Five Questions on Indie Publishing with Leon Shure

LeonbabypictureLeon Shure has graciously agreed to share his experiences with indie publishing with me. This is Leon circa the early years. I met him at a conference a few years back where we suffered the slings and arrows of agents together. By then he was a full-grown adult, but neither of us escaped unscathed.

I see in your Smashwords profile that you’ve been very prolific at indie publishing, can you share your thoughts on the hardest and easiest part of indie publishing your e-books?

I’ve been self-publishing since September 2010, about two years and a quarter ago, and have six mysteries and two books of puns for sale at all the e-book stores.

I’m prolific because I’ve given myself permission to write.  I’m a big believer in learning by doing.  I am an imperfectionist.  If I waited for my books to be perfect, I’d never publish.  The ability to write evolves.  Each book is better than the last.  Because I can make mistakes, I can write a lot.  If I’ve written something really dumb, I know I’ll catch it in the second draft.  Also, I know that no matter how I try, I will never catch all the grammatical errors.  I do my best with spell-checkers in the word processing programs.  I spend a lot of time unscrambling my sentences so that they don’t draw attention when I don’t want them to stop the reader in his tracks.  I believe the reader would rather read something authentic than scrubbed.

I think most writers go through an initial period where their work is awful and should never see the light of day.  Then one day, it just seems that your writing is good enough.  I started to publish the day after I realized that my work was ready for public inspection.

Did you format the e-books yourself or hire a company to help you? If you did it yourself, how hard was it to do? Any tips you’d pass along?

Self-publishing isn’t hard and, above all, it is not expensive.  If you can bear to do your own formatting and editing, it’s free.  My only cost of publishing is the money I pay to get a decent cover.

My advice on self-publishing is not to allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the technical requirements.  I’ve been using Smashwords (www.smashwords.com) and, if you follow the clearly written directions on the website, you can format your own work.  If it turns out that your book has some internal formatting problems that can’t pass the “meatgrinder,” you can always use the “nuclear option” of copying your book into Notepad to remove all formatting and to begin over.  The hardest part is doing the formatting the first time.  After that, you can copy your latest novel into the format you created, then delete the previous book from that.  Then it’s only a matter of putting the correct number of spaces between chapters.

If you need help in formatting, many people can be found on the internet to help you.  Besides Smashwords, there are many other “aggregators” on the net, which will distribute your books to the various e-book stores in the correct file type.

I want to say a few words about the marvelous program, Scrivener.  This cheap, $45 program makes organizing a novel much easier and allows you to keep track of your characters and plotting.  It is possible, although I haven’t tried it yet, to format from Scrivener directly into the file type used by Amazon.

Your covers are very eye-catching, did you hire someone to design them or did you create them on your own?

Many artists are available on the internet to create a decent cover, and some will charge $50 or less.  I was lucky enough to have a personal friend, Gabi Ladowski (www.gabiladowsk.com ), who will make me a cover for $100.  When I’m three-quarters through a second draft, I send him an e-mail with the plot and describe several of the most dramatic scenes in the mystery.  He sends me a few sample covers, and there always seems to be one that is best.

Just like there is no perfect novel and no perfect blurb, etc., there is no perfect cover.  One of the great things about self-publishing is you can go back after awhile, and redo the cover, if it isn’t working for you.  When it turns out that I’m writing a series, I like to go back and have covers that look somewhat similar in theme.

What sort of marketing plan did you use to get the word out about your books? What do you wish you’d done differently/what worked out better than you expected?

I have never advertised and I’m selling books.

The common advice to create a platform is true.  If you can do a blog, great.  I personally don’t have anything interesting to say each day or even each month.  I used my Twitter account to write puns, then published my tweets.  I now have two books of puns for free on Amazon.  The price is right and I’ve had thousands of downloads worldwide.

The trick to selling books is having people come to your pages at the e-book stores.  If they’ve read my puns, I’ve reached my market: smart people with a sense of humor who are trying to understand the world.  I believe there is a market for every writer.  Among the billions in the world, you can find 1000 readers who appreciate what you write.  I’ve found readers in Australia, Wales, Ireland, Canada, and everywhere else English is spoken.

Readers read series, and everyone tries to come up with a character that can be used again and again.  This isn’t anything new, of course.  For example, Sherlock Holmes.  To attract readers, I make the first of a series the cheapest, often free, at least for a while.  A whole network on the internet exists to spotlight free books.  Google my name for examples.  Every time a free book is mentioned on one of these sites, I get multiple hits on my pages at the e-book stores.

Another thing about free books is that they get multiple reviews.  Readers seem to really like my books or to really hate my books.  It’s important to keep a good attitude about this.  Even the worst reviews can be helpful.  My first long review was from a lady in New Zealand.  I couldn’t believe anyone would actually sit down and review, at length, what I’d written.  Even though she only gave me two stars, she had some valuable things to say.  I’ m trying to write books that are read, and any feedback can be useful.

Knowing what you know now, would you still indie publish your e-books?

Self-publishing has been a wonderful experience for me.  It’s totally unique.  When else in history has a writer had a world market?  Never and never one where you can reach a reader in his own home.  I feel like I have a connection with people I would surely never meet in life.  I’m not going to make a lot of money in self-publishing, but really, only a few people make money in any of the arts.  There may be 25 stars in Hollywood, a few hundred who do supporting roles, then there is the rest: the travelling stock companies and unpaid weekend actors.  It’s like that in writing too.  A few stars, and the rest of us.  Even the stars aren’t going to be read in a generation.  Not to be depressing, but only a tiny number of books that are published are read in the following century.  I always get a kick out of the old movies based on a then current best seller no one has ever heard of today.

It’s better to be out in the world and doing your best.

Bio

Leon Shure has published four mysteries, all taking place in the wealthy and diverse North Shore suburbs of Chicago. These are “Fatal Sisters,” “The Baba Yaga, a Dr. Adam Karl Mystery,” and “Screams and Bleeds, a Vanek Mystery,” and “The Search for Hanson Sted, a Cal Hodges Mystery,” Another of his books, a free collection of his Twitter tweets “#Conversationstopers: Puns, Non Sequitur, Impossible Scenarios” became a ebook best seller, with almost 10,000 downloads and a second collection of his #Conversationstoppers has been published. A new series, the Kate Wehring Mysteries, will be published this summer, starting with two books.

Shure is a life-long resident of the Chicago area, and has lived both in the city and in the North and Northwest suburbs. A bachelors and masters graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Shure worked for the Lerner Newspapers (a chain of weeklies in the city); the Day Newspapers, a suburban daily newspaper chain owned by Field Enterprises, now the Chicago Sun-Times;, and Paddock Publications, a chain of daily newspapers in the Northwest suburbs, where he worked as a police reporter. He received the Jacob Sher Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting.

leonbook

Excerpt

I could not see the malevolence in his face.

My “seeing eye woman” flung her body against my side, knocking both of us to the cold airport terminal floor.  I instinctively struggled to rise.  Kayko recovered faster, fell off me, sat up and, straight armed, used all the weight she could leverage to push me back down.  “Just stay there!” she whispered.

An explosive discharge echoed off the sides of the airport walls.  I heard robotic outbursts I could not interpret.

The gunman turned and ran, pushed hard against a non-automatic door, exited into daylight and kept running.  Men in blue shirts, running just as hard, banged the door against its casings as they rushed to follow.

I looked behind me to see if anyone was hurt.  I saw only blank faces, but no one was on the ground.  Security guards from the nearby gates surrounded us, lifted us to our feet, held us by our elbows and pulled us towards an office about 50 feet away.  “Stay here until you are debriefed,” one guard said and closed the door.

You can purchase Leon’s books via:

Smashword

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

You can find Leon online at:

Facebook, Leon Shure Author Page

Twitter

This entry was posted in Self-publishing, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Five Questions on Indie Publishing with Leon Shure

  1. kford2007 says:

    Very informative. Thanks for the post.

  2. Coleen Patrick says:

    “It’s better to be out in the world and doing your best.” Love this! Thanks for an inspiring post Kourtney & Leon.

  3. Cat Forsley says:

    Very Inspiring :))))))))))))))))))) great interview K xxx 🙂
    my fave bit ….”I’m prolific because I’ve given myself permission to write…”
    Love that ……………..that’s passion right there 🙂
    if you love it – just keep doing it right ? 🙂
    that’s exactly how i feel about music …….
    awesome post 🙂
    xoxoxoxxoxoxoxo
    C

    • Leon definitely inspired me. 🙂 I love all the quotable things he says too. That’s one I want to paste on my wall and look at daily. He’s got so much passion for writing. So glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

      XOXOXOXOOXO,
      Kourtney

      • Cat Forsley says:

        Absolutely Brill 🙂 and overflowing with true passion 🙂
        again and again i will write it ……:)
        I am excited for your book 🙂
        the possibilities are endless ……… no limits K Heart xxx
        xxxx
        love xxx
        C

        • It’s exciting to talk to people who have made their dreams come true! Gives me hope. I am so excited for my book. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands. 🙂

          No limits.

          Love,
          K

          • Cat Forsley says:

            None !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
            n o
            l i m i t s
            K H eart xxx 🙂 xoxoxoxo

          • Hugs Miss Catherine. 🙂 ANd a happy happy holiday season to you!

          • Cat Forsley says:

            i have turned off the news since yesterday – since last we wrote about it ……..
            and – i think K Heart – totally feel it right now – that when we focus on Joy and Love and NO LIMITS
            then we become NO LIMIT PEOPLE XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOOXOXOXOXOXOOXOXOXOXOXOXOX

          • I rerouted my emails all to my computer’s inbox so I don’t have to be bombarded with the images and stories. I want to hear things as they develop but I can’t take the constant exposure every time I check an email. Good Catherine. You have to focus on the good especially when something bad happens. Indeed, that is the dream to be a no limit person.

            XOXOXOXOXOXO
            Kourtney

          • Cat Forsley says:

            smart move my sweet
            i will check out how to do that on yahoo …..
            i believe in keeping aware for sure – but can’t handle the same images over and over again …. i know what’s going on – awareness is the key . i wouldn’t wanna be ignorant to anything …….. but censoring out what my heart can’t handle ……. i think for me – it’s the best right now x
            love xxx
            and #don’tstopbelievin #kheart ………….
            🙂 🙂 🙂 xo

          • Hey Catherine. I get it. I lived through 9-11 in Manhattan. I know what overexposure to the images and the stories can do to a person. I had post traumatic stress for months after the attacks. I’m trying to insulate myself and disengage while still be cognizant of what happened and feeling for the people. It’s a tough tightrope walk.

            Hugs,
            Kourtney

            ps–never stop believing because of you! You remind me that the impossible is possible. 🙂

          • Cat Forsley says:

            i sooo love you xxx do you know that xxx like a sister ……………..i dunno ptsd too much – i am studying some open courses on itunes u ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, which are so amazing ………9/11 Manhattan ? i can only empathize ….
            i love you very much …..
            and i can’t wait to meet you in 2013 🙂 with Your new book xx ! we will have a Kheart Soiree 🙂 xx it will be so fun ……………….. 🙂 it’s been an amazing year – getting to know you xx 🙂 and going through this beautiful journey of life together xx
            love love love always love xoxoxoxo
            Catherine xxxx

          • Aw I love you too! I never had a sister but I always loved the name Catherine (it’s my middle name). 🙂 Yeah, it was a tough time. It was years before I could talk about it. But I’m okay now. I’ve learned that I have to take care of me and sometimes shut down to get through stuff. And that’s okay. As long as I process everything.
            I know. So excited to meet you too! Oh to think I could present you with an actual copy of my book. It will be super fun! Really enjoyed getting to know you online. You’ve been a bright red balloon that makes me smile daily with your presence. Happy we are traveling along together.

            Lots of love,
            Kourtney

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    Thanks for an informative interview. Nice to read about someone who’s had some decent success. And I agree with him about Scrivener. I love it.

    • Glad to share Leon with my blog friends. I really appreciate his perspective on where self-publishing it can get a writer. 🙂 I’ve never used Scrivener, but people do seem to enjoy it. 🙂

  5. berry says:

    Nice. Good questions. Great answers.

  6. jmmcdowell says:

    Scrivener is really a great program. 🙂 I’d hate to go back to Word for writing novels!

    Very interesting interview, and it sounds like the author has a good, level-headed take on writing and publishing. I’m hoping 2013 will be the year I make some headway, and it could be if I give myself permission to do it!

    • I guess I just missed this one. LOL. I’ve only written in Word.

      I’m picking the brains of my self-pubbed friends over the next couple months trying to learn all I can. They’ve been truly amazing in sharing their knowledge and thoughts. So glad I can showcase it on the blog. Leon gives me hope but also keeps me grounded with his words. Me too! I’ve been working on my craft for a few years and I’d really like to be able to put an actual book out there in the world!

  7. EllaDee says:

    Over the course of 2012 self published authors have becoem my ‘genre’ of choice, both through e-books and also random encounters with authors who have self-published hard copy books. I like that they write for themselves not to a commercial editor’s or publisher’s tune. the points Leon makes are valuable and his information is very user friendly. Well done to you both.

    • Thanks EllaDee! I really enjoyed talking to Leon about his experiences. There are so many talented writers out there and I’m going to try to read more self-pubbed stuff in the coming year. 🙂

  8. 4amWriter says:

    Giving ourselves permission to write is more pivotal than we probably think. If we allow ourselves to make mistakes, learn, and try again before we give up or take any shortcuts (whatever those may be, they are different for different people) then I think a writer grows from that. Great interview!

    • I’m glad Leon raised that point. As someone who has pursued traditional publishing, I thought if I worked long enough on my craft and revised enough, I would get a publishing contract. That has yet to be the case. 🙂 Once the writing is strong, I think it’s good to explore self-pubbing it. I’m so glad he stopped by!

  9. Cat Forsley says:

    I think wp is doing server maintenance or something because i see your comment – but i can’t grab the orange thing at the top to open it –
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!! you have my email x and i will write soon …….:)
    you are an amazing woman ……….. i was here in toronto near the CN tower when 9/11 happened – and everything got evacuated – so i can only imagine how you felt ………… shutting down is soooooooooo normal after something sooooooooooo life altering for so many a soul ………..
    yes we are on this journey together 🙂 and cannot wait to meet and READ that book 🙂 !!!!!! = Yours –
    The future is bright – that i know 🙂
    xxx
    love you dearly and wp – comon …..! lol
    🙂 xoxoxo C

    • LOL. Technology. Grrr. Got your comment. Aw thanks. You are too! I cannot wait to have a book out there in the world. Not just on my desktop. It is full of possibilities. No limits but those imposed by the mind.

      Lots of love,
      Kourtney

      XOXOXOX

  10. I love what he said about how “most writers go through an initial period where their work is awful and should never see the light of day. Then one day, it just seems that your writing is good enough.” That really resonates for me–it’s the feeling that pushed me over the edge into self publishing. It’s hard not to be embarrassed by earlier works that are out there in the world, but what can we do except continue to get better?

    • Audrey, I agree with Leon on that. One of the reasons I didn’t self publish is that I didn’t think me writing was good enough yet. I’ve spent a couple years writing my butt off and I think now I can allow it to see the light of day. But I know in the years to come, I’ll probably blush and cringe a bit. Funny story, I heard Dennis Lehane speak at a conference about his earlier books. He said he picked one up and cringed as he read it. He’s a NYT bestseller whose always been traditionally published. Made me feel a ton better. 🙂

  11. Nicole says:

    Glad to see you’re not a quitter, Leon. Wishing you the best in your writing future 🙂

  12. I love the fact that Leon gave himself permission to be imperfect. Even with beta readers, editors, and proofreaders, I still end up with a mistake or two in my books. All we can do is our best and hope for the best.

    Loved the interview!

    • I thought that was one of the best parts of the Q&A. My books have minor errors too. Despite my eagle eye and my copyediting friend. So very true. Lovely words to live by Ruth. So glad you liked it. Leon’s quite a cool character I’m so glad I could share him with my readers. 😉

  13. Very helpful. I’m taking notes. Thanks for posting this.

  14. Fascinating interview. Thank you, thank you!

Any thoughts or reactions or favorite foods you want to share?