Frustration and hope: An interview with self-published author Lisa Marie Latino

Sandra Hutchison interviews an indie author whose romantic comedy debut was written to give hope to anyone who feels they’ve fallen short of their dreams.

What inspired Ten Years Later?

I went through various periods of self doubt in the years after college. I, too, was single, still living at my parents’ home, and went through some very trying times that all entrepreneurs do while forming their own businesses. As I opened up to others about my frustrations I realized that nearly everyone, no matter their circumstance, was dealing with the same insecurities. That theme — visions of what one thinks life SHOULD be versus reality — really inspired me, and since I’ve always wanted to write a book anyway, I channeled that angst into writing Ten Years Later .

A lot of readers assume Carla and I are the same person because we share a similar background and common interests — we’re both New Jersey-based sports fans of Italian descent. Obviously, I drew on a lot of my life’s experience in shaping a relatable fictional character, but Carla has her own set of unique circumstances that represent the plight of driven millennials everywhere trying to claim their stake in the world.

The book was originally written for women in their twenties and early thirties who are struggling to find their way; I wanted Ten Years Later to be their beacon of hope and motivate them to accomplish their heart’s desires. But as I’m getting to know my readers, I’m realizing that they come from all walks of life. High schoolers to middle-aged men have read and loved it. To write a book that can touch a wide variety of people is very fulfilling.

How did you come to publish it?

I did the blind-pitch dance to about fifty literary agents…and got rejected by all of them. I have built my career by creating opportunities for myself that no one else would give me, so I figured I would add one more to the list! I enlisted an editor, proofreader and illustrator to craft an ultra-professional final product. I published through CreateSpace and they were very helpful in guiding me through the process. It’s another “business” to worry about but I wouldn’t want it any other way!

What most surprised you in the writing and/or publishing of your book?

My experience as a business owner alleviated a lot of the “shock” in my new career as a self-published novelist. I knew the work was going to be hard and the reward not so instant. But I’m still learning something new everyday, from distribution tips to new blogs or online book communities to tap into!

What’s been your best experience so far as a published author?

Getting feedback from readers. I am so humbled by the fact that people chose to spend their time in my little world I created. Professionally, there is no better feeling.

What comes next?

The ultimate goal for Ten Years Later is to turn it into a movie. In my humble opinion, I think it would smash at the box office as the next great romantic comedy!

As for the future, I have many ideas for books; some in the same lighthearted vein, some in a much darker voice.

As an indie-published author, what advice would you have for aspiring authors?

Find a subject that absolutely consumes you with passion and run with it! That passion will take you through the writing, editing, tweaking of the final product, and marketing yourself.

Find a subject that absolutely consumes you with passion and run with it! -- Lisa Marie Latino Click To TweetAbout Lisa Marie Latino

The CEO and executive producer of Long Shot Productions, a full-service media production company based in Fairfield, New Jersey, Latino has produced numerous commercial, corporate, and entertainment programs that have taken her throughout the United States as well as Europe. In 2014, Latino co-launched, an online lifestyle program featuring the latest trends around the Garden State.

Latino has appeared on a wide variety of local television, network cable, and radio shows, including TLC’s Cake Boss, SNY’s Oh Yeah, and WFAN Sport Radio’s Boomer & Carton and works in-season for the New York Giants Radio Network. She has also served as an adjunct broadcasting professor at Seton Hall University. Latino graduated from Montclair State University in 2006 with a degree in broadcasting and speech communication.

Learn more about Lisa Marie Latino on Facebook or her web site,, which has more social media links.

Ten Years Later
Carla D’Agostino is not your typical heroine. Stuck in a seemingly dead-end job, single, and still living with her overbearing Italian-American parents, Carla is thrown for a loop when she realizes her ten-year high school reunion is fast approaching. True love, a career as a sports radio talk show host, the perfect body–every dream remains frustratingly out of reach no matter how Carla strives and schemes. Out of reach, that is, until unexpected events lead her right back to where she started, and Carla discovers that all she ever wanted was right in front of her the whole time. “Ten Years Later” is a witty, unpredictable tale of one ordinary young woman’s race for the top as she throws caution to the wind and decides to go for her dreams.
Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / iBooks

Published every way: An interview with author Denise Deegan

Sandra Hutchison interviews multi-published Irish author Denise Deegan (who also publishes women’s fiction as Aimee Alexander).

Denise, in terms of being published you’ve moved from traditional to indie to Lake Union (as Aimee Alexander) and back to indie again. Quite an adventure! Can you share some of your ups and downs?

So, I had seven novels traditionally published, four contemporary works of women’s fiction, followed by a YA trilogy. By the time the last YA novel was published, the rights to my women’s fiction works had reverted to me. I thought that self-publishing would be an adventure, so I renamed myself Aimee Alexander (my children’s names combined), edited my books afresh, renamed them, hired a cover designer, and uploaded to Amazon. One of those novels, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar, was spotted by Amazon imprint Lake Union Publishing and then republished by them. My latest novel, Through the Barricades, is self-published.

Being traditionally published and having your novels translated into other languages is exciting. However, I love the control that comes with self-publishing. You choose your own covers, you do your own promotion, you see the results of that promotion immediately, and you can adapt with great flexibility. Importantly, you have a much higher royalty rate. You are an entrepreneur as well as an author. Having run my own PR business, all of this appeals very much to me. I like juggling different roles, working with different people, being creative in lots of ways, not just writing.

Being picked up by Lake Union Publishing was tremendously exciting because it came out of the blue. They approached me unexpectedly. I was aware of them; I had seen their books on Amazon. I loved their covers and their books. Mostly I loved their rankings! Being published by them was a treat. Their editing was wonderful, as was the cover they designed. They have been a pleasure to deal with. And they know their business.

I still have an agent and a manager in LA for my children’s and YA books. The market for children’s books is still very traditional.

I self-published my latest novel, Through the Barricades. 2016 was the centenary of a revolution that changed the course of Irish history. I wanted to get my story out before the end of the year. The fastest way was self-publishing. I just about made it. The book was published December 8. One of the highlights so far has been the cover, which I adore. That my daughter Aimee graces it makes the book all the more special to me.

As you note, you’ve published in multiple genres. Do you have any wisdom to impart on that?

Traditional wisdom states that authors should stick to a genre to build an audience. I had written four novels of contemporary women’s fiction. I didn’t plan to change. However, the next story that arrived to me was a teenage one. When I say arrived, I mean that I began to hear the characters’ voices in my head (which is how I’ve always written). The first conversation I heard was between sixteen-year-old Alex and her father. Alex’s voice was filled with rage, sarcasm but also a vulnerability that I couldn’t ignore. I scribbled that first dialogue onto a napkin in a coffee shop. Alex’s story became And By The Way, the first of The Butterfly Novels, a contemporary YA trilogy. I have since written a historical novel of love and revolution that is suitable for both adult and teenagers. I also have two novels with an agent, a YA thriller and a middle-grade pirate adventure.

The first thing I would say is that my novels are very strong on voice and emotion, no matter what genre they are in. That is because I hear and feel my characters. I become them as I write. If I ignored that process and stuck diligently to a genre, I would lose the realness of my stories. It would all become clinical and prescriptive, and my novels would, too. Then I would lose the desire to write.

A wonderful thing happened when I followed the teenage voices of Alex, Sarah, and Rachel. They really touched people. Girls began to get in touch on social media to say how they had connected with the books and characters. They spoke of how much they had learned from the issues that arose in the stories. They told me that they had read them over and over, wanted them made into movies, movies in which they would star. The reaction of teenagers to my books has touched me hugely and reminded me of why I write. I love what I do. If I changed how I do it, a little part of me would die. And I like living!

What advice would you have for aspiring authors?

The absolute thing I would say is: get your stories out to the world. Make them the best they can be. Hire professional editors. Learn the craft. Because it is a craft. Then get your stories out. Do not be stopped by the middlemen. If you can’t get an agent or publisher, do it yourself. The New York Times bestsellers list always includes self-published books. These are books that were not picked up by middlemen. Therefore they don’t always know a winner when they see it. And they will admit that themselves. Still Alice and The Martian were self-published, picked up by traditional publishers, and turned into movies. Why? Because the authors got their stories out to the world.

...get your stories out. Do not be stopped by the middlemen. -- Denise Deegan Click To Tweet

 What inspired your most recent novel?

Through the Barricades is a story of love and revolution. I’m a rebel at heart. If you want me to do something, tell me I can’t do it. I wanted to write a story of rebellion. Being Irish is an important part of my identity. My country’s history is one of oppression and a very long struggle for freedom. I wanted to tell that story through the eyes of Maggie, an idealistic girl who is prepared to sacrifice everything for what she believes in, and Daniel, a boy who is prepared to sacrifice everything for Maggie. I’m proud of my country’s history – its fight, not just for freedom, but to hold on to its identity, its stories and culture. I love this novel. More than any other, it is who I am.

What’s your number one hope for what your readers will get out of it?

I hope that people will connect with my characters, not just Maggie and Daniel, but their families and friends. I want them to feel as if they are right beside these ordinary people as they struggle in extraordinary circumstances for what they believe in.

I also very much want to share the story of a regiment of Irish soldiers that was stationed in Gallipoli in WWI. Researching (and writing about) this, I felt an incredible connection to the young men who fought and died in the trenches in Turkey.

What most surprised you in the writing of your book?

  • The connection I felt with soldiers in WWI, especially as I hadn’t originally planned to write about the Great War
  • How history is interpreted differently by people
  • The unplanned characters who stole into the book and built roles for themselves: a little orphan girl, Lily; Patrick, the rebel with a tough shell but soft center; and Michael, Daniel’s happy-go-lucky friend who grew up fast in Gallipoli but whose humor was so important in the trenches.

Tell us more about you and your book and where we can find it.

I’m an optimist. I find good in bad, light in darkness, and humor in difficult times. There’s something very Irish about that and it filters into the book. Though life in the trenches was appalling, humor was ever-present among the Irish soldiers. In a way, it defined them.

Family is hugely important to me. This comes across in all my books. Author Martina Reilly, who kindly attributed a quote on Through the Barricades commented: “The pieces written about the trenches in the First World War were really moving, as was the devotion Maggie’s family had to each other.”

I started life as a nurse. Medical issues always find their way into my books. Through the Barricades was no exception.

You can find Through the Barricades in paperback and ebook formats on Amazon.

About the author

Denise Deegan lives in Dublin with her family where she regularly dreams of sunshine, a life without cooking and her novels being made into movies.

She has been a nurse, a china restorer, a pharmaceutical sales rep, a public relations officer, an entrepreneur and a college lecturer. Her most difficult job was checkout girl, though ultimately this ‘experience’ did inspire a short story.

Denise’s books have been published by Penguin, Random House, Hachette and Lake Union Publishing. Her novels for Young Adults include The Butterfly Novels: And By The Way, And For Your Information, and And Actually.

Denise writes women’s fiction as Aimee Alexander. Her titles have become international best-sellers on Kindle and include: Pause to Rewind, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar, and All We Have Lost.

Learn more at

Book Blurb

She was willing to sacrifice everything for her country. He was willing to sacrifice everything for her. 

“Make a difference in the world” are the last words Maggie Gilligan’s father ever says to her. They form a legacy that she carries in her heart years later when, at the age of fifteen, she tries to better the lives of Dublin’s largely forgotten poor.

“Don’t go getting distracted, now,” is what Daniel Healy’s father says to him after seeing him talking to the same Maggie Gilligan. Daniel is more than distracted. He is intrigued. Never has he met anyone as dismissive, argumentative… as downright infuriating.

A dare from Maggie is all it takes. Daniel volunteers at a food kitchen. There, his eyes are opened to the plight of the poor. It is 1913 and Dublin’s striking workers have been locked out of their jobs. Their families are going hungry. Daniel and Maggie do what they can. Soon, however, Maggie realizes that the only way to make a difference is to take up arms.

The story of Maggie and Daniel is one of friendship, love, war and revolution, of two people who are prepared to sacrifice their lives: Maggie for her country, Daniel for Maggie. Their mutual sacrifices put them on opposite sides of a revolution. Can their love survive?

Sandy’s note: It’s also very affordable right now if you buy it for Kindle at

Follow Denise Deegan on




Another technique for finding new readers on Twitter

One of my more popular blog posts here is “The fine art of Twitter stalking,” which explains how you can use Twitter to essentially hand-sell to people who are following authors like you, and/or describing themselves as avid readers.

I’ve refined that a bit in the year and a half since that was posted, so I’m going to share what I do more often now. I should warn you that, just as before, it’s laborious, and it won’t work for long unless you have something like the free app Crowdfire (formerly JustUnfollow) in your toolbox.

Step 1. Make sure your front stoop looks nice and is ready for business

Make sure your Twitter profile is attractive and offers a call to action. It should…

  1. Explain who you are clearly and positively without getting obnoxious (in other words, don’t fill it up hard sells and hashtags)
  2. Have reasonably attractive graphics. This does not have to be anything crazy. Go to another wonderful free app at and you can create something just the right size that looks pretty darn good. (Pro tip: The less design knowledge you have, the more you should rely on their attractive templates.)
  3. Include a link to your web site under your info (or use a link to your Amazon author page if you’re exclusive to Amazon in mostly one country — I’m not, so I don’t).
  4. Mileage varies a LOT on this one, but personally I try to make sure I haven’t been loading up my Twitter stream with promos. This is the number one reason I don’t belong to some otherwise appealing writer’s groups. Their authors may be doing much better than I am, though, so do whatever works for you.
  5. Here’s the selling part: Include a pinned post at the top that could at least potentially lead someone to do something you want. Include one call to action with a key link. If your own blog page doesn’t tend to convert people, or you don’t have one, use your Kindle author’s page, or product link, or whatever would work best where your readers live. (Obviously, you might want to play around with different options here.)  I probably have my best luck when my free little romantic comedy is pinned to the top, but I will vary it depending on the audience I’m going after.
    TIP: Canva is great for creating just the right size Twitter graphic, too, like this one. I’ll vary the actual buying link, but the others are right there in the graphic, so people who are intrigued can go look it up at their favorite retail site.

twitter promo exampleThere are surely ways to track this and and improve my performance. Finally figuring THAT out might be one of next year’s resolutions.

Step 2. See what other authors your readers are buying

As noted in the original twitter-stalking post, Amazon’s author pages make this easy. Just go to your author page and look at the links under “Customers Also Bought Items By.” You still have to use your judgment, and results will be skewed if you’ve recently been promoting (the authors promoting at the same time are the ones who will show up most) — but dig down and you’ll find authors who appeal to the same readers who should like your stuff. For indie authors, your best bet will almost always be other indie authors, because their readers already know that we don’t all have cooties.

detail from author's page screenshot

If your book has gotten a bit moribund, or you’ve already hit up everybody on your also-bought list, you can dig down even further and check out the also-boughts for those authors.

TheAwfulMess_3DAn example of using my judgment about also-bought authors: “The Awful Mess: A Love Story” crosses over into religion and spirituality, specifically, into progressive Christianity. Some of my also-boughts are Christian “sweet” romance authors. I have to be careful there, because the category “Christian fiction” runs conservative and some of those readers will be offended by the cover, let alone the content. Other authors in my also-boughts are mystery writers. Would their readers be interested in my women’s fiction? It’s probably worth trying.

Step 3. Search Twitter for “by [author name]

This gets you to tweets posted by people who have read and/or reviewed on Goodreads or their own blogs. (At least for now it does. All of this is subject to change. Amazon, for example, no longer gives people the option to tweet their purchases.)

Step 4. Follow people who appear to be genuine potential readers

Check out each potential reader to make sure he or she is:

  • A real human rather than a fake spam account
  • Still active on Twitter
  • A relatively kindred spirit

Bloggers probably expect most books to go to them free, so they are not your best prospect. However, you might want to think of them as a potential reviewer and take note accordingly — you might create a list of them, for example.

And just because their counts may suggest they never follow back doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow people — remember, the goal is to entice people to check out your book, not to get them to follow you back. (Though that can be a nice bonus.)

Out of a dozen or two dozen people you follow, maybe one might be interested enough to actually purchase your book. You’ll have to decide for yourself if this labor-intensive approach is worth it. Note that it will also help you build your Twitter audience, however. And you might just find some good reading for yourself along the way.

Step 4. After a week or so, unfollow the people who’ve shown no interest

No, you’re not being a jerk. You don’t hang around outside of people’s doors when they don’t call you after a date, do you? And this wasn’t even a date.

Besides, Twitter won’t let you keep following new people if your ratio gets out of whack. And once you get past a few hundred people, you’re certainly not hurting for material to read in your Twitter stream. So unfollow people. Crowdfire makes this easy. (There is a daily limit if you’re doing it for free, but I almost never reach it.)

Personally, I usually follow everyone back who doesn’t appear to be a spammer, marketing something I have zero interest in, of dubious integrity, obnoxious, or impossible for me to translate enough to figure any of that out. This is a social medium. That means it should be a two-way street. So if you’re not following me back, you’d better be a celebrity or extremely informative about something valuable — and for that, to be perfectly honest, I can put you in a list instead of following you.

All of this could change at any moment, of course. There’s talk of Twitter going all Facebook on us. Which it has the right to do.

Want to add any tips of your own, or tell me where I’m going wrong? Please do!

Goodbye, ABNA. Hello, Kindle Scout. (For some.)

As I wrote last year after my own experience with it, I thought Amazon Publishing’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award was a brilliant way for them to acquire new authors of quality work, usually without the fuss of agents, while building engagement among its self-published authors and readers.

But last year, it turns out, was the final year for ABNA. This January Amazon announced that it has essentially replaced it with Kindle Scout, an ongoing submission process in which authors can put up their books in pursuit of a contract with Kindle Publishing.

How it works

Kindle Scout How It Works -- Amazon illustration

Illustration from Amazon’s Kindle Scout “How It Works” page

Authors upload a copyedited Word manuscript, a short blurb, a description, a cover, and a bio plus author photo, and try to get readers to nominate their book for publication.Those who generate enough buzz to get noticed and meet Kindle Publishing’s editorial requirements might just be accepted for publication with a small advance and what I would consider reasonable contract terms for authors who don’t mind being exclusive to Kindle.

Kindle Scout appears to be a similar to ABNA in that it forces authors to pursue social engagement. It’s also much faster than ABNA — in thirty days, a work has either made it or not (though it may take a little longer to get the final word, and then it goes into production). Certainly, it’s a route to publication that is much faster than a search for an agent and traditional publication.

There’s also an incentive for readers to check those books out — they get the book free if a book they nominated is accepted for publication.

Those are all good things.

But I’ve also seen ABNA fans complaining about some big changes:

  • Books cannot have been published at all before, not even self-pubbed, except in avenues where no money is being earned. ABNA was awash in already self-published books (including mine and the one that beat mine and the three other semifinalists in General Fiction last year).
  • The only genres welcome are romance, mystery/thriller/suspense, and science fiction/fantasy. (Edit in May of 2015: Amazon has added “literature and fiction,” which includes contemporary fiction, action and adventure, and historical fiction)
  • Authors must have US social security numbers or tax ID numbers. So most foreign writers need not apply. (Edit: But I’m told there are ways to work around this.)
  • There’s no formal set of feedback on the excerpt for those who make the first cut, and no Publishers Weekly review of the whole manuscript for quarter finalists (not that this was ever quite as exciting as it sounded).
  • There’s no official social component for contestants who want to discuss the process with each other, though I’m sure authors will find other ways to discuss and collaborate.
  • It’s not obvious how any given book is doing, unless it makes it to the “hot and trending” list. There’s a definite limit to how much you can flog a book to your friends and family, so authors with an existing readership are at a distinct advantage — surely a benefit to Amazon.
  • Authors take on all the cost and risk of cover design, while Amazon gets to sit back and see what works. Most submissions I see appear to have professionally designed covers, so people are obviously investing in this. (Of course, that means  they’ll also be all set to publish whether they win a contract or not.)
  • Quite a few authors say they will miss the motivation of the yearly deadline for ABNA. Kindle Scout is a rolling process you can begin at any time.

I suppose there may also be some ineffable damage done to an author’s relationship with her local bookstore or potential future agent or editor if she were to be published exclusively by Amazon, but ABNA and Kindle Select are just the same in that. (I also suspect all parties concerned would quickly get past that if they thought there was money to be made.)

I left Kindle Select with the first novel last spring and haven’t regretted it. While I haven’t exactly burned down the town at the other retailers, my last 99-cent promotion did bring in some very nice extra crash from Nook and iTunes (especially Nook), making the advertising investments that much more profitable (especially since BookBub and Fussy Librarian carry all the links, not just Kindle). And I feel a bit less vulnerable to sudden changes like the advent of Kindle Unlimited, which has impacted the income of many indie authors.

The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire -- showing a (dressed) teenage girl on a bed, looking rather pensive.

Currently in Kindle Select, with a promotion coming later this month.

I do still have the second novel in Kindle Select to begin with because I still think it’s the best tool to get this book discovered and reviewed. I’ll be able to judge whether I was correct about that by next month (assuming it’s a title that can gain any momentum at all), but in the meantime I’m just working on another book. As most successful authors will say, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time and money on promotion until you have enough titles out that they can cross-sell each other.

If you have other wisdom or opinions on ABNA or Kindle Scout, feel free to comment!

Which reminds me: A fellow author I respect recently told me I’m making a big mistake associating myself so clearly with self-publishing when my stuff could pass as professionally published. I told him I would miss the interaction with other self-published authors far too much to try to pretend I wasn’t indie. (Also, I told him I just can’t keep my big mouth shut. I fear this may be the one big thing I have in common with all my heroines so far.)

Happy publishing, however you get it done!







So you’re thinking of indie publishing? (Updated 1-31-15)

Do your homework first and check out some of this information on the state of the art.

I originally pulled this information together because I was presenting about self-publishing at the Troy NY Public Library with traditional authors Jenny Milchman and Diane Cameron. That session filled quickly and ended up with a long waiting list, so there’s clearly a need for this information. (We may well do more sessions in the future — in fact, I am already working on one for March — so join my mailing list if you want to hear about them.)

The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire -- showing a (dressed) teenage girl on a bed, looking rather pensive.It was a handy review for me, too, as I decided just how much to undertake in the marketing of my second novel The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire — which came out last month and is just not selling itself no matter how much I wish it would. (Yes, that’s one of the things you need to know about indie publishing.)

I’m just going to assume that you’ve written a good book, gotten plenty of feedback from people other than your mom, and gotten it properly edited and proofread and formatted. I’m also assuming that you can handle a bad review without melting down. (If you can’t, stop now, because you’re not ready to publish.)

Indies Unlimited
This is a great site to explore because it offers tons of good information shared by knowledgeable and experienced indie authors. There are also opportunities to promote, but that’s mostly going to fellow authors, so don’t get too excited about it. Start here, since it’s a guide to the whole site:

Kristine Kathryn Rusch on “Business Musings: Things Indie Writers Learned in 2014”
This is a post that pretty much sums up the state of the business at the end of 2014. Among other things, Rusch points out that “writing is hard,” “publishing is hard,” and “the gold rush is over.” In short, this article provides a useful reality check about indie publishing. But it’s not completely hopeless! So if you can read this and still feel willing to buckle in, consider giving it a try. (You should also read her year-end take on traditional publishing if you are contemplating that as an option.)

Hugh Howey on “Where do we go from here?”
Howey, probably the most famous indie author success story, is more upbeat than Rusch here, though he reminds us that no entertainer can expect to succeed forever.

Anne R. Allen on “Why the Self-Published Ebook is No Longer the ‘New Query’”
This post by Anne R. Allen provides a useful counter to Howey, in case he encourages you a little too much. I think it applies best to people who are hoping going indie will transition them into a successful traditional career selling literary fiction. I would honestly recommend trying traditional first if that is your goal. But if you hit a brick wall or don’t sell well enough in your debut, even though people unrelated to you are quick to say your stuff is good, indie publishing is the other way to start finding your readers.

Lindsay Buroker’s marketing advice for 2015
Good stuff here from a successful and personable indie author, including the perennial discussion of whether to be in Kindle Select or not. Her blog is worth mining for lots of good information, especially if you write historical mysteries or series.

Build your author platform
Instead of giving you a blog link, I’m giving you a book link, because I think this is a really good guide at a reasonable price (though you could also just track down the author’s blog posts on the subject):

Network with fellow authors
Jenny and Diane and I were doing this when we got together to put on a presentation. Writers often benefit from working together, perhaps especially if they share a genre. Or maybe you’re neighbors, or one of you started as a fan of the other, or you met and bonded while surviving a crazy writer’s workshop (that’s Jenny and me). Anything goes. Be supportive of other authors to the extent you can without lowering your own standards or turning off your own audience.

Having said that…

  • Don’t ask authors for favors when you haven’t even bought their books, or reviewed them, or written to them, or helped them get the word out, or in some way established a relationship that isn’t just asking them to do something for you.
  • Unless people are already your friends — and volunteer to do it — assume that you will need to pay them for editorial services. Nobody edits or gives feedback for the sheer joy of it.
  • Don’t “trade” reviews. It puts you in an unpleasant ethical bind.
  • Don’t write nasty reviews. Reviewing fellow authors is fine, but if you didn’t like their books, it’s better not to review at all. Even a middling review could get you in trouble.

My first (homemade) cover

TheAwfulMess 396 x 612 pixels

Designed by

Get the right cover
Whether you think you have the skills yourself (it’s possible), or plan to hire someone, the cover is a big decision. (Though it need not be a final one – as an indie, you CAN change covers much more easily than a traditional author can.) Joel Friedlander, AKA The Book Designer runs a monthly cover contest, and reading his honest commentary can be really educational as well as entertaining. He’s particularly geared towards e-book covers, which have slightly different requirements than bookstore covers – they have to be something you can get an impression from even when they are really, really tiny. (It’s worth noting that my friends still argue over which cover is better, but to my mind there is no contest.)

Get the right copy (book blurb)
This is a useful exercise whether you are traditionally or indie published, or are unpublished and setting up your author platform. (It’s also very helpful as you query agents.) I especially like this post from Ruth Harris because it not only offers good advice, it gives you links to lots more good advice:

Avoid being taken for a ride
During the California gold rush, the people who made the most money were the people who sold stuff to miners … and the people who stole stuff from them. That’s true of the indie publishing phenomenon, too. Heck, people who are trying to be traditionally published often fall victim to scams, too. Before you do business with anyone who claims to be in publishing, check that person or business at Preditors and Editors. You might also want to check with Indies Unlimited, the Writer’s Café at the KBoards, and anyone you know who’s already out there. Go beyond the first pages of Google (which can be manipulated by savvy operators) in doing your due diligence, and include in your searches terms like “reviews” or “complaints” as well as the business name.
Preditors and Editors:

Finally, two rules you really need to understand before you publish:

Rule #1: DON’T SPEND ANYTHING YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO LOSE. Even legitimate expenses don’t always pay off in this business. No provider can guarantee you financial success, and you should be deeply suspicious of anyone who makes that kind of claim. (On the other hand, you should also be prepared to invest in your business.) The obvious companion to this: Don’t quit your day job (unless you really can afford to).

Rule #2: SUCCESS AS A WRITER IS A LONG GAME. If you hope to make a living at this, or a decent supplemental income, or a measure of fame, one book will not do it. Most people who do well already have four or five or six books out and have been slogging away without great reward for years. So if you just want to publish your memoir or your Great American Novel and be done with it, realize that you are essentially just making it conveniently available for friends and family rather than trying to build a career as an author-publisher. And if that’s the case, you really don’t need to learn your way around — just find a handy vanity publisher or formatting service and get it done.

Feel free to add info below — we can all benefit from your knowledge!