Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Interview with Self Published
Author Sariah Wilson

by Susan Berger

I think we are all intriqued by the idea of a well written self published book. . I have fallen in love with two self published authors recently and I asked them both if I could interview them.  

Meet Sariah Wilson, author of The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back.

Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.

But what happens when you're the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect--read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice--stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you've had a thing for since you were nine years old?

Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie's secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.
Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She'll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake.
Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie's going to rule the school.  And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.

I happened on this book during the Lee Wind and Mother Reader's Blog Comment Challenge. The premise intrigued me enough to buy a copy for my Kindle App. I loved the story and stayed up till the wee hours to finish it. I didn't realize until the end of the book that it was self published. Then I emailed Sariah and asked for an interview.  
Sariah Wilson

Why did you decide to self publish? 
Sariah: Because I felt completely and totally defeated by traditional publishing.  With regards to New York publishing, it seemed like in order for an agent to look at you, you already had to be published.  But to get published, you had to have an agent!  I tried to defeat that angle by publishing in a smaller, niche market.  I had three books come out that way.  I had two unexpected pregnancies, and felt drained creatively with two little ones.  It was very easy to fall away from the publishing world.  But I felt an itch to get back to writing.  I started reading blogs, looking at my old writers’ groups and an email from The Passive Voice led me back to J.A. Konrath.  I used to follow his blog previously and had always admired his acumen and marketing prowess.  But suddenly he was talking about this self-publishing thing and I went back to about 2009 and started reading every post he put up.  I was stunned.  (Stunned!)  For days it was all I wanted to talk about.  A literal revolution was happening in front of me, and I wanted to be a part of it.  I loved the idea that I could control everything – the title, the cover, the price – and keep all my rights.  I will never, ever traditionally publish a novel again.  I might consider a Hugh Howey situation – print rights for a limited time, but there’s no way I would ever sign a traditional New York contract now, regardless of the offer.  (Which is easy to say because, um, no New York offers.  LOL)

Which company did you choose to do it through?
Sariah: I’m exclusive to Amazon right now.  I followed the train of thought that you should have your book available everywhere to everyone.  That makes sense to me – you certainly don’t want to miss out on potential customers.  Unfortunately, I was making diddly squat from Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and all their sites, and Kobo.  (Diddly squat = zero dollars.)  The only place I was selling was Amazon.  So I decided to give the Select program a shot.  I mean, I literally had nothing to lose.  I wasn’t selling very many books before – 19 in November, 13 in December and 7 in January.  Most people sell more books every month; I was selling less!  So I enrolled and did a major promotion for the end of January.  I gave away more than 40,000 copies.  I had several hundred people sign up for my mailing list.  Went from 30 reviews to over 200.  Have had about 2,500 people add my book to their Goodreads shelves.  And after it was over, I started actually selling books!

Did you use an editor (well, if you didn't, I am in total awe)
Sariah: I did use an editor.  Her name is Melinda Fulton, and she is all kinds of awesome.  She’s the perfect editor for me.  There weren’t any major revisions or anything – just great input and catching my mistakes.

How did you choose your editor?
Sariah: I had planned on using my old editor from my publisher, but he decided to go to law school.  So I asked around to my writer friends on who they would recommend.  Eschler Editing came up several times, and so I contacted them, and they put me in touch with Melinda.  I chose her because I liked how she edited and the rapport between us.

How did you choose your cover artist? How much does this cost?
Sariah: I had a much harder time choosing a cover artist.  Initially, my husband drew some artwork and we put a cover up.  And I had several reviewers/bloggers saying “Don’t judge this book by its cover!”  I knew I needed to change it before I tried really promoting it.  So I started looking for an artist, asking for recommendations. The most important thing to me was the cover look professional.  I don’t remember how exactly I found Scarlett Rugers, but she is phenomenal.  I loved her cover designs, and she is the consummate professional, and very supportive of indies.  She called me on the phone to talk about my vision for the book, and then she actually READ the book!!!  How many cover artists do you know that do that?  She presented me with a couple of options, and if you’ve read my book you know her cover is just so totally perfect for Mattie and the fairy tale theme.  I fell in love with it.  When I hired her, it cost me $200.  I think her business must be booming, because her prices have nearly doubled.  Which means I will have to come up with that cash somehow because I love her work.

How much time do you spend marketing the book?
Sariah: Probably not as much as I should.  I am experimenting and trying different things to see what works best for me.  I hate spamming people on Facebook/Twitter, and I don’t know how effective blog tours are.  But just because something did/didn’t work for someone else, doesn’t mean it will/won’t work for me.  You’ve got to give things a shot.

What do you think are your most effective  strategies?
Sariah:  think Select is the most effective strategy there is.  I know it may change in the future and Amazon should have competition, but right now you just can’t beat it. 

Are you satisfied with the sales?
Sariah: Not at all.  Am I happy that I routinely sell more in a day than I did in the entire month of January?  Absolutely.  But I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied.  I’m very competitive with myself, and I want to be successful.  I always think I can do better.

I am trying to think of a nice way to ask you how much money you have made so far. No one wants to talk about that and everyone wants to know. I am looking for a way to ask like "Is it bigger than a breadbox?"
Sariah: I haven’t made all that much money yet – but so far I have made enough to pay for editing and a cover for my next book (which is what I really wanted!) and to send my youngest to preschool next year.  Put it this way – in the last 45 days since my major free promo I’ve made about as much as I would if NY offered me a standard newbie contract.  :)

Thank you, Sariah for a wonderful interview. Sariah has graciouly offered to give away a pdf or a mobi version of The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back to one of our readers.  I love this book. If you don't win it, please consider buying it on Amazon. You can get it for your Kindle or Kindle app for 2.99

Enter to win by leaving us a comment. Put your email address in the comment i.e Harry at hotmail (don't use the @ symbol. We'll figure it out)

My next interview will be with Sarah Wynde. Self published author of A Gift of Ghosts.


  1. Thank you so much, Sariah. I love your voice and can't wait for the sequel.

  2. Great interview. I am very interested in self publishing. I have a book almost ready to go. I was thinking of going with Smash Words but now I'm rethinking. I wish I could pick you brain Sariah. Also,I wish yo great success! susan.hornbach
    there at Yahoo.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Susan. Whatever you do, be sure and use a good editor.

  3. Great interview about the business side of self publishing. I loved hearing Sariah's advice. I wish her the best with her book.

  4. It's great to hear the recommendation from you Susan and that you loved the book enough to seek out the author and interview her. If you write a good book, readers will come. :) Just like Field of Dreams. Best of luck to you, Sariah!

  5. Sariah's story is wonderful. I wish you great success with your book, Sariah. I self published a year and a half ago with Amazon because I wanted to experiment with self-publishing while pursuing traditional publishing with other manuscripts. Reading the interview I have realized that once the publishing part is over, the marketing begins. Sariah's story underscores the importance of having a well written/edited ms and a lot of effort post publishing. The back page of my self published book, "Suraj the Tiger Cub" has a link to the Pen and Ink Blog where the first lines of a Suraj story were voted the third best first lines. Thank you Pen and Ink! I will now work on something I am not very good at and that is 'marketing.'

    1. Farida, I remember you story very well. Lovely illustrations too. I'd love to know how you are doing in the picture book self publishing market. I believe that's a different kettle of fish.

    2. Hi Sue, thanks for asking. My book is available on Amazon. However, I feel that I have not marketed it as I should have. I am trying. A good thing that has happened is that a UK publisher is showing interest in publishing the book. I am keeping my fingers crossed and if it does happen, I will let you know for sure. Farida

    3. Hi Sue, Thanks for asking. My book is available on Amazon. A good thing that is happening is that a UK publisher is interested in publishing the book. I am happy because I find marketing very difficult to do. If a contract is signed I will let you know.

  6. It's always so interesting to read about self-pub experiences. It seems marketing is the key component here, but I am happy to read about the whole process and how it came about. I wish Sariah great success and will be following her next steps.
    Laurie Young
    booksigndesign at gmail dot com

    1. Thanks for entering, Laurie. I am going to be following them, too. (Write faster, Sariah)

  7. Great piece Sue and Sariah. I have to say I understand more about self publishing now than I have from a lot of other self-publishing blogs I've read.

    And a giveaway to boot(squeeee), Inkies rock!


  8. Thanks for having me on the blog, and thanks to everyone for stopping by! It was such a treat to be asked to do an interview, instead of begging someone to talk to me. ;)

    1. Thanks for letting me interview you, Sariah. It was a pleasure.

  9. As I own a small press, it is always interesting to hear about the self-publishing journey. I love the revolution going on!

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  11. Great interview. Very informative. Thank you to Sariah for sharing her story, and to Susan for bringing the story to us!


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