Author Stephanie Bond shares her experience in self-publishing

Writing can be a life-long dream and career to some people while, to others, it is something that is picked up later in life after fulfilling other dreams and experiencing other career paths. One such writer spent years in the corporate world before turning to writing. Stephanie Bond is now a self-published writer on Amazon and has over seventy published novels in the romance and mystery genres under her belt. “I have a pretty diverse background,” Bond said. “I grew up on a tobacco farm in eastern Kentucky reading a book every day, I owned and ran a retail clothing store, Boots & Britches, while attending college on an academic scholarship studying computer science, then I worked for a petroleum company for ten years and got my MBA at night before the writing bug bit me. I left the corporate world and wrote for just about every publisher in New York with varying levels of success before launching a self-publishing venture in 2011. Self-publishing is a perfect marriage of my writing, technical, and business skills, so in hindsight, every step and every misstep I’ve taken in my life has led me to this point. I absolutely love this!”

Of the many books Bond has written, one has been turned into a movie on the Hallmark channel and is airing this June. Stop the Wedding! was published in the spring of 2013 and has been well received thus far. The idea behind this story; however, is rather unique, for it was an idea that was written nearly 20 years ago and did not see the light of day until 2013. “Almost 20 years ago, an editor in the UK asked me to come up with a comedic idea suitable for the PG-rated romance line she managed. I decided the best way to keep a young couple’s romance PG-rated was to make sure another couple was around. Then I started playing with different ways the couples could interact and came up with the idea of a man and a woman determined to stop their parents from getting married and, in the process, wind up falling in love with each other. As soon as the idea fell into place in my head, I laughed out loud because I could already visualize some of the funny scenes I wanted to write,” Bond said.

Just from reading her book, readers will be able to experience how much fun Bond had while writing, especially with the conflicting relationship her two main protagonists have with one another. “I think conflict is most fun to write because it’s always more interesting when characters are rubbing each other the wrong way. That said, bickering for the sake of bickering isn’t appealing or attractive to me. It was important to me to convey that Anna and Clay truly think they’re doing what’s best for their parents, and truly have a reason to distrust each other in order for the ‘arguing’ to feel authentic,” Bond said. “My favorite character to write was the hero, Clay. I really love writing men who wear bachelorhood like a badge of honor, only to be brought to their knees over the love for a woman. It doesn’t get more satisfying than that because it demonstrates the inexplicable magic of romantic love. My favorite scene to write was when Clay first confronts Anna and mistakes her for his father’s fiancé. That scene had to set the tone for the entire book.”

Developing the idea seemed to come very easily to Bond; however, getting it published was a whole different challenge. In an author’s note at the end of her book, Bond mentioned that she tried to give her manuscript of Stop the Wedding! to roughly about six different romance editors and each one turned the story away without even reading it. In 2012, after she started finding success in self-publishing, she remembered the rejected manuscript she had set aside a few years prior. She found the floppy disk she had saved her original files on, was able to convert the data to a CD, and was able to recover everything she had written.

“When I finally recovered the old files for Stop the Wedding!, the story was basically intact, but the cultural and technological references were dated. And I’d evolved into a better writer, so I trimmed and tweaked accordingly. Plus I wanted to nudge up the sensuality level just a tad,” Bond said. “I spent about a month or so updating the story and getting it ready for publication. Part of that process was working with a graphic artist on creating just the right cover. One of my issues with New York publishing is what I considered cluttered or overdone covers that don’t pop either on a shelf or on a screen. With that in mind, one of my strategies in self-publishing has been creating clean, bright covers with simple images and my name branded in a recognizable way. I believe the graphic red cover on Stop the Wedding! that implies an invitation being torn in two is a concept readers ‘get’ in the few seconds they allocate to a book cover when they browse. In my opinion, taking extra time to get the cover right really paid off.”

No one can imagine what a writer must feel when he or she discovers that his or her story is being turned into a movie. According to Bond, a writer could react in a way he or she normally wouldn’t act. “Everyone thinks a writer’s life must be glamorous and, while I wish I could perpetuate that myth, the truth is, there are few days in a writer’s life that are truly exciting. If you write for a traditional publisher, you might sign a new contract every two or three years, so that’s ONE day to celebrate and release days are always a relief, but there’s usually no time to celebrate because working writers have typically moved on to other projects by then,” Bond said. “With that in mind, the day you’re told your book is going to be made into a movie is one of those rare days when everything stops and you get to do things you normally wouldn’t do. I ran out onto my condo balcony and screamed to midtown Atlanta, ‘My book is being made into a movie!’ I got a smattering of applause from the people at the Marta train stop. Alas, I wasn’t able to go on set, although I did get a peek at an early version of the script.”

Bond has been self-publishing for a while and is incredibly knowledgeable of the process. While encouraging aspiring writers to pursue self-publishing their own works, she also informs the challenges writers will more than likely face along the way. “Self-publishing is easy in the sense that once you finish writing and editing a book, you can publish it within a few hours. That’s magical. That said, as much as I love having control of my story content, cover, price, release date, etc., it’s a lot of responsibility. The buck stops with me. I would recommend self-publishing to almost anyone, with the caveat that to do it will require a big time commitment, and you need some technical skills, plus general business acumen,” Bond said. “I take my self-publishing business seriously, so in addition to publishing in e-book, I have books in print-on-demand and audio, plus I exercise the foreign language right by either selling them to a foreign publisher or by contracting directly with translators. I’ve also licensed two of my series to Amazon for their Kindle Worlds fan fiction project. Two of my self-published projects have been optioned for television, but Stop the Wedding! is the first one to make it to screen. In short, the opportunities in self-publishing are endless, but it takes a lot of time and focus.”

“My advice to writers who are considering self-publishing is to be prepared to go all in! In the past, there was a stigma attached to self-publishing, but that stigma is gone. In fact, NY publishers now see self-publishing as a way of vetting a project: a test run, so to speak, to see if the book has an audience. I would encourage writers to begin by publishing on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform; you’ll probably get the large majority of your sales there and will be able to take advantage of the KDP promotional programs to find and build a readership. Readers will let you know right away if they like your story! If they don’t like some elements of your book and you agree with the feedback, you can tweak and republish. That’s the beauty of self-publishing. If you later decide to query NY agents or publishers, having sales numbers and reader reviews will help your cause. From a business perspective, there’s really no downside to self-publishing,” Bond said.

Along with the support of her readers, Bond said her parents have been a wonderful source of support to have arrived where she is now. It is due to this amazing support that, after spending years in the corporate world, her writing career has taken off and she has found great success in the self-publishing world. “Support for a writer starts with their support as a reader because I believe it’s a lifetime of reading that’s given me a rhythm for storytelling. My parents always made sure I had reading material and never fussed at me for having my nose in a book! And although I’m sure they were nervous when I announced I was planning to leave my good corporate job as a computer programmer to write fiction full-time, their emotional support never wavered.” Bond said. “A book is never easy to write, but I have to say if it’s an idea I love and I’m excited to write, it’s easier. So I typically spend a lot of time massaging a concept before I begin writing because I know my enthusiasm for a story will translate to the reader.”

 

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