Monday, July 28, 2014

The Flat Character Arc

Here's my dilemma: How do I take a strong main character who already fulfilled a transforming growth arc in the first book and repeat it in the sequel? Karlinah can only learn so many lessons now that she is part of "a highly favored people of the Lord" who "never did fall away". I found my answer in Jordan McCollum's Character Arcs. Not all characters have growth arcs. Some have a negative arc (where the good turn bad) and some are flat. The book explores these along with the traditional growth arc. 

Character Arcs: founding, forming & finishing your character's internal journey (Writing Craft, #1) On page 61 Jordan says,"Sometimes the story is not a journey to improvement, but a proving ground of something the character has already learned." Think of the many fairy-tale characters like Snow White and Cinderella, where the good keep choosing to be good despite the hardships thrown at them. This is the Flat Character Arc. It can end happily ever after or in tragedy (though the character does not waver).

In the sequel I am writing, Karlinah's starting point defines her as already good. Her struggle will be that she is continually tempted to stay good. Think of the character pressing on against a headwind rather than climbing a mountain. It's simply a different kind of movement or growth. The temptations should grow worse and the consequences of those choices become greater. The character may not see rewards for making the right choice, making it more difficult to choose the right. There may be one final temptation to face in the climax, where giving in appears to have little consequence (but the opposite is true).

I am happy to learn that character arcs are not required to make a good story great. In this sequel, a flat character arc is what is right for my plot and character. There must still be conflict, but now my character has the freedom she needed to go in the proper direction. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Review - Marketing

While preparing for last week's marketing post from a panel of authors, I read Tim Grahl's Your First 1000 Copies: The step-by-step guide to marketing your book. This was a good combination for getting me in the marketing mode. Yes, marketing starts before the first book comes out.

About the book: Grahl has a marketing system he calls The Connection System. Having a system gives you confidence, saves time, and lets you be creative. His focuses include: Connections, Permission, Outreach, Sell, and Track. These are described on his website

This book gave me some great ideas that we first-time authors can implement. The only thing I wished for was more ideas on fiction authors giving readers content they want in a newsletter. He seemed to have more examples from non-fiction and how-to book authors. Though geared more to the self-publisher, I think any reader interested in marketing can gain something from its pages. I especially liked the chapter summary bullets and website links. I gave it 5 stars.

Between this book and my recent marketing panel post, I've been thinking about what I (you) can do now to implement the beginning (and all-encompassing) step in Grahl's marketing system--Connections. Marketing is about helping people. To build connections and help others, I (you) can:
1. Figure out my platform. What do I want to talk about that helps  others (besides writing tips)?
2. Write useful posts on my blog and author page.
3. Embrace the fact that I have something to offer of value/be a fan of my own book. Be excited!
4. Share interesting facts, tips, photos, etc. on my book's topic without going overboard. What ways best reach my intended audience?
5. Keep in touch with writer friends through social media, email, etc.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Authors' Marketing Panel

Want juicy marketing secrets? Here's the follow-up to my Author's Publishing Panel (reposted last week). Today's participants don't claim to be experts (in fact someone called it a crap shoot!), but I'd bet we can gain from their secrets, er experiences. Afterall, marketing is simply finding the best ways to talk about your book(s).
In order of the responses as they came to me, let's meet the MARKETING PANEL (*drumroll):

Cheri Chesley, author of The Peasant Queen Series, believes in miracles and the magic of books in everyday life. When not writing, she can be found reading the dictionary for fun or devouring any of the many books in her library. She lives with her husband and numerous children in Waurika, OK. Look for updates on her latest works at
Christy Dorrity lives in the mountains with her husband, five children, and a cocker spaniel. She grew up on a trout ranch in Star Valley, Wyoming and is the author of The Geis series for young adults and The Book Blogger's Cookbooks. Christy is a World Champion Irish dancer and when she's not reading or writing, she's probably trying out a new recipe in the kitchen. She is the author of Awakening, available on Amazon and B&N.
sign up for my newsletter here
Maria Hoagland writes LDS women's fiction with a medical twist. When Maria is not working at her computer, she can be found walking barefoot in soft grass, remodeling houses with her husband, or enjoying campfires with their three children. She loves crunching leaves in the fall, stealing cookie dough from the mixing bowl, and listening to musicals on her iPod. Although she adores mountain resorts near her Idaho home, she is no longer a fan of ice skating. She is the author of two novels: Family Size and Nourish & Strengthen. You can find her at:

Ronda Hinrichsen (Kathleen Marks) is the author of Romantic Suspense, Mystery, Adventure, and Speculative novels as well as the Heroes of the Highest Order 1 chapter book series. She has traveld throughout the world in search of exotic settings and intriguing characters, and loves introducing them to her readers through her stories. Ronda just self-published a novella titled To Sleep No More (A Dalton & Dalton Preternatural Mystery) under the pen name Kathleen Marks. Her next traditionally published novel will be released in June 2014 with Covenant Communications. It is titled Betrayed.
If you'd like to subscribe to her newsletter, please email her at

Gregg Luke says that he started writing seriously after graduating from college. Even then, it took nearly ten years before he had any success getting published. He has published in the New Era, Destiny Magazine, and Pharmacy Times. His literary claim to fame is being a finalist for a Whitney Award in 2008 for Do No Harm, in 2009 for Altered State, in 2010 for Blink of An Eye, in 2011 for Bloodborne, and in 2012 for Deadly Undertakings. His favorite reading genre is science-based thrillers.
(I appreciate Gregg's participation at my invitation, with his different perspective. He gave me a few comments, which I have put into the questions below.)

M.E. (Melissa) Cunningham came from a land far, far away, and ended up on a little farm in Northern Utah, living with numerous magical creatures: horses, chickens, dogs, cats, and a goat. M. E. began writing quite by accident when the fall through the fabric of time dropped M. E. into the mysterious land of Terratir.
Favorite topics include ghosts, monsters, dragons, and magic. M. E. also likes TV, going to the movies, and camping in the mountains as long as there are no spiders, mosquitoes, or ticks.
Cunningham's first book, Relucant Guardian, was published in August 2013. The Eye of Tanub is now out. While always in search of the strange and unexplainable, this author will write each story as it is discovered. Be on the look out!
See more at: 

Nichole Giles, the author of DESCENDANT (Jelly Bean Publishing May 2013), and BIRTHRIGHT (May 2014), has lived in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Texas. She loves to spend time with her husband and four children, travel to tropical and exotic destinations, drive in the rain with the convertible top down, and play music at full volume so she can sing along.  
1. Getting Noticed: What has been your most effective marketing tool for getting your name known, early stages and/or later on? 
Cheri: When just starting out I did very well with a hectic series of Costco signings. Sales for that month were great. Though I'm still building and working on broadening my writing platform, what has currently helped to keep my name "out there" is offering one short story permanently free. It has a consistent number of downloads every month.
Christy: I think the best way for getting my name out there came from the interactions I'd had over the years as I made friends with writers, authors, and readers. Social media plays a key in this. And now that I have a newsletter I'm beginning to see how that one-on-one connection truly is the jackpot of all marketing. 
Ronda: Writing books, connecting with people, and presenting/ teaching classes.
Gregg: I do very little if any marketing of my books. Covenant Communications does all that for me. (Renae's note: This includes getting books in the publisher's catalogue and setting up interviews.)
Melissa:  I use Facebook to its full ability. I've joined a ton of different pages that will advertise for me, and I also have my account set up so that it automatically posts to twitter and vice versa. I have a Pinterest account where I pin picture of quotes from my books. Being a member of Goodreads will do you a world of good also. The biggest help I have is my publisher. They go above and beyond to help me in any way possible. Not everyone has that, so these other avenues are vital.
Nichole: Years ago, when I first started writing, blogging was the thing. Reading blogs, posting blogs, participating in group blogs, swapping guest blots—it was all the rage. Now that Facebook and Twitter have gained momentum though, blogging seems to be sliding a bit, even though book bloggers still have a very strong hold on the review market. I think now, even though focus has shifted slightly toward social media, it’s important to be diverse in spreading the word. Blogging, social media activity, Goodreads are all great ways to be seen and heard. Another really good way to get your name out there with other writers is to attend and participate in conferences and conventions. There is SO much value in meeting people in the industry.

2. Audience: How can authors widen their audience? How do you build connections or keep your audience interested?
Cheri: This is something I'm still working on, and I think I will continue to work on it throughout my career. When writing YA one has to consider that every year brings another group of youth eager to read and discover a new book/series. So it's important to try and stay fresh. Another thing is to post regularly to your social connections. If you're on Facebook, post book updates, fun tidbits, etc, to engage readers. Post consistently on your blog/website. Post to twitter. Be engaging and positive.  
Christy: Be where your audience is. Interact with readers online. I would suggest picking one social media tool and then keep up on it daily. Twitter isn't your thing? Fine, get on Instagram. Don't like Instagram? Master Facebook.
Maria: Getting the word to your target audience is a must. Because I write for such a small niche market, I have difficulty getting to them.
Gregg: I do post occasionally on Facebook, teach writing classes, and do book signings when I have a new release. I go to various writing conferences and sell my books there.
Melissa:  A street team can really get the word out there. They will read your book, advertise, and write reviews. I love our street team.
Nichole: Word of mouth is a huge thing. If you put out a high-quality product, people read it and they talk about it, and they tell their friends, and those friends tell their friends. The hardest part, I think, is finding those initial readers who will get the ball rolling, so to speak. When you do find those initial readers, the next biggest important thing is to encourage (or beg) them to leave reviews. Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, etc. Reviews sell books. Period. The more reviews a book has, the more exposure, and the stronger the author’s ability to choose to purchase good advertising space.

3. Getting Subscribers: How do you build that all important e-mail list? How big a role is it for you?
Cheri: I have yet to effectively employ my subscriber list.
Christy: Newsletter subscribers are gold. Even if all of the social media sites were cut off and you were alone in your little house, with no one to promote to, you can always contact your newsletter subscribers. These are people who have given you permission to tell them when you have a new release! Every time I have a speaking engagement, I hold a giveaway for those who sign up for my letter. When I do signings, I encourage those who look as if they would buy my book if they had the money to sign up-it's free! And if anyone asks for donations for an online launch, offer to donate something (even an ebook), in exchange for the contest goers signing up for your newsletter. It grows a little bit at a time.
Nichole: My focus hasn’t been solely on my email list, though I do think it’s important to have a list and send a fairly regular newsletter. I send mine about once every two or three months, usually around the first of the month, or when I have news I think will interest my readers. Other than that, I try hard not to spam my subscribers inboxes with notes about how I spent my holiday weekend, or where I’m going on a family vacation or research trip.  

4. Selling: What ways do you sell your books and which have been the most effective?
Cheri: Again, I find that offering a free quality sampling of my work creates interest and draws readers to check out my other books. Also have occasional sales of the other books in a series when you release something new related to that series is not only fun but can be quite successful.
Christy: As an Indie author, my focus is on online ebook sales. I do a small print run as well.
Maria:  About the only thing that has worked for sales is doing group sales where we cross market. To get reviews, often times I do Google searches and look for bloggers to read and review my books. I don't know if it helps, but it does increase reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and B&N.
Maria: I do sell more at 99 cents than full price (we all want a deal, don't we), but it seems to only work if I temporarily lower the price. If I keep it at 99 cents all the time, it isn't as effective.
Ronda: I consider my audience and what I believe they want from a book before I write. After the book is complete/on sale, I create quick pitches that I hope will hook my audience.
Gregg: I go to various writing conferences and sell my books there. (His books can also be bought on his website as well as traditional means.) I have no idea what impact any of it has on sales; I do it because it's fun. But I can tell you Covenant has sold out of all my books in the past. (Why they don't reprint them is anyone's guess!)
Nichole: My books are available everywhere online, and can be ordered through any brick and mortar bookstore. I don’t have a storefront or sell them from my website but I do link to the places that do.
As far as garnering sales, I have recently discovered some great places where I can get free or inexpensive advertising for short-term promotions, and the ones I have tried have been very effective. The biggest trick is carving out the time to visit these sites and enter all the information and links, and researching to figure out which ones are worth paying for, and which ones are not. Nichole shares a few links she likes:  5. Failures: What has been your least effective marketing tool or biggest waste of time/money? Other lessons learned? How do you deal with discouragement?
Cheri: T-shirts. When I first started out I ordered shirts for each member of my family advertising the book with the cover and website info. Not only is this not terribly cost effective I saw very little return. Conversely, I have had several authors write me about where they can purchase wrist bands that can be imprinted or embossed with their book's information, as I have done for each of my Peasant Queen series novels.
Christy: When I launched my first book I did a 13 hour Facebook party BY MYSELF! I seriously started having anxiety problems after that day. Although the party was a great idea, I'm not sure it was worth all of that time and stress. I could have limited the party to a few hours and seen the same results.
Maria: I have good days and I have bad days. Sometimes I wonder why I'm even writing since I am nowhere near to making back the time I have invested. But I think a lot of that is because of the genre. So I've decided to branch out and try something new--a new genre for a general market. It might help with sales, but more than that, it's given me the spark I needed to keep going (it's always fun to start a new project).
Melissa: I don't know that I've had failures other than I wish I could have been more active in advertising my book. I have been sick and it really put a cramp in my style for a while. But being actively out there is something to work on.
Nichole: Believe it or not, I have found giveaways to be almost entirely ineffective. People are happy to enter to win a prize if they don’t have to work for it, but if you require them to tweet or Facebook or leave a review, they are far less likely to care unless you are giving away a crazy expensive or rare prize. I am not well enough known for rare, and not rich enough for crazy expensive, so I tend to give away books or gift cards, and while those promotions are fun, they NEVER boost my sales. Ever.

6. Analytics: How do you measure your marketing's effectiveness? What analytic tools are employed?

Cheri: I still measure my success in terms of sales. Lately, because I haven't released anything new, my sales are down. But I am planning a fairly large "comeback" for later this year that I hope will drive sales up again. 
Christy: That is an area that I am not very good at. I do keep track of my sales during a promotion so that I can see what works and what doesn't.
Ronda: If my book(s) sell during or after an event, such as presentations or online events, then I know what I did that day worked. 
Gregg: I have no idea what impact any of it has on sales.
Nichole: I recently tried a promotion where I gave away the first book in my series for free for five days. During that five days, I ran several inexpensive ads, and a few more free ones. The experiment was for me to see how many downloads for each day (depending on which ad was running—or not running) and what happened on the days when I didn’t advertise at all.
Because it was a Kindle promotion, I used strictly the Kindle analytics tool on KDP, and I watched the graph change throughout the day. (Yes, I did get a little obsessive with the refresh button—sadly.)
It turned out to be a highly successful promotion, with an overall total of just under 10,000 new downloads, which have resulted in new sales of the next title in the series (the third of which has not yet been released). I am still using that same tool to track my daily sales. Most sites have those analytics capabilities, and I plan to learn to use them all.

7. Parties: What has your experience been like with book launches, blog tours, virtual tours, swag, or other devices, as far as enjoyment and effectiveness?
Cheri: I find the online parties/tours/launches to be far more successful than book launches held in stores. It's easier for people to participate online and it's a lot less inclusive. My in person launches have been met with much less success, though I can't say the same for better known authors. When Shannon Hale or Brandon Mull show up at your local bookstore it will pull you out of the house!  
 Christy: Like I said, doing the long Facebook party by myself was not great. Since then I've participated in multi-author parties and the burden is spread out. I like that much better! I have done my own blog tours, and hired some out. It just depends on how much time I have.
Ronda: For me, the biggest value in these events is that they help an author/book get noticed. I don’t know that they increase sales, initially, but hopefully they will in the long run.
Gregg: My publisher would love it if I got out and did a bunch of self-promotion, tours, blogs, etc, but as I have a full time career as a Pharmacy Director for three clinics, I have barely enough time to write the books, let alone market them.
Nichole: I have tried all these things. My book launches have had great turnout from family members and friends, and always result in a significant number of books sold on that particular day. Also, I think for me the launch of a new book is (or was) a rite of passage that made my career as an author feel more real. So I do recommend launch parties for first time authors. Maybe for every time authors, I don’t know. I didn’t do a launch for the second book in my series, and I sort of wish I had. Swag has been effective only when I am signing books in person. Giving it away online and having to mail it to far away places really hasn’t been all that effective in my experience, and can be costly. (Do you know how much it costs to ship bookmarks to Romania? Books to Australia? South Africa? I do. Not cheap.)
Blog tours are a great way to gain exposure and gather reviews from important book bloggers, which will often also post their reviews on sites in addition to their blogs. Reviews (as mentioned above) are EXTREMELY important to help books get noticed, so I have found it worth giving away free e-copies to a few reviewers for the long term benefits. HOWEVER, blog tours can be expensive, and they don’t generally help sales much (at least, they haven’t really affected mine significantly) so if you’re going to schedule a tour, make sure you know why you’re doing it and have a clear goal in mind.

8. Social Media: What role does social media play in your marketing plans? Has it been effective?
Cheri: The rising generations are the people I write for, and their lives are much more online than the previous generations' lives. One has to have an online presence in order to reach one's target audience. It's important to stay tuned in to the current trends. For instance, Twitter is much more widely used by tweens and young adults than Facebook.
Christy: I like Facebook because it gives me an opportunity to interact with readers, and brings in new readers. It takes time, but I do believe it to be effective.
Maria: I feel like I've maxed out with my Facebook friends, but am in the process (next on my To-Do List) to look at how marketing on Pinterest might work. 
Ronda: It helps with getting noticed, and sometimes it does help sell a book.
Gregg: I post occasionally on Facebook.
Melissa: This is huge these days. Even the big guys use it now. You can instantly have your book's cover all over the internet. One of the things my publisher has encouraged us to try is a vlog. I've yet to do that, but I think I'll give it a go. Read from your book, teach a mini class on something, or just share your feelings on any given topic. SCARY!
Nichole: Social media is very important to my marketing success. I think it’s important to have an online persona who people can connect with and see regularly. But I also think it’s important to make sure you’re there as a person, and not just a marketer. No one wants to have you constantly shoving your book down their throats. You will lose more readers than you will gain that way—in my experience (on both sides of that fence).
One thing about social media is that it can be overwhelming. There are SO many platforms from which to choose, and no one person can keep up with all of them. I think you pick one you like, and focus mainly on that one. Or two. Stick with those, and leave the others alone until you’re tired of the first two, or until they cease to be effective.

9. Advice: Any other advice or tips to leave with us?
Cheri: One thing I love to see is authors working together. If a group of authors team up and throw an online launch (say, if they have books coming out around the same time) then they can draw readers from each of their circles. It's a win-win since readers get to broaden their horizons by checking out new authors and authors enjoy the benefit of meeting new people, which often leads to book sales.
Christy: I've heard this time and time again, and I believe it to be true: The best thing you can do to market your book is to continue writing and publishing quality books. If you tell good stories and keep publishing them, you will build your presence as a writer. 
Ronda:  Marketing has always been a trial and error experience, partly because I’m learning as I go, and partly because what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for someone else, so overall, my advice is to try different things that you’re comfortable with and see if they help you reach your goals.
Melissa: Just don't give up. Keep going. It's those who give up that never get published. Keep plugging away and you cannot fail! 
Nichole: Find what works for you. Every author is different. Some of us join groups of other authors and team up for marketing. Some of us feel overwhelmed by groups and choose to do our marketing solo. Some people pay for advertising, others take advantage of every free exposure opportunity known to writers. ALL are good choices, even as they’re different. The key (in my opinion) is to keep an open mind and be willing to try new and different things on a regular basis.
Also, every once in a while, be willing to do something big to shake things up. Stir the cold pot of soup.
Thank you, participants! I'm sure we all got something from your valued comments. If any visitors would like to add their favorite tip from these comments or from personal experience, we would love to hear from you too!  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Authors' Publishing Panel Reposted

Because I'm on vacation, I will be reposting a popular post today. It is the perfect post to preview before next week's Marketing Panel posting. Be sure to come back for that next Monday. Enjoy!

The Great Debate: Traditional (Publishing House), Indie (Individually Self-published), or Hybrid (Both)? This week I have a panel of authors who will share their experiences to help you decide. If you want the nuts and bolts, pros and cons information alongside these real-life experiences, Eschler Editing has a great post on it here--one of the most complete I've seen.

Let's quickly meet the panel (alphabetically). You can find out more about them below.
Danyelle Ferguson - Romance and Non-Fiction. Hybrid (H)
Nichole Giles - YA Fiction. Hybrid (H)
Ronda Hinrichsen - Suspense, Romance, Speculative, Mystery, Chapter books. Hybrid (H)
Maria Hoagland Women's Fiction with a medical twist, Indie (I)
Margot Hovley - LDS YA Fiction. Traditional (T)
Lisa Swinton - Romance. Indie (I)
Marsha Ward - Western. Indie (I)

Now on to the questions!
1.  Name the top factors for making your personal choice to self-publish. Were you pleased with this choice?
Danyelle (H): I had several requests for my romance novel, Sweet Confections. It was actually in with one of the big five publishers. When the acquisitions editor talked with me more about what they wanted to do with the book - to put the first three books of the series out as ebooks, then if they had a big enough response to then do the series in print from beginning to end - I had very mixed feelings. So I started researching and discovered that a lot of romance publishers are going this route. They'll put a romance novel out as an ebook first (up to six months), then decide if sales were good enough that they want to print the book for stores.
I debated for several days, trying to figure out if I wanted to take the big five publisher's offer or walk away. It was really hard - my traditional dream or strike out on my own? After talking to several indie/hybrid romance authors in my RWA group and other writing buddies, I decided to go the Indie route and have both ebook and print copies available for my readers.
Nichole (H): I didn't really have a choice at first. I had a publisher, who went out of business about four months after my book was released. Luckily, all the rights for that book were given back to me, and I was given the option to acquire the art as well. After discussing my options with my agent, I decided to self publish rather than take the book off the market completely. To try to market this already released book to another publisher would be such a hard sell, and would take a lot of time. At that point, self publishing was the best possible solution, even though doing so meant I was also committing to self publishing any follow up books in the same world or series. (Which I am doing this next month.) 
Ronda (H): The main reasons I decided to self-publish were, first and foremost, I needed a way to make money on a more regular basis, rather than every six months or so when my royalties came due. My husband and I (especially my husband) are also big do-it-yourselfers, so the current opportunities to self-publish seemed like something I would like to try.
Maria Hoagland (I): With my first book, I met with a couple of traditional publishers. I was told that my genre didn't sell well, so I was encouraged to self publish. Not being afraid to try something new, I chose to enter the self-publishing foray. I've always been a kind of do-it-yourselfer and I found that this is definitely the best route for me. I love every part of the process from outlining to writing to editing and especially producing the cover art and even marketing. When my second book was ready, I did meet with a traditional publisher who was really excited about it, but in the end, I decided not to even submit it--I was happy with the self-publishing route and didn't want to invest the time into waiting to hear from publishing houses when I was pretty sure I wanted to do it myself anyway.
Lisa (I): I didn't want to wait any longer to publish and finding, then waiting to fit into a traditional or Indie pub house would take up to another 2 years. Plus, I wanted control over the end product. You usually get little to no say in the cover and marketing with traditional and Indie. Also, if I'm going to put that much work in, I'd rather not pay a 'middle man' so to speak.
Marsha (I): When my doctor told me I had a medical condition that was very likely fatal in the near future, I decided it was time to quit submitting my novel and somehow publish it myself so my kids wouldn't pitch it. I was probably more desperate than pleased, but as time went by and I didn't die, I had time to find the best venue for self-publishing. At the time I chose an author-assistence plan from a company that has since lost any good reputation they had, through being acquired by another, more preditory firm. The doctor was wrong, BTW. Now I use other avenues: electronic book vendors and CreateSpace, which please me much more.

2.  Name the top factors for making you personal choice to traditionally-publish. Were you pleased with this choice?
Danyelle (H): I am also traditionally published in the non-fiction genre. I knew for (dis)Abilities and the Gospel that going through a traditional publisher was a must. It needed a name behind it, a good distributor, etc. This has led to a lot of other magazine publishing opportunities, as well as speaking engagements all over the country.
Nichole (H): Originally, I chose this route because I felt like I was completely clueless about how to publish and market a manuscript, and therefore needed the help of a publishing company. I feel very strongly that just knowing how to write isn't enough. Luckily, when my publisher decided to close, they were incredibly gracious and kind, and not only gave all the authors time to figure things out, but they stood by and helped us learn and answered our questions along the way. In fact, they still make themselves available to us, even though it's been five months since they officially closed their company. In my time with them, they taught me loads about publishing. I still intend to publish traditionally as well as continuing the series I've now self published.  
Ronda (H): I have always wanted to be traditionally published, and yes, I am happy with that choice. I like having the added editorial influence and publisher support that self-publishing doesn’t necessarily offer. I believe many heads are better than one when it comes to producing a quality book.
Margot (T): I chose to traditionally publish because my main objective with this book was for it to be a stepping stone to a national contract, and I felt a traditional publisher would provide that better for me. For the most part I have been pleased but there have definitely been hard things about it.

3. How do small business and budget publishing houses differ from self-publishing and how has your experience been with it?
Nichole (H): My indie publishers were very transparent during our publishing process and allowed me to be part of every aspect of turning my manuscript into a book. This included cover design, editing, and marketing. Now that I have taken over the publishing of that same book, I realize that I have more power in some ways and less in others. For instance, they managed to get my book into stores so I could do signings. I now have a harder time with that. They had a marketer who did press releases and helped make my book visible, which is now something I have to do all alone. They had a cover designer who could brainstorm and really offer sound advice on what makes a good cover, which is now something I have to do alone. They did have a final say in the outcome, even though they allowed me to be part of things. But now I get to hire my own editor, and my own cover designer, and my own marketers, and I have total control of pricing etc. It's definitely a give and take.

4.  What factors contributed to taking on another publishing route? What made you want a change?

Nichole (H): This part makes me really sad. The market is just so fragile for small companies right now. Even self publishers take a big risk with every book they publish, because if you do it right (hiring professional editors, cover designers, formatters, etc) the investment can be costly, and the returns don't always even cover those expenses, let alone turn a profit. However, I really appreciate knowing both sides of this coin, because I think the more knowledge I can gain of my industry, the more power I will have as an author.

5.  Do you have any contract restrictions that prevent you from branching out into other publishing routes?
Danyelle (H): For my non-fiction, any other books I write that are related to church and disabilities need to be submitted to my original publisher, as well as any others I'm interested in pursuing.
Nichole (H): I am under an agency contract for some (but not all) of my work, but I am no longer obligated to anyone for rights of the novels I am currently self publishing. Also, the power to choose what to do with whatever I write in the future remains mine.
Margot (T): My contract does require me to submit anything with LDS content to them first--they have rights of first refusal. 
Lisa (I): Currently I use KDP select, so I can only use them for my e-book. Once I remove that, I can use who I want to.

6.   What kind of learning curve or amount of time did it take you to figure out self-pubbing the first time? After that?
Danyelle (H): I spent a solid week just watching tutorials to figure out how to use Photoshop Elements 11 to create a book cover. Then a few weeks more to find the right stock photos, editing, researching current romance covers that fit my writing style, etc. And that was just the cover! But it turned out gorgeous. I hired Heather Justesen to format the manuscript for ebook and print - which saved me quite a bit of time.  My Indie friends have answered tons of questions and have been patiently guiding me through this first publication.
Nichole (H): Oh dear. I had such a short amount of notice to get my stuff together and re-publish DESCENDANT. And the learning curve was so overwhelming that I ended up begging for help from friends who knew what they were doing. I am extremely lucky to have the connections I have. (You people know who you are!) or I would have been a basket case.  
Lisa (I): I gave myself 3 months to figure out how to self pub and do it. I had lots of friends to ask questions and help me along the way. I spent a solid month learning to format, create an FB author page, and how to create and run a blog tour. I can't comment on the second part because my next book comes out this fall.
Ronda (H): It takes quite a bit of time to not only learn new formatting requirements, but also to learn about creating covers, copyright issues, business-related issues like licenses and tax stuff, and advertising. Yes, my traditionally published books have required me to do a lot of the advertising myself, but so far my publishers have done some of it. 
Maria (I): Because I was interested in learning, I don't remember it being difficult. I did a lot of poking around other self-publishers' blogs for tips, and I gathered what I could from writing conferences, though those were not specifically for indie pubbing. For someone looking, there will be a conference hosted June 7th by the Indie Author Hub which should prove especially helpful for anyone looking into it--something I wish I'd had starting out. But really when it comes down to it, if you have the interest, you can find the information; if you'd rather concentrate on writing, there are people you can hire or trade services with who can help you produce a quality product. 
Marsha (I): Since I used a firm that only required me to submit my manuscript and proofread what they formatted when I began my self-publishing venture, There was not much of a learning curve then. Except, I had to acquire original art that was better than the cover the company initially produced because, you know, my name was going to be on that cover, and it had to look good. Before that, I had to get good feedback on my work and do revisions, but I had the resources available to accomplish that.
When I began to do my own volumes, I learned a lot of skills to produce my novels, including working in Photoshop, ebook and interior book formatting, and hunting down suitable art on the internet. It is tough work and took months to learn, but it's so satisfying for a control freak such as I am.

7.  When traditionally-publishing, did you find relief not to have to worry about the publishing process?
Danyelle H): At the time, no. But now that I know what all goes into it - I look back and am grateful for my publisher. At the same time, since I wasn't wrapped up in actually producing the book, all my energy went into the promotion and marketing side of the business.
Nichole (H): Oh my goodness, yes. I mean, I did stress when edits were due, but for the most part, I had so much support from my publishers and all the people involved with the company. (Note: This isn't normally the case, from what I understand. My publisher was very different from most.) If I had to choose, I'd absolutely go that route again. 
Ronda (H): There is relief, but there is also concern because I wonder what my cover will look like and if I'll have to change my title or my character's appearance or something like that. There's relief with self-publishing too because I know I can publish my book whenever I want to, rather than waiting for an editor, agent or publishing house to make a decision. However, my traditional contracts do require me to consider what self-publishing options I have before I write something I may not be able to self-publish. So while there is relief, I also have rules I must work within.
Margot (T): I did really enjoy not having to worry about editing, covers, or trying to get it shelf space. That sounds hard!

8.  How has traditional publishing been good for you?
Nichole (H): Like I said, I learned SO MUCH from my publisher. I hope to continue learning from a new publisher someday. 
Ronda (H): Traditional publishing has given me the opportunity to work with other publishing professionals and has put my name out in the world that self-publishing (ebooks) cannot do. While I do self-publish, I do not try to get my books in stores, and traditional publishers can generally get books in stores.
Margot (T): It's been great to be featured in the Deseret Book and Seagull catalogs, and to have shelf space in those stores. I think that was the biggest factor in getting decent sales for the book.

9.  Was your traditional publisher helpful in marketing or other ways?
Danyelle (H): My traditional publisher has only done a Goodreads giveaway for my book, so as far as marketing goes, it was my job to figure out the best ways to market my non-fiction.
Nichole (H): Yes, they were, but I understand that when it comes to indie publishing companies, this isn't usually the case. 
Ronda (H): Yes. They have done some of the marketing, and they also provide both support and a professional/educational influence on my books. Case in point, an important theme in my book, Betrayed, which comes out in June 2014, was initially recognized by one of the editors at my new publishing house. I’m so grateful he noticed it and I was able to incorporate that theme in the book before it went to publication too early.
Margot (T): I wished they would do more. Other than getting into catalogs and store shelf space as mentioned above, there isn't much done.

10.  Are the stigmas about quality for indie publishers disappearing? With more and more do-it-yourselfers, will this always be a struggle?
Danyelle (H): It's a very slow process. For every success story or incredibly awesome novel a reader recommends to a friend - there are at least ten or more horrifically edited and poorly written novels. It's difficult to get through the gucky slush to rise to the top. But it is possible.
Nichole (H): Yes, I think stigmas are still present, but the demand for quality has been exponentially raised, and publishers as well as do-it-yourselfers are, in most cases, putting out higher quality products than ever before. 
Lisa (I): I certainly hope so. I changed my opinion when I saw the great quality works coming out by authors who chose to produce a quality product that rivals any traditional publisher and succeeded in their goals. I think the struggle will ease over time. I think it some ways it already has.
Ronda (H): That’s a question I can only say “we’ll have to wait and see” to. I know many self-published authors who I both admire and recognize as being very professional in their self-publishing efforts. However, I also recognize there are many others who publish their work too early and thereby lower self-publishing’s status. As I said, we’ll have to wait and see. There is one point I’d like to mention, though. The more I watch and work in this market, the more I wonder how much readers care about “perfect” writing as determined by the publishing gatekeepers. Readers are, after all, the ones who “vote” with their dollars as to what they want to read. They will be the ones who determine the future of publishing.
Maria (I): To me, it feels like the stigma is diminishing. Of course, there will always be flops--both traditionally and independently published--but as co-ops of indie authors band together to create and support quality products, the expectation of self-publishing is being raised. Self-published works oftentimes can't be distinguished from traditionally published. More and more authors are making the choice to indie publish rather than "resorting" to it. Although some readers might, I don't think most readers look for who publishes a book, but rather for a gripping tale that is professionally offered.
Margot (T): I see the stigma lessening quite a bit. I would definitely consider indie and self pubbing as a real alternative now, where just a year or two ago, no way. 
Marsha (I): As readers began to have more accessibility to new ways of sucking down stories, they have quit caring about publishers so much and look for good reads in different ways, such as through Amazon and Goodreads reviews, tweets and buzz about books, blog excerpts, Facebook contacts with authors, and word-of-mouth from their friends. In my opinion, this has brought the "stigma" of indie or self-publishing to a minimal level among the reading populace. Yes, more writers are getting on the band wagon of instant possibilities for publishing, but savvy readers know how to weed the bad readers out and find the four-leaf-clovers. While I don't have a huge readership yet, I'm optimistic that I'll always be regarded by my loyal fanbase as one of the best in my field.

11.  What do you see for the future of traditional publishing? Indie publishing?
Danyelle (H): There will always be a place for traditional publishing - but for some genres, I think there will be a huge swing to going Indie. You already see it with romance and some YA. Genres I think will stay mostly traditional are children's, middle grade, most YA, and a lot of self-help books.
Nichole (H): I honestly don't think either is going away. There will always be a place for traditional publishing, because big companies just have so many more resources than indie publishers. And as easy as indie publishing has become in recent years, I think there will definitely always be authors who choose to take business into their own hands. And there are so many readers who will always be looking for good books, I think as long as authors keep writing good stories, readers will always find ways to get those books.
Maria (I): Clearly both publishing tracks will continue. There will always be a wide array of books with varying successes. Traditional, indie, and self-publishing will continue to house phenomenal, excellent, good, and even awful writers. Those who write well will find readers; those who don't put the effort into their writing will never make it off the ground. I am just happy that I have the opportunity to find the kind of books I want to read instead of having to read what I find. I love being able to be choosy about subject matter, style, and even price, and fill my Kindle with more excellent literary choices than I even have time to read.
Margot (T): Traditional publishing better figure out how to stay nimble!
Lisa (I): Traditional pub has already changed. There are less paper copies coming out and more digital. Not to mention they are cutting costs and cutting print editions. There will be fewer in the future. I think Indie will continue to float along and I think we'll see more self-pub rising through the ranks.
Marsha (I): Unless traditional publishers refrain from "pissing off the chickens," to quote Joe Konrath, and find better ways to balance their expenses with diminishing income, their influence in the market will continue to slip. However, since I don't believe readers constitute a finite quantity, I say there is room for everyone in the marketplace. Indie publishers are gaining market share. I see that going up over the long term. 
Thanks so much, ladies! More about the Panel:
Danyelle Ferguson discovered her love for the written word in elementary school. Her first article was published when she was in 6th grade. Since then, she’s won several awards and has been published world-wide in newspapers, magazines and books. She’s grateful every day to work in her dream jobs – author, editor, and nurturing her readaholic tendencies.
She grew up surrounded by Pennsylvania’s beautiful Allegheny Mountains. Then lived for ten years among the majestic Wasatch Mountains. She is currently experiencing mountain-withdrawal while living in Kansas with her husband and four angels-in-training. She enjoys reading, writing, dancing & singing in the kitchen, and the occasional long bubble bath to relax from the everyday stress of being “Mommy.”Author of Sweet Confections (Indulgence Row series #1) - coming April 2014!
Nichole Giles had early career plans that included becoming an actress or a rockstar, but she decided instead to have a family and then become a writer.
She was born in Nevada, the oldest of seven--a number which increased to eleven with the addition of four step brothers--and has lived in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and South Texas.
Her future aspirations include owning a home on a tropical island, even if it's just a vacation home. For now, she plans to travel to as many tropical locations as possible, scouting for her future paradise.
Currently, she lives with her husband, one of her two sons (the other is in college), two daughters, two golden retrievers, and one lucky bunny rabbit. Writing is her passion, but she also loves to spend time with her family, travel to exotic destinations, drive in the rain with her convertible top down, and play music at full volume so she can sing along.
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Ronda Hinrichsen (Kathleen Marks) is the author of Romantic Suspense, Mystery, Adventure, and Speculative novels as well as the Heroes of the Highest Order 1 chapter book series. She has traveld throughout the world in search of exotic settings and intriguing characters, and loves introducing them to her readers through her stories.
Ronda just self-published a novella titled To Sleep No More (A Dalton & Dalton Preternatural Mystery) under the pen name Kathleen Marks. Her next traditionally published novel will be released in June 2014 with Covenant Communications. It is titled Betrayed.
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Maria Hoagland writes LDS women's fiction with a medical twist. When Maria is not working at her computer, she can be found walking barefoot in soft grass, remodeling houses with her husband, or enjoying campfires with their three children. She loves crunching leaves in the fall, stealing cookie dough from the mixing bowl, and listening to musicals on her iPod. Although she adores mountain resorts near her Idaho home, she is no longer a fan of ice skating.
She is the author of two novels: Family Size and Nourish & Strengthen. You can find her at:
Margot Hovley was raised in rural Washington State, where she worked as a girl pig-herder and champion produce boxmaker. She now lives and plays in Utah with her big family. When she's not storytelling, she's hanging out with family, teaching music to the somewhat willing, and fooling with techy gadgets. She loves hiking, traveling, and concocting adventures. Here second book, Glimmering Light, just came out.
Lisa Swinton caught the romance bug early by way of fairy tales and hasn't been able to cure it since. Instead, she feeds her addiction with romance novels and films. In between being a doctor's wife and mother of two, she occasionally puts her B.A. in Musical Theater to good use via community theater, church choir and teaching the art of singing. In her elusive spare time she enjoys researching her family tree and baking (especially with chocolate). She loves to travel, Jane Austen, and all things Italian. In her next life, she plans to be a professional organizer.
Marsha Ward was born in the sleepy little town of Phoenix, Arizona, in the southwestern United States; and grew up with chickens, citrus trees, and lots of room to roam. She became a storyteller at an early age, regaling her neighborhood friends with her fanciful tales during after-school snacks. Her love of 19th Century Western history was reinforced by visits to her cousins on their ranch and listening to her father's stories of homesteading in Old Mexico and in the southern part of Arizona.
Over the years, Marsha became an award-winning poet, writer and editor, with over 900 pieces of published work, including her acclaimed post-American Civil War novel series, The Owen Family Saga. She is the founder of American Night Writers Association, and a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and LDStorymakers. She makes her home in a tiny forest hamlet in Arizona. When she is not writing, she loves to travel, give talks, meet readers, and sign books.

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