Novelist Rebecca Lerwill on Independent Publishing

The following is the 1st in my new Guest Blogger Series.

Introduction from David H. Schleicher:

Independent filmmakers who finance their own projects are often praised as innovative, creative, and edgy and seem to get instant street-cred when they buck the studio system.  Independent filmmaking has long been celebrated, and virtually no one would question the rite of a filmmaker taking the indie route.  Sadly, the moniker of independent novelist doesn’t carry the same goodwill and those who finance their own writing projects outside the system are often regarded as not credible, second-rate and find it nearly impossible to compete with the traditional publishing houses.  Yet one can still find success in self-publishing and Rebecca Lerwill, a purveyor of romantic suspense novels, is one such author who has brushed off the stigma of being an indie author with style and class.

Having shared my own experiences as an independent novelist on my blog in the past (in The Verdict on Self-Publishing and My Trials and Tribulations with Self-Publishing), I thought fellow writers and bloggers might be interested in someone else’s views on independent publishing – someone who writes stories vastly different from my own and who has taken some different approaches to publishing and promotion but nevertheless has words of wisdom, advice and tips for writers from any walk of life.  Therefore I asked Rebecca Lerwill to be my first ever guest blogger and invited her to share her experiences as an indie author. 

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Here’s what Rebecca Lerwill had to say:

Dave – thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. As a subscriber of your blog page, I always look forward to your honest book and film reviews and goofy drinking games. The latter are a welcomed break from the dry and dreary business of book promotion which is mostly done during lonely hours online.You sent me a few questions regarding my books, my publisher, and what I do to promote. Before I get into those questions, please let me introduce myself to your readers.

I was born and raised in Germany and moved to the United States in 1996. As a horse trainer by trade, I lived in Michigan and California. After meeting my husband Troy, a professional rodeo clown and entertainer, I spent a few years ‘on the road’ as his traveling partner. Those long hours eating blacktop gave me the opportunity to read case loads of books, and after finishing my all-time favorite, Julie Garwood’s Killjoy, I was so intrigued by the story’s plot that I decided to become an author myself. That’s right; the most-asked question, “Did you always wanted to be a writer?” gets a shake of the head for an answer.

I’ve always been an avid reader but besides a few halfway decent essays in school I never thought about being a writer — until the summer of 2006. Fifteen months later my debut in romantic suspense, Relocating Mia, was honored with its first award; Finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards. The sequel to Relocating Mia, The Acronym, was published in April 2009 and has received very promising reviews.

 

 

How did I choose a publisher?  Well, when it comes to this business I did everything backwards – unknowingly, and out of ignorance. My biggest downfall is naiveté. I was only 8 very rough chapters into Relocating Mia when I signed a contract with a self-publishing company. They told me that I was a ‘great story teller’ and so I happily sent them money to put my work into print. Needless to say; I spent way too much versa their services and although I used yet another ‘vanity press’ for my second book, I did my homework beforehand and I’m relatively happy with the results.  In the mean time I set up my own pub-house; Ivy Leaf Press, LLC which will publish my future work. Of course, the big dream is a contract with a traditional house but that’s on the back burner due to the limited time I have available hunting for an agent.

Are the books Print On Demand?  No, I don’t do PODs. I prefer off-set printing because I like embossed covers and the fact that my books are readily available. Trying to stay away from the POD stigma of an ‘indie-author’ (not that there is anything wrong with being an indie-author) I like my books to differ from POD books. The embossed cover gives my work a wonderful look and feel. Granted, the up-front cost of off-set printing volumes of 1’000+ books is an investment, but my royalties are much higher because the cost per book is much lower. I also sell quite a bit through my own website and the low per-book price allows me to offer sales on holidays and special occasions. I wouldn’t change this way of printing, even if it means I have to miss out on a vacation in order to print books.

How did I handle the editing process?  As a foreigner, I rely on a good copy editor to polish my opplah-English and its grammar. However; I actually believe that my native tongue gives me a broader sense of language and is an advantage in a literary sense. The self-publishing companies of both my books contracted editors and I paid for the service. While I honestly wasn’t too excited about the editor for Relocating Mia, I was teamed up with a very thorough and extremely helpful editor for The Acronym. I don’t believe in self-editing. I think we authors are too connected to the story to be objective and we all know that a good editor takes care of much more that grammatical issues without changing the author’s voice. When time comes, I will hire my own professional editor for future work published by Ivy Leaf Press, LLC.

How did I arrange advance reviews?  As we all know, the media will only cover books the big reviewers have laid their eyes on. So in order to get advance reviews I had to take charge myself. Three months prior to publishing, I ordered 35 ARCs (advance reading copies which were printed between editing rounds) and sent them out to befriended authors, online book reviewers, and a handful of A-list authors.  Then, I kept my fingers crossed.  I got lucky when, besides a few great reviews from other indie-authors and online review sites, I received word from #1 New York Times Best Selling Author Tami Hoag.  She loved my book and the blurb is printed on the back cover.  I must say that spending money on ARCs was the smartest decision yet when it comes to self-promo. At signings and through comments on the internet I’m often told, “Oh – I love Tami Hoag.”  Well, so do I.

Book promo guru John Kremer says in his book 1001 Ways to Market Your Book, “You must do something to promote your book, everyday.” I disagree. Although we certainly mustn’t loose momentum when creating a buzz, promoting every day gets mundane and might turn into a chore. I don’t know about you, but I can’t get excited doing chores and therefore, I take days off where I make it a point not to post on Facebook, Twitter, or blog about my books.  The promotion for my second novel, The Acronym, is going much smoother and is more successful. I didn’t hire the publisher to promote – I made that mistake with Relocating Mia.  Instead I took my tight self-promotion budget and turned it into a book video trailer designed by COS Productions, signed up with Advance Access, and purchase the occasional online marketing tool with websites such as romancedesigns.com.  There is a lot of free promotion an author can do her/himself. I post reviews on Amazon, Authorsden, and Goodreads.com to get ‘my’ word out there. Blog Talk Radio shows are always looking for interesting people with something to say or sell. 

Wow. Just writing about my writing makes me realize how many hours I spent and will further spend, promoting my work. Of course I tried some rather unconventional ways promoting my books, as well. After gathering the mailing addresses of several hundred independent book stores all across the U.S., I have no idea if the money I spent in printing sales sheets and the costs of postage was worth the effort. Time will tell. Maybe someday my distributor will call and say, “Hey, we need to print more books.” Wouldn’t that be a treat!

–From Rebecca Lerwill, author of Relocating Mia and The Acronym.

To learn more about Rebecca’s books, visit: http://www.rebeccalerwill.com

Check out the trailer for The Acronym from COS Productions:

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7 comments on “Novelist Rebecca Lerwill on Independent Publishing

  1. John Kremer says:

    I do believe you should do something to promote your book every day, if you love your book. But I am also a firm believer in having fun, taking time off, and enjoying your promotional activity.

    In making the quoted statement in my book, I wanted to emphasize that marketing is an on-going effort, not a two-week burst and then wait. Consistency of effort, whether it’s 3 days a week or 7 days a week is what’s important.

    • John, thanks for stopping by and elaborating on your quote! It’s great to receive further explanation straight from the source. I tend to agree with your idea of promoting as an “on-going” event…especially in today’s 24/7 world of instant connection. –DHS

  2. Ms. Lerwill’s “Relocating Mia” is an excellent read. The time and work that she put into creating the book and promoting it is definitely worth it. I’m glad I learned of the book and am excited to read her second, “The Acronym.”

    J.R. Reardon
    author, “Confidential Communications”

  3. Rebecca says:

    I feel very humbled that John Kremer stopped by and commented. Of course we shouldn’t let up on the on-going steam production called self-promotion. If we don’t do it – who will? I just need the occasional day off as I stated in my blog, and stop to smell the roses.
    Thank you, Mrs. Reardon, for your kind comment on my work.
    Rebecca Lerwill

  4. I’m predicting The Acronym to be Ms. Lerwill’s breakthrough novel!

    I have no problem going on record or stating that opinion!!! There’s not a doubt in my mind that she’s going to get that big publishing contract she’s after AND become a household name to boot!!! That’s how strongly I feel about about the strength of her work!!!

    Buy it, read it and find out why!!!!

    It’s G-R-E-A-T!!!!!!

  5. Rebecca says:

    Dave – I imagine you must have received a note from a few people regarding your intro to my blog. Thanks for taking the time putting this together. Your thoughts on independent film-making vs. independent book-publishing is highly debatable and should be a hot topic for future discussions and blogs.

    Rebecca Lerwill
    Relocating Mia, The Acronym

    • Ah, Rebecca, you did all the work. I just babbled for a few passages in my roundabout introduction. You are right, though…that is a very hot-button topic amongst the “independents”. –DHS

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