The Writer-Entrepreneur: Amy Tiemann’s Mojo for Independent Publishing

In which Miriam Peskowitz interviews Amy Tiemann about her new book Courageous Parents, Confident Kids: Letting Go So You Both Can Grow, and about e-book publishing as a book launch tool.

Amy Tiemann, author of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Yourself While Raising a Family and the YA adventure novel High Water, is back now with her newest book, Courageous Parents, Confident Kids. Amy’s a writing pro who has started her own publishing house and has fearlessly tried out new technologies and used them to build platform.

Miriam Peskowitz: Hi Amy! Courageous Parents was published first as an e-book. Can you tell us how you took the plunge, and how the e-book fit into the Courageous marketing plan?

Amy Tiemann: The advances in digital publishing over the past six years have been astounding. After doing the "old school" method of independent publishing, trying to figure out how many books to order, taking delivery of them, and filling orders myself, it is an amazing opportunity to know that with e-books, I could reach a larger readership for little added expense.

Each writer needs to grapple with the fact that no one can guarantee you a reading audience—not a big publisher, not a publicist, not even Oprah—though I'd love the opportunity to test that out! You need to create your own outreach, no matter what anyone else is doing for you. For Courageous Parents, in order to make the commitment of devoting myself full time to recruiting the thirteen contributors, editing, designing, and publishing the book, I had to know that we would connect with our audience. A free e-book offer was the perfect way to realize that goal. We gave away the free digital download for two days. In doing so, we reached out to over 30,000 people and got thousands of people to download the book.

The pdf e-book is available on MojoMom.com and I’m selling the paperback edition through Amazon, using print-on-demand technology through CreateSpace—an Amazon company that pays good royalties and integrates seamlessly into Amazon's whole system.

MP: How did you decide which e-book technology to go with?

AT: The e-book itself is a simple pdf file, so that it looks like the paperback book. It has a a full color cover and hyperlinks to each contributor's website. Amid all the hype about Kindle and other reading devices, the top reading platform for e-books is still a regular old computer screen. Pdfs can be read on an ordinary computer or uploaded to Kindle. Eventually, I hope to get the official Kindle conversion made so we can sell that version on Amazon as well.

MP: Courageous Parents has articles by fourteen contributors. The marketing plan is to combine each contributor’s personal e-mail list and social media connections. Has the strategy been successful?

AT: It absolutely made sense to market the free e-book to all of our individual mailing lists. We reached that initial audience, and now we'll see if book sales catch on. (For the next phase of the launch, I’ve hired a publicist.) The most important lesson in independent publishing is to embrace as many definitions of win-win-win success as you possibly can. It's an accomplishment to get the book written and published. It’s a win to reach out to 30,000 people. A win to have thousands actually download it. A win every time a parent feels helped by the book. My contributors have written many books and if Courageous Parents helps them find new readers, I consider that a success too.

MP: Amy, you're the queen of innovative publishing. What have you learned along the way? Have you yet reached the point where independent publishing is economically self-sustaining?

AT: When I first pitched Mojo Mom to agents in 2002-2003, the response I got was "This is a good idea, but it's a crowded marketplace and you are not famous, so we'll pass."

That's a real chicken-and-egg dilemma. I knew for sure that I was not going to get famous sitting around waiting. I cared enough about the project enough to invest in publishing it myself. I didn't know anybody when I started out: no other writers, no agents, nobody in publishing. I "built my platform" with a ton of hard work.

I sold enough books through Spark Press that three years later, I did land an agent. Three publishers were interested in offering me a book deal for the revised second edition of Mojo Mom. It was published by Gotham Books, and which ultimately paid quite nicely.


What I’ve learned: Maintain the highest standards of professionalism in your work, no matter how you are publishing. This includes interior and cover design as well as writing and editing. Economically, the most important thing in independent publishing is to never spend more than you can afford to part ways with outright. The mindset I adopt is "How much will it cost to share my message with an audience?" rather than just "How much money can I make from this?" Being smart about money is important, definitely, but everybody is struggling financially now, even major publishers, so you need to make sure that you connect with the deep value that a book creates, beyond dollars and cents.

Views: 114

Tags: #marketing, #publishing, Amy Tiemann, e-publishing, online marketing

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Comment by Diane Meier on May 3, 2010 at 7:10am
As always, balance is the key word. You're so right. But I don't think that many of us are actively looking for other models of compensation. The iTunes .99 cent download is only one. Your idea of the 'gift as hook' is another interesting possibility. I think many readers want to do what's fair, but, in general, we've made no effort to build that bridge for them and give them a way to participate, beyond the old publisher-retailer route. And that leaves so much digital content floating out there -- literally -- free.

I'm interested in what kinds of other models SheWriters might suggest.
Comment by Miriam Peskowitz on May 3, 2010 at 6:55am
Hey, maybe I should clarify, the e-book was done as a publicity raising launch. That's over now, and readers can purchase the book, e and not.

I do know what you mean, though, about the fear that giving things away will mean that there will no financial reward. It's a balance, and the times we are in, and the changing technologies are making it harder to navigate this conundrum. It's easier for people who don't need books to provide income, where the books become a way into other ways of creating value.
Comment by Diane Meier on April 30, 2010 at 10:45am
I so admire the gumption here -- and the generous spirit about sharing knowledge and connection with a larger world of like-minded people. But I do worry that in this article, as in so many I am reading these days, we seem to be moving to a point of teaching a digital audience that we will 'give our talent away'. And while I completely understand the marketing value of using this 'taste' of talent or enterprise to build a following, I worry that if we're not also teaching them to support us with their patronage, we will find ourselves working in a medium that expects us to create for the love of it. God knows, publishers have been talking like that since before we were born. Do we really need to instruct the next generation of 'end-users' to not value talent?

I don't think readers mean to cheat us. But when we're standing there with something for free, they have no way of connecting to the fact that our time, our energy and most of all, our skills and talents, have been used in its production. If we don't tell them, how will they know? And does it look as though WE value it?

At least a "gift with purchase" suggests the purchase! We're not helping ourselves here, I think, unless we accompany this kind of outreach with ways the audience can participate in our commercial and professional enterprise. I'd love to hear from more of you on this --
diane

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