J.J. is also the founder of MindStir Media, a self-publishing and book marketing company. When he's not busy writing his next book, he's busy helping authors self-publish their work and offering personalized guidance along the way.
1. When it came to getting your own books published, what inspired you to publish through your own company?
I self-published Unconventional back in 2009, before the big self-publishing "boom" that we've seen today. I was originally represented by a literary agent. The agent's job, as many know, is to shop a manuscript around to major publishers and secure a deal. I had my agent for about six months and we decided to split amicably... My writer friends encouraged me to try self-publishing. At that point, I felt like self-publishing was my "last resort." After much hard work on my end, Unconventional went on to become an Amazon.com bestseller. I've sold over 100,000 copies to date. After seeing the success of that novel, I decided to go ahead and self-publish Weepy the Dragon, a children's picture book I had written many years before. I didn't bother pursuing traditional publishing this time. I went straight to self-publishing as a "first resort."
2. Do you find that most of the sales of your books have come online, or do you also sell a number of books in person at events and in brick and mortar bookstores?
I'd say over 90% of my sales have come from online retailers such as Amazon.com. As a self-publishing author, I realize that in-store/brick-and-mortar distribution is very difficult to secure. Most chain bookstores work almost exclusively with traditionally published books. Thankfully, for the self-published author, most people buy books online nowadays--so there is a very large market for selling books online.
3. Why did you decide to reach out to authors through MindStir Media?
After the initial success of Unconventional, authors actually started contacting me for help. They essentially wanted to pick my brain and understand how I had achieved that level of success. Of course, I can never guarantee a certain level of success for anyone, but the marketing tools and strategies I used on my own books are proven and have done wonders for my career. I ultimately decided to open MindStir Media to the public in order to professionally assist authors throughout their self-publishing journey.
4. In addition to actually publishing your clients' books, what are some of the services you provide for authors?
MindStir Media offers what I call assisted self-publishing. Many authors see the term "self-publishing" and think they have to do everything themselves. MindStir actually offers full-service publishing services such as book design, illustration, professional editing, printing, ebook conversion, distribution, and marketing. I also personally mentor each MindStir Media author.
5. As you touched on earlier, a lot of self-publishing authors feel they have to totally "go it alone." What are some of the reasons that you would recommend that authors collaborate with other people in getting their book on the market?
Self-publishing authors need to remember that they are competing with traditionally published titles. Those titles are professionally edited, designed, and marketed. A serious self-publishing author needs to focus on quality above all else. This means hiring an editor and designer, and even collaborating with a marketing expert/team if possible. There are instances where an author is also a professional graphic designer, and in those cases it makes sense for the author to design his/her own book, but an author should always hire a professional editor. Assisted self-publishing is perfect for authors who want the extra hand-holding and advice. There's no shame in an author assembling a team around him/her. It makes a lot of sense to surround a book with professionals. In my opinion, this gives it a better chance to succeed.