Category Archives: Writing Process Tips

Grassroots Book Publicity Efforts Pay Off

Brigitte finally got invited to apply to have her memoir carried at Country Bookshelf, an award-winning independent books store in Bozeman, Mon090117-BookatCB-101_0818tana. The owner often takes up to 6 weeks to make a decision about carrying a self-published book.  In a town full of self-employed entrepreneurs, you can imagine she gets hundreds of requests every year.  Ariana got back to us in just two weeks.

When I spoke with one of the clerks there, the reason for the quick decision became apparent.  “There have been a LOT of people asking for Don’t Say Anything to Anybody,” she said.  “It’s time-consuming and not very profitable for us to special order it all the time.  I’m really glad we’ll be carrying this book now!”

This small but significant success is all because our local Bozeman fans kept stopping in and asking about DSATA.  It worked!  Yea for Author Advocates like you!  Thank you, thank you for all your effort and enthusiasm.

Let’s replicate this success in small town and indie book stores everywhere.  What’s your favorite bookstore?  Consider dropping off one of these mini flyers to encourage the store owner to carry DSATA.  Let them know they can always contact me for direct (cheaper) orders too: anika@montanacoauthor.com

Thanks again everyone!  Our next goal is to get on Country Bookshelf’s book signing schedule for our formal regional book launch this fall.  Stay tuned.

8 Ways to Support Your Favorite Independent Author

DSATA-CoverIcon-smallFRONT1. Write an Amazon review. If you loved the book, write a review. Your review doesn’t need to be lengthy. In fact, shorter (1-3 paragraph) reviews are more likely to be read. The more reviews the author has, the better—not only to encourage sales of the current book but also to establish the author in the minds of publishers who might take on future titles.

Be honest in your review. Countless 5-star reviews can actually work against a new author. It looks like what it is: a list of close friend reviews. Honest 3 and 4-star reviews that clearly describe the book’s strengths and weaknesses go far to build the credibility of the review list.

2. Buy a gift copy for a friend. You loved the book. You know people in your circle of friends who like similar stories. It’s so easy to connect the dots. This simple step gets the book into the hands of people outside the author’s immediate circle. This is vital for continuing sales and fresh reviews. Remember, loaning your own copy out does not help the author and certainly doesn’t pay his or her bills. Only actual sales will help a new author gain attention from the publishing industry.  Vote with your dollar!

CB-front_sign_2-sm3. Buy that gift copy from your local independent bookstore. Unknown and self-published authors have a hard time getting into their local bookstore—yes, even the one that boasts that it sells locally written works. Bookstores simply can’t carry the hundreds (often 1000s) of books that are published locally every year. Indie booksellers usually agree to consign a few copies at a time. Through this process, they determine whether the author has an established following and whether the books “sell through”. Only then, the shop might decide to formally purchase and stock copies on a regular basis.

4. Recommend the book to friends who live in another state. This grows the author’s reach. Within the first 2 to 4 months of a book release, most authors reach the end of their friends-and-family connections. Sales drop to nil unless happy readers recommend the book to others. When recommending the book, chat about it in person, over the phone, or via social media first. Then follow-up with an email containing a link to the Amazon order page. The initial person-to-person recommendation is vital—emailing alone often gets ignored. But following up with the emailed link is equally important. It makes it easy for your friend to find the book, read its reviews, and order it quickly.

5. Ask your local bookstore to host an author event. Small bookstores are cautious about hosting events for relatively unknown authors. Such events are worthwhile for the store only if a large number of people attend and linger afterward to purchase books. So, when a new author talks to a store owner about hosting an event, the newbie is usually given the cold shoulder. It’s nearly impossible for a new author to successfully promote themselves in this fashion. But if enough local fans stop in and request a reading for a specific author, the storeowner will listen. They simply want to know the author has a readership that will truly show up for the event.

6. Add the book to your Book Club’s list. Everyone will buy a copy and give it a thoughtful read. Book Club discussions often lead to more amazon reviews, more word-of-mouth recommendations, and helpful feedback that can be passed along to the author. Yes, your author friend wants to know about any intelligent critique too! That’s how authors grow their craft.

7. Like the author’s Facebook page (and BLOG, twitter account, etc). Follow the author’s social media posts, and make comments. Refer your friends to it. The more followers and traffic the author acquires the better. The author is able to use these stats to help demonstrate his or her “author platform” when speaking with publishers in the future.

8. Write the author a thank you note. Let the author know how the book affected you. Emails and Facebook messages are great, but if you’re friends with the author and have his or her mailing address, hand-written notes are even more meaningful!

Try it!
For all my friends who are awaiting their copies of Don’t Say Anything to Anybody by Brigitte Yearman (a hard-hitting World War II story by the daughter of a German soldier), here are links and resources to help you support this incredibly brave memoir writer:

Don’t Say Anything to Anybody on Amazon – Buy it and review it here:
https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Say-Anything-Anybody-Girlhood/dp/0692891218

Coauthor’s Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/anika.hanisch.7

Brigitte’s Local Bookstore:
Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Montana
28 West Main Street
Store Owner: Ariana Paliobagis
http://www.countrybookshelf.com
staff@countrybookshelf.com

The Show Goes On – Books don’t wait for your personal life to simmer down

DSATA-CoverIcon-smallFRONTDon’t Say Anything to Anybody, a true story about growing up in Nazi Germany, is almost here. The book is heading to press within the next two weeks. That’s what matters right? It is, and yet there are some major challenges we’ve been dealing with that have cast long shadows across this season.

Both my coauthor, Brigitte Yearman, and I have been slogging through a gauntlet of life-or-death health issues for some of our closest loved ones. In short, we’ve birthed this book while staring down mortality. Those loved ones are still with us, and we live in gratitude for every moment with them. But the past six months have been excruciating.

In the midst, here is the book—and all the tenacity, willfulness, and stubborn hope that it represents. The synchronicity is disturbing. Here’s a quick snapshot of how these dual realities played out in the day-to-day….

In the final pre-press editing rounds, you wind up re-reading the entire book. One day this spring, I was hanging out in a cancer clinic during a friend’s six-hour chemo drip—a harsh treatment to fight an extremely rare and aggressive metastasized cancer. Talk about a long day. My friend fell asleep, and I took out Brigitte’s manuscript to review the latest batch of edits. I read this passage from the post-war reconstruction years:

 

Winter was not forever. Grass grew in rough patches, bursts of tenacious green among Elmschenhagen’s stone grays and sooty reds. After school one day, I saw Frau Müller digging in the dirt in front of our building.

“What are you doing?”

“I think we need a garden, Brigittchen,” she said. “Would you like to help?”

SeedStarts-IconWould I ever. Frau Müller had saved flower seeds from before the war. She had not planted anything the year before. Who could think of gardens the spring after that worst of winters? But in the spring of 1947, she decided it was time. She showed me the seeds in folded paper packets. She’d scrawled the names of the plants on each one. “I am not sure they will sprout,” she said. “But we must plant them to find out.”

 

I often say to my friends, “Planting a garden is an act of faith.” That’s where we’re at with the book now. After six years of interviewing, fact-checking, writing, revising, editing, revising again, partnering with an agent, partnering with an international base of Kickstarter supporters…it’s ready. Ready to broadcast to all of you and then see what grows out of these seeds.

You get to be our fellow farmers now, cultivating and sharing this story with your friends. Thank you in advance for that effort and enthusiasm! Thank you not only for the financial support, but also for the calls, notes, prayers, and general good vibes during what has become an intensely trying time. We are forever grateful!

Oh, and since some of you have asked… If you’re not keen on email, cards to Brigitte may be sent to:

Spiritus Creative, LLC
Memoir Projects: Brigitte Yearman
PO Box 1048
Bozeman, MT 59771

Narrative with a Cause: Stories as Persuasive Art

Writing Workshop for Beginning and Intermediate Writers

Belgrade, MT – In a cultural climate of division and galvanization, local writer and coauthor Anika Hanisch is providing tips on the most subtly persuasive literary form that humans have used effectively for millennia: personal narrative. Hanisch will provide three intimate Sunday afternoon groups in March and April, with plans to host more in the future. During these sessions, she’ll define commonly used persuasive techniques that often backfire and why. She’ll draw from mainstream examples of what not to do, then dive into the bridge-building power of story.

These workshop sessions are open to beginning and intermediate writers. Hanisch also welcomes participants who consider themselves “non-writers” but find themselves in situations where their writing quality is now crucial. Groups will be lightly curated to create a safe space for lively, but respectful dialogue. Attendees are welcome to come for one or all three sessions; material covered will deepen as the series progresses.

Workshop sessions are $36.00 each and will meet from 1:00 – 3:30pm on Sundays, March 19, March 26, and April 2. Belgrade location will be provided upon registration. Details and registration posted at www.MontanaCoauthor.com, or call 406.581.9405 with questions.

Coauthor’s Kickstarter Campaign an Incredible Success

Brigitte-ChildhoodPhotos-02crop3Wow.  My coauthor (Brigitte Yearman, Don’t Say Anything to Anybody, 2017) and I are still reeling from how well her campaign turned out! It ended this Tuesday morning at 153% funded ($5673 of a $3700 goal).

This true-story portrayal of Nazi Germany from a little girl’s perspective will finally hit shelves this May.  Because of the support that came in over-goal, we are able to pay our Kickstarter fees, fulfill all rewards, and pay for postage on all the review copies that will be sent out, all without tapping more than a few hundred dollars in our own personal funds.

Through this campaign, our backers made it possible for us to go from a very small local-only book launch to a much more national/global reach:

  • “Don’t Say Anything” paperbacks heading to backers in: Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and all over the United States.
  • Review copies going to a list of 100 possible purchasing venues: German American Societies, select academic programs, and several therapeutic organizations.
  • Paperbacks and e-book versions to be shared with over 30 backers whom we’ve never met. How cool is that?
  • 80 backers plus another 2 dozen or so who “aren’t into the internet” and prefer to give privately–over 100 supporters all told!

Because of Brigitte’s Kickstarter campaign, the book will be more polished too. And that lends us more credibility when we shop it to bookstores and university department heads. It will be professionally copy-edited by an editor with decades of experience in the publishing industry and dressed up in a cover crafted by an award-winning graphic designer.

Our backers made all that possible!

Now the fun begins. Facebook and website thank-yous will be posted this weekend, so watch for your name in those lists. We (Brigitte and Anika) are meeting tomorrow to look over the new draft of the Acknowledgements section (with several of your names added) and to polish some Epilogue material that was requested by our beta readers. Early next week, we’ll deliver the manuscript to our copy-editor and set up our initial meeting with our graphic designer.

Our rough timeline looks something like this:

March 13-31 – Copyediting and cover design underway, hopefully complete by end of month. Meanwhile we’re working with CreateSpace to craft our book jacket text and optimize descriptions for the Amazon listing.

April 1-19 – Final files delivered to CreateSpace, who will design our interior pages, register with the Library of Congress, print the paperbacks, and convert the book to Kindle format.

April 20-26 – We expect to see the e-book and Amazon listing posted sometime in this date range. At that point, the book is officially published.

April 26-May 10 – Begin fulfilling all e-book and paperback Kickstarter rewards.

May/June – Arrange local and regional public Book Release event and signings.

Throughout this process, we’ll share some private behind-the-scenes posts with our Kickstarter backers as part of our thank you to them.  Once we have a set publication date, we’ll share that here as well—along with information about local and regional book signings.

Now, a quick note to anyone who wanted to support the book or reserve a signed copy but didn’t make it to Kickstarter in time. Please contact Anika at:  anika (at) montanacoauthor.com   She can make alternate arrangements to include you in this exciting time!

Again, thanks so much everyone. We are so grateful!

-Brigitte and Anika

Index Cards are Your Friend

Robert Olen Butler’s Try-it-if-you-dare Tip

In Robert Olen Butler’s renowned book on fiction craft, From Where You Dream, he provides a tool for finding the form of a story in the earliest stages of writing. I’d much rather you purchase a copy of From Where You Dream yourself, rather than rely on my paraphrasing his invaluable advice on how to use this tool correctly.

IndexCardsFor now, I’ll share just a few notes about my personal experience with index cards.

My latest pet project is, indeed, about a pet. Jackson is a black lab who was the faithful companion of a touring actor in the mountain West in the 1970s and 80s. This story will be billed as true-to-life fiction. It can’t be anything but highly fictitious; it’s a biography of a dog after all. Additionally, almost all my sources are actors and artists with, well, highly inventive story-telling tendencies. The dog’s owner has given me carte blanche to make things up at will. Sounds like fun to me.

Going in, I thought there couldn’t possibly be that much material. (I said that to a dog trainer recently and got quite the look of scorn in return.) The dog lived for 16 years. I have about a dozen sources to consult about him. I figured this would be a 30,000-word project, a fun little novella-length piece that would help me learn more about fiction craft.

Within a year, I had 30,000 words of crappy draft content and reams of interview notes. Then the outright fictional scenes started coming to me. The cute little dog story had officially turned into a beast. I had a bad case of overwhelm and clutter brain any time I even thought of the project.

Enter Butler’s book. In my own adaptation of his index card tool, I wrote every darn scene in snippet-form (3 to 7-word summaries) on index cards. After several days of reviewing my notes, sitting quietly, and listening for more, I felt I’d squeezed the sponge dry. Every significant scene that wanted “in” was physically on the table.

From here, seeing the story laid out in front of me, I began to re-arrange the cards. This puppy (sorry bad pun) will be fiction, so I get to re-arrange at will to adjust the pace and build and order of revelation. I played like this for several more days, trying out new arrangements, beginning to see the ups and downs and complications of the story.  The index cards were especially helpful in determining how to arrange side-plot scenes:

  • Side-story scenes where Jackson has turning point interactions with his owner’s father.
  • Scenes where Jackson encounters death—of animals in the wild, of a sick human in a back alley.

The index cards made it possible for me to literally pick these scenes up and place them elsewhere along the main storyline. I could test where they might resonate best.

For those of you who despise outlining, and yet you feel overwhelmed at the start of a project, index cards may be a playful entry point. Don’t rush it. This is not a one-weekend task. From start to finish, I wound up taking a full month. Then I transcribed all the cards into a long scrolling list on my computer. Don’t panic. It’s not an outline. It’s just a list.

That rough list has since evolved and re-arranged itself even more. But it was the springboard I needed at a time when the project seemed too big to manage. Definitely worth a try in your own book project!

Mind-Mapping to Clip Away at “Clutter Brain”

Try this Invaluable Tool for Revising Your Book—or Your Life!

MindMapWhatever your political leanings, if you’re a deep thinker (every writer is), these are disturbing times. Disruption at this intensity has most of us asking bedrock questions about purpose and values. We’re all wondering: What really matters in my work and life and, of course, my writing?

In that spirit, I took time recently to mind-map my writing life. I began with that core question: what really matters to me? What activities am I involved in that contribute to my deepest sense of purpose? Which activities and tasks are merely clutter? Which ones seem “nice” on the surface, but are only eating my time?

Over the course of a few weeks, the chicken-scratch map in my notebook evolved into a three-circle map on my whiteboard. Now there’s a mix of marker notes about driving purpose and easily movable sticky-notes. I’ve written the names of individual projects and activities on the stickies. I can literally see which projects in my work and personal life actually resonate with my values—some resonate with multiple values; I need to make those my priorities.

I can also see which pursuits don’t resonate anywhere. Those are likely clutter and may need to be pruned.

The mind map’s overall form looks a bit familiar. Anyone who’s worked with me in a coaching relationship has learned about mapping when trying to determine what a book is trying to say on a deep thematic level.

Some clients do this at the beginning of a project. Some absolutely cannot do it until they’ve got at least half of their initial shitty rough draft written. Some use this tool at multiple points throughout writing and revision as a regular check-up. Themes can indeed evolve and shift from the start of a book-writing journey to its end.

Whether mapping your life or your book, the strategy is the same. With a book project, instead of personal values, you’re looking for your book’s 2 or 3 driving themes.

  • A business inspiration book might be focused on whole person success, balancing dreams with logistics, and saying no so you can say yes to what matters.
  • A memoir might wrestle with the resilience of codependent families and the irrational stubbornness of love.
  • Your new plunge into mystery writing might be all about fear of death, the layered nature of deception, and the shadow side of genius.

When you feel you’ve begun to identify those core themes, write them as bold domains on a large sheet of paper or whiteboard. Then start to write 3-5 word tags for the scenes that have come to you. I prefer to use sticky notes for this, so I can physically move the tags around.

Can you see now how each scene overlaps with and serve one of your identified themes? Use that to heighten the applicable themes in each scene. Are there any squirrely scenes that seem important but you’re not sure where to place them? Are there scenes that still sit at the outskirts with no clear connection at all? The latter may be a clue that it’s time to say goodbye to that block of content. It’s clutter.

Like an activity that’s sapping your personal time and not in line with your core values, the out-of-alignment scene must be pruned. Clutter scenes often resist loudly. Sometimes it’s the very first scene you wrote when the book idea first came to you. There’s a sentimentality there. If sentimentality is the only reason to hang onto a scene, that’s yet another clue that it would be best to let it go.

Revision requires such ruthless decisions.

Whether you’re mind-mapping your life or your next book project, this is a fantastic tool for breaking out of “muddy thinking” and overwhelm. Not sure where to go next? It’s best to consult your map first!

No Virginia, There’s No Such Thing as Writing Your Book in One Month

I’m not fond of November. It’s not just the crusty dormant fields and the trees stripped entirely bare by the wind two nights ago. It’s this contemporary phenomenon called NaNoWriMo. That’s trendy-speak for “National Novel Writing Month”. I shudder all of November, battening the hatches against the coming flood of manuscript submissions in early December.

How many amateur writers use this month to purge from their minds their great American novel? How many get to the end of their binge-writing month stunned at the brilliance of their own prose, expectations Everest high? Yes, they’re ready to hire an editor to give the manuscript only the lightest copyedit, since the thing is clearly PEN Award material as is.

Honestly, I don’t want to know. Enough of them will come to me at the end of this sprint to keep me occupied with gentle letdown convos for the remainder of the year.

I hate November. I boycott NaNoWriMo. It teaches fledgling authors to cultivate creative benders instead of working them into the marathon mindset and lifestyle required to craft excellent book-length work.

You are not going to write your book in a month. You might write 30 to 60,000 words of crappy draft content. It’s useful. But brace yourself for what’s next. Little of that 60K in content will show up in your final draft. Period. Consider this material as purely an intensive interview with yourself.

Once you’ve plopped that content onto the page, you will take out a highlighter and, like any good investigative journalist, you will mark the passages that might be useful. You’ll start asking the deeper questions that will help you develop those passages into usable scenes. You’ll interview your characters and the story itself to discover what this book is really about. You’ll look for that one topic you don’t want to wrestle with in this book. You’ll write about that.

And you’ll take the next 3 to 5+ years to hone and craft a work that’s finally ready to share with me, your line editor.

I despise NaNoWriMo. That said, I’m making a horrible back-peddling decision this year. I’m joining you. I’ve had enough people hit me with an insistent “Don’t knock it till you try it.” I have to admit, I am overly critical of a concept that at least gets people started in the book-writing journey.

I have a book project of my own that I set aside three months ago to focus on a few private client projects that were all coming to a close at once. I have a pocket of time right now when the schedule is a touch more manageable and I can get back to this beloved based-on-true project.

Now, I’ve already been working on Jackson: Memoirs of a Touring Actor’s Dog, for about two years. So it’s not like I’m diving into this cold. But the truth is, my resumption of work on Jackson is intersecting perfectly with NaNoWriMo.

What the hell. I’ll give it a shot. But on two conditions:

  1. I don’t have to be happy about it.
  2. At the end of the month, I’ll keep writing. Gimme another 2 or 3 years on this one before I’m ready to even share a draft with ya.

How about you?

8 Ways You Can Support a Favorite Local Author

1. Write an Amazon review. If you loved the book, write a review. Your review doesn’t need to be lengthy. In fact, shorter (1-3 paragraph) reviews are more likely to be read. The more reviews the author has, the better—not only to encourage sales of the current book but also to establish the author in the minds of publishers who might take on future titles.

Be honest in your review. Countless 5-star reviews can actually work against a new author. It looks like what it is: a list of close friend reviews. Honest 3 and 4-star reviews that clearly describe the book’s strengths and weaknesses go far to build the credibility of the review list.

2. Buy a gift copy for a friend. You loved the book. You know people in your circle of friends who like similar stories. It’s so easy to connect the dots! This simple step gets the book into the hands of people outside the author’s immediate circle. That’s vital for continuing sales and reviews past those first few months after the book release.

3. Buy that gift copy from your local independent bookstore. Unknown and self-published authors have a hard time getting into their local bookstore—yes, even the one that boasts that it sells locally written work. Bookstores simply can’t carry the hundreds of books that are published locally every year. So they typically agree to consign a few copies at a time. Through this process, they determine whether the author has an established following and whether the books “sell through”. Only then, the shop might decide to formally purchase and stock copies on a regular basis.

4. Recommend the book to friends who live in another state. This grows the author’s reach. Within the first 2 to 4 months of a book release, most authors reach the end of their friends-and-family connections. Sales drop to nil unless happy readers recommend the book to others. When recommending the book, chat about it in person, over the phone, or via social media first. Then follow-up with an email containing a link to the Amazon order page. The initial person-to-person recommendation is vital—emailing alone often gets ignored. But following up with the emailed link is equally important. It makes it easy for your friend to find the book, read its reviews, and order it quickly.

5. Ask your local bookstore to host an author event. Small bookstores are cautious about hosting events for relatively unknown authors. Such events are worthwhile for the store only if a large number of people attend and linger afterward to purchase books. So, when a new author talks to a storeowner about hosting an event, the newbie is usually given the cold shoulder. It’s nearly impossible for a new author to successfully promote themselves in this fashion. But if enough local fans stop in and request a reading for a specific author, the storeowner will listen. They simply want to know the author has a readership that will truly show up for the event.

6. Add the book to your Book Club’s list. Everyone will buy a copy and give it a thoughtful read. Book Club discussions often lead to more amazon reviews, more word-of-mouth recommendations, and helpful feedback that can be passed along to the author. Yes, your author friend wants to know about any intelligent critique too! That’s how authors grow their craft.

7. Like the author’s Facebook page (and BLOG, twitter account, etc). Follow the author’s social media posts, and make comments. Refer your friends to it. The more followers and traffic the author acquires the better. The author is able to use these stats to help demonstrate his or her “author platform” when speaking with publishers in the future.

8. Write the author a thank you note. Let the author know how the book affected you. Emails are great, but if you’re friends with the author and have his or her mailing address, hand-written notes are even more meaningful!

Try it!
For all my Montana friends who have read Stranger’s Dance by Troy Kechely (a poignant dog story set in 1930s Montana), here are links and resources to help you support this talented new fiction writer:

Stranger’s Dance on Amazon – Buy it and review it here:
http://www.amazon.com/Strangers-Dance-Troy-B-Kechely/dp/1511771356

Freebie Link:
Kindle Unlimited subscribers may borrow the Kindle version of Stranger’s Dance for free – Send this link to an out-of-state friend!
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZYAZCPY

Troy’s Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/troybkechely

Troy’s Local Bookstore:
Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Montana
28 West Main Street
Store Owner: Ariana Paliobagis
http://www.countrybookshelf.com
staff@countrybookshelf.com

 

Featured Author Q&A: Troy Kechely

Troy Kechely shares 7 vital insights about revision, self-publishing, and marketing as a new author

1.
ANIKA HANISCH: How long did it take to write your novel?  What was the revision process like?  Any surprises?

TROY KECHELY: I started research and interviews in 2009 but didn’t really get started on serious writing until the summer of 2011. From that point it took almost three years to get a marketable manuscript complete which occurred in April 2014. The revision process was, shall we say, enlightening and humbling. When I finished the complete first draft, which in reality was draft 1.3, as I broke it into thirds, you said “Congratulations! You’re 10% done.” The surprise was how right you were. The vast majority of the work was on the subsequent revisions and editing.

2.
AH: What did you learn from the process of looking for a publisher or agent?

TK:  Be patient and don’t take rejections personally. Get used to form responses or no responses at all but if you get a personal one, even if negative, learn from it because it means they took the time to read it and thought it worth commenting on.

3.
AH: You had an offer from a publisher, why did you refuse it?

TK: By the time I got that offer I was already starting down the road of self-publishing. Normally a first time author would be jumping for joy with a contract offer. But after looking at this publisher’s current list of books, I wasn’t sure they could represent me well. They were a smaller publisher and I had some concerns about their contract arrangements too. An editor in the industry confirmed that my concerns were valid. I took the offer as a solid compliment, but refused it, then pushed forward on self-publishing. No regrets on that; I’m sure I made the right choice for my book.

4.
AH: What was the self-publishing process like?  What are the challenges?

TK: It was difficult sorting through all the different self-publishing companies and all the packages they offered. Because I was already contracting the editing and cover design I didn’t need all the bells and whistles that some places offered. After extensive research and talking to a friend who was working with a self-publisher already, I settled on CreateSpace. Overall my experience with them was really good. Though you want to make sure that the final document you send them is as clean as possible editing wise because after a certain point, any changes cost you more money.

I do recommend their “Marketing Essentials” package, in which they write the back cover text and other marketing verbiage. Both you and I agreed that having a fresh set of eyes work on that material was invaluable. The marketing text they crafted was better than what either of us would have produced. By the end of a multi-year project, you don’t really have the objectivity to write marketing copy about your book.

5.
AH: What happens after you self-publish?  What are you doing to market your book?

TK:  Once Stranger’s Dance was actually out there for purchase that was when I got nervous. You never know how people will react to it. If you’re worried about negative feedback, then don’t bother publishing your book. But if you do get to this point, then marketing is everything. Because I don’t have a massive advertising budget, I built a basic author website (www.trokechely.com), and I am using social media (Facebook and Goodreads) to get word out. I post regularly, and I’ve offered free paperback copies through a GoodReads contest to get the book out to people completely outside my friends and family circle. I’m learning slowly what works and what doesn’t.

Aside from social media efforts, I’m actively talking to local book stores in the region, as well as sending press releases to regional news outlets and providing free review copies to news and magazine writers. I’ve gotten the book out to organizations that would be interested in it. It’s a historical fiction dog story, so I’ve shared the book with dog training and rescue groups where I have contacts. I’m hoping to hold some author events with these groups as well.

It is all about exposure and persistence. Somehow you need to make your book stand out among the 130,000 books that are published every year. Realize that local media and bookstores get a lot of solicitations about self-published and small press books. Reporters can’t cover and bookstores can’t sell every book they hear about. Be courteous but persistent. Show them that you have a readership and people are already buying the book. Chart your activities and always follow-up when you email or send materials.

6.
AH: Are you getting feedback from readers already?  What are they saying?

TK: I’ve been getting very positive feedback, which is encouraging. To hear from people part way through the book saying how much they hate a character but find him irresistibly interesting, means I did my job right. By the end of the book, they have totally different feelings about this character. One of the biggest compliments is from people who don’t want to stop reading and wished the story went longer. There’s nothing worse than a reader getting bored with a book. So far that hasn’t been a problem.

7.
AH: Any other tips/cautions/encouragement you’d like to share with other authors considering self-publishing?

TK: Get professional help! No, I don’t mean the psychiatric kind—though during the revision process you might think you need some. I mean a professional editor to guide you through the process, to look at your work and provide honest critique. Don’t have people review it who aren’t going to be honest with you. Sugarcoated compliments will do nothing to improve your writing. If you can’t take critique, then you aren’t ready to publish. Those brutally honest reviews were what helped make the book as good as it is.

——————————————————————————–

Kechely’s book, Stranger’s Dance, is now available at Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Montana, Browsing Bison Books in Deer Lodge, by order through any other bookstore, and online at Amazon. Kechely is also the author of The Management of Aggressive Canines for Law Enforcement and has published numerous magazine articles and short stories. Learn more about him at www.troykechely.com.