by Amy Kampstra, Contributing Writer
An independent and voracious reader tends to be a better author. That may be partly why bonafide word addict, Sarah Winter, effortlessly weaved together a spicy, character-driven plot in her romance novel, Snowbound.
Throughout the pages, Liam and River are two 30-somethings stuck together in a Wyoming cabin during the blizzard of the century. He is a flourishing movie star from Europe, and she’s a tomboy living in the middle of nowhere after cancer rips her life apart. Is this change meeting merely life-saving or will it allow them to live their lives to the fullest?
Then, Winter didn’t stop with writing the thing! She took the reins, embracing the newness of self-publishing with an open mind, navigating through the steps like a bright reader charting the dark waters of a Stephen King novel.
Yes, self-publishing involves a plethora of tasks that can make any top-notch writer stuff their manuscript in their nightstand and dream about their dream of words in print -- instead of actually going for it.
Whether you love or hate her first novel, Winter vows to accept all positive comments and criticisms with open arms. Yet, she makes no apologies for her first effort. She believes authors need to give themselves permission: to read, write and explore self-publishing.
Heed her words! Winter’s Snowbound (2014) was a quarter-finalist in the most recent Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.
Amy Kampstra: Can you share a bit about the scope and process of self-publishing for fellow authors that may be considering or even starting their own self-publishing venture?
Sarah Winter: It takes longer to design a cover for the book than to actually have it ready for sale. Createspace is an Amazon company, so getting the book on paperback and Kindle at the same time is part of the process, and choosing your sales channels is another. Through just one simple step-by-step online process, I was able to make Snowbound available through every channel that a traditional publisher can. Self-publishing, once you have a finished manuscript, is easier than I expected.
AK: As a self-published author, how do you market or advertise your book? And, is it more work to write the book or actually market it yourself?
SW: I use social media and have the book listed on every website I can find that doesn't charge to list books that are available for sale. Tweets, Pins, and Facebook posts drive traffic to the sales pages and
to my blog as well. Also, by entering the Amazon contest, my book got exposure to the other entrants through the message boards associated with the contest.
I think the ratio of work on a self-published book is about 15 percent writing, 30 percent editing, and 55 percent marketing, especially if you don't have money set aside for marketing. If you're looking through free marketing options, a lot of time and effort get spent on that. Everything that a publisher handles for you when they sign you to a book deal, you have to do yourself. It's quite an undertaking.
AK: What is the best thing about having your words in print?
SW: Seeing a book on a shelf with my name on it. It's satisfying to have done something even I wasn't sure I would ever do. I can't lie though; royalties aren't bad either even if they don't amount to much.
AK: Now that you've penned your first novel, is there anything you'd do differently if you could do it all over again? For example, the recent buzz is that author J.K. Rowling now seems to have regrets about her choice to have Harry Potter characters, Ron and Hermione, end up together. And, she's written a short story about Harry and friends in their 30s. A) Would you have done something different with your plot or certain characters? B) Is it a possibility that you will resurrect your characters in future projects?
SW: I don't think I've had time to really think about what I'd do differently. I'm happy with the way Snowbound turned out, and don't think there's really anything I would change about it right now. It's always possible I could resurrect them in a new work, but I don't see that happening just yet, either. I've left the cabin for now.
AK: Do you have any goals left for "Snowbound"? That is, are you looking at shopping it around to publishing houses, selling a certain amount of books in a set amount of time, or entering more contests?
SW: I would love to get it published by a traditional house, and I will probably shop it to agents starting next summer, once I have another work released. (I'm shooting for a January release of my second novel).
I intend on entering one of the two in the Amazon contest next year, and hope it works out as well as it did this year.
AK: In retrospect, would you have done something different with the marketing or publishing of your book?
SW: The only different choices I could really have made are ones that are still available to me, even after publishing. I still have the option of getting my work accepted by agents and publishers, so I don't think
I went wrong or made a decision that I regret. I would have set aside some funds for marketing campaigns, but with two young kids there's always somewhere that money needs to be other than paying for promotion.
AK: Why do you write under a pseudonym? Would you advise other authors to do so?
SW: There are several reasons people choose pseudonyms. My motives are really simple. I like the surname Winter, but also it's for a separation of the two versions of me: the mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend; and the writer. It’s a matter of personal choice and, if you have a pseudonym you want to write under, go for it.
Pseudonyms have been used since publicized writing began for people who are trying to break into a genre dominated by the opposite gender. The Bronte sisters each used male names when they were first
published. Benjamin Franklin wrote under three different women's names, one of them in direct protest to women being punished for having illegitimate children while the fathers went unpunished. Romance author Leigh Greenwood is the pseudonym for Harold Lowry, who served as the president of the Romance Writers of America for two years.
AK: Are more Sarah Winter novels (or other works) on the way?
SW: I mentioned it in an earlier question. I have another romance novel in the works that I hope to release in January just like Snowbound. We'll see how it goes, as I plan to go back to work part-time this fall.
AK: On your blog you've written a past post in regard to authors giving themselves permission to write. Can you tell readers and any fellow writers a bit more about this concept, and do you have any other honest and helpful tips for anyone stuck on penning their first novel?
SW: Giving yourself permission, to me, is just about letting go of your hang-ups. They're your hang-ups to have, but they're also your hang-ups to let go of. It ultimately comes down to a choice: you either give up
your hang-ups or you give up your dream. It's unpleasant to think about those two options, but they're really what it all boils down to.
I don't mince words so for other advice, I say this: stop dicking around and write the damn thing. It's not going to get written by the excuses you make for not getting it done. If you're stuck on page five and make excuses for why [you] don't write for ten years, you're still only going to have five pages of a novel and 10 fewer years to write it in.
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