Tag Archives: self-publishing

5 Tips on Self-publishing from a Haven Writing Retreat Alum

Books published by Haven Writing Retreat alums!

Books published by Haven Writing Retreat alums!

Not everyone who comes to Haven Writing Retreats wants to write a book, or if they do, necessarily publish it.  Some come just to learn how to better express themselves, or to use writing as a transformative tool in their lives.  Others have a book in them that they absolutely want to publish.  Some go the traditional route.  Others self-publish.  The stack of books you see here shows a great variety of publishing choices.  Not all of these books were written at Haven!  Many were written before, but they show the dedication and diversity of the people who have this kind of commitment to their craft.  May they inspire you to believe in your ability to do the same! (publishing credits below)

We have just a few more spaces left on our 2016 Haven Writing Retreat calendar!

September 7-11 (full with wait list)
September 21-25 (one space left)
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October 19-23 (spaces left)

To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat, go to the Contact Us button here.

Here’s what recent Haven Writing Retreat alum, Laura Lovett, has to say about her publishing journey.

by Laura Lovett, Author of Losing Cadence– Haven Writing Retreat alum

So you’ve written a book…now what?  Some authors try to get a literary agent and go the traditional publishing route and others skip this altogether and go the self-publishing route.  I tried to get a literary agent and was unsuccessful (after 100 query letters in the U.S. and Canada!), but I didn’t let this stop me.  My novel was ready to go and I knew it was a unique and gripping story that begged to entertain readers.  Therefore, I forged ahead into self-publishing and I’m glad I did.  This is what I learned and what you need to know when considering self-publishing

1.    Edit, Edit, Edit!

Okay, so we’re supposed to be talking about self-publishing, but I couldn’t help myself when it comes to the importance of editing.  I suggest that you edit your own manuscript until you can’t see straight and then hand it off to a professional like I did (Sheryl Khanna, Writer, Editor and Publicist).  Professional editing services will not only find all your grammar and spelling mistakes (yes, there are still loads in there), but it will also deal with content and consistency issues, and polish your manuscript so that the story shines and moves.  If you cannot afford a professional editor, ask people you know and trust to review your manuscript. When it comes to editing and reviewing a book, the more the merrier to get the best end result.  You don’t want to be roasted on Goodreads.com for having errors in your book; I have read a few of these and it is most distracting and definitely takes away from the story and the author as a serious storyteller.

2.    Do Your Research

When it comes to self-publishing you can do it all yourself, which is a lot of work but will save you a lot of money, or go through a self-publishing house.  I did not have the time nor the inclination to go it alone, so I purchased a package with a large, American self-publishing house.  There are many different self-publishing houses out there from small to large, but do your research as the services they offer differ greatly, as well as the price and royalties.  Some self-publishers will format your book, help with your cover design and get you online with all major booksellers, while others go even further and offer everything from extensive editing and marketing packages to everything else in between.  I chose iUniverse.  As a Canadian author, iUniverse offered a self-publishing package for $3,000 which guaranteed me in-store shelf placement with Chapters Indigo, the largest Canadian bookseller (similar to Barnes and Noble in the U.S.).  This was a major selling feature for me and tipped the scales in favor of iUniverse.

3.    Beware the Upsell

Some of the larger self-publishing houses, like iUniverse, have huge editing and marketing teams.  If you need these services, it is great for one-stop shopping, but it can get quite pricey.  A full publishing, editing and marketing package could cost you well over $10,000.  If you have bottomless pockets it’s a great and easy way to go, but if you do not, the constant upselling is not only annoying but can slow down your project.  By being clear about your budget up-front, and researching the services you can do on your own versus where you need professional support, you can avoid getting pulled into unnecessary costs.

4.    Distinguish Yourself Through Cover Art

The first thing a potential reader sees is your cover art…it summarizes your story in an unforgettable image.  This is where many self-published authors fall short; they have a great manuscript but their cover art is an afterthought or rushed to meet a deadline.  Even though iUniverse offers cover design services (in fact, they were included in the publishing package I purchased), I wanted a custom cover so hired my own designer (Corey Brennan, ELEVATE Design). Whether you do it yourself, have a friend help or use professional design services, start thinking about your cover well ahead of time.  Just because you are a self-published author doesn’t mean that your book has to look any less appealing than the current New York Times Bestsellers.  Position yourself to standout with a killer cover that begs to be picked up. I felt I achieved this with Losing Cadence’s cover, and I smile every time I see it in someone’s hands.

5.    Marketing

So you’ve written the next New York Times Bestseller and with book in hand you think you’re finished.  Think again, as you’re only halfway there.  Marketing is a huge area where many self-published authors also fall short.  If you are not marketing savvy, many of the larger self-publishing houses offer marketing and publicist packages, but be careful as they are very pricey.  If you are doing this part on your own, which I did with the help of my Publicist (Sheryl Khanna, Writer, Editor and Publicist), you need to get out there and sell, sell, sell.

  • Get a Web site and/or Facebook page and Twitter going.  Social media is going to be your new best friend.  But only use the social media that you (or your publicist) have time to maintain as you do not want it sitting stagnant.  This is why I have yet to get a Twitter account going!
  • Set-up an author page on Goodreads.com – check mine out at www.goodreads.com/AuthorLauraLovett. My profile is gaining good traction and you can see the importance of reviews and ratings in building credibility and interest in your book.
  • Host a book launch and invite everyone you know; yes, everyone.  Don’t be shy, include your neighbors, your co-workers, your hairdresser, etc.; tell everyone you meet about your book.
  • Ask everyone who has read your book to write a review and/or post a rating on Goodreads.com, as well as their favorite online bookseller.
  • Schedule book signings with local bookstores (you may need to be persistent as they sometimes need to be pushed or reminded).  Essentially, get your book in as many bookstores as possible.
  • Don’t forget the local library or book clubs…get your book in there too.
  • If you have not already done so, start networking with local authors and writer’s groups.  Laura Munson’s Haven Writing Retreat in Montana was my first foray and an invaluable experience for learning more about the art of writing, meeting other writers and networking.
  • Do a virtual book tour with bloggers who blog on your genre.
  • Submit your book for applicable awards and competitions.
  • Read Indie Author Survival Guide by Susan Kaye Quinn – it’s a great resource for independent authors.
  • Do radio appearances.
  • Shamelessly plug your book to one and all.

losing cadence

Pros and Cons

One of things that I love about self-publishing is that you no longer need to rely on difficult-to-get literary agents to publish your work.  And, self-publishing has changed dramatically in the past few years so that it is very hard to tell a good self-published book from a traditionally published book, which is opening the world up to books that we never would have heard of ten years ago.

Self-publishing can be pricey and, like I said above, the upsell can be a bit bothersome.  You also need to be on top of all the details and push back when necessary.  For example, iUniverse originally set the price of my book far too high – so high in fact that I was priced right out of the market – I had to negotiate the price of my book down to a reasonable level for my readers and this took quite a bit of work.

Would I self-publish again?

I’m currently working on the sequel to my first book, Losing Cadence, and I am definitely going to try to secure an agent again, but if I am unsuccessful, I will once again forge ahead into self-publishing.  Knowing what I know now, I will do even more research, and compare more self-publishing houses, as I may not go with iUniverse again; the jury’s out on them as my experience was a mix of positives and frustrations.

I encourage authors to not let an unsuccessful attempt to secure a literary agent stop you from publishing or even writing.  Move onwards and straight to self-publishing either on your own or with a self-publishing house.  You’ll be glad you did when you’re holding your book in your hand or see it on the shelf at a local bookstore.

Laura Lovett is a psychologist and entrepreneur. An accomplished author in the academic and business world, she pursued her love of creative writing to pen her first novel, Losing Cadence, a psychological thriller.

Laura lives in Calgary, Alberta, with her husband and three children. In her spare time she loves playing squash and spending time at the family cabin in Montana.

Visit Laura at www.facebook.com/Author.Laura.Lovett


Some of the books published by Haven Writing Retreat alums:

Sukey ForbesAn Angel in my Pocket (best-selling memoir)

Laura Lovett– Losing Cadence (novel)

Frances StrohBeer Money (memoir)

Justine FroelkerEver Upward (self-help)

Angela Leigh Tucker– Me Now– Who Next? (memoir)

Maria O’RourkePrepare Your Heart to be a Great Mom, Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas (devotional)

Fateme BanishoeibTea of Tibet (poetry)

Katie Andraski– The River Caught Sunlight (novel)

Jill BurchmoreGroovin in the Canyon (memoir)

Byron ThompsonBuild Your Dream (self-help)

Kathryn Stockett– The Help (#1 New York Times best-seller– novel)

Cyndi NienhausThe Silent Schism (religious)

Sally Stevens– Poems from the Road (poetry)

Amanda BevillWorld Spice at Home (cookbook)

Justine Froelker– Taking Flight (workbook)

Laura ProbertWarrior Love (self-help)

Linda Lester– Blossom (children’s book)

Sarah ScottThe Wild Table (cookbook)


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A Look Into Self-publishing

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.

Book Description:

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.






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