People have asked me over and over why I’ve written so many books and never considered self-publishing. I think the answer was really just this: I was chicken. Sure, I said I was attached to the idea of traditional publishing. I wanted that status. That support. That level of editing and publicity. That “institutional” backing and affiliation. Eventually, I got all that in spades. It was an embarassment of riches, really and I am so grateful to the great Amy Einhorn at Putnam and the wonderful publicity and marketing team at Penguin. I love my agent and I treat her better than I do most of my best friends. I like the feeling of people being For me and these people were just that. They believed in my book and my message. But every-so-often I wonder what would happen if I slapped one of my novels on Amazon and flew solo. I admire people who take that tack. But I admit to still being a chicken.
I have a friend who is NOT a chicken and we have had some interesting conversations about self-publishing. I’d like to share our question and answer with you. Feel free to ask her about her experience. She has written a beautiful book, and I’m happy to introduce you to my friend, Brigetta Schwaiger.
Anna Broxton’s marriage to the top Tommy John surgeon in the West and their idyllic ranch life in the Flathead Valley of Montana makes most women envy her. That is, until one simple moment changes her family forever.
Unable to bear the presence of her once adored husband, she abandons her life and finds “her nowhere” a small organic farm on the Southern tip of Sweden. There, she tills the soil, plants seeds, learns to pickle cucumbers, and fights her attraction to a younger man.
Her unlikely friendships with two unique women awaken her to suffering other than her own and help her face her part in the tragedy. She returns home to find her husband has found his own nowhere and must fight for whatever love remains in the gaps of their shattered family.
“Her Nowhere” is a tearjerker about relationships and what they can survive—if we let them. It is appropriate for book club discussion about our own unique tragedies, how we respond to them, how they shape us, humanitarianism, organic farming, and the imperfection of motherhood.
Why did you decide to self publish?
I always wanted to write a novel, but there was some fear in me associated with that dream. So, for many years I just didn’t do it. I thought it would be too hard to get it published so I just didn’t invest the time. For me, it was freeing to choose to write regardless if there would be any recognition or possiblility of publication or any monetary compensation. I wanted to write it because life is just a vapor so why not choose your dreams while you can.
When I finished and let a couple of family members and friends read it, they were very responsive and loved the story. I began the process of researching agents, contructing perfect query letters, sending them, waiting for responses and it became a full time job. I have four children and honestly, it seemed like a waste of my time. Like I was parading myself when perhaps nobody was even watching.
So, I tucked my novel away in the corner of my desktop and left it alone for a few years. One day, I was inspired to come back to it and re-read and edit once again. I found that I loved the story and knew it should be shared. I started researching ebook publishing. I realized it was something I could control and I’d been hearing that even when a big house picked up your work, you ended up doing most of the promotion anyway. It was a way to get my book off of my desktop and offer it to whoever might want to read it. Simple as that.
How did your move to Montana from California inspire your writing?
That’s such a good question because it had everything to do with my writing. I always say Montana gave me the space I needed to write and create. In California (and I love my home state and my peeps there) it was just crowded, squished, noisy. And I never realized how it adds unknown stress until I moved to Montana. It also helped that I didn’t know a soul here when we first moved. My characters in Her Nowhere were my first companions in Montana.
What was the process like logistically?
I won’t lie. It’s a lot of work and you have to be committed to editing, finding good readers to edit, researching best ways to create covers, learning how to format your text, then checking and double checking. Mostly its a lot of researching online and learning from others who have done it. There is help out there, but you have to take the time to find it, read it, and apply.
What has the response been so far?
It has been incredible. My sister’s friend read it and said- “It’s my favorite book of all time. I want a signed hard copy. If it was in print, I would give it to everyone I know. It is so healing with all the loss I’ve had in my life.” And I thought- That’s my hope. So if it’s just for her, just for one, then that’s enough.
An Amazon review from Sue Keating said, “Anyone who was lost and found will relate to this novel. Well written and plot driven, Anna is lost, found and redeemed. A global book that affirms that giving is the best way to receive.”
Another reader stayed up until three in the morning reading it on the cracked screen of her iPhone. Love that! People are telling me that once they start it, they can’t put it down. But, I also get some complaints about puffy eyes the next day. Or readers looking like they’ve been beat up. It’s a real tear jerker. Within the first two days it was in the top fifteen in the Paid Kindle Drama Category and at one point was number one on the Hot New Releases in Dramas.
What have you learned so far? What advice would you give a writer who is at the beginning of the self-publishing process.
If a writer knows self-publishing is for them, they should read through Kindle Direct Publishing’s information first. Become familiar with formatting on .doc, which converts easily to the Kindle. If you format it right the first time, it can save you a lot time. I’d also tell them to look through the covers on Amazon and pay attention to the images that catch their eye. A good cover is very important. I’m a photographer and have enough experience on Photoshop that I was able to create my own, but you may want to hire someone if you don’t have those skills. And make sure you edit, edit, edit, then upload it and read it through on your ebook device to search for weird formatting issues and typos. Also, have a few close friends read it on their ebook device too. Then, you can make any corrections needed before you start publicizing. There are many self-published books with a ton of grammatical errors and typos. You don’t want to be one of those.
How much time do you find yourself doing promotion—Facebook, Twitter, website, mailings, blogging, etc.?
It is time consuming, but I haven’t kept track because I practically live on Facebook and Twitter and on the blogs already. I am co-owner of a New Media Company called FlyGirls Media (www.FlyGirlsMedia.com) and we run social media campaigns and workshops for clients. So, this part comes naturally to me. I started in social media with a mom blog I’ve written for over three years now. I recently took a six month break, but I missed it so I’m back at it. You can find me at www.TransparentMama.Blogspot.com.
Have you been able to land any media on your own? Have you (or are you considering) hiring a publicist?
I won’t hire a publicist. I will focus on promoting through social media, Facebook Ads, and my good friends who will introduce me to the readers of their blogs. I am also taking advantage of the KDP Select program. It is a program through Kindle Direct Publishing that allows you five free promotional days over a 90 day period. The catch is that you have to be exclusively with them for 90 days and you become part of their lending library. My first promotional day on Amazon is this Saturday (5.18.12). My book will be offered for free that entire day and hopefully gain some valuable exposure.
Talk to me about this oft dreaded word “Platform” that the publishing world now basically requires before they’ll take a risk on an unknown writer. Do you think you need that platform with self-publishing?
That remains to be seen. I don’t know. It’s such a hard thing because fiction writers are often holed up writing alone so it’s difficult to develop a platform before anyone has seen their work. I’m hoping this first book will show its worth and THAT will give me a platform.
Thank you, Brigetta! See you on the baseball fields and best of luck to you!
Brigetta is a writer, photographer, blogger, and co-owner of FlyGirls Media, LLC. She has four baseball loving energetic sons and somewhere in a paper pile there is documentation showing she graduated with a degree in English from UCLA.
She studied in Sweden and Europe and after living in Los Angeles most of her life, packed a U-haul with her husband and carted her family off to the amazing town of Whitefish, Montana.