Let's give a warm Pod-Peep welcome this week to S.L. Armstrong and K. Piet, authors of Cast the Cards.
Why did you choose to self-publish and what were your expectations?
[S.L.] We write, mainly, in the niche market of erotic fiction. Right now, our offerings are primarily M/M fiction, though that will change as we continue to write, and after checking into the various e-presses we could publish with, we decided it made more sense to just do it ourselves. The professional e-presses didn't offer much in the way of editing, the formatting of their e-books was atrocious sometimes, the cover art was enough to make one's eyes bleed more often than not, and very few offered the books in print. After debating it for a few months, we decided it would be best for us to self-publish if we wanted to sell a product we were proud of.
[K.] In addition to what S.L. said, one of the main reasons we wanted to self-publish instead of seek out traditional publishing contracts was that we wanted to have full creative control over our work. By that, I mean that we wanted control over not only the editing and cover art, but also of the content itself. We wanted the freedom to write whatever story we thought deserved to be told. We wanted to be able to address controversial elements in our stories without anyone breathing down our necks who would have a final say about our characters, worlds, or plots instead of us. We also wanted the freedom to pursue stories that aren't part of what may be popular at any given time. Many great stories don't get contracts because they aren't part of the current fad. We didn't want to have to wait years to have someone validate our work with a contract when we could do it ourselves and not hand over the majority of our royalties.
[S.L.] Our expectations, I feel, were—and still are—quite realistic. We'd like to sell enough books to return the investment we've placed in the books, and then make a enough to just pay our bills. We don't want to be rich and famous, gain a traditional contract, or anything of the sort. We'd like to just pay our bills and make back our investments, and that's all. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake. Ultimately, we don't expect to be turning a larger profit until Year Three, and we're just now concluding Year One, so we have a ways to go. We're in this for the long-haul, and we've only just begun.
[K.] Indeed, this is just the beginning for us! It's less about an expectation on what we get and more an expectation on ourselves and what we give. We have an expectation of ourselves to consistently put out quality material. We're hoping that effort and dedication to the work comes across to our audience and pulls in enough readers to pay the bills and make back the investments. Definitely nothing extraordinary.
Why did you select your specific publisher?
[S.L.] The very first time I self-published (which was a book that is no longer available), it was through Lulu. The experience was a nightmare that ended with me barely selling 100 books. This time 'round, we decided we'd bypass any sort of self-publishing company and contract with the printer directly. For our printed books, we work with Lightning Source. Our e-books are produced by my husband who does that sort of thing for a living.
[K.] I hadn't been previously published, but after learning about it all, true, independent self-publishing made the most sense, and that meant creating our own company to work directly with Lightning Source. Storm Moon Press is the product of our efforts. Thanks to our team of writers, artists, editors, formatters, and typesetters, it has become a great small press.
How is it going so far? Are you achieving your goals?
[S.L.] Our first e-book, The Keeper, was released in August. We've sold about a book a day. I think that's pretty damn good as it shows a steady interest. I think we'll see more sales as we release more books. Backlist is important. Right now, we just released Cast the Cards in both print and e-book, which included works by us and four other authors. So far, we have reached every goal we set for ourselves when we created Storm Moon Press back in January.
[K.] It's incredibly exciting and fulfilling! Each goal we set for ourselves is realistic, and though it takes effort, we always feel those intrinsic rewards when we reach those milestones. In addition to our two releases, we have several more in various stages of the writing and editing process. We have even expanded a bit to include an audiobook version of our first release, The Keeper. There is a great deal on the horizon, and we can't wait to continue on and drive the roots of the company deeper and see where time takes us.
What advice would you give a person who has completed their manuscript and is considering self-publishing?
[S.L.] Be sure you know all you're getting into, and be certain you have the fortitude to create a quality product. Patience is a virtue you will need. A bit of money wouldn't hurt, either. It can be expensive to produce a book that is indistinguishable from the mass market product in the local bookstore. While that may not be everyone's goal, it has been my own, and so an average book costs us between $1,000 and $2,000 to produce. It's important to have the money to invest—because it is an investment. This is something you will be asking people to pay money for, and so you owe it to them to give them an enjoyable and near-flawless experience if you don't want your book held up as an example by both traditional and non-traditional publishing of what not to do.
[K.] Also, don't be afraid to ask questions of those around you and seek help from people who are better equipped to handle one aspect of your publishing experience, be it marketing, editing, or making cover art. Independent publishing means you're in charge, so you have to be willing to take the bull by the horns but reach out for help when needed. You might be in charge, but you don't have to be alone and an expert on every detail to put out a quality product. You can hire someone with professional experience to take care of an aspect in which you lack skill. On the other hand, you might decide that your goals aren't in line with full-on self-publishing, and that's perfectly all right. Just do your research on your options and find what's best for your work, even if that means changing the game plan for each manuscript.
K. Piet was born in California and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona with her older sister and two cats. A graduate of the University of Nevada—Las Vegas in Allied Health Kinesiology, K. is a nationally certified, licensed massage therapist and specializes in therapeutic bodywork for those involved in artistic sports such as gymnastics and figure skating, circus performance, and professional dance.
Writing is her newly discovered passion, and, in addition to her adventures with the written word, K. enjoys drawing, Cirque du Soleil, musical theatre, and hoop-dancing, all of which she feels balance her scientific, kinesiology side with her flare for the artistic and dramatic. She currently has one novel available from Storm Moon Press, The Keeper, which was co-authored with S.L. Armstrong. She loves to hear from her readers, who can e-mail her at K.Piet@logophile.net.
S.L. Armstrong was born in West Virginia and raised in Tampa, Florida with her younger brother and a family dog. She has been a voracious reader since early childhood, a hobby encouraged by her mother. In middle school, S.L. began to write as a hobby, scribbling poetry and snippets of prose during her classes. By the end of her high school career, she'd filled three binders full of her writings. It was the beginning of a life-long obsession with words and worlds, characters and plots.
Shortly after high school, S.L. married her husband, who has always encouraged her in her chosen field. They currently live together in Bradenton, Florida, with seven cats and two dogs, and she is one of three founders of Storm Moon Press. S.L. currently has one novel available from Storm Moon Press, The Keeper, which was co-authored with K. Piet. Upcoming projects include Rachmaninoff and Catalyst, both also co-authored with K. Piet, and will be available from Storm Moon Press.
Website & Blog Links:
K. Piet's website: http://www.kpiet.net/
K. Piet's blog: http://kpiet.wordpress.com/
S.L. Armstrong's website: http://www.slarmstrong.net/
S.L. Armstrong's blog: http://slarmstrong.wordpress.com/
Storm Moon Press website: http://www.stormmoonpress.com/
Buy Link for Book: http://www.stormmoonpress.com/books/Cast-the-Cards.aspx
If you would like to participate in the My Story Column, please send your responses to the questions above to podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line of My Story. Please include a short bio, a link to your website and/or blog, and a link to whatever book you happen to be promoting at the moment along with a good quality cover jpeg. You may be as brief or as long-winded as you like.