Here's the interview with Wendy Nelson Tokunaga I promised! She's got so much useful, down-to-earth information. I feel incredibly lucky to have connected with her. Without further ado...
1) What circumstances led up to your decision to try self-publishing?
I’d self-published a novel called “No Kidding” in 2000 through POD publisher iUniverse and it was a rather interesting experience. Though I didn’t sell many books, I learned an awful lot about self-promotion. “No Kidding” did end up winning the Mainstream/Literary Fiction Category in Writer’s Digest’s Best Self-Published Book Awards, but even after this no agent wanted to touch it. There was still quite a stigma attached to self-publishing back then, but today the landscape is quite different with e-books and what’s now referred to as “indie publishing.”
But I didn’t set out to self-publish my two current novels. I originally wrote “Falling Uphill” in 2004 and my agent at the time sent it out to several editors (at least he supposedly did) but we didn’t get any positive responses (although I think he didn’t have a good handle on where to send the ms, but that’s a whole other story!). So I put that book in a drawer where it sat, gathering dust. Fast forward to 2007 when I had a new agent who sold my debut novel “Midori by Moonlight” to St. Martin’s Press, followed in 2009 by “Love in Translation.” Then fast forward again to my women’s fiction novel, “His Wife and Daughters,” which, in 2011, my most recent agent could not find a home for, though we got close a couple of times. I didn’t want to give up on this book (I’m quite proud of it!) so I thought I would try putting it out as an e-book. I also dusted the cobwebs off “Falling Uphill” and read it for the first time in seven years. I was reading along and actually couldn’t remember what happened next. This is good, I thought. I can’t put it down and I wrote it! So I decided to self-publish that one too.
2) What format/distributor did you choose and why?
I’d done a lot of research and observed a lot of talk on e-mail loops, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and I initially decided to go with Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook). But I hardly sold any copies and wasn’t sure how to get the books noticed. It wasn’t until I took them off Nook and went exclusively with Amazon on its Kindle Direct Publishing Select program that I got results.
3) What advice would you offer to writers who intend to try this themselves?
Do your research first and find out what will work best for you and your books. Sometimes you just have to plunge in and see what strategies give you the most success. Some people do well with Smashwords, others not so much. And some authors do fine with Nook. I personally am satisfied at the moment with sticking with Amazon’s KDP, but that may not be the right move for everyone. I don’t have the time to manage the books on various platforms and play with pricing. But I’m flexible and will change things up when and if I see fit. This whole indie publishing thing right now is Las Vegas and the Gold Rush rolled into one. It’s a wild and woolly world and no one can predict the future. But all I know is that I haven’t had this much fun and instant gratification as a writer in a long time. It’s so great to connect directly with readers who want to read what I write.
4) What marketing techniques have you found to be most successful?
I know there are some successful indie published authors who claim to do very little or even no promotion, but that’s not true for me. I am a big proponent of Twitter and I’m also active on Facebook. I belong to the Girlfriends Book Club Blog and I have two of my own blogs. I wish I could get myself to blog more often, but I find it hard to discipline myself to write blog posts when I should be working on my fiction. But I try not to be too hard on myself; you have to do the promotion that you enjoy the most and that, for me, is Twitter.
I have also put out a non-fiction e-book on the topic of cross-cultural relationships called “Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband,” which is a collection of insightful interviews with Western women married to Japanese men. The main marketing I’ve done for this book is via Twitter and I’ve been quite happy with the sales results.
5) Do you plan to go back to traditional publishing with your next book or stay with indie?
I think I’d still like to try my luck with traditional publishing, but if I change my mind or things don’t work out, I can always put future novels out as e-books and I’d be just fine with that. I’m also excited about self-publishing shorter fiction (e.g. short stories, novellas) as e-books and hope to do that in the near future.
"Falling Uphill" - original e-book novel:
"His Wife and Daughters" - original e-book novel:
“Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband”