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.