Success in Self-Publishing

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!

Calista Taylor took a deep breath and a big plunge a few weeks ago. She made the decision to self e-pub her steampunk romance VIRIDIS - and it paid off. I wanted to bring her onto the blog today to talk about her decision to take this leap, and how she went about making sure it was done correctly.


Do you currently have an agent?

I do have an agent for my non-fiction work, but do not currently for my fiction manuscripts.  I had been agented for my book, VIRIDIS, and we started the submission process, but unfortunately, part way through submissions, the agency I was with made the decision to deal with YA and MG novels exclusively.  This left me without an agent to complete the submission process, so I was forced to shelve my novel.

What made you decide that it was time to self e-pub?

A few years back, I would have waited to get another agent with the hopes I’d eventually be able to dust VIRIDIS off—and I did just that for a little while.  However, the ebook revolution has changed things.  With more and more people reading ebooks, I figured I had nothing to lose.  VIRIDIS could either collect dust on my laptop, or online, where it might actually make it into readers’ hands.

Did you do a lot of research into e-pubbing before making the plunge? What resources do you recommend

To be honest, I tend to take an experimental approach with most things I do, and this was no different.  For the most part, I used the method outlined in Agent Query’s guide to epublishing, and also followed the information on each website, regarding the best way to format a manuscript.  So far, there have only been a few bumps, and those were out of my control.

The cover art for VIRIDIS won an award! Did you do it yourself or hire it out? 

When it comes to visual things, I can be quite picky, and I know I’d drive a graphic artist insane if they had to actually deal with me.  Since I enjoy experimenting with that sort of thing, I figured I’d try my hand at making a book cover.  The first few tries were very basic in design and not terribly good (floating heads, Monty Python hands, warped perspectives, etc.), but eventually I picked up enough tricks to get a cover I was happy with.

What was your publication strategy for VIRIDIS? What platforms did you use? Do you recommend one over the other?

I uploaded directly to Amazon, and then used Smashwords to distribute my novel to all the other sites.  Since I really wanted my novel to be available for free (as part of my marketing plan) I found by using Smashwords, I was able to post my novel for free on sites that don’t normally allow it, which in turn sort of forced Amazon to also make it free.

What was your marketing strategy? How did you get the word out for VIRIDIS?  

I decided I would put out VIRIDIS for free, with the hopes that it would get me enough readers who may actually want to pay for the next book in the series.  The key seemed to be going free on Amazon, which isn’t something they automatically allow you to do.  Despite promoting on Facebook, Twitter and a variety of blogs, the number of sales I had on Amazon when VIRIDIS was just .99 compared to the numbers once it went free, were night and day (about a 1000 times higher during those first days—it has since come down to about a 100 times more per day).  To be honest, going free has been my most successful marketing strategy.  If even a small percentage of those that downloaded VIRIDIS end up buying the second book - DEVIL ON A SPARROW'S WING - it’ll still be a far greater number than those that would have bought my books otherwise.

Any last tips for self-publication success?

I think you need to be willing to take a chance.  The publishing world is changing rapidly, but I think as writers, the ball is in our court.  Just make sure your story is the best it can be, and that it looks, reads and feels professional.  Though it may be self published, a reader doesn’t want to be reminded of that with a multitude of formatting and editing issues.