She self-published the first, Fiona vs the Foot Tickler, and here she shares what she learned, as well as her professional publisher’s take on bringing out a great Paper.li.
What do you enjoy about editing and writing?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. When I was about three I memorized my favorite book. My parents loved to trot me out at parties and convinced all their friends I could read.
I’m a natural storyteller. I never stop telling stories, but they aren’t always very good — more often than not, they don’t go anywhere. The beauty of writing those stories down is that you get to edit them. I think that side of things appeals to the control-freak in me.
What would be your dream writing assignment?
I have this really fantastic little book of family history that my paternal grandmother’s mother wrote. It traces our family’s history from Aberdeen, Scotland, to New York and beyond, ending up in Connecticut. I’d love to be able to expand on that.
What got you started on Paper.li?
At EContent, which is a magazine for the creators, managers, buyers, and sellers of digital content, we publish the EContent 100 every December: the 100 companies that matter most in the digital content industry.
We also incorporate a smaller list of sites that don’t quite fit the bill, but we think are interesting. A few years ago Paper.li was on that list. At the time I didn’t use Twitter, and I thought, “What a great way to follow what people are saying on Twitter without actually having to be on Twitter”.
It was so easy to set up The EContent Daily. It was probably one of the first things I did when I took over as editor of EContent.
By the time I opened my personal Twitter account, I was already a Paper.li convert, and I started DIY Daily: Self-Publishers Unite.
What purposes do the two different papers serve?
The EContent Daily highlights our great columnists by publishing their other content in one place. We can let people know what authoritative voices we have writing for us.
As for the DIY Daily, I was looking for a way to make sense of all digital publishing info out there, particularly on self-publishing, and rally that community.
I thought bringing it together in one place would be a great idea… and it was. But when it comes to engaging properly in social media marketing, I can be a bit lazy, so Paper.li was perfect for me. As long as you set the paper up carefully, it’s practically self-sufficient.
I was also looking for a way to publicize my book, and gain Twitter followers.
And has that worked out?
I get a ton of feedback from that paper. When it appears in my email inbox every day, it is almost always followed by a couple of emails telling me I’ve got new followers or someone has replied to the tweet. It’s really worked in terms of building a following.
I feel it’s been a lot more successful than The EContent Daily — perhaps I need to pay that one a bit more attention and tweak some of the settings to include more content. Or maybe it’s just because the DIY speaks to a very specific, and very engaged audience.
Do you have any tips for other Paper.li users?
I’d recommend really reaching out to a niche. It’s a great way to bring all the information you need or want on a given topic to one place, and if you choose your audience wisely, you can look like an expert in no time at all!
What made you self-publish your novel?
I’d been shopping Fiona vs. the Foot Tickler around to agents for about a year. I’d gotten a few requests for the full manuscript but no offers. At the same time I was writing about digital publishing at work, and ranting about how obsolete publishing houses were becoming.
Eventually it just kind of seemed hypocritical to be trying to do things the old-fashioned way while telling my readers to strike out on their own.
What challenges have you faced?
Marketing, marketing, marketing! Having the resources of a whole marketing department or PR team behind me would be amazing! The truth is, though, many authors don’t get much support from their publishers. It’s still up to them to hit the social networks and blogs to get the word out because only the big books get any real attention from the publishers.
How are sales going? Do you plan to self-publish another book?
Slow and steady. Every time I manage to get a little bit of press, I see a spike in sales.
Yes, I’ve got this theory that genre books do better when it comes to self-publishing (I’m not the only one who says that) and I’ve got a great idea for a vampire story so I’d like to publish that to see if my theory is right.
Once that’s done, I’d like to get back to writing my Fiona Blake series.
What can you share with other self-publishers?
- Target your audience! No matter what you’re publishing, from an ebook to a blog to a Paper.li, if you can hone in a specific audience, you’ll find success.
- Be engaged! Social media makes your life so much easier when it comes to marketing, but if you’re not engaged, and your heart isn’t in it, then everyone will know.
- Price matters! On the one hand you want to encourage readers to try your work, but lately there has been a lot of talk about not underselling yourself. It’s a difficult balance, but it’s worth paying attention to.
- Quality matters! If your book stinks, no one wants to read it. And if it’s riddled with errors, people will feel cheated. So do your best to put out a quality product.
- Don’t expect too much! Whether you’re self-publishing or you’ve got a book deal, the truth is, making a living as a book author is tough. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
Photo credit (main image): Leah Morgan