IndieJourney: Kristen Ashley

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When my father-in-law told me a government backed (that’s the British government, mind) programme was publishing 500 manuscripts (for free-ish), my heart leapt and then my fingers flew over the keyboard to submit my book, Rock Chick. I had no idea that I’d handed over my ticket to take a very wild ride. The good news is, I chose this same organisation to publish the sequel, Rock Chick Rescue. Therefore, the ride didn’t kill me and I’m about to hand over my ticket yet again.

I didn’t think self-publishing was the way I wanted to go as I had glorious dreams of concert-like book-signing tours with Rock Chick groupies following in my wake hoping I’d throw them a t-shirt with which I’d wiped my brow. Self-publishing (so far) has not opened that kind of door but I’m uncertain if that door shouldn’t remain closed (at least until I learn to play guitar and go on tour with the Foo Fighters).

What I can say is that I’ve enjoyed having my book out there. Just that. It’s a brilliant feeling. And the other thing I can say is that I’ve enjoyed the freedom (being the control freak I am) to control my creation and how it is presented, from editing to book cover to marketing.

With the first book, I learned that you need to be strategic about everything and you have to be willing to invest in more than just the publishing and distribution. Submit chapters to writers’ workshops/forums and get (and learn when to listen to and when not to listen to) feedback about your work. Get your book edited professionally (I didn’t do that with Rock Chick but I did with Rock Chick Rescue and it made a world of difference). Make certain you sign off on the final layout of the interior (Rock Chick has no page numbers because of this very thing –eek!–still, some of my readers love it that there are no page numbers, they think it’s very Rock Chick-esque).

Arrange for worldwide distribution. Plan your book release. Have a website or wiki up and running. Make yourself a social networking fanpage. Sort out a book signing or two. Get friends to suggest your book to their book clubs. Amass e-mail addresses of friends and acquaintances, communicate regularly enough to keep them in the know (but not make them want to stop knowing you!) and get them to help you spread the word. Sell on-line! Create competitions where someone wins a book (the more books out there, the more books in circulation, the more readers you have). Monitor forums to see what the readers of your genre like and don’t like (I’m not talking about how you create, you gotta be you when you write, I’m talking about how you promote). Help others along the way (always help others, link to their sites, their books, their stores, their products, answer questions they have about writing and publishing, being a good neighbour pays off, if just in getting great karma). Be good to your readers. And remember, this isn’t going to happen overnight. You can tell yourself you know it won’t but you’ll keep hoping it will (or, at least, I did).

The thing is, with self-publishing, your work is out there, in people’s hands, and that’s the biggest joy of all. When, out of the blue, I was told by a reader-turned-friend that she gave my book to a friend who then called in sick at work because she couldn’t put my book down, I was on Cloud Nine (although I won’t advocate throwing a sickie!). That’s what it’s all about. Sure, in my dreams I have Rock Chick groupies who follow me from signing to signing, but my dream is real when I know there was someone who enjoyed my work so much, they couldn’t be torn away. That’s what it’s all about!

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