Welcome back to another week of the self-published interview series! This week is romance author, Shirley Hailstock. Enjoy!
- What was the deciding factor in self-publishing your book(s)? Did you decide on ebook or print only or both?
I’d thought about self-publishing but, but when I attended a conference in March 2012 where the subject was extensively discussed, that was the deciding factor. I already had a couple of books available online that I had self-published, but that conference got me in gear to get more of them up. I returned home energized and began working diligently on updating books that had been previously print published and were no longer available. Now they are.
I decided on e-book only for the time being. The learning curve on self-publishing was huge. I felt as if I was trying to learn a foreign language in a week. So I concentrated on the e-book. Maybe later I will delve into print if my fans begin to ask for them. So far they haven’t.
- 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 someone, could you share who?
I didn’t use any services. I did the entire job. First, I scanned the books into the computer and re-edited, updated them for current technology or current events, and removed the scanning errors. Then I read the Smashwords Guide from beginning to end. I’ve been using Photoshop for years and decided to do my own covers. I studied covers, looking at hundreds of them in all areas of romance. I wanted to develop a feel for what readers would expect by seeing the cover. One thing that Jon Fine from Amazon.com said at that conference I attended was that cover was king. So I designed a cover that I was happy with and thought looked professional. Then I wrote the blurb, updated my bio and uploaded the book.
- What did you do to promote your work?
To promote the book, I went to all the normal places. Normal being what other authors had told me they had done. I sent out a message to my fan list. I announced it on Facebook and joined several groups where I could promote. I also sent notices to all my lists of friends & family. A couple of very well-known authors agreed to promote it to their Facebook friends.
I also paid for an ad on EyeonRomance.com. I’ve done guest-blogging on themes that the owner is doing if I have a book that corresponds with that theme. As I discover other places to promote, I’ve added my books there. I’m currently working on a couple of promotions now.
- 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 updating the books. Going back to books that you wrote years ago are both a blessing and a curse. You get to visit friends you haven’t talked to in a long time, but you also see all the flaws in the writing, story, word choices. We’ve grown as writers and people since those books were written, so updating could be a difficult process.
The easiest part of self-publishing is the actual act of getting the books online. Once you’ve gone through the upload process a couple of time, the learning curve is very short. However, going back to earlier uploads and adding front or back matter (i.e. links to all the books currently available) is a chore. However, I do it because it shows readers that there are other books available and one or more of them might be something they want to read.
- Can you list some Pros/Cons of self-publishing?
Pros – you have control over everything. If something doesn’t work, you can change it. If someone finds an error in the book, you can fix it. You have approval over everything in the book. You can decide when to publish, what the cover looks like, the back cover blurb can reflect the true contents of the book.
Cons – It’s all on you and the amount of work can be overwhelming. The expense of everything is on your shoulders. If you pay for services, you have to find them and you have to be comfortable with the results. You want everything to work the first time and not have to pay for additional services to fix something that is not working. There are also portions of being the publisher you’ve never had to deal with and that adds another learning curve to your place, i.e. possibly quarterly payments to the IRS, 1099’s to people you hire to work for you, purchasing ISBN’s, registering your copyright with the Library of Congress and year-end TAXES.
- 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?
The first one went up in November 2011. After that conference in March 2012 three went up within two months. I have a total of eight up there now. Sales were strong right out of the gate. They leveled off and are steady now. I do see a small bump when a new book goes up. My goal is to try and keep putting books up so readers have something new to read each time they come.
- What advice can you offer to anyone deciding to self-publish?
The same advice I’d give to people who want to publish in the traditional way, sit down and write. You have to have a product. Once that is done, you can put it where you want. But don’t skimp on services. There are things that need to be paid for (i.e. editors, cover designers, formatter, etc.). Put the very best forward. You want to build a readership and providing an inferior product will work against you.
- What genre(s) do you write in? How many books do you have out? Titles?
I write in several different areas, most of which are under the romance umbrella, but I also have a couple of fantasies, a historical novel and a women’s fiction novel. The majority of books are contemporary romance or romantic suspense.
I have 29 books that are either in print or e-books. The total number of e-books available is 8.
- What do you love about the genre(s)?
I love the freedom of being able to write a lot of different types of books, yet still have them be romances.
- Where can readers find you?
My website is – http://www.shirleyhailstock.net
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ShirleyHailstockfan (please go and Like my page)
Twitter: @shailstock (not very good at twitter, it’s another learning curve)
E-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Where can readers find your books? Print/Ebook?
Reader can find my e-books at the following locations:
- What works do you have coming out in the future?
I have two print books coming out 2013 and 2014. As far as e-books are concerned, I hope to get three more of my backlist out within the next six to nine months.
- Are you participating in any reader contests?
I haven’t participated in any contests per se. I’ve donated books to contests that are run by others.
- There is a rumor going around that all self-pubbed books are shoddily created. What do you say to that?
From what I learned in school about taking test is anything that uses a term that is all-inclusive is always false. So no, I do not believe all self-pubbed books are shoddily created. There are some very fine authors creating books for the Internet. I believe they are following all the professional rules of publishing, like having an editor, a cover designer, proofreaders, etc. They don’t just write a book and throw it up online. Writers benefit from a good edit. If authors are side-stepping the process in favor of getting something up and available, they may (may) be shooting themselves in the foot. Readers are very savvy and they will determine who they buy and why. They won’t read shoddy books and they won’t buy that author again.
- What advice can you offer readers of self-pubbed books in making a decision on what to read?
Read the cover blurb and see if it’s something you think might be interested in. Even if the image isn’t that great, see what the book is about. Usually the cover will give you a clue to the story content. So if there is a naked guy on the cover, it might be an erotic book, but it could be about a guy in a nudist colony or someone who’s had his clothes stolen. Read more. And check out the “look inside” feature.