Hey there all!!
As promised here is the interview with Kara Jorgenson, author of the Mechanical Devices Series and in my view a rising entreprenuriel star of the Indie Publishing scene….That’s just my opinion, of course, hopefully this blog will help you guys decide whether or not I’m right…?
Ok, here goes…
Basically, I wanted to delve a little deeper into the world of Self-Publishing and go a little further than previous posts and interviews I’ve read myself regarding the subject. This post is more about the intial drive that pushes people into Self-Publishing rather than Traditional and a look at the process, rather than simply asking why someone wants to Self-Publish and more about the various aspects of Self-Publishing.
Here’s a brief introduction to Kara Jorgenson and her work:
Kara Jorgensen is an anachronistic oddball with a penchant for all things antiquated, morbid, or just plain strange. While in college, she realized she no longer wanted to be Victor Frankenstein but instead wanted to write like Mary Shelley and thus abandoned her future career in science for writing. She melds her passions through her books and received an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing in 2016. When not writing, she can be found hanging out with her dogs watching period dramas or trying to convince her students to cite their sources.
First off, a typical query – why did you choose Indie Publishing over Traditional?
Kara: For most of my life I thought traditional publishing was the only way to go, but when it was time for me to start looking for a way to publish The Earl of Brass, I found that Indie Publishing was a much more viable option than I thought it was. After doing a lot of research and speaking with friends who I saw publishing their books through Amazon and Createspace, I ended up choosing to go Indie. The main reason I did so was to maintain my creative freedom. Around the time I published The Earl of Brass, I noticed how authors were having their books torn apart by editors and recreated as something far different than the story they initially created. I was terrified that some publisher would try to make my book more “marketable” by sanitizing my LGBT or differently-abled characters. As a writer who values diversity and is queer myself, I knew indie publishing would allow me to write the stories I wanted to write.
How easy/hard did you find Createspace, such as formatting, setting up the file and cover work?
Kara: Createspace is a lot easier to use than I initially thought. There is a learning curve of course, and when I first started, I took a ruler to a few traditionally published books to figure out the margins and spacing. Luckily, there are tons of guides online, and on Createspace’s website, that can help you get the technical stuff down. I’m a bit of a masochist in that I use Microsoft Word to format my books. It really isn’t the most user- friendly program for the job, and for a person new to formatting their books, I would suggest they use an Adobe program instead. If you decide to use Word, just be careful that one change doesn’t make a mess of the rest of your book. There is an order of operations that has to be followed to get a good-looking product. If you’re really hesitant, I would suggest you hire a formatter. The worst part of the publishing process on Createspace, for me, was the cover. When my partner was making my covers, he would have to go back and resize it several times, but now, I have a cover artist who does a wonderful job and she has been able to get the cover size correct without any issues.
Do you use a professional Editor or do you self-edit your work? And what are your reasons for this?
Kara: I self-edit. The main reason I do this is because I can’t afford a professional editor at this point and because I feel I have enough experience editing that I can do a decent job. The downside of self-editing is it will probably never be as clean as another person editing your work. The brain has a bad habit of reading what it thinks you wrote versus what is actually on the page. When I self-edit, I try to go through my manuscript as if it belongs to someone else. When I was working on my MFA in creative writing, I did a lot of critiquing and editing other writer’s manuscripts, and I think that gives me an advantage in terms of being able to self-edit. It’s fairly easy for me to divorce myself from my work and think critically about how and if something works. What I would suggest if you do self-edit, is to find some good and thorough beta readers. Often my beta readers act as developmental editors, and that eye for detail helps tremendously when I go back to do my final edits before publication.
Did you set-up your own publishing company and how easy/hard did you find this?
Kara: I didn’t really set up a publishing company in an official sense. It really isn’t worth it for me to set up an LLC as I don’t put out more than two books a year. If you produce a high volume of literature per year, then an LLC would be worth it. Instead, I just have a company that I publish under, which is Fox Collie Publishing.
What are your views on purchasing ISBN’s? Is it worth the initial cost?
Kara: While I have ISBN numbers that I purchased through Bowker, I wouldn’t recommend most indie publishers buy them. Initially, I bought a set of ten ISBNs to use on my novels because I was afraid that I would want to change printers or online publishers and could keep my ISBNs consistent. It turns out that really isn’t the case as you need a different ISBN for Amazon than for D2D or Createspace versus Ingram. Most indie publishing venues will provide you an ISBN for free. Many major indie authors have come out recently to say buying ISBNs isn’t worth it, and I agree. They don’t add anything to your product and using the free ones provided by publishing companies won’t harm your ability to sell books.
What marketing techniques have you found work best for you personally?
Kara: One of the easiest but more expensive marketing techniques is to buy space in e-book email newsletters like Bookbub or Ereader News Today. While it’s very hard to get a Bookbub ad as an indie, ENT is generally affordable (running between $20-$40 depending on genre), and I have always had a good return on investment when I’ve used them. They require you to run your book for 99cents or free, but that can give your other books a bump because a reader may like your book and come back for the others. Readers are more likely to try a new author if the book is cheap, so it’s worth experimenting with. Running sales in general and doing email blasts or politely asking your friends to share your sale info on social media helps tremendously. You can use free sites like Canva to create appealing marketing pictures for Facebook or Instagram. Another marketing technique that probably doesn’t sell as many books but builds a relationship is to take part in Facebook launch parties for other authors. If your genres overlap, you’re more likely to share a fan base, and during the party, you usually get 30-60 minutes to interact with the readers and do giveaways. In that time, you can begin to build a rapport with those readers and entice them to read your work. When I know, I’m having a party, I tend to run my first book or short stories free, so the readers can leave the party with a “goodie bag” of stories that might entice them to read more later.
Do you think certain costs are warranted, such as professional book covers?
Kara: If you have a limited budget to spend on your upcoming book, I would suggest you invest it in a cover and an editor. The first thing a reader sees is your cover, and obviously, the more enticing your cover is, the more likely a reader is to pick it up. If your cover looks like it was slapped together on Paint, a reader will assume your entire book is slapped together. A book cover should be thought of as passive marketing. It’s eye candy, and you want someone casually scrolling through Amazon to stop on your cover and be intrigued enough to click it or even buy it. In terms of making sales or getting decent reviews, editing is incredibly important. I say this to my university students all the time: if you know your grammar isn’t strong or you aren’t a strong writer, have an editor look it over before you hand it in. The same goes for publishing. If you know you don’t have a firm grasp of grammar or punctuation, don’t publish without having an editor look it over. There is nothing that turns me off faster from a book than when I find myself editing the book as I read. This will lead to bad reviews or returns. You don’t want to anger your readers. No matter how good your story is, a poorly written book will turn off most of your readers.
Do you have a long-term business plan and if so, have you found this helpful – If not, what are your reasons for this?
Kara: For me, it’s less of a business plan and more of a publishing schedule. Right now, I’m working three jobs and writing on my off time, so it’s hard for me to make a coherent business plan. At this point, I feel that I’m juggling a lot with teaching, working, grading, writing, and trying to have a life outside all of that. I do take my publishing schedule very seriously and have set firm deadlines and timelines for publishing novels and short stories. In the future, I would like to take the business side of publishing more seriously, but for authors who work full-time (or nearly full-time) at other jobs, it’s difficult. If you would like more information about how to create business plans or long-term goals, I would highly recommend Susan Kaye Quinn’s For Love or Money or any of Johanna Penn’s numerous books on how to succeed as an indie author.
What are your main tips/advice for anyone choosing Indie?
Kara: Take yourself and the process seriously, but make sure you’re writing books you would want to read. Even if writing is more a hobby than a profession, make sure that you’re putting out the best product you can. You owe it to your readers to create a product that looks like it was put together with pride and good intentions. You can see when an author slapped something together quickly to churn out product quickly in some sort of money-making mill. It’s easy to get caught up in all the “rules.” Publishing this many months apart, stay within these conventions, don’t do this, do that. Do you; that’s my golden rule. The whole reason I got into indie publishing was to write what I wanted, and when it comes down to it, I’m writing for myself and not for others. You can write for money, but you need to figure that out before you sit down to write and change your expectations based on who you’re writing for.
How have you found the experience overall?
Kara: I really enjoy being an Indie writer. It’s difficult, especially when you see authors who are Traditionally Published who have more marketing support or companies willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for a Bookbub ad, but it’s worth it to know that at the end of the day, you are the one who is in control of your destiny and your writing. Through my three years of Indie Publishing, I have met some amazing people and have garnered a loyal fan base of readers, and on days when I wonder why I do this, they make it all worth it.
Have a great day and thank you so much for interviewing me,
Thanks so much, Kara for taking the time to answer these questions. I’ve already found many of the answers useful and intend on incorporating them into my own Indie Publishing plan. I hope readers will find this post as interesting as I have.
Below are the links to Kara’s various websites, if anyone is looking at purchasing any of her books or just wants to check her various Social Media pages: