Monday, January 18, 2010

Authors, Self-Publishers: Roundtable, Part 1

Good morning to everyone!

Today, I'm pleased to kick off the first in a four-part series where I've interviewed four different self-published authors. Look for the next parts this Thursday, and next week, also on Monday and Thursday.

The authors are Lee Adams, P.A. Hendrickson, Tommie Lyn, and Victor Travison. With each post, I'm going to feature one at the end of each post with information about their books and websites.

So, without further ado, let's rock 'n' roll.


Liberty Speidel: First, tell us a bit about yourself, your writing experience, and a thumbnail sketch on why you chose the self-publishing route.

Victor Travison: There’s a fuller description of my writing history on my website, I started writing stories when I was 8 years old, as part of a 3rd-grade assignment. In the early ’70s, I moved on to short stories in various genres, and in 1980 I finished my first novel length sci-fi story. It was pretty bad. In 1983 I tried it again, putting in multiple plots and starting to develop long-running characters and plot arcs. I chose self-publishing because I had tried the traditional route before, without success. I decided if I can at least get a couple of books in the public eye, I might be able to attract a standard publisher.

Tommie Lyn: I’d always done well with essay writing in school, but when I tried my hand at fiction when I was in my twenties, the result was awful, and I concluded I couldn’t write, I thought one had to be born with the talent to write fiction, and I obviously didn’t have it. I tried one more time, when I was in my thirties, and gave up totally after that ill-fated attempt.

But when I reached my sixties, I encountered little-known historical information that I thought should be written as fiction (few folks will pick up a dry, dusty history book, but they will read entertaining fiction). Since I knew I wasn’t capable of writing it, I tried to manipulate others into writing it. No one would. A history professor told me, “If you want it written, write it.” So I did. And after I wrote that first novel, I found I was addicted to writing and couldn’t stop.

I began querying agents and publishers on that first novel and my second novel. I got varying responses, ranging from form rejection slips to: “I love your story. It’s well-written and intense. It will be published by someone. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit our guidelines, so we can’t publish it.”

I decided to self-publish when I realized that, if I wanted folks to enjoy my stories while I was still alive to know about it, I’d have to do it myself. Plus, what I had been reading about the publishing industry gave me an awareness of the remote possibility of traditional publication for most writers.

Lee Adams: I’m a Long Beach writer working on a mystery series, the “Julie Page Mystery” series. I just launched the second installment of said series in November. It’s called Nighthawks. These books are cloaked as mysteries but all examine the creative personality. The first book, 5th and Vanguard, focused on how far an artist will go to reclaim his/her Muse. Would you steal? Would you kill? Like that. Nighthawks concerns itself with what happens to an artist once he/she gains some cred, money, fame. As is evidenced with my heroine, Julie Page, often the artist will throw it all away, self-destruct, because they’re not really ready for (or maybe even pursuing) the money and prestige. They’re just creating, against their better judgment, because they are compelled to do so.

When I first sent out 5th and Vanguard, I received nothing but form rejections. So, based on no specific criticism, I rewrote the book and sent it out again, receiving some form rejections and some with hand written notes attached. This process of mailing it out, assessing the rejections, and rewriting the book went on for several years. I rewrote the book perhaps ten times. With each new mailing I received kinder rejections, so I knew the rewrites were working to some degree, but one day I realized that the story no longer held the import I originally meant it to, and that freaked me out. It’s at that point I decided to self-publish, went back to the manuscript, retrieved parts I’d cut out, realigning myself with my characters, and ended up, for better or worse, with the story I meant to tell, albeit a much better written one than I started with.

My reason for publishing independently was ultimately based on my belief that the art is the important thing, not the prize. You’ve got to share the work, get it out there, whether or not you hit the jackpot. As soon as commerce becomes the focus, the art is going to suffer. This is not to say I wouldn’t take Oprah’s call. I just think we need to stay centered on why we’re writing in the first place.

P.A. Hendrickson: Several years ago, I made the difficult decision to take leave of a successful corporate career, which I enjoyed, to write my first book. The dream of writing a novel haunted me for at least a decade, before I finally took the plunge. Once the goal was established, the gloves came off, and there was no turning back. No retreat. No surrender. A little heartburn.

Prior to writing my first novel, I was fortunate to have a broad range of writing experiences, not all of them creative, mind you. Some examples include technical writing, copywriting, and writing articles and website content. Although writing a novel has been the most fun, you learn something every time your pen touches paper or your fingers strike the keyboard.

I chose the self-publishing route for the simple reason that I wanted to get my work in front of readers as soon as possible. In fact, I did not even submit my manuscript to potential agents or publishers.

LS: Who is your printer/publisher? What were the main factors behind your choice behind utilizing them?

VT: Currently my publisher is CreateSpace, because they offered a discount on the production of my first Nanowrimo 2008 novel, The Justice Coalition, which came out in June 2009. I formatted Savage Worlds to follow in October the same year. Both books are available at, and I plan to use CreateSpace again for my Coalition sequel, Let No Man Put Asunder, my Nano project for 2009. Meanwhile, my plan to be noticed by a standard publisher seems to be working. I have an offer to republish Savage Worlds under the Port Yonder Press banner, possibly to come out summer of this year.

TL:  CreateSpace is my printer. I chose them after weighing a number of factors. They will supply an ISBN if you don’t have one, and I didn’t have funds at the time to buy a block of ISBNs. They don’t have an upfront charge to publish (unless you opt for the ProPlan). You upload your files, and you pay for any books you order.

Another consideration was that CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, and being printed by CreateSpace means your book is automatically listed on Amazon, unless you opt out.

And the quality of the first book they printed for me finalized my decision to have them print all my books. Also, they have been great to work with.

LA: I narrowed it down to Lulu and Lightning Press. I wanted more control than I could get with some of the other vanity presses, XLibris, iUniverse, etc. I finally went with Lightning Press because they are the only manufacturer I found that would cut the books 41/4 X 7; standard pulp fiction pocketbook size. Silly, perhaps, but I had a vision of what this series should look like, and I wanted that size.

PAH: I chose BookSurge, an affiliate, to help me publish my first novel. After months of careful research, BookSurge, which recently merged with CreateSpace, seemed the clear choice. There were several reasons for that decision. First, they offered the highest royalties for books sold on Second, they assigned an author representative, who guided me through the entire publishing process. They were always available and saw me as a partner. Finally, the quality of their product is superb. Their graphic artists are well-trained and talented. You will not get a cookie cutter cover, unless you want one! They also have quality editors on staff, should you chose that service.

LS: What kind of assistance, if any, did the printing/publishing company offer?

VT: Very little, apart from the discounts. CreateSpace is a POD printer, no critiquing services, and I did all the formatting and cover design and marketing. If PYP takes on Savage Worlds, they will help with the cover and marketing, and I will get more in royalties. Even so, the money isn’t as important to me as getting my message out there.

TL: They have a step-by-step procedure to set up your title and upload your files. They explain on their website that you must upload your files in PDF format, and inform you of requirements. They have a cover template you can use to create your cover, or you can opt to use their “cover creator” software to do your cover layout, using pre-designed covers, using your own artwork, if you choose.

If, at any point, you have a problem, you can email them and they will answer in a timely fashion. They also have a means whereby you can speak to them by telephone, if you need to.

LA: None.

PAH: Booksurge offered a great deal of assistance up front to help me get the book ready for publishing. First, they offered comprehensive editing services, which were an additional cost, but well worth it. They also worked with me to get just the look and feel I wanted for my book. I gave their artist a vision of what I wanted the cover to look like, and they ran with it. If they have a weakness, however, it is their lack of post publishing services. There is an occasional marketing session available, but it is hit or miss. Now that Booksurge has merged with CreateSpace there are purportedly more post-publishing services, but this merger is so fresh that I have not been able to explore them sufficiently.


I want to thank all of our authors for sharing today!

Today's highlighted author:

Lee Adams is a writer, musician, and voice artist in Long Beach, CA.

The Julie Page Mystery Series is rapidly earning Lee a loyal fan base in the arena of neo-noir. She has written for newspapers, magazines, and literary compilations.

Lee is also an accomplished musician. Her songs have been played on radio and in independent films, and have been described as offering the wittiest lyrics in alternative pop. The music of Maxine Montego showcased in Lee’s novel 5th and Vanguard is the author’s own. Some of the songs can be heard on her album, “Champions and Lunatics,” available through

In addition, she has worked as a voice artist for many years recording audio books for Books On Tape (Random House, Inc.) as well as an array of videos, series, and station identifications for the Educational Television Network

Her website is

Until next time,


Tabitha Bird said...

It is wonderful to read about the journey of all writers. Good on these people for following what was in their hearts. :)

Liberty Speidel said...

Thanks, Tabitha! I hope you enjoy the series. It'll 'air' Mondays & Thursdays for the next two weeks. :) They've offered a lot of valuable information, too. Hope it helps you--or someone else!

K.M. Weiland said...

Haven't read Lee's new book yet. But I enjoyed the first one. Thanks for sharing, Liberty!

Liberty Speidel said...

I'm hoping to read all of our guest author's offerings soon! Thanks for dropping in, Katie!

Lorna G. Poston said...

Thanks, Liberty, for this post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for hosting this discussion, Liberty. And thanks for asking me to be a part of it.


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