Dear Lit Loves,
HAPPY INDIE AUTHOR DAY!!! October 14, 2017 finds me rockin' Indie Author Day in my home state of North Carolina. I was disappointed more libraries in the Triangle region of North Carolina (I'm talking to you Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Cary) were NOT participating in National Indie Author Day as many libraries across the United States were hosting Indie authors for meet and greet sessions, author panel discussions, networking opportunities, and writing workshops. So as a tribute to all Indie authors I am going to answer the most frequently asked questions I encounter when I present my book entitled Brave Soul Rising: Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life to various book clubs, writing workshops, and book events.
1) What does it mean to be an Indie Author?
As an Indie author, I have taken upon myself the full task of publishing a book. I decide what genre in which I want to write (memoir) and then I write, edit, revise, format, hire a book cover designer, and utilize either an independent press like CreateSpace or iUniverse or a small press or even a university press to publish my book. In my case I utilized CreateSpace to produce my book. I cover all costs involved in crafting and publishing the book that I then bring to you, my audience. So Indie primarily stands for "Independent" Author.
2) What is the difference between an Indie Author and a Traditionally Published Author?
As an Indie author, I produce and cover all costs of producing and marketing my book. I create the idea behind what I generated as a book cover and then I communicate that to a book cover designer who then sends me five examples of how the cover may look. I select the one I like best and then I upload my manuscript and book cover to CreateSpace/Amazon Publishing which then sells my work in e-book and paperback formats. A traditionally published author usually is represented by a literary agent who shops a potential manuscript to a Big Five publisher like Penguin Random House, an editor agrees to purchase the book, and then the author and editor and a marketing team work simultaneously over a fairly long period to produce the book. Traditionally published authors are often given a monetary advance and then earn royalties off the books sold. The production and marketing costs are covered by the traditional publishing house. In its final form, the book has been reworked by an editor and often the author has very little say in the book cover design.
3) Why did I opt to take the Indie Author route?
I produced four manuscripts in five years and shopped those manuscripts to literary agents. After never hearing back from most literary agents or receiving numerous rejections, I decided when my father suddenly passed in 2015 to take it upon myself to fully produce and market my own publishing work.
4) Where do I obtain my subject matter?
Since I write mostly in the memoir genre, my subject matter is taken from my own life experiences. In my first book, I write about leaving a marriage riddled with domestic abuse, a stint in a psychiatric ward, working full-time in the start-up tech world, and then landing my first job as a teacher in a volatile North Carolina middle school. The odds of success were most definitely stacked against me; however, like someone famous we all know, I persisted and that made the difference for me.
5) What is my writing process like?
It generally takes me four to six months to "free write" a complete manuscript. I begin by creating an outline of the book and what I foresee being revealed in each chapter of the book. Next, I commit to writing each week as much as possible without worrying about grammar or spelling. I just get the story tapped out on my keyboard. Then I go back and edit for spelling, grammar, word usage, setting, description, and word choice. Following a final edit, I hire a book cover designer to create five sample book covers based on my ideas. I then select a cover choice, turn the manuscript and cover over to my tech savvy husband who then formats it as an e-book and finally I upload the cover design, manuscript, and back cover design to a self-publishing platform. A week later I receive notification that my e-book was successfully developed and I receive a copy of the paperback version of the book for my perusal to ensure this is the final book product I want to bring to the book buying public.
6) Best and worst part of being an Indie Author?
The best part is that I have control over the plot, voice, editing, and book cover design. And when I sell a book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, I receive a good profit margin. The worst part of being an Indie Author is when a member of the book buying public dismisses you as "not being a real author" and also when many small, independent bookstores refuse to carry your book because they have a serious dislike of Amazon as a company.
7) What is the first book I remember really loving as a kid?
I absolutely adored the Pippi Longstocking books by Swedish author, Astrid Lindgren. What a spunky, red-headed girl who had all sorts of adventures and a fierce independent spirit.
8) Why did I choose to write under a pseudonym (pen name)?
First, almost no one gets the pronunciation of my real last name correct and oftentimes, people utterly and completely mispronounce it. Second, I wanted a Southern sounding pen name so I generated the pen name of Grace Sutherlin.
9) What would I choose as my author mascot or spirit animal?
A seriously ferocious female lion.
10) What does publishing success look like to you?
Publishing success for me is measured not just in number of books sold, but when someone says they were enriched or motivated to do better and be stronger as a person because of the personal experiences from my own life that I develop on the page. And yes, it is quite nice when I am asked to speak to a group or book club as well as teach a writing workshop on self-publishing a book. My degrees are in teaching language arts and social studies so writing a book is for me, another means of remaining a devoted teacher.
11) How do I select name for the characters or real people in my books?
Since I am writing about real people who were or still are a part of my life, I generally do not use an individual's real name. I think about their personal qualities, values, and philosophy and generate a new name for that person that I then use in place of their real name in my book.
12) Do I read reviews of my book?
No. I do not. If I did I would probably be more of a nervous wreck than I already am. Plus, in our tech sophisticated world of today, someone may not like me and not even know me as a person or writer, but still write unprofessional comments about me or evaluate my book negatively. There is way too much negativity in the world today and I do not need it being used to bring me down as a human being, woman, and writer.
14) What am I currently reading?
Presently, I am reading a book titled Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War by Helen Thorpe about three women who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. It examines how their commitment to military service affected their personal lives, families, and friends.
15) Best money I ever spent as a writer?
I have no problem spending good money on outstanding book cover design because it is the first portion of a book that the reading audience sees and it can make the difference between whether they pick up the book, examine it, and potentially purchase it or bypass the book completely.
16) What is the difference between memoir and autobiography/biography?
With memoir, I am writing about a very specific time my life over a period of one to two years. With autobiography and biography, you are basically learning about someone's entire life from birth onward and the highs and lows of their entire life.
17) Most frustrating part of being an Indie Author?
Being looked upon and treated as a legitimate author. Many folks wrongly diss independent authors; however, some of us do have real writing "chops" and most likely are pearls that have yet to be discovered by big publishing and entertainment.
18) What is the most rewarding part of being an Indie Author?
Having control over my manuscript development and design. Being invited to meet and talk about my book with new people and also having a reader send me an email that my book moved them or changed them in a profound way.
19) Worst gesture received as an Indie Author?
I presented my book to a group of book club members and when I returned home to check my email, a woman who was not even present for the book club presentation I made sent me a quite rude email denigrating me as a proud, liberal and very southern feminist.
20) Best gesture received as an Indie Author?
When a book club from my home town took me to lunch after my book presentation, purchased books after the presentation, and then sent me a thank you note afterward with money for the travel expenses I incurred. Classy and thoughtful ladies.
21) What are you most looking forward to now as an Indie Author?
My next memoir about surviving some seriously unusual medical ailments and all the shocking and sometimes laughable experiences I have encountered with doctors and the medical field. It is truly no-holds-barred!!
Until my next post, happy reading!!