Category Archives: Indie Publishing

Links for Writers v1.0 May 2017

Faced with so many blogs and web sites for writers and readers, how do you choose? I’ll try to help. From time to time I’ll give y’all links to sites and specific posts.

Sharon Scarborough introduced me to the blog Writer Unboxed where Donald Maass, one of my favorite writing gurus, is one of many regular contributors. Here’s Maass with a different look at pacing in “Getting Ahead of Yourself . . . and Your Reader.” 

Until very recently, I was stuck in terms of the role of a secondary character in my work-in-progress. What got me un-stuck was a post on the Self Publishing Advice blog of ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors). The post is titled “Writing: How to Plot Better by Concentrating on Character,” by Olaf Bryan Welk. If you’re not familiar with ALLi, check it out.  I subscribed to the ALLi blog and lurked around for quite a while enjoying all the free content, but I ultimately joined because it’s arguably the best advocate for indie authors around.

Indie authors know the value of reader reviews. It’s not negative reviews that doom a book so much as a lack of reviews. How should you go about getting reviews? Here’s a comprehensive post on the subject, “How to Create a Review Campaign for Your Book Launch,” on the blog Book Marketing Tools. 


Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to lose.

–Neil Gaiman

Contests for Indie Authors

Is it worth your effort and/or money to enter your novel in a contest or submit it for an award?

Among the many departments of ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors (I’m a member) is its Watchdog Desk, which monitors the self-publishing industry. Check out its Award and Contest Ratings.

You’ll find ratings (Recommended, Mixed, Caution) for a whole host of awards and contests. Hint: not many earn “Recommended” ratings.

Any experience with awards or contests? Leave a comment.

Indie Author Gets a Book Cover Designed

Eight months ago I had the cover designed for my as-yet-unpublished novel, Compromise With Sin. As an indie author it was my responsibility, not that of an editor and publishing house, to produce a cover. The upside is I got a cover I want. The downside is I paid for it, but it was well worth it.

For starters, I did a Google search for historical novel book covers and selected the “Images” tab. One of the first things I noticed was a trend to feature a woman’s body without the head, not something I wanted to emulate.

By looking at pages of thumbnails, I could tell which covers and titles stood out. I’ve seen too many covers with unreadable titles on Amazon.

Another Google search, this one for book designers, led me to 99Designs. Here’s where I entered a whole new world. 99designs has a worldwide stable of graphic designers who vie for jobs in what are called “Contests.” I signed up at the $300 Bronze level (the lowest). I was guaranteed a cover I’d like or it wouldn’t cost me anything.

Writer friend Brad Whittington advised me to be very clear about describing what I wanted, so I wrote up instructions with photographs: Cover Concept submit to 99Designs

Nineteen graphic designers submitted drafts at the start of my seven-day contest. I was able to write messages to the group or individuals. A few dropped out. Most submitted revisions. One message I sent to the group said, “You’re a talented designer, so surprise me,” but no one did. They stuck to my concept. The process of tweaking continued. At one point I was so over-stimulated I couldn’t sleep.

Once I narrowed the field to six, I held a Poll, inviting about 20 friends to weigh in. As it turned out, the cover I selected was not the most popular one. I made my choice for two reasons: 1) I was having problems due to a language barrier between me and the designer of the popular image, and 2) I decided I liked the portrayal of a woman who looked like she could be trouble.

My chosen designer was Kristin Bryant. We did some tweaking after I selected her design. I wanted the woman’s jaw and eyebrows softened.

One thing that amazed me is the designers’ ability to achieve a painted effect with stock photos. Kristin did add a few original elements, including the people in  the car.

Since the contest ended she has continued to work with me on details, such as adding my author photo to the back cover.

Before getting the cover designed, I saw my story in terms of a manuscript. The cover brought it closer to becoming a real book.

Novelist Takes on Publisher Over Deal With Hate-Monger

“I guess I’m putting my money where my mouth is,” a feminist novelist told BuzzFeed. Roxann Gay withdrew her latest novel from publication by Simon & Schuster after the publisher signed a six-figure deal with Breitbart editor and hate-monger Milo Yiannopoulos.

Saying she was taking a stand against normalizing racism, Gay said, “. . . this isn’t about censorship. . . . Milo has every right to say what he wants . . . I’m not interested in doing business with a publisher who gives him that privilege [of publication].”

Read more on NPR. 



Why Not Become a Beta Reader?

Woman Reading in Garden, 1912, unidentified photographer

Ever been reading a novel & wished the author had asked for your input prior to publication? In the world of indie publishing, many authors seek critiques from readers. In my own experience, after having my as-yet-unpublished novel, Compromise With Sin, professionally edited, I submitted it to three beta readers seeking their feedback on a variety of issues, such as:

  • “Note any place where you’d stop reading to go floss your teeth.” Happily no one found places where the story stalled to that extent.
  • “Note any inconsistencies or contradictions.” Several things were mentioned. One reader found that dates on a tombstone didn’t jibe with the text.
  • “Are there instances in which you want to see more or less of Louise’s emotional response?” I got a great deal of help here.
  • “I welcome any other observations.” I discovered that sometimes what I thought I was communicating wasn’t what the reader was getting.

Become a Beta Reader

Whatever your taste in reading–thrillers, romance, mainstream, etc.–there are plenty of opportunities to become a beta reader. Here’s my advice:

  • Shop carefully & find a book you’ll enjoy before signing up to read.
  • Don’t like books loaded with F-bombs? Inquire as to levels of profanity, sex or violence if these are issues for you.
  • Ask to see the first chapter before you commit. You can always say, “Thank you for the opportunity, but this project just isn’t right for me.”
  • The author should provide you with a list of things he or she wants you to provide feedback on.
  • Decide on the format you’d like. Email attachment? eBook? Hard copy?
  • You should get a polished manuscript, one that’s been edited & proofread & nearly ready for publication, not an early draft. If you come across an occasional misspelling or typo, note it. The author will be grateful.
  • At the very least, you should be listed in the book’s Acknowledgments. You might get a signed print copy as well.

Find Authors Seeking Beta Readers

I recommend joining the Goodreads Beta Reader Group where you’ll find posts by authors who need your help. Typically an author’s post will state the genre & provide a blurb, & if you’re interested you can make contact.

Found Journal Is Treasure Trove for Writer

rosette-coverIn more ways than one, a found journal kept by a pioneer woman is proving to be “a treasure trove of possibilities,” says author Cindy Rinamon Marsch. Her mother found the journal, written by Rosette Cordelia Ramsdell Churchill, in a thrift store. So far the treasure trove has yielded one literary historical novel, Rosette: A Novel of Pioneer Michigan, and a short story, “Blizzard: A Story of Dakota Territory,” & Cindy is working on a second full-length novel, Solomon: A Novel of the Civil War Era. And, while the writings are stand-alone works, their compelling characters & situations are linked, & Cindy’s marketing strategy takes advantage of that synergy.

The Stories

The theme of Cindy’s debut novel is intriguing: “Why did she edit her wedding day journal?” The answer comes from the journal entries—the wedding day in 1856 & the edit in 1888–& Cindy applying her rich imagination to the events and emotions penned in the journal.

The short story came about as a result of Cindy thinking about how to make money with her writing. “The idea of offering the first book free is a good one, but I didn’t want to do that. I’m kind of a high-brow, literary person. I can’t put out a book a month. I decided to experiment with a short story.”

It was known that Rosette left her husband & family around 1886 or before & spent her later years in Dakota Territory. Cindy imagined her leaving & going to live on the farm of her eldest son, DeWitt, & his family there, in which case she’d have experienced the 1888 Children’s Blizzard, a catastrophic storm that caught people unawares on a mild, sunny day. So after publishing Rosette, a 74,000-word novel, in January 2016, Cindy followed up with Blizzard, a 10,000-word short story, in June. (Both are available on Kindle & the novel in an illustrated paperback version.)

As she was writing her first novel, Cindy was drawn to Rosette’s brother, a Civil War bugler who was captured & imprisoned at Andersonville. Solomon, the subject of her work-in-progress, was the favorite character of many readers of Rosette.

The Strategy

After querying agents for a time, Cindy decided to go indie with Rosette & established Moraine’s Edge Books, an imprint not only for her own work, but also for other authors to whom she’ll offer editorial assistance & the talents of her daughter, Betsy, who created covers for Rosette & Blizzard & sketches for the paperback version of Rosette.

Like many indie authors, she chose to publish her eBook exclusively with Amazon. She began studying Amazon’s Kindle programs, getting guidance primarily from the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). She entered Rosette in the Kindle Scout competition in December. Kindle Scout is a contest in which readers vote for books to be published by Kindle Press, and Amazon editors take it from there. The prize for winning authors is a $1,500 advance, five-year renewable contract, & 50 percent royalty on eBooks. Cindy’s book came close to winning. “I made some good connections, & got some great reviews out of it.”

Within weeks after the contest closed, she published Rosette on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select, & a month later published the paperback book. Launching “Blizzard” at 99 cents for the Kindle version boosted sales of Rosette in July when she ran a Countdown Deal promotion. “I had run a Countdown in April that didn’t do as well.”
In August, she ran a free promotion of “Blizzard” which resulted in 2,500 downloads for the month, generated numerous reviews, and catapulted her ranking to #1 in the Historical Fiction Short Story category.

As for future plans, Cindy is considering entering Solomon in the Kindle Scout competition. Eventually she may bundle the three writings into a boxed set, another strategy to satisfy readers’ appetites and keep the synergy going.

To read samples, to order, and to learn more about Cindy’s work, visit &