Welcome back to another week and with it a self-publishing interview! Today’s guest author is Karen McCullough, author of mystery, romantic suspense and fantasy novels.
- What was the deciding factor in self-publishing your book(s)? Did you decide on ebook or print only or both?
I sold my first book to a traditional publisher in 1989, and I’ve had a number of books published that way since, but I’ve also written several books that don’t fit into traditional publishers’ categories. Those have hung around, sitting on my hard drive, waiting for an opportunity to break loose to the public. I’m working on getting some of them ready to publish now. Not all of them are good enough to release, but a couple of them are among the best things I’ve written, so I want to get them out. I’ve also retrieved the rights to most of my backlist, and I’m working on making those available again. So far I’ve done ebook only, but I’m looking at print versions of some books.
- What went into the process? Writing, editing, cover design, formatting, etc… Share your ups and downs and how you went about it. If you used a service from a someone, could you share who?
For the backlist books I’m re-releasing, some of them have had to be scanned in because I no longer have electronic versions of the manuscripts. I’m having even those edited again by my daughter, a professional editor with a good eye for misplaced punctuation and misused words. I do my own formatting and covers. I design websites and web graphics professionally, so I’m comfortable using Photoshop and doing that kind of design work.
- What did you do to promote your work?
I’ve bought a few ads here and there, but most of my promotion has been guest blogs on other sites and participating in blog hops. I’m on Facebook but use it mostly for keeping in touch with family. I know you have to get the word out about your books, but I truly think the best promotion is writing good books, books that will make readers want to read more of your work.
- What was the hardest thing you’ve found in the process of self-publishing? What was the easiest part of self-publishing?
The hardest thing is the promotion. I’m really not very good at it. Also writing the stories themselves is hard because I’m a perfectionist, and I’m not a fast writer. I have a lot of stories available only because I’ve been writing for a long time, not because I can put them out quickly. I also believe in writing, rewriting, and honing my stories until I feel they’re ready to be shared with the public. The easiest part is actually getting my books formatted and ready to release.
- Can you list some Pros/Cons of self-publishing?
The pros: The author is completely in control of the process. I never really liked the covers of any of my early published novels, so I’ve enjoyed being able to give them new versions that please me. Also traditional publishing is very limiting in genre category. If your book doesn’t fit the standard categories, publishers are reluctant to buy it because their sales and marketing departments don’t know how to market it. They’re also very driven by sales numbers, and have killed several promising series because they weren’t getting the kind of sales increases they expected.
The cons: You have to do all the work yourself or hire it out. You don’t have an editing department to find all your misplaced commas and continuity errors. You don’t have a marketing department giving you the benefit of their experience with what works and what doesn’t and how to get your books into libraries and bookstores. It’s hard to figure out how to reach your target market, if you even know who that is. And you do have to work to get past the general perception that all self-published books are crap that couldn’t make the cut at the “real” publishers.
- How long have your book(s) been out? How long between books if you have multiple sales—and if you have multiples did you see a bump in sales with subsequent publication?
My first self-published book was a re-release of a backlist title, A Question of Fire. It’s been available as an ebook for about a year now. I’ve since published six other titles, four fiction and two nonfiction. Honestly, I haven’t seen much bump in sales with subsequent publications, but I’m still trying to find patterns in the sales numbers. One title of mine has accounted for 80% of my sales.
- Can you give a rough breakdown of your sales numbers from your first month to the present?
It’s been a slow climb. The first month my first self-published book was out, I probably sold four or five copies in all outlets. Last month I sold several hundred and this month is even higher.
- What advice can you offer to anyone deciding to self-publish?
Be sure you put out the best quality story you can. Have it vetted by at least one critiquer or beta reader; hire an editor; hire a formatter if you don’t want to spend time on that yourself; hire a cover artist. You want to be sure your story is the best you can write and it has a professional appearance.
- What genre(s) do you write in? How many books do you have out? Titles?
Yikes! I write in a lot of genres, including mystery, romantic suspense, fantasy and paranormal. I’m not even going to try to list all the books I’ve written. The ones that are currently available and their genres are: A Gift for Murder, mystery (with romantic elements); Programmed for Danger, romantic suspense; The Night Prowlers, romantic suspense; Magic, Murder and Microcircuits (soon to be renamed), contemporary romantic fantasy; A Vampire’s Christmas Carol, paranormal (with romantic elements); A Question of Fire, romantic suspense; Shadow of a Doubt, romantic mystery; Wizard’s Bridge, romantic fantasy; Witch’s Journey, romantic fantasy. Most of these are available as ebooks also.
- What do you love about the genre(s)?
Basically I love genre fiction in general – romance, fantasy, mystery, adventure, suspense. I like stories that sweep me away, take me out of my humdrum daily existence and introduce me to new places, people and situations. I’m fascinated by interesting characters, exotic locations, unexpected twists and turns in plot. My imagination seems to roam in a lot of different directions. I read for entertainment, and I try to write stories that will entertain others.
- Where can readers find you?
My website is http://www.kmccullough.com and my blog is at http://www.kmccullough.com/kblog. I have a Twitter account at @kmccullough, but I don’t post very much right now, and my Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/#!/karenmccullough.
- Where can readers find your books? Print/Ebook?
My Amazon author page is at http://www.amazon.com/Karen-McCullough/e/B0043TJ870, which lists all my available books, print and ebook. There are order links for all of my books for Amazon and Barnes&Noble on my website.
- What works do you have coming out in the future?
I’m waiting to get an “author’s preferred” edition of A Gift for Murder back from my editor in order to make it available as an ebook. One of my other older Avalon Books, Blue December, is being scanned in right now. I’m also getting another new book ready for a well-known epublisher who is interested in it.
- Are you participating in any reader contests?
I’ll be participating in a couple of blog hops coming up that will feature reader contests.
- There is a rumor going around that all self-pubbed books are shoddily created. What do you say to that?
Generalizations are often dangerous and frequently wrong. (Notice how I adroitly avoided piling one generalization on another by qualifying my adjectives?) It’s true that many self-pubbed books are badly written, badly edited (if they’re edited at all), and badly formatted. Sadly, I’ve read quite a few of them. But I’ve also read some completely wonderful self-pubbed ebooks, produced by writers who care about putting out a quality story. Sturgeon’s Law (see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon’s_Law for details) basically says ninety percent of everything is crap. He was actually referring to all the published books of his day, but why wouldn’t it apply to self-published books as well? The trick is finding ways to let those books that aren’t crap stand out from the crowd.
- What advice can you offer readers of self-pubbed books in making a decision on what to read?
Download a sample if you’re not familiar with the author. Amazon and B&N both have the service, although not all authors allow it. Personally, if I don’t know an author’s work, I always download the sample before I buy. If I can’t download a sample, I move on to something else. If the sample is full of mistakes or the story doesn’t grab me, I don’t buy it. Maybe I’m too picky, but I’ve never found a story that was so good it could induce me to look past numerous errors of grammar and usage. And life is too short to spend it reading books you don’t enjoy.
About Karen McCullough:
Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, paranormal, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, Vixen, and International Digital Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.
A VAMPIRE’S CHRISTMAS CAROL:
Can Christmas Eve get any more fun? On her way to her family’s home, Carol Prescott’s car slides into a ditch in a deserted area with no cell phone signal. The only available shelter is already occupied…by a vampire. To Michael Carpenter, Carol is the bait of a trap.
In an effort to hold onto his soul, Michael has resisted the urge to drink human blood for almost a century. Now he hovers between human and vampire. If he doesn’t drink from a human before the night ends, he’ll die. He’s desperately thirsty, but Michael has seen the soulless monsters vampires are and he prefers death. Carol is pure temptation to him, the Christmas present from hell…or is it from heaven?
A QUESTION OF FIRE:
When Catherine Bennett agrees to attend an important party as a favor for her boss, she knows she won’t enjoy it, but she doesn’t expect to end up holding a dying man in her arms. Nor did she anticipate she’d become the recipient of his last message about the location of evidence that would prove his brother innocent of murder. Now the killers are after her to get that information. She’ll need the help of attorney Peter Lowell, as well as the victim’s difficult, prickly younger brother and a handsome private detective to help her find the evidence before the killers do.