Gail's Book Nook

Monday, October 22, 2012

Looking Out the Window: Multi-published, Award-winning Author Mildred Colvin Takes Up Self Publishing and Tells Us How. She'll Also Give Away a Book.

Less than two years ago in April of 2011, I started a journey I have yet to regret. With fear of the unknown and the possibility of failure hounding me, I joined the ranks of the Indie-Published, otherwise known as self-published. The publishing world was not new to me after more than ten years of writing for Barbour Publishing’s Heartsong Presents line. But there, I had the backing of editors and all the many people who bring together a manuscript into a polished book. Once I stepped across the line to the do-it-yourself side, I found that most, if not all, of that work fell on my shoulders. Since that first book, Learning to Lean, I’ve published ten more in seventeen months. Eight were never before published, while three are from my back list. Two of those, Cora and Eliza, each grew from 50,000 word books to over 80,000 words. They now contain the full story of Cora’s Deception and Eliza’s Mistake. Readers who have read both versions have commented that they seem like new stories now, and they like them better. I have two more books planned for the Brides of Cedar Creek—Rebekah’s Scorn and Deborah’s Secret.

Mildred will give away Lesson of the Poinsettia. Read below to see how to get your free copy.   
In Lesson of the Poinsettia, through the eyes of a child, Abigail and Seth learn to see beyond the darkness of their lives and in the process find love to last a lifetime
Welcome, Mildred. I imagine you've gotten lots of questions since you started self-publishing. Would you share some of them with us.
I’ll try to answer them as best I can and hope to be of help to anyone who is interested. If you have more insight into any of these issues, please feel free to share in the comments below. Here are answers to some I've been asked in no particular order:

1. Do you put your books on Smashwords and Amazon?
Yes, although I still have one more book to publish with Smashwords. I simply haven’t found enough to get everything done, but my plans are to do that with every book I publish. Amazon has been a better selling avenue for me, but Smashwords provides an opportunity for those with an e-reader other than Kindle to buy my books. I want my books available for everyone.

2. What is Create Space?
Create Space is a print on demand publishing company affiliated with Amazon. I publish in paperback first with Create Space. This allows me to buy a proof copy of my book for editing purposes and to see how the book cover looks. Create Space also handles the selling of my paperbacks through Amazon and other retailers.

3. Could you share links to information about these sites?

I recommend you go to each of these sites and read everything you can find there about publishing. Smashwords has a detailed step-by-step guide to publishing called Smashwords Style Guide. I follow it for all my e-books.

4. Do your format your own books? Is it the same for both sites?
Yes, I format my own books. It isn’t hard if you follow the Smashwords Style Guide as I mentioned above. Formatting is similar for both Amazon and Smashwords, and I make one file formatted as directed in Smashwords Style Guide. The one for Smashwords is saved in Word 97-2003 document. Save another for Amazon in Web Page, Filtered. Other than that, the main difference between the two is the copyright page. My advice on what to put on your copyright page is to look at published books and make your own decision from those. However, for Smashwords, you will need to mention that this is the Smashwords Edition. That should be covered in the style guide.

5. How long does it take to get a book ready for the sites after it's written?
After my book is written and edited, I set aside a day to format and publish. I’m getting faster at this after publishing eleven books, but it still takes me most of the day to publish.

6. Do you make your covers? If so, is there special formatting for this?
I make most of my covers. I’ve even started taking my own pictures for many of my books. Sometimes that isn’t possible, of course. Yes, there is a certain pixel requirement for the covers. I believe 1600 pixels wide x 2400 pixels tall is right for either site, however, it’s a good idea to check with each one before you make your cover. Both Amazon and Smashwords have more information on that in their instructions.
I use a free download, Gimp 2.6, to design my covers. I use the many Gimp Tutorials on or in articles to learn new ways to use Gimp.

7. Where do you get your pictures?
As I mentioned, I try to take my own pictures. If that isn’t possible, I buy photos from The Preacher’s Outlaw Bride needed more on the cover than I could come up with so I turned to Dreamstime and found my beginning action scene played out in an illustration. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find something appropriate for the other three in that series.

In The Preacher’s Outlaw Bride, a pretend wedding gives eight-year-old KodyAnne the assurance that even the Orphan Train cannot separate her from Michael forever. Their love transcends time until her father, a banker, and a sheriff change their lives.

You will find several photo sites if you google them, and you may prefer one over the other just as I do.

8. What about trademark or rights?
I’m no expert on this, but I would be very careful to determine the picture I use is copyright free. Those on Dreamstime are and also have model releases on most. Watch for the ones that are useable and stay away from anything that might come back and give you more trouble than you want. There again, your best course of action is to read all the fine print at whatever site you buy your photo. Both copyright and trademark is something you want to consider before you buy and should be covered in the terms of use.

9. What's the out of pocket cost to get started?
The cost of publishing can vary with the individual. If you are very careful, you can publish for free. I paid approximately $15.00 for both the illustration and photo for The Preacher’s Outlaw Bride. I also purchased the paperback proof for $7. 05 so I could get some final editing and proofing done on the interior.

 10. Why did you decide to Indie-publish?
The idea of publishing the many books I had written that were taking up file space with no place to go rolled around in my mind for months before I found the courage to do anything about it. I talked to my crit partner, Regina Tittel, author of The Ozark Durham Series, about this new method of publishing. She was interested, too, and sent me some info from a fairly new author, Victorine Lieske, who wrote Not What She Seems. Victorine is generous in giving information to new authors trying to learn. Her blog,, has a wealth of information for authors and is encouraging. After reading all I could find, I decided to try it.

 11. What marketing advice would you give other Indie-published authors?
I published Learning to Lean near the middle of April 2011 and sold three books. In May, three more books sold. Another seven sold in June. Not one to give up, I decided to add a couple of more books, so in July, I published A New Life and Lesson of the Poinsettia. My sales increased to a total of 21 books then dropped to six in August. That should have discouraged a normal person, but I added two more books by December, Love Returned and Cora’s Deception. As 2011 drew to a close, after nine months of trying to sell e-books on Amazon, I had sold only 135 total books.
In Learning to Lean, six kids seem like too many to Matt and Heather. Learning to lean on God can take a lifetime or maybe only a lesson in trust.

In A New Life, Kim and Travis have a problem. She’s city. He’s Country. She just found out they have something in common. Her son!


In Cora’s Deception, betrayal, abandonment, and a brush with death shake Cora’s beliefs. Lies—easier to believe than truth.


 I tried blogging, doing interviews, forums, etc. I didn’t know how to market. I still don’t, but near the end of December 2011, I put Love Returned on for free at Smashwords. It had been selling an average of two books a month, so I figured if I gave it away I wouldn’t be losing anything. In January, Amazon price matched, making my book free there as well. That’s when everything changed. Approximately 10,000 free books were downloaded before I re-instated the 0.99 price after which Love Returned sold 629 copies on Amazon during the remainder of January. Giving away copies may be one of the most effective things you can do.

In Love Returned, Megan falls in love. But circumstances say Scott’s son is the baby she gave away nine years ago. If she confronts him, she’ll lose his love, and he’ll take his son away. If she marries him without telling who she is, she’ll have both husband and son, but be living a lie. Is there a happy ending?

 12. Do the sites have any special tips for promoting?
Yes, if you browse through Amazon’s publishing information, you’ll find tips for promoting. Smashwords also has a free download titled The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success and another titled Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.

13. What do you like least about Indie-publishing?
That’s an interesting question, but I’m not sure I have an answer for it. Like anything there’s room for improvement. But overall, I believe Indie-publishing is a good system for author and reader. I would like to have a better way of promoting my books on Amazon. I believe the author should be allowed to offer a book at a reduced rate or for free for a limited time. I see that as a win-win-win situation for readers, authors, and Amazon.

14. What do you like best about Indie-publishing?
I enjoy the freedom of writing the story God has laid on my heart. If I write a sequel to a book, I don’t have to fear an editor’s cut. Although I still have to write blurbs for each of my books, I don’t have to worry over a synopsis. Also, I can write at my own speed, and I like that. I’m grateful for the royalty system, which is much fairer than traditional publishing.

 15. Where should a first-timer start?
My advice to someone who is just thinking about publishing his or her own book would be to go to each of the sites I’ve mentioned and read everything there that has to do with publishing. There’s a lot, so it’ll take time. Download the free how-to e-books from Smashwords and read them. If you decide to try your hand at publishing something, you might like to start with a novella. It’s shorter so won’t take as long to write. You can price it for 0.99 without feeling as if you’re losing money, which leads me to the last question.

16. How much can you make when you Indie-publish?
There’s no one answer to that question. You might make enough for dinner out for two or you could make a few million dollars. I’ve heard of both happening. No one knows how well a book will sell. There is a sort of trend, however. Most authors publish their first e-book and find it’s invisible, which means very few or no sales. After a month or so, the book is discovered and sales begin to grow. Some very slowly, some by leaps. Some authors recommend publishing several books to make them more visible. I’ve heard you should have a minimum of three books. My experience would be to double that. Amazon pays the author royalties of 35% for e-books priced below $2.99 and 70% for e-books priced at $2.99 to $9.99.
I hope I’ve helped someone who is teetering on the edge of Indie-Publishing, unsure of what to do. If something I’ve said is still unclear, leave a comment, and I’ll try to answer or maybe write a second blog addressing those issues.

Thank you for sharing, Mildred.

Mildred's giving away Lesson of the Poinsettia, a free Christmas e-book. To download your free novella clikc here. The offer will be good from now until November 3, 2012.

Find Mildred's books on Amazon here

Find Mildred's books on Smashwords here


Linda Weaver Clarke said...

That's wonderful, Mildred, that you have found it so easy to be an Indie author. Good luck with your new books. Thanks, Gail, for having this wonderful author on your blog. She will be a great influence on other authors considering Indie publishing. I, too, found Create Space and was so impressed with the company. The books were as good a quality as my traditional publisher.

Anne Patrick said...

Thank you for all this great information, Mildred. I've been considering self publishing a couple of books and this is a big help.

Gina said...

Hi MIldred and HGail,

Mildred, first of all congratulations on your wonderful success! It certainly is encouraging to hear that you were able to undertake all this and do it so thoroughly. Your post was so helpful and informative. It was also very encouraging to me, as I have been feeling overwhelmed at the thought of going indie. One question: how have your relationships been with your colleagues from the publishing world since you went indie?

Gail, thank you for another great post on your fabulous blog. :-)


Miss Mae said...

Hi Mildred,

Really enjoyed reading about you here. I, too, am an Indie author pubbed at SW. I've been on Amazon, but am not too thrilled with their practices.

You gave a lot of good info for those wondering if they should self-pub. My best to you! :)

Gail Pallotta said...

From Mildred

Thanks for your comment June, Linda, Anne, and Regina. I’m unable to leave a
comment due to technical problems, but Gail has graciously offered to help
me. Thank you, Gail.

I want to answer Regina’s question by first saying, you might be surprised
how many traditionally published authors have already dipped a toe into the
Indie pool. There may be a few who are opposed to publishing this way, but I
believe they’re in the minority. I’ve noticed no change in my relationship
with anyone since I’ve done this. Everyone has been encouraging and helpful
or possibly watchful as they wait to see how it works for me. If my books
continue selling, maybe they’ll try publishing their own too.

Veronica Sternberg said...

Thanks for the free book! Good luck with the self-publishing. It sounds like it's working well!

Deanna Mundy said...

This sounds so interesting. I met an author at a book signing who told me not to self publish because it was much harder. Perhaps, she was referring to the print edition self-published books. I am glad to hear of someone's success in that field.

Emilie Hendryx said...

I'm considering self-publishing an ebook for my first 'formal' introduction into the writing world. This post is very helpful and I will continue to reference it! Thank you :)