07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Self-Publishing: Indie Author Anna Brentwood and Traditional & Indie Published Author Paty Jager

Anna Brentwood

 Anna Brentwood on her road to Self-Publishing

I was witness to all the changes occurring in the publishing industry over the sixteen year period I made it my business to learn everything I could about writing commercial fiction and getting it published. I connected, joining several local writers groups. I saw genres redefined and expanded. I saw word counts change like the moon as paper and print costs escalated. Like anyone else paying attention, I waited, observed and learned all I could from my own and other writer experiences, from reading, author loops and from attending countless meetings, seminars and conferences. And, from writing. Over and over again.  

Still, if I have learned one thing on this journey, it is that nothing stays the same and I don’t only know that from looking in the mirror. After years of writing and all the ups and downs; being agented, edited, querying, picked up, discarded, etc. I started to see that the once solid publishing industry; an institution that hadn’t changed much since the invention of the Guttenberg Press was going to change whether we all liked it or not.  

I was as uncertain as the next person whether this would be a good thing or a bad one (and I feared for bookstores and books and rebelled for a bit by refusing to consider using a kindle or a nook) but I saw change a-comin’ and as I said, waited, observed and learned. I also gave up.  

I went to work full-time, got paid a lot of money and didn’t do anything about the books in the drawers or writing. Then, as Fate would have it, I got laid off from my job and decided to query every agent, editor and publisher out there again. I resolved that I “had” to try and if I did not find another agency, editor or publisher in one year to publish my book, I would self-publish.

Well, one year turned into two because I got held up with agent exclusives and many almost deals but when time kept passing, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to be published while I was still sentient and could walk without a walker. So, I went about learning all I could about self publishing, and doing. I made lists and a timeline. I had a plan. I shopped. I got a website. I designed and worked on it myself over months. I created a mailing list of media and people to contact. I had several artists helping me design my book cover. I took a Twitter class. I got active on social media.  

In the meantime, digital options were exploding as the walls of the publishing empires were coming down. Like every other business in the world, they were re-evaluating—downsizing. Editors were being laid off and agents and publishing houses were scrambling to keep up. They still are.

Once upon a time when you were conventionally published, you had a whole team of editors and marketing people working to get your book distributed and sold. You just had to show up and look smart and/or pretty and talk about your book. Or not. The reality today is that unless you are a proven bestselling author or a celebrity writer, while you do have some of the support behind you when signed with a large publishing house (and every little bit helps) you still have to do the lions’ share of your own marketing and sales. That fact and the impact of social media have leveled the playing field just a little bit more for those authors who are not big names yet but want their chance to shoot for the stars. Or even just a career.        

Technology (which I love) has a way of incorporating itself into changing industries and people. This happened in my original chosen field with graphic arts. Back in the day, I even field tested for Apple. I was certain the new technology would never duplicate the quality of the old. I was right, but no one cares because desktop publishing makes everyone a graphic artist and it is so accessible. Technology or change isn’t all good, there are things we lose, yet it isn’t all bad either.  

So, the same was/is happening here with books and authors. On the reading end, while I still love holding and reading a book, I now also can enjoy the convenience of a kindle and a nook. Rather than books being controlled and selected by a small group of people in New York or Chicago, we can go onto our digital devices and discover great new writers. We can download free books or books that cost less than five dollars. And this all from the comfort of our living room chairs.  

With low cost and choice and changes to staff at large publishing houses, books will not always be as properly vetted, edited and read as they used to be conventionally published, but self or indie published authors bear this responsibility solely.   

Are there risks—yes! Negatives—yes! Quality has certainly taken a hit in this new age without the scrutiny of countless editorial staff. The old adage you get what you pay for often is true when you download a cheap read and find it littered with grammatical and spelling errors and a sagging plot. I feel very strongly that an author considering self publishing should always pay attention to the quality and preparation of any book that will bear her/his name. They should have put the time and dedication into being published as if there were no self publishing option. You learn by entering contests, having a critique partner or partners, sending out queries, pitching and getting requests and rejections.

But, as I see it, if you have paid your dues and have either tried other avenues and failed to get a certain story you feel strongly about published or succeeded as a multi-published author but want more control over your backlist, self publishing is a great option that offers the author a chance and flexibility, control and accessibility to readers. Also, unlimited access with no expiration date!

Nothing about writing is easy and self publishing requires even more effort with marketing because you don’t have anyone else doing it for you. No one will know who you are or anything about your book unless you find ways to tell them but if you are willing to work hard, learn, do and/or hire the help you need to make all of it happen as it should, there is more opportunity than ever before to have your work seen, read and appreciated by others and also, nothing quite as rewarding.



Why an author signing circuit?

Why not? I attended my first RWA National this year, and was so inspired by all I’d learned and all the other writers I’d met. The classes I took had to do with the business and marketing end of publishing and digital marketing. As a former businesswoman and someone with a publishing and marketing background, I began to see publishing as a business and not just as something I wanted to do.

I attended every signing that weekend. I studied every author, every promo item and saw what worked best or not at all. I was a sponge. Being part of RWA and Rose City Romance Writers, the help and guidance I received from other writers was invaluable and crucial to my being able to do any of this. I wanted to give back too.

An author signing circuit was a simple and natural progression though not really formal enough to even have a title. It is just about authors helping other authors. Let’s face it, most of us hate having to sell ourselves, but the reality is it IS all about selling books. And, isn’t it little easier to do with a friend or two?  

Planning to self publish, I’d already made the commitment to self market and once I started sending out press releases and calling on bookstores and other venues that might be amenable to hosting signing author events, including and helping promote my fellow authors seemed a natural extension. Many bookstores liked the idea of hosting several authors at once. While my primary focus remains my own career, if and when I am out there marketing, it is nice to be able to suggest options to have multiple authors for some events.  

We keep it simple. If one of us manages to book an event and either the venue or author wants other authors to attend to make it more interesting, we keep one another in mind. Whoever is interested and responds first, usually gets included. If the author cannot attend, no worries, I just keep them in mind for the next time.    

As a reader, I read lots of books, lots of authors and am always up for a new favorite. Surely, your readers are too?  

I am fortunate in that I have a marketing pal helping me and we have tried to make these events more than an author sitting at a table hoping someone comes over to talk to them. Why not make these events more fun by adding different elements like d├ęcor, raffles, costumes, themes, refreshments, etc 

I see authors sharing knowledge and expertise and experience as a great strength that benefits us all. Sharing and inclusion can help make us all successful. Your success does not take away from my success! We are not competitors in the sense that if one person reads me, they won’t read you. In fact, we are the opposite of that as authors and I think the more creatively we can come together and get people interested in reading and books, the bigger and better our industry will be.   

Author Bio: Anna (which is her real first name) was a bookworm almost since birth and was recognized as a writing PRO by Romance Writers of America in 2002. An active professional member of Willamette Writers, RWA, the Rose City Romance Writers and NIWA, Anna grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts where she majored in Illustration.  

Anna's debut novel, ‘The Songbird with the Sapphire Eyes’ first began as a series of dreams that so haunted her they became a personal quest to explore possible past life memories. The journey was both eerie and exciting and the manuscript finaled and won second place in the Women’s Fiction category of the 2006 Tara Awards. Anna is inspired to write about interesting characters whose lives take them on journeys we can all enjoy and perhaps learn something meaningful from. She is busy working on a sequel to 'The Songbird With Sapphire Eyes' which will take readers on a journey through the 1940's with Johnny and Hannah's son, wartime hero, playboy and New York mobster, Anthony Gallo. 

A wife, mother and doting new grandmother of two, Anna lives in a log home on 45 wooded acres on Oregon’s coast range with her former Navy-Seal husband and a menagerie of animals that include one pug, one cat, one horse, two wolf-hybrids, a red-tailed hawk named Lucky and a feisty but lovable African grey parrot named Warlock.

You may contact Anna at annabrentwood@ymail.com or through her website at www.annabrentwood.com. Anna appreciates your feedback and would love you to friend her on facebook.com/annabrentwood or follow her on twitter at @annabrentwood.

 Paty Jager on Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing
I became serious about writing a novel in the early 1990’s. I wrote two mysteries, which never saw the light of day. When I started writing romance, I was directed to Romance Writers of America and I believe joining that writing organization was the reason I eventually became published. The workshops on craft and promotion given at the meetings and conferences helped me to hone my craft and realize the bad habits and writing blunders I did. 
Over the years sending my stories to editors at publishing houses and agents, I received the same rejections letters. “Loved/liked it but it doesn’t fit, or isn’t something that we feel there is enough interest in.” When my critique partner told me about a new electronic and POD publisher looking for romance books, I sent the sixth romance I’d written to them. They contracted it. And from there went on to contract nine more books and one novella.

I wouldn’t pass up the experience I had by working with my hands-on publisher. I learned the ins and outs of writing, editing, revisions, and making a story ready for the reader. But when the new revolution of Indie Publishing began to take off and the reports were coming in that it was a way for a writer to make money off their books, I started getting my rights back to my books from the publisher(when the contracts were up). My daughter designs my covers, and I have a group of author and editor friends who help me with critiquing, edits, and revisions on my new books and I format them to put up on the ebook sites.


This new venture has allowed me to find new readers and finally make money with my writing that I hadn’t done the six years I was with a publisher. My husband now takes my writing seriously because it makes the car and house payment. I plan to keep writing books and self publishing them as well as have a few books at publishing houses. I believe in diversifying and by having several options where my books can be found and I can learn more about the publishing industry and writing, I feel I will always put my best book out there for readers.

Bio: Wife, mother, grandmother, and the one who cleans pens and delivers the hay; award winning author Paty Jager and her husband currently ranch 350 acres when not dashing around visiting their children and grandchildren. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
She is a member of  RWA, COWG, EOWG, and EPIC. Her contemporary Western, Perfectly Good Nanny won the 2008 Eppie for Best Contemporary Romance, Spirit of the Mountain, a historical paranormal set among the Nez Perce, won the paranormal category of the Lories Best Published Book Contest, and Spirit of the Lake, the second book of the spirit trilogy, was a finalist in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.

You can learn more about Paty at her blog; www.patyjager.blogspot.com  her website; http://www.patyjager.net or on Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/#!/paty.jager and twitter;  @patyjag .


Paty Jager said...

I didn't know this was where this post was going! LOL Or else I could have uploaded it.

Melissa Keir said...

Very interesting take. I think more and more people are considering this! Thanks for the thoughts on it.

Judith Ashley said...

I know you could have, Paty, but you've been busy and until I was actually doing it I didn't know if you were going to be on Saturday or Sunday.

Judith Ashley said...

Anna and Paty - Thanks for each of your insight into self publishing and sharing your journey. Lots to think about and consider these days!

Tanya Hanson said...

Great posts, ladies. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Indeed RWA was full of self-pub info which was exceedingly helpful. Best wishes for tons of success!

anna brentwood said...

Paty- I enjoyed reading about your journey and enjoy when others share theirs...

Caroline Clemmons said...

After being published by a "big" NY house and then with a small press, self-publishing is where I'm finally making enough money to consider myself successful in this crazy business. I was ill-treated at NY house, loved the people at the small press, but I need to make as much as I can while I can. Self-publishing is serving me well.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Melissa, It is becoming more the norm. The only drawback I see is that there are people going Indie that need to learn more about craft. Those are the ones who put a stigma on Indie publishing.

Paty Jager said...

Judith, I can say while self publishing has finally fulfilled my dream of making a living at writing, it is not easy. There is gathering your "crew" together, deciding if you want to do your own formatting or pay someone else, then the promotion. While you have to do that for anything you publish, there is even more on the writer when you go Indie.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Tanya, Thanks for stopping in!

Hi Anna, I enjoyed your post as well.

Caroline, I agree, this is the best fit for me.

Diana Mcc. said...

Interesting reading about both of your journeys. Two questions: 1) Paty, do you feel that your fans you gathered from the e-publisher followed you over to your self published works? 2) Anna: How would you rate your sells as a newbie in the self published world? Paty and Anna: Do you sell more through the internet or through your book tours/blogging tours? Well, I guess that is three questions! LOL! Great post, ladies!

Anonymous said...

Paty and Anna, Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It is from many people on this blog that the rest of us benefit and, hopefully, do not make the mistakes others have already made for us.

Anna, I didn't know you had such a long background. I completely empathize with the feeling of sand shifting under your feet. I have struggled with that feeling myself.

Paty, you have always been someone I've admired from afar. You were positive about your small press experience but realistic. Now that you are self-pubbing you easily share what you've learned. Thank you!

Finally, I agree that two areas many self-pub authors can work on is editing and cover art. It makes a BIG difference.

Karen Duvall said...

Paty, I'm so proud of you! You've come such a long way and your perseverance is really incredible. Other writers have a lot to learn from you. Congrats on your great success!

Paty Jager said...

Hi Diana! Let's see if I can answer you questions. Yes, I'm sure my fans followed me over from the publisher to my self pub stories. I sell ten times the books through the internet than I do through book signings or blog tours. But I still need to get my name and face out there to get people to take a chance on me.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Maggie! Thank you for stopping. I've been an admirer of yours too! And I'm becoming a fan reading your books.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Karen! Thanks! I've always been determined to do what others tell me I can't. It started with one of my first contest entries telling me to take up some other hobby and then when I kept hearing you can't make a living off being a mid-list author, I decided I'd prove that wrong as well.

Anna Brentwood said...

Thanks everyone for your feedback & sharing. I agree that if you self or Indie publish time and sometimes money spent on putting out a quality product is essential since this is your name and reputation you are marketing.

As far as sales, I only started in September and so far, sales have been slow and steady but doubling. I seem to sell more on Kindle than Nook and second in print. I am and have been tracking my social media and website monthly with a spreadsheet and that has been tripling since I've started.

September and October when I was out there promoting practically every weekend generated more sales than November where I did more guest blog spots and less signings. While I have not set the world on fire--yet--I feel with this path, the primary goal with the first book is to build a brand and an audience & establish and nurture relationships. Key is to get your name and product exposed & share your passion with as many people as you can reach. While I'd love this to reflect in sales, realistically it probably won't do that until I build a track record with other books too & this will undoubtedly take time. However, with digital you really have forever to be discovered so the hope is that with continued effort, it might all pay off in sales and happy readers.

Tam Linsey said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences. My road had been fairly similar to Anna's. I believe the more books I publish, the better my sales will be overall, so I'm working furiously on the next on!

Paty Jager said...

I agree, Tam. Getting more books out helps to keep the readers happy. I put two out this year and plan to get three out next year.

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for the questions and answers. As a yet-to-be-published in novel-length writer and a newbie to reading on e-readers (something else to keep charged)I'm very interested in both the original posts, questions, answers, and comments. Great discussion, ladies!

B. A. Binns said...

I just self-published my own novel after being published by a New Jersey publisher. (Close to New York, right?) And I have plans to release another one soon. I know it will be an interesting journey, but I have discovered I am willing to do the extra work (including hiring an editor) to have more control. And since my journey with the traditional publisher taught me I was going to have to do the much-hated marketing myself anyway, I already prefer things this way.

Diane Burton said...

Anna, you hit it right when you say nothing stays the same. I applaud you & Paty for taking the route you did. I'm so glad I did, too. It is not easy being an indie, but I feel more energized "doing something" than waiting around while my ms sits on an editor's desk for months/years. Wishing you both all the best.

Paty Jager said...

Judith, Right now is a great time to be a writer. You can choose the path you want to take.

Welcome to the self-publish world B.A. I like the fact that I can set a date for a book to be out and it's out. I'm not at the mercy of when the publisher wants to publish it.

Diane, I agree. As an Indie we can decide when the next book comes out and make it happen rather than wait for someone to say they have a place it will fit.