I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Laurie Boris back to Layered Pages to talk with me about her experiences with self-publishing. Laurie has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels. Her sixth, A Sudden Gust of Gravity, will be published in November. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. You can learn more about her at website. .
Laurie, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?
My first novel, The Joke’s on Me, was published in 2011 by 4RV, a small press in Oklahoma. I really appreciate that they gave me a chance, but as I completed my second novel later that year, I knew I needed to do things differently. Drawing Breath is based on a friend who died from cystic fibrosis, and the story was so close to my heart that I was reluctant to give it to a publisher. At the same time, I’d been getting more active on Facebook and met a terrific group of authors who were self-publishing. They were generous with their information, time, and support. I’ve always had an independent streak, so self-publishing appealed to that side of me. I thought I’d give it a try. And I never looked back.
What has your experience been like along the way?
It’s been a definite eye-opener—in the beginning, I felt like I’d flung myself into the deep end of the pool without a flotation device. But I’ve met some wonderful people, and I really enjoy connecting with readers. I’ve also felt privileged to have had the chance to talk to other writers in my community who are deciding if self-publishing is right for them. It’s been frustrating at times to keep my enthusiasm in the face of a rapidly changing marketplace. Overall, though, I love the feeling of being empowered and in control of what happens to my work: that I can choose what to write about, what to publish, how to market and promote it, and that I can make changes as necessary. I also like a good challenge. So I try to keep my eye on that prize.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
The learning curve has been steep in some areas. In the early days, I wanted to learn how to do EVERYTHING myself. E-book formatting had me tearing my hair out. I have a background in marketing and advertising, but promoting my own work—and myself—was a completely different animal. As an introvert, it’s a tough balance between getting the word out and wanting to huddle back to the safety of my writing room, and the line often wiggles around. Time management is another big challenge as I juggle the many hats I wear: author, editor, freelance writer, entrepreneur. Let’s just say that my husband is a very patient man, and I have a high tolerance for dirty dishes, dust bunnies, and unmade beds.
What have you learned in this industry?
Wow, what haven’t I learned? I’ve learned that even editors need fresh eyes on their work. I’ve learned that what worked to promote a book last month might not work this month. I’ve also learned that, at least for me, self-publishing is a team sport. Partnering with my colleagues has been invaluable. It’s helped me improve as a writer and as a publisher. I’m especially grateful to my fabulous fellow minions at Indies Unlimited and the lovely authors of E-Novelists at Work.
What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?
Every author is on a different journey, and a definite “don’t” for one person is a “must-do” for another. For me, the biggest “do” is to go out with the best, most professional book I can produce. That includes thorough editing and proofreading, an effective cover, and a compelling description. My “don’t” list is growing as I learn how to more effectively navigate the business. Spamming strangers with an endless loop of buy-my-book links: no. Paid reviews: no. Hissy fits on social media about negative reviews: never.
What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?
Self-publishing is easier than ever, but I’d still suggest taking a little internal inventory to see if it’s right for you. Are you willing to put in the time and energy to learn how to do this? How are you with multi-tasking, uncertainty, and keeping yourself motivated? I’d also recommend keeping an open mind about trying new things—you never know what strategies are going to pay off down the line. Do your research if you’re paying anyone to help you publish, because plenty of companies are more than willing to separate a new self-publishing author from his or her money. Not that there’s anything wrong with hiring out services—it can improve your efficiency, if you have the budget for it. Just make sure you’re getting what you pay for and that the company is reputable. That’s another reason to have a good support group. Indies on the whole are a generous bunch, more than willing to share information and resources about what has worked for them and what hasn’t. Just because you’re self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to plunge in alone. Unless you want to.
What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?
I use Facebook, mainly, because I’m comfortable with it and it’s fun. (When it’s not being annoying.) If I have a book on sale, I’ll post it to my page and to a bunch of reader-oriented groups. I try to vary what I post—info about other authors and their books, grammar jokes, how my favorite baseball team is doing, whatever is amusing me at the moment—because nobody wants to hear about my books all the time. Generally I spend a few hours a week promoting my work, but that covers a multitude of tasks from planning upcoming promotions to writing blog posts to connecting with friends on social media. I use a variety of websites to promote my books. Lately I’ve been using E-Reader News Today, Free Kindle Books & Tips, The Choosy Bookworm, Midlist, and a bunch of other smaller sites.
Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?
It’s so tough to predict, because everything seems to be changing so quickly. But if authors are willing to ride the rollercoaster and keep putting out great work, I see more equality and more acceptance. At least I hope so.
If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?
Already I’m seeing that authors are raising the bar on the quality of their product. I’d like to see more authors taking the time for that good, hard proofread at the end. I think if we continue down this path, even more of the biases against self-publishing will be reduced. I’d like to see Amazon’s review policies become more transparent, although I’m not holding my breath. I want to see more self-published authors in bookstores, presenting at major conferences, getting reviewed (and not charged megabucks for the privilege) in major outlets. I want the “self-published versus traditional” infighting go away. It’s such a waste of time and energy.
How long have you been an indie author?
Drawing Breath was published in May of 2012 and I’ve been self-publishing ever since. I may never stop.