In speaking with my fellow SCBWI members about writer/illustrator co-operatives, one of the examples to which I've referred several times - and following on my interview with Megg Jensen - is DarkSide Publishing. DarkSide Publishing comprises of a group of SCBWI Young Adult authors who've banded together, shared skills and resources - and self-published. They describe themselves as a group of "authors working together to provide quality literature to ebook readers". Their titles are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.
And so, continuing my series on self-publishing, I took the opportunity to interview another of the DarkSide team - namely Karly Kirkpatrick - co-founder of Darkside Publishing.
What made you decide to self-publish, and had you tried to traditionally publish (or been traditionally published) before going the self-publishing route?
I had pursued traditional publishing for about two years before venturing out on my own. I then later helped form the DarkSide Publishing group. I had never really thought about epublishing until 2010 when I started reading Joe Konrath’s blog. After learning about the new and improved self-publishing, I decided to take a book that would never have a chance in New York because it had already made the rounds and epubbed it. This seemed to me like one of those opportunities I didn’t want to look back on in three years and say, man, I really wish I would’ve tried that out. My first book was definitely a guinea pig but now I can’t see myself seeking a traditional publishing deal.
There is a lot of talk about the publishing industry being in a state of change, did this influence your decision to self-publish in any way and what do you think the changes taking place in the publishing world mean for writers and for writing/literature per se?
Oh for sure. I mean, I find it hard to believe that traditional publishing will ever permanently die, but I’m certainly excited and willing to try out new options. To be honest, if I hadn’t epublished, I might have hung up writing. It was sort of coming to that fork in the road for me personally. I love writing, but longed for the satisfaction of having someone actually read my books. And the fact that I can make money is the added bonus. I work a full time job and have a young daughter, so I need there to be some payback for sacrificing free time for writing. Epublishing has definitely made it worth my while.
Is your book published as an e-book, Print on Demand, paper book, or all three?
My books are available as ebooks as well as POD. The nice thing about POD is my books are available at big online stores like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as other sites around the world and they handle all the shipping and printing. I usually have a steady supply of my own at home for appearances and authors fairs.
How did you decide which self-publishing option to use? What were your reasons for your selection?
I just wanted the books available in the most formats possible. And even though I love ebooks and my Kindle, and sell mostly ebooks, there is something about having that first copy of your book in your hand. Unfortunately the paperbacks become more of a promotional item, so I’ll have to make the business decision in the future whether or not to continue to make them.
The criticism of many self-published books is the lack of editing and proof reading. Did you use an editor to polish your book before self-publishing, and if so, how do you feel this helped?
It’s absolutely imperative that people have their work edited prior to publication. I didn’t hire an editor, but my books have been edited by the authors at DarkSide. As a group of professional authors, we work together to edit our books. Each book sees between 3-5 editors before proofreading. I think it helps set our quality above some that are maybe a bit more slap-dash. That isn’t to say there aren’t still mistakes. It happens, even in traditionally pubbed works.
How do you feel about the less than complementary remarks so often made about self-published books vs. traditionally published books – and do you think this perception is changing?
It is, one book at a time. For every great self-pubbed book, there are a pile of not so good ones. Groups like DarkSide are working to show readers that it can be done and done well. Lots of other indie faves are showing they’ve got the stuff as well. If their stories were really that horrible, New York wouldn’t be paying them millions.
Did you use a designer for create a book cover for you? If so, what difference do you feel this has made?
I did use a designer. For me it was a no-brainer. I like to think I’m talented artistically but in no way near as talented as the cover artists I’ve dealt with. Having a professional cover really sets the book apart from those that are made by an amateur, I feel like. It’s well worth the money.
You, together with Megg Jensen and other authors have set up your own indie publishing label, DarkSide Publishing. What was the reason for doing this and how do you feel this helped each of you?
Our theory was why work alone when we could pool our skills and resources and work together. It’s helped us all immensely. The amount of expertise we have pooled together is quite a huge asset. Not to mention it helps to have a group for marketing as opposed to working alone.
I suspect many writers new to self publishing would have a hard time knowing at what price to set their self published book. How did you determine what to charge for your book, and do you have a pricing strategy, for example, like Amanda Hocking who charged 99c for the first book in a series and $2.99 for the books that followed?
My strategy is to keep it priced low, but not so low that you don’t make any money to pay your expenses. A few people have been super successful at the 99 cent price point, so you can’t knock it. Perhaps when I have a larger backlist built up, I would put a book or two at a lower price, like Hocking or Konrath. My 99 cent experiment wasn’t super successful, so I’ve chosen to keep my prices at $2.99 and $3.49 so I can get my 70% royalty. And they pretty much sell equal amounts. I’ll probably keep experimenting down the road. At this price, I make a decent profit every month so I’m pretty comfortable with it.
With self-publishing, you carry all the risk – the onus is on you to create as “perfect” a book as possible and to market it. How have you found the process of being your own publisher, and what have you particularly learned?
Hahaha, that’s a huge question. I enjoy being my own publisher. It definitely gives me a great amount of satisfaction to know that I did this myself with DarkSide and didn’t need anyone else. I’ve sold a respectable number of copies in my first year with no NY publisher helping me out. AND I get to keep all the profits. However it is tempting to think of someone doing all the footwork for you. But then I’d have to pay them, and I go back to being happy working for myself. If I’ve learned anything, is that publishing is hard work and you definitely have to want it. You also have to educate yourself on every aspect of publishing, not just indie publishing. It’s important to know how the whole book world operates.
What marketing platforms are you using to promote your book(s), and how much of your time does the marketing take?
I use mostly free social media…Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, my blog. In the beginning, marketing took more time because you felt like you were shouting to the world ‘Hey, look at me! Read my book!” And now I’m just maintaining that. We realize now that social media isn’t necessarily bringing in a ton of new readers all the time. But it’s allowed me to build up a solid fan base that helps spread the word. I probably spend a few hours a week hopping around the sites and interacting with others. I’m on Facebook multiple times a day. But I don’t ‘sell’ there much anymore. Those folks are already on Team Karly, so I don’t have to beat them over the head with it.
It’s a personal question, but do you feel you’re making, or are able to make money by having self-published your book? Do you feel you are making more than you would be being traditionally published?
I’m definitely making money. At this point it’s ‘extra’ money, certainly not ‘quit the day job’ money. I’ve been bringing in the same profits monthly since March. I’d love to see that increase, but for right now it is paying some bills for sure. As for making more than being trad published, it’s tough to say. Most trad pubbed authors make an advance. So I’m not getting that. But in the long run, I’m guessing I’ll catch up. It’s really promising as to what the future will bring and makes for a good part-time job right now.
Are you happy with the level of your sales? Do you think there is more you could do to improve your sales?
I don’t know if I’ll ever be happy with my sales. I’ll always want to sell more hehehe. I think they are a little low right now, I’m hoping to see them pick up in the holiday season. For sure there are more things I could be doing to sell more. I’ll be joining in some blog hops for some wider exposure and DarkSide is participating in authors’ fairs and speaking engagements at least once a month until the end of 2011. I’m hoping this will give us some great exposure. And word of mouth keeps traveling. Getting out the sequel to Into the Shadows will hopefully help as well.
Will you continue to self-publish, or do you want to be traditionally published (and self-publish), and why?
For the moment, I’m planning to continue self-publishing. I always like to stay open to opportunities, so if the right one were to drop in my lap, I’d give it a look. I think I’ll always keep one foot on the indie side of the fence and DarkSide Publishing will be around as long as we still have stories to publish. I really have a feeling the future authors will be hybrids, with opportunities on both sides.
Would you recommend self-publishing to other writers?
If you’re ready for it. You know yourself, what kind of worker you are. People who are perfectionists with great attention to detail will do well with it. If you struggle with self-imposed deadlines and technology, it might not be as easy. Or you may just have to hire out things like formatting. Which is okay too. The biggest assets though would be being organized and confident.
What do you see as the pitfalls in self-publishing?
It’s hard work, most indie authors work alone, so that can be tough, and there’s that stigma. But I don’t know that those things are really that horrible. But I could see how they’d bother some people.
Do you have any tips for writers thinking of self-publishing?
Educate yourself on self-publishing. Read Joe Konrath. Hang out on the Kindle Boards. Meet other indie authors and read their blogs. That’s really the key to building a successful indie-mini empire. Oh, and make sure you’ve got a great book. Without that, you’re sunk.
Thanks to Karly for participating!
Bloody Little Secrets17-year-old Vicky Hernandez has a big problem. She's dead. Or not quite. After discovering she's been turned into a vampire, she tries to settle into a quiet suburb of Chicago and return to a normal life.
If only she could stop wanting to bite her boyfriend. Not to mention she is dying to find out who turned her, and why. She doesn't have to wait long before they come to her.
Into the ShadowsPaivi Anderson has it all—friends, a spot on the varsity basketball team, wonderful parents, and quite possibly, her first boyfriend. It was everything a freshman in high school could ask for. Her perfect life begins to crumble when she discovers her name on a list distributed by a power-hungry presidential candidate. How could anyone think of Paivi as an Enemy of the State? Could it be because of her special powers? No one was supposed to know about them, but the mysterious messages in her tater tots say otherwise. In INTO THE SHADOWS, Paivi quickly learns who her friends are and is forced into a reality she didn’t see coming.
NEWSFLASH - "Into the Shadows" is currently available as a free ebook on Amazon - hurry while the offer lasts!
To find out more about Karly Kirkpatrick, visit her website.
You can also follow Karly on Facebook and on Twitter.
You can buy Into The Shadows on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble. It is also available on Amazon UK, Amazon DE and Smashwords.
Bloody Little Secrets is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is also available on Amazon UK and Amazon DE.