Kara Jorgenson is the author of the Mechanical Devices Series and has obligingly answered some questions on Self-Publishing, but as this was quite an in-depth look at the process, we both decided it would be better split into two posts, so as not to overwhelm readers with too much information all in one go.
This post looks at Audio, foreign transalation, multiple platforms and generally asks those questions I’ve been dying to find out the answers to as well.
This is where it gets a bit more technical- Could you detail your experience getting an Audio version/s of your work?
Kara: To publish my audiobooks, I used ACX, which is a company owned tied to Amazon. On ACX, you can post a sample of your book and open auditions to voice actors. You can also search through clips voice actors have posted and ask them if they would like to submit a sample of your work. Once you have a voice actor, you can either pay them by the hour or you can do a royalty share with them. Royalty share is ultimately more affordable, but a lot of voice actors won’t do it because it’s a financial risk for them or they may move your project to the backburner when paying gigs come along. I’ve only used royalty sharing thus far, and it has worked out even if it comes with a few drawbacks. Eventually, your voice actor will post the files for you to review. You can send them feedback or accept the files as is. Then ACX will upload the files to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
How easy/hard did you find getting foreign translations of your work, such as changing titles etc.?
Kara: I ended up using Babelcube to find translators for my books. Thus far, it has been a very smooth process. It’s a lot like ACX in that there is a database where you can find translators and ask them if they would like to translate your work. The worst part of the process is at the end when the translator sends back their files. They aren’t always tech savvy, and sometimes I end up spending a lot of time cleaning up the manuscript on Microsoft Word to make it presentable for ebook formatting. I trust my translators, but I usually run random passages through Google Translate to check for quality control or if I have a friend who can read that language, I’ll ask them to look over the manuscript/sample. With the titles, I usually run the title through Google Translate first and then ask my translator if that title will work. Then, I send it to my cover designer and ask her to make a cover that will match that title.
Your work is available on multiple platforms – How easy/hard was this for you?
Kara: With the rise in indie publishing, the websites I’ve used, like ACX or KDP (Kindle/Amazon’s publishing site), are becoming much more user friendly. It’s quite easy to change things on Createspace or KDP, like covers or fixing typos you find post-publication. The worst part of publishing on multiple platforms is trying to track trends regarding which books are selling better or worse than others because you need to reference several different websites. When I changed the covers on my books, I realized I missed a few and had to go back and do it again. It’s a bit of a pain when there isn’t one central website, but if you make a to-do list, it’ll be infinitely easier. Forethought helps a lot as an indie author.
What have you found hardest to accomplish with the whole Indie process?
Kara: Marketing. I’m not particularly business-minded, so it’s hard for me to create a coherent business plan or not lose interest in the business side in favor of the creative side. If I could, I would love to hire a personal assistant to handle that side of my work, but that won’t be happening for quite some time, unless anyone would like an unpaid internship. When you have a bad sales month, it can be very demoralizing or when you see another indie author who is raking in the cash while your sales could get you Starbucks on a good day. It’s really easy to get jealous or feel as if you’re failing, but you need to step back and look at what you’re doing with an objective eye. Are you doing all you can? Where can you step up your game to build your reader base or market your work better?
How did you go about getting the new cover designs for your work and what made you decide to do this?
Kara: I must admit that I often have a case of cover envy. I look at book covers on Amazon and drool over how pretty they are or I make a note of how they sucked me in. Last year, I began to look at how I could sell more books. One of the easiest ways to do so was to invest in new covers that fit my genre better. My original covers were created by my partner. While he has a degree in art and is quite talented, he doesn’t know what sells books or what fits the genre conventions of my books. Around the same time, an author I really liked redid her book covers and announced who made them. I loved them and instantly investigated her cover designer. Her work was affordable, and it turned out she made the covers for other books in my genre that I really enjoyed. I emailed her and asked her if I could commission her. She sent me something comparable to an interview, and after filling it out, she sent me a draft of my cover. We bounced ideas and feedback back and forth until we had a product we both liked. It didn’t take very long, and if you are able to get a good designer who takes the time to get to know you and your work, you can have a fantastic new cover that not only looks good but also will appeal to readers of your genre.
What 3 tips would you give someone starting out in Indie Publishing to make the process easier?
Kara: My three tips would be: 1. Don’t be afraid to write for you. I think the key to writing good books is writing something you would like to read. You’re ultimately more invested in the story, and more than likely, there are other readers who will want to read your story as well. 2. Do your homework and figure out if indie publishing is what you really want to do. While it worked for me, it may not work for you, and if you think traditional publishing will make you happier or get you what you want, then you should do it. Indie publishing is a lot of work, and you have to know what you’re getting into. 3. Lists, deadlines, and forethought are you friend. One of the keys to doing well as an indie author is staying organized. You need to figure out how often you should publish, what schedule to publish, if you want to blog and when, how you want to market your work, etc. A to-do list can make life much easier and will lead to less burnout and crankiness in the long-run.
What Publishing books/advice have you found helpful?
Kara: I will always recommend Susan Kaye Quinn’s publishing books. She is a successful indie author who runs a group on Facebook called For Love or Money. She’s passionate, driven, and has a load of information that she is more than happy to share. Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David Wright also have a fantastic indie guide called Write. Publish. Repeat., which has a great how-to regarding marketing and publishing. If you’re into outlining, I would suggest K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel, which also comes as a workbook. I absolutely stink at writing blurbs (the descriptions one sees on Amazon or Goodreads), so I highly recommend Bryan Cohen’s How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis. It was incredibly helpful in cutting out the fat in my synopses and getting down to what readers want to see in order to buy your book. Johanna Penn has a lot of book on marketing, publishing, and other aspects of indie publishing, and while I haven’t read most of them, I have friends who have recommended her books to me.
Do you sell signed, paperback copies of your work?
Yes? No? And reasons for/against?
Kara: I sell limited quantities of signed paperbacks. When I publish a new book, I offer signed copies to my friends and those I know through social media. The reason I don’t offer it on my website is because I don’t like to keep too many copies of my novels in my house. I’m always afraid that I’ll run out of copies when someone orders a signed copy, and it will take a while for them to get it. This is a bit of laziness on my part, but when it comes down to it, I pick and choose what I’m willing to do and where I put my effort. The vast majority of my sales come from ebooks anyway, so it really isn’t a big deal to not offer signed copies. Plus, it’s more affordable for most readers to buy a copy off Amazon than to buy one directly from me as they can get free shipping from major retailers.
Do you think gaining a qualification in writing is more helpful or less…And why?
Kara: I have mixed feelings about whether a writer should or shouldn’t have a degree in writing. Do I think it’s necessary to have a literature or writing degree? No. Does it help? Yes. I have a B.A. in English (literature) and an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing, but I pursued those degrees because I wanted to not only write but teach writing and literature at a university level. If one does not have a degree in English or writing, I would hope that they read widely and read a lot. Reading is ultimately the best way to improve your writing. You get to see a variety of techniques and figure out what works or what doesn’t. A degree in English really exposes you to literature you probably wouldn’t have read on your own, and in turn, you end up learning from people across the world and time. I definitely do not think an MFA in creative writing is necessary to write. While I enjoyed graduate school, I came away feeling that I learned how to edit my work better, but I don’t think I was taught the techniques I really needed. Those, I ended up learning through books and blogs I found online or by reading authors I looked up to and enjoyed. As I worked toward my MFA, I often found myself getting stuck because certain professors imposed rules or values that didn’t match with mine, and the emphasis on the program certainly wasn’t on writing genre fiction. In the end, I needed to take from the program what worked for me and leave what didn’t behind rather than trying to please all parties. A fundamental knowledge of literature and writing can easily be gained through reading widely and perhaps meeting with a workshop group or writing group.
And finally…Did you self-publish because you wanted to write a story/stories you really wanted to read?
Kara: That is the exact reason I started self-publishing. What I feared most about traditional publishing was having my stories changed by editors or sanitized to focus on straight, white, able-bodied characters rather than the diverse cast I envisioned. I’m probably a bit selfish and self-centered in that I write for me first and my readers second, but I think you have to be or your writing mojo slowly gets eroded and the process becomes less inspired and fun. When I think of my stories, I tend to think the ideas are weird or not exactly the norm, but self-publishing affords me the ability to write something that isn’t “marketable” in terms of what a large traditional publisher puts out. I worry more about how my stories will come together rather than how much money I’ll make off of them, and for me, that works.
My thanks goes to Kara for accepting my request to do these blogs. I hope other readers will find them as useful as I have.
I’ve once more added the links for Kara’s various Social Media sites, in case anyone else wants to find out more or possibly begin their own adventures within the Mechanical Devices Series!