Braving the Waters – Self-Publishing for Newbies by a Newbie, by Mark Knight

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Today I asked Mark Knight to visit and write about his experiences publishing so far. He’s another Lindsay Buroker protege. Take it away Mark…

Mark Knight

What is it like for a writer, after twenty years of rapping at the doors of mainstream publishers, to realize that it is now all up to him? This is the world of e-publishing. The do-it-yourself world of uploading, formatting, tweaking, and endless promoting. It is kind of like moving to a house and having to cut your own grass and wash your own windows after years of living in an apartment when it was all done for you (for a price). A little fish in a big pond; that is what I am now. No, not a pond, a great big ocean. How does an author stand out when the Gulf Stream is just too powerful to swim against?

I am not here to write about the big solutions to it all, because I am still discovering them. And so, to other e-newbies out there, I hope that my words will encourage you to stick with it and make your dreams happen. As successful e-book writer, Lindsay Buroker, has said ‘you’re in this for the long haul’. And the long haul could very well be tantamount to a round-the-world trip. Walking.

Let me begin by stressing the importance of finding others who have been successful – like Lindsay Buroker, and Mary Pax. There are plenty of authors out there who are more than happy to tell you how they found success, and what pitfalls to avoid. Find a blog where you can take their advice, go to the links they post, and take part in their forums. Eager rookies like you will be congregating there, like wide-eyed cubs observing everything mother does. And take notes. Lots of notes. I subscribed to Lindsay’s podcast, Savvy Self Publishing, and jotted down every idea, website, and link that she mentioned. And then I followed them up. Next thing I knew, I had a blog site.

Ok, so you’re up and running. What now? You have a book – perhaps several – that you have sweated over and (hooray!) completed. You believe it is worth pushing out of the nest. Well, make sure it is good. Find an editor. Have them give your tome a good sweep for errors, inconsistencies, and just plain nonsense. So where on earth do you find an editor? A heck of lot of them hang out on Google. It is as simple as that. I found one that was recommended by a successful e-author. Recommendations – always good. And have a great cover. People do judge a book by its cover. I often do. And that goes for other things, too. How many CDs did you purchase simply because the cover was cool? Anyway, find an artist and work with them. An e-book artist. They know just what dimensions the cover art should be, and where the title and your name should go. You can go cheap, or you can pay through the nose. It is up to you. But yes, a good cover is important. It may be the first thing a potential reader discovers about your book.

Now, as to promotion, I have discovered one amazing thing. And that is that there is no hard and fast rule about this. I have spoken to self-published authors who do nothing but blog, Tweet, and post to Facebook in the name of their novel. For some it has produced a torrent of sales. For others – nada. Then there have been those authors who just stuck their book on Amazon with no promotion whatsoever and viola … gold coins raining down from heaven. Go figure. Like I say, no hard and fast rules. (However, when I pressed that particular author about her seemingly miraculous success, she did confess that she spent the first month of her book’s release giving away free copies).

What can I say to the author who is thinking about e-publishing or who has only just started researching it and is not sure if it’s worth it? First of all, let me assure you that I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know where to start. But I found good gurus, and followed their advice. I have been at this for only a few months, and already I have this guest blog on Mary’s site, and another scheduled for a different author’s site. I will be interviewed on the entertainment podcast, Villainland, in February.  And my upcoming novel will be featured as book of the month on the Ultimate YA website in April. If I were just starting out and reading this, it would be very daunting. I might doubt myself and want to give up. But all I did was to take one step at a time, follow links, and network. But don’t be pushy. Don’t plug your book at every turn. Be yourself, and things will happen. The interview, for instance, happened in the most amazing way; I wasn’t even looking for it. A connection I had made on Twitter noticed that the main character of my vampire novel had an almost identical name to a vampire character of a webcomic that she was a fan of. I had never heard of the webcomic, but contacted the artist. I assured him that the name similarities were a coincidence and that I was prepared to alter the name of my own vampire character out of good will. To my surprise and delight, the artist said he had no problem with the similar names and said he wanted to promote my book on his site and interview me on his podcast! Flabbergasted, I was (as Yoda might say). Of course, I returned the favour and now promote his wonderful webcomic on my own blog site. Some things just happen organically.

Well, I hope that I have injected some hope into any would-be authors who want to brave the sometimes choppy waters of self-publication. I stuck my toe in the water, and even though it initially felt a little cold, I waded right in. So far, it feels good.

Mark Knight’s Written Worlds:
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From Elsewhere_Collection

From Elsewhere ~ Six Tales of Unearthly Visitors available now at Amazon and Amazon UK. Also at SmashwordsGoodreads, & Kobo, where you can try a short story from this collection for free!

BLOOD FAMILY  COVER ART with text

Blood Family
A vampire father, an imprisoned mother, and one perilous journey…
The new YA vampire adventure novel by Mark Knight, coming soon.
www.bloodfamily.co.uk

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And congrats to Tyrean Martinson and her first release: Champion in the Darkness

Champion in Darkness2Clara is younger than most trainees, but she is ready to hold a Sword Master’s blade. While visions and ancient prophecies stand in her way, they also offer a destiny unlike any other. Clara is aided by a haunted mentor, Stelia, whose knowledge of their enemy Kalidess is both a bane and a blessing. As evil threatens their land, Clara and Stelia must find the strength to overcome the darkness.

Champion in the Darkness is YA Christian Fantasy, and is the first book in the Champion Trilogy.

Champion in the Darkness can be found at these links: Amazon Kindle  /  Smashwords /   Goodreads

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Tyrean Martinson lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest, encouraged by her multi-talented husband and daughters. She likes to write, read, teach, ski, bicycle, walk, and sometimes she likes to sing and dance in the rain.

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You’ll notice I’ve updated the website again. :) There’s now a news tab for the latest on my books. And there’s a Boomtown Craze Launch Party tab. Click to sign up to help get word out about my newest book and to see more details. Official release is March 4th, which I realize is short notice, so posts and notices about the new book can be sent out any time between March 4 – March 22.

Any questions for Mark?

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29 Responses to Braving the Waters – Self-Publishing for Newbies by a Newbie, by Mark Knight

  1. Congrats to Tyrean! I have a fondness for swords. :)

    Awesome guest post, Mark! I think I fell in the water first, then learned how to swim. Making sure you have a good package – story, editing, cover – really is the key.
    We are all in it for the longhaul. I like your walking around the world analogy – with the oceans being the speedbumps you’ll encounter along the way. ;)

  2. Best of luck, Mark. You seem to have the right attitude, that’s for sure, and your enthusiasm is contagious.

  3. “But all I did was to take one step at a time, follow links, and network. But don’t be pushy. Don’t plug your book at every turn. Be yourself, and things will happen.”

    If you take away one piece of advice from today, this is it. Well said, Mark.

  4. What wonderful comments, thank you so much – I have travelled pretty far (over 20 years of writing, and now several months of blogging!) but still feel that I am brand squeaky new. I know people who write and want to self-publish, but haven’t even got their Facebook in order yet. I knew nothing when I started, but kept at it, and am learning all the time. Some days I love what I do, networking unitl the keys pop from the keyboard, and other days I want to just to ditch the PC, find a tropical beach, and stay there. But with all your encouragement, my friends, I know I WILL be in it for ‘the long haul’.

  5. Knowledge is power! And not just indie authors struggle – those of us with small publishers face similar challenges.
    And yeah for Tyrean!! Can’t wait to read her book.

  6. This is such a helpful post! I’m with Alex, I think self-published and small press authors face many of the same challenges, so I am really grateful for Mark’s advice. I also didn’t know about Lindsay Buroker, sounds like a fantastic resource.

    Good luck, Mark, and congrats to Tyrean!

  7. Great guest post!

    I think I’m a little tainted, as I delved into reading self published books back in the day, long before I got my first Kindle. Author buddies pushed their books (via Trafford, Lulu, Publish America, etc.). The quality was lacking. And even to this day, I would say that 6 out 10 self published books I read have MAJOR problems with them (grammatical and otherwise)

    But, the overall quality has taken major leaps forward, as it used to be 80% of self published books were pretty awful.

  8. Thanks for featuring my book and helping me celebrate today Mary!
    Mark – that was an awesome post to read on my first day in the big ocean of publishing. I’m just a minnow at the moment, or possibly a plankton next to some Orcas, but I’m just swimming along and trying to make self-pubbing work. It’s good to hear your story and how things have happened for you.

    Laura – I have a fondness for swords too. :-)

    Alex and Julie – Thank you.

    Mary – Thanks again!!!

  9. Sounds like you’ve done some serious thinking and research. Always a good thing. I absolutely agree on the need for a good cover artist and editing–story editor as well as copy.

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts, Mark. Congratulations on your new book!

    Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

  10. Major congrats to Tyrean! And thank you Mark for that very informative and heartfelt post.

    There sure are speed bumps, Laura.

    Thanks for stopping in, Cathy

    It’s important to be yourself and interact with folks, Ellie.

    A beach sounds great, Mark. It’s a tough journey. Friends from all the networking make it easier.

    That’s true, Alex. The challenges are very similar.

    Lindsay is a fantastic resource, Julie. She’s the one who encouraged me into this mess that I love.

    It’s changed a lot, Jay. There are as many quality books by indies and crap books by the Big 6 [soon to be big 4]. I think we’re all in the same boat quality-wise these days. And people’s first books won’t be their best. Most writers keep growing.

    It’s a big old tank, Tyrean. I was happy to help give you a shove.

    I agree on the editor. It’s a must. And cover art is also a necessity.

  11. I agree with everything you’ve said here, Mark, especially having to do with promotion. I have absolutely no clue what works. I attribute any sale of anyone’s books to 95% luck and 5% something that the author does. I know people will disagree with me, but I don’t think a blog or twitter or facebook helps much. And so what else is there aside from those? Advertising? I don’t think that helps much either.

    The world of traditional publishing is a strange animal. Kind of like that “horse of a different color” in the Wizard of Oz. Maybe that’s because it’s so subjective. If you just check out any author’s reviews on Goodreads (let’s pick on J.K. Rowling because she’s easy) you’ll see one star and five star reviews galore (especially regarding her latest adult novel).

    What does that mean?

    Well if every one of those reviewers just happened to be a traditional publisher, every one star person would reject her, every five star person would sign her. There really is no rhyme or reason as to why anyone likes anything.

    They just do.

  12. Great tips for the newbie. Congrats to tyrean

  13. Well, congrats. Good tips maybe the best being that there is no one thing that works. So, don’t stress and just give it a go.

  14. I agree a lot of it has to do with some sort of luck, Michael. In most cases, a lot of hard work went into it before hitting that luck. We just have to stick it out and keep writing.

    Happy Monday, Maurice.

    Most authors will admit they don’t know what that one magic bit was, Holly.

  15. I’m going to knock on the door of traditional publishers one more time, but if they slam the door in my face again I’m going to self-publish. Helpful tips here and best of luck with your stories. :)

  16. I have a friend, an indie author, who self pubs, and she is adamant that self-pubbing is on the way out and that Amazon will do away with it completely in the not so distant future. I find this difficult to believe since it seems to become bigger every year. What are your thoughts?

  17. For me, LG, it’s less intimidating to build my audience first.

    Indie is such huge business at this point, I can’t imagine that Nancy. All the retailers make money off of us. Enough sell enough to make it their interest to keep letting us publish.

    Miranda Hardy says:

    This guest post is perfect timing for me to read. I’ll keep plugging away and doing what I’m doing.

  18. Wonderful guest post by Mark!! I went with a small publisher, but in hindsight, wish I’d had enough confidence to self-pub. Mark, what was the hardest part of self-publishing? I would think all the formatting, but I’m not very tech savvy!

    Also had Tyrean on my blog today . . .can’t wait to read her book:-)

  19. All wise words. Good luck on your venture, Mark. We all learn from each other.

  20. Fantastic post. It’s so difficult to promote yourself, and what’s frustrating is that something that works for one author might not work for another. It never hurts to try, though.

    Congrats to Tyrean! I’m seeing her everywhere today!

  21. That’s about what it comes down to, Miranda

    I don’t know Mark’s answer, Jamie, but mine would be getting noticed.

    We certainly do, Catherine.

    How true that is, Christine.

  22. Great post. Thanks to Mary for hosting Mike.

    It sounds like self-pub is not for the faint-hearted.
    I firmly believe that input=output, and that applies to anything you do in life, throw in the correct attitude, and the sky is your limit… :)
    I’m considering self-pub… one day in the not-too-distant future. But maybe it’s too soon for me, since Mark has been writing for 20 years? OMG, I’m only writing for about 2 years… so I’ve still got a long, long way to go!!

  23. An editor is essential! I wish more self-published authors realized this. One beta reader just doesn’t cut it.

  24. I don’t think any form of publishing is for the faint hearted, Michelle. They all have their challenges.

    A good editor is essential, Diane. They’re not always so easy to find, though.

  25. You’re doing great! Learn all you can and follow your gut :)

    Hi, Mary!

  26. Awesome-great advice by Mark! Best of luck to him! Mary is one of the best writer-friends I know!

    And those are fantastic covers! Hooray for Tyrean as well! :o) <3

  27. Again, thank you all for your words; I am pleased that my post was encouraging. Your responses are equally so! As to the most difficult thing (so far), yes, as Mary said, getting noticed. Jamie, formatting is not hard if you find someone to do it for you! Make sure they come recommended ;-)

    Yes, 20 years + of writing, a big chunk of that sending to traditional publishers (coming close to publication once), and now diving into self-pub. You are in complete control. That has its pros and cons! But at the end of the day YOUR vision is getting out there.

  28. Best wishes to Tyrean with her own endeavors!