Dora here. Heidi’s taking a well-deserved blogging break today. Waving to Heidi! So today I lined up one of my favorite encouragers to step in during Heidi’s absence. This precious lady blesses me with a kind word just when I need it most and faithfully shares my exciting posts on social media. I’d love to meet her face-to-face and chat for hours over a latte one day. Join me in welcoming Tammy Doherty! Recently, her self-published inspirational romantic suspense novels have exploded to the top of Amazon’s charts, so I asked her to answer some questions about the process. Feel free to pop in with your own. :)
Where did you upload your books? How challenging was the formatting/uploading process?
I started with Smashwords, a free service. They pay a nice royalty but not as much as Amazon KDP. Also, you can’t sell to Amazon through Smashwords. Some Indie authors go through B&N directly (as well as Amazon KDP) and only use a distributor like Smashwords for all the other outlets. Formatting was not as horrendous as many dread. Smashwords offers a free download that goes over the whole process step by step, and Amazon offers self-help guides.
Your daughter did a fabulous job designing She's Mine, but did you use a cover designer for the others? Was the design process difficult?
Xulon Press did the covers of my first three novels. For She’s Mine I “shopped” around for images and was able to get what I needed for under $30! The trees and sunset sky are my own photo. I really wanted the print and eBook covers to be the same. Many authors don’t do this because the eBook cover is typically viewed as a thumbnail and details can be lost. For eBooks, a jpeg is all you need (there are size recommendations) but for CreateSpace the cover needs to be the exact size the book is to be when it’s printed. There are templates for the common sizes (and I recommend choosing one of the sizes CreateSpace offers – don’t be oddball, people won’t be attracted to it).
It takes a great deal of artistic talent to design a book cover with a good eye for balance and composition, but you also have to consider the images and colors in relation to the genre and tone of the book. It’s possible to get a good quality cover for a very reasonable amount of money (like $100-$120). Personally, I don’t recommend using “stock” template covers offered by CreateSpace because then your book will not be unique.
Did you hire an editor or depend on beta readers?
I did not hire an editor or depend on beta readers. However, my Scribes partners were invaluable with their extensive critiques of She’s Mine. The beauty of eBooks is that you can make minor corrections anytime, and with any major corrections, Amazon notifies purchasers and gives them the option of downloading the updated version.
What about pricing or marketing strategies that have worked well? Which venue sells best for you?
For the print versions, I have very little control. Xulon set the price for the first three. With She’s Mine I set the price so long as it is the minimum that Amazon dictates. This allows me to set a more reasonable price for print books, and I am in complete control over eBooks. I researched big publishers and small press. The big names have eBooks that are priced at what I used to pay for print books. I didn’t like that idea. I finally chose a price that seems reasonable to imply quality without being too much for the average reader.
With KDP Select, an author has two promotional options (only one can be used in each 3 month Select period). With the Kindle Countdown promotion, you can set a low price and have it slowly go back up to regular, or just have it low for a 1 week period. I chose to do 99¢ for an entire week then I snagged an ad with ENT (eReader News Today). Money well spent! In April, I did a short-run 99¢ promo on my third novel, Celtic Knot. The thing that really made a difference in sales was putting my first novel at perma-free status. Prior to making Celtic Cross perma-free, I had all 3 of my novels at 99¢ with minimal sales. I made Celtic Cross free and changed Claddaugh to $1.99 and Celtic Knot to $2.99. In the first month of perma-free, there were over 12,000 downloads on Amazon alone. Yes – twelve thousand!! And sales of the other two rose noticeably as well. Sales for all three continue at what I consider to be respectable rates.
Do you need a publisher name to self-pub?
No. Many authors use a publisher name but I think that’s just so it doesn’t look so obviously indie-published. Perhaps one day I could become Naultag Publishing but I’ll have to think more about that. There are, perhaps, tax considerations. Someone in one of the groups I belong to mentioned something about filing income taxes as an “S” corporation or something like that. For now, I’m going to stick with just being me.
What are the differences between e-book and print copies?
The world truly seems to have embraced eBooks and those sales are far greater than print books. I like having mine available both ways as I still have many fans who prefer or only read print.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The only thing I would add is that this is not a journey to be attempted alone. First and foremost, I credit God with any and all successes I have. Joining ACFW helped me tremendously, especially joining my regional loop. Also the Christian Indie Authors group on Facebook is a fantastic resource and place of encouragement. Develop a web presence – for me it’s on Facebook – and grow your fan base (you can do this even before your books are published). Have people you can brainstorm & talk with, who will commiserate with you and shout to the world every little (and big) success you have. Writing is solitary but you don’t have to go it alone!
Dora here. Care to share your experiences as well? We'd love to hear!
Math teacher Caitlin Harrington never wanted to get married so it's just not fair that the first guy she dates—ever—turns out to be a creep. She takes a new job in the quiet New England town of Naultag, Massachusetts, where she grew up. But now someone is leaving menacing notes on her front door. Could it be her ex-boyfriend, stalking her? Firefighter Sean Taggart would like a marriage as perfect as his parents'—someday. Though Caitlin is attractive, he isn't willing to risk his heart on someone so aloof and cold. And possibly insane. When he learns the truth, Sean wants to help, if she’ll let him. Can he save Caitlin before the stalker turns to murder?
Tammy Doherty lives in central Massachusetts with her husband and two kids. She pours her love of small town New England into this first in the Mystique of Naultag series. Tammy is a founding member of Grace Awards and has served as a lead judge each year. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers. Her first book, "Celtic Cross" is on Amazon Kindle's top 10 list of Christian Fiction (romance/Western). When not writing, Tammy works on the family's farm, Inishowen Farms, growing and selling perennial plants. She is a veterinary technician by training and still works in that field, selling supplies to veterinarians.