Megan Denby: The real work behind self publishing

If you're a regular reader here then you know that, as an agent, I believe there is a lot of reason to go the traditional route when it comes to publishing. That said, I also firmly believe there are some great reasons to self-publish or go indie. I don't sit on the fence, I've built a gate that opens both ways. :)

So in the interest of sharing insight from all kinds of publishing paths, I've invited Megan Denby to the blog today to talk about her successful path to self-publishing and what she did to get there.
Megan Denby
Megan Denby is an award-winning novelist who grew up on a farm with two older sisters and a younger brother. Once she discovered the world of books, she was lost, often reading to the wee hours of the morning. Her world is her family, friends and writing.

Take it away, Megan!

‘A Thistle in the Mist’ is my Scottish historical romance thriller I independently published January 18 2013. After many encouraging responses from agents but just as many rejections, I chose the self publishing route, fully aware that every bit of promoting and marketing was now up to me. I’ve been fortunate to have had steady sales and for the most part, favourable reviews. Is it luck? Is it the result of marketing? I honestly don’t know but here’s what’s worked for me so far.

A week before I published ‘A Thistle in the Mist’ as an ebook, I posted a few blurbs about it on my personal Facebook page. The fact I had written a novel was not something I had shared with too many people and my announcement was met with unexpected enthusiasm. I posted my cover art and carefully chosen excerpts but it was important to me I not bombard my friends with ‘book stuff’ so I created a separate author page and advised all they were welcome to join me there for news of my book. As an independent author with a background in marketing, I know promotion is crucial. That being said, self-promotion is a foreign concept to me. I was raised to be humble and I have an innate sense of humility so I market in a way that reflects my values.

My author page is dedicated to a ‘soft-sell’ approach. I do post regularly but I refuse to merely ‘linkdrop’ to my purchase page. Instead l interact with my readers by offering excerpts from ‘A Thistle in the Mist’ and my second book, ‘Lost to the Mist’. Beautiful photography is a passion of mine and I have been lucky to find stunning photos of Scotland captured by some talented photographers. My books are set in Scotland so I do my best to bring a Scottish feel to my page. I believe photos breathe life and personality into a Facebook page so I include personal photos too – black and white childhood pics as well as photos of me with my books, at book signings and book clubs. Anything appealing or humorous pertaining to Scotland is included as well. 

My main goal is to welcome and connect with everyone – not just my friends – and to make them feel as though they know me and want to return again for a visit. Every comment and message is answered with genuine care. For my fellow authors I post writing tips I’ve unearthed and I support their pages as well. I promote myself by sharing news and accomplishments such as a terrific review, promotion or giveaway.  But I also endorse local businesses and organizations by mentioning locations of an upcoming book signing or book club events and including links to their websites.  Any blatant ‘tooting of my own horn’ is something I try to avoid.

After my Facebook page was up and running, I created my blog – Not Your Average Lassie. Regardless of subject matter I always relate it to my writing in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience. Therefore, fellow writers may pick up some tips I’ve gleaned along the way but my readers may also enjoy learning of my background or just have a good laugh. My blog page includes links to important pages and if I mention my book in my blog the title becomes a link to my purchase page.

Next on my list was a website. After viewing and researching countless author sites, I knew I wanted something clean, welcoming, informative and above all user-friendly. I am technically-challenged in a big way, so my site is simple yet easy for me to maintain and provides pertinent info about my books, my bio, my blog and a few reviews. I acknowledge local bookstores and anyone else who supports me by providing links to their websites.  I get tremendous feedback and regular emails from my readers via my website and these messages mean everything to me.

After reading tons of material targeting independent authors, I felt compelled to join Goodreads and Twitter. Currently I am not utilizing Goodreads to its full potential but I am happy to sit on the sidelines and observe for now. It is great to connect with other authors and readers but I’m not comfortable with ‘collecting’ friends per se and asking them to read my novel in return for an ‘honest’ review. When reading through reviews on Amazon, I am always taken aback by those that begin with ‘The author provided me with a free book in return for an honest review.’ 

I know many authors use this type of system but this sort of thing makes me uneasy and I prefer to earn unsolicited reviews based on the true merits of my book. I steer clear of submitting ‘A Thistle in the Mist’ for mass giveaways and ‘read for reviews’ on any site. That’s not to say I haven’t had fellow authors and friends review my book. That goes with the territory and I’ve had wonderful comments from them. However, I don’t look at my reviews in terms of volume rather in terms of worth. I cherish the reviews that come from complete strangers, who are in no way biased.

Twitter has taken getting used to but I’m kind of getting the hang of it now. I promote with well thought out teasers and excerpts and because you are limited to 140 characters and your tweets literally swim in a sea of other tweets, I don’t feel as though I’m shoving my book down anyone’s throat – something I’m always conscious of.
Once my ebook went live, I decided to give it three months to see if it was met with any interest. I can only compare my sales to those of my fellow independent authors and a few articles I’ve found, but after three months I seemed to be doing well and reviews were by and large positive. At this point I formatted the paperback version of ‘A Thistle in the Mist’. As soon as I received the proof, I visited my local bookstore and asked the Scottish proprietor if he would carry it. My request was met with a skepticism I had anticipated. After all, I was not backed by an agent or publishing house – certain proof that I was a good author. I had only me to back me up. He grudgingly agreed to take a few copies but strongly suggested a book signing was premature. After all, I wasn’t a celebrity and I wasn’t famous.

Only slightly discouraged, but not deterred, I asked a friend who owned a jewellery store in town if she would host a book signing for me. Without hesitation, she agreed and I booked it in conjunction with Diva Night – a popular shopping night for the ladies. Next I visited the local magazine and newspaper and they were happy to accept my press release and sell me an ad. My press release was geared toward my hometown and was written in a way that my close knit community could to relate to. The book signing was a great success and sales at the book store continue to be incredible. The owner has called me several times to restock, advised me I am currently his best-selling author in the region and just recently asked me to do a book signing in his store. I’m still not a celebrity and I’m not famous but it feels pretty darn good all the same and I am grateful beyond words.

A local book club recently invited me to speak and I managed to chat with the ladies and answer their questions without fainting dead away on the floor and I had a great time! I have another book club to attend in a few months and I’ve donated a book to three local libraries as well as passing out bookmarks to anyone who will have them – bookmarks I designed with the cover of my book and website.

Venturing to a neighbouring town was my latest stop on my writing journey and the bookstore owner virtually welcomed me with open arms and invited me to do a signing. I’m slowly but surely sending out feelers and I will continue to visit surrounding towns and cities. I won’t try to sell my book over the phone because it’s too easy for the person on the other end to say no. Instead, I visit with copies of my book, a smile and a few statistics and so far I haven’t been tossed out on the sidewalk. Next on my agenda is to create a basket of Scottish gifts for my next Facebook giveaway and to hopefully set up an interview with a local radio station.

One last piece of advice I have is to be sure to include important links at the end of your ebooks and novels. I have a link to my website with an invitation for readers to contact me to be added to my mailing list for future books, a link to Amazon with an invitation (not a plea!) to leave a review and link to my Facebook page with an invitation to join.  With my ebook, my readers have the ability to immediately click on my links while they still hopefully feel a connection to my story. The response to these links has been fantastic. I also have a photo and my bio at the end of my book. When I read a good book, I like to get a feel for the author and I always flip to the back to learn a little more. Connecting with readers during a story is a must but maintaining that connection once the story is finished is a small triumph.

I have no illusions I will get rich as an independent author of one novel. I began this journey in the hopes I would be able to share my story with as many people as possible. I am thrilled with response I’ve had thus far and I will to continue to promote myself with integrity while relying heavily on the intrinsic worth of my book for future sales.

Thanks for sharing your behind the scenes highlight reel with us. Sounds like a ton of work, but well worth it. Check out Megan at her website

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Ebullient and feisty, Meara MacDonald lives an idyllic life on the mist-enfolded Isle of Skye, dreaming of the day she will wed her heart, the gallant Duncan MacLeod. Fate, however, has other plans and when Aunt Deirdre and Uncle Sloan arrive, Meara’s family is taken, one-by-one, for reasons she discovers are both personal and nefarious.

Unable to reign in her spirit or her tongue, Meara falls prey to an intricate web of lies and deception and finds herself catapulted from Scotland to a household steeped in mystery in Nova Scotia. Guided by her strength of will, she will fight her way back to the remains of her family; her heart and soul.