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, on Twitter@AuthorKeller, or on her Facebook author page ( 
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
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.
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

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

It Came From Under The Stall: How Not To Impress Editors, Agents and Other Writing Professionals

by Thomas Smith

Gather ‘round children, I’m going to tell you a little story.

Once upon a time there was a very nice agent. She devoted a good bit of her time to attending conferences in order to help fledgling writers and scout potential new talent. After one particularly long day of teaching workshops, sitting on panels, taking fifteen-minute appointments and generally “doing the agent thing,” nature called. As she settled in for the first private moment she’d had to herself all day, she heard a voice from the next stall.

“I sure am glad I finally found you. Your appointment list was full, and I’ve got this novel I want you to take a look at.” Not two seconds later, a large manila envelope came skidding across the tile and came to rest on her brand new Franco Sarto slingback.

Sad but True

This tale would be hilarious if it wasn’t true. Unfortunately, there are agents reading this column right now shaking their heads and reliving a similar moment from their own past. And while such a “marketing ploy” is sure to make an impression, it’s probably not the impression you are hoping for.
It’s not uncommon for writers to make the leap from friendly conference attendee to goggle-eyed lunatic at the mention of the words agent or acquisitions editor. From outlandish claims about their writing projects (“This will be the next Left Behind”) to downright bribery (Yes, there have been $5, $10, and $20 bills clipped to query letters … and no, they weren’t mine), there is something about an encounter with an editor or agent that brings the oddball gene out of its dormant state in even the most level headed people.
Equally frightening are the writers who run headlong into reality and don’t know how to deal with it. These are the folks who meet an editor or agent for the first time and expect a line edit and an in-depth discussion about the manuscript they brought with them or they come in with a piece of uncommonly bad writing and find out (though generally in a kind way) that their masterpiece may need a little more work. Such an encounter has been known to make said writer a little cranky. Sometimes cranky enough to tell the offending writing professional exactly what they can do with their red pen. 
And while such an attitude certainly makes a lasting impression, it is probably not the one you want to make. Publishing is a small universe, and if you tick off an editor at one publishing house, and he/she moves to another house, you now have a bad reputation at TWO houses.
God Told Me…
Also, be warned: A one-on-one meeting is not the only way to breach the boundaries of good agent/editor etiquette. A less than well-placed query letter or proposal can do the same thing. Take for example a classic letter that opens something like this:
“Dear editor, God told me to write this story and He also said I should send it to you and you should publish it…” OK, with a show of hands, how many of you out there have a similar letter in your files? Um-hum, I thought so.

There is a response to this letter floating around out there, and I imagine there are many people who wish they had used it. The editor, having seen the story from God letter one too many times, evidentially said:

“Dear Writer: While I thank you for thinking of our publishing company we will not be able to use your story. Since God wrote the best selling book of all time, I can only assume He can spell better than what was evident in you manuscript…”

Now let’s have a show of hands from those of you who have ever written such a letter. (Wait, you there in the green socks … get that hand up). Not many, but a few.

The Road to Professionalism
So … how does the average writer
get in an editor or agent’s good graces? It’s not as difficult as you may

First, be respectful. Remember the magic words, please and thank you. And don’t forget the advice given by every card-carrying mother on the planet: mind your manners.

Don’t call editors and agents by their first name unless invited to do so. For example, “Mr. Laube, may I speak with you for a minute or two about the project I’m working on?” will probably make a more favorable impression than, “Hey Stevie-Boy, hang on a minute and take a look at this proposal while I go get some lunch.” 

Here’s another tip: Don’t carry a full book-length manuscript with you to your meeting. Most
agents and editors don’t want to have to carry a stack of manuscripts with them
on the plane. If they are interested in your project, they ask you to mail or
e-mail the manuscript to them.A proposal and first three chapters is sufficient.

In short, act like a professional, even if you aren’t one … yet.

When communicating via mail or e-mail, keep the letterhead simple, professional, and as error-free as possible. No garish colors of fancy fonts.

When dealing with these nice folks in person, bring a clean, well-edited manuscript, proposal, one-sheet, or whatever is requested. Make sure it is formatted properly and meets their criteria (number of pages, etc.).

Think about what you want to say even before you arrive at the conference, or before you write that query letter. Have a clear image of the heart of your story in mind before you actually make the pitch. Then practice your pitch. A lot. Doing otherwise could very well scuttle your project in a matter of seconds. A seasoned editor or agent will know in less than a minute how much thought you have put into your idea.

When dealing with writing professionals, having a polite, professional bearing can carry you a long way. Accept criticism graciously, and always thank the other person for her/his time.If an agent or editor sees the potential in you and your work (you are, after all, a package deal), they will work with you to make the project the best it can be, and to help you become the best writer you can be.

You see, bad writing can be fixed, but a bad first impression is much harder to overcome.

NR: To be entered in a drawing for a copy of SOMETHING STIRS, leave a comment. U.S. residents only, please. The winner will be announced on Novel Rocket’s Facebook page tomorrow. Be sure to like us there!

Thomas Smith is an award winning writer, newspaper reporter, TV news producer, playwright and essayist. His supernatural suspense novel, Something Stirs, is available at a bookstore near you. In addition to writing he enjoys teaching classes for beginning writers at conferences and local writers’ groups. He has been a joke writer for Joan Rivers and his comedy material has been performed on The Tonight Show. Currently in his fifth decade of service, he is considerably younger than most people his age. Find Thomas onTwitter and Facebook

Steven James ~ The Three Princes of Serendip

by Yvonne Lehman

James is the bestselling author of nine novels that have received wide critical
acclaim from Publishers Weekly, New York Journal of Books, RT Book Reviews,
Booklist, Library Journal and many others. He has won three Christy Awards for
best suspense and was a finalist for an International Thriller Award for best
original paperback. His psychological thriller The Bishop was named
Suspense Magazine’s book of the year. Publishers Weekly calls James “[A]
master storyteller at the peak of his game.” He is an active member of
International Thriller Writers, the Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America,
and International Association of Crime Writers. He is also a contributing
editor for Writer’s Digest. He has a master’s degree in storytelling and has
taught writing and creative communication around the world. When he’s not
writing or speaking, you’ll find him trail running, rock climbing, or drinking
a dark roast coffee near his home in eastern Tennessee.
Three Princes of Serendip
the last seventeen years as a professional writer I’ve thought a lot about creativity. Here are two things I try to
keep in mind that help me generate new ideas. 
Change Your Perspective
A few
years ago while visiting a hotel in Denver, I noticed “EXIT” signs not only
above the exit doors, but also at their base. “How odd!” I thought. “Only
someone crawling on the floor would need a sign down there!”
placed those signs down low had looked at the doors through the eyes of someone
crawling for safety during a fire. 
isn’t “seeing what no one else sees;” it’s “seeing what anyone else would see—if
only they were looking.” New ideas are born when we view life from a fresh
perspective or peer at the world through another set of eyes.
ideas alive by working backwards and sideways, by peering over your shoulder
rather than always staring straight ahead. Remember, you don’t dance in a
straight line.
into the shoes of your main character and write a journal entry, a complaint
letter, or a love note. Switch your point of view. Write a few paragraphs in
first person or third person. Think of how you would respond if you were in the
story. Walk through the action, stand on your desk, crawl on the floor. And
keep your eyes open for the doors no one else has noticed.
Let Serendipity Happen
Horace Walpole’s 18th century Persian fairy tale The Three
Princes of Serendip
, the heroes discover new things again and again
while looking for something else. From this we get the word “serendipity” which
Walpole defined as “the facility of making happy chance discoveries.”
pivots upon the hinge of serendipitous discoveries—the detective recalls the
victim’s clogged drain while combing her hair, the lawyer realizes the
significance of the cell phone when he knocks his off his desk, the spy
remembers the secret gadget hidden in his wristwatch. At the time, they weren’t
searching for a solution, but they found one. After they’ve tried everything
they can think of, the answer comes riding in on the wings of serendipity.
you’re stalled out, sapped of fresh ideas, you just might be trying too hard.
You can’t make happy chance discoveries until you step away, take a break,
experience life, and stop worrying about your writing. Relax. Worrying about problems
is like looking at bacteria through a microscope—it doesn’t help them go away,
it only makes them look bigger. And the longer you stare, the more imposing
they appear. 
work smarter, not harder. Break your routine. Go to a movie. Sip a cup of sweet
tea on the porch. Abstain from octopus. Try working in a different place or at
a different time. Change the furniture around in your office. Lift weights.
Vary your schedule. Get up in the middle of the night. Place yourself in
situations where you’re not at ease—risking and responding to new challenges
forces you to think creatively and opens the door for serendipity.
something completely different and let those parts of your brain you’re not
even aware of chew on the problem for awhile. 
Let serendipity
work for you.
When his friend is murdered, illusionist Jevin Banks is
determined to find out what really happened. Drawn into a web of conspiracy and
top-secret research on human consciousness, Jevin won’t stop digging until the
truth is revealed. Soon he uncovers a dark secret–one that could change the
very fabric of human life on the planet.

Bristling with mystery, suspense, and intrigue, Singularity
is the second riveting book in The Jevin Banks Experience. Readers will devour
this scientific thriller, flipping pages late into the night until the final
shocking page.

Does Your Shirt Have Buttons?

by Alton Gansky

You probably don’t have to check your closet before you answer the question above. Buttons (and here I mean those little round things on our clothing, not those little round or square things on electronic devices) have been around for a very long time. The oldest buttons were found in Pakistan and are 5000 years old. At first, buttons were ornamental, then became functional.
The zipper is a young pup by comparison. Elias Howe (he who invented the sewing machine) received a patent for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure” in 1851 but did very little with it. Whitcomb Judson (inventor of the Pneumatic Street Railway) received a similar patent in 1893 for his “Clasp Locker.”
Good as the zipper is, it did not drive the button into extinction. Buttons are still doing their work with efficiency and style. Here in the second decade of the twenty-first century we continue use a 5000 year old technology.
Often we hear how much the world has changed, and that is true. We are reminded that everything changes. Also true. Before I became a writer I used to teach church leaders how to make the most of change. My presentation was called, “Change Without Conflict,” by which I meant “Change With Minimal Pain” since change is usually resisted. “Change is the only thing certain in life,” I used to say. The only systems that don’t change are dead systems.
We who walk the twisting halls of publishing know that our industry is changing and is doing so at a rate faster than anyone could have predicted. The rapid onset caught publisher and author by surprise. The first wave of change brought fascination, the second wave buried us all in confusion and, in some cases, fear. Most of us are in the middle of a fast moving current carrying us downstream, which is fine if downstream is the proper direction. Perhaps the most astonishing realization is that our publishers are dog-paddling in the same fast flowing river. This is disconcerting to those of us who have longed believed that publishers knew everything about the business. To see them flailing in the waters of change with us is unsettling.
When it comes to change, humans will either see pending gloom, the end of all things we know to be true and valuable, or see a much a needed revolution. Forced change is always resisted, and the new paradigm of publishing is nothing if not a forced change. People embrace change for one of three reasons. First, we change when it hurts too much to stay the same. Heart attacks and lung cancer have caused many people to give up smoking.
Second, people will change when forced to. Most people obey speed limit laws because they must, not because they think it is wise. We pay income tax because we have to, not because we know our country needs our dollars.
Third, people change when they have enough information to do so. This brings lasting change and comes with the least amount of friction.
The advent of e-books, e-magazines, royalty-based self-publishing, and other technological empowerments should not have been a surprise, yet it was. To some, it’s still surprising. At times I encounter those in the industry that think the new publishing paradigm is a fad doomed to pass the way tie-dye shirts did. One can’t help but wonder if the fifteenth century scribes of Johannes Gutenberg  (1395-1468) thought the same thing about the printing press. Gutenberg, a jeweler, changed everything. TIME magazine named him “Man of the Millennium” and rightly so. More books were published in the first fifty years after Gutenberg’s invention than the previous 1000 years. (Read that sentence again.) The difference in production is staggering.
Authors and legacy publishers stand on the same shore as the scribes of Gutenberg’s day. There is no going back. The change isn’t coming, it’s already here, landing with the same impact as the 1908 Tunguska comet that leveled  80 million trees in 830 square miles. 
What’s Your Business?
Yet, the more things change, the more important essentials become. Electronic books will not replace physical ones anytime soon, any more than television spelled the end of the movie industry, which continues to draw in money by the barrel. By the same token, television didn’t disappear either. E-books and e-magazines are as permanent as a tattoo.
Perhaps part of the problem has to do with how we define ourselves. Mary Parker Follet (1868-1933) was a social worker and business consultant, probably the first female management advisor. While consulting with the executives of a company that made lampshades she asked, “What business are you in?” They went with the “duh” answer: “Um, we make lampshades.” Ms. Follet corrected them. “No, you’re in the light control business.” A few beats later one of the execs said, “You mean we can make window shades too?” It change the company. The railroad industry almost committed suicide by insisting they were in the railroad business when they were really in transportation, meaning they could move cargo over roads if they wanted to do so.
When I’m asked what I do, I say I’m a writer. When I’m asked what my business is, I say, “I’m in the communication business,” meaning I can write, edit, podcast, and anything else that has to do with sharing ideas. The task before writers and publishers is to revisit the definition of their business. Is a publisher a company that prints books? Or is it a company that makes ideas available? Are authors people who write books and articles or are they people who go beyond writing on paper and write on minds and souls?
Flex a Little
I spent a decade in architecture, drawing plans for everything from room editions to condo complexes and midsize office buildings. I learned something from the structural engineers I worked with: “Rigid things break; flexible things survive.” A rigid building will fall long before one that can sway in an earthquake. Writers and publishers are at that point where they decide if they’re going to be rigid or flexible. The decision will change their future and the future of publishing.

Alton Gansky is a full time writer, director of BRMCWC, founder of Gansky.Communications and host of Writer’s Talk. He is the award winning author of over 40 books. Prior to turning to full time writing, he was the senior pastor to three Southern Baptist churches. In addition to his writing, he speaks to writers groups and church organizations.