Self-publishing Q&A with Sue Liu, Accidental Aid Worker – Part One

I’m pleased to welcome to the Digireado blog Sue Liu. Sue Liu is  a first time author and self-publisher. At the end of 2015, Sue self-published her memoir Accidental Aid Worker.

Accidental Aid Worker ArrivesWe first met at NSW Writers’ Centre when Sue attended Crowdfunding for Writers course that I ran in 2013. After confidently telling me that she was intending to write the book in a matter of months, life, travel, and an operation extended that to more like three years. In nice point of serendipity, Sue handed me my copy in the same room as we’d originally met – of course, we took lots of photos of the moment!

If you’d like to meet Sue Liu and hear about her book, described by one Goodreads reviewer as “It is a fast-moving account of adventure, human spirit, grief, and love and laughter as well as the importance of community.

  • Sue is about to do nine author talks in seven days, launching at Leichhardt Library on 2 June 2016 moving on to a four day tour of NSW Riverina Regional libraries and finishing in Albury  6-9 June  2016. see details here.
  • $5 from every copy of Accidental Aid Worker purchased on her book tour will go toward supporting young people in Cambodia.

AAW book

Why self-publish?

“I chose to self-publish early on. Well, actually, I realised it was my only option as a new, untested writer and unknown personality. No publishing house was going to take a risk on me, and my unwritten story. I had to have the belief in my story and the confidence to know I could achieve the physical aspects of publication and back myself.”

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It’s been a while….

It’s been a while….

Hello to all those kind enough to subscribe, still, to this badly neglected blog!

Sometimes in life, you have to make choices about where your efforts are focussed, and it was time for me to take a step back from blogging. The mind was willing, but time was poor! I’d been blogging on Digireado since 2010, and then in 2012 started also blogging on crowdfunding after writing Crowdfund it!

Crowdfundit banner blog

Since 2012 I’ve split my time, also focussing on the growing trend of crowdfunding – running workshops, blogging, doing interviews and tweeting and running the Crowdfundit Facebook Page as well as updating Crowdfund it! Along the way, I’ve met some amazing people in the industry and inspiring campaign creators. I’ve also been appointed to the board of the Crowd Funding Industry Association.

NSWWC_PatrickWhiteRoomI’ve maintained my love of the book publishing industry by appearing at writers’ festivals, running training for authors at writers’ centres – as well as blogging, tweeting and Facebooking as Digireado. Since 2015 I’ve also been appointed to a contract position at Sydney University, coordinating and lecturing for their unit on Book Production and the Publishing Business. I’ve just finished a fantastic four-week course with writers at NSW Writers’ Centre – EPublishing Survival. It was such a luxury to have 12 hours over four weeks and to get to know these interesting and inspiring writers and I look forward to watching their paths to publication and staying in touch. It was fun to use Pressbooks in action and be able to give participants their own ebook version of my notes in epub and .mobi. rather than paper handouts.

Kids May 2016Those that know me personally know that we also have two foster siblings – now aged seven and eight. Sadly, children that come from difficult backgrounds often have problems that exist ongoing. Having a child with extra needs or a disability means a lot of time spent in meetings, taking them to various therapists and specialists. It becomes a necessity to work around your children and be available for them as much as you possibly can. There is just no other option when you have a child with attachment and emotional issues. And school hours are impossibly short! Advocating on their behalf, helping them navigate a world that is set up for ‘normal’ kids, with normal needs, can be quite tiring and time-consuming. Sometimes in life you have no idea just how big a job something will end up being. There is so much I could write about what I’ve learnt, but I need to put the digital privacy of my kids ahead of that urge!

This is all a glimpse into my life, and why, despite what I’d be advising authors to do, I stepped back from blogging for a while. I still have things I want to write about and I’m just as engaged in the book publishing industry and the changing landscape for authors and self-publishing. I’m also interested and excited by the crowdfunding industry and the growth and possibilities.

For those of you who want more regular updates, the Digireado Facebook page is where I’m posting regularly several times a week. I love Twitter, but we seem to be less close at the moment. My Instagram page is where I post about my day to day life – mainly children and animals – and kittens. We have two new kittens and I can’t stop myself posting pictures of them. Pinterest is a great platform, and I love seeing how people, especially authors, are using it. As for Google+ – well, I’m not sure if we’re just having a break or a break-up. You can always find me somewhere online!

I’m writing this as a ‘warm-up’ post. I have a post to be published this week and hope you will want to continue to follow my infrequent posts. I’m posting about an author new to writing, but who has taken to the business with great gusto! I will be following this up with other stories of self-publishing success as well as following the careers of some Australian publishing people and how they progressed to the roles they hold today.

If you have any burning issues about publishing or self-publishing, leave a note in the comments. It would be nice to hear from you!


Until the next post!




Meeting the Smashwords Marketing Director


Jim Azevedo is the Marketing Director of Smashwords, and was in Sydney for the Romance Writers Conference, and then on his way to New Zealand for The Romance Writers Conference in Auckland and a host of writers’ groups. Not only a PR and marketing expert, he’s also a drummer and author of a forthcoming book on Drumming – How to Get Your Band Out of the Garage. Keep an eye out for the release in the next few months.

Quick Facts on Smashwords

  • Smashwords offers free conversions and distribution to a huge number of ebook retailers. No Amazon distribution, but more on that later.
  • On Smashwords, authors use their word document – formatted as recommended in their excellent free guide – and use Smashwords for ebook conversions of every format they would need or want. You can also supply your own epub, prepared to industry standards.
  • Smashwords enables free conversion to nine ebook formats. Nine? Yes, that was my reaction, but as you would expect it is epub, mobi and PDF that are the most popular conversions. Don’t forget though – some people DO read on their palm pilot!
  • Australia is the third largest market for Smashwords, after the US and the UK. For Smashwords, their Apple iBook sales have 46 per cent that come are outside the US.
  • At Smashwords their model is to take a cut of the sales for the work that they do with distribution.
  • The division of each sale with their retail partners is that the author receives 60 per cent, the retailer thirty percent and Smashwords ten percent. For more detail read this page on the Smashwords site.
  • For any sales received through the Smashwords site – not too many I’ve heard – an author will receive 85 per cent of each sale.
  • Preorders are working really well for authors, enabling sales to accumulate and books released simultaneously on multiple retailer sites.

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Booktastik and Indie Author Promotion

Interview with author Dionne Lister DionneListerAuthor

Today on the blog I am featuring Dionne Lister who has had fantastic success as an independent author and has her finger on the pulse on what influences sales.

I first met Dionne Lister when she was part of a panel called ‘The Author as Everything’ that I was facilitating at Sydney Writers’ Festival in 2013.  Dionne wrote a great post about this event that has some key points to consider so I highly recommend you read it.

Dionne has been writing since she was young and self publishing since 2012.  When it comes to managing the process it would be fair to say she has loads of experience. Dionne has learnt a bit from trial and error so I thought it would be good to ask her some questions about her experience and why, after all of that, she started Booktastik.

Writing primarily fantasy, mystery and thrillers, Dionne has also recently branched out into chick lit, writing under the name Eloise March.

Digireado: As an independent author, how important is professionalism when trying to achieve success?

Dionne Lister: Professionalism is the most important thing. Sure there are those who write a book, don’t have it edited and strike it big – but those are the rarities. A professional cover will help get the book noticed, and good writing and finishing off (editing, proofreading) will ensure more good reviews than bad, which will help the reader decide to buy your book when they click on the Amazon or iBooks page (or any of the retailers). I have all my covers done by professionals and my fantasy covers are amazing. I really believe that’s what caught the eye of Kate Forsyth who ended up asking me to speak on my first panel at the NSW Writers Centre.


“The authors who don’t take the professional approach will not build a reader base…” Dionne Lister

I’m an editor too, so I know the importance of having a good editor, and I would never, ever put a book out that has not been to her first. The authors who don’t take the professional approach will not build a reader base – they will sell a handful of books if they’re lucky. They are also the authors who give the whole of self-publishing a bad reputation.

Digireado: What did you do as a first-time author to market your book?

Lister: I started on Twitter a few months before I released my first book (Shadows of the Realm). Twitter led me to some incredible self-published authors who were not only great to chat to, but answered all the questions I had about where to upload my books, ISBNs, where to advertise etc. A lot of those authors I first connected with are people I would considered close friends now and we all help each other by sharing news about each others’ new releases and book sales on social media. One of those friends put me onto Bookbub—a paid advertising site, and it really boosted my sales and, therefore, my audience. I also attend events such as Supanova, and later this year I’ll be at Book Expo in Sydney – for both my books and Booktastik.

Digireado: What worked well for you at that time and what were the challenges?

Lister: A bit of everything worked well—social media and paid advertising. The important thing with social media is that you have to connect with people. Don’t go there and expect to tweet 20 times a day about your book with a link to Amazon but never talk to anyone. People will ignore you at the very least and unfollow you if you are super annoying. Social media is about making connections, and if you’re genuine, the sales will follow. Another challenge is time and budget. Social media takes time and the paid sites can cost a lot of money. I’ve wasted money trying things that didn’t work, but that’s part of the process (and where your author friends come in handy because they’ve been there before).

Digireado: Have you refined your approach to marketing as you’ve gone along?

Lister: Yes, definitely. You come to know what works and what doesn’t. Also, different things can work for different genres. For instance, there is a huge blog circuit that can boost romance sales, but there isn’t anything as effective for epic fantasy. You have to get to know the market in the genre you’re writing. I tend to stick to the things that have worked, although I’m not averse to trying something new because you never know when the next good marketing thing is here as the online world is constantly changing.

Digireado: How important is social media? And what works the best in helping sales?

Lister: Social media is THE most important thing to get started. The connections you build and information you gather from those connections are what will save you time and money in the long run, and they are the people who will help you spread the word about your books. The main channel that sells books for me is Twitter. Facebook is more of a place to socialise, especially since they changed the way things work and you have to pay for people to see your posts. I find their paid advertising hasn’t worked for me.

Digireado: How do you avoid spending too much time on social media? Surely it must be hard getting the balance correct between building rapport and relationships vs trying to get people to buy your books?

Lister: Hang on while I just check Facebook ;). It’s really hard to balance social media time with writing because I find I’m always drawn back to see what’s going on. I don’t find it hard at all spending time chatting to people I’ve just met because I’m a social person. Authors who don’t like interacting online, or with people, will find it very difficult. As time has gone on, I’ve naturally spent less time on there and more time doing what I’m supposed to be doing i.e. work and writing. It is a huge novelty when you first get on there. Some authors buy an app or program that restricts access to the Internet for a certain amount of time each day, but I haven’t done that. I tend to just pull myself off there when I have things to do – it’s not easy, but not impossible.

Digireado: I know you attend Supanova – is it important to find ‘offline’ events that suit your genre to help with book sales?

Lister: Definitely. And it’s a lot of fun to interact with readers face to face and sign books. I will admit that the majority of my sales are ebooks, but I always sell quite a few paperbacks when I do these events, and a reader is a reader. The more people you can reach by whatever means, the better.

Booktastik Logo

Digireado: Tell us about Booktastik and why you identified this would be helpful for authors?

Lister: A couple of my author friends and I were lamenting a slow sales month and the fact that the company we had used for promotion in the past, now was too busy to accept our books. We were frustrated at the lack of effective marketing sites for authors, so I said “stuff this, I’ll do it myself.”


I think I must have been a total nutcase because it’s never as easy as you think it’s going to be. But, anyway, there is a demand for book-promotion services that isn’t being met, and there’s a reader demand for sites that take the pain out of choosing a good book for a cheap price. Readers can either visit our site to see our deals, or they can subscribe to our newsletter and pick the genres they like to read. When we have deals for those genres, we send out the email, and tweet the deals, and that’s it.

“There is a demand for book-promotion services that isn’t being met, and there’s a reader demand for sites that take the pain out of choosing a good book for a cheap price.”

We check books for quality – so anything with lots of typos and no editing won’t be featured. And we are very reasonably priced for authors, at $10 per feature. Just some background: I started planning the site in June 2013 and the site designer took about 3 months to do her thing, then it was another 2 months of coding. We finally went live at the end of January but had a few hiccups because the coders had done a bad job (the things you learn). Anyway, we’ve had steady growth in subscriber numbers and authors are advertising with us, so hopefully it will continue to grow.

Digireado: How many people have you got signed up to your newsletter and ebook specials? Have any publishers expressed interest?

Lister: We have just over 2000 subscribers (which is less than I would like) but numbers are increasing every day. We also have 300-500 visitors a day to the site. Authors, publicists and publishers can advertise with us and the criteria are: the book must be edited, the book must be at least 30% off to feature in our genre categories, and we feature New Releases that have been released within the last 2 months, and they don’t have to be on sale.

Digireado: Any success stories from Booktastik since you launched?

Lister: Unfortunately no major ones, but some of our free book features (in the Free book category) are getting well over 100 downloads. Depending on the genre and the price of the book, keeping in mind that 99 cents sells a lot better than $1.99-2.99, and genres such as romance and mystery have more subscribers than, say, poetry, authors can expect to sell anywhere from 1 book to 25 books. It’s important for us to keep increasing those numbers, because I want authors to sell books, so we spend money every day on marketing (being a new business much more money goes out than comes in lol).

Digireado: I like the way that Booktastik offers affordable options to authors to try, so good luck with the continued growth and success!

Lister: Thanks, and thanks for having me here today. It’s been fun answering the questions. Of course, if anyone has any other questions, feel free to email me at

You can follow Dionne’s blog here, follow her on Twitter here, or Facebook or Goodreads!

You can find out about Booktastik on the website, Facebook or Twitter!

You may also be interested in reading:

Anna Maguire, June 2014

Authors experimenting with Marketing and Pricing Models


My discovery of Even the Red Heron was a Social Discovery – a professional contact on a list shared a photo of the poster promoting the book from his neighbourhood in Brooklyn, USA. He was interested – as I am – of the marketing being done by an independent author and the experiment with ebook pricing. I then found out that the street art campaign also happened in London and Los Angeles.

The visuals – and the ‘pay what you want’ line intrigued me. It certainly made me visit the link straightaway. An author experimenting with the pricing of their ebook – from $0 to $20 – would gain a lot of insight into what people were willing to pay.

I think it’s important to speak to authors who are striking their own path with publishing their books.  I spoke to author Julian Feeld to find out more about his strategy.

In this interesting post Julian Feeld explains how he produced his book and a platform around the book. He shares great tips on how he obtained the cover illustration and fonts, designed his website and more. He shares his thoughts about crowdfunding, digital culture and author promotion. Enjoy!

About Even The Red Heron

Abilena lives in Caracas, Venezuela. Her mother is British, her father is American, and her brother is an addict. As chaos overtakes the country and her parents’ marriage sinks into violence, Abi begins having premonitions filled with bloodthirsty fauna. From

Interview with author Julian Feeld

Digireado: You live in Paris – lucky you! Tell me about your day job and how you make time to write?

Julian Feeld: For a few years now I’ve done graphic design and art direction as a freelancer, even though now I am in the process of becoming a fulltime fine artist. To be honest, I think I’m quite lucky, as I’ve found myself with a client that basically pays my rent while giving me at least a few hours of freedom a day. For Even the Red Heron, I more or less wrote a minimum of one page (A4, 12 size font) a day. The Artist’s Way helped me immensely by dispelling myths about inspiration and helping me deal with the negative inner-voices.

Digireado: The packaging for Even The Red Heron is beautifully done. Who did the illustrations and cover art?

Feeld: For the posters, I gave Alex Fine ( sketches of what I had envisioned, and he illustrated them. Then we went back and forth until I was satisfied. For the cover, I designed it, basing myself on an illustration I found of a bird choking on oil (it was originally created in reaction to the BP oil spill crisis). I asked the guy if he would give me permission, and he said yes. I did the same with the font, contacted the guy who made it, and he also said yes once I explained the project. People have been very kind to me. The background is a picture I took of a painted up window here in Paris, and the back was drawn and designed by me. I guess there are certain perks to being a visual artist.

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Authors and the Marketing Conundrum

Authors and the Marketing  Conundrum

marketing and the author conundrum

For a little while I’ve been thinking of writing a series of posts on book marketing for authors. It’s something all authors need to think about and is crucial to get the word out about your book. Even with a publisher, authors are expected to be publicists and engage their potential readers to help with what is sometimes called ‘discoverability.’ Naturally, the hope is that once books are discovered, they will also sell!

The problem – or opportunity – for authors and publishers is that there are SO many ways that people discover books. In this article from March 2013 on Digital Book World, Andrew Rhomberg from Jellybooks discusses ‘Five Shades of Book Discovery’. Andrew describes them as Serendipitous Discovery, Social Discovery, Distributed Discovery, Data-driven Discovery and Incentivized Discovery. The brief descriptions are my summary from this worthwhile post.

1. Serendipitous Discovery: The wonderful, almost accidental discovery of a book you weren’t looking for. Online has struggled to duplicate the pure visual opportunity of bookshops without being blocked by lists, genres and ‘Top Sellers’ AND recommendations. Jellybooks is trying to remedy this with the way they encourage you to discover and explore books online.

2. Social Discovery: As said in the article, “This is the good ol’ word of mouth.” Instead of computer generated recommendations it is using the power of your crowd to introduce you to new books. Continue reading

My first job in book publishing

(This post really should be subtitled ‘How Bloomsbury Publishing marketed a title so well that I was compelled to write about it!’ Read on and you’ll understand why.)

My publisher Charlotte Harper of Editia is located in Canberra so it’s not that often we see each other in person. Last week we spent some time together and she passed along a package sent to me via her office.

In a time of digital publishing, digital marketing, digital everything, what I love is the targeted marketing of a Bloomsbury’s title. 

The parcel was beautifully wrapped with a tag on the outside:



On opening the parcel there was a book proof. Ok, at this stage you may be thinking – ho-hum, what’s the interest in that? But wait, there’s more….

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DIY Digital at NSW Writers’ Centre

NSW Writers' Centre

The wonderful people at the NSW Writers’ Centre are running a weekend workshop that I’m thrilled to be part of!

Join us for Digital DIY on the weekend of Saturday 23 & Sunday 24 November and hear from Linda Funnell, the person who draws this all together with NSW Writers’ Centre.

Want to take control of your publishing? Interested in ebooks? Unsure about Print-on-demand?

This two-day seminar covers the nuts and bolts of doing your own digital publishing, from identifying your audience to formats, uploads and promotion.

Convenor Linda Funnell has extensive experience as a publisher and will introduce you to the key points of taking a book to readers with a series of expert speakers including: Anna Maguire (@Digireado) on preparing your files and ebook production; David Henley on the possibilities of digital publishing; and author Walter Mason on the how to use social media effectively.

Linda Funnell  talked to me about digital publishing and asked my opinion on a few questions:

  • How quickly is the digital publishing landscape changing? Is it getting easier for DIY authors?
  • What are the biggest challenges in publishing an ebook?
  • Which authors do I think have been successful in digitally self-publishing?

Digital DIY Funnell MaguireLinda also asked me what are my three top tips are for authors considering publishing digitally themselves.

My first tip was:
Read digitally! If you intend to publish an ebook then be aware of the reading experience. Download some reading apps onto your smart phone if you don’t have an iPad or eReader and read a recent release. If you’re printing a book then be clear on how publishers present their books.

You can read the rest of the article on the NSW Writers’ Centre blog here and book tickets to the event at the bottom of the page here.

What would be your top tip for authors who want to self publish?


Authors and promotion – Open Access (Part 2)

I took so many notes at Open Access at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre for their day-long symposium I’ve had to publish a few posts! You can read Part 1 here.

Authors know they need to participate in marketing and promotion to help their book be found but can be lost knowing where to focus. Open Access bought together a range of authors, publishers, publicist and experts to share their knowledge and experience.

How Did You Sell That Book? Publicity Campaign Case Studies was another great session on the day as it gave participants an insight into how books are promoted. The panel featured author Chris Allen and his ‘Secret Social Marketing Weapon’, wife Sarah Allen along with Debbie Mcinnes, Director of DMCPRMedia and Management Consultant and author Andrew O’Keeffe.

Chris Allen described his author brand: Old School Action Thriller Comes of Age. He wanted to have a classic and contemporary look and based the brand around Intrepid – a black-ops Interpol sub-directorate in his novels – along with his surname. It works. Intrepid Allen.


Although Chris used to think of a blog as a bit daunting, he has seen it’s a conversation starter. Website, marketing and branding are important and Chris was probably signed with an agent partly because his presence was really well set up.

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Authors and promotion – Open Access (Part 1)

It was an invigorating day at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre for their day-long symposium Open Access – Selling Your Book in the Digital Age. Thanks to the Copyright Agency (CAL) for their support in making the day possible.

The focus was on how authors promote themselves in the digital age. The landscape is changing quite rapidly and the day bought together authors, marketing and publicity experts, publishers and industry professionals.

On Don’t Get Left on the Shelf I presented some of the concepts that would be expanded upon through the day. I spoke from two different points of view – as a trainer and teacher of authors and also as an author.


Sarah Allen was kind enough to write a blog post outlining most of my presentation.

Russian-Tapestry-Banafsheh SerovOn the panel with me was Banafsheh Serov, bookseller and author. It was fascinating to hear how she put so much effort to promoting her first book, a biography detailing life in Iran and why her family made the decision to leave. Originally self-publishing, Banafsheh attracted the interest of Hachette who published Under a Starless Sky and her more recent Russian Tapestry.  I’ve only just finished Russian Tapestry and found it engrossing and a wonderful glimpse into the life of those who lived through those times – including her husband’s family. Banafsheh is owner and manager of the independent chain of bookstores – Your Bookshop – so understands publishing from both sides.

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