It’s time for our next installment in our Author and Editor Interview series, although I think I’m going to have to change the name to Author, Editor, and Agent Interview series! (More on that later.) Today, I’d like everyone to Welcome Melissa Blue.
She was published through a publisher for her first two books, and then chose to self-publish after that. And guess what? Her self-published books are doing better than the one that was though a publisher! I know you’re anxious to hear her secrets, so let’s get to the interview!
Me: Melissa, Thank you so much for being here today! I know you were published with a publisher before you self published. How did you become a published author? How did break into the publishing business and what processes did you go through (querying, pitching, conferences, etc). Did you get “the call?” What was that like? How long did you write before you became published?
Melissa: The honest answer to how I became published is blind luck. I’d written three books. Queried the same amount of times. The fourth time I received a request for a full and then a contract. I did not expect that at all. I’d heard so many war stories about querying for years and years. The mountain of rejections. I mentally prepared myself for the long haul. And then my fourth time out, during my second year of writing, I got the email with Contract Offer in the subject line. I was over the moon. Completely and utterly. Unfortunately, I was completely and utterly not ready.
The business side of writing i.e. publishing is a different animal. There are a million things you have no control over. I wasn’t even in the same area code of the things I needed to have an understanding of. This, I think, was the biggest thing I had trouble reconciling. Still do sometimes. Although I do have a better understanding that writing is not publishing. These two things are only connected by six degrees of separation.
Me: Tell us what a day for you is like, in terms of writing. What’s your schedule like? Where do you write? Do you have any weird quirks or habits?
Depends on the time of the year. I spend half the year revising and then the other half writing like a demon. I’ve tried to break myself out of this habit, but it’s like trying to make the ocean go against the natural tide. It ain’t happening. As for where I do most of the grunt work ( writing or revising), I’ve recently purchased a laptop. I’m too lazy to move the old computer so I’ve been writing in the kitchen. Where there’s a ‘fridge within arm distance. This move has not gone well for my waist line.
Hmm, any weird quirks? Not really. If I’m writing in the morning coffee is a must. If I’m doing a first draft I need to listen to the book’s soundtrack I created to get my head into the story. Other than that it’s a pretty boring process. One word. Then another. Then another…
Me: Tell us a little bit about what it’s like to be a self-published author. Who are you self-published through? What is their publishing process like? What do you like best about being self-published? What is the hardest thing about being self-published, if anything?
I never thought I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body. Apparently I do and all of them are tired at the moment. But, here are a few things I’ve learned that I was not entirely aware of:
1. There isn’t just one place to self-publish. Matter of fact it’s not very savvy to publish with just one bookseller, because you are likely to lose out on sales. So, right now my books are available through B&N, Amazon, All Romance Ebooks, and Smashwords. And with Smashwords I’ll have access to Kobo, Diesel, Apple and through a digital library.
2. Everything, absolutely everything, is left to me. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. This is a blessing and a curse. I can choose my own prices. I can choose my own cover. I get to say who can sell my book. Yet those things have to be done. Either by me hiring someone or doing it myself. The promotion is endless, but it’s about the same on both sides of the publishing wall. It involves crossing my fingers and doing all the things I have time for. And running ads, which just makes my pocket-book growl at me. This comes down to any and all successes and failures can be attributed to one person–me.
4. Lastly, formatting is evil. It was created by chapped butt chimps who think they are on the right side of evolution. All humans must suffer for that one gene that mutated and turned into an opposable thumb. This is fact. I’m sure you can find the correct reference on Wikipedia.
Me: What made you decide to self publish instead of continuing to work with a publisher? What are some of the differences between working with a publisher and being self-published? How do your self-publishing sales compare to those with a publisher?
Two important things I need to say first–One, I haven’t turned my back on working with a publisher. I really don’t understand this either/or mentality that’s popular. I walked away from my publisher for many reasons. I’ve been hitting the pavement so to speak to have another publisher behind my name, if not more than one. Yet it takes time. Something I was able to skip the last time around by sheer luck.
Two, I wanted to self-publish because I believed in the books I’d written. I not only believed they were good books, but that they had an audience. I probably won’t believe that about every book I write and those books will stay growing dust on my hard drive.
And because I think it needs to be said, publishing is a business. They are not looking for the books that will sell a few hundred copies. They are looking for books that will sell in the hundred thousands and millions. I think that is the biggest difference between “traditional publishing” and self-publishing. A publisher could lose their shirt with just a handful of titles selling less than 200 hundred books a month. A self-publisher could go dine and stay a week at the Ritz if they managed to sell the same amount on a handful of titles.
Now for me, I just wanted to do something more with the books I’d published. They were sitting on my hard drive collecting digital dust. And something wonderful is going on right now–an e-book revolution.
I got my first contract in late 2007, and I was screaming from the roof top I’m PUBLISHED!!!! People would ask me, oh what bookstore is your book going to be in? I’d have to answer it’s an e-book and then describe what an e-book was. Yeah, not a great sales pitch. In 2012, people have e-readers or smart phones. They have programs downloaded on their computers that can read all types of e-book formats. It’s a great time to be an e-published writer.
So, I made a decision to self-publish. My hope was simple, to do better than I did the last time I published. And those first numbers, with my publisher, were dismal. Even for someone without a name. Dismal. My books were out for close to two years and I hadn’t sold more than 100. (I’ll give you a moment to pick your jaw off the floor.) Now the self-publishing numbers wouldn’t make the average writer go out and celebrate. I’ll just say, they are much, much better than my previous numbers. Much, much better and my books have only been out for weeks. Closer to two years, I bet they won’t be nothing to sneeze at.
Me: Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for my readers hoping to publish a book? If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were just starting out, before you had any success, what would you say?
I’d tell myself overnight success is a fluke. Everything takes hard work. You won’t be the exception. You are the rule. You are the rule in every aspect of your life, this won’t be any different. And the key to success is patience and endurance. Maybe I’d also say that famous Pooh Bear quote to Piglet, “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Since it comes from a cartoon I think the younger me would believe it’s me from the future giving the advice. Lastly, success cannot be defined by numbers. It is defined by what you do. The rest is just icing on the cake.
You can find more salient and witty wisdom from Melissa Blue on her blog: http://melthegreatest.blogspot.com
Thank you so much for being here today, Melissa!
You can find Melissa’s books here.