Self-Publishing, a Work in Progress

Please welcome our guest blogger, Claudia Alexander, Ph.D., who studies the planets and flies spacecraft by day at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. By night she re-imagines the universe. She has served as a project leader on historic space missions to Jupiter (Galileo), Saturn (Cassini), and comets (Rosetta). She has written a number of steampunk short stories and a full-length elf-punk novel. Books 1 & 2 of her STEM education, picture book series titled: Windows to Adventure, will be re-released this Thanksgiving.

Instant riches! Yes. I interviewed a celebrity self-published author from my local RWA chapter (that’s Romance Writer’s of America), and she confirmed making enough to quit her day job. A modest $250K per year. Not large by New York Times best-selling author standards, but … I’d quit my day job for that.

Control of one’s style and voice! Yes. No need to feed the beast by churning out cookie cutter stories to a template, on an unbelievably compressed schedule. Time to build, tend, nurture, and grow one’s audience.

Do it yourself marketing! Yes. Exposure, promotion, marketing – financed out of your own pocket.  Well. You’d have to do that anyway as, unless you’re Madonna, no publisher is going to put up tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote you and your book.

Monster hard work to manage all your social media; the search engine optimization (SEO); the required editing and formatting to put a truly professional product on the market. Yes. But any business is hard work.  No small business owner goes to bed before 1 am, right? The instant riches don’t come without monster hard work. Everyone knows that.

And how do you make your product recognized even sought after, among millions out there so similar to yours? What do you do when you haven’t sold a single book, alone in your booth at the book fair? How do you handle not being able to find your book when, despite your best SEO techniques, the search engine top online book selling venue is simply not sufficiently up-to-date to find it? I mean, if you can’t find it, knowing that it's there, how is anyone else supposed to find it?

As I approach the one-year anniversary of my decision to launch my publishing business and publish myself and two other authors, I can say it’s been more work than I ever imagined. No sales. Long hours. Learning curve. Expenditures.

My first ever amateurish efforts produced an amateurish product. In spite of hiring low-budget editing, formatting, and illustration, doing as much as I could by myself, I got a product that was – meh. Since I am in the business of producing children’s picture books, I’ve learned to appreciate the ‘production quality’ of a book.

I have seen reports of self-published authors slogging along, going the low-budget path, doing loads of things themselves, ending up giving away tens of thousands of their product away for free just to gain exposure (and a higher place on Amazon product lists). There are paths to success going this route, to be sure.

For me, however, on this anniversary, my lessons learned include a greatly increased respect for the editing process. Interestingly, the very author I mentioned to open this blog never told me how important that aspect was to her success. As far as I can tell, it looms large in both the percentage of overall costs of book production as well as creating a satisfactory read. But I happen to know the woman she uses for her editor, and have my own take on what a great contribution their amiable collaboration has on the success of this author’s product.
Great editing is perhaps one of the biggest advantages that a traditionally published author has over an independently published author.

So I’ve recently abandoned my first product (I’ll soon be un-publishing it from Amazon) and hired, at considerable expense, a full-bore editing outfit (a business with more than a single editor on staff). I’ve hired a professional book designer, someone who has an eye for layout, for fonts, etc., who’s ‘cranky’ in her professionalism. (grins).

As I push into my second year, I’ll have to overhaul my website, add ‘Imprints’ to separate the divergent themes of my publishing voice, and develop coherent banners for the look and feel of that publishing voice across the many outlets of social media.

Dismayed? Discouraged? Yes. And then this happened...

Yesterday the book designer delivered an ad for my business that will go into the program for the World Fantasy Con.  It’s fantastic! Much better than anything I would have come up with on my own. And with that delivery, I know I’m on the right track that this enterprise will work. To cap off my sense of excitement, even as I write this, yet another person has signed up for my forum!

So whatever everyone says about self-publishing (so-called ‘vanity publishing'), these (expensive) baby-steps have opened up new vistas of creativity that are unlikely to have ever been otherwise realized. Is it fair to make the reading public deal with the baby-steps of my first foray into publishing? I’ll have to tell you next year, if the audience grows! After all, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there’s plenty of time to grow, build, and nurture the audience.


Claudia can be reached at

Writing for Different Persuasions

Today's guest blog, which offers fabulous tips and tricks on writing menages, both from the sexual and romance perspective, comes from author D. Renee Bagby (, who also writes under the name Zenobia Renquist ( Her book, Eris (Eternal Truths Series, book 1) is available in print and ebook on Amazon, Bookstrand and Barnes & Noble. Please show your appreciation by leaving a comment and/or question for the author below... Thanks!
Click here for buy options and more info about this book

Book Blurb

Time is on their side and they can be together, assuming the truth doesn't ruin everything first.

Immortals born in the thirteenth century, Lucien Riordan and Ranulf Styr have waited centuries to be reunited with their love. Want for her cemented their friendship through time even as it tore it apart. She changed their lives, made them want better, and they plan to show her that. There’s only one catch—she’s never met them before.

Eris Brue is flattered by Lucien and Ranulf’s attention but they are her bosses. She doesn’t want to get tangled up in an office romance, especially not with two men. Their joint seduction overcomes her resolve and she gives in even though she knows they are keeping secrets that could doom their relationship.

Centuries of planning have finally come to fruition. Lucien and Ranulf have a short amount of time to make Eris love them, because once time has her, everything could come to an end.


Guest Blog

I've written MF, MMF, and MFM. I plan to write FFM and MM as well. Menages can be fun to read and to write. The age old question of "Which will she choose?" becomes "Why not have both?" when writing a menage story. That's what I like about it. From an MFM stand point, the heroine no longer has to decide between the two guys whom she loves. The question then becomes will the heroes share and/or how will they react when asked?

When writing a menage, no matter what flavor, it's important to establish the love between all three main characters. Sticking with the MFM example, the heroes aren't together in a sexual relationship, but the story is going to end with them living together along with the heroine. That can't happen if the heroes hate each other. A deep bond of friendship prior to the start of the threesome relationship or even the familial bond of brothers/cousins is the easiest way to show the emotion between two heroes who won't be physical with each other.

However, having a story with two men who don't know each other until the heroine brings them together does create more conflict. It's just a matter of making sure that conflict doesn't escalate to the point where the relationship can't work. The heroes won't be sharing the heroine in bed if they can't get along. And the threesome sex scene is one reason readers love menages.

Threesome sex can be tricky. You now have two people in bed who are the same gender (authors who write MM and FF have this same issue, of course). Anytime the heroine is interacting with both men at the same time means there are more chances of pronoun confusion. The author is forced to use names throughout the scene so the reader can keep everyone straight.

On top of using everyone's names continuously, there's also the matter of making sure everyone is feeling good and gets off. Even if you keep the sex scene in the heroine's POV and she's on the receiving end (excuse the pun :P), she still has to describe for the reader the actions of two men and how those actions make her feel. I usually establish one man's movements first and then hop over to the second man to show what he's doing. To get the choreography of the scene and positioning of bodies right, I go searching for porn clips. Three people can get into more positions than some people think. Having a visual aid helps to describe those positions.

But menages aren't all about sex. The genre is Romance and readers expect to see that. The heroes are getting along with each other and the author has to present a heroine with deep love for both men. One-on-one time is a great way to do this -- both in bed and interacting in normal circumstances. For an MF author trying MFM for the first time, one on one will be familiar territory. But it's important to give each hero equal time.

If the author favors one hero over the other, then that will show in the writing and thus the heroine will seem to as well. The reader is left feeling like the menage relationship is forced and unfair to one hero. That's when readers start asking if the second hero will get a book of his own. You want to avoid that. One of the reasons I find writing MFM so fun is to introduce two different types of heroes that I find attractive. The heroine can have tall, dark and handsome with an attitude AND she can have the lovable light-haired joker who doesn't take anything seriously. Or maybe the heroes have similar personalities but different appearances. Or similar appearances and different personalities. What the heroes have in common is an indication of the heroine's type when it comes to choosing men. Having the heroes realize that fact can be fun.

Another fun thing about menages is the on-hand mediator. There's no need to bring in a secondary character who helps solve the issues in the relationship. If the heroine is mad at one hero, the second hero can be the one who helps smooth it out. If the heroes are fighting, the heroine is the one who gets them to make up. Secondary characters in menage stories usually have one of two settings -- they are either happy all three are together and want to see it work, OR they want the heroine to stop being greedy and choose. One can help the relationship come together. The other can put a strain on it. Both can be a recipe for more conflict to up the word count.

In the end, it's all about the love the characters feel for each other and how that love will build their relationship so it'll last. I didn't set out to write my first menage. As the story progressed, I couldn't see it any other way. The heroine loved both heroes and I had fun giving them both to her.


About D. Renee Bagby

Whether as D. Reneé Bagby or Zenobia Renquist, Reneé lives in her imagination. When not traveling through her fantasy worlds, she can be found in Hawaii living with her husband and two cats.

She is an Air Force brat turned Air Force wife, which means she’s accustomed to travel and does it whenever possible (so long as she doesn’t have to fly). Her favorite pastime is torturing her characters on their way to happily-ever-after for the enjoyment of her readers.

On the few occasions her muse flees the scene of the crime, Reneé likes to read (comics, manga, and romance), go to the movies, play a few levels of whichever puzzle game has hijacked her interest or experiment with a new chain maille weave.