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Book Publishing Secrets with S.K. Nicholls

My interview originally appeared in Book Publishing Secrets
Genre: Crime Thriller Romp
Publisher: Brave Blue Heron Books
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
S.K.: Thank you for having me here. I became an author when I decided to make use of the writing I had been doing on another piece about a group of characters struggling with inequality in the Deep South in the 1950s and 60s. I wrote the novel quite by accident when I was trying to document a story that had been in my head for years involving some real life people I had come to know.
It was a very serious story, dark and philosophical, with a bittersweet ending. Afterwards, I needed to focus on something lighter. My husband is a crime novel aficionado and he challenged me to write a crime novel with a humorous edge. I love the sort of regional fiction with humorous undertones for which Florida is famous. Naked Alliances and the Naked Eye Series was born.   
Is this your first book?
S.K.: No. Red Clay and Roses was my first. But Naked Alliances is the first crime novel and the first novel I have written where I actually knew what I was doing. That took a couple of years of research on the craft and publishing. I have no regrets about Red Clay and Roses. I learned much from the experience. 
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
S.K.: I attended Sleuthfest sponsored by Mystery Writers of America, and read the first chapter of Naked Alliances in front of a large audience. It was so well received, I thought I would go the traditional publishing route. The audience laughed at the funny parts, clapped and cheered me on, giving me standing ovation at the end. Three agents wanted the manuscript. I was thrilled and feeling confident. I wrote a synopsis and queried widely. Six months and two-hundred rejection letters later, I became impatient, and decided to self-publish again. Agents typically pick up only four to six books a year. There are millions of books out there waiting to be discovered. 
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
S.K.: I published both of my books through CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing. Red Clay and Roses was formatted by an independent company and submitted to Smashwords for a broader distribution to Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc... A good 98% of my sales came directly from Amazon. With Naked Alliances, I hired a much more affordable individual to format and published exclusively with Amazon.
Working with CreateSpace the first time was laborious and time-consuming, taking eight months to complete. It wasn’t all their fault it took so long. My book had different sections, handwritten letters, fleurons, special fonts and I had used an upgraded package to accomplish these features. There was a tremendous back and forth via email. I found it quite challenging to get things clarified in that manner.
Working with CreateSpace on Naked Alliances was a breeze. I chose a simple package that was designed off a specific template…sort of like plug and play. Things went a whole lot smoother, and the book was accomplished in less than a month. I established my own book publishing imprint that will carry the series.
Getting a book to print in this manner takes a significant portion of your writing time, and marketing without a team behind you will only result in having your book slip quickly into oblivion. With a publishing company you have less control over your work as they provide editing, choose cover, font, and do formatting. However, they do have a whole team of people working toward the same goal…to sell your book.    
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
S.K.: I used social media to build a reader platform and was fortunate to win services of a publicist in the Sleuthfest auction. I have a group of advanced reader copy readers (beta readers) who gave me feedback as the book was written. This gave me good pre-marketing exposure. Another huge asset was paying for a professional editor. You cannot do it alone. You must build your own team if you self-publish.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
S.K.: Absolutely! I like being in control of how my book will be presented to the world. Having my sales dashboard allows me to see how the book is selling on a day by day basis, so I can alter marketing as I see fit. When you traditionally publish you are not in control of pricing, sales, or very much of the process at all. Some publishers involve the author more than others.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
S.K.: Never give up. There is a way to get it done, no matter how hopeless things may seem at any given point. Network and build your platform whether you choose a more traditional publishing method or self-publish. We all need support to succeed. 

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