nice cookie-baking, snuggly grandmas either.

Q: What has been the most successful marketing strategy you've used with your book?

LL: I started a book blog five years ago, Novel Escapes, which helped me meet and connect with other authors and book bloggers so I had a network already when I finally published. It’s never too early to start marketing! Ereader News Today, a book discount promotional site, was a huge sales success for Redesigning Rose. There are other similar venues such as Book Bub but they are all climbing in price and are extremely difficult to get into now. I also did a blog tour which was wonderful.

Q: What is something you wish you'd known before starting out?

LL: I think that would have to be just how much time is spent on all the little details of finalizing the publishing process from proofing the cover, to finishing the final draft, to contacting vendors, to researching exactly how to upload, and even writing the dreaded synopsis. Set aside a lot of time for this – and initial marketing efforts. Researching and contacting book bloggers can be time consuming. This is also something you can source out, though.

Q: Knowing what you know now, would you self-publish your fist book again?

LL: Yes!

What's next for you?

LL: I’m a few drafts away from finishing Book Two and hope to publish it sometime in 2015.

Q: What's your advice for aspiring writers on the world of self-publishing?

LL: Avoid rushing. It’s so, so easy to hit the publish button. But once it’s out there you can’t take it back easily. Reviews will be online forever and if, for example, you have editing issues – big or small – you can be guaranteed readers will mention it in their reviews. And unless you’re willing to make changes and republish under a pen name, be very cautious about what you’re publishing. But don’t be overly cautious either or you’ll never get it done!

Q: What's an aspect you wish you had more time for?

LL: Marketing and/or writing. Between working a mostly full time job with a hefty commute and needing ample amounts of sleep, I can barely find the time to do it all. For the last six months I’ve had to forgo much of my marketing efforts to concentrate of Book Two. It wasn’t going to write itself so I had to shift my focus.

Q: How do you go through the editing process?

LL: Redesigning Rose took 13 drafts, but I’m hopeful I learned many lessons from the process and that Book Two will see six or seven rounds of edits. The first few rounds are for my eyes only. Then I gather beta-reader feedback and tweak and rewrite. The last few rounds are after editor feedback, copy edits and the final proofread.

Q: What's the biggest pitfall many self-published authors make?

LL: Cover design and editing/proofreading are the two areas that indie authors need to take extra care with.

Q: What's an advantage of self-publishing vs traditional publishing?

LL: Other than having complete control over the process and your career, it has to be the royalties. For every ebook priced at $2.99 or above, the royalty rate is 70%. That means for a book priced at $2.99, the author would see approximately $2.00.

Q: Why do you love self-publishing?

LL: The control: I get to set my own deadlines, pick my cover, select my editor, and write the story I want to write and I don’t have to rush the process. The royalties: No gets takes a chunk but me. And maybe my Visa bill.

Q: What would make you go with a traditional publisher in the future?

LL: More royalties. And marketing. It must sound like I’m all about the money, but the difference is quite astonishing considering many traditional publishers don’t do a lot of marketing for you anyway. If I have to do it all myself, why not get the full royalties?

Follow Lydia here: @lydialaceby

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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