Today, we talk to self-published author Rowena Cherry, author of “Forced Mate,” available at https://www.jexbo.com/items/108. Rowena shares her insights and tips about self-publishing:
Tell us about your self-published book and where we can find it on jexbo.
“Forced Mate” is a gentle spoof of traditional abduction romances (also known as bodice rippers). It has been called the ultimate, beauty-and-the-beast story. It is also a futuristic take on the Greek myth of the abduction of Persephone by the dark god of the Underworld.In this case, the abductor is a self styled god from outer space.
All my books end happily. I loathe unhappy endings, and I never mess with a happy ending in a sequel. That’s why my books are novels of character, not plot-driven. I’m not interested in the “Will he/Won’t he?” If the spine says “Romance” which is does, then it’s a given that the hero will find happiness with the heroine.
In “Forced Mate,” the hero has a great deal of physical experience, but he is absolutely lost when it comes to the emotions. In his world, he is a god, an emperor’s heir, extremely wealthy, and no one has ever said “No” to him. Then, he meets a young woman who has no idea who he is, and for the first time in his sexually active life, he is told that his bedside manners are abominable.
Why did you decide to self-publish?
I decided to self-publish because the original publisher of the electronic version of “Forced Mate” went out of business. I got my rights back, and I wanted to make sure that my vision of the perfect “Tarrant-Arragon” stayed in circulation. That may sound incredibly superficial of me. On the other hand, if you share my taste in men, you might see my point.
I’d written my first draft of “Forced Mate” by 1993 and was at the stage of entering chapters of it in contests, and honing my writing. Physically, the hero, Tarrant-Arragon, was a composite of four gentlemen whom I’d known, and I never expected to glance at a magazine cover or movie and see my imaginary ultimate hero staring back at me.
That’s what happened in November 1994 when I saw Mitchel Gray’s photograph of Matthew Twiggs on the cover of “Men’s Health Magazine.” I vowed there and then that that photograph was going to be on the cover of “Forced Mate” if I ever got it published. So, I made contact with the photographer, and we made a gentleman’s agreement.
Ten years later, I called Mitchel Gray, and bought the rights to use that photograph, and I wrote it into my contract with NBI that they would use my photograph on my cover. Dorchester Publishing, which bought the print rights at about the same time, declined my cover.
Given my financial and emotional investment in the cover-art, the costs of reformatting the NBI manuscript (not the same as the paperback) and buying my own ISBN were not a deterrent.
Since then, I’ve kept all my e-rights (except in the case of “Mating Net,” where I licensed the e-rights to New Concepts Publishing and retained the print and POD rights.)
What was your biggest challenge to overcome in self-publishing your book?
Well, my challenges were different from those faced by an author who has to start from scratch. My exceptionally talented Web master, Mike Weiss of Image Weaver Studios, revised the cover art.
My intellectual properties attorney helped me with the reversion-of-rights paperwork, and with buying the ISBNs from Bowker. (In those days, a self-publisher had to buy a batch of ten ISBNs. Now, you can buy just one.)
Working with the Library of Congress on copyright registration is not particularly difficult, but it takes longer and longer – up to twenty months.
One challenge was (and remains) the book-keeping part of sales. I’ve only recently started with jexbo. I also have a semi-exclusive arrangement with EBookIsle. Ebookisle sells the e-book for $6.00, of which I get $3.60 per sale. They take care of sales taxes, advertising, delivery, and all the paperwork, and send me a quarterly check. As I understand it, all I have to do is declare that income, and pay my own state and federal taxes.
That’s relatively hassle-free. However, EBookisle only sells a few copies a year, and e-book theft and illegal “file-sharing” is a problem.
I’d hoped that if I sold Forced Mate for closer to the price that e-book thieves say is a fair price for an e-book, the illegal “sharing” might stop. But it doesn’t, and I’ll probably never recoup what it cost me to buy the cover art, the ISBNs and produce the e-book. (NBI didn’t pay me a cent before they went out of business.)
However, if I sell “Forced Mate” on jexbo.com for $1.50, I am responsible for my own book keeping, and for Michigan internet sales tax, as well as for my state and federal income taxes.
Moreover, if I’m sent $1.50 via Paypal, Paypal takes $0.34 off the top as their fee. Of course, I shall also owe jexbo 5% of the original $1.50. For those who might be outraged at my reference to illegal file “sharing”, e-books have a special copyright. The author has the sole right to control the REPRODUCTION and DISTRIBUTION of her ebook. If you “share” an ebook with someone else, you have to create at least four copies (that’s reproduction) that did not exist before, and then you send the copy to someone else over the internet (and that is distribution.) The First Sale doctrine does not apply to e-books.
Apart from the pirates, who might be the biggest challenge for self-published authors who don’t have publishers and agents to take care of the Take Down Notices, self-published authors may have to worry about some of the big fish, too.
What has been the best part about self-publishing your book?
The best part has been keeping my cover and being able to include scenes, words and phrases that I liked (even if one editor or another didn’t)! Honestly, in my opinion, there’s not a lot to recommend self-publishing, if you have an option.
Most authors are shocked (even those with a major New York publishing house) at how much else they have to do, apart from writing the next book…. But, you didn’t ask about the monster Architeuthis (giant squid) beneath the sparkling surface of self-publishing.
What advice do you have for other potential writers and self-published authors?
Follow your dream with your eyes open. Your best friends are authors a rung or two above you on the career ladder. Follow them, don’t try to clamber over them or knock them out of your way. Look to the example of NASCAR and aerodynamics: leader and follower both go faster when they work together.
Contracts are written to favor whoever wrote that contract (publisher, printer, online bookseller, website designer etc). Read every word. Understand what the contract says before you sign it. Get help from EPIC or SFWA or Authors Guild, or Preditors-and-Editors.
Most contracts can be negotiated. No one will think less of you for asking, as long as you are polite and professional about it. Be honest with your agent, your editor, your reader, and anyone else with whom you do business. Including the IRS!
Be aware that others won’t be honest with you. Once you register a copyright or trademark or domain name, you will receive all sorts of documents that look like invoices. You will also be offered awards and listings in catalogues of “distinguished” or “famous” people… if you purchase your listing.
Keep records of all your expenses, all your contracts, all your promises, all your sales, all the prizes you promised to give away. Follow through. Never defame anyone. Never write a bad review. Never write a good review of a book you did not enjoy. Never infringe on anyone else’s copyright (artist’s, model’s, photographer’s, etc). Never “cheat” your reader or potential reader. Never assume that someone will want to read your book simply because “you” wrote it, or because “you” say they will enjoy you.
Secure your domain name before you become published. If you wait, a spammer might squat on it. You don’t want your Web site to be: http://theofficialmynameauthor.com
Keep doing what you love for as long as it makes you happy, and as long as your pursuit doesn’t hurt or cause you to neglect those you love.
Do the very best you can, every day.
Thanks for your great tips and personal insights Rowena! To discover more about self-publishing and selling your books online, please write to me here or at http://www.jexbo.com. Thanks!