Interview Time! I love Interview Time. And today my victim, er…guest is none other than Trish McCallan. You may remember Trish from yesterday’s review blog. Yes, I talked her into two days. How clever am I ! So grab a cup of coffee and pay attention, Trish is going to tell us all about her experience self-publishing her fabulous novel, Forged in Fire.
Amie: Trish, I have to admire your bravery and dedication for your work and to self publish! I’m sure there are a lot of writers out there who are interested in self-publication but don’t know where to start. (namely, me!) I’d love to hear anything you’d like to share about your self-publication experience. Like…When did you decide to take the self-pub plunge?
Trish: I finished Forged in Fire in March of 2011 and started querying agents. By June I had the full out with four agents and the partial out with even more. And then a friend sent me a link to an essay about why an unpublished author should not hire an agent—the essay was by Kris Rusch, of the The Business Rusch.
The Business Rusch was a wakeup call for me. Kris Rusch covered everything that was happening in our industry, and for the first time I questioned whether selling to New York was the smart choice. I spent days reading through the essays Rusch had written on the industry, read through all the comments, followed links to other industry blogs and became convinced that selling to New York would be a death sentence to my career goals. If the traditional houses were already reeling, and we hadn’t even hit the tipping point yet, what would the climate be like in two-three years when my book debuted? (Assuming it sold quickly) Once the tipping point hit, and the majority of the book sales were digital, how would a debut author stand out? Print outlets were declining at an alarming rate, eventually everyone but the bestsellers would be selling mostly digitally through the huge online bookstores like Amazon and B&N. So how in the world would a new author find a reader base? I’m on a lot of readers’ loops, so I know there’s tremendous anger at the traditional houses for the prices they charge for eBooks. A lot of readers won’t even buy digital copies of debut authors’ books because of the price.
At this point I started researching e-publishers and self-publishing. One of the things I did was track the books on Amazon’s bestselling romantic suspense list in the Kindle Store. This list ranks the books by how well they are selling. And I made a startling discovery. The books that were selling the most copies and were at the very top of the bestsellers’ list, (the top twenty bestselling romantic suspense) were all self-published. They were either traditional authors’ backlists or unknown authors’ original titles. And they were mostly 2.99 or below. I started tracking traditional authors’ new releases. And discovered that while some of the bestselling authors in my genre might hit the top twenty with their new release, the book only lasted a couple of days at the top before it plummeted. Yet all those cheaper, self-published titles that had been there when the new release hit, were still there when it tanked. It was obvious that readers were buying on price in my genre, not name recognition. At that point I decided to self-publish. I could control the price if I published the book myself. I couldn’t control the price if I went with a traditional house or an e-publisher.
Amie: Wow! That’s some great information. Now, is your book available in print as well as in e-formats?
Trish: No, as of now my book is only available digitally.
Amie: Tell me about the art work. who did the cover? And how much of a hand did you have in determining the final look?
Trish: The cover for Forged in Fire was created by Laura Morrigan. But I gave her a detailed description on what I was looking for. I’d studied the best selling romantic thrillers and I discovered all these books featured a sexy guy with a gun on the cover. I also sent Laura a couple of examples of the kind of covers I liked—which gave her a sense of the kind of cover I was looking for.
Amie: And now for the dreaded edits…who did your edits and how many reads did you have before you said, “it’s time.”?
Trish: Jim Thomsen did the copy/line edits for me and Anne Victory did the proofing edits. After I finished the revision off these edits, I sent the book out to another 10 people, through five rounds, and they read for editing errors. The first two people on the first pass found about 66 errors, the second two on the second pass found 22, the third two on the third pass found 10, the fourth two on the fourth pass found 3. When the book came back free of errors on the fifth pass I published it.
Amie: Now, please tell us about your book.
Trish: This is Forged in Fire’s blurb:
Beth Brown doesn’t believe in premonitions until she dreams a sexy stranger is gunned down during the brutal hijacking of a commercial airliner. When events in her dream start coming true, she heads to the flight’s departure gate. To her shock, she recognizes the man she’d watched die the night before.
Lieutenant Commander Zane Winters comes from a bloodline of elite warriors with psychic abilities. When Zane and two of his platoon buddies arrive at Sea-Tac Airport, he has a vision of his teammates’ corpses. Then she arrives—a leggy blonde who sets off a different kind of alarm.
As Beth teams up with Zane, they discover the hijacking is the first step in a secret cartel’s deadly global agenda and that key personnel within the FBI are compromised. To survive the forces mobilizing against them, Beth will need to open herself to a psychic connection with the sexy SEAL who claims to be her soul mate.
Amie: Where did the story idea come from/how did it come about?
Trish: I actually dreamed the opening to Forged in Fire- then I had to wrap a plot around that opening scene.
Amie: One thing you want the reader to walk away with after reading this book.
Trish: I want the reader to stumble away exhausted, because they couldn’t put the book down and stayed up all night reading. *bg
Amie: Well, I can vouch for that or at least my big yawns and bleary eyes can! And the most dreaded question of all—are you going to try your hand at self-publishing again?
Trish: Absolutely, self-publishing was the best decision I have ever made. It’s enabled me to quit my day job and write full time. I’m actually in the production process with a second book. The book, which is called Yesterday’s Child, is scheduled for publishing on the last day of March.
I can’t wait! Okay, now it’s Trish’s turn. I’m going to turn the blog over to her and she’s going to tell us all of her secrets. Well, maybe not *all* of them. :) Take it away, Trish.
I am a huge proponent of self-publishing. Self-publishing my high octane romantic thriller, Forged in Fire, has completely changed my life. And I mean this in a literal sense. I published the book on September 7th, and by the end of December I had sold over 10,000 copies and earned enough in royalties to enable me to quit my day job and write full time. As of February 28th, 2012 I’ve sold over 20,000 copies of Forged.
Quitting my job to write full time was a dream come true, and a direct result of self-publishing Forged. So believe me when I say that I wholeheartedly believe a previously unpublished and unknown author can build a fan base and make a very good living through self-publishing their work. In fact, I firmly believe that a good book, in a “hot” genre, can make an author more money through self-publishing, than through traditional publishing.
But I am also a realist, and an observer, and I know that few books do as well as my Forged has done. That isn’t to say my success is an anomaly, because it honestly isn’t. There are dozens of previously unpublished and unknown authors who are doing as well, if not better than me. I’m selling peanuts compared to some of these authors.
But the thing is, there are even more books that just aren’t selling at all. For every book that sells well, there are hundreds that aren’t selling at all.
I’m not saying this to discourage anyone from self-publishing. If you want to make a living off your writing, I still believe you have a better shot at doing it by self-publishing your work, then by going with a traditional house. But I also believe that people need to be realistic about their goals—and realistically, making a living through self-publishing is still a long shot. Less of a long shot than trying to make it through a traditional publisher, but still a long shot.
The hard truth is that some books just won’t sell.
Part of this can be attributed to genre. Romantic suspense and romantic thrillers are big sellers in the Kindle store. (which is Forged in Fire’s subgenre) But there are other genres that just don’t sell as well.
Part of this can be attributed to how the book was produced. If the cover doesn’t grab the reader’s attention, the book will tank. If the blurb is unfocused, or has any spelling or editing errors, the book will tank. If the book’s sample chapter has formatting issues, or any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors, the book will tank.
Sometimes a book’s lack of success can be attributed to the author’s writing ability. The vast majority of writers are unable to judge their own work. They can’t tell that their work is sub-standard and not yet ready for publication. But readers can tell, and they won’t buy. Or sometimes they buy just so they can leave horrible, ugly reviews which would devastate any fledgling author.
But sometimes a good book, with strong writing, an interesting premise, a fantastic cover, a great blurb and compelling sample—a book that has been promoted up the ying-yang—still doesn’t sell. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why. Some books just don’t sell, or at least they don’t sell well.
So while I encourage everyone to throw their hat in the self-publishing arena, I also urge everyone to take a step back and view this path with realistic expectations. Understand that for the typical self-publisher, success comes after years of toil and multiple books. Research the industry so you can maximize your chances of success. Invest in your career by having your work professionally produced. Understand that self-publishing is a constantly changing industry. It is much harder now, to make a big splash, than it was four months ago when I released my debut book.
Why? Because there are dozens of new authors entering the industry every month, because there are dozens of traditionally established authors releasing well-written, fully edited backlist titles, because publishers are realizing that they can’t compete unless they drop their prices, so they’re starting to drop their prices—but mostly because there is a huge glut of free books dominating the market and a lot of readers are browsing these free books instead of the paid ones these days.
None of this means you can’t make it, but it does mean it will be harder, maybe take longer—so walk this new path with your eyes wide open and realistic expectations in your mind.
I’d like to take the time to tell Trish thanks again for visiting and sharing such great information about her publishing experience. If you missed yesterday’s post, I urge you to go back and read my review of Forged in Fire. It’s a fabulous book and a definite steal for the price.
And remember Trish is on a blog tour that includes a giveaway. Here’s the link to enter and to find out Trish’s other stops on her tour.
Thanks, dear readers, for stopping by and tons of luck to you, Trish!!
Lots of <3–Amie