Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Christy Allen: Guest Instructor #3 and a Giveaway!

Congratulations to Wendy Hostetter Davis who won an autographed copy of Tameka Brown's picture book, My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood. Wendy is not only the daughter of one of my close writing friends, Joyce Hostetter, but she is a "closet singer-songwriter." I love having such talented people as my blog readers!

Christy was my third guest instructor at my CPCC Writing for Children class. I met Christy through the Charlotte WNBA and when I heard her experiences with self-publishing I knew she had a lot to share with my writing students.

Christy Allen is a self-published author who has worked hard at writing and publishing her first middle grade book and is now  working hard at marketing it. In this blog she responds to questions my students and I posed. 

Q: Do you have general advice for new writers?
AWhen the writing starts, listen. Close the door when you write. Initially, the only voice in your head should be your own. As Stephen King wisely suggests in his book, On Writing, open the door and share your work only after your first draft is complete—and only then with your "first reader . . . someone who believes in you." Take advantage of opportunities to receive professional feedback on your work (e.g. writing contests, courses that offer agent feedback, etc.)

Q: Can you tell us a little about your self-publishing journey?
A: When I self-published, I was well aware of the stigmas of self-published work—primarily that the work product doesn't look professional. And I knew that marketing would be an even steeper uphill battle that I’d be going alone. Thus, after an initial stint with the self-publishing company Lulu (Pros: No upfront costs. Cons: High print-on-demand costs and limited distribution), I selected Amazon’s self-publishing arm, CreateSpace, to create an eye-catching, professional product—virtually indistinguishable from traditionally published books—and offer it at a competitive price across multiple channels.

For me, self-publishing has been a safe playground and a way to explore the industry.  It's given me the chance to see if I enjoy all aspects of being a writer, including the business and marketing demands—and the answer is "Yes!"

Q: Is there any thing a writer who wants to self-publish should be aware of?
A: You will get out of the process what you put into it. It takes time and money to create a quality product. Do not skimp on professional editing, cover illustration/design, or interior layout.  And, if you decide to use CreateSpace, as I did, understand that you are one of many customers—you must be your own advocate and stay on top of every process detail to prevent time delays and added costs.

Q: I see where one of your Amazon reviewers received a book "free of charge." Is this a way to entice reviewers to write a review, i.e. get some press? Every Amazon reviewer gave the book high marks.
A: Yes, like many reviewers out there, the children's book blogger whom I enlisted (Savannah Mae) offers to post an honest review on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble in exchange for a free book. Amazon has strict guidelines regarding reviews and requires that such arrangements be plainly stated. Be selective when soliciting reviews. Whenever possible, choose an established, credible reviewer in your genre. An honest, balanced review is worth much more than a fluffy "this book is great for anyone who likes to read." 

Less than half of my reviews are from family members and friends. The rest are the result of readers and parents who discovered me via Amazon, Kindle campaigns, Twitter marketing, and local school events/workshops/fairs. I also purchased a Kirkus review: as a reputable reviewer in the publishing industry, Kirkus now offers reviews to self-published authors (a tremendous benefit for those wanting industry street cred), promising an unbiased review that authors can choose to use/publish or not.

Lastly, you don't want every review to be five-star ratings. Four- star ratings and a sprinkling of three-star help your credibility. 

Q: What's an Indie Author? Mike Coker says that Indie Authors will capture 50% of the eBook market by 2020. Your thoughts? 
A: Definitions vary, but in its purest form, an Indie Author is independent, one who represents him or herself, not published by one of the "big five." With regard to Mike Coker's article, his logic and assumptions are in synch with everything I've read and heard over the past two years on the topic. Today's consumers care more about quality content than they do about the source. My personal belief is that traditional publishers will ultimately recognize that self-publishing is here to stay, and that the publishers who will endure will be those who incorporate self-publishing into their model, perhaps by offering resources, establishing standards, and promoting strong Indie work under a new imprint or as a feeder pool to existing.

Q: How are you marketing your eBooks? Recently I read where Amazon Publishing is no longer looking for new submissions. Is this a different venue than what you use?
A: I don't necessarily market my paperback and digital book any differently from one another, but Amazon's KDP program (Kindle Direct Publishing) has been valuable to me. (In return for 90-day cycles of exclusivity on Kindle and pricing my digital book at $2.99 or less, I keep 70% of my royalties.) The ability to offer free promotions or Kindle Countown Deals, as well as the existence of the Kindle Lending Library (where Amazon Prime customers can borrow my digital book for free) all increase my book's exposure. Twitter has also been a viable marketing avenue for promoting these types of campaigns.

Regarding Amazon Publishing, this is Amazon's own version of traditional publishing, which is different than self-publishing through CreateSpace, Amazon's self-publishing arm, like I did.

Q: Do you set writing goals, e.g. X pages a day, etc?
A. I target Stephen King's "1000 words" recommendation for newbie writers in his indispensable book, On Writing. I don't sweat the word count, however. My goal is to write something/anything every day, with the goal being to work on my novel(s) five days out of seven, even if somedays all that I have time for is fifteen minutes of revision or outlining.

Check out this well-done video for more information about the inspiration for Christy's book and her fun events for children.

I am giving away an autographed copy of Book #1 in the Samantha Green Mysteries series. Leave me a comment by May 3 (U.S. addresses only) and I'll enter your name. If you are new to my blog, please make sure I have your email address also. 


Anonymous said...

pretty nice blog, following :)

Carol Baldwin said...

THanks, for being a follower and leaving me a comment Skyline! Please leave your email address too so I know who you are!!

Ann Eisenstein said...

Great interview with Christy Allen. I really enjoy hearing the success stories of self-published authors!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, ANn. Christy did her homework and it shows!

Barbara Younger said...

Loved meeting Joyce's daughter and listening to the interview. Amazing the cool way books are born!

Carol Baldwin said...

Agreed, Barbara. Thanks for stopping by!

Unknown said...

Hi, Carol--We've met at SCBWI/C conferences in Durham, so I was happy to see your article about Christy Allen. I met Christy when Susie Wilde interviewed the two of us for an article on self-publishing in the Raleigh N & O in 2012, but had since lost touch.

I'd love to enter the giveaway for Christy's book and look forward to getting in touch with her again.

Yours--Julie Krantz

Unknown said...

Hi, Carol--We've met at SCBWI/C conferences in Durham, so I was happy to see your article about Christy Allen. I met Christy when Susie Wilde interviewed the two of us for an article on self-publishing in the Raleigh N & O in 2012, but had since lost touch.

I'd love to enter the giveaway for Christy's book and look forward to getting in touch with her again.

Yours--Julie Krantz

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Julie, for getting in touch and posting a comment. I'm happy to add your name to the list!

CTAllen said...

Carol, thank you for the opportunity to be featured on your informative blog. ! I enjoyed meeting your students, brimming with talent and excitement in their writing journeys.

Julie: Such a small world! It's great to reconnect. I look forward to collaborating again soon!

Kim Van Sickler said...

This post is perfect for me right now. I am going to self-publish my first book because it is edgy and agents have liked it but shied away from it because of the dark subject matter AND I have a university professor ready to recommend it as required reading for her massive open online course. So I'm going for it...and don't have a clue how to begin. I will use this post as a starting point. Thanks!

Congrats Christy on navigating the self-pub waters successfully and collecting those positive reviews!

sheri levy said...

Thanks Christy for the information. It sounds like you researched what needed to be done and you followed your instincts. Good for you. I love the cover. Now off to market you will go!
I will share your story on my FB, author page.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Kim and Sheri, for stopping by. I'm so pleased, Kim that this was a helpful post for you. It sounds like there's a lot to learn and do if you're going to self-publish right!

Gretchen said...

I enjoyed reading about your self publishing experience, Christy. Thanks for the post.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for stopping by, Gretchen. I'll add your name to the list!

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