How Another Indie Author Got Started

My next guest, Elizabeth McCleary, to talk about her path to indie publishing, describes herself as follows:

I’m an author writing fantasy, science fiction, magical realism, and occasion other kinds of stories that strike my fancy or my funnybone. I explore worlds of wonder and possibility. I strive to see the good in the world, the magical in the mundane, the light in the darkness, and the transcendent in the ordinary.

How Did You Get Started In Indie Publishing?

I’d been writing … or at least playing at writing … for several years. But I wasn’t taking it seriously. I would think, wouldn’t it be cool if I actually finished something someday. Not publish. Finish. That’s a pretty low threshold of success. But I wasn’t reaching it.

Then something shifted in my brain. I decided I really wanted to challenge myself. I took some online writing classes (more on that in the question about mentors). I started writing more often. And my writing started to get better. Meanwhile, the publishing industry was changing before our eyes. Self-publishing moved from the vanity fringe edges of the publishing world, into the mainstream. It became insanely easy to publish.

Finding Light: A Short StorySo early in 2014, I took a personal risk and published a short story on my blog. It was the biggest piece of writing I’d ever finished. And even though it was only on my blog, I had something out there.

I kept working on my writing, sometimes in fits and starts. I struggled to complete anything else for a while. But things finally came together, and this year I published a small collection of flash fiction stories, and re-published a short story that had appeared in an anthology. I have another collection of flash fiction that’s almost ready to go, and plans to continue publishing short works throughout the year.

Can You Recommend Steps For Beginner Authors?

Write. And read. All the time. Write the best story you’re capable of right now. And read stories like what you want to write, as well as books on craft and technique. The more you read fiction, the more elements your subconscious brain will have to draw on when you’re writing your own stories. The more you learn about the writing process, the better your subconscious brain will be at piecing various elements together into a story that really works well. And the more you write, the more practice you’re giving yourself. And we all know practice makes … not necessarily perfect, but always better than you would be without the practice.

What Are Your Favorite Writing Programs And Why?

I primarily use Scrivener when I’m writing. I used to use Word, but Word is very linear. In Scrivener I can organize more efficiently, I can move parts around at will, I can build all the elements for my eventual publication, and I can even do fairly sophisticated formatting for either e-books or print. Plus, the autosave feature means I’m far less likely to accidentally lose work because my computer crashes or the power goes out or I make a bonehead move and power down without remembering to save first.

Also, if you don’t already have a word processor, I’ll point out that Scrivener costs about $40. Less if you find an online coupon. Word is upwards of $100. There are some free word processors out there, but if you’re planning to purchase, I’d always recommend Scrivener. j

What Is Your Way Of Editing Your Stories?

After I write something, I’ll usually read through it and fix any obvious errors. Then it goes into the hands of my first reader or Alpha Reader, my husband. He likes my writing, but he can also be pretty brutal when it comes to pointing out what doesn’t work. After that, I usually have several other people read and give me feedback (see the question on Beta Readers below), and then I’ll tweak and polish to get the stories as good as I can make them.

Do You Use Beta Readers And Where Did You Find Them?

I do! Most of my Beta Readers have come from the online writing community known as How To Think Sideways. It’s not specifically a critique community, but over time I’ve developed relationships there with other writers whose opinions I trust.

One note – beta readers need to be more than just people who want to read what you’ve written. Good beta readers understand story and are able to give useful feedback. It’s not enough for them to say they did or didn’t like your story. A good beta reader will be able to tell you why. A great beta reader will be able to give suggestions on how you might fix something that isn’t working, but will never try to dictate specific fixes for your writing.

Having good beta readers can mean the difference between having a good story and a really fantastic story. I don’t always take every suggestion from my beta readers, but I never dismiss their comments without careful consideration.

How do you Format Your Ebooks And Print Books?

Currently I’m using Scrivener for all my formatting. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. There’s a pretty significant learning curve with Scrivener, but if you’re comfortable with digging around in software and learning by trial and error (or the University of Google), you can create pretty clean formatting in Scrivener.

How Do You Create Your Covers?

Flashes of Magic: A Flash Fiction CollectionI’m pretty fortunate to have some background with Photoshop, so at the moment I’m making my own covers. I’ll look for stock photography, usually starting with Pixabay which is free. Or, as with my current project, I’ll use a photo I took myself. Then I’ll crop and position, apply effects and overlays, maybe composite with a second picture. It’s a pretty complex process and can be time consuming to end up with something I’m really happy with. When I can afford it, I’ll consider contracting with a designer to have custom cover art professionally produced. But until then, I’ll be doing my own.

Do You Write Your Own Blurbs?

I do. And this is actually one of the hardest parts of self-publishing and marketing. Trying to entice someone to read your story in 150 words or less is harder than it sounds. This is also an area that can be contracted out, but I’d contract my book covers before contracting my blurbs or cover copy. Unless you can afford someone with serious fiction-marketing expertise, the average author is probably better equipped to write their own blurb than most typical hired pens from the internet.

Have You Set Up An Indie Publisher Business?

Ummmm… sort of, but not really. I have developed an idea, including designing a logo, for a publishing imprint. Orange Pear Media. I own the URL, although there isn’t anything there yet. I haven’t used it yet on anything I’ve published. And I’m not currently prepared to take the step of filing a fictitious business name or registering as a business in any way. But I haven’t ruled out the possibility of following through on that in the future.

Do You Actively Market Your Stories And How?

Actively? Depends how you define active. I’m not currently buying ad space anywhere. I promote on my blog and FaceBook page, and I set up Goodreads with an author profile. I still need to set up my author page on Amazon. But I’m not doing anything beyond that at this point.

Do You Have Any Tips Or Tricks To Share?

Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Recently I participated in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge, and I wrote a flash fiction story for every day of the challenge. The raw versions of each of those stories went on my blog. Talk about taking a risk! But because I pushed myself, I wrote a bunch of stories I’m actually pretty pleased with. They are all getting makeovers to a greater or lesser extent, and eventually most of those stories will end up in flash fiction collections. I don’t know if I’d be as close to publishing my second collection if I hadn’t pushed myself to write all those stories in April.

Can You List Any Mentors That Helped Your Indie Journey?

My biggest mentor, without a doubt, is Holly Lisle. Without her classes I have serious doubts about whether I’d even still be writing. When I started this journey I wanted to write, but I doubted whether I actually could write. I had no self-confidence and very little inner drive, just a notion that there were stories I wanted to read that hadn’t been written yet. Because of the methodical steps in Holly’s writing classes, the amazing positive feedback in her writing community, and the willingness to take risks because I saw other members of her community taking risks, I’m a much more confident writer than I ever would have been without her.

Any Other Comments?

Start.
After that, keep going.
Being a writer isn’t necessarily an easy thing. But it is a worthwhile thing. If you have ever considered writing, write. Maybe you’ll discover that it’s a genuine passion for you, maybe not. But there is value in every carefully considered written word. I’d encourage you to go ahead and take a chance.

Thanks Elizabeth

You can visit Elizabeth’s website or Elizabeth’s Amazon Author page.

Anyone else got at least one eBook or print book Indie published? Are you game to tell us your Indie Publishing journey?

If so, just leave a comment, including your email (hidden from my blog readers) and I can email you the list of questions and my email address.

Most of all, keep writing and having fun.

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5 comments so far

  1. Cat-Gerlach on

    Great interview. Well done, and thanks Diane

    • D J Mills on

      Thanks, Cat.
      I love hearing how others go through the process, write, compile, and upload to distributors to get their stories published. All fun, and I am learning lots of little things, such as software, links to other sites, etc. 🙂

  2. […] was featured on another writer’s blog, and I completely forgot to link to it here. […]

  3. Walter Daniels on

    I have one book (Children’s/YA) out, and three cookbooks in process (late July Publication). It’s been a somewhat difficult process, but I’m “disabled” and in a Nursing Home. 😛

    • D J Mills on

      Welcome to my blog, Walter.
      Glad to hear you have one children’s / YA book out, and you are working on three cookbooks. Good luck with all of them.
      I have heard that when writing for children/YA you have to gear your marketing strategy to the parents who purchase the books for children. However, have also heard that the children’s/middle grade stories are slowly gaining traction, as more children are given electronic reading devices. 🙂


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