Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Margaret Golla Publishes TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME

Today is A day in the A to Z challenge. Since I couldn't really make my very serious Friday Feature bend around the whims of A words, I've decided to first share with you an A word from the urban dictionary. This interview today is brought to you by the letter A, for asdfasdfasdf. Which you can type for "help" in situations where you only have the use of one hand. Or as a filler when you don't want to answer an incriminating question. Now on to the interview!!

Everyone give a warm welcome to Margaret Golla!

I had the pleasure of reading Margaret's e-book, Book One of The Goblin's Apprentice: TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME. Here's the blurb:

With summer break almost over, eleven-year-old Kyte Webber is bored to tears. Adventure is hard to find when you lived outside a town called Nowhere, Oklahoma, and the highlight of your summer is looking for a missing garden gnome statue. But when Kyte discovers a very real, very small and very much alive garden gnome by the name of Rory Leafhopper, she wonders what fairy tale she walked into by mistake.

Over the last month, mythical creatures have vanished from around Nowhere—not even a swarm of pixies is to be found—and Rory worries that he’s the last gnome standing. Kyte vows to help him find the others, but when a witch invades Kyte’s dreams, turning her dream into a real nightmare, she learns time is of the essence. During the full moon tomorrow night, the witch intends to brew her magical Mythical stew—and Rory is the missing ingredient!

As Kyte tries to keep Rory safe, she discovers a few facts about herself that her mother had been keeping a secret. Doubts about who she really is confuse her as the gnome is snatched. Now it's up to Kyte to save Rory and free the Mythicals before the witch slices, dices and tosses them into a stew —and get home in time for dinner!

I have to say, I loved spunky Kyte. I loved her quips. For instance:
A cheer would have been nice. Guess a gal couldn't have everything.
Okay. Psycho witch: one. Normal kid: zip.
Maybe if I prayed hard enough a knight in shining armor would show up. Uh, nope. Not even the guy from the Old Spice commercials made an appearance.
The story was in excellent hands with Kyte, and was a satisfying Middle Grade tale. I'm positive that Kyte will delight readers. In fact, check out a middle grade book reviewer's take on the book.

And Margaret is going to GIVE AWAY a free copy of the e-book to the person who leaves the best question or comment here, on this post, before Monday. So get cracking! Want to do some research before leaving your excellent comment? Please check out her blog, or previous Friday Feature.

Margaret, thanks for being here today. You'd been in the trenches for a long time--what made you take matters into your own hands, and self-pub TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME?

It was all about the story.

I think deep down I knew the other stories weren’t good enough, but when I started writing about 11-year-old Kyte Webber, I knew she was special. I tried selling through the traditional methods, but after two years of ‘NO’ or nibbles with ultimate rejections I grew frustrated. NY wasn’t interested in a light fantasy with a female protagonist. They wanted ‘boy’ books, vampires or post-apocalyptic stories. 

 By Christmas of 2010, I had started querying book two in the Goblin’s Apprentice series, The Fast and the FAERIEous. I wasn’t unwilling to keep trying for a NY agent or publisher, but I started hearing from friends and family about their kids or grandkiddies getting e-readers, Ipads, Iphones, Nintendo DSi’s for Christmas. I think the teetering point for me was when I read an article that Nintendo DSi’s had their screens enlarged so kids can use them to download free books.

--personally, I don’t see kids reading on their DSi’s, but it showed that technology was moving in that direction for the younger reader. But do I think I’m ahead of the curve on this one?—YES.

Oh, and GNOMEO AND JULIET came out—I thought I might get some cross-over to my book, TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME. It didn’t happen, but I tried.

What was the actual process of publication like--were there details that drove you crazy? What made you happy?

Verifying for proper formatting drove me bonkers. It wasn’t hard, it was tedious. The happiest part of the process was two-part: picking a cover and still smiling when I re-read the story for the 10th time.

Formatting sounds very tedious--I'm glad you stuck with it. I love the cover! Did you do everything alone, or did you hire any parts out?

I have zero artistic talent, so I paid for my covers. Every other part of the process I did alone with a huge support group of writer friends (some self-pubbed, some traditionally pubbed) and beta readers.

What advice do you have for others who are considering self publication?

Remember: this is YOUR career. Think about the big picture. Don’t waste your time publishing your first book. So many times the first book isn’t good enough. Don’t rely on family and friends to be honest with you—they won’t. They love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. Find a group of like-minded writers and ask for HONESTY in their critiques. Yes, the truth does hurt, but how will you become a better writer if you don’t know what’s wrong and how to fix things?

I also think you need to have a ‘back list’ ready to publish. The way to get your name out there is to keep putting books up for sale. This is another reason not to publish your first story. It could take upwards of a year or more to have the second book available.

Even if you don’t self-pub, I think every writer needs to be aware of what is happening in the publishing industry. For example, writers who used to write for Dorchester but had their rights to their books returned are still losing money because Dorchester is still selling those books under their umbrella. Yeah, it will get even uglier when more small print presses go under and electronic presses pop up to take an author’s money.

I DID manage to get into the Tulsa World (our local paper).

Scroll about half-way down the article. Though my name and titles were put out there, it didn’t result in any sales.

I love your suggestion for having a 'back list'. What great advice! Margaret, what have you done to get the word out about your book?

I have to admit that I’ve been a little lax on the marketing front. I’ve offered LOST LEPRECHAUN LOOT as a freebie. It’s a companion book to the series. In other words, it involves the same character, Kyte Webber, but in a short, usually themed, adventure instead of the main series. 

I’ve been blogging for years. I have an active presence on Facebook, but I don’t tweet. I’ve currently trying to find book bloggers and reviewers, but middle grade is a tough nut to crack. Many reviewers will only review a print copy, and many of them won’t touch self-publishing. 

In the past, this was perfectly understandable, but it’s a new world of publishing out there. So many NY Times best-selling authors (J. A. Konrath, Barry Eisler, Connie Brockway) are going rogue, and many self-published authors are going NY (Amanda Hocking). It’s an interesting and turbulent time for publishing. 

Hindsight being what it is, would you do anything differently?

To tell you the truth I wouldn’t trade anything for the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years of rejection. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I wrote romance for six years before I finally admitted to myself that I can’t write romance. I found my writing voice and style when I started writing middle grade, but I had to be comfortable with my writing abilities, strengths AND weaknesses to do it. 

 I still judge numerous writing contests every year because it opens my eyes to my writing flaws. All the query letters that I’ve written, re-written, and wrote from scratch for the umpteenth time for every book I tried to sell (6 of them before GNOME) taught me to write a cover copy. I learned to condense my story into one 25-word logline. And I can write long and short synopses.  

If I didn’t try to play by the game for years, I wouldn’t know how to do this when I self-published—and yes, you do need these skills. The rejections taught me that not everyone will like my stories. It isn’t because they don’t ‘GET’ me, it’s because it isn’t their preference. {shrug} I don’t usually read NYT best-sellers, because they don’t interest me. Same thing.

Are you selling this book exclusively as an ebook? And if so, why?

Yes, I am. Money is a big motivator. I don’t have the kind of cash to fling around to print books, plus hand-selling is overrated. I don’t want to guilt anyone into buying my books, which is why I’m giving away the freebie. If you like my story and want more, you can buy it.

Margaret, I love the cover art--it's so appealing--how did you accomplish that?

I paid someone who is über-talented, Laura Morrigan.

Whiskey Press just hired her to work with them on their covers . . . I just hope she can still help me out!

She did an amazing job!

Thanks Margaret, for giving us insight into self pubbing an e-book for Middle Graders--I think that you're at the leading edge of this trend. Everyone, please leave Margaret a comment or question. She'll be by to respond, and I'm sure that she won't use asdfasdfasdf more than once to duck a hardball question. :)

And, I for one, will be waiting to follow Kyte's further adventures in Margaret's book two of The Goblin's Apprentice: THE FAST AND THE FAERIEOUS!



  1. Thanks again, Margaret! I really do love your advice about having a back list--I think that is what I'm going to say now when people ask why it's taking me so long to get to the next stage. "I'm just creating my back list!"

    The cost of TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME is very reasonable--how did you decide on the price?

    You mentioned something that didn't result in sales of your book--how closely can you track sales?

  2. Thank you, Heather, for having me back. I'm so excited to be here--especially when I read RubixBoy's blog! To have a review posted by my target audience? WOW! I'm totally over the moon!

    Pricing my books was the easy part. I have a Kindle and I'm so sick and tired of publishers trying to make up for their shortfall in print that they jack their e-book prices up to $9.99, when there is virtually zero overhead. Publishers are pricing ABOVE print and that's a problem.

    Amazon has a set royalty point (which is why I can't make my books free on Amazon--$0.99 is the lowest you can price a story) 30% royalty on books below $2.99, and 70% royalty on books above $2.99. Most middle grade stories (print paperback) run about $7.99, so I wanted to make it reasonably priced, but it would also make some money in the long run. My Leprechaun story is a companion tale (same characters/stand alone/themed) that is shorter, thus less expensive at $1.29.

    As a promotional effort, with each Goblin's Apprentice book, I'm also planning to give away a companion title with each book in the series.

    On an aside: I opted to publish my story on Amazon and B & N, independantly from Smashwords--they can do it, but my profit would be 30% from their 30% or 70% net profit. Why would I give my money away?

    I can track sales from my dashboard on three sites (Amazon, B & N, and Smashwords), two clicks and I'm there.

  3. Heather - thanks for hosting Margaret (M.A.) here at your blog.

    Margaret - thanks for all the wonderful advice, and good luck with the books. I know Kyte's a winner!

    My question: how do you manage such a good job of nailing the voice of your target age group?


  4. Easy, Barbara--I never grew up. :-)

    Being an adult is overrated. I just tapped into my memories, read a lot of MG books, watch a lot of cartoons and ran with it . . . but I guess it helps that I have a 10-year-old.

  5. I think it's great that e self publishing is now a viable option. I realize that an Amanda Hocking story is rare but as traditional publishing becomes more and more narrow in what and how many books they'll publish, it's nice to know.

    Best of luck selling this. It'll be interesting to see how MG does out there in the big world.

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Laura!

    Very true about Amanda and publishing in general. MG is slightly different in the electronic marketplace because parents are still picking and choosing their children's books (up to a point), whereas many teens will have more freedom to download YA's without parental influence.

    I think e-publishing for MG is still in its infancy, but kids today are so tech-savvy that it's only a matter of time.

  7. Margaret - LOL Good answer!

    I think anyone who wants to write for kids has to have a little kid inside.

    And I'm sure it does help to have one in the house, too. ;)


  8. Thank you Margaret. I love the cover and wish you wonderful sales figures.
    Are you following Arthur Slade's Ebook Experiment?
    Pen and Ink will be following Lupe Fernandez's book on Kindle as our own experiment. We would love to keep up with the sales figures on yours too.

  9. Thanks, Barbara!

    Thank you so much, Pen and Ink. A spike in sales would be great, but this year is all about getting my books online and available for reading.

    May 1, I plan to have book two, THE FAST AND THE FAERIEOUS up, and in October, book three, FOR WHOM THE BELL TROLLS. Along with these additonal novels, I will publish three or four companion stories.

    Like Arthur Slade said--I'm in it for the long haul. I also agree with him that we are ahead of the MG reading curve for electronic books, but I think it will happen this Christmas rather than his predited two years.

  10. Fun introduction and I'm glad I stopped by for the Challenge!

  11. Where did you come up with that fabulous name for your character? :)

  12. Aloha, Toby! Glad you stopped by.

    Geez, Jods, when will you ever give it up??? Never, I suppose. *shakes head* You are as tenatious as a bulldog.

    Okay, okay, guess I'll have to 'fess up here. My character's name didn't begin as Kyte Webber. It was Puck, then Danica, then Rhee, then I don't know how many more names I pulled out of the air. I was stuck UNTIL Jody beta read GNOME and I told her that I hated my character's name (Webber was OK, but none of the first names worked) and she gifted me with her Dungeons and Dragons persona--Kyte. What's really interesting is how close in personality those characters seemed to be.

    There are you happy now, Jods??

  13. Great interview. I'm a middle grade author too and I hear from many middle grade authors how much harder it is to promote your book on blogs and get buzz about your book. I'm not sure the answer, but we do need to band together.

    Self publishing with e-books is like going into the frontier and I admire you for being one of the first middle grade to do it. I know you said you don't feel like you've done enough marketing, but what are you finding you're able to do that works?

    Your book sounds great. I love fantasy. I don't have an e-reader but am going to start trying to download them to my computer to read a few. Good luck.

  14. This is a super cool interview. Thank you, Margaret, for the honest advice. I love what you said about not publishing that first book. So true. Mine did seem like such an "amazing book" at the time. Ha.

    I'm from Oklahoma, so I always enjoy seeing books set there. And gnomes? Well, we all know, gnomes rock.

    Thank you, Heather, for another great interview.

  15. Hi, Natalie!

    To tell you the truth, I didn't try very hard to find reviewers until yesterday. Being self-published dropped the numbers of possible reviewers, and then add exclusively electronic download, the numbers dropped the percentage even more. Plus very few reviewers will even look at MG--YA yes--but not MG. I managed to get into my local paper (500 K distribution), but it didn't generate any new sales.

    So when I saw my first review by Rubix Boy (an 11-year-old), I FLIPPED!! This was so much better than the newspaper! Adult reviewers are just that--looking at MG with an adult viewpoint. I decided I needed to find kid reviewers for my books. A friend gave a shoutout through various FB pages and I had a few nibbles (one was a teacher who had 150 6-8th graders--some who had e-readers) I'd give them a free download of GNOME, if they promised to put up a review on any or all the sites (Amazon Kindle, B & N Nook, and Smashwords).

    And if I get negative reviews? Well, that comes with the territory, but if there is some commonality in the comments, then I will consider reflecting that in book two of the series, due out May 1.

    Will it result in more sales? I have my doubts, but if kids like the story then they talk about it with their friends, AND every writer knows that word-of-mouth is the best publicity available.

  16. Thank you, Lori!

    When I thought about where I would locate my story--I had the perfect location--though it isn't called Nowhere. My family lived with relatives for three months when we moved back to Oklahoma from California a couple of centuries ago. I was finishing the first grade and I have so many powerful memories of that time and place, I knew it would be perfect. The town is different now, but my memories make it shine again in GNOME.

    If you don't recognize the town from GNOME, you will with FAERIE (book two) as my character mentions a very peculiar landmark.

  17. Great cover and I'll have to check the Gnomes out. :)

  18. That is fantastic cover at, your designer is indeed uber-talened :)

    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  19. Thanks, Charmaine! I tell her every chance I can . . . especially now that she's designing the cover for FAERIE!

  20. Like your "A" word, just wish it was easier to say!

    Great interview. I'm self-publishing later this spring. This stigma is lifting, believe me.

  21. Thank you, M Pax! Sorry this is late, I thought I responded!

    Thanks, Wendy. I agree with you about self-publishing . . . up to a point, as there will always be new writers who aren't ready to publish but they do. Those of us who have been in the trenches, who have a firm WRITERLY support group (family doesn't count) of critiquers/beta readers, who know how to wrap our stories up in 25 words or less and can write back cover blurbs, then those SP writers will succeed.

    As I mentioned in the interview, publishing is going through a turbulant and chaotic time, but I'm excited to be in control of my own career

  22. Heather--I want to thank you again for allowing me to play in your sandbox! As always you are a wonderful host and I had a delightful time here!



  23. Margaret--As always, it is wonderful to have you! You were so gracious in the comments--I wish you the best of luck with your Gnomes, and let me know if I can support you in any other way!!