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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: self-publishing, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 282
26. 5 Interesting Podcasts: Kidlit, Social Media & Self-Publishing

" Saucy is a real character dealing with real stuff—hard stuff that doesn’t have easy answers, not in real life and not in fairy tales, either. This is a really compelling and ultimately hopeful story. Highly recommended." – Debby Dahl Edwardson, National Book Award finalist and author of My Name is Not Easy Read a sample chapter.

With limited time to keep up on the business of writing and publishing, I have found myself turning to podcasts. A podcast is like a radio program, but you can play it on demand. To listen, I have the Pocket Casts Lite app on my iPhone; the free version allows me to set up five podcasts to follow. I listen while I’m at the gym or taking a walk using ear buds; I have a wireless bluetooth earbud setup, so I don’t have to worry about cords. Or, I plug into the auxiliary input on my car radio/cd system to listen. At home, I have a portable bluetooth speaker that sounds great. Of course, you’ll need to find a set of apps for your particular system. If you already have something set up to listen to music on your smart phone, just use that same thing for listening to podcasts.

Using Pocket Casts Lite, I can log onto the iTunes store and search podcasts to find something I want to listen to. My friend who write history nonfiction, tends to listen to history podcasts for tidbits that might spark an idea. No, really, she just listens to them for pleasure! If it sparks something, great. Almost any topic that interests you, there’s a podcast. Here, I’ll mention five podcasts that I’ve been listening to lately.

If you’re interested in just hearing authors talk about their books–and not the publishing side of it all–then you can look at podcast lists here or here, here or here.

Children’s Literature.

  1. Katie Davis’s Brain Burps is the longest running podcast about children’s books. Each week, she interviews someone about their work and publishing experience, provides a book review and gives tips. Find her on iTunes.
  2. Cheryl Fusco Johnson takes a slightly different approach to podcasts by using a local access radio station, KRUU in Fairfield, Iowa for her show, The Studio. For her show, you must download files and put them on your smartphone like you would a music file. Her interviews are with a wide-ranging set of authors–always interesting.
  3. Book Marketing.

  4. One of my favorite podcast is Social Media Marketing with Michael Stelzner, which isn’t necessarily about book marketing, but about using social media in general. It comes from the folks at SocialMediaExaminer.com and some of their strategies are stellar tools for your book marketing. Look for it on iTunes.
  5. Podcast


  6. There are strong podcasts for self-publishers, including Joanna Penn’s Creative Penn Podcast. She’s got a long record of interviewing the most successful self-publishers and being on the cutting edge of new developments.
  7. But my favorite right now is Simon Whistler’s Rocking Self Publishing Podcast. Yes, I was just interviewed on this podcast, but I have been listening to it for the last few months because of Simon’s great British accent. He’s got one of the best radio voices around right now. Simon’s interest in self-publishing is–of course–doing narration of audio books. But ont he podcast, eh talks to a wide range of authors about their publishing experiences.

What apps do you use to listen to podcasts? What is your favorite podcast?

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27. How do you plan to publish your WIP? The results!

With all the usual caveats that this is a for-fun unscientific quiz on a cybertown weblog, here's how the publishing plans of those intrepid people who voted on our How do you plan to publish your WIP? quiz compare to the intrepid people who voted on the same quiz in 2013.

First, 2013:

And now this year:

Blink and you might miss the differences. They're basically identical.

What do you make of this? Is this just the vagaries of Internet poll-taking? Or are views toward traditional publishing vs. self-publishing becoming relatively cemented at this point?

What say you?

0 Comments on How do you plan to publish your WIP? The results! as of 5/19/2014 12:14:00 PM
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28. Create an e-Anthology to Show Off Your Body of Work

wolman-david-064BY DAVID WOLMAN
Bad news first. That page on your website so lovingly curated and carefully updated with links to your published work? No one reads it. OK, maybe your Mom and an editor who wants to see samples of previous work, but no one else. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a great writer and it certainly doesn’t mean humanity has lost interest in riveting tales or important topics like education, healthcare, and cat shampoo. It only means that you live and write in an age when the battle for attention is beyond ferocious. I, for one, am quite interested in your writing. Really. The thing is, I’m running to catch a plane. After that I’m facing a tough deadline, hurrying to get the kids from daycare, and—I’ll be honest—cuing up another episode of “Top of the Lake.” I could read some of your stuff later tonight, true, but at night I don’t care much for websites and scrolling to eternity. I want a book or an e-book.
The good news? With today’s digital publishing tools, you can easily transform your archive of work into an e-book. You not only can, you should. Articles, short stories, poems, books—your stuff is gathering e-dust in forgotten corners of the Web. Go find those favorites and (if you retain rights), breathe new life into them to create a unified and elegant product. Then—and here’s the radical bit—sell it. Your writing is a professional-caliber product, is it not? Then treat it like one, for heaven’s sake.
Preview and purchase FIRSTHAND by David WolmanNow, you could produce your collection merely by cutting and pasting text files and clicking “enter,” but that would be unwise. Readers will detect haste and a lack of attention to their experience with the prose and digital page. There is also the matter of value. Pulling disparate works into one place and format provides some value, but you can do better. The real added value in an e-anthology are the ingredients that make it new and different. The meat is previously published works, yes, but with footnotes, postscripts, photos, videos, and links, the selections become something more. Got a funny anecdote about the writing process that you share at cocktail parties? Include it! Is there a substantial update to some political or scientific idea addressed in a story from 5 years ago? Let’s hear it.
Just so there’s zero confusion on this point: Your Digital Age collected works will not make you rich. There’s long tail potential, though. A few years from now, when you publish your latest terrific magazine story, someone, possibly even a handful of someones, will wonder what else you’ve written. Maybe they will jump online and buy a book you’ve published. If you don’t have any books and haven’t put together a compendium, they might make their way to your website, but that will be the end of it. (See above re: harsh reality of your mostly ignored website.) Yet what if those readers instead found this aesthetically produced collection of stories available for a fraction of what they paid for Mother’s Day flowers? They might just buy it.
Irrespective of potential sales, you will also have this wonderful thing: a product to share with friends and family who’ve been nagging you for years to tell them when and where to read your stuff. (Don’t worry, Mom doesn’t have to pay; you can gift the collection or send a password-protected version.) Besides, you may find, as I did, that the experience of assembling, rereading, and remastering some of the work you’re most proud of will provide a rare opportunity to reflect on your career, not as a constellation of unrelated assignments, but as a body of writing that rather resembles an accomplishment.
David Wolman is an author and a contributing editor at Wired. His new collection, FIRSTHAND, is out this month. He used Creatavist to produce it, but the book is also available for Kindle and other e-readers. He lives in Oregon with his wife and two children. You can follow him on Twitter @davidwolman.

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29. How do you plan to publish your work-in-progress?

So. I'm curious if the times they are a-changing.

A year ago, I asked a simple question: how do you plan to publish your work-in-progress?

And now, inspired my long-running poll about buying e-books, I'm asking agin. Do you think the times have changed? Are more people willing to go straight to self-publishing? Are people reconsidering the benefits of traditional publication?

We shall see. Poll below. If you're reading this on a feed reader or via e-mail, please click through to see it.

0 Comments on How do you plan to publish your work-in-progress? as of 1/1/1900
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30. Enter Your Self-Published Book and Launch Your Career

Writer’s Digest wants to recognize the hard work that you have been putting into your book. That’s why, every year, we look for the  best from authors in their self-publishing ventures. Whether you’re a professional writer, a part-time freelancer, or a self-starter, WD is looking for self-published books for the 22nd Annual Self-Published Book Awards, exclusively for self-published work.

No matter what your book is geared towards, we have a category for you. Enter today in Genre FictionMainstream/Literary FictionNonfictionInspirational (Spiritual, New Age), Life Stories (Autobiographies, Biographies, Family Histories, Memoirs), Children’s Picture BooksMiddle Grade/Young Adult FictionReference Books (Directories, Encyclopedias, Guide Books), and Poetry. The entry fee is just $110, and $85 for any additional entries. But hurry, the deadline is May 1!

A first-place winner will be chosen for each one of these categories (9 total). Each first-place winner will receive $1,000 in cash and promotion in Writer’s Digest (the March/April 2015 issue), along with numerous other prizes, including, a one-year membership to Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN) and a guaranteed review in Midwest Book Review.

One Grand Prize winner will receive $3,000 in cash, plus a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference. The winner will also receive promotion in Writer’s Digest (the March/April 2015 issue), plus a one-year membership to Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), a Marketplace Readiness Assessment Consult ($450) value by Amy Collins, and much more.

Honorable mentions receive $50 worth of WD Books and promotion on www.writersdigest.com. All entrants receive a brief commentary from one of our judges, who are all current industry professionals.

Ember Reichgott Junge, who took home the grand prize in the 21st Annual Competition for her nonfiction book, Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story, called the award an inspiration to continue writing and an affirmation of her decision to self-publish. You can read her extended interview here, as well as a guest blog post on There Are No Rules. A list of last year’s winners is online!

Don’t miss out on this potentially career-altering opportunity! Get recognized for your hard work and launch your career today!

This self-published competition is co-sponsored by Book Marketing Works, LLC.

Please see the competition’s official page for the entry form, rules, and other details.

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31. Top Self published Books


This high flying chick was sent in by illustrator Barbara DiLorenzo. Barbara was featured on Illustrator Saturday April 14th 2012. Click here to see her artwork and interview.

Publishers Marketplace Reveals the Top 35 Self-Published Books

1. The Fixed Trilogy, by Laurelin Paige  (Laurelin Paige; ISBN: 9780991379644)

2. The Will, by Kristen Ashley  (BNID: 2940045582384)

3. Reasonable Doubt, by Whitney G. Williams  (ISBN: 9780990317005)

4. Mud Vein, by Tarryn Fisher  (BNID: 2940149516117)

5. Ask More, Get More, by Michael Alden  (ISBN: 9781937110611)

6. 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse, by JJ Smith  (Adiva Publishing; ISBN: 9780982301821)

7. Agnes Barton Senior Sleuth Mysteries (Books 1-3), by Madison Johns  (BNID: 2940148574064)

8. Dangerous Dozen, by Charity Pineiro, Tina Wainscott, Maureen Child, Paige Tyler, Tawny Weber, Nina Bruhns, Virna DePaul, Karen Fenech, Kristin Miller, Gennita Low, Joyce Lamb, Maureen A Miller  (ISBN: 9780615971216)

9. Chances, by Jackie Collins  (BNID: 2940014780711)

10. Tempting Fate, by Vi Keeland, S.E. Lund, Penelope Ward, J.L. Mac, Julie Richman, Kahlen Aymes  (BNID: 2940149456109)

11. Rebelonging, by Sabrina Stark  (BNID: 2940149195107)

12. Unbelonging, by Sabrina Stark  (BNID: 2940148275213)

13. Lost In Me, by Lexi Ryan  (ISBN: 9781940832920)

14. Obsessed, by Deborah Bladon  (ISBN: 9780993721601)

15. Obsessed: Part Three, by Deborah Bladon  (ISBN: 9780993721625)

16. Obsessed: Part Two, by Deborah Bladon  (ISBN: 9780993721618)

17. All Roar and No Bite, by Celia Kyle  (ISBN: 9781311031419)

18. After the Ex Games, by J. S. Cooper, Helen Cooper  (ISBN: 9781940218175)

19. 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse, by JJ Smith  (ASIN: B00I6W7O5S)

20. Rook and Ronin, by JA Huss (ISBN: 9781936413393)

21. Out of the Shallows, by Samantha Young  (BNID: 2940149401222)

22. The Billionaire’s Obsession, by J. S. Scott  (J.S. Scott; ISBN: 9781939962010)

23. When I Break, by Kendall Ryan  (BNID: 2940148290902)

24. Lucky 7 Bad Boys, by Charity Pineiro, Sophia Knightly, Tawny Weber, Nina Bruhns, Susan Hatler, Virna DePaul, Kristin Miller  (Lucky Romance Authors; ISBN: 9780615955032)

25. The Nelson Touch, by Christopher G. Nuttall  (ASIN: B00J6DKWSM)

26. Plain Jane, by Carolyn McCray  (CreateSpace; ISBN: 9781452854342)

27. Fated Mates, by Adriana Hunter, Liliana Rhodes, Lynn Red, A.T. Mitchell, Michelle Fox, Eve Langlais, Skye Eagleday, Tabitha Conall, Alexis Dare, Molly Prince, Georgette St. Clair, A.E. Grace  (Excessica; ISBN: 9781609827885)

28. Mystery Spring Fling, by Gemma Halliday, Sibel Hodge, Kathleen Bacus, Christina A. Burke, Leslie Langtry, Aimee Gilchrist, Jennifer Fischetto, T. Sue VerSteeg, Maria Grazia Swan, Traci Andrighetti  (BNID: 2940045768450)

29. Ultimate SEAL Collection, by Sharon Hamilton  (BNID: 2940149309016)

30. Love and Danger, by Amy Gamet  (ISBN: 9780988218253)

31. Dare to Desire, by Carly Phillips  (BNID: 2940149343454)

32. The Virtuous Life of a Christ-Centered Wife, by Darlene Schacht  (ASIN: B00HZFSVLI)

33. Knox: Volume 1, by Cassia Leo  (BNID: 2940149395767)

34. Hardwired, by Meredith Wild  (ISBN: 9780989768429)

35. Alphas After Dark, by Vivian Arend, Deanna Chase, Marie Hall, Crista McHugh, M. Malone, SM Reine, Roxie Rivera, Kit Rocha, Mimi Strong  (Bayou Moon; ISBN: 9781940299136)

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Book, list, News, Publishing Industry, Self-publishing, success Tagged: Publishers Marketplace, Top Self-published Sellers

2 Comments on Top Self published Books, last added: 4/24/2014
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32. “Publishing Agnosticism”—What It Is, Why It’s Important, and What It Means for Authors

Eve Bridburg

BY EVE BRIDBURG, Executive Director of GrubStreet

The first time I heard the term “publishing agnostic” was in November of 2011 at the Park Plaza hotel in Boston.   Barry Eisler used it during a talk he gave to the GrubStreet community as part of our NEA-funded Publish it Forward series.   He had shocked the publishing world by turning down a very lucrative book contract from St. Martins arguing that he could do better on his own.  But by November he had decided to publish with Amazon instead.

Some fellow writers and pundits criticized this move to Amazon.   “What gives? “ They asked.  “We thought you had defected to the self-publishing club.”   It was by way of explaining his move from St. Martins to self-publishing to Amazon that Barry described himself as agnostic.

As one definition goes, an agnostic is someone who holds neither of two opposing positions.   I think that’s how Barry was using the term.  He was making the point that his decision to self-publish in the first place wasn’t about his endorsement or love of self-publishing, but rather about choosing the best way to reach his goals.   When a new pathway emerged which better served those goals, he felt no conflict about changing tactics.

But Barry, whether he realized it or not, in using a term with deeply religious connotations, was also asking us – a room full of believers – to be doubters.  He was asking us to question our blind faith in what almost every serious writer we’d worked with up until that point had ever wanted:  a book deal with a traditional publisher.  The bigger the publishing house, the better.

And it wasn’t just our writers.  It was us, the teachers at and leaders of a major independent writing center.  Having existed in the margins in our early years, we were understandably hungry for a track record, for evidence that our work mattered.   And so we celebrated hugely when one of our flock got a story in the Atlantic Monthly or a book deal with Simon and Schuster.   In 2003, we launched our first Muse and Marketplace Conference and soon began inviting literary agents and publishers to Boston to meet our writers.  Many book deals followed.

After Barry’s talk, I started to wonder what being publishing agnostic might mean to us as an organization, and to writers everywhere.   When the world is changing fast under your feet, you need to find your footing before you can decide where to go.   We therefore started articulating our values and principles.

Here’s where we landed:

  1. Writing excellence is paramount because it is “good” writing that transforms lives and the world and entertains at the highest level.  We can debate what “good” means, but for us it’s about the search for truth, hard work, and dedication to the craft no matter the genre.
  2. We are grown-ups. It’s up to each of us as writers and as the professionals supporting writers to understand and own the entire publishing process. It’s incumbent  on each of us to engage in honest self-assessment to determine goals and objectives, strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Community is the glue.  Writing is a lonely, difficult pursuit.  Finding your people and being as generous as possible with them is key.
  4. Success in this space isn’t just measured monetarily.  Money is nice of course when it means book sales for authors and the ability of a place like GrubStreet to provide more jobs, scholarships and free programming, but it’s not the only or most important measure.
  5. Choice is good, especially choice which respects the central role of writers and places control and financial equity in their hands.

These are the things we think about now when evaluating what kinds of programs to offer or who to invite to our Muse and Marketplace conference. This year, we’ll be welcoming A-list literary agents, editors from Random House and Penguin, along side e-publishers like Vook and Amazon.  We’ll have an editor from Ploughshares and another from Electric Literature.   As we always do, we’ll have a bookseller on hand selling the books of our visiting authors, but we’ll also be running an independent author shop for any participant or small press attending the conference.   In short, we’ll be hosting a hybrid conference, inclusive of the many choices and pathways available to authors today.

Most of our writers seem to want the traditional path and that’s great, but it’s our responsibility as a professional development organization for writers to educate them about all pathways, especially since the industry is changing before our eyes.  In our own work and what we bring to writers we now preach agnosticism and save our blind faith for the power and necessity of words.


Eve Bridburg is the founder and Executive Director of GrubStreet, one the country’s leading creative writing centers.  A former literary agent, Eve developed, edited and sold a wide variety of books to major publishers before returning four years ago to GrubStreet to oversee an expansion in programming designed to better equip writers to thrive in the digital age.  She has presented widely about publishing at conferences and writes a monthly blog post called Publish it Forward which can be found at Grubdaily.org


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33. Self-publishing vs. Traditional: Some Straight Talk

I'm thrilled to have a guest post from Natalie Whipple, one of my former clients, who is now a "hybrid" author with experience with both traditional and self-publishing. She is the author of Transparent and House of Ivy & Sorrow, which comes out today, and Relax, I'm a Ninja, which will come out in June!

Here's Natalie's post:

There is a lot of talk online about legacy versus indie publishing and which is better. People seem to spend so much time focused on defending one side or the other, that the details of what each path actually entails get skewed or lost entirely.

To me, arguing which is “better” is a lot like fighting over whether basketball, baseball, or football is the superior sport. They are all sports, they all have a fan base, and they all bring enjoyment to the people who choose to participate in them. Is there really a “better”? Well, no. They’re just different. Same with legacy and indie publishing.

Maybe I see it this way because I’ve chosen to venture into both legacy and indie publishing. I’m what people are now calling a “hybrid” author. So since I’ve been on both sides, today I want to give out neutral, practical information on the difference between Legacy and Indie. I’ll leave it up to you guys to decide what you think is more advantageous or preferable or whatever.


Most people think of authors selling their books, but really it’s more about selling your creative rights in legacy publishing. A publisher wants to buy your rights to reproduce your words in a certain form—usually a book form. There are also other rights you can sell, like electronic (ebook), cinematic, audio, and translation. In the legacy model, a writer usually obtains an agent who specializes in selling and drawing up fair contracts for these various rights. You get a percentage of profit, your agent gets a cut, and of course so does the publisher.

In indie publishing, a writer keeps all their rights and uses them as they see fit. You could say an indie sells their books because of that. That means they get almost all the profit to themselves, but also have to do all the work themselves as well. Indies effectively become a small publisher of their own work. If they want to sell in audio book format, they have to hire the voice actor and make it happen (yes, you can do that). If they want to translate their novel into Spanish, they can hire someone to do that. Their rights are in their hands, for better or worse.


As alluded to in the previous section, indie publishing is all about control. The writer is in charge. While most authors hire out editors and designers, it’s still the writer who chooses who to work with and what the final product looks like. The writer controls price, marketing, design, everything.

In legacy, a writer gives up a lot of control when they sell rights. Your publisher will decide your cover, the price of the novel, the marketing scope. They will decide when your book releases and when they want to put it out of print. You can argue, but they don’t have to listen.


Legacy authors receive payment in two ways—advance against royalties, and then royalties if the novel “earns out its advance.” Your contract will contain royalty rates for each book format they purchased rights for. Advances are usually paid in segments upon contract signing, D&A, and publication. If you earn royalties, you may see a check every 6 months, sometimes once quarterly.

Indie writers do not receive advances, but begin to immediately make “royalty” on their work. The royalty received is much higher—usually 60-70% (as opposed to 6-25% legacy depending on format). Online distributers usually pay monthly if a threshold of income is achieved (from $10-100 depending on the place), otherwise it will be held to the next month.

Cost To Author

Legacy publishing has very little upfront cost to an aspiring writer (unless you consider time a cost, which is something to consider). Agents don’t take payments, but receive commission upon selling rights to your work. One you sell a novel, you may be paying for your own travel or marketing materials, but overall the cost can be almost zero if you don’t choose to do those things.

Indie publishing does have an upfront cost. The average for a quality product is around $1500 for a first novel, most of which goes to a freelance editor. Other costs can include interior and cover design, ebook formatting, ISBN purchasing, business license, marketing, purchasing hard copy inventory, etc.


Indie publishing can reach many markets it couldn’t previously, thanks to online marketplaces and reduced cost of production in the digital age. An indie writer can make their book available globally without having to own a lot of costly inventory. Legacy publishing still has a leg up in the bookstore and library area, having deep connections and filters that are easy for store/library buyers to use. Though the stigma on indie is slowly lifting, there is still a trust built between established publishers and store/library buyers.


Legacy publishing, in theory, gives an author a marketing plan they wouldn’t be able to accomplish on their own. At minimum, they submit their novels to trade reviewers, make them available in the publisher’s seasonal catalog, and make them more visible to store/library buyers who then champion those books to customers. At best (if you are very lucky), legacy publishers send authors on tour, get them big ad spaces in movie theaters, have features in well-known magazines, get radio and TV spots, etc.

Indie writers are responsible for their own marketing, and it’s really a matter of how much money and hustling they want to put into it. An indie can get ad space—it’s just very pricey. They can get trade reviews and other visibility. They can plan their own tours. They just have to foot the bill for everything. So it’s about maximizing visibility at a reasonable cost.

I hope this clears up some of the differences with legacy and indie publishing. But more than that, I hope it helps people see that both avenues have their pros and cons and aren’t necessarily against each other. Publishing is a hard business, no matter how you decide to tackle it. But I personally have found things to love in both methods, and I hope more writers begin to see that they have options and they don’t need to be afraid to explore them.

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34. The Why and How of Self-Publishing

The following is a guest post from the grand prize winner of our 1st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards (featured in InkWell in the May/June 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest).

Judith GilleThe View from Casa Chepitos: A Journey Beyond the Border*   *   *   *   *

The View from Casa Chepitos

The other bad news, for me at least, was that I’d written a memoir. Word on the ground was that memoirs were no longer “de rigeur.” Unless you were a rock star or a lapsed Mormon, a refuge from a currently war-torn country or the victim of incest, chances were slim any editor would be interested. Memoirs written by middle-aged white women were a “dime a dozen,” according to one agent. What agents were looking for was prescriptive nonfiction written by experts with built-in audiences, YA books and genre novels. Thrillers, mysteries, and romances were high on their lists. A semi-literary memoir about Mexican immigrants was not.

I’d gone to the conference thinking I had at least a 50-50 chance of getting an agent’s attention but have since learned that the odds are steep: most of us madly pitching our manuscripts to agents that weekend would probably never land a book deal with a major publisher. So why bother to attend these conferences? Because you can learn about other paths to publishing, and make your dream come true all by yourself.  

I learned from Keith Ogorek’s panel on Navigating the World of Self-Publishing, and by talking to a number of representatives for independent publishers, that self-publishing was the fastest growing segment of the industry. Every week companies were sprouting up to meet the demand in the independent market. Even the big guys wanted in: Simon & Schuster was developing a self-publishing arm (Archway Publishing), Amazon had hired Larry Kirshbaum to head up Amazon Publishing, and the following July, Penguin would buy Author Solutions for $116 million.

Print-on-demand (POD) had finally been perfected to such a point that it was difficult to tell if a book was produced via POD or printed on an offset press. It was faster, easier and cheaper to create a book yourself than ever before. At the WD conference, tables were set up in a hallway where Abbott Press and a number other self-publishing companies were showing off their wares. Examples of books that looked professionally produced and felt good in your hands abounded.

My own prejudice against self-publishing began to wane.

Back home I began researching my options. I looked into the various packages offered by Author Solutions, Archway and Abbott Press. I studied the websites of Bookbaby, CreateSpace, Smashwords and Lulu to see what they had to offer. For various reasons, most of them having to do with the cost, I decided not to use the services of any of the self-publishing companies. I wanted complete control of my product and royalties and figured I could get more bang for my buck by doing it myself. My husband had years of experience in the printing industry and had worked with many small publishers. I’d run my own retail business for thirty-five years and I knew about marketing. Between the two of us we had the skill and expertise to do it.

So, in the summer of 2013, we registered Davis Bay Press with the state of Washington. A few days later I hired a copy-editor and a book designer, and signed Lightning Source on to print 1500 books. By late September my book, The View from Casa Chepitos: A Journey Beyond the Border, was published in e-book form and shortly afterwards in paperback. (I probably could have done it even more quickly if I hadn’t also been working full-time at my day job.)

We officially launched the book in November. More than two hundred people packed the hall at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle that night and we threw a festive Mexican-style fiesta with Mexican fare from the local taco truck and lots of tequila afterwards. We sold lots of books that night. As a matter of fact, in less than six months we’ve sold more than half the books we ordered (in only seven stores) and many more on Kindle.

Despite the long lines at that Pitch Slam at the Writer’s Digest 2012 conference, and lots of authors going way beyond their allotted three minutes, I did manage to successfully pitch seven agents. All of them asked to see the manuscript. Several actually got back to me. Three of them referred to the book as “the next Under the Tuscan Sun.” Unfortunately, none of them offered to represent me. But I’m okay with that.

I’m okay with it because I produced a beautiful, award-winning memoir that is selling well for an independently published book. It’s second only to Tony Cohan’s On Mexican Time for the number positive reviews on Amazon in the Mexican travel category. I’ve already recouped my initial investment, and not a day goes by that I don’t get an email, a note on Facebook or a card in the mail from someone who read it and wants to tell me how much they loved it.

Maybe I could have gotten a small advance and I might have sold more books if a traditional publisher had picked it up. But I doubt if the Mexican family I write about would be benefiting from the book’s success like they are today if one had. Because all of the proceeds from the book sales in Mexico go to them.

The “windfall” enables Lupe to buy shoes for her kids and hire tutors for her daughter who is struggling in school. It helped the entire Cordova-Rodriguez clan take their first-ever vacation—to the beaches of Zihuatanejo in December. Seeing photos of my Mexican godchildren romping in the surf and my friend Gracia and her husband (neither of whom had ever seen the ocean before) dancing in the sand brought me more happiness than a $2,000 advance from a big publishing house ever could have.

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35. Queer Little Chapbooks

Olga Garcίa Echeverrίa

This past week was finals week for me, both as a teacher and a graduate student. When I wasn’t grading student essays, I was cramming for my own exams and rushing to submit final portfolios. Imagine an out of shape 44-year-old baseball player sliding into home plate. Asί terminé.

I’m happy to say, though, that it wasn’t all pain, sweat, and skid marks. There were those queer little chapbooks that accompanied me during my end-of-the-quarter madness, offering momentary escapes, carcajadas, and poetic musings. I love me some libritos (AKA chapbooks). Aside from being easy-to-carry, they are quick reads and generally inexpensive to make and purchase. Although as a writer I have to say that putting a chapbook together no es cualquier cosita. Tiene su chiste. Tiene su magia.


Take Myriam Gurba’s latest chapbooks, Sweatsuits of the Damned (which won the Eli Coppola Memorial Chapbook Prize of 2013) and A Flower for that Bitch (the story formerly known as A Rose for Emily). Rumor has it there was some Frankensteinish electricity guiding the births of these strange lovely creatures.

Gurba Wielding Chapbook-Making Electricity

As always, Gurba's poetry and prose does not disappoint. Her “klassy” rewrite/re-envisioning of Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily, for instance, lo tiene todo: crazy Southern bitches, a mysterious Mexican moso, butcher knives, smelly corpses, and critiques of old-school White privilege, tax evasion, and welfare. There are even warnings of the extreme dangers of not eating enough fiber (this chapbook is good for your health, Raza).

Faulkner’s famous 19th Century character Emily Grierson is the main protagonist in Gurba’s A Flower for that Bitch. But do not fret y’all, you won’t get stuck in the deep South in the post-Civil War era. That would be like having to watch a re-run of Birth of a Nation or Gone with the Wind or as Gurba eloquently sums up, that would be “some Django shit.” To lessen the trauma of the traumatic setting (Mississippi KKK town circa 1890's) Gurba provides us with a subversive re-scripting of Emily Grierson's vida loca. Best of all Gurba give us an orgy of anachronisms, such as sightings of KFC, Norman Bates, Bettie Davis taking a selfie, Christina Ricci in chains and calzones, Homer Simpson, Madonna, and a mention of “the Aztec cure-all: Vicks VapoRub.” Because everyone, even crazy peeps from the Southern post-Civil War era should know about and have access to that beloved Mexican panacea, VapoRu. 
This librito, with a photocopied strand of Gurba's hair in the final pages, is too weird of a journey to recreate. You gotta buy and read it yourself to experience and believe it. You will laugh. You will freak out. You will say, "WTF?" If you cry, it will most likely be because you are laughing or because the stench of the smelly corpse in the story rose out of the pages like steam and messed with your eyes and your nostrils. I can't wait to teach "English" Literature again (hopefully soon), so that I can have students write a comparative essay between Faulkner's and Gurba's versions of this story.
Gurba's grade for fucking with Faulkner = A+. 

Gurba’s other librito, Sweatsuits of the Damned
está bonito, even if it is wearing a damned sweat suit. Since it’s a Radar Production and a prize winner, the chapbook has a cover made out of fancy cardboard and it is hand-stitched at the center. But don’t let that fool you, it has still got the ghettofabulous Gurba touch, as is evident in her following short poem:

Cholo Yoga

Downward facing wassup dog?
Spread ‘em, hands against the wall.

I know it is a tad ridiculious, but isn't it great? When I asked Gurba how she comes up with all this wacky chapbook material, she FB messaged me back with the following: “I will write something that I’m pretty sure is unpublishable but something that I think would like to interact with people. I do believe that things we create enjoy interacting with society, and so I take creativity into my own hands and decide to self-publish. I do it because if I don’t do it, probs no one else will. Even if my art is shitty, it has a right to live. Just like so many unaborted babies who grow up to be shitty adults. I need to be engaged in projects. Otherwise, I feel a desperate sense of languishing. It’s like having homework! Adult homework.”
Sigh. I love Myriam. My girlfriend loves Myriam. Everyone I have ever shared Myriam’s work with ends up loving Myriam. Our dear dear Myriam Dearest.

Myriam Dearest

I leave y’all with a short excerpt from Sweatsuits of the Damned. To purchase Gurba’s libritos: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Lesbrain
To read her blogs: http://lesbrain.wordpress.com/
Excerpt from Sweatsuits of the Damned

My parents took my twin brother and sister and I on day trips to relatively desolate California missions where Spanish priests once enslaved native people and forced them to tend heirloom goats, make candles from rendered fats, contract poxes, and bury one another in mass graves that resembled capirotada: Mexican bread pudding.

I rejoiced during these childhood day trips to the missions.

During them, an odd quiet felt untouchable.
The smell of anciency seeped into my sweat suits.

I walked through oatmeal cookie crumble chapels and across bishops sleeping dreadfully beneath altar tiles.

I looked out tall doors, along stone veranda, to our minivan parked alone in the parking lot. I looked at the wooden crucifix standing in the parched crab grasses. Its lumber would burn if it got any hotter.

Indian ghosts rubbed against me. They were welcoming me psychically and whispering into my brain that they had suffered and died and that they liked my shoes.

Velcro, very innovative.

Myriam Gurba: As American As Capirotada

Myriam Gurba is the author of Dahlia Season (Manic D Press 2007), Wish You Were Me (Future Tense Press 2010), and several self-published things. She worked as an editorial assistant for On Our Backsand toured North America with Sister Spit. She irregularly blogs at lesbrain.wordpress.com. She is allergic to penicillin.

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36. The Weekend Writer: The Hybrid Author

Since The Weekend Writer is a series for new writers, I'll send those readers over to the IndieReCon site to study up on hybrid writers. Hybrid writers, like my car that runs on both gas and electricity, operate two ways.  They publish both traditionally and on their own.

Notice that agent Lara Perkins says that among the benefits of being a hybrid author is "hybrid authors often enjoy greater creative control over self-published titles and over the scope of their career since they have more control over what to publish, when, and how." An example? I'm familiar with a situation in which a traditionally published children's author is interested in pursuing publication for an adult work. (Hmm. Another type of hybrid?) Her agent and publisher are discouraging her, wanting her to be firmly branded as a children's author first. The writer is concerned about striking while the iron is hot (she's done well with her first book). Also, branding could be a two-edged sword. The adult publishing world may not be interested in her once she's been branded as not one of them. There's definitely an issue there about who is in control.

Notice that Perkins also writes about the challenges for hybrids. They are essentially "running a small business." It is "a tremendous amount of work." And speaking from experience, I can tell you that while you're doing the tremendous amount of work of running the business, you have trouble finding time to do more writing. For all the control that traditional publishers get over writers, they also take over a lot of the nonwriting burden of publishing.

Understand the pros and cons of both types of publishing.

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37. Crowdfunding a Picture Book 101

First completed illustration (by Susan Eaddy) for Julie Hedlund's "My Love for You is the Sun

First completed illustration for Julie Hedlund’s “My Love for You is the Sun”

My friend, fellow writer and editing client, Julie Foster Hedlund, is conducting a unique experiment in hybrid publishing – a process that may well become a model to help small publishers increase their lists and authors and illustrators find opportunities beyond self-publishing.  She’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to pre-fund the production, publication and printing of one of her picture books – even though she has a traditional publisher committed to the project.

The book is a beauty – one I’m proud to say I served as editor for. “My Love for You is the Sun” is a love letter from parent to child, written in verse and expressing that timeless and unconditional love through metaphors from the natural world.  My Love for You is the Sun, a Tree, the Rain, a River… but of course, it’s also about more than familial or parental love, it’s about the universal, infinite nature of love itself, and as such, will hold crossover appeal for all ages. The book is being illustrated by Susan Eaddy, whose three-dimensional clay illustrations provide extraordinary depth and texture. Julie’s goal is for the end result to be a beautiful book in every way – from design to paper to binding, worthy of becoming a family keepsake for generations. If her crowdfunding efforts are successful, I have no doubt this will be the case.

This hybrid publishing concept is very intriguing, and in my view may well become an industry standard in the very near future.  Stacey Williams-Ng, editor and art director at Little Bahalia - a small indie publisher with a laser focus on quality – liked ”My Love for You is the Sun” and wanted to publish it, but her list was full. Julie proposed the idea of crowdfunding the initial production and printing costs, and a new contract model was created.

What’s really interesting about this project, though, is that Julie is documenting her process to help other authors and illustrators.  A couple of weeks ago, she posted a five-part series on “Why Crowdfunding?” on her blog, and recently shared the Top Five lessons she’s learned so far, as follows:

  1. If you are going to crowdfund, make it count. Select a project you are passionate about so your passion permeates every aspect of the campaign.
  2. Crowdfunding is a TON of work and is by no means an “easy route” to publishing. Another reason why having passion for your project is critical.
  3. WHY are you crowdfunding? Know the answer to that question, because you will be asked to answer it hundreds of times.
  4. Give yourself way more time than you think you need to pull everything together. Everything I did to prepare for the launch took longer than I expected, and there is SO much more I wish I could have done.
  5. Build a team. Even if you are crowdfunding a self-publishing project (mine is hybrid), pull together a group of people who will give you timely feedback on your video, your rewards, and your project description/pitch. You’d never publish a book without critiques and edits, so don’t launch a crowdfunding project without them either.

The good news is that within 24 hours of launching her Kickstarter campaign, Julie was already 60% funded – so it looks like this is going to fly.

If you are remotely interested in self- or hybrid publishing, it’s well worth following this project. You can find out more and become a part of Julie’s team (not to mention get an advance copy of this beautiful book once its published) here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1022559326/my-love-for-you-is-the-sun-a-picture-book

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38. How Henry Bushkin Got His New Book Published


Henry Bushkin, attorney and former right-hand man to Johnny Carson, has written a book about what life was really like with his famous friend. It’s a deeply personal account filled with scandalous details, including the real story on why his relationship with Carson ended.

Yet despite the book’s obvious potential, Bushkin actually had a hard time getting it published. In Mediabistro’s latest installment of So What Do You Do?, Bushkin talks about the media’s reaction to his writing, his thoughts on the proposed NBC miniseries and the process of publishing:

In the book’s acknowledgments, you explain how the impetus for the book came in 2008 from fellow (and subsequent) Carson attorney Ed Hookstratten. Can you explain a bit how you got from there to here?
Some time ago, I was about to self-publish the book. The book that has come out this week is essentially the same book. Frankly, when I was going to do it on my own with a small staff, it became apparent that Carson wasn’t relevant in the eyes of New York publishers vis-a-vis New York editors. They thought he was just irrelevant.

When I had the manuscript in polished form, I sent it to a friend of mine in New York. She then immediately sent it to a friend of hers at Vanity Fair, and then she asked if she could send it to a friend of hers, an agent in New York. I said yes. And all of a sudden, there were five publishers bidding for it. So it had quite an evolution that took quite some time, with the book going through several gestation periods.

To hear more about the book and its controversies, read: So What Do You Do, Henry Bushkin, Attorney and Author of Johnny Carson?

– Aneya Fernando

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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39. Weekend Links: Carnival Of The Indies Edition

I took part in the most recent Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies. I also managed to visit a number of the other contributors. My favorites:

Book Cover Design: Judging a Book by Its Cover--Part I at WGB.  If I ever self-publish another eBook, I'll pass this along to Computer Guy.

Should You Convert Your Ebook Yourself, Or Hire A Professional? at Learn Out Live. I should have passed this on to Computer Guy before self-publishing Saving the Planet & Stuff.

Why Self-Publishing Needs a Sundance (and Who Should Be Redford) at Electronic Bindery. It's hard to believe there isn't one.

How I Created My First Podcast  at Small Blue Dog Publishing. I did send this one to Computer Guy. I love listening to podcasts while I'm working in the kitchen. (Yeah, as my Facebook friends can tell you, I don't mind spending time in a kitchen.) I have a podcast fantasy.

Team Indie Author Games: Elevator Book Pitch at Electronic Bindery.   Possible conference workshop?

The Elementary Marketing Tactic You Don't Know You're Missing at Be a Freelance Blogger. It's just one word. It is important in blogging, and I'm not sure how many writers realize it.

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40. SCBWI Debuts The Spark Award


The SCBWI is pleased to announce the creation of The Spark Award, an annual award that recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route.  The award is open to current writer and/or illustrator SCBWI members who have independently-published a board book, picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult novel through an established self- publishing enterprise  or individually self-published.  Submissions must be submitted in traditionally bound form, contain an ISBN number, and provide evidence of Copyright registration.

Entries may not have been previously published in any print or digital form prior to the self-published form and SCBWI reserves the right to disqualify books published by enterprises that we believe, in our discretion, operate in a predatory or unprofessional manner.

One winner and one honor book will be chosen by a panel of industry professionals and will focus on quality of writing and concept, quality of illustrations (if applicable), professional presentation, and editing and design.

SCBWI Executive Director, Lin Oliver, and President, Stephen Mooser, strongly believe that, “it is time that SCBWI recognize that there are new models for publishing. The Spark Award is one way we can reward those authors and illustrators who are pursuing independent and self-publishing in a legitimate and high quality way.”

The winner will receive a Spark seal to display on their book, a commemorative plaque, have their book featured in the SCBWI online bookstore and marketed on SCBWI social networking sites, and receive the opportunity to sell their book at the SCBWI Summer or Winter Conference in Los Angeles or New York.

For more information and submission guidelines see Spark Award under the “Awards and Grants” section.

Deadline:  Deadline for submission is December 31 for books published in that calendar year. Books published in previous years and re-issues are ineligible.

Talk tomorrow,



Filed under: authors and illustrators, Competition, Contest, need to know, opportunity, Places to sumit, Self-publishing Tagged: SCBWI, Self Published Books, The Spark Award

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41. Self-Published ebook Competition


Writer’s Digest hosts the first-ever self-published ebook competition — the  Self-Published eBook Awards. This self-published competition spotlights today’s self-published works and honors self-published authors.Whether you’re a professional writer, a part-time freelancer or a self-starting student, here’s your chance to enter Writer’s Digest’s newest competition exclusively for self-published ebooks.

Deadline: October 1, 2013

Enter your book into one these categories:

  • Fiction (Includes but not limited to Mainstream/Literary Fiction, Children’s/Picture books, Genre Fiction, Middle-Grade/Young Adult books)
  • Nonfiction (Includes but not limited to Reference Books, Cookbooks, Life Stories)

One Grand Prize Winner will receive:

  • $2,000 cash
  • Interview with winner featured in Writer’s Digest magazine
  • Winner’s name on the cover of Writer’s Digest magazine (subscriber issues)
  • $200 worth of Writer’s Digest books
  • 30-minute platform & marketing consultation with Chuck Sambuchino, author of Create Your Writer Platform
  • Subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine

The First-Place Winner in each category will receive:

  • $500 in prize money
  • Recognition in Writer’s Digest magazine
  • $100 worth of Writer’s Digest Books
  • Subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine

The Second-Place Winner in each category will receive:

  • $250 in prize money
  • Recognition in Writer’s Digest magazine
  • $50 worth of Writer’s Digest Books
  • Subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine

Honorable Mention Winners will receive $50 worth of Writer’s Digest Books and be promoted on www.writersdigest.com.

All entrants will receive a brief commentary from the judges.


1. The competition is open to all English-language self-published books for which the authors have paid the full cost of publication, or the cost of publication has been paid for by a grant or as part of a prize.

2. You must enter online. Acceptable file types include .epub, .mobi, .ipa, etc.

3. Entries will be evaluated on content, writing quality and overall quality of production and appearance.

4. All books published or revised between 2008 and 2013 are eligible. (Writer’s Digest may demand proof of eligibility of semifinalists.)

5. We accept check, money order or credit card payment for the required judging fee. Regular entry fees are $85 for the first entry, $60 for each additional entry Payment must be received before a title goes to the judges.

6. All Entries submitted must be postmarked by October 1, 2013. All winners will be notified by December 31, 2013.

7. Judges reserve the right to re-categorize entries.

8. Books which have previously won awards from Writers Digest are not eligible.

9. Employees of F+W Media, Inc. and their immediate families are not eligible. Books published by Abbott Press are not eligible to participate.

10. Writer’s Digest is not responsible for the loss, damage or return of any books submitted to the competition.

I know the fee to submit is high, but the rewards could be great. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: awards, Competition, Contest, opportunity, Places to sumit, Self-publishing Tagged: e-book contest, Writer's Digest e-book Awards

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42. Self-publishing And Web Presence

Since I've been maintaining the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar, I've been noticing an odd little quirk regarding the web presence of some of our local self-published authors. While it is common for self-published authors to have websites and blogs as sophisticated as anything you'll see in the world of traditional publishing, as well as Facebook pages, Google+ accounts, and Twitter feeds, it's also not unusual to see some self-published authors who have done nothing at all to market themselves on the Internet. I'll see authors making appearances at bookstores and when I try to find some information on them to link to within the CCLC, there is nothing. If I make a big effort (and I shouldn't have to--really, I shouldn't), I may find a small article in a local paper about Joe/Josephine Blow having published a book. And that's it. But sometimes I don't even find that.

What's going on here? you may ask. I certainly did.

In some cases, we may be talking about very inexperienced writers who are living the write-it-and-they-will-come fantasy. They may not realize that writers need to do something more than publish a book in order to find readers.

In other cases, we may be talking hobbyists, people who just want the experience of seeing their names on a book. Though why those folks are then making an appearance at a bookstore is a mystery. 

In either case, if they sat down and tried to come up with a plan to make it difficult for readers to find them, they couldn't do better than what they're doing, which is nothing.

I, of course, am interested in children's and YA writers for my children's literature calendar. I have occasionally come across writers who have chosen ambiguous titles and covers for their children's books. Unless the bookstore clearly labels these authors' events for children, and sometimes they don't, potential visitors/buyers can't even tell what age group the book is for and, thus, whether or not they're interested. If, on top of that, these authors have no web presence, there is no way to determine what their work is or who it is for.

Now, yes, traditionally published authors may not market themselves professionally, either. But the situations I have stumbled upon have all involved writers of the self-published persuasion.

I've had to put in some extra time and effort tracking down these people this past year. For the sake of my own work, I've recently made a couple of decisions: 1. If I can't find an obvious children's author's website immediately, I will list the event with no link for the author. 2. If I can't determine from the bookstore's marketing that an author has written a children's book, I can no longer justify taking the time to hunt down that information. That author's event just won't be listed.

Not only do these authors miss opportunities to connect with readers because they haven't put in the work to market themselves on the Internet, they also miss opportunities for professional networking. It isn't necessary to do every single form of Internet marketing, but it's hard to understand why someone wouldn't do at least one thing.

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43. Getting Ready to Self-Publish?


The above slide points out two things I think are extremely important to the success of your self-published book. IMO, cutting corners on the cover design and copy editing can make a big difference in how many copies you sell.

The report found that getting help, paid or unpaid, with editing, copy editing and proofreading provided a 13 per cent bump in earnings. Those who added cover design to that list saw a 34 per cent increase over the average. Interestingly, ebook formatting help added only an extra 1 per cent.

It was estimated that about 68 per cent of authors who’d spent money on their book would recoup that cost within 12 months. For the rest, no amount of lipstick could improve the story. So make sure your foundation is good and go through all the steps you would to get a solid, interesting story.

Writers with agents earn three times more than those without. Romance writers earn 120 per cent of the average, but science fiction, fantasy and literary writers do much worse earning 38 per cent, 32 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

Those who had already had books put out by traditional publishers earned 2.5 times more than authors who’d been rejected by traditional publishers or who had skipped the traditional route all together.

The Taleist survey found that most self-publishers are “old hands” with 40 per cent having been writing for more than ten years, and 60 per cent for more than five years. Only one in ten were newbies, writing for less than a year.

Getting positive books reviews is important. In book stores like Amazon, getting reviews is key to getting your book recognised by the site’s recommendation algorithm. The survey found that those authors who submitted to book review blogs has slightly higher than average reviews and revenue. But those authors who submitted their book to popular reviewers on Amazon received 25 per cent more reviews than average and 32 per cent more revenue.

What respondents did to seek reviews actively:


The authors who did best, however, did everything except pay for reviews: They gave away review copies, submitted to book review blogs and the mainstream press, sought popular reviewers on Amazon and asked their readers through email lists etc.

The results of the recent self publishing survey by Taleist.com shows Authors who submitted to popular reviewers on Amazon received 25% more reviews than average and earned 32% more revenue for their latest release.  But there can be potential risks, so spend the time to do your research. Getting a review for your fantasy book with a top Amazon reviewer who doesn’t like fantasy is not going to help your book.

Here is the link to the top Amazon reviewers: http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers.

Did you know you do not need a Kindle to read an ebook from Amazon. Under its promise of “buy once, read anywhere”, Amazon provides free apps to read Kindle books on computers, smartphones, and tablets. Even if you have a Nook, you can use the Amazon App to read their books and everyday they have four Kindle book deals. These apps can be downloaded from Amazon here.

Here is the link to purchase Not a Gold Rush – The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey [Kindle Edition]

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, article, marketing, need to know, Process, Self-publishing, Tips Tagged: Importance of cover Design, Romance Writers earn more money, self- Publishing Statistics, Taleist Self-Publishing Survey

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44. WOOL – Self-Publishing Success

WoolWe have been discussing Self-Published books for the last few weeks and we have been talking for months about how the publishing industry is changing, so I thought I should make sure you don’t miss this article written by Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Alter. It is an excellent article and one you really should read (the whole thing). It is long, but worth the five minutes of time. If for some reason you can’t take the time to read it, click on the above link and at least listen to the interview with Ms. Alter about her article.  But in the article, she talks about how Hugh Howey got his book off the ground.

This just might be the article that keeps you going when things seem bleak. I just ordered Part One  of WOOL on Amazon.  It is free for download to your Kindle.

Simon & Schuster has put down six figures for print rights to a post-apocalyptic thriller called “Wool” that it believes could draw the same readers that made “The Hunger Games” trilogy a success.

Simon & Schuster’s print-only editions of Hugh Howey’s Wool, which brought in over a million dollars as a self-published ebook was published yesterday. Howey’s long holdout for a traditional publishing deal came a reality and allowed him to keep his ebook rights.

Hugh Howey’s postapocalyptic thriller “Wool” has sold more than half a million copies and generated more than 5,260 Amazon reviews. Mr. Howey has raked in more than a million dollars in royalties and sold the film rights to “Alien” producer Ridley Scott. And Simon & Schuster hasn’t even released the book yet.

In a highly unusual deal, Simon & Schuster acquired print publication rights to “Wool” while allowing Mr. Howey to keep the e-book rights himself. Mr. Howey self-published “Wool” as a serial novel in 2011, and took a rare stand by refusing to sell the digital rights. Last year, he turned down multiple seven-figure offers from publishers before reaching a mid-six-figure, print-only deal with Simon & Schuster.

“I had made seven figures on my own, so it was easy to walk away,” says Mr. Howey, 37, a college dropout who worked as a yacht captain, a roofer and a bookseller before he started self-publishing. “I thought, ‘How are you guys going to sell six times what I’m selling now?’ “

It’s a sign of how far the balance of power has shifted toward authors in the new digital publishing landscape. Self-published titles made up 25% of the top-selling books on Amazon last year. Four independent authors have sold more than a million Kindle copies of their books, and 23 have sold more than 250,000, according to Amazon.

Publishing houses that once ignored independent authors are now furiously courting them. In the past year, more than 60 independent authors have landed contracts with traditional publishers. Several won seven-figure advances. A handful have negotiated deals that allow them to continue selling e-books on their own, including romance writers Bella Andre and Colleen Hoover, who have each sold more than a million copies of their books.

Print-only deals remain extremely rare. Few publishers want to part with the fastest-growing segment of the industry. E-book sales for adult fiction and nonfiction grew by 36% in the first three quarters of 2012, compared with the previous year. Mass-market paperback sales shrank by 17% in the same period, while hardcover sales declined by 2.4%, according to a recent report from the Association of American Publishers.

When “Wool” hits bookstores next Tuesday, publishing industry insiders will be watching the experiment closely. Simon & Schuster will release a $15 paperback and a $26 hardcover simultaneously, competing directly against Mr. Howey’s digital edition, which costs $5.99.

“We would have preferred to own all the rights, but that wasn’t going to happen,” says Simon & Schuster President and Publisher Jonathan Karp. “It was a very unusual circumstance.”

“Wool” became a viral hit last winter, a few months after Mr. Howey began publishing the five-part series on Amazon. The novel takes place in a postapocalyptic future where a few thousand remaining humans live in a giant, 144-story underground silo. Couples who want to have a child have to enter a lottery; tickets are distributed only when someone dies. Citizens who break the law are sent outside to choke to death on the toxic air. Those who are sent to their deaths are forced to clean the grime off the digital sensors that transmit grainy images of the ruined landscape to a screen inside the silo. The images are meant to remind residents that the world beyond the silo is deadly, but some begin to suspect their leaders are lying to them about what’s outside and how the world came to ruin.

Mr. Howey says he was watching cable news one day when he came up with the idea of a future where people get all of their information from a single, unreliable screen.

“Wool” landed just as the entertainment industry was searching for a high-concept, dystopian hit like Suzanne Collins’s young-adult “Hunger Games” trilogy or Justin Cronin’s postapocalyptic vampire novel “The Passage.” (Mr. Cronin blurbed “Wool,” calling it “an epic feat of imagination.”) The serial format helped build buzz and anticipation among binge readers who were desperate for the next installment, while the 99-cent price tag made each installment an easy impulse buy. “Wool” was the most favorably reviewed book on Amazon in 2012, with an average rating of 4.8 out of five stars. The novel seems to appeal to both men and women, and has attracted hard-core science fiction fans as well as general readers, much like “The Hunger Games.”

Mr. Howey comes across as a charming, self-deprecating goofball (he posted a video of himself doing ballet on his lawn on YouTube after he signed his publishing deal), but he’s proven to be a savage negotiator and slick marketer. He sent free copies of “Wool” to book bloggers and reviewers at Goodreads, a social-media site for avid readers. Early raves prompted more people to try the book, and the reviews snowballed. “Wool” now has more than 12,500 ratings and around 2,200 reviews on Goodreads. He hosted an “Ask Me Anything” session on the popular website Reddit, fielding users’ questions for more than 12 hours. He encouraged fan art and fan fiction set in the “Wool” universe; his readers have designed book covers and written their own novella-length takes on the story. He conscripted 30 of his most ardent fans to be “beta” readers who edit early drafts of his books for free.

Mr. Howey grew up in Monroe, N.C., the son of a farmer and a schoolteacher. As a teenager he devoured popular science fiction books like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Ender’s Game,” and always had a wild imagination. He studied physics and English at the College of Charleston, but dropped out his junior year to sail to the Bahamas. He cycled through a series of odd jobs, working as a yacht captain, a roofer, and a technician for an audio-video company. Four years ago, he decided to give writing a shot. He and his wife were living in a 750-square foot house in Boone, N.C. He was unemployed; his wife, Amber Lyda, was working as a psychologist. He had an idea for a story about a young spaceship pilot who travels across the galaxy in search of her missing father. He sold the novel, “Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue,” to a small Indiana publisher for less than a thousand dollars. Sales were meager.

“When he first published ‘Molly Fyde,’ I’d call his wife and say, ‘How many books has he sold? Should I go to Amazon and buy three more?’” says his mother, Gay Murrill, who owns a yarn shop in Charleston.

Mr. Howey kept trying. He got a 30-hour-a-week job at a university bookstore that paid only $10 an hour but gave him some flexibility. He got up at two or three in the morning to write, and wrote through his lunch hour and after dinner. He designed his own cover art, enlisting his wife and sister to pose in photos. He would often jolt up in bed in the middle of the night to scribble down ideas.

“It was almost a compulsion for him,” says Ms. Lyda. Ms. Lyda said she pleaded with him to leave his pen open on his nightstand, because the clicking noise of his pen kept waking her up.

“Wool” started as a short story that Mr. Howey dashed off in three weeks. He posted it on Amazon for 99 cents in July 2011. Within three months, the story had sold 1,000 copies. Mr. Howey was stunned.

“I told my wife, ‘Baby, we’re going to be able to pay a couple of bills off this short story,’ ” he said.

Readers begged for a sequel, and in November, Mr. Howey released another installment. He sold more than 3,000 copies that month. The next month, he released two more installments and sold nearly 10,000 copies total. In January, he released the final installment, for $2.99, and published all five as a single volume, for $5.99. Collectively, he sold 23,000 copies of all the editions that month. “Wool” shot up Amazon’s science-fiction best-seller list. Mr. Howey quit his job.

Literary agents started courting him. The BBC proposed a television deal based on the series. Most of the agents wanted to auction off print and digital rights to the highest bidder. Mr. Howey wasn’t interested. One agent, Kristin Nelson, said she didn’t think he should sign away digital rights, but that she could help him with foreign rights and film and TV deals. He signed with her in January of last year. They sold the series in 24 foreign countries. Several British publishers bid on the book, and Century won rights for a high-six-figure sum.

Ms. Nelson also sent “Wool” to U.S. publishers, and received a few low six-figure offers. Mr. Howey turned them down. Through Amazon’s self-publishing platform, he was collecting 70% of royalties, which amounted to nearly $40,000 a month. Most publishers offer a digital royalty rate that amounts to 10% to 15% of a book’s retail price.

That spring, Mr. Howey began selling the books on Barnes & Noble‘s BKS -2.57%Nook and Kobo’s e-reader and through Apple’s iTunes store. An agent at United Talent Agency began shopping film rights. Three studios bid on the book. 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott, director of the blockbuster science-fiction films “Blade Runner” and “Alien,” optioned it. Indie writer and director J Blakeson is writing the screenplay.

After news of the movie deal broke, publishers pounced again. Mr. Howey flew to New York in May to meet with five major publishers. Four of them bid. Mr. Howey, who by then was making $120,000 a month, wasn’t swayed. Some of the publishers wanted to change the book’s title, a proposal that Mr. Howey called “comical,” since it would sabotage his online branding efforts. Others insisted that he immediately take down his digital edition, which would erase all records of the thousands of five-star reviews the book had accumulated, forcing him to start from scratch.

One meeting went better than the others. Mr. Howey sat down with Mr. Karp, the head of Simon & Schuster, who had heard about “Wool” from two of his top editors and from Dave Cullen, author of “Columbine,” a 2009 book profiling the shooters behind the 1999 mass killing. “When I read more about it and saw what a culture phenomenon it had become, I realized it was something we should take seriously,” Mr. Karp says.

Mr. Karp was unusually solicitous, asking Mr. Howey what kind of deal he would accept. Mr. Howey said he wanted a co-publishing deal, where he kept digital rights and Simon & Schuster held hardcover and paperback rights. Mr. Karp was noncommittal, and said he’d be in touch.

Sales soared over the summer. Mr. Howey and his wife moved to Jupiter, Fla. and bought a slightly larger house—900 square feet. Mr. Howey continued to write and self-publish new books, including a zombie novel and prequels to “Wool” that explore how and why the silos were built.

In October, Amazon discounted “Wool” for 24 hours as part of its Kindle Daily Deal, a discount program that highlights select titles. Amazon dropped the price on the “Wool” Omnibus, which has all five stories, from $5.99 to $1.99. Mr. Howey sold 20,000 in a single day. New offers from publishers poured in, some in the low-seven-figure range.

Then Mr. Howey’s agent got an email from Mr. Karp, asking if they would consider a print-only deal. Ms. Nelson says she wrote him back, “Is this for real?” and he wrote back, “Yes.”

Simon & Schuster now has to transform a digital hit into a traditional print blockbuster. The publisher is sending Mr. Howey on an 11-city tour, and has planned a bold six-figure marketing campaign that will capitalize on the film news and online reviews. They are releasing the book simultaneously in hardcover and paperback in an attempt to capture both the library and first-edition collectors market as well as retailers like Target and Wal-Mart WMT +0.85%. Much of the online marketing will fall to Mr. Howey, who has proved himself to be adept at digital self promotion. He’s still selling 50,000 e-books a month.

“A lot of the things we normally teach authors to do, Hugh has been smart enough to do himself,” says Richard Rhorer, who oversees marketing at Simon & Schuster.

Mr. Howey just returned from book tours in Germany, Scotland, Wales and England, where “Wool” recently hit the best-seller lists. He’s starting to feel more like an established author. “Publishing is changing so quickly that we are all equal experts,” he said. “We’re all trying to figure this out.”

Mr. Howey recalls feeling anonymous at a science fiction conference last summer in Chicago. He got excited for a moment when a woman approached him—he thought she wanted his autograph—but she was looking for the bathroom.

Nearby, fantasy writer George R.R. Martin, author of the best-selling series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” was signing hundreds of books. Mr. Howey went up and introduced himself. When it became clear that Mr. Martin had never heard of him, Mr. Howey told him his novel was No. 6 on Amazon’s list of science-fiction and fantasy best sellers, behind Mr. Martin’s five books. Mr. Martin gamely signed a book for Mr. Howey, inscribing it “To # 6—Keep trying!”

A few months later, Mr. Howey landed at the top of the list, just ahead of Mr. Martin.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: article, authors and illustrators, Book Contracts, Publishing Industry, Self-publishing, success Tagged: Alexandra Alter, Hugh Howey, Wall Street Journal, WOOL

8 Comments on WOOL – Self-Publishing Success, last added: 4/7/2013
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45. What Are the Best Resources for Self-Publishers?

So. I'm embarking on a project to self-publish a Guide to Writing a Novel.

What are the best resources for self-publishers? What are your favorite blogs, message boards, and books?

Art: The bookbinder by Anonymous

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46. Weekend Links

This is an all self-pub Weekend Links.

Hugh Howey explains how the big Wool deal came about. This story will send tens--if not hundreds--of thousands of people into self-publishing.

John Winters has not had Hugh Howey's experience. Not even close. Tens--if not hundreds--of thousands of people should read this, but probably won't.

Hugh Howey kind of rebutts John Winters. I agree with a lot of what Howey has to say, except for the part about "learn your craft while producing material. You win over your fans directly."  He compares learning to write with learning to play a musical instrument and perform with same. "How many people teach themselves to play the guitar? We celebrate this, don’t we?"..."They go on to strum on the sidewalk with a hat by their feet much like someone might blog and hope for a donation. They play small venues on open-mic nights that we can think of as free books on Smashwords. They get a few paying gigs, which is like self-publishing on Amazon." He carries the comparison on until he gets to "This is how artists are born. They are self-made. They perform for people. They learn and improve as they do both."

Here's the big difference that he's not considering: Musicians may be learning performance and improving their performance as they perform but they have to have learned some kind of skill before that point or they aren't going to get many opportunities to perform in the first place, even on sidewalks. What's more, because we're talking performance, once that performance is over, it's gone. (Unless someone records it on their iPhones, of course. But try to see my point.) They are able to practice performance in public, but also somewhat privately because in most cases the public can't go over and over what they did and keep assessing it. With writers, it's different. You've committed something to paper or you've digitized it and the public has it and can keep looking at it. While everyone should continue to learn and improve throughout a career, if you are taking the attitude that it's appropriate for you to truly learn to write while you are publishing, then the public can be reminded over and over that your writing wasn't of professional quality with that first book. That you weren't really that good with the second one. Malcolm Gladwell writes in Outliers about how many hours the Beatles spent performing before they hit the big time. But they were performing in a strip club in Germany. How many people were able to hear those performances after the fact? The Beatles actually had a certain amount of privacy in which to perfect their performance skills. Personally, I think writers ought to consider looking for a similar type of privacy to learn their craft.

The Self-Published Authors Share 5 Things They Learned in 2012 series at Live Write Thrive Note that a few of these people stress the need for editing.

Some info on self-publishing in paper  from Maria Murnane

Info on making digital picture books at e is for book

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47. New Interview On Self-Publishing Backlist Titles

Tanita Davis and Sarah Stevenson have posted an interview/conversation with me at their collaborative blog, Finding Wonderland: The Writing YA Weblog.  The subject? Self-publishing Saving the Planet & Stuff. Note the great intro story about finding a self-published gem among the SFF Cybil nominees a few years ago.

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48. Yeah, It's The Wild West Out There

I'm still recovering from a day of illness and hoped to stretch out with a couple of different kinds of research, which is like resting but different. But then I became glued to my desktop reading Eisler on Digital Denial at A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. And I scanned all the comments as well, which is where I read M.J. Rose's line, "It's the wild west out there."

That makes the exhaustion I've been feeling over publishing and marketing and everything I'm doing other than writing seem at least a little more interesting and exciting. A little pep me up.

0 Comments on Yeah, It's The Wild West Out There as of 4/25/2013 3:29:00 PM
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49. Who Can Get You Into A Bookstore?

Last week I briefly mentioned a blog post I'd read called Eisler on Digital Denial. Author Barry Eisler wrote about his contention that the one major benefit traditional publishers can offer writers is distribution to "real" stores. Some folks disagreed with him. Tweeting was involved. It was all quite exciting.

While eating lunch just now, I stumbled upon Self-Publishing is for Control Freaks at the Forbes website. It appears to have been published a couple of days after Eisler's post at A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. The article is about a report on what authors look for when deciding whether to self-publish or seek out a traditional publisher. It concludes with this: "However, according to the report, distribution is far and away the most important factor and that should be comforting to publishers because, at this point, established publishers are the only reliable path into bricks-and-mortar bookstores, where a large proportion of sales are still made."

Only four comments follow the Forbes article. Eisler's article at A Newbie's Guide to Publishing got 185. Not that it's a competition, but either one readership found the concept waaaay more interesting than the other, or one site has more readership to begin with. Or something.

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50. Out There: The Wrong Goal of Self-Publishing


Six Winning Steps Toward a Compelling Opening Line, Scene and Chapter
Start Your Novel by Darcy Pattison
  • 29 Plot Templates
  • 2 Essential Writing Skills
  • 100 Examples of Opening Lines
  • 7 Weak Openings to Avoid
  • 4 Strong Openings to Use
  • 3 Assignments to Get Unstuck
  • 7 Problems to Resolve
The Math adds up to one thing: a publishable manuscript. Download a sample chapter on your Kindle.

“I just want my novel out there.”
Too many times lately, I have heard people say this about their self-publishing efforts. Out there. I just want it out there. What does that even mean?

It means a couple things:
First, it means that the writer can find closure to his/her writing process. It means there is a finished product and the creative process has ended. Now, it’s up to everyone else to do whatever they will do with that product: ignore it, read it, praise it, trash it. But the writer can move on. There’s value in this, of course, to have something finished and not on the back burner, to have it stop nagging.

Second, the writer usually means that the story, novel, picture book, or nonfiction book will find readers. Here’s where the writer is wrong. The book will not find readers by itself. Guaranteed.

In their fascinating book, DECISIVE, Chip and Dan Heath talk about one flaw in the decision making process, namely, that people overestimate their own success and ignore solid data in front of them. In fact, most self-published books sell less than 100 copies. If your book is OUT THERE without any support, you will NOT sell copies. Your friends and family–because they love you–may buy copies, but that’s usually the 100 copies that get sold. Do not make this mistake (and how many ways and how strongly can I say this?), you will not sell copies if you do not market.
I just want it out there." Death knell for a self-published book
OUT THERE–publishing a book without marketing a book is not going to work.
Many of you will ignore this fact: you will convince yourself that your story is different and will beat the odds. OK. Do what you have to do. Put it OUT THERE. But it will not sell.


A self-published book needs marketing. That means the publishing house (that’s you!) needs a platform, a network of connections that are proven places to sell a book. The author (that’s you!) needs to be working to support the publisher (Oh, that’s you, too!) to sell the book. This can be accomplished through any number of means: catalogs, speaking engagements and back of the room sales (BOTR), online venues, guest blogging, schools, special sales to corporations, gift shops, and on and on. The venues for sales of books are endless. But you must focus somewhere and work to get your book into those venues.

OUT THERE? You want your book out there? Get it out of your head by doing a small printing and giving copies to friends and family as Christmas gifts. But if you really want it OUT THERE in the world wide market place, get ready to work.

Instead, you should be saying, “I want to work hard to get my story into the hands of the right readers.” Now THAT is a worthy goal of self-publishing.

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