Going indie: Is self-publishing for you?

JamieLeeScottNote from Jenna: This guest post from one of my favorite writers and colleagues: Jamie Lee Scott

Jamie is an amazing author, screenwriter, and entrepreneur who has a real handle on the world of independent publishing. I asked her to share her insights about the differences and advantages of self-publishing versus traditional publishing, since I know many of us are considering the indie publishing route.

Enjoy it — I know I learned a ton just from reading her piece.




The (not so) New World of Indie Publishing

by Jamie Lee Scott

It wasn’t long ago that self-publishing was deemed “vanity” publishing and was frowned upon by the traditional establishment.

Fast forward to 2011, and a new landscape.

Vanity is a word no longer in the vocabulary, and writers no longer need the traditional gatekeepers (agents, editors, publishers) to tell them what will sell and what won’t, what’s hot and what’s not. Writers can now write what they love and get it in front of readers in record time. Traditional publishers may take as long as two years to get a book from contract to readers, where an independently published author can do the same in a matter of weeks or months. 

My choice to go indie

My decision to publish independently was easy.

I had Let Us Prey finished and I’d been sending out query letters for months. It had been getting some interest when my friend, New York Times bestselling author Jennie Bentley, asked me if I was interested in self-publishing. At the time I wasn’t even sure what self-publishing was, so I did my research. Jennie explained that if I took a contract with a small publisher, with a tiny advance, I’d be lucky to see my book in print by 2013, and even luckier to earn out my advance.

My chances of earning money from my book, and making enough to want to write another would be better if I jumped the traditional ship and waded into the indie publishing waters. Jennie, who herself was wading in those waters with a series of her own, threw me a life vest, and together we swam like our lives depended on it.

If I’d gone the traditional route, I’d be languishing with the mid-list authors, making a few thousand dollars a year if I was lucky, instead I’ve published five novels, one novella, and closed my manufacturing business to concentrate exclusively on my writing.

And I’m not alone.

Two extremely successful, and very generous writers, Liliana Hart and Jana DeLeon, were pioneers in indie publishing, have paved the way for many of us and are part of a collaborative effort to help others in a book called The Naked Truth about Self-PublishingThey’ve been the faces and voices for the masses along with many others who have paid it forward. There are too many to name here, but rest assured you will find them at conferences and talking to authors, generous with their information.

The writer is responsible for all aspects of the publishing process

The biggest difference between traditional and indie publishing is that the writer is responsible for all aspects of the publishing process

So, if done well, the process is going to cost some money. How much depends on how professional you want your books to look.

Don’t skimp on editors, or cover design. Don’t judge a book by its cover doesn’t apply here, because the cover is the first glimpse and may sometimes be the only thing that makes the reader want to look further. If your cover looks as professional as the New York Times bestseller covers, you have a better chance the browser will look at the book description than if the book has an amateurish cover. Giving the book a fighting chance at the start is a must.

And then don’t turn them off by not having the book professionally edited. This book is going to sell your next book. If it isn’t well-written, and edited, you aren’t going to sell the next one, so why bother?

Spend the money now, and you’ll reap the rewards in the long run.

Whether you are traditionally published or indie, you are your marketing director.

Unless you signed a multi-million dollar traditional contract, no one is going to be running a PR campaign for you. The writing is the easy part.

So, now that the first book is written, great, now get your butt back in the seat and start writing the next one. In between, become a marketing guru, and help others along the way if you can.

Podcast in the making

I’ve been so lucky to have help from so many along the way, including the authors of Mirth, Murder and Mystery, that I decided to start a podcast to help others who are interested in becoming authors, either traditionally published or indie published. The podcast is called Indie Girl’s Guide to Self-Publishing and launches this December. It’s a weekly podcast for authors to help navigate the ins and outs of the crazy but interesting and possibly lucrative world of indie publishing.

This is not a get rich quick scheme

Lest you mistakenly think this is a get rich quick scheme, let me assure you, it’s long hours, hard work, and lots of blood, sweat and tears. The market (and algorithms) change on a dime, and keeping up is part of the game. Not only do indie authors have to keep writing, they have to keep in touch with the markets, changes, and much, much more.

Is it worth it?

I think so.


Jamie Lee Scott is the USA Today bestselling author of the Gotcha Detective Agency Mystery Series, and the founder of Indie Girl Self-Publishing Podcast.

She’s the co-founder of Script Chat #scriptchat and TV Writer Chat #tvwriterchat on Twitter, and writer of the award winning short film No One Knows.

You can find Jamie online on Facebook, Twitter, and at her websites, www.jamieleescott.com and www.indiegirlselfpub.com.

diamonds2Thanks for reading!

Note: Amazon links in this post are affiliate links and may generate a small amount of referral income for this blog.



Author Insights: The Power Of Showing Up To Write

View More: http://olimbphotography.pass.us/girl-power-for-goodNote from Jenna: This guest post is from Terri Fedonczak, a parenting coach, author, and Writer’s Circle coach.

I’ve loved working with Terri through the Circle over the last few years, first as a participant, then as a coach. She knocked our socks off by finishing the first draft of her parenting book in just three 28-day sessions of the Writer’s Circle in 15 minute increments of time – after having had the book “brewing” in her for over 15 years. Amazing!

Just Show Up

by Terri Fedonczak

When I joined the Writer’s Circle in 2012, I knew that I wanted to finally get my book out of my head and into my computer. I had been “writing” this parenting book for 15 years, as I knew that I needed to get one kid through adolescence before I could have any street cred with other parents. I put writing in quotations, because the book was mostly on tape. The little bit of writing that I did have was on sticky notes and spread across a dozen journals.

In my first session with the Circle, I thought I would just get organized. My goals were very small: only 15 minutes a day 6 to 7 days a week. Much to my surprise, I finished the rough draft in just three sessions. “Rough” is an understatement as a descriptor for that first draft. It was a 30-page booklet of disjointed ideas. I told myself that I wanted to keep it short, because parents were too busy to read a long book. That was a nice justification for keeping the real story to myself.

When I sent my booklet to my chosen editor, she immediately outed me. She said, “I will edit this book the way it is, but it wants to be so much more. There’s no heart and soul in it. YOU aren’t in your book. There’s nothing about your breast cancer, no struggle, no life coaching journey . . . there’s no mess here. Parenting is messy. You need to show other parents your mess.” She was right. And that started an 18 month journey of re-writes and edits.

Let Go of Expectations

One thing I’ve learned in the Writer’s Circle is that writing is both infinitely easier and more challenging than I ever expected. It’s more helpful if you flush your expectations of how long it will take or who will like it and just keep showing up to the page every day.

As a coach, I see brilliant writers spending lots of time and energy worrying about what other people will think of their writing, or fretting about how long it will take (or is taking). All this worry keeps us in ours heads. Good writing doesn’t come from the head – it comes from the heart. Meaningful writing grabs the reader with its simplicity and elegance and just won’t let go.

As readers, we don’t care about how long the writing took or how smart the author is, we want to care about what we’re reading. You can’t fake that or wordsmith your way around it. All you can do is show up to the page and show us your mess.

From Dream to Reality

Field Guide to Plugged In ParentingMy book went from a dream to a reality. It’s now on Amazon* and Barnes and Noble online, and it was endorsed by the Washington Post as a “must read” in their February Parenting Book Round Up.

But more importantly, I have parents tell me how much the book has changed their parenting for the better. That makes it all worthwhile. 

This Is What Success Looks Like

So, 15 years of vomiting ideas onto paper or tape, one month to a rough draft, and 18 months to re-write and publish. This is what success looks like; it’s not quick and it’s not easy. But with the support of other writers, a dogged determination to show up to the page every day, even just for 5 minutes, and the courage to show us your mess, you will arrive at your own version of success.


terriTerri Fedonczak wants to live in a world where girls recognize their own power and choose to use it for good. On a trip to South Africa, Terri saw the power of the lioness and how they support their pride; it was a lightning bolt of realization that her mission is to bring the power of the pride to girls and their parents. Terri was a commercial real estate agent for 16 years until a bout with breast cancer transformed her life in 2010. She realized that trading money and status for time with her four girls and patient husband was not quite the deal she thought it once was. She left sales to become a certified life coach and embark upon a journey of spreading the message of girl power far and wide.

Terri is a featured speaker at the Costa Leadership Institute, helping adults balance their lives, and she takes the girl power message into high schools, talking to 9th grade girls about how to thrive in high school. Her first book, Field Guide to Plugged-in Parenting, Even If You Were Raised by Wolves, debuted in 2013. When she’s not speaking, coaching or blogging, you can find her paddle boarding on the sparkling waters of Boggy Bayou, knitting to the consternation of her children, who are buried in scarves and hats, or dancing in her kitchen to Motown.

You can discover your own inner lioness and feel the power of the pride at www.girlpowerforgood.com.


Thanks for reading!

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.






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Adventures in publishing with novelist Aaron Cooley

AaronCooley2I had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Cooley earlier this year in Los Angeles and I was instantly intrigued by his story of not only how he came to write his first novel, Shaken, Not Stirred*, but also how he went about publishing and promoting it. So much so that I’ve invited him here to talk about it with us today.

Aaron is a both a screenwriter and novelist and works in film development for Joel Schumacher Productions. His knowledge of the film industry has influenced his approach to his novel, as you’ll discover, and given him a leg up in creating a pretty bad-ass book trailer. He’s shared some real gems of wisdom all writers can benefit from, including tips on e-publishing, what to write, and how to reach your audience.



Aaron, thank you so much for being here with us. Would you start off by telling us what inspired you to write your book “Shaken, Not Stirred” and a little bit about what it’s about?

SNS-jacketWell, I didn’t intend to write a book at all. I’ve been working in Hollywood in film development and doing some screenwriting on the side for over ten years now. In 2007, while researching a movie I had been hired to rewrite, I came across a little blurb about a World War II-era Yugoslavian spy named Dusko Popov who Ian Fleming had met and upon whom he had probably based aspects of James Bond. (I now know there are dozens of people who have claimed to be his inspiration.) I thought this would make a fantastic buddy spy action film, so I started pitching it around town. What I found was that although no one had explored my particular Popov take on the story, there were already at least 3 or 4 “Young Ian Fleming” projects in development — one of which finally got made for television starring Dominic Cooper and comes out next year. So I put it on the shelf. Two years later, I still couldn’t get the idea out of my head and as I started to notice how popular and successful e-books had suddenly become — I think Wool had just sold to Ridley Scott — I decided to take a crack at it. I always dreamed of being a fantasy novelist when I was a kid and this was my chance to see if I could actually write a book start to finish.

I think the world of e-books is an exciting way for struggling screenwriters to get their work out there; screenwriting can feel like a very unrewarding career in which no one’s reading your stuff, and nothing’s getting made. Even many of the highest-paid names in the business feel this frustration. I’ve had three separate paid writing gigs that were read by probably about 20 people combined because those producers had money, but not the connections to do anything with the scripts. Whereas my book’s being read by thousands of people I’ve never met. That’s the real dream of a writer, isn’t it?

It seems like you had a well-thought-out strategy for how and when you launched the book. Can you give us some insight into how you executed the launch and how it went? Is there anything you’d do differently in hindsight?

We tried to do this big movie-type build-up to the launch that started weeks in advance. The main thing I would do differently is to get the book on sale as quickly as possible, much earlier in the process. Because Amazon only allows “big” publishers to do pre-sales, I will always wonder how many people saw my trailer or started following me on Twitter in May or June or July of 2012, discovered they couldn’t buy the book yet, then completely forgot about it. I do think the main thing we did well was tie my book into the opening weekend of SKYFALL — there were a lot more people searching online for Bond stuff in the weeks leading up to that, and a lot of online bloggers and journalists came out of the woodwork asking to interview me because they wanted to write something about 007 but didn’t have access to the Broccolis or Daniel Craig. I think that helped with the great sales results I had in the first couple weeks.

Would you speak to your choice to publish an e-book only, versus going for a printed version or a combination of the two? Would you consider offering a printed version through something like Amazon’s CreateSpace or Lulu.com or do you draw the line with an e-book, and if so, why?

It’s funny you ask — the paperback of Shaken, Not Stirred is finally going on sale starting Black Friday, mainly so my mom can use it as a stocking stuffer for Christmas. We started with an e-book-only release because when e-books exploded, it seemed like this thrilling, completely new medium — like when people first started posting things on YouTube — and that’s what I was initially drawn to and wanted to be a part of. But I started to wonder if I might have made a mistake at last year’s Thanksgiving. I’m from a huge family and celebrate Thanksgiving with 70+ people. Last year, it was 3 weeks after the e-book had been published, and all my older aunts and uncles and even cousins my age and younger were coming up to me and complaining that they couldn’t read my book because they didn’t have an e-reader. But when my 92-year-old Grandpa Harold cornered me about it, I knew I better do something about it. Since then, I’ve just been waiting for the right time. The next Bond movie is way too far away (2015!), so Christmas 2013 it is.

Tell us about your writing habit. When do you write and how do you stay motivated? Do you ever find yourself procrastinating or resisting writing, and if so, how do you get yourself back in action?

Aaron-writingI have a full-time job — but I actually think that’s a good thing for writers. I can only devote two hours a day to writing, but if that’s the only time you have, you really have to be focused in those two hours and it makes you more productive. I think if I had 8 hours I’d still only get 2 or 3 productive hours in each day. I actually set an alarm and turn off email and social media until that alarm goes off. The hardest time to motivate is when you don’t know what your next project is, and you have to spend that 2 hours brainstorming and going through old idea docs and banging your head against your walls. I’ve spent weeks outlining an idea and reading thousands of pages of research on it only to realize, “This isn’t the one.” When you’re supposed to be writing something, you know it. But make sure you pitch it to a couple people early on. To this day, my 3 or 4 best-received scripts (and the novel) are things that I pitched to people early on and kept getting, “Wow, that’s awesome, you’ve got to write that,” as a response.

Is there a particular strategy or method you use to approach a writing project, in terms of story development? Was it different with the book than with a screenplay?

I’m from the movie business, so I still always start with the three-act structure. Even my book has a classic three-act structure — but I think it’s perfect for it, since it’s supposed to read like a prototype Bond movie. A lot of screenwriting books go into even greater detail about this structure; my favorite is Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat*. There have been articles just this summer specifically ripping this book saying that movies are now too married to this structure. I have found my tastes drifting more and more to TV, so I can’t argue with that. But it’s good to have a map to get your story started early on in the process. I always try to put my story in Blake’s structure beat sheet very early on, just because it gives me ideas for scenes I really need to get my characters from A to B. But then I throw that beat sheet away and never look at it again. Screenwriting rules are meant to be broken.

And ultimately it’s all about the characters. I still use a worksheet of 30 character questions that my college screenwriting professor Marc Lapadula gave our class in 1997. It’s detailed questions you should ask of all your main characters, from their relationship with their parents to how many sexual partners they’ve had and who they were. Characters are always the most important thing, and I think they’re becoming more important again as people gravitate toward shows like BREAKING BAD. For the book, I filled out all 30 questions for my two male leads and Christine, the femme fatale. As I’m filling these out, almost every answer sends me right back to my story outline to add a scene or even just a line of dialogue based on what I now know about the characters’ backgrounds.

You made a very cool trailer for Shaken, Not Stirred. Can you tell us about how you created it? Is it something you made yourself? What do you think it takes to make a high quality book trailer that really works?

Look, I had some obvious advantages working in this business. We shot the trailer on the Fox lot. My cinematographer has been our 2nd Unit DP (Director of Photography) on some of my boss’s movies, and shot that submarine movie that came out earlier this year, PHANTOM. My editor gets paid a ton of money to direct and edit commercials, so he really knew how to make it the perfect pace and length. My composer apprentices under a living legend, Hans Zimmer. It was my idea, I wrote it and “directed” it, but these guys are pros who do this everyday and they made me look good. An author in Iowa unfortunately may not have the same resources and a weak trailer can potentially hurt you more than not having one at all. I think the main things that work about mine are that it’s short and that there’s no “acting” in it. I think unless you have real pros acting for a talented director, you’re really rolling the dice on how professional the acting will come off. The best book trailers I’ve seen are quick, to the point, and don’t have actors.

Do you have any tips about e-publishing you think writers should know about?

  • Don’t wait, do it yourself, and do it now. The chances of getting an agent or publisher when you’re first starting out are so slim these days — there are just too many writers out there. So prove you can do it, and they’ll come find you when the time is right.
  • Write something only you can write. If you write something because you’re sure it will sell, that probably means 25 other people out there are writing it simultaneously, and half of them are better connected than you. Write something that no one else is smart or crazy enough to write.
  • Find a friend who maybe is interested in marketing or publicity and partner with them — offer them a percentage of your profits to do everything they can to get your book out there. My book release was definitely a team effort.
  • Think about who your audience is, and really go after them. If you’ve written a dystopian YA novel, you’ve got to find a way on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and GoodReads to get your book in front of Hunger Games fans. I was able to do that with the Bond audience, but now I’m scared as hell about how I’d do it if I write a totally unrelated book!
  • Don’t worry about making money. If you publish exclusively on Amazon, they offer you a certain number of days during which you can sell your book for free. Do it! This will get your book in the hands of so many people who never would have bought it, even for 3 or 4 bucks. I will be doing this on future books. Amazon sold 20 times the copies Barnes & Noble sold of my book, literally 20 times. As a Portlander who grew up going to Powell’s, it pains me to say it, but Amazon rules the universe now. So I wouldn’t hesitate about just going exclusively Amazon on the next one.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I think my Blazers might have a playoff team this year.

:) Thanks, Aaron!


About Aaron Cooley:

AaronCooleyA former child actor, Aaron Cooley has been living on film sets since the age of three. Upon graduating from Yale, Aaron migrated to Los Angeles, where he has apprenticed under director Joel Schumacher, most recently serving as his head of development and Associate Producer. As a screenwriter, Aaron has developed projects for the companies behind PULP FICTION, TRANSFORMERS, ROCKY, SAW, and THE BREAK-UP, as well as helped create advertising for various MTV Awards Shows and public service campaigns. SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED is Aaron’s first novel.

You can find Aaron on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/fleming17f, where he tweets about all things Bond plus intriguing TV and screenwriting topics. Or “Like” his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/shakennotstirredbook for updates on the upcoming paperback release and his future writing projects.

Find Shaken, Not Stirred on Amazon here*.

Thanks for reading!

As always, we love to hear your thoughts in the comments.



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