Tag Archives: self publishing

To #Free or not to #free – the question with varying answers

Today, author Ashley Fontainne illustrated her experience with a self-publishing option that may sound too good to be true.

free sign

She writes,

I have been asked this question so many times during the last two years that I’ve lost count (math is not my forte). The variable that dictated my response was when the question was posed to me. Confused? I know, so please let me explain…

When Amazon first started the KDP (Kindle Direct Select) program in December of 2011, I was still a fresh faced recruit in the publishing world. My first novel, Accountable to None, hit the virtual shelves April 22, 2011. Since I was a newcomer with no audience yet, sales were slow.

Imagine a turtle crossing the frozen tundra in Alaska during a blizzard–that slow.

(Okay, so I know that’s a turtle in the sand, but I couldn’t find an actual turtle in the snow–use your imagination).

By the time the announcement of this new option from Amazon arrived in my inbox in early December, I believe the tally of total book sales was less than four hundred. I had joined a few author/reader groups on Facebook, started accounts on Twitter, Goodreads and LinkedIn, etc., and generally just stumbled my way around while I watched and tried to learn from more seasoned authors.

So, the day the offer to sign up for the KDP program arrived, I read through the email to learn more about the program. You sign up for 90 days with your book, agree to allow Amazon to be the exclusive online retailer and in exchange, allow your books to be “borrowed” by Amazon subscribers of the Prime program. For each “borrow” you are in the pot for (at the time) a share of $750,000. Plus, you get the chance to list your book for FREE for up to 5 days during each 90-day period of enrollment. Sounded like a great program to me! Unknown authors such as myself would be afforded the opportunity to get their books in front of potentially millions of Kindle users when their book went from “paid” to “free.”

How did Ashely’s work do on the KDP program? Read her post here…

To Self-Publish or Not To Self-Publish?


Disclaimer: This post is not written to promote or discredit any of the companies named. No money has been exchanged for this blog post nor in the promotion of these companies in general. All companies named are out of respect to the ethical business practices they represent, which I have witnessed myself.

On Saturday, I joined a Facebook event called “Like Authors on Facebook.” Within 24 hours of joining this group, I had over 150 new likes on my page. As I neared Like #92, I announced that, if I reached 150 Likes, I would post the first chapter of Minstrel on this blog. Many of my previously-existing friends took up the challenge. Within 4 hours, I had my 150 Likes, and the clicks were still climbing. I posted Chapter 1, and the response was phenomenal. Five friends reposted the link to the chapter. Other friends read it, and posted glowing responses. Several of these friends are writers as well, of very good material, and are known for their critical eyes.

And while this success was so exciting that I lost three good hours of sleep that night, this post isn’t about that success.

One of the new “Likes” was from a small digital publishing company. I shall not name this company, as I have no verification whether or not it is a scam. But I will say that this company is NOT any of the companies I have ever named on this blog.

After receiving my Like from this company, we began communication over Facebook instant message. I asked if Said Company was a traditional or POD (Print on Demand) publisher, and Said Company began a long and professional-sounding spiel about their services. They gave me a link to their website, which I checked out. They told me all about their services and outreach. Something about it felt “off”. I couldn’t pinpoint what. So I reposted this link in my Nine Muse Press Affiliates page on Facebook to ask for opinions.

As I posted this link, I was already 75% sure that I was going to continue on my current path of working with Blue Harvest Creative for imaging, then publish myself via CreateSpace and Kindle.

After reading the responses, I was once again 100% sure of my path.

Anna Loy, of Nine Muse Press, said the following:

“Missy,  I didn’t know whether to comment on this because I obviously have a particular point of view. 

“But I did want to say this: writers are particularly vulnerable people. They work so hard and so long on something that they fear will never see the light of day. They rage and cry and claw their way to workable drafts. 

“And there are people who take advantage of this. I have never heard of this group, so I would not comment on them specifically other than to say it is easy to change your name and, thus, reputation on the internet. 

“It’s easy to think that publishing is the only goal that matters. But publishing with people whom you trust, who will not change your work wholesale, who will do what they say they will do, who won’t just stick your book on the shelf, who believe in your work, who won’t charge piratical terms…those people are hard to find and that’s why publishing is not and never will be an overnight business.

“I approached Daniel Swensen, so I’m not going to say publishers never approach you. But I had also been a beta reader on Orison, READ it, and been a friend of Daniel’s for over a year. 

“For someone to approach you who hasn’t read your writing, who does not have much of an online trail, who wants you to hand your work over without details and say we’ll take care of it…

“I would run, not walk, in the other direction, my darling. Publishing takes a long time, even in this overnight self-publishing world of ours, and it’s the hardest thing to walk away from something that validates your ego and feelings. 

Have faith that your hard work will bring wonderful things. I support you either way.  Xo”

That was probably some of the most heartening advice I had read regarding this path. It took my 75% over to 85%

Angela Goff, another writer friend of mine, said this:

  1. “I’ve never heard of them.
  2. That a publisher would approach an unpubbed writer out of blue is not only unlikely, it’s downright suspicious.
  3. I’ve seen several blogs warm against this sort of thing. I think even Chuck Sambuchino warned against this somewhere in the opening sections of his 2012 Guide to Literary Agents.
  4. In the business world, the general rule is that if it seems too good to be true – it probably is.”

Several other friends gave me advice such as:

  • They may just be a new publisher, but are hunting out authors until they acquire a good reputation.
  • They probably just print other people’s work through Lulu (CreateSpace, Kindle, Smashwords, etc.)
  • You’re giving someone else money you don’t have, to publish your books.
  • Check out this link on SFWA.org on Vanity/Subsidy Publishers..

(Note: I do not know if Said Company falls under the warnings in this article. Let’s believe they don’t, until they prove themselves.)

So here’s what it all came down to:

First of all, I am of the opinion that it is my responsibility to use spell check, a thesaurus and a dictionary, whatever the current version of Elements of Style is, and general education to be sure my manuscript isn’t submitted in abhorrent condition. It also benefits me to read other good authors’ work, articles and manuals on writing, and my old English teachers’ notes to be sure I avoid things like stilted dialogue and trite details. When this is all done, I depend on good beta readers to identify holes in my plot and just plain stupid stuff I should be taking out, and I then change it if I agree with it. I do this because 1) I can’t afford an editor, 2) editors/formatters aren’t middle school English teachers. It’s my job.

Second, I checked out Said Company’s website. If these people had taken the work to start up their own company, I give them credit for going through with it. But the website is unprofessional, and the imprint names remind me of the martial arts teacher on Napoleon Dynamite. I really didn’t want that image for my work. Some of the imprints did not yet have books published under the name. The fantasy genre had a few short publications, on sale for $0.99 on Kindle, with artwork far inferior to what I’ve seen from Blue Harvest Creative. (What kind of royalties do I get, if they charge $0.99?)

Third, I’ve already paid an advance to Blue Harvest Creative. I do not and will not regret this. I’ve seen their work. I know some of their authors. No matter what direction I go, my cover art will come from them, and I will not take away business from them. BHC has been far too instrumental in my success for me to pull that kind of bad move. Even if I do get picked up by a publishing company, I will be sure it is someone who can incorporate BHC’s work.

Fourth, after I receive my cover art and formatting from BHC, it’s completely free to upload onto CreateSpace and Kindle. Royalties are then completely mine. In its author package, BHC guides the author in this upload process. Free, did I mention? Let me check the quote they gave me…

Messaging BHC now to verify…

Their answer:

“We assist in that for free. We are happy to do that. When you do full book design we also create an imprint logo free of charge. In addition, our help doesn’t end when the project ends. We help and promote our authors in ways no one else (including publishers) does before, during and after the release.

“As an example we have something big coming in July that all of our authors will be included in to help promote them.”

So if I can get stunning artwork for a very reasonable price, and get free help uploading my book, free marketing, then receive 100% of the royalties, why would I want to give some of the royalties to someone else? No matter with whom I publish, I will be marketing my own work. Even large publishing houses, which pay in advance, ask authors to market their work. I’m going to be working hard for this path, as far as I’m willing to take it. So though I’m happy to pay an ethical company for the work I am not skilled at, why would I want to pay for the work I can do myself?

The decision was then, once again, 100% made.

The Circle of Books

Lately, I’ve come across a very beautiful thing. An author’s support ring. While seeking advice from other published authors charitable with advice, I learned something valuable: you get what you give. What goes around comes around. Pretty general cliché stuff, right? Nope, just a little truth that rings out in many settings.

You see, as indie authors quickly learn, putting your words into publication has become the easier part of the process. With enough money, the right software, the right publisher… you can successfully publish absolute drivel. Or a riveting, earth-shaking novel. Either way, nobody is going to even know you’re published unless you get your name out there. Even more… nobody is even going to care.

You need people to support you, who want to see you succeed. People who think you’re cool enough to recommend to others. People who will share around your Amazon link. People who can tell you where you’re messing up, and the best way to fix the problem so you can move on to greatness.

If I intended to publish for a group of 20 friends, I don’t need to go any further. If I intend to push my work out there, to test my limits, to learn and grow and play in the ranks of the many good authors out there, I need to do a little more work.

My author ring grows. It’s a warm, comfortable, welcoming place to be. They read my blog, and they respond. They offer valuable advice. They recommend books to read and review, which helps out either them or another in their ring. In addition to helping them, I’ve been highly entertained by some very worthy fiction.

And just today, Anna Meade from my author ring opened up Nine Muse Press, with that same intent.

It goes deeper, though…

Nine Muse Press also publishes!

This is where I clasp my hands in earnest anticipation… hope… daydreams… and admit I still have a lot of work to do. A lot of networking. A lot of giving before karma cycles about my way.

So far, Nine Muse Press has published one book, Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire.

edgar wilde

Soon to come: Orison by Daniel Swensen. Hey… that book sounds familiar!


Is there any hands-clasping hope that NMP will publish Minstrel, or Heroes, or Legacy? I’m sure every other author in Ms. Meade’s author’s ring asked himself or herself the same question today, regarding their work.

I’m up for the challenge. Bring it on! Give me the books to read and review, the friendships to cultivate. Give me the constructive criticism I need to become greater. Someday, I’ll have paid my dues and will be ready for karma to come back my way.

Do you want to help out a newly published author? Visit NMP’s books page and download Edgar Wilde… it’s not expensive at all! I’m downloading it tonight.