Self-Publishing Week: Guest Post with Jenny Lee Sulpizio

This is the final segment of our self-pubbed author blitz. Today’s guest poster is Jenny Lee Sulpizio. Jenny has self-published a children’s book in the Christian market, has another self-pubbed children’s title about to be released, and is agented for her non-fiction work in progress.

Take it away, Jenny.

Jenny Lee SulpizioYou’ve written something. You think it’s good, maybe even really good but like many others in the same boat, you might be unsure as to what steps to take next. Maybe you’re an author who has pursued traditional routes of publication before, but may have discovered that agents and editors alike haven’t responded to your work like you had originally hoped. No doubt, you have heard a lot about self-publishing as well but may have no idea as to where to begin or how to start such a process…or what exactly is involved.

So, what do you do?

For me, the decision to self-publish occurred on a whim. In fact, my children’s picture book manuscript had literally sat in a drawer for six long years prior to even considering the notion that I could publish the book myself.  At that point, my work had already been rejected by agents (and publishers too), and rather than continue down “Rejection Road,” I simply stopped pursuing it all together. But I (like many authors), desperately desired to see my words in print, and obtain the opportunity to share the message of my book with others. I knew that self-publication was the path for me and in 2010 (by the recommendation of a good friend of mine), I found myself signing with a vanity publisher to produce my first children’s picture book titled, Mommy Whispers.

But I had absolutely no inkling as to what I was doing. I was naïve, clueless, and slightly misinformed.

You see, like most authors, I really believed in my work and felt that the story I had written combined with the book’s beautiful illustrations would instantly propel it (and me) to the bestseller’s list…maybe even overnight. In retrospect, this evokes laughter within because even though my heart was in the right place, my head was definitely not. Sure I had just put a lot of work into producing my book but was I prepared for the road that lay ahead? Not in the least. I had no idea what this journey would require or expect of me. And at the time, I didn’t have a firm grasp on the reality of what I had just signed myself up for. Indeed, it would be one of the toughest tasks I would knowingly possess and assume: the role of a self-published author.

So, are you ready for this? Here’s what you need to know:

If you’re thinking that “self-pubbing” is your publication path of choice, then you must become an informed and well-researched author prior to finalizing this decision.  Believe me when I say that there is a lot to learn and research, and you must be willing to spend a lot of time doing so. Do not jump into this task lightly and be fully aware of what this process will require from you (both financially and emotionally). Keep in mind that as a self-published author, you will literally be in control of the entire production of your book, and while this may sound tempting at first, there is a lot to consider before you proceed.

Think about these points before you jump in:

1.)   The Moola. Do you have the money to finance this project? Now, I’m not just referring to the actual book itself but also to the editing, illustrating (if applicable), and marketing fees you will need to invest in. You must plan accordingly and make sure you have enough money for each of these areas and more.

2.)   The Time Factor. Do you have the time to devote to this endeavor? Getting your book to print is only half the battle. You have to be prepared to spend a significant amount of time marketing (and pushing) your book so that it gets seen, reviewed, and noticed.

3.)   The Market. Do you know how to market your project? Social media sites, personal websites, and blogs are just the beginning. There is an art to marketing and you need to begin your research on how to do so effectively.

4.)   The Prep Work: Have you been to writer conferences, networked with other authors, researched the writing realm? Are you prepared and is your work ready for publication?

5.)   The Reality: Even though you might see your book on Amazon, be prepared not to see it in stores. Understand that self-publication is hugely (and mostly) an online business due to the way in which books are distributed (in conjunction with traditional publishing houses).  Know this upfront.

So, was it all worth it?

In one word: Yes. So much so, that I’ll release yet another children’s picture book by means of self-publication this November (There’s Just Something About a Boy, Ajoyin, 2011).  But this time, I am fully prepared and understand the expectations required of me.  I am no longer completely clueless and Amen for that!

On a final note, remember this: Self-publishing as a whole, is not an easy process but if you are dedicated, determined, and willing to dedicate an enormous amount of effort, it may just be the route for you.

I wish you all the best of luck in your publication pursuits.

Jenny Lee

Jenny Lee Sulpizio, M.S. is a wife, business owner, and mother of three residing in Boise, Idaho. She is an active member within her church and community, and enjoys tapping into her creative side whenever she gets the chance. Mommy Whispers, an ode to mothers and daughters everywhere was the first children’s picture book released in a series that will also include, There’s Just Something About a Boy, set to release this fall. Jenny is a member of SCBWI and is currently represented by The Seymour Agency for her Women’s Christian Non-fiction works-in-progress.

Please visit Jenny at www.jennysulpizio.com to learn more about the author, her blog, and upcoming projects.

So, this concludes our self-pubbed author blitz. We had a number of readers send us questions about self-pubbing – did you find your question answered? If not, share it below. Would you consider self-publishing for your own work?

Did you miss the other posts in our series? Find them here:

Day 1 – Debora Geary paranormal author
Day 2 – LT Kodzo – YA author – Christian market
Day 3 – KC May – sci-fi/fantasy author

Lisa

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Self-Publishing Week: Guest Post with K.C. May

Our self-pubbed author blitz continues with K.C. May, a speculative fiction author. Her first self-published book The Kinshield Legacy received 2nd place at the Kindle Book Review Indie Award in September 2011. Read how she took a title a small-press publisher struggled to sell, and made it an Amazon bestseller.

L: Tell us about your self-publishing journey

Back in 2009, I asked my publisher to make my book The Kinshield Legacy available in Kindle format, but he refused, saying it was available as a PDF, which can be read on the Kindle.

That didn’t make sense to me — if most ebook buyers bought direct from online retailers like BN.com and Amazon and Kobo, why not provide the books in the format best suited to the ebook readers? Ereaders were becoming more popular, and I knew this market would be growing.

I asked again in 2010, and his response was to cut me loose from my contract.

A New Direction

In 2010, I self-published The Kinshield Legacy. I bought a new book cover, took a crash course in ebook formatting and uploaded to Amazon and Smashwords. The first month, I made ten sales, mostly from Smashwords. I think I had 2 sales on Amazon that month.

For the first nine months or so, I did all the usual promotional things — jumped on every new review blog to get reviews, did give-aways, tweeted and Facebooked, etc.

L: When did you see your sales increasing?

A few things happened:

– I put The Kinshield Legacy on sale for 99c on April 1. Sales started picking up.
– On April 8, it was featured on Pixel of Ink. Sales went from 4-5 per day to 15-25 per day.
– Game of Thrones aired on HBO on April 17. (My book isn’t that similar, but it’s in the same genre.) Sales went from 15-25 per day to 25-40 per day.
– On May 7, it was featured on Ereader News Today. Sales went from 25-40 per day to 50-70 per day.

The Kinshield Legacy sold over 2000 copies in May, over 4600 in June, almost 6000 in July, 7700 for August… The sequel, The Wayfarer King, came out August 3, and it sold 6300 copies its first month! On August 24, I reached my 25,000-sales milestone (across all books, all venues). On September 9, I hit 40,000, and by the end of September, I’d sold over 50,000 books.

The Snowball Effect of Word of Mouth

Once Amazon starts to recommend your books, an enjoyable story professionally presented can enjoy months and months of excellent sales while the writer develops a loyal readership. And that’s really what we’re after, right?

When I first got the rights back for The Kinshield Legacy, I initially thought I would shop it around to another publisher, but I’d heard that Amazon offered a way for authors to upload their books to sell on Amazon.

“They” say that most self-published books sell about 100 copies in their lifetime. I sold more in the first three months than the original publisher had sold in the five years he had the rights. Ironically, his other titles are now in Kindle format. I like to think I was a lesson to him. 🙂

L: What happened then?

cover of Venom of VipersWhen I finished my second book in November 2010, The Venom of Vipers, I did query my agent, just in case he wanted to try selling it to a traditional publisher. When two weeks went by without a response, I proceeded with my plan to self-publish it. By then, I knew that self-publishing was for me.

The day-by-day feedback on book sales is so much better than the quarterly reports my publisher *cough* sent (or didn’t send, as the case may be). I knew which days of the week were the biggest sales days and could focus my marketing to take advantage. One thing I learned since self-publishing my first book: spreadsheets are my friends.

L: What advice would you give new writers thinking self-publishing may be the way to go?

Decide what your goals are and hang out on forums where self-published writers go, such as the Writers’ Cafe at the Kindleboards. I learned a lot by reading the trials and tribulations of others with the same goals. There’s a lot of work involved, and it’s not for everyone. Reclusive writers may not want to self-publish when they find out how much interaction they need to engage in to get word out about their book. Writers who aren’t very computer savvy might be intimidated by the effort in formatting, uploading and managing their books online.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and don’t mind the expense and hassle of self-publishing, it can be extremely rewarding!

Thanks K.C.! You can follow K.C. May on her blog, subscribe to her newsletter off her webite, or follow her on Twitter.  To read more about K.C. May and her upcoming work, check out this fabulous post she wrote for Nathan Lowell presents.

Your turn. Do you look at the publisher before you purchase a book? Does it matter to you if it’s self-published? What sells a book to you?

Lisa

Did you miss the other posts in our series? Find them here:

Day 1 – Debora Geary paranormal author
Day 2 – LT Kodzo – YA author – Christian market
Day 3 – KC May – sci-fi/fantasy author
Day 4 – Jenny Lee Sulpizio – children’s author – Christian market

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Self-Publishing Week: Guest Post with LT Kodzo

To continue our self-publishing blog blitz, guest poster #2 is LT Kodzo. I connected with Loralee in April of 2011 at a conference, and was there when she decided to self-publish her YA novel. Her story is unique because she was one of those self-pub naysayers. She impressed me with her business-like approach to publishing. Her book’s been out for about a month – does she regret self-publishing?

Never Say Never: A Writer’s Journey to Self-Publication

One of the most difficult things to do in life is confess a prejudice. In this past year I had to do just that.

My firmly established bigotry started in 1985, when I began my process toward publication. With a flat out proclamation of, “I will never self-publish,” I set my sights, strapped on my blinders, and focused wholly on the road to royalty publishing. All “Vanity Press” requests, or anything that didn’t offer to buy my book, went ignored.

Afterall, self-published books, in my opinion, were:

  • Unedited
  • Low quality
  • Unmarketable
  • Rejected by bookstores
  • Drivel

The only exceptions I made to these ideas were non-fiction books sold by the likes of Suzie Orman or Dr. Phil. Anyone with huge public exposure could market their books, but not me.

So, I finished drafts for two novels, attended critique groups, and completed my BA in English. In 2008, I attended my first set of workshops at Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. I pitched to agents and publishers only to find out what I was writing wasn’t marketable in the CBA [Christian Booksellers Association]. My reality-based topics weren’t what they were looking for in YA. “Change your characters to adult.” Or “Do you write fantasy or romance?” And “Buyers want softer topics.”

But I left the conference motivated. After trying their suggestions, I discovered that my passion was to write contemporary (real issues) for young people. I attended both Mount Hermon and ACFW [American Christian Fiction Writers] conferences for two more years while completing drafts for two additional novels.

The Ultimate Question – What to do when editors say they don’t see a market for your work (but have no issues with the writing itself)

After my 5th conference in 3 years [receiving the same response from editors and agents], I shifted my focus. As a professional business woman I asked myself one very important question: “If I owned a publishing company, how would I sell a book to teens?” And as a person accomplished in talking to myself, I responded, “Easy. Teens read what they are told to read. Get the book into schools.” Now that answer won’t work for all YA books, like romance or fantasy, but it was a perfect fit for my book about bullying and suicide.

In 2011, I attended Mount Hermon again. This time, I didn’t meet with publishers to pitch my books. Instead, I met with them to pitch my marketing plan. And guess what? It worked. Not only did two royalty publishers request proposals, I heard the following:

  • Good self-publishers require edits
  • Reliable self-publishers can produce great products
  • Authors must self-market, and some self-publishers will help promote
  • Print-on-demand, Amazon, etc. have practically replaced bookstores

A Change Of Mind…

Now if you’ve been keeping track, this covered all the bullets I listed earlier except one. The one I thought I’d left back in 1985. It didn’t reappear until I sat with WinePress Publishing and agreed to self-publish my first book. I left the meeting thrilled. The dream I’d had since I was a little girl in pigtails winning the “who read the most books” library contest each summer was about to come true.

The excitement lasted a total of fifteen seconds. Enough time for me to think, “Who should I call with my good news?”

The answer: I didn’t call anyone.

What was there to celebrate? I wasn’t chosen. In fact, I had to pay to play. I was about to be drivel.

During the rest of the conference I asked every professional I’d met over the previous 4 years what they thought of my decision: published authors and professional editors who have critiqued my work, even the two publishers who asked for proposals on other books. They all gave me the same response.

DO IT.

That’s right. It wasn’t a matter of quality, it was a business decision. The publishers actually liked that I was willing to invest in my product, and self-market it. It made sense, my future work could benefit from sales (if the book did well). Authors, editors and publishers didn’t consider what I was doing as drivel.

So, why was I still unsatisfied?

For 25 years, I believed other authors would look down on me, the industry wouldn’t take me seriously, and the public would never read my book. Those narrow-minded judgments belonged to me. I was a bigot. And I’m sorry for that. Quality novels like The Shack and legitimate authors like John Grisham started in self-publishing.

My Success?

book cover Locker 572In the end, I was so wrong. Not just about my false opinions related to drivel, but about the ability for my book to succeed. Within the first month of release, my YA novel, Locker 572, sold over 1,500 books. (See the book trailer for Locker 572 here.) The results came from self-marketing. In addition, I learned an important lesson. By letting go of my discrimination, I discovered personal validation dipped in a thick coating of humility.

Loralee

Locker 572 is connected with iMatter with 10% of all proceeds going to the charity.

As an additional note to Loralee’s post, I asked her two follow-up questions. Here are her responses:

L: How many schools have you gotten your book into?

A county mental health department purchased books for a public high school in New York, and may buy more books for a second school if the assemblies have good results. There was also a large purchase for a high school in Maryland, an entire district in a large metropolitan area, so I’m not sure how many schools my books will be in there.

L: Do you also do speaking engagements to promote your book in schools?

I do assemblies and speak in schools. What opened the door to the schools above was my willingness to travel there and speak to the kids about bullying. I’m happy to travel, even up into Ontario.

Loralee has promised to hang out here for the day. Any questions for her? What’s holding you back from self-publishing?

Did you miss the other posts in our series? Find them here:

Day 1 – Debora Geary paranormal author
Day 2 – LT Kodzo – YA author – Christian market
Day 3 – KC May – sci-fi/fantasy author
Day 4 – Jenny Lee Sulpizio – children’s author – Christian market

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Self-Publishing Week: Guest Post with Debora Geary

Marcy and Lisa are hosting a self-publishing week with 4 fabulous guest posters each with their own unique journey of success in self-publishing to share. Come back every day this week for a new story of how a writer found success through self-pubbing.

Debora Geary writes paranormal fiction and has her books available online well… everywhere. I as told that if I only interviewed one self-pubbed author, Deborah had to be the one. Enjoy!

debora gearyWhat’s involved in being a successful self-published author? What advice would you give new writers thinking self-publishing may be the way to go?

Those are the questions Lisa put to me when she asked me to do this guest blog post.  To those, I’ll add one more:  why the heck should you listen to me?

Let me start with that last one.  I’m a very new author – this time last year, I had yet to write a page of fiction. Ever. I was a reader – and much of my perspective on being an author comes from that lifelong reader hat.

I’ve had some success. My first novel, A Modern Witch, published mid-March of this year, has sold over 15,000 copies so far. Selling at $3.99, it’s provided enough income to quit the day job. I have two more novels out now, with more on the way.  I may have come to writing late, but I fully expect this to be the work of the rest of my life.

So of my short and non-typical journey, what advice do I have to give?

1)     Figure out your strengths. 

As a writer, as a marketer, as a businessperson. Use them. They might be very different than the person currently giving you advice.

My day job was data analysis. I’m an analytics geek. I’ve spent a lot of time watching what happens on Amazon in particular, and learned as much as I can about the algorithms driving sales on their site. It’s been a huge benefit – more on that below.

You might not be a data geek. What are your strengths?

2)     Find your readers.

I had no audience when I started. I read a lot of ideas about marketing and advertising, and a lot of conventional wisdom that says you have to get your book cover in front of readers a lot. Be out there.  Learn to love social media.

My data analyst background (and my inner terror of social media) said “hooey”. I could spend $100 on an ad to get 1,000 eyeballs on my cover. Or, I could gift 80 copies of my $3.99 book through Amazon, to people who expressed an interest in reading my book. (You only end up out of pocket for 30% of that – 70% of that comes back in royalties). 1,000 sets of eyeballs, or 80 readers? I vote for readers, every time. And the goal is to turn as many of those 80 readers as possible into fans. See #3.

3)    Keep your readers.

I reach the end of countless books (indie and trad-published) where there’s nothing. No way to contact the author. No email address, no website. No links to other books.

If your book has done its job, lots of readers will want to find you. They want to know what else you wrote. And that’s the start of converting a reader to a fan – one of those amazing people who wait for the next book you’re writing, tell people all about it, vault you into visibility on Amazon the instant you hit publish.

You want them to be able to find you – and you want to be able to reach out to them. Remember #1 – figure out your strengths.  I’m no blogger, and I dropped out of Twitter. But I have a new releases email list, and a Facebook hangout where I chat about really important stuff like how many times you can throw a brownie before it crumbles. (Book research.  Really).

So figure out where you want to hang out with your readers. Build those relationships. Why? A) You’ll never have to “market” again. B) It’s awesome fun. Readers rock. Knowing your readers rocks even more.

4)   Love the Amazon algorithms.

Okay, I know I’m a geek. Not everyone will be as fond of watching what goes on at Amazon as I am. But here’s what I’ve learned. You need to launch quickly – Amazon gives you 30 days on something called the “hot new releases” list in your genre. It’s a lot easier to get onto than the bestseller list, and in most genres, it gives you nice visibility – avid readers like the hot new releases list. They troll it for new books.

How do you launch quickly? It’s hard with book one. But if you find your readers and keep them, it will happen with book two, or three, or four.

And once you get visible at Amazon, magic happens. Books start to sell to readers you didn’t find. Amazon puts your cover in front of readers who like books like yours. Be smart, collect as many of those readers as you can as they finish reading (see #3), and soon you will have a real audience – one you didn’t have to work grinding hours to find.

Second thing I’ve learned – you need to launch often. Amazon has made changes in the last six months to make books less sticky. They appear to want turnover in the bestselling books, maybe to increase variety offered up to readers. Whatever the reason, new books get a lot of advantages. And readers like lots of new books 🙂

5)     Start with a “core” offering. 

Quick – in five words or less, what kind of books do you write?

Me? Happy books about witches.

Why does that matter? Because as you build your audience, you want as many of them as possible to traverse from the first book you publish, to the second. And the third. And the fifteenth.

I see some authors with three books in three totally different genres. It’s easy to do – I have so many ideas for books. Ask me whether my little chick-lit, non-witch novella is my bestseller… I wrote it right after A Modern Witch. I didn’t know yet that I was the author that writes “happy books about witches.”

Is that all I’ll ever write? Heck, no. But I intend to focus on my witches for at least a couple of years. I want to collect an awesome group of loyal readers, some of whom will try out my sci fi trilogy, or my artsy chick lit book, or… You know. The stuff without witches. The stuff I can write once I’ve got myself firmly established as a writer.

You can build an audience lots of ways, but I think the most efficient way is to write a “core” of books first. A trilogy or series – something for readers to fall in love with. Something where you can discover the awesome power of releasing book two or three, and seeing your book fly off the virtual shelf simply because you put it up there.

6)   Brand the hell out of your core offering. 

A modern witchCheck out my A Modern Witch series covers (www.deborageary.com). Individually, they’re not the kind of covers you want to touch and hold and sleep with under your pillow.  (Alas.)  But they’ve got awesome drive-by recognition.  The cover for A Hidden Witch, book two in the series, does a great job of catching people’s attention as they browse Amazon.

A hidden witchBecause here’s the deal. 0.5% (totally making these numbers up, but you get my drift) of your readers will become true fans. 5% will volunteer to be on an email list or give you some other way to reach out to them. That leaves 94.5% of the people who read your first book out there, with no idea you wrote book two.

Some of those people are lost forever. Some didn’t like book one. But the rest? You want them to notice you. How? Use the reader base you can reach (mine’s my email list) to get visible in the Amazon algorithms. Then offer a book highly related to your first, with a well-branded cover (the visual equivalent of “yo – I wrote another one!”).

7)  Filter advice carefully.

There’s lots of advice on self publishing. Some of it’s awful. (Okay, a lot of it’s awful). Some of it’s good – for last year. Some of it’s good – for a different kind of book. Some of it’s good – for a different kind of author.

Be smart. If something I’ve said above makes sense, think about it, and try to make it your own. If it doesn’t – go find someone else to listen to. Nobody else can lay it out for you. They can only offer hints.

Or an obnoxiously long list of opinions 🙂

Thanks Debora, great advice. You can find A Modern Witch (A Modern Witch Series: Book 1) on Amazon, or a variety of other outlets through Debora’s website. Are you thinking of self-publishing? What’s stopping you? Have a question for Debora – post it below. We’re hoping she’ll drop by at least once and respond.

Keep writing!

Lisa

Did you miss the other posts in our series? Find them here:

Day 1 – Debora Geary paranormal author
Day 2 – LT Kodzo – YA author – Christian market
Day 3 – KC May – sci-fi/fantasy author
Day 4 – Jenny Lee Sulpizio – children’s author – Christian market

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Historical Fiction – Interview with Jody Hedlund

Marcy and Lisa of Girls With Pens are thrilled to welcome Jody Hedlund for an interview today.

Interview with Jody HedlundJody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling book The Preacher’s Bride. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children.

At the end of this interview, we’ll give you a chance to win a copy of Jody’s newest book, The Doctor’s Lady.

GWP: As a historical fiction writer, what tricks have you found to help keep anachronisms, modern day ideas, and modern day dialogue from sneaking into your work?

Jody: I’m definitely not perfect at keeping modern day thoughts and verbiage out of my historicals. Actually, I don’t think historical writers can stay completely true to the past. There are too many things about bygone eras that modern readers wouldn’t be able to relate to or understand. So, while historical writers must do the best they can to represent past time periods, we can’t strive for perfection.

However, with that said, here are several “tricks” I use to help me stay as true to history as possible:

  • I immerse myself in time period books—fiction written from the era, diaries, first-hand accounts, autobiographies, etc. Through reading the actual words of people who lived during my story’s setting, I’m able to pick up language, beliefs, nuances, etc.
  • I try to learn as much as possible about the setting, culture, customs, and history before starting my book. I need to feel that I’ve traveled back in time and have a good grasp of what it was like to live “back then.”
  • When in doubt, I look up words and usage on Phrases.org.
  • I have a critique partner who writes historical fiction. She often catches things I miss.
  • My in-house editors check and double-check word-usage. Since they edit for many different historical writers, they’ve become experts at historical trivia.

GWP: How do you manage to keep your dialogue true to the time period without allowing it to sound stilted?

Jody: I don’t try to imitate the time period speech exactly. I usually pick out distinct words and assign them to particular characters to use throughout the book. For example, in The Preacher’s Bride, I gave John Costin the word “Methinks.” And I gave Elizabeth the words “’Tis and ’Twas.” I sprinkled their specific tag words into their speech.

Of course, the characters use other time period words too. But I try to keep them minimal so that I don’t take readers out of the story as they try to read the dialog.

GWP: When you reached the point that you were ready to begin querying agents, how did you decide which agents to contact?

Since I write inspirational historical fiction, I used Michael Hyatt’s list of Literary Agents who represent Christian authors. I researched the agents further by visiting their websites/blogs, looking at their guidelines, authors they already represent, and books they’ve sold. I also checked ACFW’s website for the list of agents that attend their annual conference. The list specifies what kinds of projects agents are actively seeking.

GWP: What’s the biggest myth about being a published novelist that you think it’s important for new writers to realize is a myth?

Jody: Many writers look at publication as the destination, the end goal. They believe that when they get a book contract they will have finally arrived. After all the hours, months, even years slaving over a book, writers often expect that after publication, the road will be smooth and easy.

What I’ve realized is that publication of our debut book is only another stop in the journey. When we reach the summit of publishing our first book, the range of taller and steeper mountains looms ahead. If we hope to build a readership and have a successful writing career, then we will need to keep persevering, working hard, and climbing mountains. Being a career author in today’s crowded market is rewarding but not easy.

GWP: What would you say is the secret to your social media success?

Jody: There are a lot of factors that have helped me to grow my web presence. If I had to pick the top ingredient—the one thing that has helped me the most—I’d have to say hard work. There’s no easy way to gain a following. It takes dogged determination day after day.

Yes, hard work is key. But other ingredients are important too. Here’s my top ten list of how to grow your web presence:

1. Provide quality content. Make each post relevant and interesting.

2. Meet reader needs. Put readers’ needs above our own.

3. Be real and open. Share personally. Be vulnerable.

4. Value followers. Interact. Answer questions. Be available.

5. Reach out. Don’t be shy. Make new friends. Follow & support others generously.

6. Be consistent. Post regularly. Be reliable.

7. Interweave all social media sites. Link to posts on Twitter and Facebook. But support others generously (and yes I mention this particular point again because it’s SO important!).

8. Give it time. Don’t expect overnight success. It takes months, even years to grow followings.

9. Persevere. Keep at it regularly. Work even through dry spells.

10. Work hard. Realize it’s not easy. It won’t ever be. It’ll always be hard work.

You can connect with Jody on Facebook at Author Jody Hedlund, on Twitter as @JodyHedlund, or on her website.

The Doctor's LadyYour turn: What do you like/dislike about historical fiction?

For a chance to win The Doctor’s Lady, simply leave a comment below and also post of link to this interview on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ (be sure to tag either Marcy on Twitter or Lisa on Facebook so that we see it–all our social media information is listed on our About Us page).

You can also enter Jody’s Be A Trailblazer Contest. Click below to find out more . . .
Enter the Be A Trailblazer Contest!

Mary DeMuth Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to all our winners of this month’s Mary DeMuth books!

The 11 Secrets to Getting Published – Linda Billson

Watching the Tree LimbsChrista Allen

Wishing on Dandelions Joanna Clark Dawyd

We’ll be attempting to contact all winners today. If we’re unable to reach you within 2 weeks, we’ll have to choose a replacement winner.

Winner of The 11 Secrets of Getting Published

Congratulations to Linda Billson, winner of our draw for Mary DeMuth’s The 11 Secrets of Getting Published.

If you didn’t win this time, another giveaway started today for Mary’s Watching the Tree Limbs, and next Thursday will mark the start of our final giveaway for Mary’s Wishing on Dandelions. Both are signed by Mary 🙂 Read Thursdays’ posts to find out how to enter. The giveaways will run for one week each.

“I’d Be Published, But” Guest Post by Mary DeMuth

Girls With Pens is thrilled to welcome a special guest blogger today–Mary DeMuth. Mary is the author of 12 books, and was a Christy Award finalist in 2010. She’s recently been interviewed by Randy Ingermanson on his blog (and reprinted by Steve Laube). She writes “so that people don’t feel alone anymore.”

Take it away Mary . . .

Mary Demuth Watching the DandelionsWatching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions are my first two novels. I spent years and years writing before that break came. I practiced Malcolm Gladwell’s advice to write 10,000 hours. I attended conferences. I submitted to several critique groups. I entered contests. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Recently I downloaded my writing journey and advice into an ebook entitled The 11 Secrets of Getting Published. In that book, I have a section entitled “I’d be published, but…” Below is one of my favorite entries.

I’d be published, but the writing journey is discouraging and hard.

David writes:

I don’t really want to take years to build a platform to be able to sell for non-fiction that I really don’t want to write to convince some editor or agent to give my fiction a chance. Don’t mind me; it’s Cynical Monday. Happens almost every Monday, after a weekend of probably spinning my wheels, trying to be a published writer.

I love your humor, David. May I say that laughter and the ability to infuse levity into this crazy journey is one of the most important traits a writer can have?

Even with a lighthearted view, it is true that the writing journey is full of plain old hard work. Building a platform takes a long time. Doing so will certainly help you when your nonfiction book is being bantered about in publishing committee. Want to know a tiny secret though? I didn’t have a huge platform when I published my nonfiction. My first book was written in conjunction with Hearts at Home, a ministry that had its own huge platform.

My second book zeroed in on a felt need: those parents who didn’t want to duplicate the homes they were raised in. And, at that time, there were no books addressing that kind of parental stress. The third parenting book did this as well, helping parents navigate a postmodern world.

So it is possible to write nonfiction books without a huge platform. The books need to be:

  • Unforgettable. They have to stun an editor.
  • Unique. They cannot be a re-hashed version of what’s already sold.
  • Hole-filling. In other words, your book must fill a hole in the market that’s not yet been filled.
  • Full of great voice. Your voice, which, hopefully, is unique, should woo the reader.

In terms of fiction, don’t write a book to impress anyone other than yourself. Write the book of your heart. Write it with passion and vigor and joy.

Well, David, it’s Tuesday now, so I’m assuming you’re past Cynical Monday. Set a word count goal this week and meet it. Keep plodding. Keep submitting. Writing’s not glamorous most of the time. Like ditch digging, it’s just a lot of hard work.
………………………………….
11 Secrets of Getting PublishedIf you’d like to learn everything I know about traditional publishing and you only have a few bucks to spare, consider purchasing my $2.99 ebook, The 11 Secrets of Getting Published.

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0052ENSVC/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=wwwrelevantpr-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399349&creativeASIN=B0052ENSVC
Nook: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-11-Secrets-of-Getting-Published/Mary-DeMuth/e/2940012611758?itm=1&USRI=the%2B11%2Bsecrets%2Bof%2Bgetting%2Bpublished
PDF: http://www.marydemuth.com/store/the-11-secrets-of-getting-published-2-99-ebook/

Meet me around the web:

http://www.marydemuth.com
http://www.facebook.com/authormarydemuth
http://www.twitter.com/marydemuth

For a chance to win The 11 Secrets of Getting Published, share your excuse. Fill in the blank: I’d be published but ______________. Entries will be accepted in the comments until 5 pm EST on Wednesday, July 13.

And stay tuned. This month’s book giveaway is extra special because we’ll also be giving you a chance to win a copy of Mary’s novels Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions.

June Book Giveaway #3 – Interview with Lauraine Snelling

Last month we gave away a signed copy of Brandilyn Collins’ new novel Over the Edge. (If you didn’t win, you can buy Over the Edge here.) This month we’re giving away a signed copy of Lauraine Snelling’s A Heart for Home.

And to go along with it, here’s part 3 of our interview with Lauraine. (If you missed part 1 and part 2 of our interview with Lauraine Snelling, it’s not too late to check them out.)

GWP: You have more than two million books in print. For writers who are just beginning their career, whose first book has just come out in print, what advice could you give them for a successful career?

Lauraine: Be willing to do the promotion things that will get your name out there. It takes time to build a career. Time, effort, and a heart for learning. One book does not a career make, but in today’s economy, if that one doesn’t sell well, you might not get to do another. 

Get an agent. I’ve often said it is easier to get an editor than an agent, but I don’t think that is the case any longer.

Be willing to invest, not spend, your time and money–scary topic–to get the training you need. I am a strong believer in writers’ conferences as a chance to get to meet editors and agents. You can’t just send a book to an editor any more, not like we used to. Get to know the industry. The rules are changing swiftly, and it will be interesting to see how things settle out.

GWP: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us and our readers?

Lauraine: One of the things that readers can do to help their favorite authors is to post reviews on Amazon and CBD and other places. Many new readers buy books based on the reviews.

Writers can help each other the same way. I love to talk about the books I’ve read. I so often choose to read a book because someone recommended it to me. Share the good news. Give books for gifts. Read, read, read. I know the old I don’t have time to read drill but books come in so many formats today that you can find a way, if you want to bad enough. Oh, oh, here I am, preaching to the choir.

Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts. My latest book out is On Hummingbird Wings, a story of a mother and her two daughters, and yes, a pair of hummingbirds have a part in the story too.

The latest Blessing book is A Heart for Home, but in October a new series will start. Wild West Wind is the series title, book one is Valley of Dreams, the story of wild west show star, Cassie Lockwood, and her band of misfits on their trek to find her father’s valley in South Dakota Black Hills region. Cassie will be available to entertain you in October. See you on my website or Facebook page.

June Book Giveaway #2 – Interview with Lauraine Snelling

Lauraine Snelling InterviewLast month we gave away a signed copy of Brandilyn Collins’ new novel Over the Edge. (If you didn’t win, you can buy Over the Edge here.) This month we’re giving away a signed copy of Lauraine Snelling’s A Heart for Home.

And to go along with it, here’s part 2 of our interview with Lauraine. (Did you miss Part 1 of our interview with Lauraine Snelling?)

GWP: If you could only give unpublished fiction writers one piece of advice, what would you tell them?

Lauraine: I know this is hackneyed, but keep writing. Too many people give up, aren’t willing to put in the hours it takes to learn the craft, learn about story, and then practice. This is not an easy life. As someone has said, “if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.”

I think with the new possibilities of easier publishing with ebooks, etc. that many will be tempted to take the short cut. The quality of writing will show.

Really only one?

(GWP: Since she’s such a well-respected author, we decided to bend the rules and let her add a second one 😉 )

Lauraine: The other is to keep reading and studying how other authors write. Choose the ones you like best and deconstruct, this is my new word for teaching, deconstruct a novel, meaning take it apart and see what makes it work. I use colored marker pens to help with this. Okay, I’ll stop now.