As I continue interviewing authors, it is becoming clearer and clearer that there is no one way to self-publish. Authors with various levels of experience, different size budgets, and diverse goals approach publishing in the ways that fit their needs. The ability to create your own path is one of the benefits of self-publishing, but it can also make it difficult for newer authors to figure out a process for themselves.
The fourth author in this series had the distinguished honor of being a Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off finalist last year with her debut book, Burn Red Skies, which I recently started. Kerstin Espinosa Rosero created a wonderful world and agreed to share her experience taking her manuscript to a published novel.
Q: First-off, can you tell us about your projects. How many books have you published, what are they, and where can people find them?
Hi, thanks so much for having me. I’ve been fortunate to have published the first two books in my debut series, Burn Red Skies and Rise Red Kingdom. The final book is in the works, so hopefully it’ll be three one day.
The ebooks are all available on Kindle (and Kindle Unlimited), but paperbacks and hardcovers are available everywhere.
Q: There are many different types of editing, all of which can be very expensive, especially in genres known for their high word counts. What kind(s) of editing did you invest in? How did you find your editor? Have you had positive experiences?
Ahh, about that. I could not afford an editor when I wrote Burn Red Skies. I was still a student settling into a new country, and all my resources went towards keeping afloat. But a good editor is absolutely worth the investment, if you can swing it, and I will definitely look into one for future projects.
Q: Self-publishing only works if people know where to find your work. How did you build your online presence (social media, website)? Which platform(s) do you focus most of your attention on?
Social media helped me connect with other authors in the indie fantasy community, but I don’t know if it significantly helped with exposure (I found that while people may talk about my books, the conversation usually happens without me). What I do enjoy, however, is taking book photos. I love making and supporting author friends on social media, and because my content is mostly visual/photo-based, I prefer Insta—find me at @k.e.rosero!
In that sense, social media has been invaluable. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet awesome friends who will scream with you, about you, and occasionally at you. It definitely helps keep me updated on what’s going on in the community, but I don’t know if it’s essential for the sales side of things.
Q: It has been said over and over, deciding to self-publish is deciding to become a business owner. Did you start a legal business to manage taxes? Did you open up a P.O. box or setup any other resources to manage your business?
Not at all. I have a day job that eats up much of my conscious time (and energy), so as much as I love writing, it still has to take a backseat to bills. Times of hardship are not too far behind, haha. I’m not ready to make the jump yet.
Q: The cover is always the first thing people see, and it can be a major cost for indie authors. How did you go about choosing an artist? Did you have to hire a separate cover designer? Did you commission in character art and how did you use it? Did you commission a map or any other additional pieces of art?
OH I LUCKED OUT THERE. I went on 99designs and fell in love with coverdungeonrabbit’s (real name: Franziska Stern’s) work. I messaged her, and we just clicked! Even a couple of years later, she is still one of the closest friends I’ve made on my author journey. I don’t think I would have even published without her, haha.
Check out her stuff! www.coverdungeon.com.
I believe a good cover is a must, and that is where most of my book budget went.
As for in-book art, I do interior illustrations when I need a break from words. I drew my own map and concept art; some can be found in my book, some on my (badly updated) website:
Q: How did you go about formatting and producing your ebooks, paperbacks, and, if you have them, hardcovers? What company or companies print/sell your books? Why did you choose to publish through the platforms you chose?
FRANZISKA did all the formatting for my ebooks. I’m told it’s not actually super complicated and can easily be done with Vellum, but I get distressed. Organizing and making things look neat are absolutely not my forte.
Paperback copies of my books are printed via Amazon KDP and IngramSpark, with hardcovers printed exclusively through IngramSpark (I love their dustjackets).
I’m actually looking for platforms based in Germany now. IngramSpark got quite expensive, especially since author copies ship from England, and the shipping and international border taxes are making it less practical for me.
Q: One of the keys to get readers is to work with reviewers. Can you describe the process of making and sending out Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)? How did you connect with reviewers? Would you suggest investing money in sending out physical ARCs or stick with eARCs?
I absolutely cannot help you there. If I could go back in time and do it all over again, I would definitely prepare and send out ARCs. But unfortunately, when I started, I thought “ARC” meant character arc, like reviewers were getting one character’s arc as a teaser for the whole novel.
Oh, sweet summer child.
Publishing has definitely been a learning experience.
Q: Everything writers do to create their books can rack up quite an expensive budget. Did you invest in any paid blog tours, cover reveals, or paid reviews?
I tried a bit of everything with my debut, mostly out of curiosity. This is how I uh, made some mistakes. I’m sure we’ll get into this in a bit…
Q: Pricing for indie books has quite a range. How much did you originally price your books for? Would you have taken a different strategy if you could do it over again? Do you ever have sales and/or free book giveaways?
My books are all on Kindle Unlimited, so they’re free if you have a membership. If I could do it all over again, I would still choose to do that—KU is where most of my readers found Burn Red Skies. As for pricing, I set the amount to not lose money when I sell a book, lol. I usually run sales twice a year, once on the anniversary of release (so 11/11!) and once on a completely random, arbitrary date. It keeps me on my toes.
Q: The big question for a lot of authors considering self-publishing, especially those on a tighter budget, is how much will it cost? How much did you spend on your debut novel?
I think I spent a total of 500-600 euros on my first book, same with my second. Most of it went towards the cover. I spent a little of that on book influencers (see next answer!).
Q: Do you feel like you made any mistakes along the way that you learned from? What pitfalls would you encourage authors to watch out for?
There is a difference between paying for exposure and paying for a review. Some folks on the socials do charge for a book post + review, but you’re paying for the exposure and hype, just like with a book tour. I’ve had some very good experiences, but you do need to make a judgment call.
For example, what to be wary of is people who actively approach you to review your book for a fee. If their followers look bought (check out their engagement—are comments usually a couple of words, like “good review!” or “thanks!”? That usually means they rely on comment pods and that the engagement isn’t authentic). Don’t be misled by the 50K followers—look at their content and engagement. If their photos look like a lot of love went into them, if their followers are excited about their content, if comments are meaningful and interesting, then they probably deliver high-quality results.
I think once you get settled into the community, you’ll get a feel for who’s legit and who isn’t. Just be aware that some folks do prey on new authors, and don’t be fooled by their promises. And ask your author friends for their opinion! Sometimes a vibe check is all you need.
Q: Where can readers find you and your books? Can you tell us about your latest and/or upcoming release?
I love taking book photos, so find me on Insta (@k.e.rosero)!
I’m also on Twitter, if you want to scream at me there (@ke_rosero).
And if you want to see a bit of my art and art commissions, my website is www.ke-rosero.com
My latest release was Rise Red Kingdom, sequel to Burn Red Skies. Check out the series if you’re into interdimensional dragons, airship smugglers, and elemental magic!
Oh, and as I’ve mentioned, I also do interior illustrations, so keep an eye out for The Alchemy of Sorrow, an SFF anthology of short stories that handle grief and hope, which releases on November 1!
To keep up with this series and more from James Lloyd Dulin, click here.