Author Interview – Is Independent Publishing Right For You?

In this interview, I talk about the writing process, and delve a bit deeper into independent publishing, and why I’m doing what I’m doing 🙂

Debbie Erickson..........Author

Hi everyone! I am so happy to be able to post this interview!

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes to independent publishing, and whether it might be a good fit for you? I asked Z.R. Southcombe to take us behind the scenes on her journey to Indie Publishing with her new eBook The Caretaker of Imagination and what’s involved in the process. It can be a little daunting.

Zee is from New Zealand, and here she is with a copy of a print book:              ZR Southcombe

One of my goals for this year was doing some author interviews. So,I chose my first interview to be with my friend, Z.R. Southcombe. A few weeks ago, I posted an interview with her that appeared on Inger D. Kenobi’s blog site.

This time, I wanted to interview Z.R myself to offer insight into the writing craft/marketing. So, here…

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So long, and thanks for all the fish*

It’s been a wonderful journey. I’ve met so many creative, generous souls through this blog – but it’s time to close up shop.

A blog evolves with us. This blog has seen many changes, as have I. Now, I move into a new phase: I’m a published author, and with that comes new and exciting opportunities, and a shift of priorities.

Sharing my writing journey and my ideas around indie publishing and marketing are still important to me. I will continue to do this on social media (you can find me on Twitter and Facebook for the most part) and in my writing groups. I’m keen to do more guest posts in lieu of this blog, so if you like what I blog about and you’re willing to share your space with me, I’d be more than happy to write something for you. You can see some of my guest posts here.

I am also considering writing a short book about my experiences so far.

However, my blogging will now be primarily on my author blog, It will be less about marketing, and more about writing, my books, and my personal journey. Take a look at my website and see if it’s your cup of tea 🙂

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in my journey, I truly appreciate your support.

*In this case, fish means support and awesomeness.

Z.R. Southcombe – On organizing a book launch

Here’s my guest post on a friend’s blog about organising a book launch. Enjoy 🙂

J.C. Hart

Today we have a guest post from my friend and fellow writer, Z.R. Southcombe, who recently had a physical book launch for her second release. She’s popped over to share her experiences with us all! Thanks Zee 🙂 

I’d read a lot of advice saying not to have a book launch, because indie publishing is a long term game (which it is) and a launch is not worth it. I decided to have a launch anyway, not just to be a rebel, but for celebratory purposes.

And since I decided I was going to do one, I figured I might as well go all out.


Most important thing, obviously, is where the book launch will be held! I had the fortune of meeting Helen at The Pt Chev Bookshop in Auckland, who has held events at her shop before. It’s an awesome little shop with a fantastic range…

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Amazon Book Launch Strategies: Children’s Author D.C. Grant

Dawn's photoDC is a clued-up indie writer here in New Zealand. She’s been traditionally published in the past, and I appreciate her unique insight. Recently, she released her Jason Shaw Mystery Series. The first book, Speed, is free until tomorrow so grab it now – just click here.

I often say that writing the book is the easy part. Once the first draft has been done, the real work begins (and I’m not just talking about the rewriting, the revision, the copy edit, the rewrite after the copy etc…). Eventually you get to the point that you are sick of looking at it and there is nothing else that can be done. Everything else after this point is tinkering.

Speed cover_finalI had begun a mystery series and had books one to three all written and ready to go, so I decided to self-publish and attempt to gain traction primarily with eBooks. I began looking at the best way to market these books in an on-line environment. It’s not like I hadn’t done this before but my previous books were all set in New Zealand and this was the first set of books set overseas, America to be precise, so I needed a different approach.

In this respect, I knew I was now publishing alongside the ‘big boys’ in a much bigger pond so I had to construct strategies that would result in the books appearing in book rankings and thereby discoverability. Easier said than done.

Velocity cover_finalMy first conscious decision was to launch all three books at the same time. I had planned a staggered launch with the first book coming out followed a month or so later and the third shortly after that. However at a meet-up with a Joanna Penn who advised me to launch all three at once, I changed that plan. Accordingly, Speed, Velocity and Maneuvers came out over the Easter weekend.

The next decision was to enroll the books into KDP Select. For those that don’t know what this is, enrolling in KDP Select means that the digital book is only available on Kindle in the Amazon store. The book is also automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, the subscriber division of Kindle.  Books are enrolled for 90 days and, if the book gain momentum, I would consider re-enrolling in KDP Select. If not, then books can be un-enrolled and I’m free to publish elsewhere while still keeping the books on Amazon.

There have been arguments for and against KDP Select but as an unknown author launching a new series it offered the best chance of being noticed. Discoverbility being the author’s biggest challenge.

Maneuvers cover_finalNow that the decision was made to be exclusive to Amazon for the first three months at least, I researched how best to maximize my exposure on that platform so I investigated Amazon categories and keywords. To this end I downloaded Nick Stephenson’s book “How to Supercharge your Kindle Sales” (A recommendation from Joanna Penn). This book is an excellent resource and I cannot possibly summarize all the information in the book but I will touch on some of the strategies I put in place as a result:

  • Downloaded Kindle Spy to ascertain the words used most often in my chosen category
  • Placed the tagline “A Jason Shaw Mystery” on each of the covers
  • Choose category “Mystery and Detectives” under junior fiction
  • Ensured that the blurb had the words mystery, series, adventure, clues, detective in it
  • Used the corresponding keywords in the keyword field on the Amazon book metadata page

I think you can see a pattern emerging here with the word “mystery’ appearing most often in my word choices. The theory is that the more often a keyword occurs in the books metadata, title and keywords, the more likely the book will appear when a reader searches for books using that keyword, in this case, the word “mystery”.

All of this had to be done before the book was even loaded to ensure that the cover, tagline, keywords  and blurb were all aligned. It emphasizes how important it is to do your research and the bulk of the work before the book is published. Trying to change this after the book is launched means you could lose momentum especially as the book will be unavailable for a period of time while Amazon goes through its review process. Admittedly this doesn’t take long but when your book is down for any length of time, you are losing sales.

If you do this right from the get-go, you can upload the book and let it the Amazon bots do the rest (as far as the Amazon page is concerned at least) and concentrate on other marketing strategies.

Or even, start writing the next book!

D C Grant writes for children and young adults in the mystery/thriller and historical fiction genres.  She lives in Auckland, New Zealand and is known to drink lots of coffee to power her through the late night writing sessions.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Blog | Twitter

How to get your book reviewed

After the launch excitement died down a bit (read: I am no longer a zombie), I’ve got stuck into my next steps. As I wrote in my last post, word of mouth trumps in marketing, and a big part of that is getting more reviews for my work.

Friends & Family

Okay, so I know they can be a bit biased but you’ve got to start with what you’ve got, right? I’m confident that none of my friends or family who have reviewed my work have been at all dishonest in their rating or their written review, so I’m grateful for their support.

The drawback to these guys is that they’re often not familiar with Goodreads and Amazon, and usually don’t have a blog, so it’s not necessarily an ‘easy’ task.

Book Bloggers

This is the step I’m currently on. Book bloggers know what they’re doing, are familiar with the major platforms, and usually ask nothing in return except a free copy of your book, and sharing once the review is up.

They usually have clear review policies, so it’s easy to pick the reviewers that are likely to enjoy your book. So far, the book bloggers I have contacted have been friendly and professional to work with, making the process more fun than scary. Yay!

The two main blog lists I have used are:

I think it’s also good practice to look at their previous reviews, or at their Goodreads ‘read’ list. This gives you more of an idea about whether your book will be a good match for them.

Author exchanges

If other authors are willing, you can sometimes swap reviews. I’ve done this with author friends before, setting the ground rule that we’ll only post honest reviews or not review at all. There have been books I’ve chosen not to review because I couldn’t honestly give them more than two stars (mostly I just haven’t made the time to review though, so writer friends – please don’t take that personally!).

Goodreads Giveaway

My Goodreads giveaway hasn’t ended yet, and I’ve heard that there’s pretty much a 50/50 chance of the winners reviewing your book. I figured it was worth a shot anyway, and I’m glad I went for it.

Since creating the giveaway, I’ve been contacted by a couple of book bloggers that are interested in reviewing. Even if the winners of the giveaway don’t leave a review, I’m still getting reviews from having a go. Because these are from people who have chosen my book, I think there’s a higher likelihood of getting a review.

Other books’ reviewers

This is a strategy I haven’t tried yet. I first heard of it from a webinar by Jim Kukral (which I’ve embedded below). The idea is to go to books that are similar to yours, and click through people who have left reviews. This takes you to their profile page, and if their contact information (or website) is available, you can see if they are accepting review requests and contact them.

What strategies would you add to this list?

4 Marketing Principles for Indie Authors

I don’t claim to be an expert, by any means, but I have watched / read / attended many a marketing seminar, and I listen closely to those I deem successful. I’m constantly learning more, but there seem to be a few things that make success a whole lot more likely.

Write a decent book.

Note that it doesn’t say a brilliant book, or an awe-inspiring book, or even a great book. Just a decent book. The narrative is sound, it’s been edited properly, and the characters have a bit of roundness. Of course, all props to you if you can do better!

Write more books

If you look at the people who have consistently done well in the writing arena, most of them have several books out. The more prolific have tens, or even hundreds of books out. Obviously, we can only start with one, but I’ve chosen to ensure that the one is closely followed by the two, three and four.

Word of mouth sells

No matter what you’re selling, the marketing advice tells us that word of mouth is the biggie (I wrote a post related to this on D.C. Grant’s blog: How to Work the Rule of Seven). There are two main prongs I see here.

Firstly, if word of mouth means ‘people talking about you or your book’, well, give them something to talk about! This is one reason I had a physical launch party.

Secondly, are the ever-coveted reviews. These are a more permanent form of word of mouth, and I personally think the low ratings are just as important as the high ones – as long as they’re honest. I’ve put a link in the back of my book, and in my next newsletter I’m going to write a little blurb about why reviews are important. I’m also in the process of listing review sites and magazines that I’ll request a review at.

Know your audience

Who is the book for? Who do you resonate with as an author? Getting your book out in front of a million people is useless if none of them actually like your genre.

This is something I’m still fine-tuning, because I really do have a wide readership for both What Stars Are Made Of and The Caretaker of Imagination. They’re both sort of for children and sort of not, and I’m still making this clearer in my head. I think it’s because, as I said to a friend on launch day, they’re not for a certain age, but for a certain type of person.

Your ideas

What would you change on this list? Or, do you have any strategies that fall in these principles and I haven’t thought of? Sharing is caring, so let’s all work together to get our books in the right hands 🙂


Book Launch – check! Next Steps: Distribution & Internet Marketing

So in my eyes, the book launch at the Pt Chev Bookshop was a massive success. In fact, it was a SCARY success! I was overwhelmed by the support and came back home completely exhausted but still buzzing. There are photos on all my social media accounts, but here’s a few to give you an idea of things:

So obviously, I’m thinking about the next thing.


For children’s books, and for the New Zealand market (which is relatively small but I do care about) print is still important. I’m working on distributing my books to bookstores across New Zealand.

At the Mairangi Writers’ Seminar last Monday, two speakers on the panel were buyers from the local Take Note shop, a stationery- and book-selling franchise. They suggested to email, with an attached media kit about the book, so that’s what I’ll be doing.

I’m using the template I found yonks’ ago on Rachel Abbot’s site, and you can see here. It was made for book reviews, but I think it’s a good template to follow for book sales as well.

Internet Marketing

While the physical event was fantastic, the internet sales have been abysmal! I think one reason is simply because it is a children’s book, and the other is because it’s easier to crack a local market than an international one.

Thinking along these lines, I’ve decided to direct marketing online towards adults. After all, the protagonist is 42 years old.

Running away, and being a kid again, are things a lot of adults can relate to, so my next job is to work out how I’m going to package this book as ‘a children’s book for grown-ups’, and see if that makes a difference.

Do you have any internet marketing tips to share?

Making space for the new

I missed my Monday post due to life getting in the way (it has a nasty habit of doing that, right?) but hopefully you’ve been entertained by my interviews & guest posts all over the web! If you missed them, go to my author site where I’ve listed the appearances to date.

But back to the topic. I’m reading The Success Principles which I read about on Joanna Penn’s blog. It’s fantastic. Basically, the driving message of the book (at least the way I see it) is:

  1. Figure out what drives you.
  2. Find a way to get paid to do it.

Easy right? Lol. Anyway. One of the chapters is about making space for new ideas, new directions, and new ways of being. He uses an excellent analogy: if you have a bulging full wardrobe, even if you have or want new clothes, there’s no space for them.

Seriously, that line is genius. And it describes where I’m at perfectly. It’s my book launch on Saturday, but this book is so much more than a children’s fantasy. From where I was at the start of planning this book to where I am now encompasses a huge personal journey. I’m not just embracing this more ‘me’ version of me, but putting this version out in the public view.

It’s kind of scary. It’s also a bit of grieving process – you know, emotionally letting go of a phase in my life that has come and gone – but mostly it’s really exciting.

So here’s to positive change, to growth & learning, and to celebrating success! *clinks tea cup*

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the fabulous Z.R. Southcombe

A really wonderful interview that gets deep into my life & writing influences.

So you want to be a writer?


Born in India and raised in New Zealand, Z.R. Southcombe is the author of the GetAttachmentpicture book What Stars Are Made Of. She is also an accomplished illustrator, a teacher, and a passionate promoter of  the New Zealand arts scene. In preparation for the launch of her new children’s book, The Caretaker of Imagination, Zee Southcombe is busy getting ready for a local book signing event, and also touring the web promoting the book and talking about her life as a writer.  Please give her a warm welcome!

Hi Zee, and welcome to this blog interview. Tell us, what inspired you to write for children?

Books were what inspired me most as a child. Stories like The Chronicles of Narnia, Matilda, and Watership Down made me feel empowered and important – I want my stories to do the same for other children. In fact, after I write a story or create a…

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