Tag Archives: indie publishing

Sharing the Smashwords Love: My Story On Why & How I Came to Self-Publish

It began with a vampire. No, not the shiny ones or lovers and fighters on the big screen, but a virtually unknown Russian named Vlody who first appeared in my consciousness eleven years ago.

I’d been traditionally published in a few different genres a few times and though this wasn’t my main literary focus, it was a fun, dark fantasy-filled tale I wished to share with the world. Since I had positive communication with one of my publishers, I submitted “Katrdeshtr’s Redemption,” The Night Cat, Book 1, which they said was well-written but didn’t work for them, as they accepted fantasy but didn’t wish to go into this type of sub-genre. Entirely their choice, of course, but instead of queuing back in line and laboring through the submit, decline and resubmit process, since my schedule was quite busy at the time, I decided to self-publish.

I first went to Amazon as I’d heard of their self-publishing application. I searched other websites and companies also, but as I didn’t have extra cash I wished to front for publishing my work, especially considering some of the fees being charged, I kept looking. I came across Smashwords through a simple surf on the web, by entering the question, “Best place to self-publish.”

After reading the Smashwords Style Guide, and all the little steps and tics to formatting a manuscript, at first I was overwhelmed and didn’t think I could do it. But I told myself, “Hey, you wrote the book in the first place, why shouldn’t you be able to take it a step further?” With Katrdeshtr’s beautiful, immortal voice also demanding to be heard, I did exactly as the guide suggested, I set aside several hours to devote solely to editing my story, formatting and rechecking my work. Using the guide, step by step, I found it wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined it to be, it just took time and dedication: just like writing a book in the first place.

Wishing to have my story in the Premium Catalog, I made yet another nervous yet thrilling leap, as I downloaded the free graphic art application Paint.net and created the cover image layering a photo I’d taken plus free images on the web. And so my character, Katrdeshtr the Night Cat (as he renamed himself after a few hundred years finding his original, Vlody, too boring) was given the face I’d imagined and his supernatural story was presented to the world with the help of Smashwords.

Soon after that I published three more titles at Smashwords, but for a particular work of mine since it was a lighter type of fantasy set in a contemporary setting, I regressed a little, I’d call it, I was interacting with that same publisher again and though they said again it was beautifully written, they didn’t think their readers would like it and that it wasn’t personally something they’d like to read and they only published what they liked to read.

…didn’t think their readers would like it….?

….it wasn’t personally something they’d like to read…?

….they only published what they liked to read….?


That didn’t sit well with me at all. I believe it is the reader’s choice what they want to read, and they should be given every opportunity to find something special for them. So with pleasure and new determination, I returned to Smashwords, self-publishing the title, “The Angel of Berlin”, and though my other works have received good reviews, it has been my most successful venture to date.

My Next Steps

I asked some of my friends who are also writers, but hadn’t decided whether to publish their work or who’d admitted not wishing to go through the extremely subjective process of acceptance by traditional publishing, I told them without hesitation and with great confidence, go to Smashwords! Do it your way!

Because too many indie and self-published books are still getting shunted to the side and dismissed by review groups, on 31 October 2010, I opened my review/interview site “Flying With Red Haircrow” utilizing the knowledge and methods I’d gained as a reviewer and intake coordinator for online literary magazines.  And a few months ago, though I’d self-published my own works, I opened the indie publishing side of my brand, opening it to other authors who may need help along the independent path. I’ve been fortunate to find a partner as enthusiastic about a few projects I had in mind. At both sides, authors are welcome to submit their press releases, promos and updates to have them post, shared around and auto-fed to other sites like Amazon, Twitter and Facebook, that I am a part of.

Our slogan and mission at  “Flying With Red Haircrow”:

“Enjoying the freedom of creativity…”

  • To provide unique perspectives.
  • To provide readers with more variety.

Our quote:

“Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.”

— Red Haircrow

 My Testimony

With the advertising, marketing and online interaction I take part in every day, besides the many review requests received regularly, I get a lot of email, but one of the messages I always read first whenever it appears is the newsletter from Mark Coker’s Smashwords Blog.

Helpful, honest, willing to ask and answer the hard questions about publishing and the writing industry and market in general, it always provides a level of encouragement I find absolutely indispensable. On those days I feel like everything is going wrong with my writing or have those moments of doubt on whether this was the best choice, I reread articles on that blog. It never fails to provide me with the courage and motivation I need to continue.

What are some of the tips I have for writers on self-publishing and Smashwords?

  • First of all, believe you can do it, because you can!
  • Secondly, conceive, write, edit and revise to the very best of your abilities, get help if you need it and accept constructive criticism from those who have your best interests at heart and understand you and your work. That way you can be 100% confident in whatever you produce, and when/if you do receive a review where someone didn’t like it, you still know your work and you are worthy. It just might not have suited their personal tastes.
  • Follow the Smashwords Style Guide closely. They have carefully provided a manual for your work to look as best as possible.  Presentation and quality are two of the keys to your success.
  • The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide can save you a lot of time and angst, don’t be too proud to rethink things when you need to. Remain true to your purpose, but also be willing to adapt as the ebook publishing industry is continuing to evolve.
  • Even on those days when you feel sales aren’t meeting your expectations, or you’d think about what more you could do to make your books a success, take time out to read other writer’s heartfelt expressions of how Smashwords helped them achieve their goal of being published. Sharing the proverbial love is a great way to receive positive feedback and support. Help other and help yourself. Visit the Smashwords page on Facebook. Reach out to others, as there are plenty of indie enthusiasts out there.

And just a few tips for writers from the standpoint of a reviewer:

  • No matter what the reviewer says, remember you took the steps to write, publish and share you work, and for that alone you might be congratulated.
  • For reviews where constructive criticism is offered in an objective way, take it for what it is. No writer is infallible, and we can see that when even well-known and widely successful writers are critiqued heavily. Take it as encouragement to improve your craft, something we can all try to do, whatever level we’re on.
  • Reviews are inherently subjective. Even though it’s hard to receive a chancy or poor review, remember that one person may not care for your work, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t either. On the other hand, if you find a number of people saying the same thing, this should give you an indication of what might need attention.

What Smashwords can do for you and what I love most about them!

Smashwords is an excellent website and great opportunity both for authors and publishers to get their work out there were readers can read it!

After writing your blurb and description, deciding on the genre and tags for your work, and creating or commissioning a cover image (if you would like to be included in the premium catalog), you can take your well-edited manuscript saved as a Microsoft Word file and upload it with just a few clicks then their specialty application converts it into several different formats of your choice.

After passing a necessary inspection and being checked for errors in formatting, your work will be available on the site. If your file meets further simple requirements regarding presentation, cover and quality, your ebook will be included in the Premium Catalog which ships out to online distributors like Sony, Apple, Kobo and more if you wish. You can opt in or opt out of any of these choices.

Easy to read graphs and reports can show you how your ebook is selling across the web, and you can receive notification at your personal email address whenever you have a sale on-site. If you have any questions, Smashwords has a great staff who’ll answer as soon as possible. Create your profile, add your website and feeds from other sites like Twitter and WordPress, and Smashwords can be your central location for telling readers more about yourself and your work.

The thing I love most about Smashwords is the upfront and no non-sense, yet professional and friendly approach they have. If they’ve made an oversight or error, they tell us. They regularly post site updates so you can know what’s going and to help you get as much exposure for your work as possible. It is an interaction process that I greatly appreciate because I feel they honestly and personally have my best interests as a writer at heart.


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Indie Publisher-Flying With Red Haircrow Site Now Up!

Our Mission

  • To provide unique perspectives.
  • To let the readers choose what they want to read.

“Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.”
— Red Haircrow


Visit and tell us what you think…. http://theredhairedcrow.wordpress.com/

What We’re Looking For

Flying With Red Haircrow, the review/interview site opened on 31 October 2010, and I’d always had the plan to extend the brand to a small indie press/publishing venue as well. As we have publisher status at a number of online distributors, if you’d like your work included under our brand, drop us an email. Now I’ve set up the publisher page and we are open to partners, affliates and other writers who’d like to advertise their works here.  You don’t have to be indie either. Promos, guest posts, interviews or anything related to publishing or literary interests.

Flying With Red Haircrow review/interview site will continue to specialize in indie authors reviews, but this IP-Flying will be dedicated to new releases, WIP chat, announcements and updates on authors and their books. For those interested, just write us at theredhairedcrow at gmail.com with your news and posts, and they will go live as soon as possible. If you’re also slated for a review or interview, we will still be posting them at our other sites too.

If you have any ideas, suggestions, offers, or feedback, they’re very welcome.

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Revealing You: The Author Interview

Author interviews are a great way for readers and potential readers to learn more about your writing and your person (if you so desire). It gives them the opportunity to “silently” decide whether your work might suit their tastes.

Some readers are forthcoming and eager to get to know authors yet others can be hesitant to overtly approach and make contact. If you are a self-pub or indie, even more so, as no doubt some of you have experienced. That seems a little unfair sometimes, but I’ve found it to be true. So requesting an interview from willing sites gets your name out there. It’s great advertisement and friendly marketing. Adding a giveaway or contest of some kind also increases your “traffic”and response.

Anytime is a great time for an interview but especially:

  • If you are a new writer eager to (hopefully) blaze your name across the web in a good way.
  • You have an upcoming release and you’d like to build anticipation.
  • You’ve had positive response to your work and you want to remain on the crest of your personal “wave.”
  • You’ve been on hiatus or away from the writing world for some time and wish to restablish yourself and provide updates.
  • Sometimes it’s “clean-up”, and by that I mean when there’s been a general “misunderstanding” of some sort and you wish to clarify or address an issue in a positive way.

But whatever the reason, you have to decide what or if you wish to reveal about yourself personally professionally, or if you wish to talk mostly about your work or writing.

So what about the interview questions, the content? Most websites or individuals I’ve worked with have a base set of questions they use with authors. If you are an acquaintance, if they’ve done a review of your work or it’s a specialty site, they likely will ask you more specific questions about your genre, books, background or even fun or personal questions (if appropriate). Others have extended lists of questions and give you the option of which ones you wish to answer.

Some readers like to feel a connection with an author, finding similiarities or something exciting and entirely new to them. As long as it’s comfortable for you, be willing to share knowledge of yourself and your writing that makes you stand out in the viewers mind, not just when they’re reading the interview but later when they searching for which book they’re going to buy next.

There’s plenty of sites out there open for interview requests but it’s a good idea to browse around first before sending your email. Looking through their archives, contact or “about us” pages are good places to generally learn what kind of authors and genres they’re interested in hosting. For example, it may be a pointless endeavor requesting an interview with a site that specializes in vampire fiction and dark fantasy, yet you write Christian romance. It doesn’t mean they don’t like your work or that they don’t wish you the best, but they are concerned with what their followers and readers want to view, and of course, they have their own preferences and agendas.

It’s always a plus to read their guidelines and requirements, following them as closely as possible. When you send your request and hopefully receive a response, it is a matter of basic courtesy to give acknowledgement of their acceptance EVEN IF they say they’ll get back with you at a latter date. This lets them be sure of your continued interest.

If they are writing a review of your work and need to schedule it in conjunction with your interview among the many others they likely have in queue, they need to know they’re not wasting their time. Often they have a very busy schedule, do not exclusively run a review/interview site but have jobs, families and other activities to attend to as well. In my case, as a fellow writer, I also have my projects and deadlines I need to complete. They, like myself, certainly wish to accommodate authors, but it’s important for authors to do their part, too. Ambiguous or even non-response can be counterproductive to inclusion.

What can you do if you’ve not been approached for an interview? I’ve also known writers who have not or as yet haven’t received a note of acceptance for their query. Deciding to set-up a “Q & A” of their own, on their website or page was a momentary and solid “fix.” I think this is a great idea as readers can “pre-learn” about you at their convenience, and might be prompted to research you a little further.

Another great idea is to take the initiative and ask to interview a fellow author, as this just might spur some reciprocal offers. From my own history, after creating a few pages at the wiki website GLBT Bookshelf, I happened to have a question about content and wrote for extra information. Although I knew the site was founded by well-known author, Mel Keegan, I had no idea they would personally reply to my query. Friendly, sincere and direct (qualities I particularly like in a person), we established a certain dialogue and taking the chance, I asked if I could conduct an interview.

To my great joy, for they were personally one of my favorite authors, Mel accepted. Not only did I learn and get to share with others background information about Mel’s writing and their work, but as they’ve been in the writing industry for decades, we were all provided invaluable wisdom and direct knowledge about both traditional and indie publishing that actually gave me confidence to strike out on my own.  I realize some people don’t read or consider gay fiction, but as you’d read in the interview, Mel does write under other names the general public aren’t aware of. The information is applicable for all, at whatever stage of their careers.

So, my best advice is:

  • Be available.
  • Be courteous and adaptable.
  • Be knowledgeable and willing to take the intiative.
  • Be your own best advocate when necessary.

Who are some of the writers out there making positive steps to help their writing career and others? Visit the Indie Book Collective group on Goodreads.com for more of the discussion, but here are some of the participants and their achievements:

  • On “A Teen’s Reads” Indie Feature, an interview with Gwenn Wright, author of “Filter.”
  • At website Indie Ebooks by Nadine, which is specially dedicated to indie author interviews, more than 200 interviews have been conducted with  12000+ page views for my new site.
  • At the Authors Promoting Authors site, J.A. Belfield was featured in their article “The Author Experience: “My Journey from Non-Writer to Published Author.”
  • Interviews conducted here at Flying With Red Haircrow: French author, Anne de Gandt, Hawaiian native & memorist Faith Folau, Dolores McCabe, specializing in historical fiction, Aaron Hoopes, martial artist and Zen master and Mel Keegan, master of the gay thriller. Upcoming Robert Dunbar, Brian Springer and Boyd Lemon.

Obviously these writers and websites, like myself,  are try to “pass it forward.” Sure, we are indie authors, but we don’t have to be independent of each other.

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Being Reviewed: You & Your Manuscript

Although this review/interview book and literary pursuit blog began on 31 October 2010, I’ve been reviewing works before both as an individual and for web groups. I was what I call an intake specialist (aka ‘filter’) for a literary magazine. Basically I read through the large amount of submissions, passing those more worthy onward and upward, in order to save some of the editors time. Afterwards, with authors selected for possible publication but who needed a little extra help, I worked to edit and revise their manuscript. That’s how I’ve been around the publishing business for almost ten years, but not in the forefront or anything, where my name might be known.

After being published by Dreamspinner Press, StarBooks Press and JMS Books in 2010, and producing a few titles under my own independent publishing brand “Flying With Red Haircrow”, I encountered the bane of many self-published authors: the very many review groups which do not accept indie or selfpubs. I well understand some of their reasons for doing so, but I also knew I’d taken the chance and read self-pubs which were at least equal to offerings by traditional publishers. Plus the fact I’d read very many ebooks from the same, which what I personally found sub-standard writing and plotting, interspersed with enough errors for me to question editing.

I’ve learned some things which might be common knowledge, but also perhaps some things writers, readers or reviewers haven’t thought about.

My guidelines for a review and/or interview request might seem very detailed, but they aren’t really. I just choose to provide information about what I like to read, what I will and will not read, possible reasons for rejection etc. Here are my basics and the “why” of them:

1. Email to provided address with “review request” in the subject line.

2. Include your title and a brief blurb, word count and short bio if desired.

3. Attach story file, .pdf preferred.

Number one, reviewers often receive lots of email, I’m no exception, from review requests, other writing projects, newsletters and like. I specifically ask to have “review request” in the subject line because I have a filter in place which redirects all such emails to a special folder. If you do not do so, it is much more likely you will not receive a return response because your message has been lost amidst a couple of hundred messages in the inbox, or possibly been shunted to the spam folder (I do check it periodically to check if this happens with something I need). I am quite sure many other review sites, etc. have filters to help redirect mail especially if it’s a dual, multi-account or main contact email.

Number two, of course, a reviewer would need the title and blurb. Flat out, it’s annoying to have to go research a writer’s blurb or description, or mildly so if they include the title only in the subject line and not inside the email as well. It might seem like a small thing to have “back out” to find out what it is, but after you’ve done it with a dozen emails in a row, it’s taking up time unnecessarily. Also it’s rather common sense or knowledge when writing a request or query to say something like “Hallo, I am writing to request you review my story________,” and so forth.

The word count is requested so I can get an idea of the amount of time it may take me to read and review a story, and if I can work it into my current queue and give a moderate ETA. If I have ten 100K or 300 page stories in queue, if I receive another at that point, I’m going to be honest and say it may take me a while to review it or I will have to reject it.  A short bio is optional, but it can help me put some stories in perspective, it’s something I will include when I post the review and it gives readers extra insight into you, plus it could show a common interest which might persuade me to review when I might otherwise reject. For example, I prefer not to read works regarding religion, but it’s an a story of a Christian struggling with rejection because they are gay or have converted from Hinduism, it would probably stimulate my interest when the author states it is based on their own life.

Number three, .pdf preferred. Many computers have Adobe Readers, so the .pdf file is one which has set parametres in formatting and it’s widely known. Not all computers have Microsoft Word these days, and .doc files can have so many different kinds of formatting, it can make opening and viewing them difficult, plus other “things” can be inserted to cause a comp problems. It is a courtesy and evidence of your enthusiasm to comply with a reviewer’s request. For those who only have a .doc, there is a free application which convert your file to .pdf. It’s called CuteWriter, and takes a simple download and less than a minute.

I can appreciate writers may provide coupons so I can go visit other sites to download their file, but as a writer myself, I know I have copies of all formats saved to my computer which I provide when I seek a review, especially if it is requested I do so upfront. They may think this is easier. Having to visit other sites and search for and download a file once may not seem like much. When you have twenty requests and you’re having to take time to visit other sites twenty times?  Most reviewers, myself included, want to be spared this extra step.

These are specific to my website, but as a writer who has submitted work and continue to do so, it’s from personal knowledge. It’s also from being a reviewer and/or working for and with other reviewers and groups. These are similar things I’ve discussed with others “behind the scene.” These are tips which save us time, and believe me, it takes a lot of work on this side of the equation. It’s not just reading and then typing up a review and posting it online. There is a lot of scheduling, planning and correspondence which goes into this process.

Submission/Request Guidelines. Please read and follow the reviewer or review group guidelines. They are there for a reason, and the majority I’ve read I can see the reasons for what they’ve requested. Some do have arbitrary rules which might seem strange, but if you value a review from them, you’d do well to play along, if you are so inclined.

Extended descriptions & information.  Do not include loads of extra information beyond what is requested, such as a list of quotes from other reviewers detailing how glorious your book is. If you have that many, then it makes me ask why are you seeking a review from me, although, sure, you might wish a different perspective or your book was published some years ago and you’d now like a review with a more recent completion date. I don’t mind at all when a writer tells me a little background on how or why they came up with the book idea, it makes it more personal for me, but when there’s a few paragraph were you’re telling me how great your characters are and how much I’m going to like them…. Let’s just say, if everyone did that, I’d still be going through the paperwork. I want to read your story, but please value my time.

Errors & Retractions.  If you find you’ve made an error in your review request, or there is an issue with your file, please let the reviewer know as soon as possible and clearly state what the problem was, that it’s been corrected etc. Attach your new file or provide instructions and/or a coupon with a direct link to your work so the reviewer can obtain it, preferably you provide it for them. Save them time. If you have rethought submitting your work for review for whatever reason, again ASAP let the reviewer know. This is a courtesy.

Respect. Try to be understanding of the reviewer’s voluntary time and effort they are supplying to you. Certainly you are anxious to have your work reviewed,  but harassment is frowned upon. Sending multiple messages asking for an ETA every week won’t get your work read or review posted any faster. Except for very short works which I can cover in an hour’s time or so and give myself a “break” with, all requests are placed in queue in their order of arrival.

If I am having difficulty with a work, yes, there can be a delay as I try to give myself another opportunity and fresh look after I’ve stepped away from it. I work full-time, own and run a bookstore, am a single parent with a special needs teen, and am a graduate student in Psychology. Many days have “extenuating circumstances” for me, and I adjust accordingly as often as possible, but I still do this by choice, just like many other reviewers. Please be cognizant of what we put into these services.

Sharing the Love. Please make sure to cite the reviewer or website if you are use portions of the finished review on your own site or elsewhere, and a link back is the prime way to do so. Also remember, even if it isn’t stated explicitly this is the reviewer’s writing even if it’s about your writing, it is therefore copyrighted. This is why most reviewers or sites please ask that you do not copy and paste their review in its entirety elsewhere. It’s a form of plagiarism when you use someone else’s words even if it’s relating to your book.

Indie Writers & Reviewers.  I started out focusing exclusively on Smashwords authors and self-purchases I’d made, though I’ve also received requests from traditionally published authors, and post reviews I’ve done for other groups or websites such as Queer Magazine Online and Ebook Addicts Reviews. Like my own writing, just because I’m an independent doesn’t mean I take any of this less seriously.

I am serious about my writing, and always hoping to improve. I take the trust authors place in me by submitting their work seriously.  Do the same for your writing: edit, edit, edit, and get help if you need it. I don’t personally believe you have to have a professional editor, and it doesn’t influence me in my reviewing or personal reading if a work states it has had the touch of a pro.  I just expect it met standards of English composition. If you provide poorly edited and formatted work, it’s a reflection of you. Do whatever you need to to make it the best it can be.

Constructive Criticism. When I point out some of the things I felt didn’t work as well as might have been hoped, it’s constructive criticism and it’s my own opinion and thus doesn’t reflect what others might think. I am aware of aspect of my books which could have been better so when someone points them out in objective reviews, I accept their comments for what they are. Try to take the suggestions or “I would have liked…” simply as information you can use only if you want to. Everyone has opinions. Try to look at the overall picture, as reviewers often do not know you personally, so they are not personally trying to hurt you. I consider it all yin to yang. Even something negative can bring positive effect to my work and life.

Send your best! Last week, Sally Sapphire at Bibrary Bookslut posted an interview with me on their website. One of the questions asked was:

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Yes.

Conceive, write, edit and revise to the very best of your abilities, get help if you need it and accept constructive criticism from those who have your best interests at heart and understand you and your work. That way you can be 100% confident in whatever you produce, and when/if you do receive a rejection if you submit or a review where someone didn’t like it, you still know your work and you are worthy. It just might not have suited their personal tastes or the markets to which they wish to sell.

Good luck and best wishes as always,

Red Haircrow


Filed under Writers and Writing

Mind Café by Lizzy Ford

Review: “Mind Café” was a story I found while roaming through Smashwords, and found the description appealing. There were a couple of times when sentence structure in the narrative portions left me somewhat confused as to what was happening and when, but this story grabbed me from the very first sentence which was outstanding in its unspoken encouragement to have me read more.

Dialogue was naturally flowing and enjoyable. The descriptions were perfectly on time, just enough for you to visualize and build upon in your own mind, without slowing the pace. The story was one almost anyone could understand and find themselves empathizing with the main character, yet with special touches that made it personal. You were made to imagine yourself being in their position, wondering what you would do.

“Mind Café” shows a unique view of life, death and dying which I felt privileged to have seen from the author’s perspective. Don’t mistake it as a mere story of a life’s end, but how life can continue on as long as you are convinced you are alive.

I will admit that despite all the books, short stories and poetry I’ve read, several thousand, there are many I’ve liked or even loved, but there are a limited number which have personally touched my emotions in this way. Mind Café is truly outstanding writing, an unforgettable story and proof positive against those who believe self-published or “indie” titles are less worthy than those offered by traditional publishers.

Description: The Mind Café: death’s waiting room and the only refuge for a woman trapped in her body after a tragic accident leaves her unable to do anything but watch the world and think. A fiction, paranormal short story just under 5,000 words, part of a larger collection of stories depicting a day in the life of the unique.

Buy Link/Publisher: Smashwords

Fiction, Fantasy, Speculative

Format/Length: eBook, 4968

Source: Author


Filed under Fiction, Speculative