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By Sarka-Jonae Miller

May 23, 2015 (San Diego)--What's the best way to plan for writing the next book in a series, and secondly, what's the most efficient way to gain more readers? – M.L. Desir

Sarka-Jonae Miller: Those are great questions that are near and dear to my heart. When writing a series I think the most difficult part of planning is remembering everything in the previous books. A sequel isn't so hard, but once you get to the third, fourth... tenth book you start forgetting important details. The first thing I recommend doing as part of the planning stage is go back and reread the previous books so they're fresh in your mind. Trust me, you've forgotten something. Take notes and create a timeline. When I was writing Between Heartbreak and Happiness, the third novel in my Between Boyfriends series, I had a hard time figuring out when my character would be graduating from SDSU as well as her holistic health practitioner program. I had to go back and see what month and year she started, how old she was at the time, and how many classes she took throughout the first two books. I got out a calender and reviewed the credit requirements for the programs. It was a lot of work, but I couldn't plan the events of the next book until I knew realistically what would be happening. Also, write down little details, such as the names of minor characters and when events occurred. This can save you from scouring through your books later trying to remember if you gave your protagonist's best friend's mom's neighbor a last name. Once you have everything straight, then outline your next book and refer back to your notes to make sure nothing contradicts.

As to the most efficient way to gain readers, I recommend social media and blogging. I've personally found that Facebook offers incredible opportunities to connect with potential readers. You need to make personal connections. When you're a household name like JK Rowling, connecting with individuals isn't realistic or necessary (though it's still nice). But when you're establishing yourself the last thing you want to do is focus on selling people your book. You want to sell yourself, or better yet don't sell anything at all. Write consistently on your Facebook page, post fresh and interesting blog posts every week, answer tweets from new followers, become a member of Facebook groups for book lovers, and always show your personality. Being a bland, polite, and professional shell of yourself won't get you readers. The better people get to know and like you the more likely they are to check out your books and recommend them to friends. Also, groups like the Authors Social Media Support Group, the World Literary Cafe, and local chapters of Romance Writers of America offer free networking opportunities and resources for meeting new bookworm friends who just may become your biggest fans. 

There are so many aspiring authors out there looking to jump into the independent publishing ocean, and there are so many independent presses to choose from. What would you say are the benefits of signing with an independent press versus going solo? – Amos Cassidy

Sarka-Jonae Miller: Something I get asked about a lot is the pros and cons of indie publishers. As a publicist, I've worked with indie and traditionally published authors. As an author, I've been self-published and published through a hybrid publisher, which is a type of indie publisher (Entangled Publishing, Booktrope, Samhain Publishing). The benefits of an indie press are many. For starters, they'll provide professional editing and cover design that as a self-published author you would have to pay for yourself. Some self-published authors skip these steps and pay the price in other ways, such as 1-star reviews and bad word of mouth.

An indie press lends credibility. Maybe not as much as Penguin Random House but it shows potential readers that someone, somewhere “in the know” deemed your book publish worthy. This doesn't mean self-published books are not just as good or better than some indie published works. We're only talking about perception from a reader's point of view. Another thing authors often do not consider is journalists' perception. Journalists might not be as impressed that you are published with an indie house than one of the big 5, but many won't consider self-published authors at all. Again, this is just my experience and not what I think is the way it should work.

An indie publisher might not have a huge marketing budget, but they'll usually pay for important ads like BookBub listings. They also might help you arrange book signings and other author events. How much an indie publisher will do for you ultimately depends upon the individual house. And this brings me to the cons. Some indie publishers are very controlling, as much as a traditional publisher. Self-publishing gives you control over everything about editorial, production, and marketing. Not so at some indie publishers. You might not even see your cover until the book is published. That might choose to market it in a genre you never intended for your book. You might be expected to make significant rewrites before publication. Whether the rewrites improve the story is subjective. Personally, I recommend that first-time authors consider an indie publisher with a reputation for treating their authors well. You will learn a lot about the business and won't have to pay anything upfront.

Got questions? Send them to Sarka-Jonae Miller through Twitter @sarkajonae, Facebook, or email, or come ask her in person at the Alpine Branch of the San Diego County Library on June 6 at 1PM. SJ is a local author, book marketing manager, publicist, and columnist who writes chick lit and steamy romance based in San Diego and Los Angeles. Learn more about her and her books here.

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Re: Dennis and Sarka

Thank you very much Sarka and Dennis. I will be patient and wait to see if it will turn out favorably. I will make sure that I am well prepared to deal with these situations going forward. Very much appreciated! Cortina Jackson

I did a column all about

I did a column all about these issues as promised, Cortina. I hope that you and others find it useful

I highly advice not going to

I highly advice not going to her just yet. You want to get all your ducks in a row first. Any communication could have unintended repercussions.

I agree with Dennis. Cortina,

I agree with Dennis. Cortina, I've written a new column with resources that might help you with this unfortunate issue as well as help protect you from future problems. I hope nothing like this happens to you again.

Advice about pirating eBooks

Hello Sarka, so wonderful to meet you. Thank you very much for your availability, and time to answer questions from self-published authors like myself, who may struggle in learning the wide world of self publishing. I have recently encountered a situation that has really been disheartening to me, and was wondering if you could offer some insight or advice. I was approached by Joslyn Wolfe, the publisher of Focus on Women magazine; and she offered me the opportunity to advertise in her magazine by writing an article, and doing a radio interview to publicize my book. She even said that she could sell my book in her online bookstore. I had to pay a fee to do this. After paying her, she did not initially post the article, and I did not hear from her for 3 months. I ended up reporting her to the Better Business Bureau, and within a day, my article appeared, and my book was available in her online magazine. However, I never gave her permission to sell my book, this was never negotiated, there was never a contract. I noticed that my book is being sold as an eBook, but I never gave her my eBook file. She stated that she had been selling it, before it even appeared in the publication, and that she had sold 4 copies already at $35.00 +shipping cost. (Shipping cost for an eBook?) Also, when I click on my book, I noticed that the sale goes directly to her PayPal account. When I asked her about this, she stated that she pays out the profits every other month. I am not alerted when I receive a sale, which is troubling. Basically, she can state that she sold 4 when in reality it could have been 40. This is shady and illegal pirating. It is hard to get straight answers from her, when I am able to speak to her at all. I usually have to email in order to get a response, so luckily I have a lot in writing. I have two questions: Is it possible that anyone could download my eBook, and then sell it, and profit from it? My next question is, what can I do at this point to stop her, and anyone else going forward, from selling my book without permission? Even, if I cut ties with her, and get my money back, she could still sell the book without me being aware. Is it possible she just told me that she sold the book because I pressured her with the Better Business Bureau? Or did she indeed sell books without my knowledge or permission? I will never truly know. However, I would like to pursue this further and receive my money back for the advertising and the profits from my book sales, and I will happily move on, but I fear that she will continue to profit from my book, and this deeply saddens me, and scares me. I would really appreciate some insight into what I can do about this situation. Thank you in advance! Cortina Jackson Author of "On Earth As It Is In Hell"

"On Earth As It Is In Hell" by Cortina Jackson

Hello Cortina, in my humble opinion, I think that you should get a "Cease and Desist" order against this lady, get all monies returned to you from the sales of your book with a full accounting, along with getting her to return to you the eBook that she used to sell what can be considered as your "intellectual property." As she has already indicated to you that she has sold 4 of your books, at the very least it looks like you have approimately $150.00 coming back to you. I would wait to do all this after the month in which she has indicated that she would be dispensing proceeds from the sales to you.

Re: Dennis

Thank you very much Dennis, I appreciate the feedback. I will attempt to reach out to her for full clarification of everything, and will follow up after a month. Thank you again, I was stuck on what to do next, and needed to hear something that would help me know what I could do to remedy the situation. I would like to also thank author Gladys Seedorf who sent me an email that really helped me in this situation as well! God bless! Cortina Jackson

Hi Cortina,

Hi Cortina, Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry for what's happened. Issues with piracy and authors getting taken advantage of, as it sounds like might be happening here, are sadly very common. I think your questions deserve their own column response since many people face similar issues. Best, Sarka-Jonae

Re: Sarka

Thank you Sarka, yes unfortunately many authors have experienced the same thing. Hard and hurtful lessons learned. Cortina