Friday, February 28, 2014

Self-Publishing—A Viable Addition to a 21st Century Author’s Arsenal

by Edie Melson


Today I got to visit with Jessica Keller Koschnitzky, an established author who chose to go indie. She's agreed to let us in on the process and her thoughts behind her decision.

Jessica Keller holds degrees in both Communications and Biblical Studies. She is multi-published in both Young Adult Fiction and Romance. 

You can find her at www.JessicaKellerBooks.com, on Twitter@AuthorKeller, or on her Facebook author page (www.facebook.com/jessicakellerauthor). 

EM: Give us a little background on your journey to traditionally published author.

JKK: I started sending queries to magazines when I was in high school and continued doing that during college to build a writing resume. But honestly, I always knew I wanted to write fiction. A good friend nudged me to enter a story into a Jane Austen anthology call out so I did just for fun and was shocked when my story was chosen as a part of the publication. 

That small success propelled me to go to a writer’s conference. I showed my work to an agent and she told me that if that was the best I could do I should give up my dreams of writing altogether. Ouch. Instead of giving up, I dove straight into rewrites and soaked up all the writing advice I could find. Five months later I submitted my work for a writing competition solely because the agent I’d met at my first conference was the final judge. My manuscript ended up winning the entire competition and the agent offered representation (but I’d already signed with a different agent by that point). I had multiple manuscripts written and entered another in a different contest. The final judge of that contest offered a contract based on what she’d read and that became my debut novel.   

EM: What made you decide to go rogue and self-publish your latest novel?

JKK: My brand in trade is sweet, inspirational romances mainly dealing with second chances, but God kept putting ideas in my head and heart for Speculative and Fantasy Young Adult novels. And not just one idea—many—more than I have for sweet, contemporary romances. I wrote the first in a YA series, but I had a problem. My book was too “safe” for the ABA market and not “safe enough” for the CBA market. I knew then that I had to self-publish these books.

EM: Did you have any fears about self-publishing?

JKK: I pressed “publish” almost two weeks ago and I’m STILL terrified. For me, self/Indie publishing is a million times scarier than trade publishing. Why? Because when push comes to shove, it’s only little old me holding up this book promising it’s good. With my traditionally published books I have the confidence that an agent and no less than two (more often three) editors have seen and believe in the book.

Then there’s the fear that, in some people’s eyes, I’m ruining the reputation in the publishing industry that I’ve worked so hard to achieve. I wonder what other established authors think of my choice. There is still a stigma with self-publishing and if you choose that path you fight a battle against that stigma every single day.

EM: Tell us a little of the process. Did you do your own edits, your cover, your marketing?

JKK: Like I said, self-publishing has a stigma for being subpar, so I wanted to do everything I could to not be included in that generalization. Since I wanted to put out a professional product I hired a seasoned cover designer, someone who designs for publishing houses and has tons of credits to his name. Also, I had not one, but two editors comb through the manuscript not once, but twice (during the drafting process and then both a final time before publishing). Often self-published books have formatting issues that can really ruin a reader’s experience of a story. I didn’t want that to happen so I hired a professional formatter/interior designer who handled the layout for both my ebook and my print edition. 

Marketing? I’m still working on that! The great thing with self-publishing is you don’t have to do a big marketing push before a book launches because there isn’t a need to sell a ton in the first week/month like in traditional publishing. I’m not fighting for shelf space. So I can market hard tomorrow, or in a year, or never if I don’t want to—it’s really freeing. 

EM: Will you continue to publish with a traditional publisher?

JKK: Absolutely. I enjoy the traditional industry and want to remain a part of it. I’m in the midst of a three book contract with my publisher right now and have many more planned after those.

EM: I’ve already read SAVING YESTERDAY, but can you give our readers a sneak peak?

JKK: I’d love to! How about the back cover blurb and a snippet from the book?

Back cover:
Her blood holds secrets she never knew existed.
Despite the fact that she acts as a parent to her alcoholic father, Gabby Creed feels pretty normal. But her life is turned upside-down on her seventeenth birthday when a bracelet appears on her wrist and sucks her back through time.
Turns out she’s not even a little bit normal. She’s a Shifter—a protector of humans and of history itself. And she’s not alone. The other Shifters believe Gabby is special, even more special than the mysterious Michael Pace. Oh, and the Shades—seriously creepy creatures who feed off of human despair—are determined to capture her.
It’s all a lot to absorb. So Gabby’s grateful to have Michael as her Trainer—or she would be if she could get her rebellious heart under control. Then again, if the rumors about her blood are true, saving yesterday will be the least of her worries.
Snippet:

I wave my arms, yelling, “Run! Take cover! Bomb!” Hopefully some of the people will notice and be spared. To my relief, a few people scatter away.
Without breaking my run, I grab the little girl and tug her down in front of me. She screams. We tumble to the ground, and I position her against the wall. My body blocks her from the road.
I snap my eyelids shut, waiting for the explosion. I hear only the sound of my heart racing in my ears.
In my head I say good-bye to Dad.

EM: I know a lot of indie authors put out several books a year. Is that your plan?  (why or why not) And when can we expect the next book in the TIMESHIFTERS series?

JKK: Yes, the indie industry functions on a quantity model (as opposed to the scarcity model in traditional publishing) so this year I’m set to release four self-published titles. The indies who do the best are the writers who have large backlists available to the public—think of it this way, it’s easier to sell 100 of ten books than 100 of one book.

You can look for the second book in the TIMESHIFTERS series, CAPTURING TODAY to release in fall/winter before the end of this year.

EM: Any words of wisdom about an author who wanted to self-publish after being a traditional author?


JKK: Go for it, seriously, you have nothing to lose. All research shows that hybrid authors are the ones doing the best financially in this changing industry. That’s because we have the best of both worlds, an established readership from our traditionally published stuff and the ability to put out more books that a publishing house would ever be able to contract. Readers who like your work plus more books equals a good situation for everyone.


4 comments:

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Jessica, I've noticed/loved your cover and wish you all the best! There is a strong, uber-informed Christian indie community out there and I hope you're able to plug into it, if you're not already. I totally get you on that too Christian for ABA and too edgy for CBA concept. I think many authors fall into that category (crossover, in many ways), and I do feel self-publishing is a great way to get those books out there.

Tamara Leigh said...

Completely agree, Jessica. Going from traditional to indie is frightening, but for me, it's been worth the leap into the unknown. I wish you the best as you forge forward.

jesskeller said...

Thanks Heather! And yes, in the indie world having other indie/hybird friends is a must because its a lonely road without them since there isn't a place yet for indies in many of the writer's organizations and confereneces.

jesskeller said...

Thanks! It IS worth the leep - if anything, just for the freedom to not have to fit into an exactly square shapped box. Best of luck to you too!