October 2nd, 2012 | Add a Comment
Rhonda Plummer is proud to say she was a military brat. She visited almost every state in the union, and lived in ten states and Japan. Between marriage, kids, moves and general chaos she crammed in college, taught painting classes, and owned an insurance agency. When life slowed down, and there was time to explore new interests, she became a certified hypnotherapist, mediator and writer. Her home is 20 acres of land outside Boise, Idaho.
Her novel TMI was posted May 14, 2012 as an e-book, and a month later in paperback. Reviews for the book have been very positive. Three book signings were well attended with strong sales but getting feedback on Amazon and Barnes and Noble has been a challenge.
What genre does your novel belong to?
TMI is a mystery with a romantic interest.
I find the limited selection of genre labels misleading. Most bookstores and Amazon lump all paranormal stories together, mysteries, thrillers and suspense novels are under one category and cozy mysteries are associated with female sleuths. A mystery doesn’t necessarily revolve around a murder, and it isn’t a ‘don’t turn out the lights’ thriller, or a ‘nail biting’ suspense. For established writers whose name sells the book, the limited genres aren’t a problem, but I believe the lack of clarification hurts indie authors.
What portion of your time do you devote to marketing?
For me, writing and marketing are not a division of time. Because of a wicked sense of humor I named my muse, She Devil. When she’s in the mood to ‘talk’ everything takes a backseat to the story. I’ve written for sixteen hours straight and never turned on the internet to check emails. Then there are days when She Devil is silent and I wonder if the next scene will ever materialize. To keep from trying to force a plot I use that time to search for new marketing avenues. I’m on twitter and face book but seldom write anything. The blog I wrote read like a school essay, not good, so that ended before it began.
What do you see as the pros and cons of self-publishing?
Advantages to self publishing : No agonizing over a query letter. No synopsis that reads like a story on speed dial. And no letters like this one received two weeks ago, “Your writing is tight and clean. The opening has a great hook. I really enjoyed reading the first fifty, but at this time I don’t feel the manuscript is right for me.” Getting that 99.9 grade by a well known agent, but still flunking the test, was a maximum frustration, and after a short pity party a reminder of why I went indie last year.
Disadvantages to self publishing : Without a money tree or a goose laying golden eggs national advertising is too expensive and too unpredictable for a self published author. Getting quality reviews, and interviews from newspapers with a readership of more than two or talk radio shows are also major hurdles to jump. After two calls are you harassing, or stalking? And then there are well meaning ‘friends’ who ask when you’re going to get serious and sell your book to a ‘real’ publishing house.
What do you do to get book reviews? How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
Catching the interest of that one person whose viewpoint will jump start your work to the next level is the most difficult aspect of self-publishing.
I’ve tried begging for reviews, so far that got me nothing but bruised knees. Bribery kind of worked (my sister felt sorry for me) but I gained ten pounds making Zucchini bread and after the deer ate the last of the ripe tomatoes from the garden I had no excuse to hound the neighbors. Contests that direct readers to my website increased the traffic and sales, but that hasn’t morphed into reviews on sites like Amazon. Vista Print offers a low price on business cards with a colored picture of the book cover on one side, and book / website information on the back side. By using the book cover the cards create interest, but there is no way to know if they result in sales.
You have penned a novel in collaboration with Joe Grindstaff. Why did you do that and did that affect your sales figures?
Joe Grindstaff and I met during a flight to Portland. I handed him one of my business cards with a picture of the cover to Dazzle Me. The models long legs grabbed his attention. He told me about his screenplays and I commented that TMI would make a good novel. Never having read a screenplay, I had no idea that they lack the details that breathe life into a novel or movie.
It took six months to rewrite TMI; double the time it takes me to write and edit a 90,000 word manuscript from scratch. Joe and I have different strengths but both of us are willing to listen to concerns and ideas, so the partnership has worked well. Initial sales are no different than they were for my single author novels. Joe lives in El Paso and has marketing opportunities that I don’t have, so I expect that to change.
You hesitated between a self-made book cover and a professionally made one. What was your final decision and why?
The book cover is like a blind date—the first impression is crucial to holding a person’s attention. The cover of TMI was Joe’s idea. He borrowed his wife’s car, sweet talked a friend into modeling, and a professional photographer took the picture on a road outside El Paso. For the design layout we hired Hot Damn Designs. Kimberly also designed the covers for my other novels. It was a $200 investment that was worth every penny.
Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
My first novels were originally published and edited by a small publishing house. The process taught me a lot about spotting repetitive sentences, and tightening sentences. The books were edited by an in-house editor and given a final stamp of approval by the head of the editing department. Still, the printed books were peppered with typing errors. Interestingly, not one reader e-mailed to point out the errors. Maybe that’s an indication of our ability to read what should be there, or text messaging shorthand has made people more prone to overlook poor spelling. Or perhaps, due to the newness of the smaller publishing houses, readers didn’t expect a higher quality.
While writing TMI I took an on-line editing class from Don McNair, a published author and editor. He has great tips and check lists to help fine tune writing. Joe did the final read through. Hopefully all the typing errors were located, and commas are where they should be! That said, if a writer can afford to pay an editor, do so, the money will be well spent.
Who formatted your book? In how many formats is your book available?
I have a love/hate relationship with computers. When the computer hiccups my redhead temper flares, and I threaten to toss the computer out the window. BUT, hear the drum roll, I did all the formatting. That says a lot about the user friendly programs Smashwords, Amazon, Bookie Jar, CreateSpace and book sites like All Romance have built.
The first book took a full day to format to Amazons specifications. After that stress filled learning curve each book took a couple of hours to format and post. Smashwords has you add their copyright information, but other than that the Amazon specifications have worked for every format requirement.
Every site employees support teams who listen to Zen music, eat chocolate and throw darts at a smiley face to maintain the calm patience of a saint. If you run into a problem, or don’t understand something, call them. No doubt they rolled their eyes at some of my questions, but they also held my hand and walked me through their instructions.
Thank You Rhonda, for taking the time to answer so many questions.
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