Angela Shearer has gone the self-publishing route twice, and shares her experience.
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and the book(s) you have written, including the genre you prefer:
The Scarlet Code was my first book, a non-fiction book which is a guide on how to re-invent yourself as a woman and become financially and emotionally independent of other people. The book teaches us how to remain relevant in a changing world and how to give ourselves permission to live the lives that we sometimes only dream about in secret.
My Second book is called Mad Mischief and its total fiction, a throng of short stories that touch on many contentious topics and ideas.
I don’t really have a favourite genre when it comes writing. I love to tell stories and have discussions and I believe that it’s important to write about anything, no matter the genre, if we have something of substance to say.
2. Why did you decide to self-publish? What was the process leading up to this decision?
I initially submitted my book to one of the big publishers and it took them over six months to respond. When they did respond they said that they were not publishing “that genre of work” and recommended that I try a few other publishers instead. I then submitted my manuscript to another two traditional publishers and waited for over six months to follow up. The one publisher gave the same response twice, over a year period, which was “We are busy reviewing the manuscript and will let you know the outcome”. The other publisher never even responded to my follow ups.
In the end, neither of the two publishers ever came back to me with an outcome or feedback. I went on to do some research and realised that going via a traditional publisher isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, I came to understand that there is actually a massive down side to publishing through them in terms of rights to your books, reduced royalties and various other compromises that come with giving power over to someone else. This lead me to look at the Independent publishing option through Amazon. I haven’t regretted it for a minute.
3. What kind of feedback have you had from your readers and editors?
I’ve received great feedback from my readers on the Scarlet Code specifically as they have found it to be very useful when making big changes to their lives. Their comments and feedback can be viewed on my website.
4. We’d like to know the results of your decision. Would you consider it successful? Why? What does success mean to you?
I published both books in 2016. One was published in April and the other in August so it’s still early days in terms of sales but, that said, they are selling via Amazon in both Kindle and hard copy and they are also selling out of two book shops in SA. I retain complete control over my sales distribution and I also control the price and the profits. I absolutely think its successful. I realise that any author needs to play a very active role in marketing their books whether independently published or published through traditional channels. There are so many writers out there and so many books, you can’t expect to make it big overnight. Writing the book is one part of the journey, marketing yourself and the book is the second part of the journey. I personally prefer to retain control.
5. If you knew then (before embarking on the journey of self-publishing) what you know now, what would you tell yourself?
I’d tell myself to research more about what other authors do and the channels that they use to market their work and then put a comprehensive marketing plan in place. I’d also tell myself not to expect instant gratification.
6. Please give us a quick list of pros and cons for the self-publishing route:
· You retain control over your work.
· Your set the price.
· You control your distribution channels.
· You don’t have to share your profits.
· You aren’t limited by contracts or personalities.
· Nobody tells you what you may or may not do or say.
· There’s no comfort zone. You are completely on your own.
· You can’t blame anyone else but yourself if your book doesn’t sell.
· You don’t have other resources to draw from like design, printing, legal, marketing or logistics. You pretty much have to know how to do this yourself or outsource it to freelancers or small companies. Outsourcing could prove to be expensive.
7. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
· Editing and proof reading advice – Edit, edit and edit some more. Get hard copies of your final draft printed and then get as many people as you can to proof read them for you. Understand that even after they have been proof read by numerous proof readers there will still be some landmines hidden between the lines. Use an electronic review tool like Paper Rater to proof read it again because it picks up errors that we don’t see as humans.
· Make sure that you know who your target market is and that there really is a market for your product. Align your marketing to this target market.
· Build up a reader base using social media. Get an account on all social media platforms.
· Never ever become that sleazy sales person trying to peddle your books because it just comes across as desperate. People will buy your books if they get good reviews, can benefit then in some way or if they are entertaining.
· Don’t include your friends, family, acquaintances or colleagues in your reader base. They should retain their rightful roles in your life without feeling like they owe it to you to buy and read your book. They are not a reliable reflection because they know you and will either judge you too harshly or be overly kind. Aim to have strangers as your readers and market your books to the great audience “out there” because when they buy your books, you know you have something to sell.
Then, just some fun questions:
8. Do you try to be as original as possible? Or do you prefer to stick to what you know readers / publishing houses are looking for?
I like to be more controversial and original in my thinking and writing. I enjoy contentious topics for non-fiction and totally warped and twisted ideas or stories for fiction.
9. When did you first experience the power of literature?
When I was about 9 years old I remember writing my first script.
I enjoyed writing it so much that I just kept on writing and then I finally discovered that I had to write even if nobody ever read what I wrote down.
10. How much time do you spend writing per day / week?
It depends what I’m working on. If the book needs a lot of research, then a lot more time is spent on that. A lot of writing takes place in your head like while you are in the traffic, waiting in a queue or lying in bed. That said, when the book is formed in my head then I can write from 4 to 8 hours a day until I meet my target. When I’m between books, like I am at the moment, then I don’t write much more than work emails.
11. What do you tend to edit out of your books after the initial writing?
I tend to edit out lots of extra words that aren’t really necessary. Sometimes dialogue also sounds stupid when you read it out loud so I edit that a lot to make it sound more authentic and natural.
12. What are the hardest scenes for you to write?
Love scenes are my most difficult just because I think they give a lot away about the person who writes them.
13. What could you have done as a child or teenager to ensure that you were an even better writer today?
I could have read more. The more you read the more you develop original thought and also pick up on different styles and understand what works and what doesn’t.
14. How long (on average) does it take you to write a book and how many times do you edit it?
Four months and you don’t stop editing – there really is no ideal number of times to edit. You just keep searching for those little typos, grammer and spelling gremlins and exterminate them one by one.
15. What else do you do, if you aren’t a full-time writer?
I’m a Project Manager in the Cyber Security space for a financial institution.
See this video on The Scarlet Code