Saturday, March 12, 2011

Guest Post by Zoe Winters

Years ago, Zoe Winters used to comment on my blog, objecting whenever I mentioned that self-publishing was a bad idea.

I was correct. Back then, it was a bad idea. But Zoe firmly believed I was mistaken and she dove into self-pubbing full-force, evangelizing it with a zeal normally reserved for religious fanatics. It used to annoy me a bit, because Zoe was spouting off her opinions as facts when she'd had no experience in traditional publishing, no real success at self-publishing, and no data to back up her strong opinions.

And then a funny thing happened. The landscape began to rapidly shift. Self-publishing became a viable way to make money, and Zoe was perfectly positioned to capitalize upon this.

Which she did, selling thousands and thousands of ebooks, making a nice chunk of change, and then eventually self-pubbing print and audio editions.

She's got great covers, a great website, and a great blog. And I really dug her Zoe Who? video.

So here's Zoe...

What Next?
by Zoe Winters

Joe asked me if I’d like to blog at his place, but I wanted to talk about something a little different. What I want to talk about and what excites me now is... what next?

For a lot of indies “what next” is obviously an agent and a large traditional publishing deal. I’m sure if I ever did well enough, it’s theoretically possible someone could offer me a deal large enough to take. But even as I type that I’m a little doubtful. I “really” love self-publishing. The more I do it, the more I love it.

One of the major things I’ve learned is that we are all on our own publishing journey. And we all get where we’re going at different speeds and in different ways. It’s important that wherever you are, you learn to keep your eyes on your own paper and focus on where you are and what the next step is for where you want to go. And also take the time to smell the roses and appreciate the ability to produce your own work. Because that’s something that for most of the past century has not been a very popular concept. (But something that was long overdue to make a comeback.)

If you’re focused on what someone else is doing or maintaining some imaginary status, you will lose your freaking mind. Trust me on this one. It seems totally obvious, but when you get out there it is SO hard not to get sucked into all the drama and ego and blah blah blah and comparing yourself with what everyone else is doing for good or ill.

One of the best decisions I’ve made recently is to back off the indie rah rah train. My focus should be on building my platform for romance. When people think “Zoe Winters” I’d really rather them think: “Paranormal romance author, and I think she’s indie”, not “That loud-mouthed indie author, I don’t remember what she publishes. I think it’s some romance crap or something.” And I really want to avoid: “That crazy bitch”, as the first impression.

My primary focus in life right now needs to be: “How am I going to get these two characters into bed without being totally lame about it?” It’s great that I have these epic important goals, huh? That Zoe Winters is a girl with her priorities in the right place!

Beyond focusing more on the actual fiction than the peripheral publishing debates, I’ve started to expand what I’m doing a little bit in a couple of different areas. One of them is marketing and building a stronger connection with my platform of readers.

I used to hate book trailers to the degree that you would think they had personally offended me and my momma. I think it was because I didn’t “get” what they were for. Most people seem to agree that book trailers do not sell giant numbers of books to totally new people to your work. And they’d be right. Also, they cost either an arm and a leg or a ton of time. Or both. But I think they’re great for connecting with your current readership and can be a lot of fun.

Here is the book trailer for my recent release, Save My Soul, put together for me by the amazing Michelle Davidson Argyle:

Book Trailer: Save My Soul by: Zoe Winters from Zoe Winters on Vimeo.

Another project I’ve been working on, is getting audiobooks out the door. I don’t get a lot of time to read for pleasure, but with audio I’m able to “read” while cleaning, cooking, driving, exercising. It’s really a pretty awesome way to fit stories in. Listening to audiobooks, I started to think how cool it would be to have my own work packaged that way. Initially, I thought maybe I’d sell well enough someday that I could license those rights.

I ditched that idea pretty early because I’d have little or no say over who did the narration. Having listened to so many audio books, I am pretty particular about who reads to me. And having listened to James Marsters narrate the Dresden Files, and Jim Frangione narrate J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I’m pretty hung up on male voices reading to me for the most part.

Instead of trying to license those rights to an audiobook publisher, I decided to go to an audiobook production company that works with indies, Perfect Voices. They will produce, edit, and distribute the audio, while I get a much larger cut of the proceeds than I’d get going traditionally.

I got 10 great auditions and chose Chet Williamson, who I absolutely adore. His comedic and dramatic timing is great. His pacing is great. Some of his interpretation of the text and characters is better than it played in my head, which makes me look like a more awesome writer than I am. And that’s always good. So I’m very excited about this new audio frontier.

This is the result:

And that was way more verbiage than you probably wanted about what I’m up to. I’d like to eventually do well enough that I could do limited edition signed and numbered hardcovers. I love the idea of putting together a hardcover that is so well-done that it goes back to “bookmaking as an art”. I think I need a much stronger and larger platform to make that viable, but it’s definitely on the list of stuff I’m hoping to do some day in the future.

And, of course, if you happen to read paranormal romance you can find the latest book, Save My Soul at Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Thanks for reading!

Joe sez: One of the things I like about Zoe is that her product--books, website, blog, trailers--is indistinguishable from what the Big 6 are doing. She doesn't look like an indie author. Not one bit. The effort she's put into her writing career is impressive, and something all of us should strive for.

She's also making it her goal to write 365,000 words this year. That kind of commitment marks her as a pure professional. And in this current Gold Rush ebook climate, I'm betting it will pay off for her.

I'm actually doing a (gasp) book signing today in Peru, IL at the Waldenbooks in the mall, from 2pm-3pm with Henry Perez, so I won't be around. (I know, I said I wasn't doing any more signings, but this is a favor to my bookseller buddy Greg Swanson.)

But I've asked Zoe to stop by and answer any questions anyone might have. I'm sure she can hold down the fort in my absence.