It has finally happened. We are receiving press releases for new books, not from publishers and promoters, but from the authors themselves. Case in point is the new novella When Two Women Die, a history-paranormal-romance-crime novella about Marblehead, Massachusetts. You can own it for $2.99 and receive it wirelessly in 60 seconds on devices that sell for as little as $115 -- or your phone. No agents. No editors. No trees. We asked the author about her experience. (Continued below)
We rarely review local fiction, especially “indie” books, but we’re happy to pass along titles that look interesting. Patricia Goodwin’s self-published book about parallel Marblehead murders separated by 300 years had an interesting hook. The cover of her ebook had a classy design. The whole package was as savvy as anything coming from a professional house. As Goodwin says in the interview below, authors these days need to learn the tricks of marketing and promotion. Thanks to the new Kindle and other ebook readers, writers can do an end-run around the entire publishing business, collecting 70% of the sales for their books that are now priced at one-tenth or less of traditional paper books. Yes, even at $2.99 an author can earn as much per download as a standard publisher might pay. Readers can rate these books online and, increasingly, writers are making significant sums off their digital works. Runaway digital bestsellers have earned indie authors as much as a million dollars in a single year. The revolution has begun, and we asked Goodwin to give us the following report from the front lines. -- JDR
Interview with Patricia Goodwin
Author of Kindle ebook When Two Women Die
SeacaoastNH: How did this ebook come about?
Goodwin: I was sitting with a friend on the stone wall by St. Michael’s, the oldest church in Marblehead, MA built in 1714. My friend was telling me about the recent death of Martha Conant Brailsford (descendant of Roger Conant who founded Salem, MA in 1626) who went sailing with her neighbor and was killed by him. Immediately, I felt the spirits of two women, an Englishwoman killed in 1690 and Martha, rush straight up the hill from the harbor where they'd been murdered. They hit me with a blast of energy, and I knew I had to write this book. To tell the truth, the murders pissed me off and I wanted to do something to keep these women alive - to write their legends. I didn't want to do a non-fiction book. I chose fiction for the freedom it gave me to create new characters and situations in order to bring out other aspects of the story.
SeacaostNH: It’s listed as a novella, but how long is it? It's hard to tell online.
Goodwin: If you print the novella out on 8 1/2" X 11" paper, it is about 160 pages.
SeacoastNH: Where did you learn the e-book publishing process?
Goodwin: Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing is actually an excellent resource. The steps provided in the tutorials are easy to understand. There are different methods of creating your e-book file if you're on a PC or Mac. I use a Mac which required the book text to be in an Adobe InDesign file. Other very useful sources were blogs from other writers who had e-published themselves. Just Google Kindle e-publishing and several blogs and articles come up.
SeacaostNH: Did you get help or do it alone?
Goodwin: I did have one MAJOR advantage in having given birth to my tech advisor and graphic designer -- my daughter. Uploading the book file is only part of the job these days. Authors need visual materials -- book covers, Web sites, book trailers -- in order to compete and promote. It's an interesting phenomenon of publishing today that all authors are expected to do their own book promotion. Even authors who are published by mainstream publishing houses are told by their agents and editors to blog, tweet, get arrested, whatever it takes to keep their name out there. Well, maybe not get arrested.
But, authors today do need a graphic designer in their pocket. The idea of needing visual materials on top of having done the work of writing might sound frustrating and annoying to writers, but it really is a great opportunity to control how the world perceives your work. For someone on their own, I recommend hiring a graphic design student if you don't have much money, or a professional graphic designer if you do. I was very involved in the process. For instance, we made a mock Amazon page to determine which cover design worked best. We decided on the black cover, because it stood out on the page. We also liked the elegance and the old-fashioned appearance of a text-only cover and the drama of the black.
SeacaostNH: But why e-publishing and why a novella? Did you try traditional publishing?
Goodwin: I'd love to show you all my rejections right here. I was told, for instance -- no novellas. Or -- this is only of local interest. Or -- we love it, but we don't do fiction. Lots of praise, but “no.” After about fifteen years of small-minded rejections like that, I jumped at the chance to e-publish via Kindle, take my literary career into my own hands and move forward. The novella form really chose itself. Every art piece chooses its own form. The shorter novella form was perfect because I wanted to convey the immediacy of what happens to these women, the shock, and the sudden and irrevocable consequences of violence.
SeacoastNH: But this wasn’t your first foray into what we used to call “vanity publishing?"
Goodwin: I have self-published paper books under my own imprint, Plum Press. I can appreciate how expensive paper publishing is. The cost of paper publishing was prohibitive to me, not to mention the cost of touring, and that independent authors are charged a fee to be in bookstores, and the fact that bookstores are closing, or that even mainstream authors are showing up to bookstore readings with only one or two people in the audience. All of these concerns make the opportunity to e-publish with Kindle even more exciting. The movement, the chance to communicate and keep moving forward, that is so great.
SeacoastNH: What are your goals, expectations for this book? What will you consider success?
Goodwin: Oddly enough, making tons of money was not, and is not, my goal. Though the money is needed, I'm actually more ambitious. Quite simply, I hope the book and the women in it become part of Marblehead legend -- that's success to me. There's a wonderful sense of history here. Houses have plaques naming the original owners. You can't walk through the town without feeling the presence of its ancestors. Someone actually told me this book was a love song to Marblehead, and I agree, it is.
SeaocastNH: How will you promote the book without an actual paper book to tour with?
Goodwin: I promote the book online through emails, an author Web site, book trailers and offline, through postcards. When Two Women Die has several points of interest -- history, romance, the sea, paranormal, women, pirates. Currently, I'm contacting historical sites, ghost hunters, maritime orgs, and publications, e-publishing sites, book clubs, and, of course, using YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I printed postcards, which have the book cover, an image of the beach, Amazon and Kindle info, a blurb of the story, and my photo and bio. I sent them out to neighbors, friends, shops, art galleries, and places of interest worldwide. I actually sold a book in Paris the first week. It's been a lot of fun. We also created book trailers. These were not meant to impress professional filmmakers, but potential readers.
SeacaostNH: What do you think of the e-book process so far?
Goodwin: I loved it! I finished When Two Women Die in 1997, and had to wait nearly fifteen years to get it out in the e-publishing revolution. Just one click -- it's so empowering! I'll tell you another empowering aspect: you get to choose your own royalty. You may choose between either 35% or 70%; and you may set your own price point. Most mainstream authors get 15% of each hardcover sale, 10% of each quality paperback, less of each mass-market paperback, if they don't go out of print by then.
SeacaostNH: How did you settle on a price point?
Goodwin: I researched e-book prices. $30 mainstream published new release books had e-book shadows that were $10 or more. Self-published e-books were generally 99 cents. I consider When Two Women Die to be literature. So, because it was a literary novella, I chose $2.99. I could only choose two genres. I chose fiction and thriller.
SeacoastNH: Are you on other formats than Kindle?
Goodwin: Right now, I'm only on the Kindle ebookstore. By the way, people are telling me they bought a Kindle to read my book, and they're glad they did because they're enjoying the whole e-book phenomenon more than they thought. That's pretty cool.
SeacoastNH: Any parting tips for wannabe indie e-writers?
Goodwin: Don't give up. Remember who you are and how much you love and believe in your work. Think WAY outside the box! Don't be afraid to keep changing tactics as the times change. Don't take “no” for an answer.
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