Category Archives: indie writer

Author Finds Success through Ebooks: Royalties, Publishing Deal, Even a Movie

Today I heard a story on the radio that caught my attention. It began with a story not unlike my own. A writer discussed how she’d received complementary letters from publishers and editors in response to her manuscript submissions. Although they liked her work respondents didn’t think they’d be able to market it. As this was my experience, I wanted to hear what happened.

Also like me, Karen McQuestion had been a freelance writer, and had written on a regular basis for a local newspaper. Karen loved to write. Her heart’s desire was to write novels. Karen had written several and had even had an agent. Unfortunately, she was unable to sell her books.

A year ago McQuestion began to think she’d never be a success as a novelist. When her freelance work dried up, she realized it was time to take a serious look at her options. During this time Karen learned about a writer who published his novels as e-books.  After 7,000 download the author had earned a small royalty and a publishing deal.

Karen didn’t know the basics such as how to design a book cover or determine pricing, but decided publishing on the ‘Net was worth a try. McQuestion reasoned that if her books weren’t successful she’d have lost little, and in the best case she’d make enough money to continue writing. During the next six months she uploaded six books.

The end result?

Karen McQuestion wrote on her blog: “I’ve had (to me) unbelievable success. The first few months I was stunned that anyone was actually buying and reading my books. I’d wanted it for so long that I was afraid of it all going away. Some small part of me thought that my sales would peak and then taper off to nothing. But despite my worries, my sales numbers kept growing, partially because I was adding books and also because more people were buying e-book readers.

“The best part–I got emails and reviews and comments on the message boards from readers who liked my books and were recommending them to others! Without this word of mouth I never would have had the kind of numbers I had. Some of the posters are people I now consider to be Internet friends. My world became wider, and happier too, for that matter.”

Karen’s story doesn’t end there. She’s had one of her novels optioned for film. She also was contacted by an editor who wanted to publish her books.

Karen’s success didn’t come overnight. Her love of writing kept her going. Not every writer is likely to have Karen McQuestion’s success; however, if you love writing, the process is its own reward.

Patience is the hardest part of the writer’s journey. Karen McQuestion offers advice to writers who are yearning for validation of their work through publishing:

“To other writers I say–please, keep the faith. Keep writing and improving (that’s a given, I know) and keep up with the latest news and opportunities, because you never ever know.”

What keeps me going? A commitment to the women who contributed to my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories; the positive comments and support I’ve had since I released the book and it’s companion blog Living in the Heartland; and the faith that something good WILL happen.

To read stories of other extraordinary women go to Living in the Heartland.

Read how three women overcame life’s challenges on the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click Living in the Heartland video preview.

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One Author’s Experiences in Publishingland

This second part of an interview with Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos focuses on her experiences as an author, and her views on traditional verses self-publishing.

Kathy’s first book Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing is being shopped by NYC literary agent at Scovil, Galen & Ghosh. Kathy is currently finishing the second in her trilogy SURVIVING RECURRENCE IN CANCERLAND.

As a two-time cancer survivor Kathy saw the need for books designed to help cancer patients advocate for their successful recovery. She clearly has struck a nerve. In only 8 months on the Internet Kathy has gathered a huge.

Q. Prior to Surviving Cancerland, what was your experience as a writer?

A. Other than writing papers for high school and college classes, none. I never wanted to be a writer, but sometimes life’s occupations are like kittens, they choose you! Writing chose me.

Q. What motivated you to write the book?

A. There is almost always a point in the process of illness where logic, reason, and medical expertise fails. It’s at this point a patient slips through the cracks, sometimes never recovering.

I survived cancer—twice…I survived by using something many in the medical field do not even acknowledge as being real. My innate intuition.

Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing is my account of how I used my intuition to self-advocate a course of treatment, often against the vehement advice of my doctors, in my healing process. Always work with your doctors, but never forget you make the final decisions. I wrote my story to help others faced with this ordeal make better decisions. I don’t tell others how to survive I show them how I survived.

Q. Did you self-publish or did you choose a more conventional route? How did you decide which route to take? How long ago did this publication journey begin?

A. I went the conventional route and sought representation by a literary agent who had contacts with the large publishing houses. My publishing journey started with my second diagnosis with breast cancer. I was quite sure that my story of having the medical industry miss my cancer twice was not that unique. This was confirmed when I became a phone counselor for the Bloch Cancer Foundation and heard similar stories to mine. However, the outcome was less favorable because the patient had followed the doctor’s orders to, “Go home and come back for more tests in six months.” I wanted to teach others what tests they needed to find cancer and how to self advocate to get those tests. I also wanted to share the importance of the dream world during crisis. I searched bookstores far and wide for a book that could give me information on the day-to-day needs of patients undergoing treatment that included the dream world of crisis. I could not find any that were from a patient’s point of view. There were plenty of books written by doctors that were full of interesting scientific information, but I found them difficult to read and frankly, scary! So, I wrote one.

Q. How would you advise other writers who are considering self- vs traditional publishing?

A. Although I have not self-published I’ve been active in my husband’s self-published book Pope Annalisa. So I do have a comparison to my conventional route. Here’s the main difference, as I see it. With self-publishing, the author puts money up front to publish the book and then is responsible for the book’s distribution and the PR, and often signs away many of their rights. Most chain bookstores such as Borders, will not put self-published books on their shelves because they sell space by the inches to publishing houses. That is why most publishing houses will not publish a large book that is not written by a big money making author. They would rather place two smaller books on a shelf. Despite the fact that the self-publishing industry is growing, it still has a stigma attached to it. Most newspapers and magazines will not write reviews for it and many traditional publishing awards are closed to them. A positive note is an author planning to self-publish does not need to write query letters, book proposals, or deal with the rejections that often accompany them.

Conventional publishing requires time and money also, but in a different way. My book, Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing went through seven revisions by me and another two by a freelance editor and copy editor I hired. Most publishing houses have cut back on employees, and one of the first cuts was editors. Very few editors are kept in-house. Manuscripts sent to publishing houses must be nearly perfect. After I got my manuscript back from my content editor, I sent it and the Book Proposal and the first three chapters of my proposal to a copy-editor who works in a children’s publishing house in New York. She   made sure every sentence was perfect, and every t was crossed.. This all takes time and money. But the biggest difference is that big publishing houses pay the author money up-front in the form of an advance an advance.  They also take care of the printing and distribution to the bookstores. If you are a first time author, they are minimally helpful with PR. That is where a good platform comes into play. If you do not make back the advanced money in sales and begin collecting royalties, chances are very good that your other books will not get picked up by the publisher. Your sales record is your report card.

My advice to anyone considering self-publishing over conventional is to save self-publishing as a plan B. You can always go that route. Prepare to go the conventional route and do the hard work. Write the best manuscript you possibly can. Keep it between 70,000 and 120,000 words. Anything larger than that takes up too much space on the bookshelves. Edit it yourself many times and then hire a professional content editor to do it again twice. (This will not cost as much as self-publishing.) Most agents will not accept a manuscript that has not been edited twice. Then work on identifying your platform. Who would be interested in my book? How can I contact them? Then look for your competition on bookshelves and see how you can make your book better. Study books on query letters and proposals. Make yours stand out. Then send the proposal and the first three chapters to the editors again to perfect them before sending them to agents. Research your agents. Be sure you submit what they want and the way they want it. As the old saying goes, “Cut wood, carry water.”  Do the work.

Getting a book published is not easy no matter what road you take. But if you try the conventional route first and it just doesn’t work, it is easier to switch to plan B than to have already published and try to go with Plan A. That will be swimming upstream while doing all the work required for conventional publishing.

To read stories of other extraordinary women go to Living in the Heartland.

Read how three women overcame life’s challenges on the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click Living in the Heartland video preview.

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Pamela Ferris-Olson Takes Her New Book to Good Morning America

Pamela Ferris-Olson Discusses Her New Book with Robin Roberts on the Set of Good Morning America

Check out photos of me in NYC on set of Good Morning America on my blog Living in the Heartland.

Order a copy of this great book about contemporary American women at Amazon.com.

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So What’s My Verdict on Twitter – Is It a Useful Tool for Writers?

My friend Leslie (moondustwriter.com) asked her readers earlier in May to write something in 160 characters. She challenged: “What can you do in 160 characters? A story surely not! I have titles longer than 160 characters for goodness sake.”

Leslie’s a poet, so I playfully sent her an email to ask if 160 characters had become a new form of Haiku. What writer can resist a challenge?  My response:

“Must say it 140 characters on Twitter. Leslie’s poet challenge 160. Ironic, no? Poets typically use fewer words 2 convey more meaning now want 20 more to do so!”

160 characters is a luxury one doesn’t have on Twitter. Although Twitter limits users to 140 characters, if someone wants their message retweeted (RT) they need to reduce their character limit further generally to less than 150 characters.

A good deal can be said within the confines of 140 characters. With the right message and what amounts to an Internet version of the kids’ game Telephone (where the first kid whispers a message into the ear of the kid next to him, who then whispers the message into the next kid’s ear, etc.) a writer has what appears to be a boundless audience. The caveat, as I have mentioned in my earlier posts, is that because of the massive amount of scam, spam, and garbage Tweets the likelihood that a tweet is read is small.

Assuming a tweet is read, how much value is it likely to produce for the writer? That depends on what you goal is. A writer who hopes Twitter will significantly increase sales is likely to be disappointed.  I can state unequivocally that in my first four months of using Twitter, it has resulted in an insignificant number of sales. However, some of the connections I’ve made have been worthwhile. There is a possibility down the road that some of these will become golden.

Early on, I was so focused on building my Twitter following that I had little time to attend to emails, phone calls and other, what I refer to as, old-fashioned networking. Sales plummeted. The lesson for me was that Twitter is a tool, but only ONE tool. Other tools I need to employ are Facebook, a variety of other social media platforms like Digg and Reddit, blogs, emails and more traditional means of getting the word out.

In my next post I will begin a discussion of Facebook. I have asked a SM coach to assist. However, before I end my thoughts about Twitter I want to make a disclaimer. My four posts on Twitter are based on my desire to promote a non-fiction book. I am looking for the best way to spread the word about my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. I am aiming at national distribution, and sales well beyond those commonly cited for an indie author and publisher.

I don’t think Twitter would affect sales much different if I were trying to market my book locally, I had written fiction, or the subject matter was about something other than women’s search for identity, self-esteem and happiness. What would change would be the mix of the social media and traditional tools I chose to use. Keep reading. I’ll cover these in future posts. In the meantime:

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click to Living in the Heartland video preview to see stories of inspirational women.

Click to view my other blog Living in the Heartland

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Three Women Featured in Author’s New Book

Nancy, Ellyn, and Ife

DAYTON — Their backgrounds may be dramatically different, but it’s their similarities that are the focus of Pamela Ferris-Olson’s new book.

“Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories,” chronicles the lives of three Miami Valley women who represent different minorities.

The idea for her book, she explains in the introduction, originated on a humid summer evening as she sat waiting for New York’s Staten Island Ferry and observed the variety of languages that filled the room.

“The interconnectedness made possible by the Internet has resulted in a burgeoning exchange of information, goods, services and ideas,” she writes. “It has made commerce and ideas readily available, but has not, as yet, transformed attitudes sufficiently to create a world view in which all people are seen as belonging to a single global family.”

Ferris-Olson, who lives in Washington Twp., hopes her self-published book might help remedy that situation. She has been a freelance writer for the Dayton Daily News for the past 15 years.

“I wanted to begin a conversation among people about diversity,” she said. “As different as we may all look, women have similar experiences as wives, mothers and business women.” By sharing three stories of minority women and their struggles, she’s hoping readers will relate and be inspired.

To find subjects for her interviews, Ferris-Olson contacted women’s centers at Wright State University and the University of Dayton, asking them to put out a call for women willing to share their life stories. She chose Dayton, not only because she lives here, but because it’s the Midwest.

“Ohio has become a bellwether for the country since the onset of the 21st century,” she writes. The search eventually led her to Nancy, Ellyn and Ife:

• Nancy Scott, a single mother of three, grew up on a reservation and is a proud member of the Seneca Nation and the Navy. A survivor of mental and physical abuse, she has met President George W. Bush on two occasions, both as an emissary for higher education.

Said Nancy: “If I’ve learned anything, it’s to stay true to yourself. Embrace your culture, your faith, and your beliefs. I really believe that. I always look for the positive in any situation; otherwise life is just wasted space.”

• Ife Shafeek grew up in a housing project in Dayton with a mother who imposed rigid restrictions. At the age of 18, Ife thought marriage offered a way to be free of her mother’s control, but discovered that neither her husband nor her Muslim religion provided the security or peace of mind she’d expected. She has faced many challenges in the process of raising two sons on her own.

Said Ife: “I realize that nothing happens in this world without the hand of God. I think everyone should recognize a higher power and count their blessings when they receive them. I don’t believe my story would be any different had I been raised with a different religion.”

• Ellyn Miller, born in Korea, was put up for adoption by her biological parents who were unable to afford the medical treatment her cleft palate necessitated. Ellyn grew up in Oakwood surrounded by a large, loving religious family but always wondered what her life would be like had she remained in Korea. In 2009, she had the chance to spend several days with her biological family.

Said Ellyn: “I believe my path to fulfilling my destiny started the day I was born. Someday something like a light bulb will click on and then I’ll know what I’m supposed to do with my life. Until then I want to try anything and everything. I don’t have a master plan so until I discover my life’s purpose I’ll just take it one step at a time and see where I go.”

Though Ferris-Olson does not belong to a religious or ethnic minority, she observed intolerance first-hand when her father’s Japanese-Americans friends — who had served with him during the war — came to visit their home and her mother refused to come out of the bedroom to see them.

“I have had an increasing desire to be involved in the dialogue about intolerance,” she said, certain that her father’s stories and respect for those men lie at the heart of her book. “Our country is more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous time in its history,” she said. “American’s population continues to grow, and become increasingly multiracial and predominantly female.”

“Living in the Heartland,” she said, is a celebration of women and an appeal for Americans to embrace diversity.

By Meredith Moss, DailyNews.com. April 24, 2010

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success:<a href=”http://tinyurl.com/ybnk7ml”&gt; Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories</a> on Amazon.com.

Click to <a href=”http://http://tinyurl.com/ybargwg”>Living in the Heartland</a> video preview to see stories of inspirational women.

Click to subscribe to <a href=”http://tinyurl.com/yfcfjz7″>Living in the Heartland.com</a> blog.

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What’s Wrong with Book Stores?

Credit for this photo unknown.

Credit for this photo unknown as it was sent to me via email.

I had to take a diversion from my discussion of Twitter so I could share this photograph. It was emailed to me by a friend. I imagine there is a good chance  the picture has been Photoshopped, but whether it has or not I share it with no intention of making any negative commentary on the Chinese. Instead, I am commenting on what many writers and readers, I imagine too, have felt about book stores. In my case, as you will read in future posts, I’ve been frustrated in my attempts to get my indie published Living in the  Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories into book stores. When a writer can’t get her book into brick and mortar stores to share with readers across the country, and readers can’t find the books they want to read we ask ourselves” Am I in the ……?!”


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Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 1

I decided not to do any promotional work until my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories appeared on Amazon.com. As I’ve said in previous posts, I chose to independently publish my book after I’d received about two dozen ‘no thank you’ letters from agents and publishers. I thought: “How can I go wrong selling my book on America’s largest online behemoth, a retailer with nearly three times the Internet sales revenue of its nearest competitor?”

Since my book was cataloged among Amazon’s thousands upon thousands of other offerings, it seemed obvious that I needed to focus my marketing energies online. So began my social media (SM) education.

The first step was to build a SM platform. SM coaches tout the importance of starting with a foundation based upon Twitter, Facebook, and a blog. So that is what I did. Twitter was easy. Facebook required more time to set up, because  more information was requested. My blog, even though WordPress makes set up pretty simple, was even more time consuming. I admit I had plenty of frustration. For example, I had to evaluate nearly 100 layouts to choose the best layout for my Living in the Heartland blog. Then I had to figure out how to customize the banner and learn how to install and operate the widgets.

Initially, I hated Twitter. The few people who I started following seemed to have established their own clique. They tweeted predominantly among themselves. Much of what they said wasn’t interesting to me. I began to realize I was stuck in an infinitesimally small Twitter puddle. It was a small droplet in a Twitterscape where oceans of Twitter folk were chattering away. I had no idea how to swim into the deeper water. As I became more confident and competent, I was able to find new people. To my dismay many of the Tweets I received were either “words to live by”, quotes attributable to famous or anonymous people, or outright marketing.

Numerous people told me to persevere. They also told me that the number one rule on the Internet is to be genuine and build trust before trying to market anything on the Internet. My cynicism grew as I wondered about the disconnect between what I was being told were “and what people were doing. The response to my questioning the rules was always the same: give it time. In time I would see the benefits.

Being trained as a scientist I wanted evidence on which to base my hopes that Twitter was going to help me make people aware of my book. What I heard on Webinars and through Twitter were merely testimonials. Needless to say this was not a good introduction to the Internet for me. I was overwhelmed by all the SM tasks I needed to do, and wanted concrete evidence that all my hours of work building a Twitter following was going to pay off . In otherwords, show me some book sales.

The sales figures I saw that first month were UNBELIEVABLE. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There HAD to be a mistake! I could have sold more books door to door on my block!

Doubt began to flood in: Had I made the wrong decision? Should I have waited longer for a publisher; after all, I had received some handwritten letters. Maybe I shouldn’t have chosen to publish independently. Should I have sent out more manuscripts?

As you can see I’m still working with SM. I am more positive than I’ve ever been. Come back soon for the next installment. As I discuss my experience you will understand how I arrived at my answer to the question: Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers?

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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