In Some Life Some Where, indie-published author, Rebecca E Brown explores some of the big questions of life through seven short stories told in dialogue. Share a woman's difficulties as she tries to explain death to her small child, girls on the brink of adolescence worrying about their body image, young men grappling with concepts of death and war. By turns bittersweet and humorous, issues that have exercised us all at some point or another are touched upon in a different and entertaining way.
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 decided to self-publish Some Life Somewhere because I liked the idea of making work available on the internet and wanted to try the concept of using ebooks and kindle books as the 21st century equivalent of chapbooks - cheap, quick reads that put my work out there. I have submitted work for traditional publishing before but Some Life Somewhere was always intended for an ebook.
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?
The changing nature of the industry didn't influence me so much as the changing potential of technology. I think the opportunities available in ebook publishing are immensely exciting. Not from a financial point of view - at the minute I just don't have the time or expertise to promote my work at the level needed to get massive sales, but creatively, there is huge scope for writers to experiment and get their work out. And yes, you might be lost among the millions of books also available, but that's a risk you take and even if only a few people read the book and like it, I feel it's been worth doing and is worth doing again.
Is your book published as an e-book, Print on Demand, paper book, or all three?
Only ebook. It's too short to make viable as a paper book.
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?
I didn't pay an editor - I don't have the money for it, but I asked an editor friend to help me and I got help from several writerly friends. I definitely, definitely think an editor is important if at all possible though.
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 but I cheated as my husband has recently started self-employment as a designer with a particular emphasis on designing for writers! I think a good cover is absolutely essential and there are certain boxes that have to be ticked that are quite different from a print cover. I could witter on about the importance of this for ages!
How did you decide which self-publishing option to use? What were your reasons for your selection?
Simply, the length of the book. It could only work as an ebook. I used Kindle because it was a no-brainer really - so many people can get kindle books whether it's on the device itself or on the computer. I think Amazon have got it right with kindle, in my opinion it's the benchmark for ereaders and supplying ebooks. I also used Smashwords to make it available in other ebook filetypes - this was following the very sensible advice of Catherine Ryan Howard in her book Self-Printed, which I HIGHLY recommend. But I think in future I will use kindle and make it available as an ePub simply from my own site rather than use Smashwords.
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?
I think, although I may be setting myself up for criticism here, the remarks are often deserved. People often go into self-publishing with focus on the wrong things - either they think a kindle book will make them huge loads of money or they don't invest in as much professional help as possible. The perception is changing gradually as writers wise up and put effort into being professional but they really do have to put in that effort.
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?
Hard one! I have definitely learned that the work of self-promotion is not exaggerated at all. Because my book is not my major focus, I haven't pushed it like I might if I published a full-length work or if I was solely doing self-publishing, but I know now that before doing any of that I would really need to have a plan in place to market effectively without alienating people. I have also learned that checking stats and sales can be addictive...
Initially I did a fair push but more recently I've not been doing so much. I have it on my website, my blog and a Goodreads page. When I released it I had a giveaway; I also did a giveaway when I was aiming for 50 Facebook 'fans' but had to curtail it when I found out that Facebook had changed the rules! I'll probably do another push in a few weeks. So at the minute the answer is not much time at all and certainly not as much as it should *guilty face*.
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?
Well I've only made a nominal amount, but I wouldn't have made any going down the traditional route with this as it would simply not have happened. Also because it's so short it is priced as cheaply as it could be without being free; to make any proper money you really need to be above $2.99 to get the higher royalty rate from kindle. But I'm happy with it.
Are you happy with the level of your sales? Do you think there is more you could do to improve your sales?
There is definitely more I could do but as I said I never set out to sell millions of copies with this. It sounds very pretentious but I really did do this as a creative project rather than a publishing project, if you see what I mean. So I'm delighted with my sales. I have a nice number of good reviews on amazon, I was briefly in the Top 20 Kindle chart for my sub-genre and it's ticking away. If and when I release another ebook, I'll probably change Some Life Somewhere to free and do another little push.
Will you continue to self-publish, or do you want to be traditionally published (and self-publish), and why?
I do want to be traditionally published, particularly for my novels. It still, for me personally, has the sense of being validated and I'm too new to this game to have enough confidence that I can do as good a job as a traditional publishing house. I would give it my best shot, but I need more experience. That's for full-length stuff; for shorter work such as Some Life Somewhere, where it's more for the sake of having something that I'm proud of out there, I'll definitely be doing it again. The thing that has REALLY changed is that I will give my novels a shorter submission time. If my current WIP, say, doesn't take in x amount of time, I'll self-publish it. It's an option now that it wasn't ten years ago.
Would you recommend self-publishing to other writers?
I absolutely would, with caveats. Don't do it with unrealistic expectations; make sure you know what your reasons and aims are (ie I never aimed to make millions; if I had I'd be bitterly disappointed and negative by now); put the effort in. It's not just a case of writing it and getting it into print, job done - you really have to be a publishing house and be as professional as possible in design, production, marketing.
What do you see as the pitfalls in self-publishing?
Complacency. "I've done the writing, it will speak for itself". It won't. You need to work on your writing and work on improving yourself. If you're going to do it properly you need to be thinking "what's next?" all the time, or else know your limitations. I don't see the abundance of self-published books as a pitfall as I know others do; I see it as an exciting explosion of writers recognising the possibilities before them. As long as they know what they're doing and why.
Thanks to Rebecca for participating!
You can also listen to Rebecca's podcasts at In the Wishing Chair.
Some Life Somewhere can be bought at Amazon UK, Amazon.com and from Smashwords.
Do join me again towards the end of this week for my final two-part interview in this series, with one of my former critique partners who has set up his own indie-press. His debut novel, which I recall critiquing several years ago, is in the process of being released. For those who have serious questions about the business side of self-publishing, I feel this particular interview will provide many credible and frank answers.