MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: After last week’s blog about self-publishing, this week we have Kelly Jameson, a self-published author, to discuss her experiences. Kelly has two thrillers published, SHARDS OF SUMMER and DEAD ON.
Kelly, tell me about your books!
KELLY JAMESON: DEAD ON is the story of a medical examiner being stalked through different lifetimes by the same killer. History seems to be repeating itself. I set the story in Doylestown, PA because I grew up in the area. While the story is fictional, there are a lot of real-life places used in the book. I even put a body in the CB West football stadium. DEAD ON was film-optioned for two years by Gold Circle Films (they produced “White Noise” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”). It was also named Runner-Up in the 2006 DIY Los Angeles Book Festival. So I feel very fortunate and I think it shows that good things can happen with independently published books that you write and edit yourself. It is possible. In fact, when I was contacted by Gold Circle about movie rights via email, I almost fell out of my chair. The rights are back with me now and I’m working on a screenplay with another screenwriter on the script. We hope to have it completed by end of December and ready to pitch.
VENTRELLA: What’s your writing background?
JAMESON: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was five years old. I used to write poetry all the time. Some of it was really bad. But that’s how you learn to be a writer—by writing. And reading.
I have a Journalism background. Got a degree from Bloomsburg University. I wanted to be a local sports reporter. Somehow I ended up a medical editor by day. Being an editor, editing my own books, has helped me to polish my indie novels and make them stand out.
VENTRELLA: How did you decide to write these books?
JAMESON: One of the characters in DEAD ON seemed to be tapping me on the shoulder and wanted to have her story told. That’s how it began. With a character and a “what if” situation. SHARDS OF SUMMER was really fun to write. I love the beach and Ocean City and wanted to write a story about lust, love, and obsession, about the wars going on inside each and every one of us every day. I like to write about flawed characters. The story starts with an elderly woman being arrested for the murder of a decorated WWII soldier on the beach 60 years ago. But of course, things aren’t as they seem … As a young woman, the main character was a dancer in a girlie show who got tangled up in an affair with a married homicide detective investigating murders in Ocean City.
VENTRELLA: How did you decide to self-publish?
JAMESON: I’m not very patient. The industry is a tough nut to crack and it seems to be changing on a daily basis. After a few positive rejections for DEAD ON, I followed my intuition and published it myself. I think that’s important in this biz—there’s more than one way to get your work out there and sometimes you just gotta take chances and do something.
VENTRELLA: Had you previously submitted your books to editors and publishers?
JAMESON: Yes. I even had an agent for eight months. However, when the recession hit, he pared his client list down and as a new writer, I was on my own again even though he thought my writing was excellent. I quickly became frustrated with the process. For my second novel, same thing. Got some positive rejections and some incoherent, nonsensical dismissals. It’s a very subjective biz. I decided to see if I could get it cookin’ myself … and fortunately I’ve had the support of established authors such as Ken Bruen (ONCE WERE COPS and GUARDS) who not only read SHARDS OF SUMMER but called it “THE GREAT GATSBY for the beach generation.” It’s so encouraging when a ‘new’ writer finds an established, best-selling author who is willing to read your material and blurb it. Jonathan Maberry says, “DEAD ON by Ann Kelly is a stunning first novel that blends ghostly happenings, romance, eroticism, time travel and intrigue into a genuine page-turner. The Ann Yang character (Bucks County, PA medical examiner) is particularly well-drawn, and the story builds nicely to a satisfying conclusion. I highly recommend it.” Kat Martin, NYT best-selling author says, “She’s a brilliant writer. No questions asked. She has a gift for the eerie. The words she chooses are absolutely brilliant. She has an incredible talent for stringing words together.”
If you like CSI meets the X-Files, you’ll probably like DEAD ON.
VENTRELLA: What do you see as the advantages of self-publishing?
JAMESON: You get to put the book out there pretty quickly and the way you want to. It’s fun to market it yourself, even on a limited budget. There are many local independent stores willing to help out. The Doylestown Bookshop sold 600 copies of DEAD ON so far! They’ve been really great. I think I’ve managed to sell about 2,000 copies of DEAD ON. I’ve read that a traditionally published first book has typical sales of 1,000. So I feel pretty good about my sales and I’d like to thank all my readers.
VENTRELLA: In my last blog, I made some comments about how there is a stigma against self-published books, even if they may be excellent. Do you agree?
JAMESON: I agree that a bias still exists against independently published novels but I think we are seeing some definite, and positive changes, in the publishing arena. I’ve had many positive experiences with my books. I don’t agree with the statement on your blog that “if you really want anyone else to consider you a real writer, avoid these things [self publishing companies] completely.” Of course most of us want to crack the traditional publishing nut and see our books at the front of bookstores everywhere.
Getting published traditionally is becoming more and more like winning the lottery. American publishing is basically averse to taking risks with new writers and tends to want to put everything in a box or a category. The ones who take a chance on multi-genre or slightly literary works still put out literary best sellers. It can happen. And I’m going to keep trying to crack the nut. I believe in my work 200% and I’m following my intuition in putting my books out there and marketing them. In fact, because of my first two novels, a small publisher who likes my style and storytelling approached me about writing a zombie novel and I just got the green light to write it based on my pitch! I’m also working on a new werewolf novel.
If you do publish yourself, investigate the companies. Some are vastly better than others and more fair. Ask other authors about their experiences. Look into the backgrounds of the companies…are there any complaints on the Internet about them? Are there glowing praises?
VENTRELLA:Did you hire an editor?
JAMESON: No … I’m an editor so I did it myself. But sometimes you don’t see things in your own work, so I also have fellow writers and family members who graciously read my work and comment.
VENTRELLA: Did your publisher provide the cover or was that your responsibility as well? Did you have any say in the decision?
JAMESON: For DEAD ON, I gave iUniverse my idea and loved what they came back with. The front looks like sort of an old photograph that’s fading. The book goes back and forth in time between the present and the early 1900s and Ann Yang, the medical examiner, uses all her forensic skills as well as past life regression to solve the present-day crimes. I interviewed a past life regression specialist in Doylestown while writing the book and it was fascinating.
For SHARDS OF SUMMER, I did not go with the cover BookSurge provided because I felt it was too colorful and not right for the tone of the book. A designer from a small publisher helped me out and gave me a great cover, a dark mysterious cover that’s perfect for the book. I’m really pleased with it because I think it’s stunning. And covers are critical if you want readers to check out your book.
VENTRELLA: For those readers who would like to self-publish, what do you advise? How do you decide which company to go with and so on?
JAMESON: Do an Internet search. Keeping in mind your goals for the book, compare prices and services, percentage royalties paid, additional free services and distribution channels, and make a decision. Then go for it…and have fun with it. Don’t plan on making a whole lot of money. Plan on meeting lots of great people who are truly supportive of your work. Plan on making community connections. Plan on doing something that feeds your soul. Plan on your material maybe leading to other unexpected experiences, like trying your hand at screenwriting. Plan on meeting other authors and supporting each other. Set up your own local signings and write press releases and send to the local media.
I’ve also started writing short stories to practice things like dialogue and so far I’ve been published in The Summerset Review, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 8 and 9, Dispatch Litareview, Amazon Shorts, Withersin Magazine, Barfing Frog Press, The Twisted Tongue, The Big Stupid Review, Ruthie’s Club, The American Drivel Review, sliptongue, ThugWorks and Ramble Underground. I have three shorts slated for publication in 2010 in Revenant magazine, TangledBank Press (Australian anthology) and Sex in the City (Paris edition).
VENTRELLA: What have you done to publicize the book?
JAMESON: For my first book, I did a lot of local signings, was interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local newspapers, did some advertising myself (on a limited budget) and I’ve kept in touch with several hundred readers who ask for updates on my books and short stories, etc. I did co-op advertising with iUniverse and twelve authors were featured on a one page ad in the NY Times Book Review. That’s where Gold Circle saw my book and contacted iUniverse about the movie rights.
SHARDS OF SUMMER just went live on Amazon.com and so I will be setting up signings very soon. I hope to do some fun things and contests with beach glass because that’s a theme throughout the novel. I have a very limited budget so I’ll be peppering the media with news releases and hoping to do a few signings where the book is set, in Ocean City, New Jersey, too. I just set up a blog at http://kellyjameson.blogspot.com/. Hope you’ll keep in touch!