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.


Regan Black said...

Two hours and no comments for Zoe? Unbelievable!

You make a good point about the book trailer and this one is great. Congrats on your current success and best of luck as you look to the future!

Just finished your "Smart Self-Publishing..." book and wanted to say thanks! It's a great resource and I appreciated your candor.


Thrilling Covers said...

Zoe, congats on doing it your way! That takes a lot of dedication and hard work.

Unknown said...

Zoe, I think it's cool that you're focusing on your writing, but you were in it from the start, so if you decided to, you could keep your platform as that loud-mouthed indie lady.

But not every indie writer needs a blog about only self-publishing!!! I write my blog about my writing process and things that are related that I find interesting, and things that are unrelated that I find interesting. I hope to make it a fun place for readers, not just for other writers.

Christopher Hopper said...

I love the thought of a hardcover book moving into a place of limited edition fan art. Still has a place, but not the featured product of the consumer. ch:

Tara Maya said...

I first discovered Zoe through her "Zoe Who?" vids on Michelle's site The Literary Lab. I also listened to her pod casts. She writes in a genre I enjoy, so I quickly became a fan of her work. I like her loud-mouth indie persona, but I also want to read more of her books, so I can understand if she wants to focus on her writing.

However, I don't think that time building a platform was wasted. Also, since Zoe was one of the first on the indie train, I think "explaining" (without apology) why someone would go indie, and that it wasn't a mark of inferiority, was useful for readers. It was also, of course, a huge inspiration to those of us trying to decide what to do.

I'm not convinced the indie moment will last forever. I think timing will determine success for a lot of us. I am grateful I found out about this opportunity from Zoe and Joe and others while the iron is still hot.

Tara Maya
Initiate - only $.99 for the month of March!

Anonymous said...

Here's a comment for Zoe:

Quotation marks do not indicate emphasis. [I "really" love self-publishing.]

The rest of the post was good.

Sarah Woodbury said...

I really like the idea of every writer being on her own journey and that you have that ability to refocus your efforts, whatever your approach has been in the past. Best of luck to you!

JA Konrath said...

Here's a comment for Anonymous:

No one listens to cowards. If you want to criticize someone, man up and own it by signing your name.

Stephen Parrish said...

I met Zoe back when she was defending self-publishing in blog comments everywhere. Her energy and zeal were endearing and infectious. But like most people, I disagreed with her arguments, however much I admired the courage it took to stand there like One Tin Soldier and take the heat.

I admire her now more than ever, and I no longer disagree with her arguments.

Donald Wells said...

Congratulations on your success Zoe and may you have much more. The most impressive thing about you is that you were out in front on this indie thing before Joe. Joe is as savvy as they come and a real inspiration. I also agree with you Zoe about each of us doing our own thing, tending our own garden as it were. Anyone trying to duplicate John Locke or Amanda Hockings' success will just drive themselves mad. That sort of extreme achievement in sales is the result of so many factors unknown to us that it is best attributed to luck, and luck is not something that we know how to make, but we do know how to work at our craft, and each of us should just keep working as best we can and produce writing that we love.

The Fix-it Man
Double or Nothing
Sex Poems For Virgins

Rebecca Stroud said...

As a long-time reader of both Zoe/Joe blogs, I'm grateful to them for their professional insight about indie authors. I also relate very well to Zoe's outspoken take on everything as I am quite blunt, too.

So, on that note: Zoe, why don't you tell anonymous that you "really" don't give a crap about his nit-picking grammar lesson?

A Three-Dog Night
The Animal Advocate
Zellwood: A Dog Story

Moses Siregar III said...

I was correct. Back then, it was a bad idea.

I think Zoe was just plain right all along and I give her as much credit as anyone for being a real visionary on indie publishing. She helped convince me in February of 2010 (we had some of these discussions on your blog, Joe), and she was right that the ebook market was expanding at incredible levels, that large publishers were going to have a hard time in the future, and so many other things about the advantages of indie publishing.

Not many people beat you to the truth, Joe, but Zoe did. She was a good 6-12 months ahead of you and she deserves a lot of credit for seeing the writing on the wall before the big money was there. She also had thousands (tens of thousands?) of readers in early 2010. I think she deserves a lot of credit for seeing the future just before the money was there to prove it. JMO.

Jude Hardin said...

Aw, you'll always be "that crazy bitch" to me.


Enjoyed your trailer.

I actually like them a lot. I know people say they don't sell books, but they sure are fun. I wrote the script for mine, and a friend I've known for thirty-some years produced it for me.

Best wishes for continued success, Zoe.

And I agree with Steve Parrish about the arguments. I'm not disagreeing anymore either.

Pocket-47 Book Trailer

Nancy C. Johnson said...

Hi Zoe,

I love everything you had to say! And I agree. Also, thanks for the information regarding audio books. I love the idea of publishing one myself someday, and also the limited edition hardcover idea.

So glad you guest posted here so I could get to know you and your work better.

Nancy :)

Moses Siregar III said...

And btw that 6-12 month estimate may be selling her short. It might be more like 2 years. She got on this train early and she's been nothing but right all along.

Sarra Cannon said...

LOVE the book trailer. I've been hesitant to do any trailers for my books so far, for exactly the reasons you spelled out in the post. Plus, I'm not great at graphic design and making videos, so the idea of making my own scares the crap out of me. Yours was exciting and sexy and made me want to run out and buy the book. Which I think I'll go do...

Moses Siregar III said...

I credit Joe and Zoe as the ones who really opened my eyes to indie publishing.

So if anyone's got a problem wit dem, dey's got a problem wit me! :-D

N.M. Martinez said...

Zoe, I think you have vision. What I love about your posts that I see all over the place as I dive in and do my research isn't the "rah-rah indie" thing, but that you are always so passionate and clear that each person has to find their own way.

I admit that I love hearing your ideas.

Matthew W. Grant said...

Hello Zoe,

I've always looked forward to reading your comments here. They've always been insightful and well-argued.

Can you tell us more about your audio book products and PerfectVoices? How do they distribute? Are they marketing at all or simply producing the files? Do you own the files or do they? I checked their site, but they don't mention anything about costs - just to fill out a form for a quote.

Other audio production comapnies I've seen end up charging about $200/hour of finished audio. They say an hour is roughly 10K words so lets say you have a 90K book, youd be talking $1,800. That would put it out of range for many inde authors, espeically those just starting out.

Matthew W. Grant
Sex, Sin & Scandal In A Small New England Town...
Secrets Of Slaters Falls

Nancy C. Johnson said...

Hi again Zoe,

Wow! Just Wow!

Watched your video and it literally gave me chills.


Nancy C. Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S. V. Rowle said...

What Moses said. There is nothing shameful about admitting you were wrong, Joe. I respect what you've done for the independent community online. But you were wrong and Zoe was right. The starter advantage in a market is one that cannot be overestimated. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg.

Zoe was able to define herself in a market before it became saturated. She made whatever mistakes she was going to make when no one was really paying attention, and now she knows exactly what she's doing and has a solid foothold.

I credit *her* with my decision to eventually self-publish when I'm ready and the foundation of what is now the online self-publishing movement back in 2008, back when she was still arguing with you. In fact, she's how I rediscovered your blog. ;)

Anonymous said...

ROFL. I just clicked on the Zoe Who? video before I read the article. Once I stop laughing I'll read the article.


Josie Wade

The Remembrance Tree said...

ZW, you’re trailer is great. Maybe trailers don’t add book sales but they do add credibility to the authors work. Consequently, the better the trailer, the less risk a potential reader assumes in buying your book. Comforted by viewing a professionally done trailer makes the buy button easier to punch.

Here’s a homemade piece using this free software (Muvee 6 - they have templates),
Here’s my biography, Bloody Omaha -

And, here’s a professionally made trailer of my first book, Character Happens!

Big difference.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Regan,

LOL @ no comments for 2 hours. Well, it's Saturday, the world has been hit by a lot of bad news that is sort of attaching itself to almost everyone, and of course there is the Charlie Sheen show, lol. So, meh.

Also, my post is arguably "not" combative, like some may be used to from me, or like some may think of me... sort of like Joe said with the "really annoyed" thing hahahaha.

And, of course, Joe said I might not get a lot of comments because my post is structured a little differently than a lot of them, but that's okay. :)

Thanks for commenting, I'm glad you found my book helpful!

Thanks, Thrilling Covers!

@Alan, yeah, but I don't want to keep my loud-mouthed indie platform... sure I'm going to talk about it from my blog some and stuff, and I occasionally comment elsewhere, but the loud-mouthed indie thing attracts too much hate and drama. And I just don't have time for that in my life anymore. It's not my goal to piss off the entire world with my opinions. I figure if I keep most of them to my own blog and facebook and twitter, then people have to opt-in to hear them, and if they do, and don't like it... well, they can just as easily opt out.

And yeah, that's my goal, too. Right now I aim for about half the content to be about the whole indie thing (because apparently I can't shut up about it), and the other half more about just random stuff and stuff readers might find interesting and entertaining, because I really want to up the percentage of paranormal romance readers on my blog.

Zoe Winters said...

Christopher, right! I used to dream of libraries "back in the day" like home libraries that had gorgeous limited edition hardcovers and first editions and etc. I'd love it if hardcovers became more about an art. There is definitely a market for that if people will think inside a different box.

Hi Tara,

And that was a lot of why I WAS so "loud" and out there, particularly on this blog, but at other places as well. I saw people who "wanted" to try self-publishing but were scared of what people would think of them. It's been my experience that it only takes a few loud and confident people to say: "Hey, doing things your way is okay", before more people branch out and do what they wanted to do but were scared to do because of "what people might think."

And speaking of podcasts, I'm thinking of starting up maybe a monthly podcast (to have time for it) where I interview another author and we talk and blabber for a bit. I like doing podcasts, I think it's hard for people to see me in quite the "bitchy" way some do, once they hear my crazy southern gerbil on speed accent, hahaha.

Thanks, Sarah! And it is not an easy thing to do, the focusing on your own thing and ignoring the noise, and I'm not perfect at it, but every day I get just a little better at it.

@Joe, LMAO. ;) I heart you.

hehehe Stephen, awwww, thank you! ;) I knew many would start out laughing and rolling their eyes. After a time, those people who decided they didn't like me and I was stupid, still don't like me, but now they are haters for a different reason.

Hey Donald, thanks! That's a big struggle for me also, with regards to the Hocking/Locke type of phenomenon's. It's true, I was self-pubbing before Joe... he mentions it was a bad idea then. I knew the money wasn't there at that MOMENT, but I also knew that it was COMING, and I needed to be well-positioned.

Sometimes I wonder if I'd spent more time writing than arguing on the Internet about the merits of self-pub, if perhaps I would have had a strong enough backlist to be in those really high sales positions. I'm not sure. But, I'm making a living, and I'm doing my thing, and I've always been on a ten-year plan. Just because someone zooms past me and achieves more success scale-wise than I will probably ever achieve, doesn't mean I have an excuse to take my eyes off my own paper.

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks, Rebecca! With regards to the other, I can't be bothered.

Thanks, Moses, that means a lot. Makes me a little weepy. :P

LMFAO, Jude @ "awww you'll always be that crazy bitch to me" hahahahaha. In a bizarre way, I heart you.

And thanks so much for being the first to comment on the trailer! :) And yes, they are fun. Awesome trailer. Music, narrator, use of pictures with the beats, all awesome. :) And not too long!

Hi Nancy, thanks! Audio Books have been a really awesome experience for me. I just sent contract and deposit for Save My Soul audio and Chet should be starting work on that soon. :)

Moses, I think I started blabbering about Self-publishing a little before I released Kept, but I released Kept in November 2008. I'd been thinking about self-pub for about 4 years, but of course originally I was studying it from the print angle. I will admit that would have been a LOT harder than going the ebook way. I'm glad I shifted my focus and started with ebooks.

Zoe Winters said...

Sarra, yay! Thanks! I hope you enjoy it. I think it's the strongest work to date, but of course my opinion about my own work means Jack and Sh*t. :P

N.M. Thanks! I have always tried, even when I totally did not understand trad publishing as a concept (something I still often don't get, honestly), that everybody has to do what they have to do. Me telling someone they are stupid for traditionally publishing is no less crappy then them telling me I'm stupid for going indie. At root, all human beings want to be acknowledged and validated in some way. The trouble, for me with trad pub, has always been "Validation, but at what cost?" Because I saw stuff shifting and just didn't think I'd be putting myself in a good position going that way. And I want a long term career. I'm very serious about this writing thing. ;)

Jill James said...

I won Zoe's book on another blog. Awesome reading!!

I love that Joe said you were very professional. That will mark the indie's that rise above the rest.

Unknown said...

Great to hear your story, Zoe.

It's been my experience that it only takes a few loud and confident people to say: "Hey, doing things your way is okay", before more people branch out and do what they wanted to do but were scared to do because of "what people might think."

I absolutely agree with this. Most of the pressure to traditionally publish seems to be along the lines of, "You won't be a REAL author and no one will respect you." But there are few things more inspiring than someone blazing a trail and not caring What Everyone Else Thinks.

wannabuy said...

@Moses:"I think she deserves a lot of credit for seeing the future just before the money was there to prove it. JMO."


Zoe made her mistakes when they were 'low cost' and 'off the radar.' Now she is an established brand.

I caught her probably a year after she started posting... By the time I was reading Zoe, it was 'common sense.'

At a minimum, she has benefited from 'first mover advantage.' I see ebooks and small pub/indie ebooks starting an exciting time. The era of kicking the small guy out of the bookstore is over. :)


Mica Jade said...

Zoe, your indie courageous voice gets people to listen(I heard of you and followed you from a distance before I had heard of Joe). But as Joe noted, your professionalism is what keeps people buying and trad pub watching. Thanks for your insights. And keep that voice out front both in your work and as a pioneer of indie publishing.

Anonymous said...

***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!***

LOL, I just spent yesterday debating the logistics of doing it in a GT Charger. It's nice to know someone else out there would consider this a good use of my time : ).

I agree with you about the promo videos. The first time I saw one I thought 'what the f---'. But I have to admit I do click on them and have been swayed. Yours is sexy.

@ Joe stole the word right out of my mouth.
FYI Anonymous does not mean Asshole.

Josie Wade

Anonymous said...

...umm I meant my characters doing it in the Charger.. yeah. Just to be clear.



Zoe Winters said...

Garry, good point regarding credibility. I think there’s a lot of truth in that!

And I think people need to be “comforted by a professional trailer” because Save My Soul is $4.95 in ebook. ;)

I’ll check out your links later. I’ve got a date with the husband this evening and I’m having to wrap up my comments here until later tonight.

@Jill, thanks! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. :)

Hey Heidi,

And one thing to remember: if/when you get to the point of making a living from your fiction as an indie, you really won’t care someone thinks you aren’t a real author. And most of the people who think that way and won’t respect you will be unpublished authors on the traditional path. They aren’t making a dime, and they have no readers. Their opinion about your reality matters why? Sour. Grapes.

@Neil I think I’m far from an established brand (which is funny because someone once told me I was hyperbolic about my success, I’ve never been that way. I always think I’m not doing “well enough”), but that might be because I think so big, it’s often hard for me to appreciate fully where I’m at while I’m there. But thank you!

Hey Mica, thanks! That means a lot. :) And Mica Jade is a cool name!

Hey Josie, LMAO that’s so funny!! Hope your research goes well. ;)

And that’s it for me for awhile. I’ve got to do a bunch of stuff today. I’ll be back later tonight to catch up on comments. Thanks for all the lovely, sweet comments. I feel sort of like George Bailey at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” right now.

(This is also the first time on Joe's blog I haven't felt guilty for making a lot of really long comments. LOL, because just for today, it really IS the Zoe show. ;) )

Vivi Anna said...

Yeah Zoe! So impressed with what you've done with your career.

And your books rock!

Unknown said...


I bought and read your book on self-publishing ... it was very helpful. I like your straight forward style.

I think the one thing as indies we have to recognize is when we need help. I gave the formatting thing a shot for Amazon ... it's not that it's so difficult that it can't be done, but it can be done better by someone that does it for a living.

So now I know I have to plan for that expense just as I do a professional cover artist (Jeroen Ten Berge, rules btw).

The thing I love about self-publishing is that I'm in control and, for the price of $50, I'm also my own publisher ... PJ's Books LLC!

Anonymous said...

I bought Zoe Winter's book 'Smart Self-publishing: Becoming an Indie Author'. I was shocked by the appalling grammar and the general poor quality of the product. Here's an example of a typical sentence: 'The benefit of working as an indie author inside the context you probably assumed when you came to this book, is you're likely more familiar with the pricing strategies and ways of marketing and distributing your work.' Not a great advert for self-publishing...

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Excellent post, Zoe. I think your points about everyone being on their own publishing path are the best I've heard in awhile. It's so important to remember that one way of publishing is not the way for everyone. I've self-published and now I'm traditionally publishing. It works for me, and I have loved both. You know I'm thrilled that your path has been so awesome and successful. :)

Sariah Wilson said...

Okay Zoe - I'm wondering whether you hired those models yourself that are used on your cover and in the video, because you have a lot of different poses there.

Zoe Winters said...

Okay I've got a few minutes to reply to peeps, but then I'm out for awhile:

Vivi Anna, thanks! It was great getting to meet and talk to you on Book Chatter the other night!

Thanks, PJ, glad you found it helpful. I'm not sure if I'll ever hire out for formatting. I know someone else with lots more experience probably could do it better than me (though I don't think any of my formatting is in any way distracting or "bad"), but I'm such a control freak about it once we get to that stage. It feels like once we get past editing, no one should be touching my text but me. But I think a lot of people don't want to mess with formatting or feel more comfy hiring a professional for it, and there's nothing wrong with that. :)

Thanks, Michelle! You've got a great small pub that gives you the best of both worlds, IMO. Self-pub can be stressful, too much to deal with as far as to-do lists. I would go insane with a trad pub, but I think for a lot of people, it's the opposite.

Hey Sariah, no, actually we just got REALLY lucky with stock photos. My cover artist found that image for the cover, and then when I went to look for images for the book trailer, I was so lucky that there were several with that cover. In future, though, I'll be planning it that way... looking for images for the cover where there are several different poses available with whatever cover, so my book trailers can stay unified with my cover. This time it was just dumb luck! :)

KevinMc said...

@ Anon 2:33, henceforth to be referred to as "Annoying and Cowardly Troll" (ACT). I bought Zoe's "Smart Self Publishing" guide. One of the best investments I've made in any writing book, ever (and I have quite a library). Informative, detailed, superbly up to date. I still use it as my staple book to recommend to anyone I run into thinking about self publishing and wanting to learn more. It's a really good book.

BTW Zoe, thanks again for the introduction to Focus Booster. Not seeing the help from Freedom as much; once I get that little time bar moving across my screen from Focus Booster, I'm off and running with or without the internet still running. Three 25 minute sprints today and 1800 words so far.

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> I was correct. Back then,
> it _was_ a bad idea.
> But Zoe firmly believed
> I was mistaken

you were "correct" according to
your agenda, which was money.

but even in those former times,
zoe was correct for her agenda,
which was aimed at control of
the artistic output and product.

she was also more farsighted in
knowing both sides would merge
to the same agenda eventually.

you do get points for changing
your mind when it was required.

but again, you might want to
remind yourself that you _fell_
into self-publishing accidentally.

it was a happy accident for you,
and for your money agenda too,
and i'm _glad_ that it happened,
because you've been a good loud
spokesperson for self-publishing.

but it _was_ one big accident...


question for zoe: are all of your
stories on beautiful characters,
like those in that "save" trailer?


Kelly said...

HI Z!!!!
just stopping by to show you may excellent stalker skills... :D

Your the best!!!!

Kelly M

Ellen Fisher said...

I agree with Kevin that Zoe's "Smart Self-Publishing" is a very good guide.

Thanks for the post, and congrats on your success, Zoe!

Tara Maya said...

I love's Zoe's conversational and down-to-earth tone in her Smart Self-Publishing guide, in her blogs and in most of what she does.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

bowerbird said...

my two favorite book-trailers:




Annie Bellet said...

Thanks, Zoe. It's cool to see what you are doing next (thanks for trying stuff out and reporting to the rest of us ;) )

I think this post was worth it for the audio information alone. I'll definitely check out that site when the time comes, they look really professional.


k crumley said...

Hi, Zoe!

Great post!

I love your book trailer too. I went from being "meh" on book trailers to being all for book trailers within the past 2 weeks.

Strangely enough, my print sales through b&n increased since I uploaded mine. go figure! hehehe.

Mostly, I use them to create a "buzz" for upcoming releases. We'll see how that works. *knock on wood*


Jeffrey Kafer said...


A little bit about PerfectVoices, per your request.

1) If you go to, and click on Audiobook Packages, all of our pricing is there. Our packages start at $50 per finished hour and go to $250 per finished hour. The amount of royalty and the number of auditions you get depends on the tier you choose.

2) Distribution: We distribute to all the same places that the big publishers distribute to: Audible, SimplyAudiobooks, Amazon, iTunes,, OverDrive and Netlibrary. We also have our own sites at and

3) Marketing. We're fairly new and don't have much capital for extensive advertising, but we do have avenues to get the book reviewed in Audiofile Magazine, various blogs, etc. And of course, we do the social media rounds, as well. But we've found that the author is the best marketer. Zoe already has a huge following, so while we may be able to reach a few people outside of her normal circle, she is by far the best marketer of her own material. The founder, David Niall Wilson, an award-winning author, is very grounded in the book community and is continually finding new ways and avenues to advertise.

Linda Acaster said...

Joe, thanks for inviting Zoe across. It's a fantastic posting and very different to the norm - as I would expect from Zoe.

- that book trailer is the most professional I've seen, emotionally grabbing its target viewers. You have a very good eye;
- your 'Smart Self-Publishing...' was extremely informative and helped me ensure I'd covered all the bases I needed to. Ignore anonymous. I appreciated the chatty style you chose;
- and finally a big thanks for answering my worry - on Joe's blog as it happens - when my foray into indie e-publishing looked as if it had died before it had breathed. You encouraged me to stay calm and give it time. My histrom 'Beneath The Shining Mountains' hit #10 on Kindle > Native American last Wednesday, and @ $2.99. Time was what it needed. For some of us the tail, long or short, swishes slower than for others.


Edie Ramer said...

Zoe, I agree with Moses that you were right all along. I wish I'd followed your lead and jumped into the self-publishing pool earlier. It's empowering.

But now that other people know what you do, it's great that you're focusing on your career. Your writing is getting better with each book, and you have a great future ahead of you.

Dragon Blues
Dead People

shana said...

Thank you for this guest blog, Zoe. And thanks Joe.
Inspirational as always.

Shana Hammaker

Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011

shana said...

Okay, I just went back and re-watched "Zoe Who?"


"Where did you get that number?"

"From God."


Shana Hammaker
Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011

Selena Kitt said...

I think Zoe was just plain right all along and I give her as much credit as anyone for being a real visionary on indie publishing.

Damn right she was. I've been doing this whole co-op self-pub thing since 2008 (although I think I was less, um, vocal about it as our Ms. Zoe until recently *grin*) and those of us who got on the bandwagon early built a platform sooner/faster and are benefiting from it now.

Those coming into things currently may find it a little harder, with more and more indie authors entering the self-pubbing ranks.

Zoe is just one of my most favorite peeps and certainly one of the most memorable of all the indies. And memorable is what we all wanna be, in the end... ;)

Moses Siregar III said...

Selena, I think your slip is showing.

Or is that ... wait, nevermind.

Selena Kitt said...

Selena, I think your slip is showing.

as long as it's not the Freudian kind, it's all good... ;)

David Wisehart said...

Awesome trailer, Zoe. Looks like I'll be reading outside my genre. :)

Kendall Swan said...

Zoe's self pub book is great. She is such an inspiration to me. And the Zoe Who? Hilarious!

She's right, of course, about focusing on writing. It's hard not to get behind a good cause, though.

Zoe-As someone who lurked here long before posting, I can say I do miss you posting.

And Saturdays are harder for blog watching.

Thanks Zoe and Joe.

Kendall Swan

Gregory said...

I enjoyed reading this post. I'm still on the fence about book trailers because it doesn't appeal to me to just have still pictures and words flash on the screen while dramatic music plays. That's just me. I might try on once eventually, but for right now, I'll let others enjoy it :)

Nightcry Official Website

Coolkayaker1 said...

Zoe and other authors: I like the book trailers, but wonder if they'd be improved by "showing, not telling". How? By reading a particularly eloquent passage from the book. WOuld show the reader the writing style, and get them thinking about the plot directly.

e.g. This one minute video for The Road by C. McCarthy.

This one is for the audiobook, but one could get their favorite friend with a theatrical voice and let them go at it (although it's the author's words, perhaps best read by the author themself).

wannabuy said...


Call it a start of a 'platform' or 'an established brand,' you've accomplished something by being out there early.

Of course, like all brands, you will have to work on growing 'mind-share' as well as market-share. ;)


Zoe Winters said...

@KevinMc No problem! I was just using Focus Booster by itself, but then I had a hard time committing to it some days and especially there would be the problem of people instant messaging me. So it was just easier to turn the internet off with one click of a button and a timer to shut out that extra distraction.

@bowerbird LOL, yes. Because it’s romance and romance is fantasy. We like hot alpha males and attractive females (probably because homely girls with hotties seem way too unbelievable and we’re already really suspending the disbelief!) Though I really don’t go on and on about character attractiveness level.

And I love those book trailers, especially Book Launch 2.0.

Hi Kelly. :)

Thanks, Ellen!

Thanks, Tara! I was really paranoid when I released it that people would find the tone annoying, but the vast majority of people seem to find it easy to relate to, so that’s awesome. :)

Cool, Annie. Yeah Perfect Voices is great to work with. Very professional and great work!

@K, oh I used to be all offended by the very existence of book trailers, lol. But then I decided to make one and converted. :P That’s cool, congrats on the sales uptick!

Hey Jeffrey. :)

Linda, thanks on the book trailer! :) And thanks on the book. :) Congrats on hitting a list!

Thanks, Edie, I do feel Save My Soul is much stronger than Blood Lust and I’m hoping book three will be even stronger, or at least not worse. LOL.

wannabuy said...

David hits on a point when he stated " Looks like I'll be reading outside my genre."

One thing I *love* about bypassing the gatekeepers is that authors will be allowed to write in whatever genre they feel like. It might not 'add to the brand,' but it will expose some 'sub-market' of readers to new genres. Until I started reading the comments on this blog, I never realized how much the publishers 'pigeonholed' an author into a genre.

I'm excited about what 'self publishing' will bring to the table for readers. Hasta la vista gatekeepers.


Zoe Winters said...

Thanks for commenting, Shana!

Selena, I’ve always thought you started this WAY before me. You’ve had some tremendous success, and you’ve been a huge inspiration to me. What’s funny is I’m dialing back the indie rah rah and you seem to be getting more vocal, hehe. And thanks for saying I’m one of your favorite peeps.

Thanks, David! You wouldn’t be my first male reader. :)

Hey Kendall, thanks! And, I’m always at my blog, and my twitter, and my facebook. So I’m not totally under a rock or anything. I just try to keep comments elsewhere to a minimum because it’s far too easy for me to get carried away and get into debate-mode. Then it’s harder for me to focus and get into the mental zone I need to be in to create. And that’s bad. The goal now is backlist.

Thanks, Gregory. There are lots of ways to build your brand and get people talking. Book trailers definitely aren’t a requirement or anything. I’m the opposite with regards to dramatic music/words flashing/pictures (obviously, lol). To me a book trailer without speech feels more like a book. I think there are good trailers with spoken audio (I liked Jude’s), but I think it’s a fine line to walk.

Coolkayaker1, I feel like book trailers should be more like book blurbs, but visual. But other people’s mileage may vary, and there are of course multiple ways to use video as a marketing tool... book trailers, readings, stuff like my Zoe Who? series, video blogs, and probably stuff I’m not even thinking of. The way I do it is just what I prefer.

Zoe Winters said...

Neil, can you elaborate on 'mind share'? I've heard the term, but only in passing.

wannabuy said...



Mind-share is development of awareness: dvertising, blogging, twitter, etc. are all just forms of increasing mind-share.

Its a bit of an out of date term. I'm dating myself. ;)


Merrill Heath said...

Zoe, I like your idea of publishing limited edition, signed and numbered hardcovers. That's a cool idea if you can build a loyal following.

Merrill Heath
Bearing False Witness

Leigh Saunders said...

Hey, Zoe -

Just stopping by to cheer you on! Great post, fab trailer, and for sure gonna have to check out the audiobook.

Thanks for being out there, figuring the indie gig out, and then sharing what you've learned with the rest of us. Have to say, along with everything else you've accomplished, that counts big-time.

And yeah, like you said ...just for today, it really IS the Zoe show. ;)


KDJames said...

Oh geez. Zoe, I know you're going to think I'm an idiot (you won't be the first, or the last, I'm sure) but your name is so familiar to me that I've thought all along you were traditionally published. I had NO IDEA you were an early adopter of and advocate for indie publishing.

*waits for laughter to subside*

I've been reading Joe's blog for a very long time, but I don't always wade into the comments. Mostly due to time constraints but also because of that whole low tolerance for negativity and tendency to be drawn into combativeness thing I've got going on. Sigh.

But I did know you write paranormal romance. (Gold star for me!) Even though it's not my favourite genre, I went over and checked out your stuff on Amazon. I'm not your reader for the earlier trilogy. But this new one with the incubus? I read the excerpt over there and whoa. Not your "normal paranormal." No hesitation, I bought it. Really looking forward to reading it.

Keep up the good work. Love what you had to say about measuring success based on individual goals rather than on what everyone else is doing. That's damn good advice regardless of profession.

Anonymous said...

Zoe is my hero. Between the two of you I have made my decision to self publish. It may not work out as well for me but having the book sit on my computer isn't working out either.

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks, Neil!

So would I be correct in assuming that market share is the audience you get, and mind share is what you do with them once you get them? (Which sounds almost sinister.)

Yep, Merrill, maybe in a few years! :) We'll see how it shakes out.

Thanks, Leigh!

@KDJames hahahahahaha That's both funny and flattering.

Thanks for picking up Save My Soul, hope you like it!

Incidentally Save My Soul is book 2 of my Preternaturals series, Blood Lust (the novella trilogy, which is also packaged as a compilation called... wait for it... Blood Lust), is book 1. However, you can absolutely read book 2 first (or all by itself) without getting confused at all.

If you like it, and want to continue with the series, book 3 will make the most sense if you've read both Blood Lust and Save My Soul, because some main characters from both SMS and BL will occur in book three and their worlds get tied closer together.

Hey there, CS, how are you? Thanks for commenting and good luck with your book(s). (cause we all want to write more than one. That is how we roll. ;) )

Archangel said...

"I bought Zoe Winter's book 'Smart Self-publishing: Becoming an Indie Author'. I was shocked by the appalling grammar and the general poor quality of the product. Here's an example of a typical sentence: 'The benefit of working as an indie author inside the context you probably assumed when you came to this book, is you're likely more familiar with the pricing strategies and ways of marketing and distributing your work.' Not a great advert for self-publishing..."

But, it's hard isn't it Anonymous, to even ace-accurately quote what one considers one 'shocking' sentence in another's book.

You left the capital P out of the title of Zoe's book.

You put one period after your early quote mark, and another period you placed after your later quote mark. Whichever style one uses for placement of periods after single or double quotes is to be consistent. Either before or after, not one and the other.

The word 'general' you used, some would argue, should be 'generally,' instead of 'general.'

Your choice of the word 'advert' is misused as an abbreviation--it lacks proper punctuation.

It really is hard isn't it, to write thousands of sentences in a book, each one perfectly, let alone just five in a row.

Me too Anon. I also bought Zoe's book. I also read it. A valuable and heartfelt document.


Anonymous said...

Zoe, I absolutely love your artwork and trailer. I've recently bought a Kindle [if you're writing e-books, it's important to see how they look to customers], and I download samples to see what other authors make of their first pages. While Paranormal Romance is not my cup of tea, I was drawn into the story.
Excellent blog post and I hope you will stay successful. You deserve it.

Slater99 said...

Awesome cover (and reviews) for Becoming an Indie Author. Just added it to my "to buy" list!

Slater99 said...

P.S. Do you still format your own books? I seem to remember, in an earlier post, you recommending Smashwords guidelines --> HTML (save as) --> Kindle.

Zoe Winters said...

LMAO, thanks, Dr.CPE.

Thanks, amsterdamassassin! I bought a Kindle partly for that purpose as well. :)

Thanks, Slater99! And yes, I format both my ebooks and my print books. I use the Smashwords Style Guide for ebooks and I use the book "Perfect Pages" by Aaron Shepard (which a couple of tweaks to the instructions since I use Open Office rather than Word), for print.

Zoe Winters said...

*with a couple of tweaks, not *which

*head desk*

Anonymous said...

Zoe, congrats on being one of the loud confident early voices! I think you were right to put away the bullhorn and focus on your writing and becoming known for your stories. All the best and keep in touch!

Marcia Colette said...

OMG, I can't believe I missed your guest blog. :-(

You already know how I felt about self-publishing, so I doubt you need a rehash. But one thing you probably didn't know was I also thought your zeal was a requirement. I still believe it is to some extent, but at the same time, self-publishing also requires a level of creativity to be successful at it. Your going into audio books is proof of that.

I'm glad you never stopped evangelizing or I'd still be chasing after what felt like the elusive dream. Today, I'm making my own dreams--and books--and loving every minute of it.

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks, Steve!

Thanks, Marcia, that's awesome! And I don't think someone has to be evangelistic about it to succeed. A lot of indies, Amanda Hocking included, have been about the writing from the beginning and didn't do a ton of marketing ever.

Consuelo Saah Baehr said...

Although Zoe and I write vastly different types of books, we are soul sisters in mind and heart - She's got it right when she says "keep your eyes on your own paper." We all have our own (publishing) road and we love our road (or should love it) because it is ours. If anyone thinks it is easy to write her information packed "conversational" blogs, they are wrong. She has that talent as well. Zoe, your book trailer is great. your pal, Consuelo

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks, Consuelo!

Anonymous said...

First time poster at Joe's blog, but I had to weigh in when I saw Zoe's name!

First, I have your self-publishing guide: Amazing, down to earth, and no nonsense. Exactly what I like.

In addition, I found out who you were ages ago reading Amanda Hocking's blog and your inspiration to her.

I agree with the other voices here. While Joe has definitely brought so much knowledge and 'how to' that I cannot begin to fathom (the spotlights and information in his comments) the wealth in this community. Still...

Zoe was the prophet and saw this coming before it was cool and profitable. She didn't have to really get burned by a publisher before she decided to take a chance.

Thank you (and the others of your forward thinking) for providing the fodder for the powerhouses today.


Zoe Winters said...

Hey Nikki,

Thanks, so glad you found my indie guide helpful! And oh dear, let's not call me the prophet of anything. I feel much happier focusing on the fiction and the fiction platform instead of trying to be some big "indie spokesperson". The latter was incredibly stressful.

EC Sheedy said...

If I remember correctly I had a little dust up with Zoe on the Indie/trad issue on some blog somewhere--maybe a year or so ago. (It was fairly heated, too. Unusual for me :-)

Well, see these black feathers sticking out the corners of my mouth, Zoe. Yup. They're crow.

Nothing but admiration for the talent, drive, and vision that got you where you are today.

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks, EC!

If it makes you feel better, I don't remember the argument, but then I have a total goldfish memory, and I argued with a bunch of people. :)

Justin Alexander said...

I wasn't the previous Anonymous poster, but I'm "really" turned off when people can't grasp basic grammatical rules, too.

When I think "Zoe Winters", I'll be thinking, "That's the author who doesn't know how to write proper English." (But does have a pretty awesome video trailer.)

Nicholas La Salla said...

Great post. Zoe, your promo stuff looks flawlessly professional. The kind of push you've given yourself is inspiring.

One More Day

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks, Nicholas!

Diana Horner said...

Love the Zoe Who? vids, great to read some of the back story here. Congrats on your journey Zoe. Exciting times! Seems the wall of cynicism is crumbling,will keep chipping away.

Book trailers will get better. I can't claim any involvement at all,but wanted to flag up one of the best I've seen.
Sue Glader self published this book, we are converting to ebook for her,and the video is going to help to spread the word very effectively. Very uplifting :)
Thanks to Joe and Zoe for giving so many writers the confidence to go for it, I will continue to recommend you both.

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks, Diana!