Candace spent her formative years in the saddle, letting her imagination soar. Now, she’s a multi-published author of fantasy, contemporary mystery, young adult fantasy, and metaphysical fiction that often includes her beloved horses. When she’s not writing, you can still find her riding, envisioning new stories. Books: Raver, The Horsecaller: Book One; The Roar of Smoke, a Book of the Meldborn; On the Buckle, Dream Horse Mystery #1; The Man, The Dog, His Owner & Her Lover; The Good Horse, The Bad Man & The Ugly Woman.
P.J. O’Dwyer is an award-winning author of romantic suspense and young adult fiction, as well as an active member of Romance Writers of America. Labeled the storyteller of the family, she began at an early age inventing zany tales of whodunit. Now, years later, she’s penned her fifth novel, teaches the craft of writing to aspiring authors, and gets down and dirty with all things books as a publishing consultant. When asked where she gets her story ideas, she laughs ruefully and says, “It helps being married to a cop.” She lives in Maryland’s horse country—another one of her many inspirations—with her family. Books: The Fallon Sisters Trilogy: Defiant, Relentless (free copy), Forsaken. Satin and Steel Series: Linger. Hunter’s Moon Series: Claimed.
Born in Durban, South Africa, Joy Wooderson emigrated to the U.S. in 1971. She writes creative nonfiction and is the author of Finding Joy: One Woman’s Journey Back to Faith and Like a Hermit Crab in Search of a Home. Both are ebooks available from Amazon Kindle. Her essays have appeared in journals and anthologies. (Note: She’s also written a slim but resourceful book, Ten Hidden Facts About Self-publishing.)
1) Why did you choose self-publishing?
Candace: An agent shopped two of my manuscripts around New York for several months without getting any bites, although we did get very positive feedback on the stories and the writing. I was interested in pursuing small presses or online publishing, back when this was only just beginning to become a “thing.” The agent wasn’t interested. We parted ways. At that point, with a very young child at home, I took a break from writing and publishing. When I was ready to get back in the game, online and self-publishing tools had become readily available. I was approached by a small press about Raver, and almost entered into a contract with them. But I don’t like to wait very long for answers to my questions, and I’m a bit of a control freak. I couldn’t see what they were going to do for me that I couldn’t do for myself because everything you read these days is that authors have to do most of their own marketing and publicity no matter what method they use to publish. I haven’t looked back, nor do I regret my decision.
P.J.: After receiving rejections or no response at all from the multitude of literary agents I queried, I decided to take control of my destiny and open my own publishing company, Black Siren Books. With the ability to make all the decisions, from my book covers to writing all my back cover blurbs, and challenging myself to learn every facet of publishing, including formatting my books, I’m in the driver’s seat and haven’t looked back in the rearview mirror once.
Joy: I was committed to publishing my personal memoirs, the first dealing with my spiritual journey, the second my personal journey. Both are niche books, out of the mainstream of current publications, but each offers an inspirational message. After careful analysis, I determined that self-publishing would give me what I wanted, i.e. total control of content, cover, and layout design.
2) How did you know your manuscript was ready for publication?
Candace: This is a good question. You can fiddle around with something only so long. At some point, the desire to have it out there overwhelms the desire to tinker. That by itself, however, is not reason enough. You must get objective feedback. You must find a good critique group or partners you trust. At the least, an editor who knows the business. It’s extremely difficult to be objective about your own work, but it is possible, if you can be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Then, it’s a combination of your gut feeling, feedback, and meticulous proofreading. Even so, it’s still something of a crapshoot.
P.J.: I wanted my books to be competitive with any New York Times bestselling author. I worked hard to learn the craft of writing and continue to do so even today. But every author needs a trained eye to review her work. The worst review an author can receive is one on punctuation or a very muddled plot because–it’s avoidable. One pair of eyes, especially a pair that has become tired and blurry from reading the same pages over and over again, needs a second or even third look. I invested in a good editor and copyeditor to review my work. Without their expertise when it comes to plot, timelines, and punctuation, my books would never be ready for the bookstore shelves.
Joy: I had spent considerable time and effort learning the craft of writing from writing courses, conferences, and critique groups. When I finished compiling the manuscript, I read and reread it several times. As a professional proofreader, I scrutinized spelling, grammar, punctuation, and flow. The self-publisher submitted proofs which I again scrutinized. Finally, I took a deep breath and let my “baby” go.
3) What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
Candace: It’s all on you.
P.J.: Having complete control is a huge perk. But the cost can add up. Normally with a publishing contract your publisher pays the cost of publishing your book and may give you a few marketing dollars. Being self-published puts the financial burden squarely on the author’s shoulders. I recommend creating a line-item budget and sticking to it. I’d also challenge you to learn how to do things yourself. I learned how to format my own books, which I find I enjoy. Plus I’m a bit of a perfectionist and would drive any formatter mad.
Joy: The pros in my case were total control over content and cover design. I wanted my covers to “speak” to potential readers.
The cons are the author carries full responsibility for preparation of the manuscript. Some self-publishers offer editing and proofreading services, which I highly recommend.
Selling and marketing are challenging.
Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Candace, P.J., and Joy for discussing their experiences in self-publishing. Be sure to check out the links to their websites and books, all of which I have read and heartily recommend!
Coming in August: The essential elements of writing a story.