Hi everyone! I am so happy to be able to post this interview!
Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes to independent publishing, and whether it might be a good fit for you? I asked Z.R. Southcombe to take us behind the scenes on her journey to Indie Publishing with her new eBook The Caretaker of Imagination and what’s involved in the process. It can be a little daunting.
Zee is from New Zealand, and here she is with a copy of a print book:
One of my goals for this year was doing some author interviews. So,I chose my first interview to be with my friend, Z.R. Southcombe. A few weeks ago, I posted an interview with her that appeared on Inger D. Kenobi’s blog site.
This time, I wanted to interview Z.R myself to offer insight into the writing craft/marketing. So, here goes:
Hi Zee, I’m so happy you’ve joined us, and that you recently had a book launch for your second book, “The Caretaker of Imagination,” which is a delightful story about “John Carroll who is bored with his normal life, so he runs away with his faithful cat in search of adventure. When he meets a real-life pirate, John realizes there is much more to the world than he’d ever thought possible – magic is real, and in desperate need of a hero. John must convince the (once fearsome) Captain Simon Peabody to join him on a fantastic and perilous quest to find the only person who can save magic from being lost forever: the Caretaker of Imagination.”
First, can you tell us, Zee, how you plan your stories? Do you outline or write a summary and go from there? What is your process?
Zee: At first, I tried to write [with] just a rough idea of the story (characters & setting, problem, solution). It didn’t go very well! So, I did a LOT of research into how to plan a narrative, and [how] I use a few different planners to make sure the story is rounded. Below is a really basic outline of what I do. Once I’ve set up all of these, I then do a chapter-by-chapter breakdown and use that to guide my draft.
Debbie: Since some may have little knowledge regarding Independent Publishing (Indie Publishing), would you mind explaining the step-by-step process you took with “The Caretaker of Imagination,” and how to get from point A to point B, etc.”
Zee: Basically, independent publishing means that we don’t submit our manuscripts to an agent or publisher. Instead, we publish the book ourselves. This means we are in charge of printing the books, getting them up online, distribution, cover art, and all the other parts of the publishing process. It can feel daunting sometimes, and it’s a lot of responsibility, but ultimately means we have control over our own work. [Especially rights]
In the past, self-published books have had a bit of a stigma to them. As the industry grows, more information becomes available and we are all able to create books to a more professional standard. As far as a step-by-step process, I’d like to plug my friend Joy Findlay, who is a self-publishing master, and I used her experience and techie know-how to make sure I had everything covered.
- Get the cover art done. My illustrator drew the image, and then my cover designer put it all together for me.
- Write a blurb. I found this REALLY difficult, and most other writers seem to as well. Once I’d written it, I got feedback from a few people to tweak it into what it is now.
- Research and find a printer (if you are doing print books. Many use CreateSpace, and even more don’t bother with print at all, preferring to focus on the digital market).
- Set up an account with Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo and Smashwords to distribute your work online.
- Contact bookstores, and set up direct sales on your website to sell print books.
- Market, market, market!
Debbie: I read in your acknowledgements in the back of your book that you had to be convinced to publish independently. What changed your mind to go the Indie route?
Zee: Brownie points for reading my acknowledgments, Debbie! Really, it was down to a few key people who convinced me. They helped me question my purpose for writing, and my goals. I realized that the main reason I was looking for a publisher was for the prestige of having been published, and being on a bookstore’s shelf.
My purpose was – and is – to write stories that are true to myself, and empower young children. My goal is to make a career out of writing. With Indie publishing, I have control over what goes in my story, and what stays out. I can choose my illustrator and my cover art, and I have a much bigger chance of making a career through my work—as long as I apply a bit of business sense.
Debbie: You had print books for your book launch. Tell us what the process is. And I read that you had a bit of difficulty concerning the deadline for the print books with getting them done before the launch. Can you tell us what happened?
Zee: Oh gosh yes, I was completely stressed out that week! I had ordered proof copies of the book, which hadn’t turned up, and when we rang to enquire (my sister kindly stepped in for panic-control), they said the order hadn’t been put through! I was ready to have a no-books book launch.
But as they say, all things happen for a reason. I ended up getting a beautiful print book done right here in New Zealand (on the way to work, no less) and I’m glad to be able to support local business. The cost was a little bit higher, but I’m still making a profit and that’s the bottom line. We did have to make a change with our special hardcover edition, which has different cover art and a foreword from the illustrator, Jane Thorne. It’s now a limited edition.
I sell the print books through Pt Chev Bookshop, who are lovely booksellers that hosted my launch party, as well as direct through my website. I’ve made sales fairly consistently after the launch, largely from friends-of-friends. I manage payments and send the books out myself, currently as a sole trader business.
The process was to get the files print-ready, and I utilized Flying Kiwi Services for this. She did a fantastic job, and the books were okayed from the get-go. All I had to do was pay, and pick them up!
Debbie: How did the launch go? What did you learn, and is there anything you’ll do differently next time?
Zee: It went amazingly well. I was truly blown away. We had an actual crowd in the little bookstore, and there were a bunch of people milling outside as well. A lot went fantastically – there were plenty of cupcakes to go around (thanks to all my friends who baked for me), the kids LOVED the goody bags, and all in all people enjoyed themselves.
My next book launch will be in May (or early June) which is winter for us. I’m currently tossing ideas around in terms of what I’ll do differently – we need to organise a way to hold everyone in the shop, or move to a larger venue, and I’d like to have an online component as well, but need to work on the logistics of that. Also, as it will be colder, we’ll need a way to entice people out of their warm, cozy homes!
Debbie: You’re working on your third book, “Lucy’s Story: The End of the World.” It’ll be out soon, and you’ve decided to publish it as an eBook again. What are the pros and cons, if any, to Indie Publishing?
Zee: Honestly, I love it! I’ll start with the cons, cause that’s a smaller list: everything depends on you. That’s it. I have to manage my accounts & bookkeeping, and make sure everything that is supposed to happen, does actually happen. I also have to do my own print distribution, which is much harder as an indie author.
Some people say that marketing is a drawback in indie publishing as well, but no matter how you’re published, you need to market yourself. I’m thoroughly enjoying the process! Most of all, I like that I can ‘employ’ my friends – editing, graphic design, illustration, teacher resources and formatting are all done by friends (who also happen to be talented professionals!), and I can be creative as I like with my writing and marketing strategies without having to ask for permission.
Zee, thank you so much for your time. I’m sure many can learn from your experience. You can find a link to Zee’s website here if you wish to buy her book or learn more about her.
A few other websites you may find helpful:
The Book Designer
YouTube Video on Creating a book
I hope to have another interview in the near future from Heather McCorkle of McCorkle Creations.
Until then, I hope you have a wonderful day, and God bless!