Kemberlee Shortland’s step-by-step guide for aspiring authors

by Penny BroJacquie

In modern world people feel the intense need of self expression. The rapid development of modern technologies have given people the opportunity to express themselves artistically in a easier way. The book industry couldn’t be an exception and aspiring authors have much more opportuinities to see their books being published. But what are their options?

Kemberlee Shortland, author of the Irish Pride series and part owner in Tirgearr Publishing,  provides a step-by-step guide to to every aspect of publishing with some solid advices on self publishing.

–              Ok Kemberlee, let’s say I’ am an aspiring author, which I am, and I have just finished my very first novel.  I want of course to get it published. I don’t have an agent; I don’t think a traditional publisher would be interested in my work, so everything leads to self-publishing. Does that make sense to you?

I understand how some people would think self-publishing is the only answer. But you need to ask yourself why you think a publisher wouldn’t be interested in your story?

Have you considered small press? Don’t let the name fool you. There’s nothing small about small press. They take up a huge market share between the dwindling legacy publishers and self-publishing.

Small press was borne out of necessity. Legacy publishers are picky about what they publish and usually stick to standard publishing models because those books have traditionally been the money-earners. This can be discouraging to new authors.

Small press has always been a lot more flexible when it comes to what they publish. For example, vampire stories and erotica have become mainstream reading because small presses took a chance on these genres for many years when legacy publishers wouldn’t, or because erotica authors had to go to special publishers for their books. Because of that brave step, small presses have grown exponentially and have made such a huge impact in the industry that legacy publishers have been forced to change how they do business.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with self-publishing, but I believe authors should get as much experience first, learn how industry works, before jumping into self-publishing. I hear so many horror stories of first time authors who self-publish and it goes horribly wrong because they don’t know how the industry works or what’s involved in bringing a book to publication. Starting with a small press and learning the business is a great start for new authors. It’s like flying planes. One can’t just get into the plane and fly. One needs lessons first on safety,  how the controls work, how to fly, and most importantly, how to land at the destination.

–              I am quite satisfied by the result of my work and so is my mum who was the first person to read it. Now, let’s see, what’s next? An editor maybe? How hard is it to find one?

Editors are a dime a dozen, or so the saying goes. Today, editors are around every corner. Anyone can call themselves an editor, and do, but that doesn’t mean they’re competent or qualified. Good editors are hard to find and are very expensive. Not many self-publishing authors can afford that.

One of the best ways for an author to have some preliminary editing done on their book is to work with a good critique partner. A ‘crit partner’ is essential for many writers. Ideally, both of you are working on books and critiquing each other’s work. You each point out things like plot inconsistencies, grammatical errors, slow points in the story, misspellings, context errors, and more. Working with a crit partner is a one-on-one relationship with another writer who shares the same goals as you.

And it’s important to remember that family and friends are biased. If you want a true view of your work, you need to work with people outside your comfort zone. Your crit partner is a good start. There are also crit groups, which have three or more people in the group who usually write in the same genre. As with a one-on-one partner, the group shares each other’s work amongst themselves and helps the book be in presentable and submission-ready condition.

When you feel your book is ready, start submitting to publishers who publish your kind of story or where you think your book might be a good fit.

If you’re definitely going the route of self-publishing, then it will help if you start saving money as soon as possible so you can pay for a good and reputable professional editor when you’re ready. Get references from several other self-published authors to see who they used. An editor’s name that keeps coming up is a good sign that the editor is busy and good at their job.

And yes, there are a lot of writers out there who also hire themselves out for editing. Do your research! Writers who have many books out have experience in the industry. Ask which other authors they’ve worked with in the past. Get references. But think twice if an author only has one or two books out or don’t have any qualifications in the business. Go for experience!

–              Do I have look for a proofreader too?

I use proofreaders for every book my company publishes. Every book goes through an editing process, but when you look at a story so many times, author and editor can still miss things. A proofreader is a neutral person who reads the book for the first time just before publication to be *sure* everything is right. Any little things can be corrected easily before the book goes to publication.

–              The final edit is done and my story is now ready to become a book. What are the options for self-publishing?

This depends on what you want. If you want just digital publishing (ebooks) you need to be sure the book is formatted correctly before it’s submitted to websites that sell ebooks . . . Kindle and Smashwords are the two big ones. If your book meets Smashwords’ guidelines, they will give the book Premium Status, which includes them listing you on Barnes & Noble (Nook), Sony, iTunes/iBook (Apple), and other sites.

If you want print books, CreateSpace at Amazon is a popular option. There are also places like Lightning Source who will not only print your book, but put it on distribution lists for bookstores. CreateSpace is just for Amazon sites, but Lightning Source has offices around the world so your book can be listed in American bookstores as well as British, Irish and some European ones too.

–              Should I consider engaging a small publishing company even if I have to pay a fee for their services?

If a publisher asks for money from you to publish your book, this is called vanity publishing. It’s another form of self-publishing. Their fee covers minor editing and cover design, and makes your book available in print. Some of these companies work on a ‘print on demand’ (POD) basis and sell your book through their website and give you some type of royalty. Other companies will require you to order a set number of books, and their final price is determined on that number of books. Then you’re left with selling and distributing the books yourself.

If you’re looking at a small publishing company, why not go through traditional methods and find a small press who will offer you a contract for your book? They will work with you to edit your book, design the cover, format the book and make it available for sale. While they’re doing this, you can be writing your next book.

–              Eventually I can’t afford submitting to small publishing company, so I have to do it myself. My book needs a cover. And formatting. HELP!

These are two more costs to consider, aside from editing and proofreading—cover design and formatting!

Covers are usually made up of several images that are layered together. Sometime two images, but sometimes as many as five or six! These images have to be purchased. They can average from around $5-50 each, or more. And if you want to hire a photographer yourself to so a personalized photo shoot for your book, you’re talking about location fees, models fees, photographer fees, travel expenses, etc. Some cover design companies will do ‘cheap’ covers for $15-50, but the covers are usually ready-made and the author’s name and book title are added on for an extra fee. Sometimes these covers suit their purpose, but many are very cheap looking and unattractive. It really pays in the end to hire a good cover artist to do it properly because the cover helps in attracting readers who are your buyers.

One big thing a self-publishing author needs to do is decide on a cover and stick with it. I see a lot of self-publishing authors changing covers time and again to attract buyers. This just confuses readers, and it’s unprofessional. A book should not be available to the public until it’s 100% ready, inside and out.

Formatting is very important for both ebooks and print, but it’s not an easy task. It’s time consuming and can be problematic, and every site has different requirements. Some writers opt to hire someone to do the formatting for them, but this is another added cost.

If you self-publish, look on Smashwords. They have a great free book on how to format digital books. Books loaded to this service are available for sale in all ereader formats on the Smashwords site, plus several other websites they own. AND they distribute to other 3rd party sellers as I’ve already mentioned.

Formatting is tricky and can be very stressful for first time authors to get right. Most people these days use MS Word for writing. There is a LOT of hidden coding in the Word program. You might not be able to see it, but when you try to load your book to one of the digital services and then look at it on your own ereader, you’ll see all the mistakes.

Much of the formatting can be done through Word ‘styles’. One would need a bit of technical experience to use these properly, but it’s not impossible for anyone to learn.

If a self-publishing author opts to hire someone to format the book, this can also be an expensive added expense, as they usually charge by the hour.

–              Once my book is finished, I need to find how to get it distributed. I’ve heard of the words Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Lulu, Createspace… I am not sure what exactly these words mean…

As above, if you publish through Smashwords, they sell the book themselves and on their own sister sites. They’ll also distribute to 3rd party sellers like Apple, Sony and Barns and Noble. They’ll distribute to Kindle, but you’ll have better royalties by submitting it there yourself.

CreateSpace only sells your printed book through Amazon. You can buy copies and distribute them yourself, but this is costly and time-consuming. Wouldn’t you rather be writing?

Also, you want your book available in the busiest and most popular websites . . . Kindle and Smashwords being the top two. Also Apple and Barnes and Noble. Places like Lulu and Scribd are also places to sell, BUT they’re not very popular when compared to Kindle or Smashwords. Kindle is the most popular ereader at the moment so a majority of your sales will come from there. People with Kindle can turn on their device, bring up your book on the Kindle store and click one button to buy it. Easy.

–              My book is finally published! I opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate but now I have to sell some copies of my book to cover the expenses. Time for the hard part: promotion. Any good solid tips?

Self-publishing authors have to work harder than any other type of author to sell their books. These authors don’t have a publisher behind them taking up some of the slack.

First let’s look at some basic costs for a self-published book (US dollars)—

Book Editing (averaging $3 per page for a 300 page book) = $900

Cover Design (averaging 3 images, 300 dpi resolution, print book and artist fees) = $250

Formatting (averaging 2 hours at $25 per hour) = $50

Sub-Total just to get the book ready to publish = $1200

If you go through CreateSpace, there aren’t any set-up fees, but if you use a company like Lightning Source, you could pay several hundred dollars in set-up fees. But let’s assume you’re using CreateSpace.

Let’s assume the book is selling for $10. CreateSpace will take about half of that before you’re paid your share . . . about $5. How many books will you have to sell to make back your $1200 investment? 240. How much to make a profit? 241. How much to make it worth doing it again? Ideally, you should triple your investment ($3600 or 720 copies sold). The first one-third pays your expenses, the second one-third funds the next book and the last one-third is for your savings account.

If you’re selling the same book digitally, you have the same costs for editing, cover and formatting. But the book is half the cost. If you sell that digital book for $5, you’ll make around 70% royalties . . . about $3.50. You’ll then have to sell 343 copies of your book digitally to earn back your investment, or as above, sell 1029 copies of the book before you can afford to do it again.

Something to consider when choosing print vs digital books . . . digital books outsell print 3-to-1 at the moment. You may have to sell more digital books to earn back your investment, but those digital copies will sell three times faster than print. And depending on the genre, the book could even sell ten times faster than print.

To make any sales for either format, you need effective marketing: book tours, ads in relevant periodicals, join groups online where you can talk about your books, host contests, set up a newsletter, book-signings in local bookstores if you have print copies, etc.

You also need a web presence: an author website, an active blog, be active on sites like Facebook and Twitter, perhaps also LinkedIn, etc. Use apps like NetworkedBlogs to link all of your accounts together.

If you have Facebook, be sure you have an author page hanging on your main page. An author page is a great place for fans to visit you as an author. Use that web address rather than your main one when you advertise your books. Leave your main page for family and friends. The separate page is for your book fans.

Media sites are very important. Go to where the people are, make friends, create links with people, befriend peers and readers alike, etc.

You also need to form a good relationship with several active reviewers. Reviewers will read your book (which you send them after querying) and give it their honest review. Those reviews are posted on their own websites as well as Amazon. You can also post their reviews on your own website.

–              Do I have to build a personal website or create a Facebook page?

See above. But yes, you definitely need a personal website. Think of your website as a store. In your store, you’re selling your book(s). Your author site is where you showcase all of your work in one place . . . like delicate china on the shelf. You can post chapter excerpts and blurbs, book reviews, and most importantly, ‘buy links’ . . . places where your books are sold. Your website also should have a page about you, too, maybe some personal photographs. Also a way to contact you, and perhaps a links page for other places on the internet where readers can find you, such as Facebook, Twitter and the rest.

–              Now, can I sit down and relax or is there more hard work for me to do?

Of course there’s more hard work. You can’t have just one book!!

ABOUT KEMBERLEE SHORTLAND

–              You have many books coming out this year. Which are they?

Writing as myself, http://www.kemberlee.com, this year I have two novels coming out and two novelettes—

Novels:

Rhythm of My Heart, Irish Pride Series, June 2012

Shape of My Heart, Irish Pride Series, November 2012

Novelettes:

Moondance, May 2012

The Power of Love, November 2012

Writing under a pen name, Scarlett Valentine, http://www.scarlett-valentine.com,

I have two novellas coming out

Beguiler, June 2012, and Conquered, November 2012.

These are the next two books in The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter Series.

Awakening was the first book, release October 2011.

All of these books will be available through Tirgearr Publishing—www.tirgearrpublishing.com

–              How do you get inspirited?

Anything can inspire stories. I love looking at photographs. They’re great inspiration.

My current novel in the Irish Pride Series, A Piece of My Heart, was actually inspired by one of our dogs, Daisie. The two dogs in the story are actually both part of our Daisie. Daisie’s original name when we adopted her was Molly. This is the name we used for one dog in the story. But Daisie’s life started similarly to Jess’s, the second dog in the story. While this is a romance story, the plot touches on animal cruelty. You’ll have to read the book to see exactly how our dog inspired this story, but I promise it all ends happily!

–              What’s your advice to an aspiring author?

Read as much as possible in the genre in which you want to write and publish.

And sit your butt in a chair and write. Treat writing like any other job—set working times, focus, do the job—and you’ll find your hard work pays off.

–              And, excuse me; you have worked for Clint Eastwood?!

Yes, I had the pleasure of working for Mr. Eastwood J I grew up in a small town where he (still) lives when he’s not in Hollywood making movies. Clint frequented our family’s business as we did his . . . the famous Hog’s Breath Inn, which is a restaurant and bar. When I worked for Clint, it was at his luxury hotel, Mission Ranch. It was one of the most fun jobs I’ve had because so many celebrities came up from Hollywood for their holidays. And Clint is a fabulous person in real life. A genuine gentleman with a boy’s heart and sense of humor.

ABOUT TIRGEARR PUBLISHING

 

–              Are you are part owner in Tirgearr Publishing?

Yes. I co-own the company with my husband. Tirgearr Publishing is part of our company Tirgearr Design and Publishing. I’ve run Tirgearr Design for twelve years now, designing websites and doing graphic design. A few years ago I toyed with some self-publishing projects. We decided to start Tirgearr Publishing as a public business, launching on 29 February this year. So far, so good!

–              What services do you offer and how you select the authors you work with?

Tirgearr Publishing is a full-service small press. We operate as any other publishing company—we have a submissions process, fully edit all books we contract, provide cover art for each book, do all the formatting, etc to see the book to publication. We are a royalty-paying publisher with a very generous contract package.

We work one-on-one with each author through every step of the publishing process and give authors a say in how their book is handled. This includes being active in the editing process, having a say on cover art, and helping chose release dates that suit their schedules.

As a publisher, we also handle a certain amount of media. We have active accounts at Facebook, Twitter, NetworkedBlogs, LinkedIn, Blogger, Tumblr, GoodReads, and offer an RSS feed. We also have a YouTube channel where authors with book video trailers are listed.

For our authors, we offer a private newsgroup where we come together to talk about company goings-on, author concerns, share accolades and reviews . . . basically, it’s a private place to talk shop, as they say, away from the public eye.

We’re very active in helping support our authors. It takes a little pressure off them while also getting our name out there more.

For those who may be curious, Tirgearr is pronounced ‘teer gar’. It comes from two Irish words . . . tir = land, gearr = short. You can say that Tirgearr is a made-up Irish translation of our name, Shortland!

For more information on Kemberlee Shortland or Tirgearr Publishing, please see—

http://www.kemberlee.com

http://www.facebook.com/KemberleeShortland

http://www.twitter.com/Kemberlee

http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com

http://www.facebook.com/Tirgearr.Publishing

http://www.twitter.com/Tirgearr

http://www.scarlett-valentine.com

http://www.facebook.com/ScarlettValentine

http://www.twitter.com/theabcsofsex

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11 Comments to “Kemberlee Shortland’s step-by-step guide for aspiring authors”

  1. Hi Penny!

    Thanks for the great chat. I had fun with this. I hope some of this information helps aspiring writers decide which direction to go with their work.

    I’ll check back during the day to see if any of your readers have questions.

    Best of luck with your own writing!!

    Kemberlee

    Like

  2. One note: Createspace does offer expanded distribution to bookstores and libraries (https://www.createspace.com/Special/PRArchive/2009/20091203_Expanded_Distribution.jsp)

    Like

  3. Sound advice for aspiring writers. Thank you both for collating it all in such a detailed post.

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  4. Thanks, Kemberlee, great post packed full of information. I went through the submission process, but there are far more publishers that publish romance and erotica than there are mystery. Nobody seemed interested in my genre so what else can I do? You figures are dead on. I think every writer should hire an editor at least once. It’s really an eye opening experience, and you learn so much, but he missed a ton of grammar issues which my proofreader is now finding.

    I have no idea what the future holds for me. I’m not saying I will always self publish, but it’s my decision for my first novel. I’d be interested to know what your company does in the way of marketing. All this target audience stuff gives me a headache. LOL

    Thanks again for a great post. I’m sorry I missed it the first time, but you know so busy trying to bring my baby to market.

    Like

    • Madison,

      Aside from us (we’ll publish anything good as long as it’s adult genre fiction, ie 18+ reader), Crooked Cat Publishing (www.crookedcatpublishing.com) is specializing mysteries and thrillers and gritty stories. They just launched this year too and doing really well. Check out their author and book list and see if it’s a company that might be a good fit for your work.

      I think you know about Hellfire Publishing already too, yeah? I think they specialize just in horror though. Give CCp a try. And you can always submit something to us.

      You don’t need to have a lot of publishers for mysteries. You just need a really good story that will attract the publishers out there. Romance and erotica are selling a majority share of the fiction market, but #2 are mysteries and thrillers.

      Regarding marketing, take a look at our website. Read the submission guidelines and our FAQ. And go to our contact page or scroll to the bottom of any of the pages where you’ll see the links to the media sites we post through . . . Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, Tumblr, Blogger, LinkedIn. We also have a YouTube page for authors’ video trailersand an RSS feed. AND I also post notices on my own Facebook and Twitter accounts for all our author happenings.

      Of course, we also run our own website which lists pages for authors and their collections with us, and each book page has information about the book, links to the author page and buy links. Also, we post blurbs and book excerpts there as well as reviews . . . as long as the author sends them to us.

      It’s important that authors do as much marketing themselves though. Ultimately, it’s their product and if they want bigger sales, they have to sell their product. It helps if authors run their own media, as that doubles what we’re already doing. But also organize virtual book tours. We work with a really great company and we have a deal with them that any of our authors can take advantage of a discount on any tour booked with them. For a very reasonable fee, they will organize your book tour for you and supply all the tour banners, which the tour host sites will put on their site. Pretty easy stuff. I did a two week tour last autumn with them, again, and had a ball.

      I hope this helps, Madison. I’m happy to answer your questions any time, any where 🙂

      Like

  5. Kemberlee,

    Thanks for the info. I checked out the blog tour you had mentioned before, but I also noticed that they do romance. Now my book does have romance in it, so I might give it a try. I contacted a blog that does blog posts, doesn’t charge any money. They do more of a give and take. You feature other authors and they feature you. She let me into her folds even though she doesn’t advertise that she is looking for more authors. Downside is that it will not be until fall, but she’s planning to interview me on her blog in the month of May. This time around I’m going to self publish, but next time around I really want to try and get my books published. Who know you might just get a manuscript from me, lol. I have this romance book I’m working on, but it might only make it to novella length.

    I don’t have problems marketing, but sometimes it seems like I’m smacking my head against the wall. It’s scary to think about putting a book out there that nobody is going to buy. I know all us writers fell that way. I also know that I have done everything in my power to make it the best I can.

    Thanks again,
    Madison

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    • Hi Madison,

      GFPs does all kinds of tours. Yes, they do a lot of romance and erotica, but they also do a lot of other genres. Here’s their current list of tours they’re booking sites for and the genres —
      http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com

      With a service like GFPs, your only obligation is to the sites that host you. There’s no crossposting required. The sites that host you will either send you an interview form or ask you to write a short piece about a topic they chose, usually something related to the book. If you look at this link on Scarlett’s site —
      http://www.scarlett-valentine.com/p/links.html

      — you’ll see the list of tours I/she did last november. Some sites asked me interview questions and some wanted topics. They will also usually post a blurb and/or excerpt from the book. Reviews are not guaranteed though.

      However, GFPs offers a review only type of tour which basically runs the same as above. The only difference is the tour hosts promise to review your book. That’s great but no guarantees the reviews will be positive . . . though about 90% of reviewers out there today will always find something positive to say about a book.

      GFPs also has a ‘name before the masses’ tour where you appear on a host blog once a week for four weeks. It’s similar to the above tours but one day a week instead of five a week.

      Here’s there tourst page — http://www.goddessfish.com/tours.htm

      Judy and Marianne at GFPs are amazing to work with. Really great ladies. And they promote the heck out of their tours on all their media sites. Marianne runs GFPs and Judy runs their two newsgroups . . . Long and Short of It Reviews for traditional romance and everything else, and Whipped Cream Reviews just for erotica and graphic romance.

      If you query them, be sure to said I sent you. They like to know how people heard of them.

      If you decide to submit to us, be sure to read the submission guidelines. We’ve been publishing romance and erotica so far only because that’s the crowd I normally hang with personally, but we’re looking for all genres for the 18+ reader age (adult genre fiction) and of all lengths except short story. The guidelines will tell you everything you need to know. And there are some short FAQs.

      Sounds like you’re exhibiting the typical stress of self-publishing. I really think you should try small press and see how that works. Take just one of your books and use it as an experiment. I did that with one of my Irish Pride novels. I sort of sacrificed it to get into the business and it worked. The book was a great success and moved me out of short story publishing which I’ve done for many years.

      I hope this helps.

      Like

  6. Thanks for all the info. 🙂

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