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04-24-09 Alternative Avenues in Publishing: Carmen Shirkey

The transcript below covers the complete #litchat conversation with author Carmen Shirkey (@carmenshirkey)Β on April 20, 2009. The order has been numbered sequentially from the first post to the final post.

1 LitChat: Welcome, Carmen. Would you tell us a bit about yourself before we begin? #litchat
2 carmenshirkey: I’m here and ready 2 go! I just self-published my first novel, a romantic comedy called THE LIST – found here http://bit.ly/qC9V #litchat
3 carmenshirkey: I used a POD, or print-on-demant publisher called Booksurge, chosen because of the fact that they are owned by Amazon. #litchat
4 LitChat: Note to chat followers. TweetChat is a bit slow today, but stick with us. We’re here! #litchat
5 carmenshirkey: I tried the traditional agent route. I got “good book, but it won’t sell.” from several of them. So I tried it myself. #litchat
6 carmenshirkey: So far, it’s selling, with good professional reviews. But I do have some POD cautions I can share if you ask! #litchat
7 VanessaDobbs: What would you advise to beware of? #LitChat
8 llunalila: @carmenshirkey hi! the idea seams interesting, don’t know why they told u it wouldn’t sell. How is it working as self pubbed? #litchat
9 carmenshirkey: @VanessaDobbs U need to go in with your eyes WIDE open. Know what u want. PODs aren’t there to guide u. U need to guide #litchat
10 carmenshirkey: @llunalila I’ve gotten 3 romance sites to review it, all liked & recommended. It sells, as long as I market like crazy! #litchat
11 carmenshirkey: That’s the other caution. Self-pubbed books have a little bit of a stigma. It’s harder to get reviews, bookstores 2 sell, etc. #litchat
12 Brattyhack: #litchat Carmen, do you find similarities btwn self-mktg on the selfpub side and the trad pub side? Seems like mktg push needed for both.
13 NessieBeliever: @carmenshirkey What are you finding to be the best marketing tool/venue? #litchat
14 carmenshirkey: It can be done, but you need to dig deeper and think out of the box. POD has come a long way, but still has further to go. #litchat
15 atarikari: Is most of your marketing done via the internet? Or have you done some old fashioned door-to-door work to get it in stores, etc? #litchat
16 llunalila: @carmenshirkey you are very brave! Which marketing techniques did work for you better? Blogs? Reviews? blurbs? ofline? #litchat
17 steveweddle: RT @carmenshirkey I just self-published my first novel, a romantic comedy called THE LIST – found here http://bit.ly/qC9V #litchat
18 carmenshirkey: @Brattyhack I’ve been told that unless you’re JK Rowling, you’re going to be doing your own publicity anyway. So very similar. #litchat
19 NessieBeliever: @carmenshirkey Curious: Who said the book wouldn’t sell, agents or editors? And did they say why? It looks like a fun read. #litchat
20 Brattyhack: #litchat Also, Carmen, is self-pub better for the author monetarily – if the book happens to sell well? Or not?
21 carmenshirkey: @NessieBeliever So far, the reviews have been the biggest boost, social media works well, and getting people to read 4 book clubs #litchat
22 carmenshirkey: @atarikari I have done both in person and Internet. I have more time for Web, so it’s easier. But I need to get out in person more #litchat
23 Jimcolombo: @carmenshirkey what is your best method for promoting your book? #litchat
24 carmenshirkey: @llunalila The reviews were the best free marketing ever! The professional ones, though the friend ones don’t hurt. πŸ˜‰ #litchat
25 CarolyBurnsBass: When you say “it’s selling,” can you give us some numbers? Don’t mean to put you on the spot, so feel free to pass on question. #litchat
26 carmenshirkey: @NessieBeliever I had three agents request a full manuscript. They were the ones that said it wouldn’t sell – market too full #litchat
27 carmenshirkey: @Brattyhack So far, I find it’s not more money. I’m still in the hole with money in the book. But I believe in it, so keep spending #litchat
28 carmenshirkey: @Jimcolombo So far Twitter has been a good networking tool – connect with other authors, see what agents say, etc. #litchat
29 carmenshirkey: @CarolyBurnsBass In three months, I’ve sold almost 200 copies. I’m sure I could sell more if I worked harder. Trying 2 find time! #litchat
30 carmenshirkey: I’m sure someone will say only 200? But most self-pubbed books top out at 200, and I’ve only been going 3 months, so . . . #litchat
31 Brattyhack: @carmenshirkey Carmen, was Booksurge easy to work with? And, do those books automatically become Kindle-enabled? I see yours is. #litchat
32 carmenshirkey: It’s also helped to have the book listed on Amazon – a main reason I chose Booksurge. #litchat
33 NessieBeliever: @carmenshirkey Have you been able to put the book in any stores? Is that difficult for a self-pub book? #litchat
34 VanessaDobbs: @carmenshirkey I think 200 seems very good.Is it available in UK? #LitChat
35 Jimcolombo: @carmenshirkey do you have an agent at all? or are you totally on your own? #litchat
36 carmenshirkey: @Brattyhack Booksurge was very, um, literal. I had to push them creatively (they use cover templates, mine broke them all) #litchat
37 carmenshirkey: @Brattyhack And no, Booksurge hasn’t embraced Kindle. They make no $ on it. That was all me. Though I got them to cross promote it #litchat
38 carmenshirkey: @NessieBeliever So far, I’ve tried 2 stores. B&N & my alumni store. Both said no. It’s a challenge for self-pub. Have 2 b creative #litchat
39 carmenshirkey: @VanessaDobbs good ? – I don’t know. But if you want a copy, we can work something out. Probably just xtra shipping. I can send it #litchat
40 Brattyhack: @carmenshirkey Carmen, do you foresee totally self-pub online bookstores in the future where authors can band and sell together? #litchat
41 atarikari: I’m jumping back to pre-pub stages, but: How did you know your work was finally to the point of completion to get in published? #litchat
42 carmenshirkey: @Jimcolombo I don’t have an agent, but I’m still hoping to prove it can sell. So agents out there? If I beg? πŸ˜‰ #litchat
43 carmenshirkey: @Brattyhack I never thought about self-pub online bookstores. Let’s start one! πŸ™‚ #litchat
44 NessieBeliever: @carmenshirkey Maybe indie stores are a better way to go? We have one here (AZ) that is open to self-pub books. Changing Hands. #litchat
45 carmenshirkey: @atarikari wrote it in 1 mo 4 NaNoWriMo, & edited 4 years after. I finally let someone unrelated 2 me read, & they luvd, so I knew #litchat
46 Jimcolombo: @carmenshirkey i would like to find a different one with more high profile connections. so i echo your plea. Agents? #litchat
47 CarolyBurnsBass: Did you pay to have your ms edited by a professional book editor? If so, did you follow the editor’s suggestions? #litchat
48 mmj5170: When a store says no, is it just no or is there a way to ease their risk? Signings, buy back, etc? #litchat
49 carmenshirkey: @NessieBeliever Yes, indie stores r receptive. I forgot my hometown indie store, BookWorks in Staunton, VA, supported me lots! #litchat
50 carmenshirkey: The indie store even asked me to to a signing, which was fun. After my local paper ran a story @ me. You really have to get out thr #litchat
51 carmenshirkey: @CarolyBurnsBass I couldn’t afford a prof. ed, but my day-job is writing, so I had editor friends read. I took some advice, not all #litchat
52 carmenshirkey: @mmj5170 The big stores seem to have unbreakable “policies” but buybacks, signings help the indies consider you more. #litchat
53 Brattyhack: @Jimcolombo Jim, might try #askagent. Plenty of them on there just last night. FYI #litchat
54 Jimcolombo: @carmenshirkey uhoh! carmen i have to run. i lost track of time. i wish you the best of luck #litchat
55 mmj5170: @carmenshirkey “I took some advice, not all” Awesome #litchat
56 Brattyhack: @carmenshirkey Cool beans! But we need an expert! I can’t even design a web page! #litchat Give #amazonfail a run for their money. πŸ™‚
57 carmenshirkey: @mmj5170 well, I can’t change the heart of the book, but I can change sent. structure, etc. πŸ™‚ It still has 2 b mine. #litchat
58 carmenshirkey: @Brattyhack I would love to see the archaic process change a bit, it’s the “how” I struggle with. #litchat
59 CarolyBurnsBass: You said BookSurge uses cover templates, but you pushed for your own cover. Did you hire a pro cover designer? #litchat
60 NessieBeliever: @carmenshirkey Did you look into hiring a publicist? #litchat
61 carmenshirkey: @CarolyBurnsBass I hired an illustrator to do the cover art but Booksurge did the “design” – with me guiding all down 2 even color! #litchat
62 carmenshirkey: He was a great illustrator, btw. I can share his name – good cost, too! The illustration is supposed to look like me, but skinny πŸ˜‰ #litchat
63 carmenshirkey: @NessieBeliever If I had the money, I’d hire a publicist, someone to take my books 2 shows, etc. I’m nearing the $ breaking point #litchat
64 atarikari: How long was the process of first contacting the publisher, going through the whole process and finally getting it published? #litchat
65 carmenshirkey: Oh, I forgot. Do a “virtual blog tour” too. Find related sites, guest post on those. = Marketing idea. #litchat
66 carmenshirkey: @atarikari Called Booksurge in Aug 08, paid in Sep 08, pushed for Dec 08 release, but went out in Jan 09. Part my fault part theirs #litchat
67 carmenshirkey: A good thing about POD, you don’t buy books upfront & take up garage space. Bad news, costs a lot to make changes, to change plates #litchat
68 NessieBeliever: @carmenshirkey Will you continue to use self-publishing for future books? #litchat
69 carmenshirkey: @NessieBeliever I think I would try trad. route again 4 next book (a travel comedy) first, but if I was passionate @ it I’d selfpub #litchat
70 mmj5170: @carmenshirkey What kind of changes would you warn about? Things to watch for? #litchat
71 CarolyBurnsBass: @carmenshirkey Have you begun writing your next book? #litchat
72 carmenshirkey: @Brattyhack Not working on new book now (have 2 sell this 1) but half done with a travel comedy “Adventures of Bunratty &Sligo” #litchat
73 Brattyhack: @carmenshirkey Carmen, are you working on any new projects now? #litchat
74 carmenshirkey: @mmj5170 well, if you get reviews, & want 2 add 2 cover. Costs $$. Find more than 50 mistakes? Costs $. Want to add a chapter . . . #litchat
75 carmenshirkey: @CarolyBurnsBass As mentioned, it’s half done. No time to write. Must sell! πŸ™‚ #litchat
76 NessieBeliever: @carmenshirkey Sounds like you’ve had a positive experience with POD. I’ve always heard it downplayed at lectures/confs. #litchat
77 CarolyBurnsBass: @carmenshirkey This is one of the conflicts I’ve heard about self-pub, efforts go into sales, rather than writing. #litchat
78 llunalila: @carmenshirkey that is the problem with writers and self pubbed I guess. We miss writing time if we have to promote #litchat
79 carmenshirkey: @NessieBeliever I think POD is bubbling up more this year. Bad economy, etc. Plus, writers are getting frustrated. #litchat
80 atarikari: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems in order to be monetarily successful w/self-pub, like any bus. venture, must have $$ @ start #litchat
81 mmj5170: @carmenshirkey adding reviews on cover may be unavoidable, but other than that; edit edit edit? #litchat
82 carmenshirkey: @NessieBeliever But you still need to be cautions, do ur research, know what you’re getting into. #litchat
83 carmenshirkey: @CarolyBurnsBass Yes, a lot of my time is now marketing. Which again, I do for a living, but I’d like 2 stop now & write book 2 #litchat
84 CarolyBurnsBass: How many of the “extra fees” did you know about when you signed the contract? #litchat
85 carmenshirkey: @llunalila Yes, if we want 2 make $. I’m just trying to get noticed (hey Oprah!) and make my investment back. #litchat
86 carmenshirkey: @atarikari Yep, you know the saying. Takes $ to make $. I put a limit, for what I could handle. Diff for all. #litchat
87 carmenshirkey: @mmj5170 Murphy’s law. You can edit ’til the cows come home, but you’ll find a mistake right after you do the 1st print run. πŸ™‚ #litchat
88 Brattyhack: @carmenshirkey Carmen, has self-pub lost some its stigma w/agents do you think? #litchat
89 carmenshirkey: @CarolyBurnsBass Well, the extra fees were in the contract, but I was naive (1st book) and didn’t know what would happen after. #litchat
90 carmenshirkey: @Brattyhack I’ve heard that agents are more open to self pubbed, but harder on them. Need to show big #s & $. We’ll see, still tryn #litchat
91 carmenshirkey: Another marketing tip. Follow other writers. Do what they do. Ask them ?s Did they appear on a radio show? Can you? Etc. #litchat
92 Brattyhack: @carmenshirkey Boy, what the heck do really shy authors do? πŸ™‚ #litchat
93 carmenshirkey: @Brattyhack Shy writers must fail miserably, or be very lucky. πŸ˜‰ As you can see, shy I’m not! #litchat
94 zumayabooks: @Brattyhack Either get over it or never sell any books. πŸ˜‰ #litchat
95 mmj5170: @Brattyhack Shy authors write. A lot. #litchat
96 mmj5170: @zumayabooks I’m curious what have some of your authors done to promote their works? #litchat
97 carmenshirkey: @mmj5170 @zumayabooks – both very true! Self-pubbed authors & anyone not J. Grishom, need 2 really stick out their necks. It’s hard #litchat
98 llunalila: @Brattyhack well shy authors get some benefits from internet these days. It’s easier to sell online if you are shy #litchat
99 Brattyhack: @zumayabooks Well, most people would not describe me as shy, but glad-handing the masses makes me a little queasy! πŸ™‚ #litchat
### CarolyBurnsBass: Or they write really good books that get noticed. (Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger first come to mind.) #litchat
### carmenshirkey: @llunalila authors can use the Internet, bt still have to put themselves out there. I use Internet lots, but it’s still v. personal #litchat
### llunalila: @carmenshirkey do you promote locally or nationwide offline? #litchat
### Brattyhack: @carmenshirkey So, which guy does she fall for? Mr. Perfect or Mr. Not? Her dilemma reminds me of Sugar Daddy by Kleypas. #litchat
### carmenshirkey: @llunalila Started local, aiming for national, then global. πŸ™‚ If you can’t sell in your town or state, nationwide isn’t likely #litchat
### NessieBeliever: @carmenshirkey Have you tried being a guest on podcasts? #litchat
### carmenshirkey: @Brattyhack I’ll have to say read the book πŸ˜‰ Perfect lead in for my Amazon link 1 more time http://bit.ly/qC9V THANKS! #litchat
### llunalila: @Brattyhack you’ve got to buy (and read) the book to find out, of course LOL (just a hand on promo Carmen) #litchat
### carmenshirkey: @NessieBeliever I’ve been on blog radio. Trying to learn to make my own podcast. But guesting on others, good idea! #litchat
### carmenshirkey: @llunalila hey, I’ll take all the promo I can get! Prejudice aside, it’s a good story. Fun, light read. Give it a try & REVIEW! #litchat
### NessieBeliever: @carmenshirkey Cool. You’ve given us a lot of good info here. For promoting any kind of book. Thank you. πŸ™‚ #litchat
### mmj5170: @Brattyhack The answer to your question is just $15.99 away! #litchat
### zumayabooks: @mmj5170 All the usual stuff, but the one thing that’s worked is knowing who the market is and getting the book to them. #litchat
### LitChat: Carmen promised us an hour of her time for LitChat, but she’s welcome to stick around as long as she wants. How’s that? #litchat
### carmenshirkey: Gang, it’s date night at my house, & PF Changs has long waits, so must run. @ reply me w/ ?s, and I’ll try to answer! #litchat
### carmenshirkey: I enjoyed talking with all of you. Hope to converse more! Happy Friday! Thanks @LitChat #litchat
### atarikari: Carmen, thanks so much for sharing your story! And enjoy that PF Changs – YUM!! #litchat
### llunalila: @carmenshirkey do you only sell through Amazon? #litchat
### mmj5170: @carmenshirkey Thank you for your time and information. I do wish you the best and look forward to hearing your success story! #litchat
### VanessaDobbs: Thanks @carmenshirkey.@litchat #LitChat
### mmj5170: Thank you @litchat for hosting such a valuable chat once again! #litchat
### Brattyhack: @carmenshirkey An hour has passed arleady? Darn. Thx for letting us pick your brain, Carmen! #litchat It was very tasty- er, fun! πŸ˜›
### LitChat: Just want to add one of the reasons why we chose to bring in @carmenshirkey to guest is b/c of her positive attitude and smarts. #litchat
### carmenshirkey: @llunalila last answer – yes, mostly through Amazon. But out of the back of my car, too. πŸ™‚ & on my blog thelistbook.blogspot.com #litchat
### carmenshirkey: Thanks everyone. Again, this was a blast! Bye! #litchat
### NessieBeliever: @LitChat Thank you, LitChat. This was great. And yes, positive. Good stuff. πŸ˜€ #litchat
### llunalila: @LitChat thanks for hosting, as always and @carmenshirkey thanks for answering so nicely to #litchat It’s really nice to talk to you all
### LitChat: Carmen may not be in the room, but continue to use the #litchat code so everyone can follow if there are additional questions. #litchat
### Brattyhack: @LitChat Good choice! #litchat
### mmj5170: @zumayabooks Good advice, thank you. #litchat
### llunalila: @carmenshirkey will check your blog, promise! Not using Amazon much bc/ of last shipments were a horror (I’m living in Spain) #litchat
### LitChat: How about a standing ovation for @carmenshirkey for her honest, insightful and savvy comments. Thank you, Carmen! #litchat
### Brattyhack: #litchat Clapping…
### LitChat: We will copy the chat and post manuscripts of all chats this weekend to blog at http://litchat.blogspot.com. #litchat
### mmj5170: @LitChat Copious clapping!!!!! #litchat
### NessieBeliever: @LitChat *applause* Thank you, Carmen. And best of luck to you. #litchat
### LitChat: Thanks LitPeeps @VanessaDobbs @llunalila @Brattyhack @NessieBeliever @atarikari @Steveweddle @jimcolombo @CarolyBurnsBass @mmj5170. #litchat

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