I love meeting and chatting with all authors, no matter their choice of publishing path, because I never tire of hearing about every author's personal experience. None are ever the same. And today, I'm thrilled to be joined by self-published D.L. Jordan, who has some great insight into his journey.
1. In a nutshell, who are you and what do you write?
My name is Dominique Langston Jordan and I write under the name of D. L. Jordan. I write in a lot of genres, but I mostly write Fantasy. Throughout my life, people have taken notice that my middle name is Langston and that I’m named after Langston Hughes. I’ve grown up reading his writings, especially his poems, and he’s one of my favorite African American writers of all time. My favorite poem of his is, “I, Too”. It’s such a powerful poem about equality and what it means to be an American.
2. When did you start writing? What set you off on this writing path?
I first started writing when I was just seven-years-old when my parents gave me a journal as a gift. I had always loved to read books, so the sight of one that was completely filled with empty pages confused me. I was so perplexed about what to do with this small, empty book in my hands that I didn’t know what to do. That’s when they told me that I should just write down everything I saw and everything that happened. So, that’s just what I did. I wrote down everything that happened around me in my neighborhood — kids playing in the street, our neighbor’s dog running and barking after every car that passed by, and even the smell of the freshly cut grass under the marvelous blue sky. Everything around me was a source of inspiration.
But eventually, like most kids who get something new, I eventually lost interest in writing and didn’t really regain that interest until I was 14.
At the age of 14, I was in high school and my English class was given an assignment to write a story about a boy who finds a pebble. That evening, as I pondered on what to write about, my mind instantly became flooded with ideas about the boy and the pebble. I began thinking, “Could it be a magical pebble? What if someone had lost it and was desperately trying to retrieve it? Maybe it leads to a wondrous underwater metropolis completely unseen by humans?” I eventually finished my assignment, going along with the latter idea and turning it in to my teacher the next day. But I couldn’t get the idea of the boy and this unrevealed metropolis out of my head. I then began to scribble ideas about the boy’s background and certain things he liked to do. I would also write about the history of the civilization he would visit. Within a few months, these ideas became my first completed manuscript. I was so proud of myself and I wanted others to share in my joy. That was the defining moment for me. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer.
3. How many books had you written before deciding to publish? When did you feel the time had come to get your writing out there, to actually have books available for your readers?
Before I knew I wanted to self-publish, I had written only one book. It was my first book in The Erlonan Tales series called The Erlonan Tales: The Genesis of Destiny. It was back in 2014 and, at that time, it was called The Erlonan Tales: The Destined Child. During that time, it had been with a small publisher called Silver Tongue Press. When the publisher was bought out by an even bigger publisher, the authors signed to the company were given the option to transfer over to the larger company or be dropped from the roster to pursue other publishing outlets. I had read a lot about self-publishing and wanted to pursue it for a while after I was dissatisfied with the ethics and processes of those who were running Silver Tongue Press. I had researched the company that had bought out Silver Tongue Press and could see that they were much like the company they had acquired. After that I had decided, I was going to do everything concerning my works on my own. Ever since that moment, I knew that I had made the right decision.
4. So why self-publishing and not traditional?
After that, I continued to work on my writing and create more stories in The Erlonan Tales series along with other different works in different genres. I also tried to go the traditional route and attempt to find an agent for my book. I researched on how to write the perfect query letter, how to approach agents, what agents were appropriate for the genre I was writing, what to say, what not to say, what time of year is best to send a query, and even how to pitch a query that will catch an agent’s eye. There’s so much information out there written by so many people on how authors can break into traditional publishing. I think I pretty much absorbed all of it. Like so many other writers out there, I wanted desperately for an agent to see the value in my work.
I emailed and pitched my work to so many agents that I even have a folder in my emails of where I store both the email that was sent and even the rejections. I continued to pitch my story to no avail, so I continued to work on improving my writing. I also became dismayed because of the long, waiting process to hear back from the agents themselves. It became frustrating waiting six weeks to six months just to receive a form letter saying that, “Though your manuscript had promise, it wasn’t something we’re currently interested in.”
I wanted to self-publish, not out of bitterness or frustration, but because I had all these works I’d been writing since I was 14 and I didn’t want them to rot in the crevices of my hard drive. After so much rejection, that is almost what happened. I pictured I would let them sit in a closet or pass them down to future generations with the story of, “…at least I tried.” This may seem dramatic, and rightfully so. I was always told I had a flair for the dramatic growing up. However, I’ve never been one to give up without a fight. Science has proven that the key to survival is adaptation to environment. So, I adapted. I decided to take all the power into my own hands.
I like self-publishing because it allows the author to assert his/her own control over the content they publish. It enables them to reach out to audiences who possess a hunger for their content without the approval or permission of the traditional literary gatekeepers.
Self-published authors, or indie (independent) authors as we sometimes call ourselves, even have the power to develop our own imprints and create, market, and distribute our works under that publishing company. We can publish what we want, when we want, however we want. This is what I’ve done with my company DLJordan Books, which I founded in December of 2017.
The internet has made all this possible. Everything necessary to the publishing process such as editors, illustrators, cover artists, synopsis writers, sites to help you publish your website, and even reviewers can be found on the internet. Of course, none of these necessary processes are free, but they are both affordable and easily accessible. Social media is also a huge help when marketing books.
5. How has the experience been for you so far? What have you found easy, and what not so easy?
So far, the self-publishing process has been a lot of fun. Although, sometimes, it’s not easy. Hiring freelance editors, cover artists, etc. is not only effective and easy – it’s also not cheap. Paying for their services does add up. That’s why it’s always a great idea to find someone who can perform the services you need at an affordable price. Also, it’s hard to find people who are interested in your work once it’s out there. Social media does help, but it’s oftentimes not enough. That would be one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced.
6. For anyone thinking of self-publishing, can you give a breakdown or bullet point list of things to do? Perhaps even an idea of when and how to action each item?
For anyone thinking of publishing, there’s not a definitive outline or process that you can follow. Every author has their own experiences of what they’ve done to self-publish. So far, for me, I would say the most effective thing has been to find different services on Fiverr and sell your work on Amazon. I’ve used Amazon for years and their KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) program has been very helpful in helping authors broadcast their work to the world. Having a website or blog helps a lot, as well as having a newsletter.
7. What's the hardest or most important lesson you've learned so far?
The most important lesson I’ve learned so far is to never give up and to never be afraid to re-invent yourself. After querying agents and not being accepted into the world of traditional publishing, I almost let years of disappointment stop me from pursuing my dream. The key is to not give into any feeling that stops you from being the best person you can be.
8. What has and hasn't worked for you?
The one thing that has worked for me is knowing what stories I should write about based on the ideas that I have written down on paper. What hasn’t worked for me is letting myself procrastinate with my writing. I try to be more disciplined with getting my writing on paper. Whether it’s a page a day or a page a week, I try to dedicate myself to writing as much as I can.
9. Give one main piece of advice for those about to embark on the self-publishing journey?
Self-publishing is the new frontier of the publishing industry. More people who never had a chance to show their writing to the world are now getting the opportunity to display their talents. The titles that they’re releasing are even competing with those that have been traditionally published. Those self-published titles are even outselling traditional titles on numerous bestseller’s lists. My advice to anyone who wishes to embark on the journey of self-publishing would be to never give up. There’s someone out there who is waiting to become your number one fan. Keep writing!
You can find out more about Dominique Langston Jordan (D. L. Jordan) at his website at www.DLJordanBooks.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @DLJordan90.
With her second book released later this year, I'm delighted to welcome my friend and fab author Jodi Gallegos to the blog today. She has some great insight on publishing with a small press as well as awesome advice for new writers. Enjoy!
1. Who are you and what do you write?
My name (pen and real) is Jodi Gallegos. I write contemporary fiction, historical fiction and light fantasy for the young adult and new adult/adult markets. I’m currently published as an adult/new adult romance author.
2. When did this all start for you? (your writing that is, not the interview!)
I’ve been a story-teller for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had an endless stream of story lines, dialogues and made-up scenarios running through my head.
In the third grade I was fired from my first writing job: play write. The group project was to prepare a play for the class. While the other girls fought over who would be cast as Cinderella and the wicked stepsisters, I set about writing the play. Sixteen pages in, and with character introductions barely done, I was relived of my duties.
In the tenth grade I made the bold decision to declare that, while I didn’t know the exact details, I wanted to work in literature when I grew up. My English teacher killed that dream with the words “you’ll never earn a living in literature.”
I spent the rest of my teenage years writing angsty poems, character sketches, situational scenes, and love letters between imaginary people. It never crossed my mind to write a book until I was an adult. (Note to adults: do NOT trash the dreams of children, no matter how unreasonable they seem to you!
Note to children: If an adult tries to kill your dreams, let me know. I'll have words with them!)
3. How long had you been writing, how many books had you written before deciding to become a published author? Can you tell us a little about your journey?
Sure, as I mentioned, I’ve always written “things”, indefinable bits of fiction on scrap paper and napkins, which I’d inevitably cast into forgotten drawers or the trash.
I was in my thirties before I first entertained the thought of writing a book. I experimented with picture and chapter books before finding my voice in young adult and adult genres. My natural tendency is to tackle every project as if it’s something to be conquered, and I did the same with writing. I studied the business as well as the art of writing and took every opportunity to learn more. I started—and discarded—a handful of picture books, chapter books, short stories, and novels before I completed my first novel.
My first completed novel was a four-year endeavor. I’m still revising and perfecting it.
I wrote my second novel during NaNoWriMo. After revisions I was fortunate to be selected as an alternate for a writing contest and received help editing it. That novel became my debut, A Shine That Defies the Dark.
My journey to publication was a mix of hard work, determination, and the connections I’d made with people online and in the publishing world. It took over fifteen years, but all the pieces finally snapped into place.
4. You're published with a small press - can you tell us about your experience so far?
I love the opportunity that I’ve had with my publisher. It’s a small press, but well-established. I’d known about them for quite a while, had read several of their books and found their covers to be amazing.
My debut novel was initially rejected by them (a very kind rejection, with a reasoning that I completely understood). When CTP launched a new imprint for romance I was approached with an offer to re-submit. A Shine That Defies the Dark became the third novel published by Changing Tides Publishing.
The benefit of working with a small press is that I feel like I’m known by my publisher rather than being an anonymous cog in the wheel. There is a camaraderie between the publishers, editors and authors which has helped me navigate the reality of being a published author. As a smaller group we share information, tricks and tips about marketing and the business of being authors. I find that kind of interaction and support to be invaluable as I’m learning to navigate this new world.
5. You also work for a small press. Can you tell us, with your experience on both sides as an editor and author, what the small press experience is like?
First, I should admit that my original intentions in going to work for a small press were entirely selfish. As an author I felt that the querying process was a beast I didn’t completely understand. I volunteered to read submissions to better understand what makes a query effective, and thereby improve my own querying skills.
When I joined Lakewater Press I was given so much more. I learned what happens on the publishing side, the side most authors don’t get a direct glimpse of. Everything I’ve learned about editing, marketing, and publishing has given me a greater appreciation for the business. As I mentioned before, I have a “conquer it” mentality, so I’m constantly striving to better understand and to learn more. The opportunities I’ve been given at Lakewater Press are amazing, I’ve been allowed to stretch my wings and take on new projects. I work with a team of people who are always willing to share their thoughts and guide me as I learn how—and why—things are done as they are. Each thing I’ve learned from the publisher’s side has only enriched my experience as an author.
As an author the things I want other authors to know about publishers are:
6. For anyone unsure about publishing with a small press, what would you say to them?
I absolutely encourage writers to consider submitting to a small press. For me, having a more personal relationship is a benefit. I see it as an author and as a team member for a small press. I think the connection is vitally important. I love to feel as though I’m on a team and that each of us has the same goal: to make each book/author a success.
That said, there are predatory presses/agents and it’s important to do your research before submitting to them. Before you submit to a small press check their website, their submission policy, look at their books and the quality of their covers. Read some of their books, follow their authors on social media, you can even contact small press authors to ask if they recommend their publisher.
I researched both the publisher I submitted to and the one I work for before becoming involved with either. But keep in mind, just because a publisher is new, it doesn’t mean they're not reputable. I joined Lakewater Press just before their first birthday and went in fully confident because of the research I’d done on everyone involved.
7. For new writers, what advice might you have for them that you've learned along the way? What are the main things writers should be doing with their work and careers, in your opinion?
First, I’d say that it is never too early to work on your social media platform. Don’t wait until you have a book deal to establish your online presence. Marketing begins with who you are as a person, not just an author. Take the time to make connections with people and establish relationships with others. I see too many authors who use social media solely as a means of marketing themselves and their books, which is a one-way street to self-promotion. Engage in conversations, ask questions, share the good news of others, ask your followers about their own projects, promote others more than you promote yourself!
Second, don’t underestimate how much effort you need to put towards marketing yourself and your books (that’s right, plural, always keep your eye on the big picture!). Marketing can be an exhausting task, but you’re as responsible for spreading the word as your publisher. The dream is yours though, so I’d argue that you’re more responsible for putting in the work.
Third, be professional. As you interact on social media and submit to agents and publishers you’ll be leaving your footprint in the industry. Sloppy queries, angry responses to rejections, and social media trashing of agents/publishers who reject you won’t get you anywhere.
8. What does the future have in store for you?
Well, a New York Times best-selling world-wide phenomenon is always the goal, right?
My more short-term plans include the release of the sequel to A Shine That Defies the Dark. The Light at Finnigan’s End (Rum Runners, Book 2) comes out November 5, 2018, with Changing Tides Publishing.
I’m hoping to complete final revisions on my first book, The High Crown Chronicles, by the end of the year. I’ve also begun research and plotting for Book 3 in the Rum Runners series and a new romance set in Alaska.
I’m also always on the lookout for the next query to Lakewater Press that will spark my passion.
Jodi is a YA and NA/Adult author, black belt, and registered nurse. She lives with her husband, three sons and an evolving herd of undisciplined animals in Colorado. She has a well-earned fear of bears, but tolerates the Teddy and Gummy variety. She has been obsessed with books, both reading and writing them, for most of her life and prefers the written word to having actual conversations. The most current projected completion date of her To Be Read book collection is May 17, 2176.
Find out more about Jodi here!
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JodiLGallegos/
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
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