Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Anita Miller and Her 99 Cent E-books

December brings with it so many things. An end to a month long marathon of writing for many, a festival of lights, and a jolly old man dressed in red delivering presents. A sense of wonder and magic. Snuggled securely between Thanksgiving and New Years, December is a celebration. A celebration of the people in our lives who are doing great things.

In this vein, I bring to you a Friday Feature with Anita. I feel honored to count Anita a friend. I have always found her blog posts succinct, thoughtful, and interesting. I love her point of view. So it was no surprise to me that I would love her books.

Anita Laydon Miller is the author of two $.99 ebooks for kids ages 8-12, EARTHLING HERO and A SCARY GOOD BOOK. Anita is also the book columnist for the COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE and is working on her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction.

Anita, welcome back! Bring us up to speed on what has happened to you since we last checked in, in March, 2010. Has it really been that long?

Egads! What hasn’t happened?! I found an agent, started an MFA, dropped an agent, independently epublished two books, and survived dengue fever. It’s been awesome.

A whirlwind, for sure! Everything sounds awesome except for the bout with the fever. Although I'm sure that is fodder for some book down the road. Tell me about the epubbing. How’s that been?

I think what most people want to know is have I sold any books. Well, my CEO (Husband) and I have done a horrible job of keeping track of sales. We’ve got four mouths to feed and gardens to take care of, and hairs to shave, buuut, I will say I’ve sold at least several hundred books. I sell books every day…though in October there were some Saturdays in which I didn’t sell any. Weird.

The short answer is that epubbing has been a blast. I’m selling books to people I don’t know. And while I haven’t gotten a ton of reviews, the ones I have gotten are pretty darn good. And I don’t think I’ve had any relatives post reviews. I’m going old-school that way.

Also, my ebooks are for kids ages 8-12, middle grade. Everybody keeps saying that’s the toughest emarket right now. I hope to kick some serious butt this Christmas and prove “everybody” wrong.

Anita, I think it is so awesome that you are finding success selling ebooks to the Middle Grade crowd. What are your books about?

First, let me say the books are $.99 each. They’re worth more, but it’s not about the money for me. Frankly, I grew up without a lot of cash and was very happy. And my family’s comfortable now, so I’m even happier. I’m not trying to pay the mortgage with my ebooks. Of course, I’d love to sell millions…who wouldn’t?…so maybe I should get back to the question.

EARTHLING HERO is a sci fi. A boy, Mikey, wakes up in the middle of the night and a kid’s standing next to his bed. The kid looks exactly like Mikey. Turns out it’s his alien clone, and together (with the help of the clone’s sister), they’ve got to save the world. There’s a lot of adventure in the book…Mikey and his clone break into NORAD, fight Chinese assassins and search for an evil alien’s lair in the Garden of the Gods. Cool stuff.

A SCARY GOOD BOOK is a mystery. A girl, Hannah, finds secret messages in library books--words underlined by someone who needs her help. This is the kind of book I loved as a girl. It’s got mystery, creepiness, and a touch of romance. And lots of plot layers.

Anita--I know you always have something amazing in the works. What are you working on right now?

I just finished the first draft of a YA. It's difficult for me to to talk about, because a high school friend of mine just killed himself, and suicide is a big theme in the YA.

Last year, 867 people committed suicide in my home state of Colorado. I knew this was an issue and I wanted to write a powerful book about it...a powerful book that would not OVERpower.

So I have this teenage girl, Olivia, who moves to Colorado from Buffalo with her mom. They move into a home that belonged to Olivia's grandfather, who recently died. The home is on a large piece of land with a cliff at the back. People from all over the region have, over time, come to commit suicide at the cliff. Olivia's grandfather saved hundreds of people who came to the cliff to die. He leaves Olivia five stories about specific jumpers and asks her in a letter to take over his job of saving people.

The girl wakes up her first morning after reading the letter and sees a boy at the cliff. She thinks he's a jumper and she runs outside to try to stop him. Only he isn't jumping, he's just visiting the spot where his brother jumped the year before. Olivia and the boy, Noah, fall for each other.

So, the book is about all sorts of things...suicide, yes, but also love and forgiveness and hope. I balance the serious themes with what I'm hoping is genuine humor. I absolutely love this book. It means a lot to me.

That sounds equally intense and wonderful, Anita. I can’t wait to read it. Any last words?

Just that this is an awesome time to be a writer. There are so many options, so many opportunities. I say, let’s embrace them all, see what good words we can throw out to readers. Let’s do this, people!

Let’s do this is right! Thanks Anita, for the fab interview. And I’m sure that everyone has burning questions for Anita about her books and how she epubbed them. Feel free to give Anita support in the comment section, or ask her a questions. She’ll stop by and give us her insight.

Want to give Anita other kinds of love?
Here’s the link love:
Anita’s Blog
Her Middle Grade Blog
Anita’s Website
Buy Page for Anita’s 99 Cent Books

Oh, and after you ask Anita a question in the comments, and check out her books and blogs, make sure to stop by Lynn’s blog to help Anita come up with a new character name!


  1. Great update. Wonderful news on the sales, Anita. Hope Christmas brings lots more. :)

    And the YA sounds powerful. Good luck with it!

  2. I hope you sell millions, Anita!

    Also, wow, your YA sounds amazing and touching and unique. Hugs to you on your recent loss.

  3. Yes, how long until revision, Anita? What is your process like? Is it part of an MFA project?

    Great interview, both of you. Thanks as always, Heather!

  4. Thanks, Laura, Kelly and Tina for the sweet comments! Nice question, Tina.

    Anita--I want to hear about the highest high and lowest low of your publishing journey thus far. :)

  5. Anita, your YA sounds awesome!! VEry original.

    Best of luck to you!


  6. LAURA: Thanks for all your support. The process has been a good one for me. I've been seeing a big increase in sales over the last week or so. I think parents must be pre-loading the Kindle and Nook Christmas gifts.

    KELLY: Thanks for the hugs!

    TINA: I wanted to put the YA away for a month and then come back and revise, buuut, I waited about two hours and have started revisions. The love story between these two kids is So Much Fun. I know the underlying theme is a tough one, but there's lots of humor in the book, too. My MFA mentor has helped make sure I balance everything...looking forward to discussing MFAs soon on your blog!

  7. HEATHER: My highs are always very personal. They usually come from writing a really awesome sentence. In my YA, Noah writes Olivia a poem. He doesn't write poetry, so the poem itself is weak, but later in the book, a sentence comes up that sort of refers back to the poem and is one of those things that makes you go, "Niiice," when, as a writer, you read it. When I write things like that, I almost feel like I didn't write them...have you had anything like that happen?
    Low point: Hmmm...let me think on that one and come back to it later. I'm one of those people who'll be puking and kind of laughing about it at the same time, so I see humor in almost anything. My low points are fierce, but they last about two minutes.

    And THANK YOU for bringing me back here...the place looks've done some wonderful things here!

  8. STORYQUEEN: I love my YA. It is so special to me. Next week, I'll post the first chapter or two on my blog. The rhythm of the writing is much different than I've ever used. I wrote the first five chapters or so in third person past tense at first, and then changed the whole thing to first person present tense.

  9. Antia, I always love hearing how self-pubbing is going for you. I love the concept of the YA. I can't wait to read it!

  10. ANSHA: Thank you! I love writing about self-pubbing. :) I'm still trying decide whether to indie pub the YA or to look for an agent. This Christmas season...the # of sales I get on the MGs...will help me make that decision.

  11. great interview! Thanks for sharing.

  12. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. Your new YA sounds intriguing, can't wait to read it.

  13. STEVEN: My pleasure! I'll come check out your blog soon.

    ANITA: Thank you for your kind words. The people left behind from suicide have so much to deal with. It takes a special grace to get beyond the pain and guilt. The characters in the YA are working through all that while still trying to be kids. I'll let you know when it's all done and where I'm putting it!

  14. I'm jumping in as Anita's mentor in her MFA program at Seton Hill Un. Her work-in-progress is a page turner with clear, fresh teen narrative (VOICE in fiction parlance). I'm proud to be working with her! Leslie

  15. LESLIE: Thank you so much for stopping by! You have been such a help to me...shown me so many simple ways to improve my writing.

  16. So great! I love to hear about your success, Anita... and as MG / YA writer who intends to self-pub, I'm so glad to hear the ebooks are selling. It's SUCH an exciting time to be a writer. Sorry to hear of your friend. Suicide, I think, will always grab us by the heart strings and tug til we feel like we can't breathe. I think it's a really important topic for teens too... and your new book sounds awesome! Best of luck!!!!

  17. Fascinating!! Looking forward to your YA and wondering if my 7 yo would be interested in one of your books on our ipad....

  18. Awesome interview Anita and Heather. And thanks Anita for answering our burning question about whether you're selling books. You're an author and psychic.

  19. PK: Thanks for your kind words! And good luck with your self-pubbing efforts.

    CHRISTINA: Maybe read the samples and see what you and your 7yo think? I'm sure you'd like them...I've had a few families tell me they read them aloud together, which is pretty cool.

    NATALIE: I always want to know the sales figures, so thought you all would, too. I wonder if I could sell psychic abilities on Amazon. :)

  20. Wow, your YA novel sounds like a winner, Anita. I'm looking forward to reading it. And I hope your book sales prove everyone wrong who says it's not a good market right now for middle grade eBooks!

    Wonderful interview, Heather and Anita!

  21. LYNNERD: I had a great time at your blog and got together a list of character names that I'm seriously considering. Thanks for having me there!

  22. wow, 99 cents? really? Is this typical in the e-pub world? it seems like such a pittance for the labor of love you've begotten. How'd you decide on that price? What made you break in to the e-publishing world, or is this a chapter sort of move from the standard hard copy?

  23. Congrats, Anita. I hope your sales continue to rock the chart. And I'm sorry about your friend. Suicide is really, really, really tough to reconcile!

  24. Anita will be on my blog on Wednesday, 12/7, and I just wanted to say 'hi'!

    By the way, anecdotally, I've heard a lot of people say their kids are getting e-readers this year. Nothing scientific, but I think it bodes well for Anita and other who are self-pubbing for the middle grade and young adult market!

  25. KYLA: I've got an EARTHLING HERO sequel in the works and may sell the second in the series for $2.99. It's a balancing act, trying to figure out how to price...too high and people won't buy from a no-name, too low and I'm not making any money. Honestly, though, what I really want right now is just to get my name out there and for people to read my's not about the money.

    KITTIE: Thank you...I truly love to hear the kind words I've gotten here. :)

    KRISTINE: I many Kindle purchases this year! Yay! I hope I get some!