Welcome to Creating Perfection, Michelle and thank you for agreeing to share your self-publishing journey with us.
Would you please introduce yourself to my readers and tell us when your journey began please …
My name is Michelle P. Tonnesen and I write under M.P. Tonnesen. I live with my family on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, but am originally from Denmark. Words and playing with them have always been a great interest of mine. I am a linguist at heart, grew up in a bilingual family, and speak four languages. I have written for many years, but it was primarily non-fiction; academic papers and corporate communication.
About ten years ago I had a career break during which I reflected on what to do with my life and what would bring me happiness – a lot like Chloe, the protagonist in my debut novel. I did not have the courage or financial stability back then to take that first step which I was finally able to do years later – starting with a few scribbles in a notebook and a writing course at London School of Journalism which whet my appetite further. When I moved to the island it opened the door for me to the opportunity of being more serious about my writing. I was lucky to become a writer here for business and lifestyle magazines, alongside working on my novels and running my consulting business.
Tell us about where you are on your self-publishing journey right now in terms of books published, where you publish etc.
I have just published my second novel – Desert Skies, Rebel Souls. Like my debut novel – The Cosmopolitan Islander – I went through Amazon’s company CreasteSpace to ensure professional and consistent formatting. I’m no tech wizard, and a fellow writer recommended that I paid the fee to let someone else handle it. You still have to be vigilant when you review the proof copy as things can go wrong – especially in the process of converting from paperback to e-book. With my second novel I decided to go wider with my distribution channels and opted for Pronoun after a year of deliberation. Unfortunately, they decided to shut down shop three days after I published through them! I have just transferred to Draft2Digital who supply all the main outlets too like Apple iBooks, Kobo and Barnes & Noble. I believe the majority of my sales will still come via Amazon, but it’s comforting to not have all your eggs in one basket. My first novel is still exclusively with Amazon, but I will opt out of Kindle Unlimited in the new year and distribute it via D2D too. KU initially gave some page reads, but it’s few and far between now and the reward is miniscule. The main upside has been the Kindle Countdown promotions which I have been able to run through this scheme.
When publishing my first novel, I also quickly learnt that if you want to be in the bookshops (particularly in the UK), you have to be distributed through Ingram. They will not even touch your book otherwise. Unlike the local independent bookshops here on the island, which I supply directly myself with paperbacks I have had printed at a UK printing house.
If you choose the expanded distribution option through Amazon, your book will be listed in Ingram’s system, but they convert the USD price straight to GBP to accommodate shipping, taxes etc. which makes your book’s price uncompetitive. Thus, I opted out of the expanded distribution and set up my title with Ingram. I haven’t had many sales through this channel, but I believe that was mainly because I got the process wrong with my first book. Lesson learned! Hopefully, now that my new title is set up with Ingram I can start knocking on the doors of independent UK bookshops again and get on their bookshelves.
Why did you choose to self-publish?
One of the things holding me back from starting writing years ago was the worry of not being accepted by a publisher and the struggle to get past the piles of other manuscripts and rejection letters, through that tiny keyhole to become a published author. Luckily, things have changed so much in the industry over the last 10 years with the advent of the e-book making publishing much more accessible. This does not mean self-publishing is the easy route! It was definitely a steep learning curve. The publishing world in itself was completely new to me. And with so much happening over the last five to ten years in terms of e-books and self-publishing, there is a lot to get your head around. Editing, formatting, covers, copyrights, printing, pricing, marketing, sales, distribution – you have to manage it all yourself as an author when you choose this path. Or you choose which elements you need to and can afford to outsource to professionals, like editing and book cover design. There are lots of new challenges and potential pitfalls every day! Plus, self-publishing is not the gold rush it initially was. There are so many self-published books out there now of varying quality, it can be very difficult to stand out from the crowd. We can’t all be Hugh Howey (Wool trilogy), Andy Weir (The Martian) or E.L. James (Fifty Shades trilogy) – but it is inspirational to see how far these indie authors have come (NYT and USA Today bestsellers and movie deals).
What’s best thing about self-publishing?
You have (almost) complete control over the process from start to end. There are still elements out of your control when you start engaging with the distributors which can be frustrating, but in general you can choose anything from cover and trim size to price and marketing.
And the worst?
You have to be a one-person army! It can be overwhelming some days and costly too, but the reward in the end is incredibly gratifying – not necessarily financially, but definitely in the sense of achievement.
Also, it’s close to impossible to get your foot in the door of the big bookshop chains. Their book buying process is very centralised and bureaucratic. So even if you have a great chat with a local manager, the final decision is out of their hands, unfortunately. Believe me, I have physically knocked on the doors of every major bookshop in London and of their local branches here on the island too, plus filled out all the forms and played by all the rules in their book, but alas. Maybe one day 😉
Some days you feel like a disillusioned prostitute, desperately trying to sell your goods with all the charm and sales spiel you can muster. Other days you are the queen of the world because you made thirty sales in a day or just got another five-star review!
A journey into the unknown. A rebellion against family, culture and society. A love against all odds.
From Scandinavia to the Middle East, a young woman travels to discover herself and finds a world of passion and history, war and peace. A whirlwind romance takes a dramatic turn, leaving Olivia caught between countries, belonging nowhere, and with the love of her life in danger far away.
From the award-winning author of The Cosmopolitan Islander comes an uplifting tale of adventure, conflict and reconciliation that never shies away from brutal reality, yet sparkles with the sheer love of life.
Desert Skies, Rebel Souls is a bittersweet coming-of-age story set under the desert sky against the backdrop of music of the nineties and stunning scenery – to be enjoyed by adventurous globetrotters and readers longing to escape.
“M.P. Tonnesen has created something really beautiful in Desert Skies, Rebel Souls – a flowing, immersive narrative with a warm heart, gorgeous settings and a feeling of youth, optimism and zest for life.”
Freda Warrington, author of the Blood Wine series.
Twitter and Instagram: @mptonnesen
Find out more at http://www.mptonnesen.com