Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Love Thine Self Publishing with Guest Blogger: Debra Holland

Win a copy of Wild Montana Sky and meet author Debra Holland today at the Book Boost!

Here's what she had to say...

Three years ago, my boyfriend, Don, told me he intended to self-publish the book he was writing because he wanted compete control over it.

Also, he’d watched me go through the rejection process (and heard stories about what happened before we were dating) and he didn’t want to join me in that experience.

I told Don I didn’t think self-publishing was a good idea, explaining that writers, agents, and editors assumed indie fiction books weren’t any good. Self-publishing has worked for a few nonfiction authors, such as James Redfield who wrote The Celestine Prophesy, selling 20,000 books on his own before New York scooped him up and made him a best seller. However, for a work of fiction, self-publishing was a death knell. Now three years later, I’m six weeks into my own self-publishing experience. How the publishing world (and my opinion) has changed!

So what happened?

In 2001, my first book, Wild Montana Sky, a “sweet” historical Western won the RWA Golden Heart award. From that win, I signed with my first agent. Everyone I knew thought that selling WMS was only a short step away. But that didn’t happen. The historical market at the time had tanked, especially for Westerns. When it did come back, “sweet” books weren’t popular, unless they were inspirationals. I had a second agent try to sell the series to New York publishers, as well as the first book in my second series--a fantasy romance. That book, Sower of Dreams, was a Golden Heart finalist.

I didn’t want to go with a small press, mostly because I didn’t like most of the covers. By the time (most) small press covers improved, I’d set aside my fiction and was concentrating on nonfiction. Recently while in the middle of a five month deadline writing The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving for Alpha Books (publishers of the Complete Idiots Guides) I started hearing about self-publishing.

It started with my friends from The Wet Noodle Posse, a group of the Golden Heart 2003 finalists. The first to self-publish was Delle Jacobs, and she started having amazing success. Theresa Regan, Norah Wilson, and Colleen Gleason followed, also with great results. (Check out their books, they’re great!)

I couldn’t wait to jump into the self-publishing waters. But I was too consumed by the grief book. As soon as I turned it in, I did a read-through of both Wild Montana Sky, and the next in the series, Starry Montana Sky. Delle Jacobs designed beautiful covers to my specifications.

I paid the vast sum of $20 a book to have the books converted to ebook formatting. (You can do it yourself if you’re not tech challenged like me. There’s a guide on the Smashwords site.)

I put the books on Kindle on April 28, Nook and Smashwords on April 29. By June 8th, I’d sold my 1000th book! Less than 6 weeks!

The sales of my books and the feedback I’ve received (some of which brought tears of joy to my eyes) have vindicated my decision to become an independent publisher. It has also proved what I’ve felt all along--that there IS a market for traditional romances. I’ve always thought that there were a lot of readers like me who will read (almost) any type of romance as long as the stories are good.

I’ve also thought that there were readers who (uncomfortable with more sexual books) were searching for traditional stories that weren’t inspirationals. I’d even had a few women tell me that they’d stopped reading romance because of the sexual content. Whenever I spoke to an agent or editor about the topic of “sweet” books, it came back to the same point--how to find readers who like traditional stories--especially if they’ve stopped reading most romance. Well, that’s no longer a problem. Those readers are finding me. :)

I’ve turned into a fanatical convert for self-publishing because I know SO many people who’ve written good books, but couldn’t sell them. Maybe they’re unpublished. Or maybe they’re multi-published, and they have an unusual book that was rejected by everyone. As I read the books written by my self-published friends. I’m amazed--not at how wonderful the books are--but that THEY DIDN’T SELL! Wow! New York’s loss!

I’m now in the process of preparing my fantasy romance series for self-publishing. I’m aiming toward mid June. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with a whole different subgenre of romance.

If you’re thinking of self-publishing, the first thing you need to do is make sure your manuscript is professionally edited. (Luckily mine were done many years ago, so I only had to do another read-through.) It’s good if you’ve received positive feedback from editors--for example, they like the book, but just bought something similar, or it doesn’t fit their line. If you’re only receiving form letters, your book probably still needs work.

A book that you love but couldn’t sell shouldn’t languish on your computer. Toss it into the epublishing waters and let it swim away. Then sit back and enjoy the ride.

A Note from the Book Boost: I enjoyed your post, Debra and thanks for sharing your journey to self publication with us. I've heard so many similar stories recently and am even considering some projects being self pubbed myself. I wish you much success and good for you for loving thine self! Please tell us more about your books.


Wild Montana Sky
With the tragic death of her fiancé, Elizabeth Hamilton believed she’d never love again. The comfortable life she’s settled into with her brother in Boston, is upset when he abruptly marries. Displaced by her spiteful new sister-in-law, and hoping to find a home for herself, Elizabeth allows handsome cowboy Nick Sanders to escort her from Boston to her friend’s Montana ranch.

In Montana, Elizabeth meets attractive Caleb Livingston, a wealthy banker who strongly resembles her beloved fiancé, and believes she has a second chance at love. Yet, she has to fight a growing attraction to Nick. In braving the dangers and hardships of the West, Elizabeth discovers unexpected strengths within herself--strengths tested when an influenza epidemic ravages the town. As a child’s life hangs in the balance, Elizabeth must choose between the man who has everything, and the one with nothing but his heart to offer.

Starry Montana Sky

When widowed Samantha Sawyers Rodriguez inherits her Uncle Ezra’s Montana ranch, she believes she finally has a chance to put down roots, fulfilling her dream of running an orphanage for wayward children and raising miniature horses. Prosperous rancher, Wyatt Thompson, has coveted Ezra’s river property to expand his spread and fulfill his goal to overcome his poverty-stricken turbulent past. Samantha’s arrival throws his careful plans into chaos, and her boys awaken memories he’s struggled to forget. When an arsonist sets fires in town, and the people turn against Samantha and her boys, Wyatt risks exposing his shameful secret in order to save the woman he loves.

Excerpt from Wild Montana Sky:

Boston, 1893

Laurence married!

Elizabeth Hamilton leaned against the blue and gold papered wall of the entry hall and stared in shock at the telegram from her brother. Her vision blurred into dark whirls. She tried to breathe deeply lest she faint into a heap on the tiled floor, but with her lungs constricted by more than the tight lacings of her corset; she could only gasp for air.

Katie, the parlor maid, rushed forward, putting a steadying hand under Elizabeth’s elbow.

“Are you all right, Miss Hamilton?”

Elizabeth glanced at the anxious face of the maid and tried to pull herself together enough to dredge normal words from the maelstrom of her feelings. “I’m fine. Just a little faint.” She strove for a semblance of calm. “I need to sit down.”

Leaning on Katie, Elizabeth crossed the hall into the parlor. She sank into her favorite blue velvet wing chair, slumped against the cushions and closed her eyes.

“Should I bring your smelling salts, Miss Hamilton?”

Opening her eyes, Elizabeth shook her head. “I don’t have smelling salts. I’ve never needed them.”

“I could borrow Cook’s?”

“No, thank you.” Elizabeth tried to smile. “I’ll be fine.”

Katie’s indecision flickered in her brown eyes. She twisted her hands in her white ruffled apron. “I know it’s not my place to ask, Miss Hamilton, but is it bad news about Mr. Hamilton? Should I send for anyone?”

“Actually, it’s good news. I was just taken by surprise.” Elizabeth was too shaken to care if she broke protocol by not first sharing the news with the housekeeper. “My brother has married.”
Katie drew in a hissing breath through her teeth. “Mr. Hamilton married?” The puzzled look on the maid’s face reflected Elizabeth’s own confused feelings. She looked again at the telegram in her hand.


“We’ll have a new mistress.” The girl covered her mouth, then dropped her hand. “Everything’s going to change,” she whispered.

Yes, everything.

Elizabeth tried to give her a reassuring smile. “We have a well-run household, Katie. I’m sure the new Mrs. Hamilton will make very few changes.” She waved her hand at the door. “I’m feeling better, thank you. You may go.”

The lump of pain lodged in Elizabeth’s throat belied her casual words to the maid. She’d no idea her brother had been courting anyone. Now suddenly he was married! And without inviting his own sister to the wedding. Hurt and betrayal burned through her chest. She stood up, balled her hands into fists, crushing the telegram, then threw it into the fireplace.

Unable to sit still, Elizabeth paced the room, trailing her fingers across the blue and silver striped wallpaper. When she had redecorated the parlor, she’d resisted the current fashion for darker shades of red. Instead, she’d spent many hours searching for soothing blues, which were a more personal statement of her tastes.

She had deluded herself into thinking this day would never come--that her brother would never marry, and she’d always serve as the mistress of his house and hostess for his business affairs. Yet at times she’d sensed the emptiness in his heart, hidden beneath a stiff exterior and busy business and social life, and wished he could find a congenial life companion.

She glanced up at the portrait of Laurence and herself painted twelve years ago, at the start of her first season. Callers always admired the picture of the tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed siblings. A much younger Elizabeth, dressed in the white silk and lace gown she’d worn to her debutante ball, sat in front of her brother. Laurence, in formal evening clothes, stood behind Elizabeth with his hand protectively on her shoulder.

Hope threaded through her hurt. Perhaps in Laurence’s bride she’d find a true sister--filling the empty place in her heart caused by her best friend’s marriage and move to Montana. Even though they’d been separated for ten years, she missed Pamela so much. How wonderful to have a close confidant once again--someone to help banish the loneliness trailing after her like a phantom.

A vision of her personal ghost slipped into Elizabeth’s mind. Tall and handsome, with laughing brown eyes and a playful grin--Richard, her beloved fiancé.... The fingers of her right hand crept up to her chest--a familiar gesture--to clasp the gold locket containing his picture. If Richard had lived, he’d be teasing her now with outrageous descriptions of Laurence’s wife. In her laughter, she’d forget her pain. Of course, if he’d lived, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Somehow, after his death, eleven years had slipped by. Although she’d had offers, no one had measured up to Richard, and she’d refused to marry any man she didn’t love. Besides, her brother had always said he needed her.

Tears welled in her eyes. “I hope, Laurence--” she told the portrait “--you’ve found the kind of love Richard and I had.”

Want More Debra?

Visit her website here: http://drdebraholland.com

Pick up a copy of her books today! Click here.

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**Winners for Book Boost prizes are drawn the first week of the following month and posted in the Recent Winners box in the right hand side of the blog. Check back to see if you are a winner and to claim your prize! Please leave your contact information in your blog post!**


Charlene Sands said...

Great info on this blog about self-publishing and your story. Congrats on the big sale numbers and enjoy the journey, Debra!!

Margery Scott said...

Congrats on your success. I too have recently entered the world of indie publishing. I'm wondering how you promote your books. I'm finding that's the hardest part.
Thanks for any advice you have.

Nancy said...

I haven't tried Indie ... yet, but I feel your pain on the snub of westerns. I just feel beat up about all this. But your story is so inspirational. Thank you.

Norah Wilson said...

Deb, your story is striking so many chords, since mine was almost identical! Not the sweet romance part, but the meeting with so much rejection part. Also the fear of being "tarred" with the self-publishing brush. But like you, I watched what Delle Jacobs was doing and was inspired to try it myself. Times certainly HAVE changed!

And thank you for the shout out. Right back at you!

Dr. Debra Holland said...

Thanks, Charlene!

Dr. Debra Holland said...


I haven't promoted too much. A little Facebook and Tweeting. This is only my second guest blog. However, tags are very important. Before I published I read somewhere that you want to use as many tags as you can think of. I used about 6 the first time around, then added some as I received reader feedback. For example, someone described it as "wholesome romance." Ok. Never thought of that one. Someone else said, "like early Linda Lael Miller." Used that one too. :)

Once I got on the 100 Amazon list (Historical, and Historical Romance) that generated more sales. More often than not, in the last two weeks, I've been on the lists. The more the books sell (currently almost 1400 in 6 and a half weeks) the lower the Amazon rank. That seems to help, too.

Dr. Debra Holland said...


Yes, the publishing industry can totally beat you up. I'm finding my new success in self-publishing to be so uplifting. It's given me new joy and energy in my writing. I feel free because the old barriers are no longer there.

Dr. Debra Holland said...

Norah, you're amazing with all the different books you've written and how much you've helped me.

Readers, check out Norah Wilson's self-published. She almost has a little of everything. :)

Mystery and Mayhem said...

That's a good blog, Debra. I'm thrilled to hear you are doing so well. As a friend of Norah Wilson's, I know what great writers you all are, and it's about time the world knew too.
I will attempt some sweet fantasy stories soon with Smashwords, and your story is inspirational indeed.
Thank you!
Barbara Phinney

Norah Wilson said...

Thanks for the plug, Deb! And you're right; I do have some different things going on - romantic suspense, paranormal romance, even a funny cozy mystery. But there's no mystery about why so many sub-genres. I was just trying to crack that NY publishing nut, if not in one genre, then another. That way I could submit to many houses at once. Not a problem with self-publishing.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I just bought WILD MONTANA SKY and look forward to reading it. Best of luck to you in your fiction writing. I know you're already established in your professional psuychology career.

I love western romances, especially if there's some mayhem involved, too!

Shadow said...

Congrats! I love the sound of this book. Reading the first chapter was a tease! lol Thank you for the giveaway!

Na said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on self-publishing Debra. I think self-publishing has come a long way from its humble beginning, though the stigma that people who take this route are "selling out" may not always go away. For me I love discovering great stories and authors no matter their origins. Sometimes the best of books come from self-publishing companies. Choosing which route to take is really a personal choice and probably dependent on your book. It certainly makes for a great way to breakout and catch readers/publishers's attention. Whatever, the reason I commend all authors who put their work, their words out there for the world to see.