KR: Could you tell us more about crowdfunding? How did you learn about it? How did you do it?
MM: "Crowdfunding" is when the fans or supporters of a project put money behind it to make it happen, rather than hope a gatekeeper--a publisher, film studio or record producer, for instance--picks up the project. Sites like Kickstarter.com or Indigogo.com allow musicians, artists, filmmakers and writers to organize crowdfundings; some people offer premiums there, rather like NPR offers tote bags for certain levels of donation.
I first ran into a form of crowdfunding while reading the online serial Tales of MU. Its author, Alexandra Erin, was then using a donate-for-chapter model; if readers met a fundraising target, she'd write an extra chapter that week. She's since stopped doing that, but for a long time it was the most common model of crowdfunding support for online writers. I used it when I first started, and did pretty well with it.
But I needed to raise a whole other level of money to make the first IHGK book happen. It needed editing, and the closer I got to finishing what I thought was book three, the more I realized how badly the whole thing needed to be rewritten from the top--and how unsustainable it was as a serial. I needed to convert it into books, which meant money for an editor and for professional design services. I think my readers helped me puzzle out what would be attractive to crowdfunders, and this is what we came up with:
For $50, you got
--an autographed paperback
--your choice of ebook format
--an acknowledgment in the book
--and most importantly: the final unformatted hot-off-the-laptop raw manuscript before anyone else got to read it, the moment my editor (Annetta Ribken) and I decided it was done. I finished the book on August 31st, 2010 at 9:30 pm; the manuscript was in the hands of its funders the morning of September 1.
I raised about $2,500 this way from 48 people, some of whom bought two packages and some of whom bought an ebook-only version for $25; they got everything in the $50 package except the autographed copy.
I'll be doing the same thing again for book two as soon as I come close to sending a draft to Nettah the Edittah. Netta is fabulous, by the way: http://www.wordwebbing.com/
KR: Did you have any interest in going the traditional publishing route? Did you do the agent/publisher hunt?
MM: I very half-heartedly looked for an agent. I think I sent out three queries. I really didn't want one, but thought, well, now I can say I tried, I guess. The material I sent was atrocious enough that it's no surprise I got turned down, and I did it having already decided to be independent.
That said, I do have two short stories coming out in different Circlet Press anthologies (http://www.circlet.com/); in fact, one of them goes on sale December 28th, 2010: "Like a Moonrise: Shapeshifter Erotica." Not sure when the second anthology I'm in is going on sale yet. And I just submitted a short story to a major online outlet, mostly for fun. If it gets rejected, I'm not concerned; I can put it out there myself. I'm just curious at this point.
KR: You have a book trailer video, has that been an effective marketing tool?
KR: Who did your cover art/trailer?
MM: I did both my trailers, and it probably shows. :) I do the covers for the Scryer's Gulch books, since they're just compilations of the serial. Alice Fox (http://www.alicefox.net/) did the cover of "Lovers and Beloveds." Alice has been the official artist for that series for some time now. She is amazing. Fellow writer and all around cool guy MCM did the typography design for LaB.
KR: How many copies have you sold? What has been your best marketing tool?
MM: Speaking strictly of "Lovers and Beloveds," since the book's release in September 2010 I've sold about 75 paperbacks between direct sales, CreateSpace and Amazon. Ebooks, I've sold about 150 so far among Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and direct sales on my site.
My numbers are not that high compared to people like JA Konrath, but as Netta is fond of saying, it's a marathon not a sprint. And compared to the vast majority of self-publishers, I'm doing pretty darn well. I expect things will only get better as my catalog grows.
KR: When is the next book due out? Does it have a title yet?
MM: The next book is tentatively due out in October 2011. The working title is "Mothers and Fathers," though that may not be the final one. I'm about 10,000 words into the alpha draft. (I tend to "name" my drafts by software convention: alpha, beta, release candidate, final.)
KR: Lastly is there anything else you'd like to say about self-publishing?
MM: Sure! If you self-publish, take it seriously. Invest in your work: hire a professional editor (not your friend who was an English major in college). Hire a professional cover artist. If you're going to print, get a typographer to design the book block if you can; if you're staying ebook only, you can do the formatting yourself for the most part. There are a lot of good guides out there on how to format for Kindle and Smashwords.
Most important is to commit to writing. Finish the book. Put the time in, get it written. If it's finished and languishing in a drawer, pull it out, dust it off, give it a good shake. Then let someone who isn't invested in being nice to you read it. Revise. Design. Put it out there.
If you'd like to know more about MeiLin Miranda you can check her out at MeiLinMiranda.com.