Monday, May 16, 2011

Some Thoughts from Independent E-Author, Colette Duke

Please welcome Colette Duke to Suspense Novelist. Colette's focus (well, sorta—read the post) is science fiction, but we all know the very best science fiction has a lot of suspense going on.

SPECIAL NOTE: Even though the bones of the story are available for free on Colette's website (she's way too generous, but she and I haven't had a chance to talk about that), she's agreed to provide a FREE download that unveils deeper characterization to one lucky person who makes a comment to her post on Suspense Novelist.

Science-fiction romance writer Colette Duke has been a sci-fi fan all her life and considers the countless years she's spent watching Star Trek in all its forms Very Important Research. She prefers Picard and Data over Kirk and Spock, and Lieutenant Worf will always hold a special place in her heart. She doesn't care if that gives away her age.

Colette's books explore the dangers and pleasures of romance in other galaxies, and sometimes the dangers and pleasures of falling in love on an Earth colonized by alien races. Because love can happen anywhere.

She loves to hear from her readers. You can contact her at her website:

SN: Self-publication used to mean the writer wasn’t good enough to be published traditionally. Has that changed?

DUKE: It’s changed completely. You see plenty of successful traditionally published authors releasing backlist titles as self-published e-books. They’ve certainly proven they’re “good enough.” For new writers who choose to bypass traditional publishing completely, the issue of quality depends on the writer. There are some stars of self-publishing who’ve rocketed to success on a combination of good storytelling, good covers, good networking skills . . . I don’t know about the actual statistics, but I’d guess the percentage of mega successes in the self-publishing industry might be about the same as the percentage of mega successes in the traditional publishing industry. You hear about the ones who make it big. The rest, not so much. There are literally hundreds of thousands of books on Amazon that are selling pretty much zero copies.

SN: What do you see as the major differences between the traditional and independent publishing?

Duke: The big difference is who pays for and performs the work that goes into turning a manuscript into a book.

Traditional publishing: The publishing house pays for multiple editors, cover art, interior layout/design, formatting, marketing, (OK, maybe not so much in this department unless the author is Dean Koontz), advertising, and more.

Self-publishing: The author either pays professionals to do some/all of the above or learns to do it herself (or himself, but I’m a girl so I’ll say herself). It’s tremendously time consuming.

Either way, the author is expected to handle most, if not all, of her marketing.

SN: What about the quality of e-books?

Duke: Some are fantastic. Some suck. It depends on the writer and her ability to either wear a lot of hats (and look good doing it) or hire competent people to take care of all the things that go into making a great e-book.

SN: Don’t most writer organizations have certain publisher requirements in order for books to be considered for contests?

Duke: Yes, but they’re gradually changing their guidelines and requirements. Writers are the lifeblood of every writers’ organization. The organizations have to evolve along with publishing, or they’ll have no one to pay their annual dues. Oh, woe, right?

SN: What was the hardest part of the process?

Duke: What part of the process wasn’t hard? Writing is hard. Learning enough HTML to create a cleanly formatted e-book was hard (you should have seen the little piles of my hair scattered around my computer). Learning to use graphics software was hard. And try setting up publisher accounts and online payments with Amazon, PubIt!, and All Romance EBooks as a non-American—it’s a wonder I have any hair left at all. But to answer your question: for me the hardest part was stepping forward as a self-published author in a publishing climate that’s traditionally frowned on self-publishing.

SN: How will you know if you’re successful?

Duke: I will sell enough copies of my books that self-publishing is my sole income (a scenario that doesn’t involve eating only generic mac and cheese, by the way). I’m a long way from that point right now, but I’m in it for the long haul. I have plans to publish in several genres rather than putting all my eggs in the science-fiction-romance basket, though I heard recently that a major publisher has picked up a fair number of SFR titles recently—which is very cool if you write SFR. Which I do. ☺

SN: Will you continue to seek traditional publication?

Duke: Yes. 1. I like validation (some people think a publisher’s validation isn’t worth much, but hey, they can think what they want and I’ll think what I want). 2. I know how much time and energy goes into publishing a book, and it’s OK with me if a publisher wants to share that. 3. Self-publishing and traditional publishing can complement each other very well; while I think self-publishing offers a lot of creative freedoms and opportunities, I’m not going to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

SN: What would you like everyone to know about self-publishing?

Duke: I’m doing it! Buy my book on Amazon! Buy my book on Barnes & Noble! Buy my book on All Romance eBooks! Tweet @ColetteDuke! Like me on Facebook!

Seriously, though: The publishing industry is changing. Change can be good. But writers, we need to keep our heads on straight. Don’t just barge forward and neglect to learn the skills that will enable you to self-publish well. Realize it’s like anything else worth doing: it’s a lot of work, and there’s a steep learning curve (think Everest). We need to take the time to get the details right.

SN: What question should I ask that I haven’t?

Duke: Who is the lovely couple in the photo of my work area, you ask? They’re my grandparents. Of all the people I’ve ever known, they had the happiest, longest marriage. A good source of inspiration for a romance writer!

Thanks a bunch for having me on your blog, Peg.

CR: While the Savage Sleeps by Andrew E. Kaufman.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Thank you for inviting me to Suspense Novelist, Peg. :)

  2. Great post, ladies!!!

  3. It's inspiring to read how other writers navigate these strange and exciting rapids in the publishing world. Best of luck to you!

  4. Hi, Tess, and thanks for dropping by.

    Thanks, Janne. I'm going to spend the rest of the day pretending I'm navigating a starship through strange and exciting rapids. ;)

  5. Colette, thank you so much for being here today.

    I personally love the line, "Because love can happen anywhere."

    And thank you also, Tess and Janne. Nice to see some new names on this old blog.

  6. Thank you for your wisdom Colette and Peg, thanks for hosting her. I am self published and learning to promote. There is no single answer to that problem. My daughter has started up a e-formatting, cover art and book trailer business much to my delight.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

  7. Hi, Nancy. Me, wise? OK! :)

    Congratulations to your daughter, and I wish her much success. It's certainly the right time to start an e-book-related business.

  8. Colette is offering each of you a FREE copy of her book. Please let her know if you want epub, pdf or mobi. What she needs is your email addy (you will NOT be added to any mailing list) and your format preference.

  9. I'm learning about Indie publishing too. The hardest part is knowing when it's in good enough shape to let it fly--or crash.

    Nice that your grandparents are such an inspiration. And good luck with your dreams!

  10. Hi, Ellis. Thank you. :) Absolutely, there's a very scary line we have to step over, isn't there?

    For anyone who needs my e-mail addy: colette at colette duke dot com.

  11. I love this post. Self publishing has come a long way and if you are willing to put in the time to get a book out there, it's available to anyone. Having a good writing/critique group helps too.
    I hope your book takes off like a rocket, Colette.

  12. Thank you, Ann. A rocket it shall be, just for you. ;)