Today I’m welcoming Phyllis Zimbler Miller. I’m excited to share her wisdom and expertise with you! I’ve asked Phyllis to share some links to her own blog in this article because I think she has some valuable information to offer my readers who are also writers.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of fiction and nonfiction books and ebooks, including the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semifinalist MRS. LIEUTENANT. The novel is based on Phyllis’ experiences as a new Mrs. Lieutenant in the spring of 1970 during the Vietnam War and tells the story from the point of view of four new U.S. Army officers’ wives.
Deleyna: Tell us about your road to publication for these novels? Why did you choose to go indie? What has your experience been like?
Phyllis: MRS. LIEUTENANT took a torturous road to publication. Since 1970 I have wanted to tell this story of women’s social history during the very specific time period of the Vietnam War. About 20 years later two women film producers optioned the story and then told me to write a book. By the time I had written the first draft of a novel, they had moved on to other projects.
Then came 20 years of writing and rewriting and rejection after rejection saying that readers wouldn’t be interested in the story. I hired a book consultant to help me figure out what changes needed to be made, and I made those.
Finally I decided for my 60th birthday to self publish thanks to POD (no books needed to be stored in my garage), and I used BookSurge, which was owned by Amazon and eventually merged into CreateSpace. It was at the same time that I entered the manuscript into the Amazon contest. Having the novel named a semifinalist certainly vindicated my feeling that there was a market for this story!
Deleyna: Why did you choose to go with Amazon Select? What has your experience been with them?
Phyllis: When my novel was self-published in April of 2008 Kindle was only a few months old (November 2007). I hired someone to convert MRS. LIEUTENANT to the Kindle format, but very few people had Kindle ereaders then.
While MRS. LIEUTENANT got great reader reviews, the book couldn’t be carried in the military PX stores (because POD books aren’t returnable) and the book price required by BookSurge at that time was way too high for an unknown fiction author. (Now CreateSpace lets you choose your own price within certain parameters.)
Then more recently I started self publishing additional ebooks. I had these manuscripts professionally converted and put on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. But I soon realized that I couldn’t spend the time to get reviews on all these places.
Amazon’s KDP Select (requires exclusivity of the ebook but not the physical book for 90-day periods) came along in November/December 2011. I started reading about this option.
As a marketing person in addition to an author, I studied what the KDP Select opportunity could mean. And I became convinced that here was the answer to my frustration at not having the time to promote on all the major book selling sites.
In addition, here was the chance for a second life for MRS. LIEUTENANT. (See my blog post “KDP Select: MRS. LIEUTENANT Gets Second Chance.”)
After experimenting with KDP Select with spy story ebook CIA FALL GUY and book marketing ebook TOP TIPS FOR HOW TO MARKET YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON AND FACEBOOK, I took the ebook of MRS. LIEUTENANT off all other sites (yes, this took time and effort) and made it a KDP Select ebook.
Now I spend my book marketing time focused on only one book seller – Amazon – and this is a huge advantage for me!
Phyllis: I originally started out writing in past tense (and my other fiction books are in past tense). But past tense didn’t feel right to me for this story. I tried present tense and it seemed to work well. And once I got into the flow of using present tense, it wasn’t any harder to use than past tense.
Deleyna: Your book has been out the longest. Do you find that there is a time element to the discovery of your book? (Other authors on my blog have reported 12 – 18 months before discovery – your experience may vary because of your other books and your marketing savvy! I’d like to include that aspect.)
Phyllis: Self publishing MRS. LIEUTENANT 4 ½ years ago was not an advantage because of the required high price of the paperback and the low number of people reading on a Kindle. (Now there are free Kindle apps for many other electronic devices but this wasn’t true back in 2008.)
As time went on, I realized there would be an advantage to having more books available on Kindle. I looked at unpublished material I had and set out to publish that material.
It was at this point that I learned how I could lose control of my own ebook on Amazon if the ebook converter did not upload to my own KDP account. I got back an ebook of mine that I had lost control of and had my business partner Yael K. Miller teach me how to do my own ebook conversions. (See blog post “How I Convert My Manuscripts Into Ebooks.”)
Now Yael does the covers for my ebooks (the MRS. LIEUTENANT cover was done by BookSurge although we are thinking of doing a new cover) and I do the conversions. And I love the ability to make changes myself!
The truth is that book marketing is a time-consuming commitment over the long haul. Thanks to Amazon, books can be available for much longer than most books are available in a bookstore. But we as authors have to continually work at getting our books in front of prospective readers, plus we have to make it easy for people to buy and read our books. (KDP Select ebooks can be borrowed for free by Amazon Prime members who have a Kindle.)
Deleyna: I’ve also found the process of converting to mobi seems to be getting easier as the industry develops.
I loved the multi-cultural aspect of your book. This is a topic that is dear to my heart. How did you do your research? Each of these women felt so genuine and was treated with so much respect.
Phyllis: The multicultural part was exactly why for the past 40 years I have wanted to tell this story (long before the word “multicultural” was in vogue). The characters are composed of pieces of real people I met while a Mrs. Lieutenant, and it was their stories that I wanted to tell.
I purposely created fictional characters to protect the innocent, but the characters are very “true to life.” I saved all my original documents from the two years my husband served on active duty so I had original research at hand. (I am now planning to write a book about being stationed in Germany as part of an occupying force only 25 years after the end of WWII.)
Deleyna: Anything else you’d like to add about your book and the writing process?
Phyllis: I often write scenes of a book in my head so that, when I sit down at my computer, I already know what I am going to write. And I am always thankful for my computer because I started out as a journalist on a manual typewriter!
Because of my journalism training, I write quickly and then rewrite. I actually like the revision process because I love “smoothing out” what I have written.
Deleyna: I haven’t gotten to the point where I enjoy rewriting yet, but I hear you about starting out on a manual typewriter. I love my computer.
Thank you for joining me today, Phyllis! Tomorrow we’ll chat with Kathleen M. Rodgers, another member of your triad of military writers.
Here’s the teaser for Phyllis’ book:
This is a war story — one featuring army wives.
In the spring of 1970 – right after the Kent State National Guard shootings and President Nixon’s two-month incursion into Cambodia – four newly married young women come together at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, when their husbands go on active duty as officers in the U.S. Army.
Different as these four women are, they have one thing in common: Their overwhelming fear that, right after these nine weeks of training, their husbands could be shipped out to Vietnam – and they could become war widows.
Sharon is a Northern Jewish anti-war protester who fell in love with an ROTC cadet; Kim is a Southern Baptist whose husband is intensely jealous; Donna is a Puerto Rican who grew up in an enlisted man’s family; and Wendy is a Southern black whose parents have sheltered her from the brutal reality of racism in America.
Read the war story MRS. LIEUTENANT to discover what happens as these women overcome their prejudices, reveal their darkest secrets, and are initiated into their new lives as army officers’ wives during the turbulent Vietnam War period.