Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experiences

Joseph K BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Joseph G.  Krygier to talk with me today about his self-publishing experiences. Joseph is the Pastor of New Covenant Baptist Fellowship in Buffalo, New York. He has written about and been engaged in cross-cultural ministry for over thirty years. He has taught in Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Australia, Canada and the US. His current overseas ministry, since 2009, is TheosDoulos Church Planting Movement; training pastors, overseeing relief and education projects in the Philippines on the island of Mindanao.

Joseph has attended the Belfer Holocaust Educator’s Conferences in Washington D.C. the past two summers. He hopes to be a part of the International Conference for Ministers at Yad Vashem in April 2016. As a result of the book, he has been giving lectures on the Holocaust as well as the book and on Memorial Day 2014, was the guest speaker at the WWII Museum in Eldred, Pa. to celebrate the opening of their Holocaust Remembrance Room.

Before becoming ordained, eight years after his Christian conversion, he was an actor, dancer and lighting designer. He is currently writing a one-man play, Chagrined, based on this book. He plans to do author readings of the play while seeking theater companies that would be interested in producing it. He is glad to do these as fund-raisers for organizations. He is also in the process of laying out the book for an audio book production for the research libraries that have copies of the book, using a number of experienced and possibly some well-known actors. Joseph and classical guitarist, music copyist and composer Scott Ouellette are composing music for both the play and the audio book.

He has ideas for three other books at present and is helping a woman, through his company TOLIFE…Ink, to publish her memoirs.

He feels greatly blessed to be able to interact with so many different kinds of people in so many different situations.

He is married to Deborah, who works for the Buffalo Public Schools, is an accomplished Bible teacher and an actress and has recently been seen in plays in the Buffalo area. Their son, Aaron, is a technical writer for a web support company and is pursuing a career as a writer, director and an actor. An original play of his won a Best Drama Award at a theater festival in New York last spring. He is currently working on the first stages of a film project in Buffalo and has been seen on stage recently and will be again in the fall season.

Joseph, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?

That decision was made when I considered our subject matter and the time it might take for us to write Victor’s story. When we began meeting, first by phone in October of 2009, we were only discussing a play based on Victor’s life. After our first week together at his home in Florida in February of 2010, the decision to make it a book caused us to have a different strategy to get Victor’s story to an audience. He was 82 when we began.

As I began considering how long it might take us to write the book, and knowing from previous experience the difficulties of getting one published by traditional means, even when you have the head of a non-fiction department at a major publishing company pushing for your book to be published by the company … and it was not, after 9 months of holding the manuscript, I thought self-publishing would be the way to go.

A Rage to Live

What has your experience been like along the way?

It has been illuminating and beneficial. It was never frustrating but it was challenging.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

The first was to decide on which self-publishing company to use. I had decided from the beginning that we were going to do a print and an e-pub version. After that, there was the fact that we would be using numerous photographs in the book in a non-traditional way and that in the print copy we would have to go black and white but with the e-pub we could do it in color. That was all a budget consideration. The other initial decision was whether or not to form our own publishing company and purchase our own ISBN or let a self-publishing company provide one for us as part of a package.

What have you learned in this industry?

All self-publishing services are not the same. You must do you research and decide which one or combination of companies will best serve your ideas of how and where you want your book to find an audience. Since we began our project, I have seen major improvements in some of the more prominent companies.

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?

Do the research as I mentioned. Have a plan as to what you want your book to look like, read like and feel like. You may not be able to do what I did and write it, edit it—with the help of my wife Deborah—design the overall layout internally, choose all the photos and design the cover. I had also discovered D.K. Lubarsky, a Holocaust sculptress, who wanted to help our project when I asked her if we could use photographs of them in our book and for the cover. David Lubarsky reworked all the original negatives to optimize them for both black and white and color. So, this was a team effort. If I had not hesitated about finalizing the book, about 7 months earlier than I did, I never would have discovered the sculptor and the layout of the book would have been very different. You may or may not have some folks who will read portions as you go along to see if the “voice” of the book is what you want it to be. For example: I did not tell anyone that I wanted our memoir to read like a novel, but I was told by many that that is exactly the experience they had. Decide what help you need from all the above. Can you get that help from friends or do you need to get some of it from one of the self-publishing services. I did use a service for some sample chapters to get a critique of formatting and use of punctuation at the very beginning. From then on we were on our own and followed the suggested patterns of the service we used.

The total cost of this and purchasing our own ISBN and using two separate services for each type of publication and setting up distribution and printing through both was $700.00. Do not spend thousands of dollars. Do the hard the hard work. Connect with great forums like Layered Pages. Read the stories of others who have self-published. Work with a small self-publishing company that for a lot less in fees will help to guide you through the process and point you to the various routes you can take. We started TOLIFE…Ink to do that and are in the process right now of helping a lady publish her memoirs. She has done all of the writing, editing and so on and now needs to make the final choices of how to get it into print and in the market place. We can save her a lot of time. She came to us for help after reading our book and seeing that it was not a traditional approach to a memoir.

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?

Do not even consider publishing until you have a book that you are satisfied with. You do not need that pressure of pushing to that goal. We began Victor’s story as a project for just his family. Then it began to grow into something else. I had so much source material to choose from I knew we could publish something. Everyone does not have that advantage.

Do not be discouraged in the process. Take advantage of understanding all the mistakes that those of us who have gotten there have made along the way and run away from them. But, don’t be afraid to break some of the rules once you are clearly seeing the way you are going.

Our company philosophy can be summed up this way, “Write the book that you want to read.”

If writing is about hoping to make lots of money, reconsider. You might be the next Jonathan Livingston Seagull, or you may have a smaller audience but one that truly appreciates your hard work and the subject matter you have chosen.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?

I have done a giveaway on Goodreads; 411 people signed up for the 4 signed copies.

192 said they put it on their “to read” list. That has not translated into sales, but that is not all that important. It showed that the subject matter had an audience. We have a Facebook page and a good number of followers as well as a website. I have also done giveaways on Noise Trade Books. The topic of our book lends itself to reaching out to people for educational purposes and I do lectures about the Holocaust, not just the book, at various venues. I am currently in the process of contacting a number of privately owned bookstores within a 200-mile radius to see if they would be interested in scheduling a talk or lecture and a book signing. I would also suggest that you enter your book in a few book award contests that are not expensive. You may not win, but you may get a good critique/review like we did from the judge at Writer’s Digest Annual Book Writing Contest. And of course, there was the surprise of being selected by IndieBrag for an award and then the interview with Stephanie. I will also be doing an audio version of the book (I am in the process of a production schedule) and may be able to use some well-known Broadway and film actors to participate in the project. I also have the benefit of adapting the book into a one-man play. It is almost completed. That will give me the opportunity to do author readings of the play. I do have the experience as an actor.

I don’t spend a set amount of time on a weekly basis, but as I see opportunities, I pursue them with whatever time it takes.

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

I think it can only improve and if more really good authors and small businesses to help authors get involved in the process for the sake of helping writers, the opportunities will be endless. It would be interesting if the indie business so affected the traditional publishers that some of their unfriendly and only for profit ways could be changed.

If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

Getting the word out that it exists, that it is cost effective and that it can produce a book as good as any traditional publishers can do and possibly even better. Sometimes breaking a few of the rules is just what a book needs.

How long have you been an indie author?

I started in 2009. I have the beginning outlines for a novel, a Holocaust history related book and I am revisiting the book that never got published that I mentioned earlier.

Author Links:



Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Interview with T.J. Alexian

Ted Mitchell BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree T.J. Alexian to talk with me today about his book. T.J. lives in Attleboro, Massachusetts in a renovated green Victorian, along with seven ghosts and his long-time (and long-suffering) partner. He also has three kids and one spiritual kid, and their stories and their spirit form the heart and soul of his novel, Pictures of You. A profiled author in the Writer’s Digest book Writer with a Day Job and an award-winning communications specialist, Pictures of You is Alexian’s first novel, although he has two more being prepared for distribution: The Late Night Show and Confessions of a Diva Rotundo.

Hello, T.J.! Thank you for chatting with me today about your B.R.A.G. Medallion book, Pictures of you. Tell me how you discovered indieBRAG.

Thanks, Stephanie! It’s great chatting with you. I discovered indieBRAG while reading the manuscript of another BRAG-nominated author. It looked like a great program and I wanted to learn more…and, submit Pictures for consideration. I’m glad I did!

How long have you been a writer and what do you find most rewarding about the craft?

As with so many of us, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid. My dad used to tell me bedtime stories and I didn’t want them to end, so I started making up my own adventures. When I was a teen-ager, I was heavily into theater and started writing plays. Writing novels came after college, but I find it to be the most satisfying challenge of all. So much of writing is about re-writing, about trying to get what you’re trying to say perfectly right. When you do, and people respond, it’s magic.

Please tell me about your story, Pictures of You.

I like to call Pictures of You a social media ghost story.

What that means is that the story is about a self-professed video geek, Ashes16, whose real-world past begins to haunt her when a strange video pops up on her YouTube account one day. Others soon follow, bringing back vivid memories of her older brother’s grisly death and forcing her to relive over and over again a nightmare scene she witnessed first-hand. And worse yet, the videos seem to be coming from her dead brother, Daniel.

So, are they really messages from Daniel, asking her to uncover dark family secrets some people want to keep hidden? And what happens when Ashes finally starts to understand the meaning behind these messages? That’s the chilling secret behind Pictures of You.

Pictures of You BRAG Book

What a fascinating and haunting premise! What was your inspiration for it?

Inspiration’s a funny thing. One beautiful spring day a few years ago, I was giving my daughter her first driving lesson, and I thought it would be funny to record the experience and post the video to YouTube. That got me to thinking: what if one day you woke up one morning and found videos of your life posted on YouTube for everyone to see that you never wanted anyone to see? You know, things like break-up scenes with an old flame, or the day you went to school with your fly down. And then, what if the scenes became progressively worse, and couldn’t possibly have been taped, and you had no idea who was sending them or how they had gotten hold of them? How powerless and out of control—not to mention scared—would you feel?

That was it! I was off and running. I sat down and started scribbling.

Could you please share an excerpt?

Of course! (See bottom of this interview)

I love a good old-fashioned murder mystery. Was there any challenges you faced while writing it?

I’m a big fan, too. No huge challenges, although as a writer, I tend to be a bit free-form: I know the beginning and the ending, and then map out what’s in between three or four chapters at a time. That wasn’t the case for Pictures. I wanted to construct it in the manner of a Nancy Drew mystery story: 25 chapters exactly. That meant I had to have a roadmap for the entire book, especially since it’s a mystery, so you want to space out your clues in an orderly fashion. I think that discipline helped provide structure to the book. P.S.: I went over 25 chapters, but that was a deliberate decision.

Please tell me a little about Ashes and how did you come up with that name?

That’s another interesting problem I encountered as I was writing the book. I originally intended to write the story as a strict YA thriller, with your stereotypical girly girl young pretty teen-ager who all these awful things happen to, but who wins out in the end. But as I progressed with the story, the true Ashes increasingly started to assert herself. She wanted to be more than that. And one morning, I realized, “Oh, wait. This is a girl who really wants to be a boy. And not just any boy…she wants to be her dead brother.”

After that, to me, the book really came into focus. I’ve always viewed it as a ghost story, but in seeing who Ashes was, it became clear to me that the story was as much about being haunted by the memories of your past as it was about an actual haunting. When that fell into place, I realized the real point behind Pictures of You was about giving voice to those hiding in the shadows—and not just voices of the non-corporeal variety. It’s about those who are unable to talk, or too scared to speak their own personal truth—for even if Ashes is a self-described YouTube addict with a very public social face, she still wears a mask. She still feels different, every day of her life. She’s still hiding a past she desperately needs to come to terms with and a sadness she dares not reveal to anyone, especially herself.

How did I come up with the name? Her full name is Ashley, but in my head, I see her as looking like the character of Ash in Pokemon. Also, there is some symbolic significance to the name, as revealed in the story. I won’t reveal that!

Your story is set in a sleepy New England town called, Eldredge. Is that a fictional place? Could you please give a description of the town to set the tone a bit?

It’s not really a fictional place. I mean, the name is fictional, but Eldredge is very much based on the area of Massachusetts that I live in. There’s even an Eldredge Street, which is where the name came from.

Eldredge is a quiet, crumbling, slightly depressed part of Massachusetts, and the story takes place in the middle of the summer, during school break. New England winters can be cold and snowy, but the summers are hot and sweltering. Although New Englanders are reserved by nature, there’s a lot going on inside. There are secrets clamped down and repressed. All of this starts to boil over during one of the hottest weeks of the year.

Will you please share a little of what Ashes relationship is like with her mother?

They certainly don’t have the most functional relationship. Ashes’ mom has been married twice and is deeply mourning the loss of her son. As a result, she’s almost too absorbed in the past to pay much attention to her living daughter. In fact, since Daniel’s death, she’s shut almost everyone out of her life-including Ashes. This is an important storyline in the story, and one that can be common when you are dealing with the loss of a child. As a dad of three, it’s a heartbreaking situation I’m not sure I could ever recover from.

In my questionnaire to you I asked you if there was any Historical facts or significance about your book. You said there isn’t but you shared with me that this story is more than a ghost story. Could you please share a little about what that is?

I think this book is a bit different because it’s as much about being haunted by the memories of your past as it is about an actual haunting. The real point behind Pictures of You is about giving voice to those hiding in the shadows—and not just voices of the non-corporeal variety. It’s about those who are unable to talk, or too scared to speak their own personal truth—for even if Ashes is a self-described YouTube addict with a very public social face, she still wears a mask. She still feels different, every day of her life, because of the fact she looks different from other girls, dresses differently from other girls, resembles a boy more than a girl. But gender identification is only the tip of the iceberg. Ashes is hiding a past she desperately needs to come to terms with and a sadness she dares not reveal to anyone, especially herself.

Another central theme to the book involves the problems associated with autism, and how society tends to often treat these kids as invisible—again, giving voice to those hiding in the shadows.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

That depends what part of the process I’m in. When I’m first putting a novel together, I have to write it all out by hand on a yellow legal pad, making lots of corrections and cross-outs. The messier, the better! That takes place in either my bed or on my favorite, most comfortable couch (in my den). When it comes time to typing everything up, that always takes place on the mainframe (never a laptop) in my study. After I’m done typing up a page from the legal pad, I immediately rip it off, crinkle it into a ball, and throw it across the room. What a satisfying feeling! Editing is much the same: print out the chapters, edit by hand in the bedroom, and type it up in the study. My process is one of ritual habituals.

Who designed your book cover?

The book cover was designer by a talented graphic designer named Rob Fabiano. I’ve known Rob for many years now and I was so pleased when he agreed to design the cover.

What are you working on next?

Right now I am working on editing a thriller called Late Night Show. This story involves webcams, and is an updated version of Rear Window with a disturbing twist: my main character witnesses an online murder one night. But did she really, and who can she report it to? And what happens when she gets drawn into the horrible webcam world she observed, and becomes the person on the inside, looking out?

Do you stick with just genre?

No, I tend to hop about. Pictures and Late Night Show are cut from a similar cloth, but the book after that, Confessions of the Diva Rotundo, is another matter entirely. It’s based on my experiences in theater. The main character is an over-the-top ego-obsessed ham actor who is called upon to solve a murder mystery, mainly because he’s the main suspect and no one would put it past him to commit murder for a lead role. He has until opening night to prove them wrong. It’s absurd and the lead character is insane, but I’m having a lot of fun writing it.


I sit at my computer and type in my YouTube username.


I scroll through my list of videos.


Still there. This memory I have no memory of. This memory, with that laugh at the end. This memory of him.

I scroll down farther. And stop, the cut on my knee completely forgotten. This isn’t possible.

All at once, it’s like I’m still running through the woods, as if I still hear that sound of footsteps moving softly behind me. A crackle of twigs. Once again I feel the whisper of someone’s presence in the air. I stare at the screen, in complete disbelief.


And also…


I can’t believe it’s there, but also, I can’t wait to see it. And so, I click on the video, to bring it to life.

There I am, sitting in front of my pink dressing table, the one that was in my bedroom at the old house, and is probably still there since we didn’t have room for it in the condo. I’m sitting with my back to the camera, brushing my long, straight hair.

I’m talking to myself, into the mirror on top of the dresser. I can’t hear a word of what she/I’m saying, so I turn up the volume.

“But of course, I can’t get my hair cut,” I’m saying, and I hate my voice even more, because I sound like such a little girl. “Mommy won’t let that happen. Your hair’s so beautiful, so straight and long…”

In the present day, I reach my hand up to touch the back of my head. So much shorter now, practically like a boy. No, no. Like a boy.

Back in the past, on the video, I keep brushing. “I’m so sick of straight and long! I’m sick of snarls in the morning. I’m—”

The person I was pauses, stops brushing. “I see you,” she says, but doesn’t turn around.

See? Oh, yes. In the mirror.

There’s a laugh, muffled and indistinct. His laugh, once again.

The person I was turns around, looks right into the camera. “Come on,” she says. “Why are you doing this?”

And I hear his voice again. The way I remember, kind of deep, but with that smile in it, that lightness. That teasing quality he always has. Had.

“To bug you,” he says.

I shake my head, and my bangs go in different directions. “You’re not, you know.” I sounded pouty, and I could almost hear him saying, at least in my head, that I always was a bad liar.

There’s movement, in the mirror that she/me is staring into. It happens in an instant, and then I see myself stand. “Daniel!”

Just like that, the video’s over.

That movement. It goes by so fast, but…

I use my mouse to move back in time, to the point where I turn around.

“You’re not, you know,” I say again, still sounding pouty.

The movement starts. Quickly, I hit pause.

Yes, right there.

He’s there. Daniel comes into view, a reflection in the mirror.

Daniel, with his skinny body and his pitch black hair, with bangs cut straight as mine are now. And his dark eyes, which always seemed to twinkle just a little when he was up to no good.

Daniel. I want to touch the screen. I push my fingers forward, and feel a bit of static from the monitor. But more than that, there’s a chill in the air, over my shoulder. I break from the video, turn around.

No one’s there…

Author Website


Barnes & Noble


A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview T.J. Alexian who is the author of, Pictures of You our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Pictures of You, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.




Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experiences

David Penny

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree David Penny to talk with me today about his self-publishing experience. David is the author of 4 Science Fiction novels and several short stories published during the 1970’s. Near-starvation led him down the slippery slope of work, which distracted him from his true calling. He has now returned to writing and The Red Hill, a Moorish mystery thriller, was published in June 2014. He is currently working on two new books: the follow up to The Red Hill, and a thriller set in the world of industrial espionage.

You can find out more about David and his writing at his website. His email address is and you can connect on twitter @davidpenny_

David, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?

I think pretty much from the moment I returned to writing I knew I wanted to self-publish. I’d already had a traditional experience when I was in my 20’s and had four science-fiction novels published by Robert Hale in the UK, a short story in Galaxy magazine, an agent – in fact everything many authors still aspire to.

However, I recognized the world has changed since the 1970’s. I started writing again with no expectation of how my words might see the light of day – then I discovered there was this thing called Amazon, and you could just upload your book! And it was available the same day! It was a revelation.

What has your experience been like along the way?

The technical side of self-publishing came fairly easy, but then I have had 30 years working in IT. I think once I decided that self-publishing was my route to publication the process was pretty straightforward.

One of the major things I have experienced is the absolutely wonderful support and camaraderie that other Indie authors offer each other. Without it this would be a very lonely and hard road to follow.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

I started learning about self-publishing in 2011, even before I began to write my own books, by helping a friend who couldn’t cope with the technical side of things. Some of these challenges relate to her work, as things have changed enormously since then.

Early on formatting required a lot of dedication and could be considered a “black art”. I remember poring over the Smashwords Style Guide then trying and re-trying to upload a document that wouldn’t get rejected. Even these days I still come across threads on forums bemoaning the trials of trying to get a document that will be accepted.

Initially we tried creating out own covers, and failed dismally. Unless they are a genius most writers are not graphic designers, and we are guaranteed to make a bad job of cover design.

And of course, the biggest challenge of all, is how do you get readers to discover your books. You might be the best, most eloquent writer in the history of the world, but if you can’t get the book in front of people then they won’t buy it. So marketing is the biggest challenge I had, and still have. I’m not very good at it.

The Red Hill

What have you learned in this industry?

The biggest lesson is not to believe you can, or have to, or even should do everything yourself.

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing

Don’t get hung up on checking your sales every day, let alone ten times a day!

Never respond to bad reviews, and accept that everyone is going to get them.

Make sure you understand the technology and, if you’re unsure, get help. There are a lot of good resources out there to help with formatting, layout and publishing.

At the risk of sparking controversy – forget about print. I meet a lot of writers who are still chasing the traditional dream of seeing their books in bookstores, but it’s a hard road to follow with little in return. There’s a saying in business I’ve borrowed and altered – Print is Vanity, ePub is Sanity. I still put my books in print, but have little expectation of sales from that channel. The print books are primarily a marketing exercise, and for handing out at meetings and for reviews.

Don’t expect your first book to set the world alight and becomes a best seller.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

That’s a lot of Don’ts, so here are some Dos:

Do read about the craft. There are many great books on writing, too many to start to list, but I believe all writers need to continually hone their craft, and reading out it is one way to do this.

Do make sure you get professional help with the elements that will make your book compete on a level playing field with the big 6 – these are: Editing, Proofing, Formatting and Cover Design.

Do make sure you check our any services you decide to use. There are a host of great resources out there (I would recommend David Gaughan’s website and books as essential to everyone starting out, and The Alliance of Independent Authors provides a huge amount of useful resources) but there are also many, many predators willing to charge you a fortune for bad advice and services.

Do keep writing and do keep bringing out books.

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?

Write the book you want and embrace self-publishing as the new paradigm for the twenty-first century. I have read some great trad published books, but these days I have also read great self-published books as well which push the boundaries beyond where the traditional market is willing to embrace.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?

I don’t spend enough time on social media, but I don’t feel guilty about it — it’s a decision I made, and it suits me. I’m still struggling with ways to promote my books. Most of the writers I know follow a similar pattern which can lead to being very busy but communicating only with other writers. It’s a easy trap to fall into, because we all love talking about writing. But the people we need to communicate with are readers.

So I’m trying to work out a means of making that happen. I have a few ideas, but at the moment none in place. For example – my books are set in southern Spain in the 1480’s. When my wife and I were on the airplane going on a holiday research trip I was leafing through the EasyJet Inflight magazine and it occurred to me I could write an article on the hidden Spain that lies behind the beaches and hotels.

What are the different sites you use to promote your book?

At the moment I don’t use any, and the reason for that is I plan to have at least three books in the series available before I start, so that when I do promote one book the reader will have something else to go on to if they like it. I don’t think promotion when there is only one book out is effective. There are, of course, outliers who dash this notion to pieces. Mr. Howey!

I did try BookBub once, but of course didn’t get accepted. Next year, when book 3 in the series comes out, I’ll try again, and other sites. But by next year the market will be completely different again!

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

Ooh, great, back to the science fiction!

I think we are just starting to see the major changes coming to the industry. Self-publishing is reaching a maturity it hasn’t had before, and the resources are now in place to offer support where needed.

So, in five years I see an acceleration of self-publishing with an emphasis on quality both of content and presentation. I also see continued resistance from the traditional market and a continued erosion of their power. I also think there will be less players in the eBook market, with Amazon and Apple being the main players, maybe with Apple overtaking Amazon as the main seller of eBooks. And of course, even before five years are here, there will be eReaders that provide the exact same reading experience as paper. The Kindle Voyage is already close to doing that, and in technology terms five years is a geological time period. One thing I don’t see happening – and which some have predicted – is the disappearance of reading in its current form. Multimedia is great in its place, but there is something special about curling up to read a book (on whatever media) that film or games or TV simple cannot replace. Only books can take you places in your head that nothing else can match.

In ten years time the battle will be continuing, but I think the pendulum will have swung over and it will be Indies who are the majority, and Indies will be considered as equals alongside traditional authors. By this I mean readers won’t care how you publish, only what you publish.

If something can be improve upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

Alongside what I said above, a few things need to be in place. It is still too easy for rogues out there to ruin a writer’s career by lodging spurious copyright claims. I read a recent horror story of a writer’s book being taken down from Amazon because someone in Indie filed a claim that they wrote in – without any evidence at all.

The main players – Amazon, Apple, Kobo etc – must put their own houses in order to ensure that the scammers that currently abound cannot ruin the scene for the majority. At the moment self-publishing is like the Wild West – there are laws but not everyone adheres to them. This will come only with maturity and a willingness on all parties to make it work.

How long have you been an indie author?

Depends whether this relates to when did I have my first idea (6 years), start the research (5 years), start the book (2 years), or publish the first book (1 year).

Of course, the other answer is – I’ve always been an Indie author. I was just waiting for the right book to come along.


Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree SM Spencer

SM Spencer

SM Spencer

I’d like to welcome SM Spencer to chat with me today about her B.R.A.G. Medallion book, Destiny. Sm was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.

As a young teenager her mother introduced her to the world of romantic suspense by encouraging her to read the works of authors such as Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart. These books stirred a passion in her that would last a lifetime—to become a writer.

Feeling the need to experience life before embarking on a writing career, MS Spencer completed a business degree. Her career eventually landed her in Melbourne, Australia, where she has lived ever since. Yet her true passion to be a writer never abated.

SM Spencer now writes from her home in the outskirts of Melbourne, where she lives with her husband, horses, cats and dogs.

Hello, Sandy! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your story, Destiny – Absent Shadows Trilogy Book One. I noticed in your bio that you are a fan of du Maurier and how it inspired you to become a writer. That is wonderful! Which book did you read first of du Maurier? I read, ‘Rebecca’ first and several times again after that. I have a couple of others from her on my shelf. Her stories are so atmospheric.

Hi Stephanie! Thank you for this opportunity. It really is lovely to speak with you today.

Now, as for du Maurier’s books, I can’t recall which one I read first, but I know which one had the biggest impact on me; Frenchman’s Creek. I so wanted to rewrite the ending of that book! And I wanted to find Frenchman’s Creek. Years later, while travelling in Cornwall, I think I may have found it, or a similar creek. And the memories of that book came back as if I’d only just read it.

How much time a week do you devote yourself to the craft of writing and where in your home do you like to write?

I tend to write in spurts. Sometimes weeks will go by, when other parts of life get busy. But then I’ll write every day for a time. Perhaps I’m what you’d call a “binge writer”.

Please tell me about your story, Destiny.

Destiny is the first book in the Absent Shadows trilogy, which is the story of a young woman who wants to make a difference with her life, but isn’t sure how to go about it. When she takes a trip to Australia for her summer vacation, she discovers a supernatural world that she’d never imagined existed. Her belief systems and courage are tested, but in the end it is her love and devotion that get her through.

The book is set in and around some of the oldest parts of Melbourne, being the Flagstaff Gardens and Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market. Most of what is now the carpark for the market was originally the site of the Old Melbourne Cemetery. The cemetery was relocated when the market expanded; however most of the bodies (some say as many as 9,000) were not exhumed, and remain there today.

The story brings together my love of the paranormal, my desire to remain open-minded to explanations of how the world we live in really works, and my deep belief in the good that resides in most people (even though we all know there are some vampires who, quite simply, cannot be trusted!)

Destiny by SM Spencer

Tell me a little about nineteen year-old Lili McIntyre. What are her strengths and weaknesses?

Lili is a bit shy, and still rather naïve when it comes to the ways of the world, but she has a burning desire to achieve something good with her life. She is most definitely not a ‘super human’ or a ‘larger than life’ character. She is just your average girl, who finds herself caught up in a world that is anything BUT average.

Will you share a conflict she faces?

The first, and probably the biggest of Lili’s conflicts, is leaving the security of her family in California to head to a foreign country.

What is a cultural change that she has to make from her life in California to Australia? How does she deal with it?

In many ways, life in Melbourne is very much like life in California—but cars are driven on the opposite side of the road, people use different words to describe things, and her aunt is the only person she knows when she first arrives. Building a new network of friends takes time, and it is her budding friendship with Claire that helps Lili acclimatize as quickly as she does.

Please tell me a little about Lili’s friend, Claire.

Claire is perfection on the outside, and a little bit of a daredevil on the inside. She is the high school cheerleader, the prom queen and the girl that always had a boyfriend while the rest of us watched in envy. But she likes Lili right from the start, and takes her under her wing.

What is the Queen Victoria Market and the Flagstaff Gardens? How does that play a part in your story?

The Queen Victoria market is largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. At this market you can find every type of food: fresh produce, deli foods, fast food, meat, fish and the list goes on. You can also find anything you’d typically find at a “flea market” or other outdoor market, including both new and old items.

The Flagstaff Gardens is the oldest, and one of the most used, parks in the city. It is 18 acres of beautiful meandering paths through elms, figs and eucalypts. But it is also the site of the first burials of the new colony, back in 1835, which is why it was called “Burial Hill”.

Being such an old area, and one that is the subject of many ghost stories and sightings, it seemed the perfect location for a story about supernatural characters. And the markets themselves were the perfect spot for two of the key characters to work. Sam and Tom work in one of the fresh produce stalls at the market, and this is where Lili first sees Sam.

What inspired you to write this paranormal love story?

I was working around the corner from the Queen Victoria Markets, up near the Flagstaff Gardens. Walking around at lunchtime, I started sensing that this was the perfect setting for ghosts and vampires—and the story just developed from there. Of course, the late night ghost tours I’d done in the area, where I’d learned the history of the cemetery under the market’s carpark and about ghost sightings all throughout the area, really helped. And like many, I was caught up in the resurgence in popularity of vampires.

Could you please share an excerpt?

Sometimes, when something bad happens, time seems to slow to a crawl.

Like that time I was running to visit my friend who lived down the street. I was only about ten at the time, but it seemed like it was yesterday. I remember exactly how it felt as I ran down that street toward her house. And how, when I was only part way there, I stepped on an acorn and my foot rolled out from under me. As I fell, the pavement got closer and closer to my face—in horrible slow-motion. I hit the ground with my hands stretched out in front of me, scraping the skin off both palms. They barely bled but man they hurt like crazy.

Yes, I could replay that memory like a slow-motion movie in my head even now—years later.

But this … well, this wasn’t like that.

What happened next was like a series of still photos. Tom flew out of the bedroom in a blur, but stopped just long enough for the image of his face to be burnt into my mind. His eyes were no longer soft brown, but were instead a glowing red, and his normally tanned complexion was now pallid grey. But what really stood out was the blood that ran down from the corner of his mouth.

Then I heard Sam’s voice—loud and harsh. ‘Go!’

Tom was gone and I heard the door slam.

I closed my eyes for no more than a long blink—it couldn’t have been more than a second—but when I opened them, Sam was in the bedroom, bending over Claire. Was he doing something to her neck? She was so still.

I ran to the doorway but stopped short of going in. I couldn’t draw a breath to scream or talk. I just stood there, frozen.

Who designed your book cover?


When you are not writing, do you have any hobbies you spend time on?

I have three horses, and they take up a bit of time! We live on a small acreage property, and there are gardens all around the house, so that takes up quite a bit of time as well. I also do volunteer work, and play bridge in my spare time.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on a rural romance, and while it’s nearly complete in my head I’m only about half way through getting it down on paper.

How did you discover indieBRAG?


Where can readers buy your book?

Only on Amazon at this stage.

But they can find and follow me on Facebook

Author Facebook Page

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview SM Spencer who is the author of, Destiny, one of our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Desstiny, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experiences

Linda Gilard BRAG

Linda Gillard

I’d like to welcome back three time B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Linda Gillard today to talk with me about her self-publishing experiences. Linda lives in the Scottish Highlands and has been an actress, journalist and teacher. She is the author of seven novels, including STAR GAZING, short-listed in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and HOUSE OF SILENCE, which became a Kindle bestseller and was selected by Amazon UK as one of their Top Ten “Best of 2011” in the Indie Author category. Three of her novels have been honoured with an indie B.R.A.G. Medallion

Linda, how long have you been an indie author?

Since 2011. I parted ways with my publisher over my fourth novel, HOUSE OF SILENCE. They said it would be difficult to market and needed a complete re-write. Rather than do that I withdrew the manuscript. I really believed in my book as it stood. I hoped I’d get another publisher, but after 2 years my agent still hadn’t found one. We had a lot of rejection emails saying editors liked my books but couldn’t see how to market them because they didn’t belong to a particular genre.

My fans kept asking for a new book and I had two that my agent had been unable to sell, so I decided to publish them myself. HOUSE OF SILENCE became a Kindle bestseller and then Amazon selected it as one of their Top Ten of 2011 in the Indie Author category. I re-published my out-of-print backlist and four new books and now I earn a living from writing non-genre fiction. Not many authors do that.

What has your experience been like along the way?

Almost wholly positive. Deciding to walk away from traditional publishing was the best thing I ever did, both creatively and financially, though at the time it felt like professional suicide. Now I can write what I want to write, in the way I want to write it. I can mix genres and have romantic heroines in their 40s!

I’ve enjoyed learning new skills and I’ve loved working with my designer, Nicola Coffield. I thought two of my traditionally published novels were sabotaged by their covers and I had a title foisted on me that I hated, so it means a lot to me to have books with titles and covers I can be proud of.

I’ve found indie authors a generous and knowledgeable group of people, especially the members of The Alliance of Independent Authors, the professional body of which I was a founder member. Bloggers too have been supportive and so has IndieBRAG who honoured three of my books with their Medallion. (CAULDSTANE, UNTYING THE KNOT and HOUSE OF SILENCE.)

Cauldstone BRAG

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

It’s been difficult deciding how to market mixed-genre books. Traditional publishing promotes genre fiction by making it easily identifiable from the cover and title and they promote many authors as a “brand”. But I think I’ve now achieved that with my mixed-genre novels. Reviews indicate that people read one of my books, then download others. They aren’t buying a genre, they’re buying an author, a “voice”.

The downsides are trying to conserve writing time and the exhaustion that comes from trying to do everything yourself, to a very high standard. I write full time and my husband runs our home and does a lot of the technical work for me, but there aren’t enough hours in the day. That’s why I don’t do Twitter or have a blog. I prioritise writing because the best and most lucrative use of my time is always going to be writing the next book.

But I’m very lucky. My readers promote my books for me. Their enthusiasm is the best kind of marketing.

What have you learned in this industry?

You need a very good book, the best you can write. Don’t publish until you have that – ideally two or three. A really good book, professionally presented will have readers coming back for more. There have been a few books of debatable quality that made a lot of money, but if you’re a career writer, if you want to build a loyal following, producing good quality books is the best way to do it.

You also need to interact with your readers. If you hate social networking, don’t become an author! Readers expect you to be accessible. It’s all part of the package now. If they like your books, they want to know about you, in the same way they might want to know about an actress or sportsman they admire.

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?

Research. Re-think. Re-write. Refine.

You must offer a totally professional product, indistinguishable from a traditionally published ebook or paperback. You must write the best book you can and it should of course be error-free. Then you must give it the best cover you can afford (and if you can’t afford a good cover, don’t publish.) Do lots of marketing research within your genre, then write a selling blurb and plan a marketing campaign.

Being an indie author is a job, not a hobby, so if you already have a job, be prepared to give up TV, housework, socialising, even sleep in order to realise your dream.

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?

Promote by stealth. Readers hate relentless self-promotion. It’s selfish and boring. But they assume interesting books must be written by interesting people, so instead of promoting your books, cultivate relationships with readers. Engage with readers on blogs, in forums, on Facebook and Twitter. In the course of chatting, tell people about your books – just a little to whet their appetite. Then, if they show interest, tell them more.

Be sincere. Readers aren’t stupid. If you engage with them solely for the purpose of self-promotion, they’ll pick up on this and resent being used. Not only will you fail to sell a book, you’ll create a bad impression. Readers don’t want authors cold calling, they want new friends. The trick is to persuade them that their new friend also writes good books!

Put in the hours. Achieving online visibility is our biggest challenge and there are few short cuts to this. Resign yourself to putting in a great deal of time seeking out potential readers, cultivating bloggers, joining in discussions (not just about books). This is all part of the job. See it as an opportunity to make new friends with shared interests. Even if you don’t make a sale, you might make a friend. I regard my readers as friends I haven’t met yet.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?

I have an author page on Facebook where I engage with my readers most days, but a lot of what I do there isn’t related to book promotion. My page reflects all my interests and concerns. I occasionally promote posts on FB and I paid for two Bookbub promotions which were very successful and brought me a lot of new readers. My books are all on Goodreads but I don’t engage with that site much. Otherwise, there’s just my website. I don’t have a blog, though I often guest blog when people ask me.

As for promotion techniques, I talk about the issues or settings of my books, rather than promote the books themselves. I just give readers interesting information. I find that if, for example, I tell people on Facebook about living on the Isle of Skye and why I decided to write about a blind woman’s impressions of the island, it leads to sales, especially if I post photographs of my old home on Skye.

This is much more effective (and less irritating) than saying, “Please buy my book! It’s on offer today!” No one needs any more cheap/free books. Readers are now conserving time. They’re looking for quality reads that repay their time investment, so you have to persuade them your book will be worth their time.

I don’t know how much time I spend on book promotion. Too much! I don’t log my hours – it would be depressing. I suppose it must be at least 2 hours a day on average, if you count Facebook time, preparation for talks and workshops, answering emails from readers, librarians, festival organizers. And I work a 7-day week.

My hunch is, only 2% of what I do to promote my books actually produces sales and reviews. The rest is a waste of time. But I have no idea which 2% works!

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

Undoubtedly a lot of amateurs will fall by the wayside as they realise making even a modest living as a writer entails a huge amount of hard work, dedication and expertise.

Readers will make no distinction between traditional publishing and self-publishing. There will just be good books and bad books.

Unless publishers improve the service they offer, we’ll see even more traditionally published authors defecting to self-publishing so they can earn more and enjoy greater creative freedom.

Most people will be reading on e-readers, tablets or phones, but I think there will still be a market for high quality paperbacks and hardbacks which will lead to better designed, very desirable books that readers want to own.

If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

Amazon currently allow readers to return an ebook within 7 days which means there’s a host of dishonest people out there reading for free. Amazon say they monitor this and eventually stop book buyers cheating, but when I look at my sales figures I still see lots of returns. Why should readers have 7 days to return an ebook? One day is surely enough to realise you’ve purchased something by mistake.

I’d also like to do something about piracy. Authors are told to just put up with it, it goes with the territory, not many copies are pirated, but shouldn’t we be educating readers to understand that downloading pirated editions is stealing? Readers who wouldn’t dream of stealing a car or groceries will steal authors’ books, as if intellectual property isn’t property!

This is just ignorance and unfortunately the huge number of free books has encouraged readers to think they don’t need to pay for any of their reading material. Piracy is theft.

Author Webiste


Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Jo Sparkes

Jo Sparkes

I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Jo Sparkes back to Layered Pages to talk about her book, The Agben School. A well-known Century City Producer once said that Jo Sparkes “…writes some of the best dialogue I’ve read.” Her body of work includes scripts for Children’s live-action and animated television programs, a direct to video Children’s DVD, commercial work for corporate clients. She won the 2012 Kay Snow award for her screenplay, Frank Retrieval.

She’s written numerous articles for internet sites. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, she was a contributing writer for the Arizona Sports Fans Network, where she was known for her humorous articles, player interviews and game coverage. Jo was unofficially the first to interview Emmitt Smith when he arrived in Arizona to play for the Cardinals.

She served as an adjunct teacher at the Film School at Scottsdale Community College, and wrote “Feedback, How to Give It How to Get It” for writers, actors, and other artists.

Thank you, Jo for chatting with me today about your B.R.A.G. Medallion book, The Agben School   (Book 2 of The Legend of the Gamesmen). Please tell me a little about your story.

It should have been a happy ending. A Prince restored, victory in the black arena. Instead the band of friends shatters against an evil conspiracy. Refusing to endanger one man or burden another, Marra flees to the Agben School. Agben, whose ancient walls have held for a thousand years, protecting those within as they sought to harness the power of nature. But this evil is relentless, and the school may not be the safe ground she thought. In fact it may not be anything she thought. Cut off from the only friends she knew, Marra discovers more than her life hangs in the balance. For the future of her race – of both races – depends not on a prince trying to save his people, nor the heroic men who’d brought them this far. Everything depends on her.

JO sparkes BRAG

What is one of the challenges Marra faces and how does she deal with it?

In trying to help Tryst gain access into his own palace, Marra is recognized. If she returns to Drail and his men, they could be caught in the web of traitors. Or she can hide with Tryst, putting her future entirely in the hands of a man who a man who had deceived them all. Or, perhaps, she can forge her own path. Ultimately she does this by entering the gates of the Agben School.

What is the role of the legendary Gamesman?

In this, the second book of the series, the legendary Gamesmen seems to be Drail’s grandsire, a renowned player of the game. The day will come, however, when Drail himself fulfills that role – by saving his people from foes not yet imagined.

What is the Setting and Period for your story?

Set in a fantasy world, the story takes place on the Great Continent, mostly in the King’s city of Missea. The time period is roughly that of medieval Europe.

Is there any historical facts or significance about your book?

A lot of time has been spent researching herb lore — even going so far as to consult a Chinese medicine practitioner.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I have a desk by a second story window, looking out over trees. Early in the morning – 5 a.m. usually, I’ll put on the coffee and write.

Early afternoons it’s the living room, with a different window, different trees. This is pen and pad and thinking time. Putting myself in the characters places, imagining how they’d react, what they’d feel. Sort of preparing myself for the next morning’s writing.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I saw a book with the BRAG Medallion, and checked it out. Whenever I see a book award like that, I jot it down for further investigation. In indieBRAG’s case, it was such a great concept, both for author and for the reader that I had to go for it.

IndieBRAG is really good people with a really good idea.

Who designed your book cover?

I just got new covers, courtesy of Jake Logsden . Aren’t they gorgeous!

What are you working on next?

The third and final book in the trilogy is underway. Plus I have another book, a special story for me, that’s calling my name. As a writer, sometimes you grab a story – and sometimes it grabs you. When the latter happens, the grip is relentless.

Do you stick with just genre?

I should. That’s what the experts say. But when a story seeks you out, it’s very hard to ignore. After this trilogy, the next will be a contemporary paranormal/adventure.

Author Links:

Website: Website

Twitter @Sparkes777    

Amazon Link

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jo Sparkes who is the author of, The Agben School (Book 2 of The Legend of the Gamesmen), our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Agben School (Book 2 of The Legend of the Gamesmen), merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experiences

Janet Stafford BRAGI’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree, Janet R. Stafford today to talk with me about her experiences in Self-publishing and what she has learned in her endeavor thus far. Janet was born in Albany, NY, but spent most of her childhood and all of her teen years in Parsippany, NJ – so she thinks of herself as a Jersey Girl. She went to Seton Hall University (South Orange, NJ) where she received a B.A. degree in Asian Studies. She also has a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture, both from Drew University (Madison, NJ). She worked for eight years as an adjunct professor teaching classes in interdisciplinary studies and history. But Janet’s primary call has been serving six United Methodist churches over the past 24 years, where she has worked in the area of spiritual formation and ministries with children and youth. Her current passion is multi-generational worship and learning.

The publication of Janet’s first novel, Saint Maggie, led to the creation of a series by the same name. She followed up with Walk by Faith in 2013 and After the Storm in 2014. Heart Soul & Rock ‘N’ Roll, a contemporary romance, was published at the end of April 2015.

Janet, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?’

I had tried attracting a publisher and/or agent years ago, to no avail. At that point I gave up trying to publish and focused on creating dramatic materials for the churches in which I worked. I realized that self-publishing was a possibility when a friend of mine, Rich Melheim of Faith Inkubators, announced that he was publishing a book through Lulu. I thought, “Well, if Rich can do it, so can I!” So I polished SAINT MAGGIE and began my self-publishing adventure.

What has your experience been like along the way?

My experience has been a major learning curve! I’ve learned so much about publishing in general – everything from formatting and editing to cover design, to distribution and eBooks, to marketing and publicity. Self-publishing is not about writing one’s book. It’s about writing the book and everything else that goes into putting the book into the public’s hands. However, I’ve got to say that I am enjoying the experience. I’ve made some interesting goofs along the way, but every time I mess up, I learn something and am more empowered.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

The big challenges have been marketing and publicity, and I freely admit that I still am not very good at either of them. I’m just not good at tooting my own horn. It’s hard for me to say “This is the most moving book you’ve ever read” or “This book will sweep you into the conflict and pain of the Civil War.” The Saint Maggie series is an inspiring story about a family, but it’s not going to change anyone’s life. My upcoming romance, HEART SOUL & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, is fun and engaging, but it’s not going to bring about world peace. Advertising and marketing is all about exaggeration in order to get people’s attention, something I find disturbing and difficult to do. Also, marketing on social media, while free, takes a significant amount of time – time that I would rather spend writing. So the marketing and publicity aspects are quite challenging for me.

Saint Maggie Book with BRAG Medallion

What have you learned in this industry?

I have learned to do what’s best for me and my books. I started out with Lulu then tried a few other publishing/printing platforms, only to come back to Lulu. My reasons are simple: even though the books cost more to print through Lulu, I find that they give better, more personal service and I have easy access to my files. I even run copies for beta readers by uploading drafts to Lulu and printing them while keeping the material private. The process also helps me work on the cover. When the book is complete, I change the setting so that it will be available to the public, add my ISBN, and it’s ready.

I have also learned the value of old-fashioned public relations. One of my favorite things is to give talks and make public appearances. This past February I spoke to one group that was excited to have an author in their midst. Let’s be honest, most indie authors are unknowns, but if you offer to speak to a group for no charge, as long as you can bring your books to sell and sign, many book clubs, discussion groups, and community groups will be happy to have you. People want to pick authors’ minds, discover why we write, how we write, how we come up with characters, and so on. Best-selling authors don’t or can’t do this for local groups. But relatively unknown authors can. Groups and clubs appreciate it if you take the time to converse with them and sign books. It’s a slow-track in the world of publicity and marketing, but for me it’s the more rewarding track.

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?

1) DO find someone to help you with editing, story continuity, etc. If you can’t afford to purchase someone’s services, then find friends who are avid readers, or school teachers or college professors. Also find people who will be honest with you. You cannot do editing all on your own. I use volunteer beta readers at present.

2) DON’T believe deals that look too good to be true. A simple adage: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. There are countless people and agencies out there looking to separate you from your money. They will tell you that you’ll get x-number of readers or x-amount of publicity if you use their services for x-amount of money. But experience has taught me that there is no magic bullet. I have been taken a few times and I’d like spare you. Be judicious with your money.

3) DO celebrate with the few indie writers who have become well-known and/or wealthy; but DON’T allow their success to make you doubt your own value as an author. Remember, people who write best-sellers are a minority who probably had some phenomenal good luck and/or good friends in the right places. What about talent? They have it – but many little known or unknown authors have talent, too. Don’t forget that.

4) DO work on becoming a better writer. Read work by other authors, be critical when reviewing your drafts, and ask for helpful criticism from others.

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?

Know why you’re writing. If it is to get rich and famous, forget about it. You’ll quickly get discouraged when it doesn’t happen. However, if you’re writing because you need to and because you have a story or stories to tell, then go for it – but be prepared to do the hard work and don’t expect to be thrust into the wonderful world of a best-selling book. Instead, look for your rewards in the “small” things. At a recent book club, one reader gave me some helpful criticism of my second book, and then finished up by saying that she could see my growth as a writer throughout the three books. I loved that. Another reader told me on Facebook that I was her favorite author. Are you kidding, with all the other authors out there? That is some kind of compliment! Rewards should not be confined solely to income, book sales, popularity, or number of reviews. Find your joy in the process of writing and publishing, and in your readership.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work? What are the different sites you use to promote your book?

I use Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and have a website for my micro-publishing company (I will be publishing work from another author soon) and one for me as an author. I’m also on Goodreads, but I’m inactive and really should drop it. I found it was just one site too many for me to handle.

Since I also work 25-30 hours a week as an assistant minister at a United Methodist church, ideally I want to devote 15 hours a week to research, writing, and publication. I’ve never really tracked how much time I spend on social media. I suppose now that I’ve got four books under my belt, I should log my time to see. My sense is that social media and website work can suck up a fair amount of time.

As for promotional techniques, I do a few things. For instance, I enjoy putting up impromptu games and offering a book as a prize to the first one to give the correct answer. I did that recently on Facebook with HEART SOUL & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. On occasion, I run special deals on my author page. I will drop the price or ship for free. However, I don’t care to do deals on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, because it is klutzy to change pricing. Also, I don’t go in for things like KDP Select or Matchbook on Kindle – which probably explains why I don’t get much traction on Kindle or Amazon! But I do not like having to make my eBook “exclusive” to Kindle. For WALK BY FAITH and A TIME TO HEAL, I used a crowdfunding platform called Publish to get the word out and raise money for publishing expenses. Crowdfunding also raised awareness about the books. Occasionally, I have used advertising on the web through Yahoo or Google. The ads did get my work exposed to a wider audience, but I learned that you must watch the daily expenses, as they can pile up quickly.

Finally, I have done giveaways on Goodreads. These were comprised of an offer to give away ten books to ten people who enter the giveaway. I got tons of interest and gave away the ten books, but the follow-through from other potential readers was negligible. I am wary of doing too many giveaways – first of all because they cost money, and at present my company is always short of that! The second reason comes from seeing what has happened to music. Easy access to free music has led many people to expect that all music should be free, forgetting that someone had to create that song. The music did not spring forth from the ether. Of course, the work of musicians, authors, and other artists should not be priced out of the average person’s reach, but neither should a person’s creative work be taken for granted and expected to be free on a regular basis.

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

I don’t think of self-publishing as an “industry.” It seems to me that we are so many little ants out there creating books and trying to get readers’ attention. So perhaps self-publishing will become an industry as more small publishing companies and/or authors’ support groups come to the fore. At the present, self-publishing reminds me of the frontier – anything goes until the sheriff, pastor, librarian, and schoolmarm come to town.

If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

Perhaps we need to have author support groups. Oh, I know writing groups are out there – but my “day job” (or more correctly, my “other vocation”) is demanding. I often work Saturdays, am always busy on Sundays, often at the office on weekday mornings and sometimes doing things on weekday evenings. So hooking up with a face-to-face group doesn’t work for me. But it would be helpful to have online groups where people could exchange experiences, give and get advice, and so on. Hey, maybe I should start one of those! Anyway, the emergence of more organization might make self-publishing an industry.

How long have you been an indie author?

I published SAINT MAGGIE in 2011, so I have been an indie author for four years. I’m a baby in the field! That said, I have published two more books in the Saint Maggie series, and have just launched my first romance. Whether or not I become a “best-seller,” I’m in this for the long run!

Author Link:



Twitter @JanetRStafford

Squeaking Pips (my publishing company)



Self-Publishing: Author’s Experiences

Lorraine Wilke-BRAG

I would like to welcome, B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lorraine Devon Wilke today to talk about her Self-publishing experiences, what to expect, the challenges and the do’s and don’ts with this growing industry. This is the first post on the wonderful series indieBRAG and Layered Pages is conducting. Lorraine started early as a creative hyphenate. First, there was music and theater, next came rock & roll, then a leap into film when a feature she co-wrote (To Cross the Rubicon) was produced by a Seattle film company, opening doors in a variety of creative directions.

In the years following, she wrote for and performed on theater stages, developed her photography skills, and accrued a library of well-received feature screenplays (The Theory of Almost Everything was a top finalist in the 2012 Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest; A Minor Rebellion a Quarter Finalist in that same event in 2014). She kept her hand in music throughout – songwriting, recording, performing – leading to the fruition of a longtime goal to record an original album (Somewhere On the Way). Accomplished in collaboration with songwriting/producing partner, Rick M. Hirsch, the album garnered stellar reviews and can be found at CDBaby and iTunes (one tune from the collection is even featured in the epilogue of After the Sucker Punch). She continues with music whenever she can (which, she maintains, is never, ever, enough!).

Lorraine, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?

I spent a lot of time researching the various options and originally decided that, for me, traditional publishing was the way to go. Having been an indie artist as a singer/songwriter, a screenwriter, and a photographer, I was well-versed on the challenges of “doin’ for yourself,” particularly in the arena of marketing and promotion, and REALLY wanted some help this go-around. I was also aware of the changing tides in the book publishing industry and understood that, even with a traditional deal, an artist is obligated to do a lot of their own legwork, but still… getting help seemed like a grand notion.

But wanting a publishing deal and getting one are two very different things! I jumped into the notorious “query process” with AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH in 2010, continuing to polish and fine-tune the book throughout the long and arduous years of that quest, and in late 2013, when I decided the book was truly DONE and it was time to give it life, and still had not snagged a deal, I had to ponder other options. Ultimately, I reached a point where I no longer wanted to wait for permission to proceed, so to speak, and opted, in early 2014, to self-publish.

After the sucker punch

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

What has your experience been like along the way?

I was intimidated at the onset, feeling sort of “over my head” with the sheer logistics of getting the task accomplished, but with guidance from a few key people, as well as my own innate ability to be well organized and detail oriented, I soon discovered it wasn’t all that difficult. It was imperative to me that my edit was perfect, my cover was professional, and my formatting was flawless, so I took the necessary steps to make sure all that got done, and once I sorted out the step-by-step procedure of getting the book up at CreateSpace and Amazon, it was a fairly simple launch. And from there it was great fun getting the word out, promoting on all my social media, wrangling early readers to share their views on the page; just generally sending my “baby” out into the world after years of being a “stay-at-home book”! And certainly the discovery that readers were excited and moved by what I’d written was a profound moment for me. One never knows, does one? J Until you actually start hearing back from readers, particularly those to whom you have no connection, readers who are objectively commenting on what struck them, or what they liked, etc., you just never know how this creation of yours will impact others. Quite a milestone for any writer!

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

The most obvious challenge is, how do you market and promote YOUR book in the glut of hundreds of thousands of self-published titles that come out during a year? The sheer numbers of books that hit the market via Amazon and Smashwords and other indie sites is absolutely astonishing, and finding a way to stand out and be seen, enough to garner the attention and interest of readers, is quite the task.

I’m almost a year into promoting AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH and, while it’s done very well in terms of garnering strong reviews, winning certain honors (including the fabulous BRAG Medallion!), getting picked for “best of” lists, etc., I’m still finding it a challenge to break out of the field in a more meaningful way. Conventional wisdom says “literary fiction”—as opposed to more buzzy genres like “paranormal romance,” “murder mysteries,” or “vampire/zombie” fare—is a more difficult sell and that might be true. We’ll see. As I continue to explore ways to get AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH, as well as my new novel, HYSTERICAL LOVE, out there, I’m looking to crack the code on that one. Certainly any and all suggestions welcomed! The other, more systemic, challenges are the limitations and stigmas assigned to the entire demographic of “self-published book.” They are many and persistent, and their impact on indie authors is deeply felt. There are major book contests that will not accept submissions from self-published authors; higher-profile review sites, blogs, and publications that will not even consider self-published books; book stores won’t carry copies, events marginalize self-pubbers to the back room, and generalized thinking within the industry—that being self-published automatically categorizes one as “less”—promotes a prejudice that unfairly tarnishes a lot of really excellent, beautifully crafted, and utterly deserving books. I hope that changes over time, and with the impact of more and more self-published writers holding themselves to a higher standard, it should.

What have you learned in this industry?

Most notably, how to produce a book: how to craft a solid, page-turning narrative, how to access the right people and resources to edit, proof, format, and create a brilliant cover; basically, how to bring to fruition a product that can sit comfortably and deservedly on the shelf with any traditionally published book. Personally, I loved that educational process! I’ve also learned that there are many helpful, supportive, really generous people in the indie world, people who will go out of their way to push and promote the work of others they admire. That’s a remarkable thing, particularly in such a competitive and oversaturated market. I’ve met some amazing bloggers and fellow authors who are exemplary in that regard, and I have no end of appreciation for the efforts they’ve made on my behalf, as well as others. I’ve also met and read some incredible authors who are creating top-notch books that deserve all the accolades and attention they can get. And yet one cannot exist in the self-publishing industry without also feeling the cold-water-dip reality of how challenging it is to break out, in a meaningful way, in the midst of so much product, particularly when you’re marketing yourself. To be honest, that’s the puzzle at the moment and one I’m still sorting out!

Hysterical Love

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?

Do’s are simple: WRITE AND PRODUCE AN EXCELLENT BOOK. Of course, that’s very subjective isn’t it? And just as we’ve watched thousands of delusional “singers” over the years get miffed when Simon Cowell told them they couldn’t sing, so, too, are there those in every avenue of the arts who believe they’ve got a handle on a craft when they don’t. So, yes, there are many books out there that lack professional excellence, and since self-publishing is unfiltered and non-exclusionary, those books go out into the marketplace right along with the others…which is why the stigmas about self-publishing exist! But for those who are NOT delusional (which is, hopefully, the majority!), the main objective is to produce an excellent book, leaving no stone unturned in applying professional standards of narrative development, editing, proofing, formatting, cover design, and marketing. The Don’ts are equally as simple: don’t be delusional—about your abilities, your book, the marketplace, what you can expect from the marketplace, or what anyone owes you. Don’t cut corners: if you can’t afford professional editing, formatting, cover design, etc., you’re not ready to publish. Don’t chase after false accolades; review swaps have corrupted the process and if you think a hundred 5-star reviews from friends, family, and fellow writers who’ve been promised a quid pro quo are more valuable than a few authentic responses from objective readers, again, you’re not approaching this like a professional. If you think spending hours of time on Facebook debating “how to get started” is the best use of your time, you might want to reconsider your passion and see if there’s something else doesn’t spark more artistic urgency.

In a nutshell: approach the entire endeavor with professionalism, rigorous standards, eyes wide open, and a passion for the process. If you do, you should thoroughly enjoy the journey…and that alone can make the leap worth making!

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?

Beyond the above? BE REALISTIC. We’ve all read articles about the few self-published writers who’ve hit the jackpot: who wrote some fan fiction or a genre series that went viral and made them millions. We’ve read the articles promoting self-publishing in such glowing terms we are absolutely certain we cannot lose. We’ve watched videos, gone to workshops, attended seminars, heard self-publishing touted as the “way the industry is going,” with mantras about taking things into our own hands, bypassing the gatekeepers, doing it our way, and so on, and it all sounds incredibly exciting and DOABLE. Which it is. But…

The reality is that almost 450,000 self-published books came out last year and very, very few of them went viral or made millions. Most sold a few to family and friends and not much beyond. Some did marginally well for a bit, then died on the vine. Others only flew off the shelf when the authors gave them away or reduced the price to pennies. Turns out, self-publishing is much like gambling: we gamble believing we’ll win based on anecdotal evidence that some people win, so why not us? And indeed, why not?

But that rougher-edged supply/demand inequity can’t be ignored. So what’s the answer? Simply, BE REALISTIC. If, even knowing those odds, you are compelled to be a self-published author, embrace the realities of the market, leap with joy and enthusiasm, and again, start by WRITING AND PRODUCING THE BEST BOOK YOU POSSIBLY CAN. At the end of the day, your books are your legacy as an artist, and no matter what happens to them in the great, unpredictable marketplace, it behooves you to take pride in what you create, knowing that no matter what does or doesn’t happen commercially, you will have left a meaningful piece of your authentic, artistic self for your family, your loved ones, maybe even future readers. So no matter what, WRITE AND PRODUCE THE BEST BOOK YOU POSSIBLY CAN.

Then approach marketing and promotion like a total professional; realize you will need to spend money to get your book up at the better book sites, to buy promotional campaigns, to purchase advertising, to enter contests, to print books for events, readings, and signings; to send to reviewers and festivals. You can’t just do social media and leave it at that; social media is utterly inundated with book promotions these days and there is a certain deadening factor kicking in. People are becoming inured to the “read my book!” kind of promotions. So get creative; think of other things to say, other ways to feature your work. Share the work of authors you admire; be generous about writing authentic reviews of books you like, help promote others without an agenda, and you’ll realize how much your generosity is appreciated. And often reciprocated.

Be realistic… and keep writing.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?

I do some kind of promotion of my work every single day, in one form or another. I write articles for my blogs, write guest articles, comment on the work of others; share blogs of other writers. As for social media, I engage in select conversations on Facebook (though I do not spend much time on that), and share articles, book links, commentary—as well as promotional alerts about my own books—on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Digg, LinkedIn, Intagram, Pinterest, etc. I’m working with a publicity company for the launch of my new book, HYSTERICAL LOVE. That expense was something I felt necessary to give this second book of mine a bigger shot into the marketplace. Via their efforts, I’m doing radio/podcast interviews, guest posts, events, etc., with lots of media getting advance copies of the book, and hopefully the critical mass of all that will go a long way toward getting this book further out upon launch. We’ll see, but they’re a great group JKSCommunications and I like their style, so I am ever-optimistic!

Beyond that, I carry books in my car in case I run into people to whom I’d want to gift one, I always have postcards and business cards with me; I order “book cookies” (cookies with my book cover) for events, readings, book club discussions; I link my book sites on every piece of social media I have; I even use my photography (which I’ve used for all my book covers) as a way to promote my books. I look for every opportunity I can to graciously discuss and promote my work (emphasis on “graciously”). J

What are the different sites you use to promote your book?

Most importantly, I have my own website; very important for every writer. From there, visitors will find links to every other important site for my work. I also have a blog dedicated to my book publishing After the Sucker Punch ; again, with links to all other important sites. I also have a general blog with the same.

As for other sites: when I first published AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH in May of 2014, I did research to see what book sites seemed to be the most active, with the most followers, in the arena of book marketing and promotion. While I did end up jumping onto a few that were ultimately ineffective, there are several I intend to continue working with: Laurence O’Bryan’s BooksGoSocial is very active and involved; I can’t say enough about his passion and creativity in promoting indie writers. Others I’m on that I’ve enjoyed are Independent Author Network, Alan Healey’s Indie Author News, World Lit Cafe, Indies Unlimited, and, of course, B.R.A.G. Medallion !

My books are up at Amazon, and, more currently, at Smashwords. I opted out of the Kindle Select program more recently, not wanting to limit where I could post my books. I’m also not convinced the Kindle Unlimited lending program is all that beneficial for writers; I did not see it increase actual sales of my books and, again, I did not want to be limited to only having my ebooks up at Amazon. We’ll see how all that goes in the coming year and as things continue to evolve with the marketplace.

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

That’s a good question… and one I’m not sure how to answer. I imagine it will continue to expand, as new authors jump on board in hopes of finding their road to publishing success. But I hope, as that happens, the marketplace adjusts in necessary ways to not only accommodate that expansion, but to offer authors more opportunities and exposure. I hope the book industry as a whole evolves past the stigmatizing of self-published authors in any way, but judges them, just as they do any author, based on their individual work. And conversely, I hope the authors who join the pool do so while raising the bar of what can be expected from self-published authors. As much as we hate those stigmas, they evolved out of a certain reality, the fact that too many books hit the marketplace that were not up-to-par, not well produced; not excellent. And self-published authors are the only ones who can systemically raise that bar, step it up, to demand the highest levels of professionalism and become our own gatekeepers, in a way, toward delivering the best possible work. Hopefully in five to ten years no one will be talking about sloppy editing, amateurish book covers, and poorly constructed stories in self-published books… because there won’t be any!

I also think it’s possible traditional publishers will figure out how to adapt. Meaning, much like the music industry—where indie artists exist along with sustaining record labels—traditional publishers will not only coexist, but will have made positive, constructive changes in response to what is being learned via the indie world, things like how to recognize and value less obvious work, how to better serve their authors, how to better collaborate in creating the actual books (covers, edit, title, etc.); how to more fairly share profits, pay more quickly, market more enthusiastically, etc., things that benefit both the company and the writer. If traditional companies continue to exist, grow, expand, and improve, that would be lovely; it would give writers viable options: the choice to realistically and successfully self-publish, or to reach out to make a deal with a publisher that could actually benefit them. Win/win. I’m all for it and would appreciate the choice.

If something can be improve upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

I’ve probably covered this in my previous answers—certainly about how self-pubbers need to hold themselves to higher standards, how the industry needs to evolve past stereotypes, and how traditional publishers need to adjust for the changing times.

But one thing I still find confounding is how to get really good books, excellent books that aren’t necessarily the buzzy, virally, or trendy genres, more deserved attention, more readership. I’ve now read a number of top-notch literary fiction pieces that deserve serious numbers, reams of good reviews, and loads of fans, but can barely eek out a few sales per month. I know that’s also true in traditional publishing, and certainly there’s no accounting for the public’s taste, but, still… I’d like to see great literary fiction get recognized for its unique role in bringing stories and narratives written with profound thought and beauty into the greater marketplace. Frankly, I think it would be just stellar if vampires, zombies, and paranormal romance stepped aside a bit for some gorgeously written dramas about finding love, exploring emotional fragility, or deconstructing family life. You know, the kind of books I read… and write!

How long have you been an indie author?

I guess I’d have to say “forever,” since I’ve written my whole life and have never had a traditional publishing deal. More specifically, in terms of actually self-publishing my own work, since 2014. A short road so far, but one I’m enjoying, and intend will lead me right where I want to go: to publishing success as an author of compelling, funny, touching, and meaningful contemporary literature.

Thanks, Stephanie! I always enjoy sharing some perspective with you and your readers!

Lorraine Devon Wilke

Thank you, Loraine!



Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Virginia King

Virginia King

Virginia King

Stephanie: Hello, Virginia! Thank you for chatting with me today. Please tell me a little about yourself?

Virginia: Hi Stephanie. Great to be here. I started my career as a teacher then moved to unemployed ex-teacher, before landing a job as a producer of children’s read-along audio-books and from there getting into writing for children. Fifty books later, I started publishing books written by children and my publishing company won an innovation award in Australia. Along the way, I created writing workshops for adults and children, based on my philosophies – ‘let the writing be the thinking’ and ‘say yes to serendipity’. But my real passion wasn’t publishing or teaching, it was writing and I wanted to write for adults. So in 1999 I sat down at the keyboard and wrote one sentence: All she had to do was jump. I had no idea how to write a novel or what it would be about but 15 years later it became the complex psychological mystery The First Lie and won a BRAG Medallion.

My other interests include yoga, acrylic painting (quirky French interiors), and learning French.

Stephanie: Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG? How has your self-publishing experience been thus far?

Virginia: Before The First Lie was published I stumbled across indieBRAG during some online research. The website looked classy and the process looked rigorous and I hoped my book might be good enough to win a Medallion.

Self-publishing has been an adventure for me – expensive, stressful, but also a lot of fun. Although I’ve been a publisher it was before social media and I didn’t have any kind of profile when I published The First Lie. I’ve written a good book so now it’s a matter of learning the best way to find the right audience. I don’t give up – as evidenced by the long lead time in writing the book.

Stephanie: Please tell me a little about your story and what genre it falls under?

Virginia: Selkie Moon is a woman of thirty-four who has fled to Hawaii to escape an abusive husband. Selkie was named after the Celtic seal people – they peel off their skins and dance in the moonlight on human legs. The irony of her life is that she almost drowned as a toddler and has been afraid of the sea ever since. Selkie thinks she’s free but soon her refuge begins to unravel. A series of bizarre events force her to investigate the past and face the shocking truth about herself.

The First Lie is a bit of a genre-bender – psychological mystery with touches of the mythical and mystical. After reading Haruki Murakami, I got very courageous about playing with elements of the surreal to add to the psychological layers. Selkie is a business woman who’s very grounded in the modern present but she does get to ride a wild mythical roller-coaster at times.

 The First Lie

Stephanie: Why did you choose Oahu (Hawaii) and Sydney (Australia) for the setting of your story?

Virginia: Sydney is my home town and The First Lie was set there for a long time. Then one day when I was struggling with the writing, I grabbed the camera and set out to visit all the locations in the book thinking I’d get my mojo back. This involved a whole day in the car because I now live a couple of hours out of town. When I got home totally exhausted, I burst into tears because none of the places in Selkie’s story spoke to me. So it was an act of desperation to send her to Hawaii but the pressure it put on me worked.   Selkie was suddenly on the run, a stranger in a new place and I got to go on a journey of discovery with her – which has given the story the edge it needed.

Stephanie: What is one of the examples of the mythical traditions you used to create the complex layers of the mystery in your story? And what fascinates you about that tradition?

Virginia: Selkie herself is named after the Celtic myth, so that’s the basis of the story. I adore folktales and mythology for their psychological layers and I’ve been collecting versions of the selkie story for years, not knowing why. I created an imaginary cove on Oahu with Irish connections and interwove Celtic mythology with Hawaiian mythology. Without giving too much away, there’s a mirror that has visions and a Kahuna (oracle) who lives in a bus shelter and makes one-word prognostications. I also had a lot of fun with graveyard symbols from folktales.

Stephanie: Your character Selkie befriends interesting people in Hawaii. Name one and please tell me about Selkie’s weaknesses and strengths in her relationship with that person.

Virginia: Selkie’s mother died when she was a baby. Her step-mother and then her husband both controlled her in a way that amounted to psychological abuse. Selkie’s only answer was to run away, but in Hawaii she runs into the arms of an Englishman called Roger Nightingale. He seems so different from her ex, but she’s vulnerable because she hasn’t yet learned to trust her own intuition. The reader and Selkie’s new friends aren’t too sure about Roger – he seems harmless with his goofy sense of humour as he peppers his speech with puns, but he likes to photograph gravestones and he keeps his filing cabinet locked. The discovery of his dark motivation causes shock waves in more ways than one. It’s one of the harsh realities Selkie has to face on her journey of self-discovery.

Stephanie: Please tell me a little about Selkie herself.

Virginia: Selkie is a modern woman who presents business seminars. When she escapes to Hawaii she says she’s ‘all alone in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without a life raft’. She makes new friends but she doesn’t know who to trust. Past experience has made her wary of close relationships. When she’s confronted with a series of bizarre ‘happenings’ she’s pushed to the edge of sanity. Through it all she keeps her quirky sense of humour but the reader senses her vulnerability. She’s on a journey and, as the tension mounts, she knows there’s no turning back.

Stephanie: Were there any challenges in writing your story? If so, what were they? How long did it take and where in your home do you like to write?

Virginia: I’ve already touched on the fifteen years it took to write the book and the challenge of changing the location of the story. The other real challenge was working with an editor – and trusting her – when she proposed some serious changes to the manuscript. For example, what I called ‘interesting detail’, Nicola O’Shea ( called ‘padding’. Whole chapters disappeared! I’ve learnt that when she thinks something isn’t working she’s right. The pressure this puts on me always makes something ‘pop’, with amazing results. I now understand the meaning of ‘an elegant solution’ because Nicola’s comments inspire me to find them. This relationship has been extremely important for my writing journey and has resulted in the quality of The First Lie.

I live in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, overlooking a valley full of birds. It used to be a tiny holiday house so I had to write on the kitchen table getting crumbs in my keyboard. Then we were able to add on an extra room. So these days I’ve got my own writing room with colour on the walls and surrounded by paintings – some of them my own. I’m lucky enough to also have a rural retreat – with two pet alpacas. Both homes are great places to write.

Stephanie: What was your inspiration for this story?

Virginia: Beyond my collection of selkie stories, I wanted to write a multi-layered psychological mystery series – the kind of involving books I like to read – so I started with the mystery of Selkie’s own history. I didn’t actually know her until I started writing. The story evolved as I wrote and I discovered its layers in serendipitous ways. Any tiny events from my own life have been fictionalized beyond recognition. I love that part of writing, taking some snippet of experience that’s true (like a conversation overheard on a bus) and letting the creative process transform it, sometimes into something surprising or magical. Because I don’t have a plan when I write, the writing itself is my inspiration.

Stephanie: You’ve just changed the cover of The First Lie. Tell us about both covers and what led you to make the change.

Virginia: In some ways writing the book was easier than choosing the title and the cover. Covers are your first chance to hook a reader in a crowded marketplace. Before they get to the blurb, a potential reader must choose to turn the book over or click on the thumbnail to find out more. The painted image of the woman’s face is the old cover and I was drawn to her haunted look. Before publishing, I showed it to booksellers who found it compelling. You can never really know if a cover is working but I’ve had a sense – based on statistics and feedback from reviewers – that the image doesn’t really work as a cover because it doesn’t tell a story or invite the reader in. It’s been a hard decision to change it, but I’ve worked with Julia Kuris at Designerbility ( and together we’ve come up with the new cover. It’s not trying to spell out the story in any literal way. It reflects a lot of elements from the book – the dark blue says mystery and moonlight, the water reflects Selkie’s frightening relationship with the sea, and the women’s faces give hints of the intriguing psychological layers that the story reveals.

If readers of Layered Pages would like to vote on their choice between these two covers, they can go to a cover poll on A Lover of  Books

the-first-lie-cover small rszd


The First Lie

Fantastic, Virginia! I voted.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Virginia: The First Lie is available in the Kindle store, and will soon be available as a paperback:

US Amazon

UK Amazon

For a notification about the publication of the paperback please email me from my website or follow my Facebook page.

Selkie Moon


Thanks so much, Stephanie, for this opportunity to talk about Selkie Moon and the first book in her mystery series. Book Two goes to Nicola O’Shea for a structural edit at the end of February.

You’re most welcome, Virginia! It has been wonderful to chat with you!

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Virginia King, who is the author of, The First Lie our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The First Lie, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.



Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author E.E. Giorgi

Elena G smallcover

E.E. Giorgi is a scientist and an award-winning author and photographer. She spends her days analyzing genetic data, her evenings chasing sunsets, and her nights pretending she’s somebody else. On her blog, E.E. discusses science for the inquiring mind, especially the kind that sparks fantastic premises and engaging stories. Her debut novel CHIMERAS, a medical mystery, is a 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award winner and a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

Hello, Elena! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion! That is wonderful! First, tell me how you discovered indieBRAG and what has been your experience with self-publishing so far.

I discovered Indie B.R.A.G. through an online search. I was looking for ways to gain some recognition for my work. I’m thrilled that Chimeras is now B.R.A.G. medallion honoree and also a Readers’ Favorite Book Award winner.

I’ve been very happy with self-publishing, but the hardest part is to convince people that your work is worthy their attention. Self-publishing wasn’t my first choice. When I finished my first book, Chimeras, I pursued traditional publishing. I had several offers for representation but, alas, my book found a wall when it came to acquiring editors at publishing houses. I believe I could’ve persisted in that path: perhaps, if I made the changes I had been requested, eventually I would’ve found a home for my book. But by then the publishing world had changed. More and more authors were not only self-publishing but they were being quite successful at it. I realized that the changes the editors were requesting were not to make my story better but to make it fit into one genre or the other: it had to either be a mystery/thriller or a science fiction. But I wanted my story to be unique. And in today’s market there’s room for every cross genre you can think of. So I remained faithful to my story and my vision and I embraced self-publishing. I have no regrets. J

Please tell me a little about your story.

I was born in the U.K., grew up in Tuscany, and lived in four different European countries and four different US states before settling in New Mexico. I am a mathematician by training, but these days I work on viral genetics, HIV in particular. I love my job: I’m constantly learning new things about genetics and viruses and the amazing things that Mother Nature invented throughout evolution. For me, what I learn at work is an endless source of ideas and inspiration.

What a perfect premise to write considering your professional background and I must say I do enjoy reading medical mysteries…will your story be a part of a series?

Yes, and the second book, Mosaics, is already out. They are all self-contained mysteries, and therefore can be read as a stand-alone. But I’m also planning some character development from one book to the next, especially for the main character, Track Presius and his partner Satish Cooper.

Tell me about your title, CHIMERAS. Does it have a meaning?

In Greek mythology a chimera was a monster: part goat, part lion, and part snake. In genetics, a chimera is a single organism with distinct DNAs in his/her body. Chimeras are often found in fiction: for example, Stephen King uses the concept in his novel The Dark Half, where one of his characters has his own twin growing inside his body. This is of course a huge poetic license, as in fact, what happens is that two genetically distinct fertilized eggs fuse together shortly after conception and form a single organism.

In recent years genetics has made spectacular advances: today we know that there are many kinds of chimeras, not just the one depicted by Stephen King. For example, did you know that we exchange cells with our mothers during gestation, and these cells can persist in our bodies even in our adult life? Many of us are our mother’s chimeras and they don’t even know it!

In my book, I play with both the mythological and the genetic meanings of the word chimera, as well as the different kinds of chimeras we have discovered in recent years. And like Stephen Kings, I too make use of a little poetic license. J

What is one of the challenges your character, Detective Track Presius face and how does he deal with it? 6. What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Track Presius is an epigenetic chimera. He doesn’t have distinct DNAs. Instead, a trauma in his early childhood “turned on” some genes that in every normal person are inactivated. This “empowers” him with an extreme sensitivity to smells, but it also makes him more irritable and more aggressive. He’s often prone to brutal force while on duty, but lucky for him, his partner Satish Cooper keeps him in check and out of trouble. Most of the time that is.

I’m sure your own profession has helped you with your story. Was there any research you had to do other than what you already know?

I didn’t know anything about police procedurals and the LAPD in particular. I had to learn everything and it was a lot of fun. I bought Miles Corwin’s true crime books set with the LAPD special units. Through a writer friend I met a retired LAPD officer, Tim Bowen, whose help was truly pivotal in writing my book. Track Presius would be issuing parking tickets if it weren’t for Tim!

Why did you choose Los Angeles, fall 2008 as your setting and period?

I lived in Los Angeles for three years, from 2003 to 2006. I’m in love with that city. It’s the city of opposites in so many ways, and yet it has a personality of its own. The year choice was dictated by necessity: when I started researching and writing the book, I used the old LAPD headquarters for all my scenes. I then learned that the LAPD were moving to new headquarters (they fully moved in the fall of 2009), but being the building still under construction, I couldn’t find any information online. I set the year to 2008 so that I could rightfully claim that Track and Satish were still using the old Parker center as their headquarters.

What is an example of scientific relevance in your story?

All my books are infused with lots of cool scientific facts. For Chimeras I used many of concepts borrowed from epigenetics, which studies traits that can be acquired and inherited even though they do not change the DNA. That’s right, there are things that we inherit from our parents, and yet they are not part of our DNA or genes. The true mystery lies in the way the DNA is packaged inside the nucleus of the cells, exposing certain genes while hiding others.

How long did it take to write your story and where in your home do you like to write?

Between writing and researching, it usually takes me a full year to complete a book. I write at my desk at home but I also carry with me a notepad to jot down random thoughts and ideas wherever I go.

Are there any challenges in writing a mystery story? If so, what are they?

Mystery plots can be very challenging! I’m not an outliner, as I like to see where my characters take me. But in a mystery, every piece has to fit together like in a puzzle, so if I reach a dead end I have to go back and start over. Sometimes a small edit has consequences that reverberate so deeply into the plot that it takes a full rewrite to fix it.

Where can readers buy your book?

Both Chimeras and the sequel Mosaics can be found on Amazon

And Mosaics here

Chimeras is now an audiobook, too, and it’s free with the Audible free trial

Thank you, Elena!

Thanks so much for having me, Stephanie!

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview E.E. Giorgi, who is the author of, CHIMERAS, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, CHIMERAS, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.