Thursday, August 30, 2012

My journey into the world of independent publishing by Ally Thomas


My journey into the world of Independent Publishing in 2011 wasn't a planned event in my life.  I became an Indie Author before I knew what I was doing really.  I jumped the gun, let's say, and I’m glad I did.  I like to visualize it as the scene from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  Max, the dog ends up riding on the sled with the Grinch when he should be at the front pulling.  The momentum of the sled passing him by throws Max on the back of the sled.  He waves to the Grinch and hangs out for the ride.  I call my publishing journey “launching the cart before the horse” and here's why.  Please note that you may or may not want to approach your publishing adventure this same way.  It's simply one way, the way I did it.
If I had taken the traditional steps to get into the world of publishing, I would not be a published author today.  Independent publishing through sites like Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon turned me into a published author overnight.  I don't regret that rather spontaneous decision one bit.
I have dreamed of being a writer since I was a teenager.  And I’ve always dreamed of writing vampire fiction since I read Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire” when I was 15.  I recall a comment from a college professor  when I was in getting a Bachelor’s in Journalism (who I didn’t really like by the way).  I told her I wanted to write vampire novels someday, not news articles.  She replied, “We all want to write the great American novel, but we have to make a living.”
I abandoned any realistic hopes of becoming a fiction writer after that and set my sights on getting a job as a technical writer after I graduated.  If I couldn’t write fiction, at least I could have a job writing computer manuals, I thought.
As I worked in the corporate technology world of the dot com era, I longed to write vampire stories, something I'd be proud to say I wrote.  I read every book I could find about vampires and scribbled ideas into my journals.  When the shift of vampires being written as heroes instead of villains started, I knew I wanted to write in the paranormal genre.  But I had no idea where to start.  How could I get published?
From 2000 to 2007, I struggled with my demons and they got the better of me.  I assumed nothing I wrote would be of interest to anyone, and nothing would be any different than anything else that was out there.  So why try it?
I didn’t think I could become a published author like the ones I saw on until I learned about ebooks and joined a community called  Their motto is “Your ebook, your way.”
Other writing friends of mine had been diligently writing their 100,000 word manuscripts since about 2008.  With my having a Masters in English, I volunteered to read and edit their drafts.  It was my little sideline hobby.  I spent those years with my friends, talking about their writing, plot, characters, reading and editing their drafts, and dreaming about being an author someday.
When I asked what their next steps were, they discussed submitting their manuscripts to writing contests, agents, editors, and the like.  While I looked on at their progress, my hopes of becoming a writer seemed like a far away concept.  Being paid to write books seemed unimaginable.
While I read and edited their drafts, they joined organizations like Romance Writers of America and Writer's Digest.  As they received feedback from judges in contests, they struggled with achieving their goal.  Everyone had an opinion about various aspects of their manuscripts.  Some helpful, some not, some picky, and some downright mean.  My friends grew hesitant, lost their confidence, and struggled with moving forward.  Getting published was a long shot at best, a dream only a few people could achieve.
Finally in 2010 I decided to take some action.  My New Year’s resolution was to get something published.  I decided to start small.  I’d write one short story.  If I could get the story published in a magazine, I'd be happy.
Also I wanted to learn more about a few new concepts I had heard about.  I went online to google “publishing ebooks” and “independent publishing.”  There had to be another way to get published without going the traditional route.  I wanted to find out more.
I took a short story class at a local college in the summer of 2010.  By the end of December, I had a polished short story of 20 pages that I thought was a nice piece of work.  My writing instructor was a published author of paranormal romance.  She had gotten published the traditional way (getting her manuscript accepted by a major publishing house).  When she read my story, she startled me with two observations: 1) She had enjoyed reading my story, and 2) She suggested my looking into publishing it online.  “Publishing Ebooks is the up and coming thing,” she said.
I shared this news with my writing friends and asked if they had thought of publishing their books as ebooks on sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords.  I couldn’t sit still with the new information I’d received (literally).  Seeing a book I wrote on the site was a wonderful notion.  And I could do it all on my own?  I could help my friends get their manuscripts published as ebooks.  It was possible!  It was a great spark I needed to ignite my dream again.
I had heard of a site called in 2002 and had thought then that if I ever wanted to get serious about publishing a book I'd check the site out.  My friends weren't too sure what to do or where to start with creating ebooks, so I offered to check it out.
With my having a background in technology and online training, I agreed to research a few ebook publishing sites and let my friends know if this was a path to take.  We had heard of internet publishing sites who took advantage of writers by asking for money up front, but not giving them anything in return.  I knew Smashwords was a good choice because they were still in business since I had heard of them.  The company with now 12 employees went public in 2008.  They provide publishing services for over 35,000 Independent authors and the number keeps growing.  And yeah like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, they are reputable.
(When I say I have a background in technology, I should list the jobs I've had.  I've been a technical writer (writing software manuals and help systems), a graphic designer, web programmer, and most recently an e-learning developer which is a fancy way of saying I write online training or online lessons.  I know enough about a smattering of technology topics to be dangerous.  I wouldn't venture to say I know everything about every position I mentioned above.  I'm not an expert in each field.  I’m a generalist.  The benefit of having such a diverse skill set (writing, creating graphics, developing training, and so on) means I can figure out my way around areas of the Internet, especially documentation and training materials.  And I know from testing web applications that if I can't find the answer or need help, I email customer support, search the Help file, or call technical support.)
As I researched the company’s publishing services, doubts and fears immediately rolled in.  I questioned if it was a mistake publishing any way other than with a traditional publisher.  I didn't have an agent.  (I still don’t by the way.)  I didn't have a complete manuscript even.  I had a simple short story and I didn't know if I could publish a short piece.  What was the word limit?  (Currently there isn’t one by the way.)  I really didn't know where to start.  It was a ludicrous idea trying to publish just a short story.  I stressed about continuing on to write a full-length novel and considered giving up.
Somewhere during late 2010, I grew stubborn about completing my goal.  I told those little doubtful voices in my head to “Sit down and shut up.”  Let’s see what happens, I thought.  “So what if I get laughed at or get dozens of awful reviews for my story.  Maybe someone will read it and like it.  Maybe they’ll want to read more about Rayea, my vampire from Hell.  Besides I won’t know if I don’t try.”
I was tired of letting a million excuses surface in my brain to remind me I wasn’t good enough to be a writer and that I didn’t have anything new to say.
Short story or not, I wanted to get published.  Period.  I’m usually not like that.  The old Ally would have waited and completed a full hundred thousand word book, writing for years on a manuscript she wasn’t sure anyone would even like, contemplating every aspect of every step in the writing and publishing process, while the demons of doubt danced around in her head.
The new Ally, the one you know today, did something else.  She published a 20 pages short story in January 2011 as a Free part of a new series called “The Vampire from Hell.”  She crossed her fingers, threw caution to the wind, duck taped the mouths of the demons racing around in her head shut, and prayed for positive feedback.
Needless to say, I haven’t looked back since.  I’m too busy writing and marketing my books while I still work for a few clients writing online training.  I don’t make a ton of money on each ebook I sell.  It’s less than a dollar per purchase.  I like to offer books that are affordable and throw in some freebies along the way.  That was one piece of advice from an established author that I am thankful now I took.
The short story (Part 1 – The Beginning) averages between 2,000 and 5,000 downloads per month on Amazon since January 2011.
Now I realize the series is taking on a life of its own.  I have six installments planned out.  How many more I’ll release I don’t know for sure.  I’d like to say as long as you, my readers want to know more about Rayea’s story, I’ll keep writing the series.
Why am I bringing this up?  Well because in my opinion ebooks are the future.  As long as we have e-reader devices, ebooks are certainly going to be a part of the publishing industry.  The shift is right now in the making, and the big publishing houses are more than a little concerned.
This is from the Introduction in a new book published by the owner of, Mark Coker.  It’s a free download by the way at
“Even authors previously published by big New York publishers are starting to go independent.  These authors are questioning what Big Publishers can do for them that the author cannot do for themselves.  It’s only a matter of time before authors begin speaking of the stigma of traditional publishing.  Indie authors have the ability publish faster, distribute more broadly, price lower, sell more books at higher royalty levels, reach more readers and earn more income than they can by surrendering their rights to a traditional publisher.”  (“The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success”)
Many authors are making a living selling their books through these internet sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Sony, etc.  I’ve heard a few stories of established authors, dropped by the publishing houses, have turned to publishing ebooks on their own.
If you’re an aspiring writer and you want to publish your manuscript through any of these sites, go for it.  Don’t let doubt or fear stop you.  Do a search on google for “publishing ebooks” or go to Amazon and look for “how to” books.  A lot of good resources are available.
I’d suggest joining because they have several guides that lead you step-by-step through the process such as the one mentioned above.
I’ve already helped two of my writing friends realize their dream, and I have two more friends in the wings.  Once they told me they wanted to publish their book as an ebook, I didn’t forget that comment.  It’s the vampire in me, lol.

Latest Book Link and Information
The Vampire from Hell (Parts 1-3) – The Volume Series #1
According to Rayea, the oldest daughter of Satan, the origin of vampires started in Hell, and it started with her. Ally Thomas offers the first volume of the Vampire from Hell series in this collection. It includes the first three parts of the series including
·         "The Vampire from Hell (Part 1) - The Beginning
·         "The Vampire from Hell (Part 2) - A Vampire Among Angels"
·         "The Vampire from Hell (Part 3) - A Vampire On Vacation"
The Vampire from Hell, a novella series, is being released in installments and continues Halloween 2012 with "The Vampire from Hell (Part 4) - The Vampire from Hell Returns."

Ally Thomas’s bio
Ally Thomas loves writing fantasy and paranormal books that showcase vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, and any furry monsters who go bump in the night. She enjoys imagining new origins for these traditional creatures and seeing where it'll take her.Ally lives in the south with her husband and unproductive furry co-workers including two cats and a dog. She is currently working on the next installment of the fantasy paranormal series, the Vampire from Hell and the upcoming paranormal romance series, Fanged Love. Learn more at

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post. I took the journey myself this year and it was a lot to learn. I think the more you do it the easier the tech stuff will be. When it comes to the rest, who knows.