Interview with Heather Day Gilbert, Author of the Indie Publishing Handbook

(~from Heather Day Gilbert) This is an unusual post, because it’s actually my last post
for Novel Rocket as a member of Ground Control. I’ve LOVED my year at Novel Rocket,
interviewing people and sharing indie information with readers. But as my own
indie career lifted off (a little rocket humor there), I realized I had to pull
back on blogging and focus on writing/publishing books.
Friend and follow indie author Ron Estrada agreed to ask me
some final indie-oriented questions for this interview. I appreciate his
willingness to do so and will share that with you below.
Here’s a little bio on who I am so you can find me on the
web, post-Novel Rocket. 🙂
Author Heather Day Gilbert
HEATHER DAY GILBERT has independently published four books.
Her debut novel, God’s
Daughter
, has
remained on the Amazon Norse Bestseller list and Amazon Norse Top-Ranked list
for over one year. Her contemporary mystery, Miranda
Warning
, is the
successful start to the Murder in the Mountains series. Her Indie
Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher
shares focused advice on four key steps in
the indie publication process. You can find Heather at her website, heatherdaygilbert.com. She is also active on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher on Amazon

About Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher

Are you dreaming of your own career as an independent author and self-publisher? 


This concise handbook covers the four key elements every self-publisher must oversee for successful book publication: (1) editing, (2) creating cover art and blurbs, (3) formatting and uploading books, and (4) marketing. Focused advice will help you maneuver these key elements, whether you outsource or learn to master them yourself. 

You’ll also find a bonus section with practical tips from seasoned independent authors. 

Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher is your one-stop for basics on everything you need to get started and excel as an independent publisher.

Indie Publishing Interview with 
Author Heather
Day Gilbert

by: Ron Estrada


RE: What should an unpublished author
consider before going indie?

HG: Great question. I would say costs
could be a factor, but then again, it is possible to indie publish at a
relatively low cost if you can do things yourself or exchange services. My
debut novel was produced for…I would say under $200. Maybe more like $100.
But I was blessed with a brother who designed my cover and agent edits. Not to
mention a crit partner who helped me upload and showed me how to format.

My debut novel, God’s Daughter

But the primary
thing to consider is the time commitment. You need time to make sure your edits
are in place; time to land on the perfect cover; time to upload your books and
check proof copies of softcovers; and MOST of all, you need to have time to
market.
Yes, you can
streamline the process for sure. But for that debut novel, you want to take
time to nail all the four key elements covered in my Indie Publishing Handbook (editing; cover art/blurb;
formatting/uploading; and marketing) as best you can right out of the gate.
RE:  I always
hear “You have to write a series!” But I prefer to write stand-alone books.
Will I have trouble being successful as an indie?
HG: You know, just a couple of months
ago, I would’ve said yes, series are the only way to go. It’s true, series can
boost sales, especially if you have several books to release in a short period
of time. It’s also true going permafree
(permanently free, as Traci Hilton talked about in this excellent Novel Rocket post) with your first in series can
drive sales to the rest in the series.
BUT. Lately I’ve seen fellow indies
find success with standalone books. Sally Bradley’s Kept, for example. What
happens with a standalone is that you don’t limit yourself to one genre, and you’re not releasing only the first in series, which leaves readers hanging on the line waiting
for the next. I should know–I’ve done that twice! I have two starts to vastly different
series out (Viking historical and Contemporary Appalachian mystery). I have
readers waiting for the next books in both, and I probably ticked some off when
I announced I was following up on the mystery series this year and putting off
the Viking sequel until 2016-ish. 😉
So short answer long, I would
recommend doing a series if you have at least two books ready to roll in pretty
short order. However, even if you don’t have two books in the series, sometimes it’s just about stepping into the pool and getting your feet wet. Any book out (whether the start to a series or standalone) is a book in your repertoire, able to garner readers, so just make sure it’s a humdinger! 
RE: Where and how should I market my self-published books? The
options are overwhelming and I have so little time.
HG: Oh, dude, I hear that. I’m telling
you, I’ve been marketing my books non-stop for over a year now. I watch the
sales and when the numbers dip, I (obsessively) start casting around for a new
marketing angle, be it a new review site, taking out an ad, running a special
or giveaway, etc. It’s exhausting and I’m officially pulling back on that
draining “technique.”
I really think it’s different for
every book, every genre. (Click to Tweet!)
 For me, I was blessed by going with a Christian review site (The Book Club Network).
Although there was expense involved, such as sending out softcovers, it was
well worth it to latch onto new and enthusiastic readers.
One of my other most successful
techniques was ye olde going free on
Amazon
. Many say it’s becoming passe, because people already have too many
free books loaded on their e-readers. However, if you advertise at free book
sites such as ENT (E-Reader
News Today
), you can find many new readers and
simultaneously garner a number of reviews.
However, you run the risk of getting
low reviews from readers who load random e-books without reading blurbs or
sample chapters. It was a risk I was willing to take, but now that I’m about
three books into the process, I’ve decided freebies aren’t going to be part of
my marketing arsenal so often (though I’m not eliminating the possibility of permafree with a first in series). But for the debut author, freebies and
giveaways (such as softcover giveaways on Goodreads or on a blog tour) can be
invaluable and build your readership quickly. 
One final strategy: as much as possible, be everywhere. I know that’s literally impossible, but when you share pinnables and quotes from your book, when you tweet about your book, when you do an extensive blog tour, you’d be surprised that people often find you instead of you having to go out and find them. This is how I was contacted by a Canadian museum and also by a park in Colorado. Indies can reach all over the world with our books, which is so amazing to me.
So, bottom line: it’s a hit and miss
process. I would just recommend not spending big bucks right off the bat, as
you’re building your initial pile of royalties from that debut novel. Then for
your second book, you’ll have more income to play with. Of course, this is
assuming you’re as strapped for cash as I tend to be. LOL.
RE: Should I self-publish print books as well? 
HG: I really think it depends on the
intent of your book and the reader demographic. For example, with my fiction,
I’d be a fool not to get softcovers, because I do book signings and they demand
it. Also, my local readers tend to read softcovers. Finally, my readers are
ready to purchase softcovers the minute I announce the book has released (I
love this! But I was unprepared for it with my debut. It took me a few weeks to
get my first softcover loaded/proofed and some of the buzz had dropped off by then).
However, for my Indie Publishing Handbook, I decided to go e-book only for launch.
This is because I assumed authors considering indie publishing would have to
have to know how to navigate e-readers anyway! LOL.
But on the other hand, if I ever take
my Indie Publishing Handbook to a writer’s
conference, I might try to get a softcover version up for distribution. That’s
what I mean by discerning the intent of your book.
RE: How do I design a cover?
HG: Cover art is definitely so important.
I talked in my Indie Publishing Handbook a
bit about opportunities that came my way based on cover art alone. For your
debut, I’m convinced you want to produce the strongest cover you can afford.
I know some indie authors who design
their own covers and they are amazing. Authors like Jan Thompson (Jane Austen Upside Down); Krista Phillips (A Side of Faith); Becky Doughty (Elderberry Croft); and Joanne Bischof (This Quiet Sky), just to name a few. These authors have what I call “the
eye.” It’s a gift for putting together a visually pleasing cover that will
sell.
I, however, don’t possess this
talent. So outsourcing covers is a must for me. This can vary in cost, from
$200-$1000 or even more.
When you work with a cover artist, I
think it helps to have your book completed, so you can identify running themes,
key characters, etc. A good cover artist can ask questions, send you appealing
comps, then design a cover that fits the mood of your book and places it
recognizably in its given genre.
Personally, I want a cover that would stop ME in my tracks, because I write what I
want to read
. (Click to Tweet!) And yet it’s always great to get outside input on your cover,
whether it’s from your crit partner, your Facebook followers, or an objective
group.
However, keep in mind, indie authors
can change covers if they feel their cover isn’t working for some reason or
another. For instance, I recently re-did this original Miranda Warning cover:
Original Miranda Warning cover
I had detailed in this Novel Rocket post how my brother and I developed the first
cover, above. But because it was the first in series with the same main
character throughout, it was going to be difficult to replicate covers with the
same model. I needed to go in a different direction, and my brother didn’t have
time to do a re-do. So I hired a cover designer to come up with a more
nature-oriented cover template for the entire Murder in the Mountains series.
This was the finished cover, and I’m very happy with the flexibility it gives us for future covers in the series:
Final Miranda Warning cover, now on Amazon 
Thank you for the questions, Ron! I
just want to say another huge thanks to the Novel Rocket crew for letting me
jump on board for a year. I’ve followed this site since I started writing and I
will continue following it for relevant info on all kinds of writerly subjects.
A special thanks to Gina Holmes and Ane Mulligan for helping me any time I
needed advice on a post!
***Finally, comment below by January 22 to be entered to win a free Kindle copy of the Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher! (Click to Tweet!Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win!***
All the best to you Novel Rocketeers!
Rockettes? Rock on! 🙂
–Heather
Ron Estrada has multiple published magazine articles, including a regular column in the bi-monthly Women2Women Michigan. He also freelances as a technical writer, specializing in white papers for manufacturing and consumer products. He writes spec fiction, hovering somewhere between post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction (he prefers the term pre-Last Days), but has also dabbled in Mystery and Suspense. He will be releasing his first YA novel, Now I Knew You, in February 2015. His real-writer’s blog can be found at RonEstradaBooks.com.  You can e-mail him at rmestrada@ameritech.net or catch him (at pretty much any time) on Facebook. Twitter handle is @RonEstrada. CB handle is God’s Gift. 
                                                                                                                                           

Indie Author and Audiobook Narrator, Becky Doughty, & a Christmas E-Book Giveaway!

This interviewee is so close to my heart! Becky Doughty is not only my critique
partner, but my friend, my supporter, my sounding-board…and one of the few
who encouraged me that I COULD go indie and succeed. I thank God upon every
remembrance of her!
Today I wanted to chat with Becky, whose readers haven’t
ceased begging for more books with her Elderberry
Croft
protagonist, Willow Goodhope. Accordingly, Becky just released a
holiday sequel, Elderberry
Days: A Season of Joy
.
Honestly, Becky is quite simply one of the most productive
authors I know and a true Renaissance Woman. Not only does she have nine indie
novels and novellas out, she has also narrated nineteen audiobooks through
Audible (one of those is my God’s
Daughter
). You can find her books here and BraveHeart audiobook samples
here. ~Heather Day Gilbert
Becky Doughty, Author
Becky Doughty is
the author of the best-selling
Elderberry
Croft series and the voice behind BraveHeart Audiobooks. 

Becky is married to her champion of more than 25 years,
Kevin. They have three children, two of whom are grown and starting families of
their own, and they all live within a few miles of each other in Southern
California.
Author Website: BeckyDoughty.com
BraveHeart Audiobooks Website: BraveheartAudiobooks.com
Email:
becky(at)beckydoughty(dot)com
Twitter: @BeckySDoughty
Google Plus: +BeckyDoughty
Pinterest: BeckySDoughty

Interview with Becky
Doughty, 

Indie Author & Audiobook Narrator



HG: Welcome, my
friend! Let’s go back in time…say, two years ago. What did your writing
career look like then? What led you to go indie?
BD: Heather, thank
you so much for inviting me here today! And thank you, Novel Rocket readers,
for having me!
Actually, my indie journey began about 4 years ago, although
I didn’t quite realize that’s what I was doing! Like so many authors I know,
I’ve been writing stories, primarily for fun (and therapy!) since I was old
enough to string sentences together. I’ve often considered “getting serious” about
my writing, but put marriage and family and my day jobs first…so my writing
was just a hobby, just “for me” projects. 
Well, one of the fun projects I took
on was writing a series of Bible study stories for our church’s women’s monthly
brunch. The series was well received, and the women requested I compile them
into a collection so they could have a copy, and gift copies to friends and
family. So I did a little research into the most efficient and cost-effective
means to printing this collection, and discovered it was cheaper for me to
publish it using a “print-on-demand” system than it would be for me to have a
local print shop do them for me…and I wouldn’t have to stock the books
either! 
So I learned how to format, how to create a cover with the help of a
friend who was proficient at PhotoShop, and how to set up my own publishing
house (BraveHearts Press), and distributed the book, Life
Letters: The Fruit of the Spirit
,
to the major online booksellers. It
truly was the simplest way to create the product this group of women asked for.
I had no real intention of doing more indie publishing, nor did I consider this
a major milestone in my career.
However, the positive response I received to my writing
encouraged me to pick up my pen more seriously, so over the next 18 months, I
wrote like a maniac and landed a wonderful agent with my fiction. It was during
this time that I met Heather, too!
As my books were being shopped around, I started paying close attention to what was going on in the
indie publishing world. I decided to proactively pursue BOTH indie publishing
and traditional publishing, and in January of 2013, I began self-publishing a
serial novel, Elderberry Croft, first through my website in monthly
episodes, then in volumes at the major online booksellers. I then compiled Elderberry
Croft: The Complete Collection
and published that in January 2014. Over
the last two years, the response to Elderberry Croft has grown in leaps
and bounds, and because of its success, I opted to indie publish some of my
other fiction. As a result of that decision, my agent and I parted ways
amicably, but I still consider traditional publishing as a viable option for me
and hope to pursue that again in the near future.
HG: Why did you
choose to publish your novel, Elderberry Croft,
as a serial novel on your blog? How
did you go about that? And what was the response to it?
BD: I started writing Elderberry Croft, a serial novel in
monthly episodes, as a way to give readers a taste of my story voice. I posted
it for free on my website the whole year of 2013, then pulled it in 2014 and
published the series as a complete collection. The series is by far my best
seller, and I think much of that is due to the steady production, the fact that
I wasn’t initially looking at this
project as a book to SELL, but as a book on which to build a readership
, (Click to Tweet!) and therefore, I basically gave it away for a full year. Volume 1, the first 3
episodes of the series, is still FREE. This has been a long term investment
project, and I’m beginning to see long term results.
Elderberry Croft: The Complete Collection on Amazon
The response has been very positive and many have asked for
more, so last month I published a holiday sequel novella, Elderberry Days:Season of Joy!
Elderberry Days: Season of Joy on Amazon
***And to say “Thank you” and “Merry Christmas” from me to
you, I’m giving away digital copies of both Elderberry Croft: The Complete
Collection
and Elderberry Days: Season of Joy to ALL WHO COMMENT
HERE from now until December 25th! (Click to Tweet!)
Please be sure to leave your email address and the format you prefer: pdf, mobi for Kindle, or epub.***
HG: Our critique
process is crucial for me and I don’t feel comfortable publishing a book
without your input. You tell me when a story is unworkable and heading the
wrong way, when I misspell words I was sure
I knew how to spell, or when characters aren’t coming across the right way.
What do you think is the key thing to look for in a critique partner? I would
recommend someone whose writing you respect; someone
whose judgment you trust; and someone who brings elements to the table that
balance your writing style.

BD: Oh goodness. I
always know I can count on you, Heather. Having a critique partner, someone you
can trust to read your story without trying to make it sound like their voice
is paramount to producing a quality product. And that IS what we’re doing.
We’re not just writing stories. As indie
publishers, we’re producing a product in its entirety
We want the story to
be sound and relevant, the cover to be professional, the editing to be quality,
the presentation as a whole to be stellar. This is not about comparing indie to
traditional, but about creating the best product possible, period. A critique
partner must be of the same mindset. I don’t want someone who will let things
slide because we’re buds. I want someone who will hold me to the highest
standard BECAUSE we’re buds and because she wants the best for me, just as I
want the best for her. That’s why I feel so confident in this partnership,
Heather.
HG: Thank you and
I feel the same way! You have several novels out:
Elderberry Croft; Elderberry Days: Season of Joy; Waters Fall; and Juliette
and the Monday ManDates. I believe next on your publication agenda is Renata and the Fall from Grace (you know
I’m anxiously waiting to read that one!). Can you tell us a little about the
four sisters in
The Gustafson Girls series
and Renata in particular?

BD: Absolutely! The
Gustafson Girls
is a series about 4 sisters whose parents were killed
fifteen years earlier by a drunk driver. Although raised by loving
grandparents, it’s the G-FOURce—the Gustafson Four Sisters Club—that binds them
together when their differences would tear them apart. All grown up now,
Juliette has become the quintessential doormat, Renata, the self-appointed
matriarchal figure. Phoebe is, at least according to Renata, borderline
narcissistic, and Gia is on the verge of a major identity crisis.

Then there’s Angela Clinton, the senior class darling who drove her cherry
black 1970 el Camino into the side of their parents’ car on the night of
Juliette’s high school graduation. Angela’s prison sentence is winding down;
soon she’ll be eligible for parole and moving back to town. Will the G-FOURce
be strong enough to hold them together as they step into the eye of the storm
that’s been brewing for the last fifteen years? Will they finally be able to
let go of the past and embrace the future, no matter what it holds?

Cover Art for the Gustafson Girls Series
Juliette’s story is already available on Amazon (Juliette
and the Monday ManDates
), and will go to other online booksellers the
first of the year. Renata is the second sister, and the only one who is
married. She feels responsible for “keeping the other girls in line,” much to
everyone else’s chagrin. But Renata’s own life is about to spin out of her
tight-fisted control and no amount of careful planning, pride, or will power is
going to save her. Her faith in God, the bonds of her marriage, her role in the
G-FOURce, even her black and white ideas of right and wrong, will all be
tested.
Renata and the Fall from Grace is scheduled for
release in early Spring, around the first of February. Books 3 and 4, Phoebe
and the Rock of Ages
and Gia the Blast from the Past, will  also be released later in 2015.
HG: How did you
decide to go into audiobook narration? How laborious of a process was it to get
everything set up for that?

Becky in her audiobook studio
BD: This was
actually a huge part of my decision to venture fully into indie publishing last
year. I realized that if I was going to be a full time author/publisher, I’d
need to diversify and find other income streams within the industry. 
As much as
I enjoy editing, after a really difficult experience, I realized it was not a
service I could comfortably offer. Although I enjoy
creating my own covers, I knew I didn’t have the patience or know-how or
programs to do them for others. I’m not a consistent blogger, so turning my
blog into a source of income stream wasn’t a good fit, either. 
But I’ve spent
my whole life reading stories out loud – to my siblings, to the kids on the
school bus (usually my own serial novels before I knew they were called that!
I’d write a new chapter each night and read it on the way to school the next
day), then to my children, and hopefully, one day soon, to my grandchildren.
I’m also quite comfortable behind a microphone, being a member of a very
musical family (we have a family band, aptly named “The Rowdy Doughtys), and we
already had much of the equipment I’d need to narrate from my home.
So my husband and I converted a closet in my office into a
sound booth, purchased a few pieces of equipment and software as we could
afford it, and now, almost a year later, I just completed my 19th
audiobook. I’ve had some wonderfully patient authors who have ridden the
learning curve with me, and I’m really beginning to find my groove with the
audiobooks. It’s a fairly simple thing to get into, but it requires a lot of
work to make the business successful, and a willingness to constantly look for
ways to produce better sound, better working relationships, better standards,
better voices, better interpretations.
I’m also learning to be selective about
material I narrate, not just based on content rating (I’ve labeled myself as a
“Clean Reads” narrator, something that is remarkably subjective in this
industry), but also based on the story itself, whether or not it’s something I
enjoy reading personally. My husband works alongside me in this business, and
he can tell when my heart isn’t in a project. He’s a good filter for me.
As the proverbial shoemaker whose children go barefoot, I
have yet to narrate one of my own books, but that’s a project I’m looking
forward to at the beginning of the year, starting with Elderberry Croft
and Elderberry Days.
Thank you, again, Heather, and all the Novel Rocket gang, for
having me here today. I’ve learned so much from what others share on this
website. Don’t forget! I’m gifting e-book copies of Elderberry Croft and
Elderberry Days to all who comment here from now until December 25th! Be sure and leave your email address and the format you prefer: pdf, mobi for Kindle, or epub. Merry Christmas, friends!

HG: Thank you so
much, Becky, and your giveaway just shows your heart of giving to others. Thank
you for all the time and encouragement you’ve given to me! And be sure to comment with your email to receive your e-book copies of Becky’s books!

The Small Press Option: Interview with Christina Tarabochia, Co-Founder of Ashberry Lane Press

I’m in a Christian Indie group with Christina Tarabochia, Co-Founder of Ashberry Lane Press, and I knew she’d be the perfect person to explain how small presses help their authors. These days, as many authors investigate options outside traditional publishing, small publishers are a very competitive option and bring unique benefits.


This interview was so informative and I hope you take time to ask Christina any questions below in the comments! ~Heather Day Gilbert


Christina Tarabochia and her mother, Sherrie Ashcraft, 
Co-Founders of Ashberry Lane Press

~Interview with Christina Tarabochia~
HG: Christina, tell me a little about how you decided to
start your small press, Ashberry Lane. Also, what is the significance of that
name?

CT: My debut novel, The
Familiar Stranger
, came out in 2009 from Moody Publishing under my
then-name of Christina Berry. (The book took 2nd places in the 2008
Genesis.) I had one of the top agents in the business. I was up for a Christy
and won the first Contemporary Carol Award in 2010. I had put in my years and
years of learning, networking, pitching, honing and my career was going to skyrocket! Yeah!
But it didn’t.
Instead I spent a couple more years writing proposals,
getting rejections with specific reasons that had nothing to do with my actual
writing, and spinning my wheels. Meantime, I saw the indie movement growing and wanted to jump in right away. For better
or worse, I didn’t actually take the plunge until 2013 when my mother, Sherrie
Ashcraft, and I left our agent and started our press, Ashberry Lane—a combo of
Ashcraft and Berry. (But doesn’t it sound like a nostalgic little road with sweet
peas growing along the edges of a path that leads to a cozy cottage?) 

Ashberry Lane

We
planned to release our own book, On the
Threshold
, that we’d been working on for FOURTEEN years and then keep
writing more together as I finished up all the others I’d started over the
years.

On the Threshold, Winner of the Oregon Cascade Award
Click to Find on Amazon

We released On the
Threshold
in May of 2013. Within a few weeks, Dianne Price contacted us.
She was dying of a slow-moving cancer and would we be interested in publishing
her six-book WWII series? We quickly worked up a legally solid contract and
signed her with our house. Unfortunately, she passed away one week before Broken Wings released. 

Click to find Broken Wings on Amazon

Next, Bonnie Leon
approached us about doing a 20th Anniversary Revised Edition of her
debut novel, The Journey of Eleven Moons.
(That’s my daughter—the little one on the cover!)
Click to Find The Journey of Eleven Moons on Amazon

Once we signed a known, well-respected author, we were off
and running … to the printers.
Since then, we’ve worked with several agencies and signed
unagented authors as well, have released eight books, and have contracted nine
more. In the words of Ephesians 3:19-20, “Now to Him who is able to do far more
abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works
within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to
all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (NASB)
HG: Do you have an editor on staff who screens
proposals/manuscripts for possible production? What are some crucial elements
you look for in books you choose to publish?

CT: Um … getting a little bit convicted here. 😉 I know there
will be a point when I need to pass the first-reader responsibility on to
someone else within the company, but I just can’t give it up yet! It is so much
fun to open an email and see the idea of a new story. Sometimes the synopsis
sounds a little outlandish, and then I start reading and the writing can carry
that plot. Or a story sounds great, strong hook and good market potential, and
the writing can’t quite deliver.

When we do have to say no to a manuscript, we try to offer very specific reasons why and offer to look at the piece again if those changes are made.

Reading submissions is like eating a box of chocolates (Click to Tweet!)—you
have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to get because there are labels
clearly saying what each candy is! (Humor credit to my daughter, 15-year-old
Andrea, who originally came up with that cliché twist.)
So, what are we looking
for?


~Nice, tight, no-personal-space-bubble Point of View. Let me become the
character and live the book, please.

~Word counts that fit our guidelines: http://ashberrylane.com/submissions-guidelines/

~A story that touches our heart and points the reader toward a better
understanding of and closer relationship with the Lord. This can be in any
genre, even Sci Fi or Humor. It just has to fit our Tagline: Heartfelt Tales of
Faith (& Fun!).
Once I think I might want to flirt with a manuscript—you
know, give a wink or a sly glance–I send it on to my mother, President of
Ashberry. We both read fulls on our Kindles. If we forget we’re reading an
unpublished book and can’t stop reading and fall in love with the writing, it’s
pretty much guaranteed we’ll be offering a contract.
HG: You mentioned to me you are somewhat “indie in
thought and traditional in practice.” Could you elaborate on that?

CT: The foundation of our publishing house is grounded in indie ideas (Click to Tweet!)–things like quick production
times, freedom from genre expectations, pricing according to fluctuating
markets, instant feedback on promotional efforts, access to sales numbers if we
have them, transparency about what works and what doesn’t for marketing at this
time, planning permafree with #1 in a series, etc. We’ll try pretty much
anything an author wants to try.
But we give the
traditional stamp of approval
that a publishing house has chosen that
manuscript out of all the ones submitted (and we’ve been shocked at how many
we’ve already had to turn down) and put money and resources behind getting that
story into readers’ hands. We do most of the traditional things for authors.
(SEE BELOW)
HG: Give me some examples of what Ashberry Lane does for
authors, such as: cover art, formatting, uploading, marketing, etc.

CT: We’ve evolved into quite a complicated machine for being so
young. I give a very detailed first edit—I ran an editing business for five
years before we started Ashberry Lane so I love this part!—while the author
discusses cover ideas with our designer, the amazing Nicole Miller, and starts
working on cover copy, gathering endorsers, and building reach with Mom’s help. 
After the author and I go over the first edit together, the manuscript moves on
to the second round of editing. We have three editors who provide
macro/micro/line edits all put together. I compile those and return the results
to the author. After those changes are made, the manuscript goes to three
proofers—who all find different things, of course. They check for consistency,
grammar, and clarity, but also point out if there are any “big picture” issues
left. Compile, return to author, repeat.
No, wait, that’s shampoo.
Either way, the product gets cleaner and cleaner. Meanwhile,
we’re all back-and-forthing about the cover and book blurb.
I do a final read-aloud edit to catch the typos we made
while fixing typos and any “echo” words that slipped by us. Then I format the
paperback version, Nicole finalizes the cover, and we order a proof. I make
three different e-formats from the print version. (We have really pretty great
distribution for both print and e-books.)
As we use paid advertising, we’re finding which
opportunities are worth it and which just don’t give a good ROI. We’ve got some
exciting new marketing plans in the works, but this is definitely the area in
which we are trying to grow the most! Y’all can help us by signing up for our
newsletter at www.ashberrylane.com J We have around 1200
subscribers but would love to have more. And come like us at www.facebook.com/ashberrylanebooks.
HG: What are the benefits to authors with going with a small
press like Ashberry Lane? Who would you NOT recommend small presses for?

CT: There are authors who are amazing
as indies, but there are also authors who want only the full-blown, huge trad
route. In between is a breed of authors who want FREE cover design, several
rounds of edits, formatting, distribution, want to have a name-stamp of
approval, and mostly just want to write and not do all the business part of
indie
. Not all small press authors want all those things, but they are
considerations.
Also, being part of our small press is being part of a family (Click to Tweet!). Everybody’s books have links to everyone
else’s in the back, we share each other’s memes, we share each other’s books in
our newsletters, we have a secret page for our authors, we try to remember
birthdays, etc.
AGAIN, this is not what everyone
wants! If you love to control every aspect of your book, if you love to learn
new things, if you see indie as a challenge that God will walk you through,
then full indie is probably the best route. But I think it’s great for the
market place and for authors to have the full spectrum.
HG: (*Raising hand* I do like control–but sometimes it would be nice to have someone else take some of the load!) Could you give me some idea of the royalty breakdown for
things like e-books/softcovers through your press–in other words, what do
authors keep?

CT: Another area we try to be pro-author/indie-ish in thought is
when it comes to royalties. We pay our authors 50% of net
on BOTH e-book and paperbacks. We also don’t charge any markup for author
copies. By giving the authors more money and taking all the financial risk, the
first 1.5 years of the company have definitely been an investment, but as we
release more and more great Heartfelt Tales of Faith (& Fun!), the company
itself should become more and more profitable, which means more profit will
then be passed on to authors. A pretty cool cycle.

HG: I feel like I was talking to you in person, not conducting an e-mail interview! What a wealth of information you have brought to authors today, Christina. All the best to you and your mother as you serve authors and readers with Ashberry Lane!

Indie Christian Fiction Search Site~Overview by Author Connie Almony

Author Connie Almony
Hi, my name is Connie Almony and I am a creative
problem solver. If you give me a problem that should be solved, I will shake
inside until it is. That’s just how my brain works, and THAT’s why I created
the Indie
Christian Fiction Search
site—Ickfuss (ICFS) to its
friends. I saw a problem and I had to solve it.

Indie Christian Fiction Search Site
The
Problem …

What
was the problem
, you ask? Well, there were a few.
1) Avid readers needed to find loads of books that
would feed their insatiable need and target their interests, all without
breaking the bank.
2) Christian readers needed to find a greater
breadth of story, not often available through traditionally published books,
while being within a biblical framework.
3) Christian readers needed extra information—that
which is often missing from online retailers—before making the decision to buy.
4) Readers needed a way to search through lots of
material that is easy, non-cumbersome and directs them right to books that
interest them through search criteria and scrolling mechanisms that allow the
reader to sift quickly through blurb excerpts.
Why were these my problems to solve? Well, because I
knew it could be done, and yet no one was doing it.

Magazine View


The
Focus …

Why focus on indie fiction, you ask?  … (Sigh) … My, but you’re an inquisitive
group!
I haven’t always been an ardent supporter of indie
fiction. I believe an author is well served when many eyes see her work before
it is published. I also believe any product is best when it is formed by a
group of people using their unique gifts (ie. The Body of Christ). So Indie
always looked like someone who just didn’t want to play by the rules. (God
often humbles me when I get too opinionated). I worried the work would suffer
for it. But then the new era of indie
publishing steam-rolled into being.
A world of critique partners, beta
readers, freelance editors and cover artists, Facebook writers’ groups, search
engines and social media platforms. Not to mention the low cost (I mean, how
much lower than $0 can you get) of uploading your ebook to an online retailer.
All these factors increased the ability to create a better quality book with a
smaller investment.
The game has changed, and so has the breadth and
quality of fiction.
I didn’t mean to be an indie author myself. I sort
of got conned into it by my critique partner, Mildred Colvin, and discovered
there is a world of fiction out there that is feeding a need not met by the
traditional houses. I have found a plethora of Christian fiction which has been
deemed unsellable by publishers for a variety of reasons, be they time period
(medieval), character choices (Viking, pirate, multi-cultural), settings
(universities, cities, space) or subject matter (mistresses, drug addiction),
and discovered worlds like the one in which I live, replete with sinners in
need of a Savior. 
Additionally, I discovered that many of my favorite authors,
when given the chance to write from their hearts instead of a marketing team’s
idea of what “the public” wants, are EVEN BETTER when writing this way. Yes,
you read that right—EVEN BETTER. And as an avid reader, indie fiction is a lot
less traumatic to my credit card.
Quality
of Writing or Marketing Guts?

So what’s not to like?
I’ll tell you what: many are concerned that because indie authors have not been vetted by
the process of acquiring an agent or catching the eye of an editor, their work
is not as good.
The truth is I STILL suggest authors go through this
process and hone their craft, before making the jump. But there is a point
where the author realizes it’s not the craft, but the perception of the general
marketplace that is holding him back from publication. Yes, it is nice to have
someone “important” like you, but just because that someone doesn’t like you,
doesn’t mean the rest of the world must ignore you as well. 
Many novels are
rejected because the theme of their work has not been tested in the
marketplace. However, in these tough times of the publishing industry it is
likely nothing new will be tested until someone has the guts to do so.
Therefore, lots of extraordinary ideas fall by the wayside.
Not with indie!
With
indie publishing the READER is the gatekeeper
, not the
executive, nor the marketing team—honest-to-goodness readers who have a love
for the written word, and a great story, just like you do. Independent authors
often offer early books cheap (and even free) so YOU, the reader, can get a
sense of who they are and what they write. Then YOU can decide whether or not
you want to continue reading them.
It’s just a matter of finding this new breed of
author.

Sifting
Through the Muck …

But
there is another problem. Traditional Christian publishing didn’t just vet for
quality, it also vetted for biblical content.
If
you’ve ever gone “church shopping” in a very secular area (as I have) and
you’ve seen the variety of agendas that come from groups that label themselves
“Christian,” you will know not all people wearing that moniker promote the same
sort of faith. In fact, in one of our independent author Facebook discussions,
one of our members found a “Christian” group writing very decadent—and
painful—forms of erotica. 
In these gate-keeper-less times, someone needs to
step up and help us wade through the muck. Indie Christian
Fiction Search
(ICFS) is designed, asking the author
to ensure a level of standard outlined in its Statement
of Faith
and Content
guidelines
, while informing the reader so he or she can make a
decision as to whether or not the book is right for them. I also hope readers
will return to ICFS
to comment on books they found either exceptionally inspiring or not quite
their cup of tea—respectfully, of course. Again, the reader is King here!

Sidebar View
Finding
the Right Books for You…

So now readers will have access to information on a
larger breadth of biblically-centered fiction in one place. The next trick is how to search through all
the titles to find the one for you.

This is the fun part!
I had a vision from God. Or at least, my mind kept
playing images of an old template I’d used for my blog and the many “views” it
allowed that would make a quick search of a large amount of material very easy.
So I decided to try it out by posting a bunch of friends’ books to the site.
I’d been pondering how to do this because, frankly, I find most book retailer
sites cumbersome and less fine-tuned to my needs, requiring lots of clicks into
things I eventually have no use for. The largest online book retailer comes
close, but does not allow for a page full of blurbs under search criteria ready
to be scanned. It only gives a page of book titles, cover art and price. With Indie Christian
Fiction Search
(ICFS), you can plug in search criteria
and watch the cover art float across the page. 
It’s really cool :o)!!!

Indie Books by Genre
Then you can change the “view” of the site and
scroll through book blurbs selected by genre or search criteria and pick
through the ones that look good to you. There are a number of ways to do this.
It’s just a matter of finding the one view that works best for you.
So if you are an independent Christian fiction
author and would like to have your novel listed on Indie Christian
Fiction Search
(ICFS), please enter the site, read
through the Statement
of Faith
and Author
Guidelines
, and if it’s a good fit—submit. Please review the
guidelines each time, as they may change. I will be adjusting things to
streamline the site’s functionality.
If you are a READER, looking for something
reasonably priced and potentially unique, please check out the “How
to Use This Site
” page and see how much fun a book
search can be. Try out all the views and feel free to tell me what works best
for you. Indie
Christian Fiction Search
(ICFS) will be growing vastly over
the next few months so make sure you drop by again. There is also a newsletter
you can sign up for that will include links to new titles, and hot-picks,
keeping you regularly informed of the latest in indie Christian fiction. I
promise, it will not be sent out more often than quarterly. And don’t forget to
come back and let us know what you think about the books you read. 
Remember,
YOU are the gatekeeper. YOU have the power. Use it wisely ;o).
Sign up for the newsletter NOW and be entered to win
a $20 Amazon gift card. The winner will be notified on November 1, 2014. Here is the link.

~Posted by Heather Day Gilbert

About the Author: 

Connie Almony is
trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the
serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for
Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW
Flash Fiction Contest. Her newest
release, At
the Edge of a Dark Forest
, is a modern-day re-telling of Beauty
and the Beast
about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD.

You can find Connie
on the web at ConnieAlmony.com, writing book reviews for Jesus Freak Hideout, and hosting the following blogs: 
You can also meet
her on the following social media outlets:
 At the Edge of a Dark Forest on Amazon
At the Edge of a Dark Forest on Amazon

Cole Harrison, an Iraq War veteran amputee, wears his disfigurement like a barrier to those who might love him, shielding them from the ugliness inside. He agrees to try and potentially invest in, a prototype prosthetic with the goal of saving a hopeless man’s dreams. 

Carly Rose contracts to live with Cole and train him to use his new prosthetics, only to discover his dark world of alcoholism and PTSD. Can Carly help him fight this war and discover the man he is destined to become? 

At the Edge of a Dark Forest is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Only it is not her love that will make him whole.
Contemporary Christian Romance.