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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ellis Vidler ~ Square Pegs, Round Holes, and Self-Publishing

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have Ellis Vidler as my guest today.  She is one talented lady, and incredibly nice to boot. What a combination.
Ellis lives and writes in South Carolina ~ Piedmont (which is what the upstate, northwestern part of the state is referred as.) She's also an editor and has taught fiction writing. Her books, available at, are suspense with varying degrees of romance.
She maintains a blog, mostly about writing and writers, at
Please join me in welcoming Ellis to An Indie Adventure.
Square Pegs, Round Holes, and Self-Publishing

One of the reasons I chose to self-publish my new book is that I’m not a genre purist.
Back when I was submitting to agents, I got many compliments on the writing, the characters, and so on. But then they asked for changes to better fit the genre, or they rejected it outright, saying it wouldn’t be marketable as either romance or suspense, because it either had too much or too little of whatever. My square pegs didn’t fit their round holes. This went on for several years, and I got discouraged, to say the least. 

Link to Book
Then Amazon opened my eyes. I self-published The Peeper, a police procedural/suspense (with a little romance) with Jim Christopher, a retired LEO  and my co-author. It got good reviews and sold reasonably well—a very encouraging development.(An aside here: LEO...Law Enforcement Officer, who knew~L.A.)

Link to Book
I was about to self-publish Cold Comfort, another suspense novel with “strong romantic elements,” when I met Karen Syed of Echelon Press. Fortunately, she’s not a genre hardliner. She released it last December because the heroine owns a Christmas shop, but that meant a year’s wait for me. I no longer have that kind of patience.
So now I’m committed to self-publishing. As long as we have the ability and means to ensure that it’s a quality publication, I’m for it. I have several readers who point out errors, plot holes, and factual mistakes in my books.
Time of Death had all of those—everything from a character picking up a pack of cigarettes in a store (I didn’t realize they’re kept behind the counter now) to one of the dreaded TSTL moments for my heroine. I hope I and my readers spotted them all. I know it’s a much better book now, but a few glitches always slip through. (Another aside:TSTL...Too Stupid To Live)
Link to Book
 Self-publishing still carries a stigma.
One reason is that many authors put their book out as soon as it’s completed, not realizing it needs serious, honest input from others. We can’t view our babies objectively—you know the old saw: “Every old crow thinks hers is the prettiest in the patch.” True. We do. We see what we think we typed, we’re convinced it all makes sense because we know the story, and we include “facts” we’re so sure of we don’t bother to check them.

The article on covers featured on this blog a few weeks ago offered some excellent advice. Covers are extremely important, even more so with eBooks. Try for a professional-looking cover that speaks for your book—it’s worth it. And make sure it looks good as a thumbnail. That’s how most readers first see it.

So hooray for Amazon and self-publishing! Let us not abuse the opportunity. J

Leslie, I love your new book, Dare to Believe. Good story!

Thanks for having me today.

Thank you, Ellis, for your candor.  And lucky us, she's giving a copy, either digital or print of Time of Death to one lucky person who leaves a comment.
And lucky us again, there will be an excerpt from this book on Saturday the 8th. 
Comments from this post and the excerpt will be entered in the drawing.   


Ellis Vidler said...

Leslie, thanks for having me today. I appreciate the opportunity and the chance to explain my views on self-publishing.


Ellis Vidler said...

I almost forgot--include your email address if you'd like a chance to win a copy of Time of Death, eBook or print.

Morgan Mandel said...

Great points, Ellis! I'm one of those who won't wait anymore to get a book published when I can do it myself with the aid of my editor and book designer.
Great cover!

Morgan Mandel

Karalee Long said...

I agree with Ellis. Some of the most interesting books are ones that don't fit an established genre. Self-publishing offers a choice"outside the box." Thanks Leslie Ann and Ellis.
Karen Graffenberger aka Karalee Long

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Ellis, I'm so pleased you're here today. I hadn't thought of time factor as a reason to publish Indie, I was more in the camp of not specifically fitting a genre.

But you're right, it takes a long time to go the traditional route with most publishers. I've become impatient too.

Now, I write, get it to my beta readers, then editor, then fix all, and it's out!

And I'm not rushing. Good content, as you said, makes us all look better.

Great points you've made.


Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Hey Morgan,
So true. It's a huge world out there with incredible opportunities. I think we're wise to go out and grab them.

Glad you're here.


Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Karen, aka Karalee,
Thanks for being with us today.

What are your plans for your books?


Ellis Vidler said...

Morgan, I'm with you--I don't want to wait three or four years, and if I do a bad job, readers will let me know.

Ellis Vidler said...

Karalee, I've read many good books that don't fit the genre. Most are self-published because of it. There's nothing at all wrong with fitting in, but we shouldn't be limited to it. I hate to think of all I'd have missed if authors confined themselves to the guidelines.

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

You're right. The marketplace lets us know.

That's why it's so important to put out your best work each time, IMHO.

And hopefully I get better and better with each book.


Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Caveat to last post:
I had a friend who was waiting and waiting to submit her work, making it the best it could be, she never submitted and gave up.

Getting it the best it can be at that moment in your life.

Don't wait forever. You do get better, and that can happen with your next book and next.


Polly Iyer said...

I'm with Ellis all the way. After two years with an agent who couldn't sell my ill-fitting pegs, I also went the self-published route, and I'm thrilled I did. Being a former illustrator, I persisted to learn how to do my own covers, and that's almost as much fun as writing the books. I do think agents and editors limit themselves by insisting books fit a formula, because it keeps them from discovering "original" work.

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Hi Polly,

Yes, those publisher's formulas that have worked in past...well, they may not be working so well now, at least from all the news articles I'm reading.

It's a big world out there, and we're going for it.

I like your covers, I didn't realize you'd done them yourself. I'm envious you're an illustrator. My drawings... think stick figures.


Ellis Vidler said...

Leslie, IMO, there's no such thing as a perfect book. Some are better than others, certainly, but writers grow and develop as they write new books--at least we hope we do. You can definitely wait too long and polish your manuscript until all the sparkle and freshness is gone. It's always a judgment call, but use beta readers and insist they be honest. That's the best way I can think of.

Ellis Vidler said...

Polly, in business all you hear is "Think outside the box," but it does seem as if too many agents are afraid to do that. I expect they worry about their jobs and the rules they're supposed to go by. So yay for Amazon! They (and others) set us free. :-)

Ellis Vidler said...

Leslie, Few of us are capable of drawing or painting our covers. Most of us use photographs or, depending on the tone and type of book, clip art. But it's just as much or more fun than illustrating.
Now, if I were a terrific artist, it would be a different story.

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Covers are so important.

As you mentioned in your post, Ellis, I had Vince Mooney do a post on just what cover art needs to accomplish, and I changed my cover using thoughts from his blog.

I actually send my cover artist, Neringa, an idea I've come up with using clip art etc, and the water color snippet that has become my brand.

She puts it all together in the right way, b/c I'm not great at photoshop...yet, and then we fine tune it.

I love that part of creating the the entire package that becomes "the book." It's such a visual representation of the story.

Ellis Vidler said...

Leslie, Unless I know the author or am looking for a particular title I've heard about, covers are the biggest reason I look at a book. I do read the first few pages before I buy, but I probably wouldn't get that far if the cover didn't attract me.

Neringa said...

Ellis and LA,

I love articles that bring an attitude of uniqueness. Isn't that what we write-- our point of view? It is all about communicating with people... I love that...

And the cover is the very first emotional connection to the reader/audience. It has to visualize that connection to the author's storyline... bravo to you both!

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

You understand covers, and design beautiful covers for me. It is an emotional connection on some level that makes a reader stop and look, then hopefully read some, then buy.

It's our first impression.


Theresa said...

Hi Ellis,
I really think the stigma of self-publishing is lessoning a great deal. It is unfortunate that everybody doesn't take the time to really polish their books and get them professionally edited.
I went to a couple of workshops by Mark Coker--head of Smashwords, who commented that the one regret he has is that his company has no quality control. People put stuff out that isn't ready.
And Leslie, you're so right about how important covers are!
Mark's presentation convinced me to self-publish and I'm really looking forward to sharing my work with others, finally! This digital boom really is the best thing to happen to authors, I think.

BTW, just go news last night that Mark Coker will be speaking at the June 21-23 2013 Crested Butte Writers Conference, so looking forward to hearing his new statistics on self-publishing!
Thanks for sharing your journey, Ellis!

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Hi Ms Fellow Five Scriber...Theresa

How exciting that Mark Coker is going to speak at the Crested Butte Writers Conference, hmmm, I may have to come for this one. We'll talk :)

And I'm so pleased you're going to Indie publish this year, you have incredible stories that really may not fit in a round hole or a square peg, but will find an eager audience nevertheless.

Do us all a favor and post the link to the CB conference in another comment, okay?


Ellis Vidler said...

Ah, Neringa, you must have done the beautiful watercolor on Dare to Believe. Wish I could do that. It really is gorgeous. I think the cover needs to speak to the reader too. The first impression is vital.

Ellis Vidler said...

Theresa, I've heard Mark Coker gives excellent talks. I'm glad he inspired you.

Digital and POD printing has opened a whole new world, and I believe it's the best thing that's happened to writers in a long time.

I'm looking forward to your book!

Theresa said...

Hi Leslie,
I haven't gotten 2013 info up there yet--my webmaster is running behind and we're still adding speakers, so all the content will be last years, but it'll give you an idea of what is to come.

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Actually Ellis, Jackie Horii who lives in Hawaii is doing all the watercolors.

Neringa is the very clever woman who puts it all together and makes my brand stay consistent. And she does all the sizing necessary for the different "vendors". Frankly, I couldn't do it without her.

So I guess I have two artists :-)


Ellis Vidler said...

Wow, Leslie, you're a fortunate woman! Two artists. They both do a good job, too. I like the water color swatch on Stone of Heaven. Is it the same as here on your blog? Good colors.

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Good eye, Ellis!

Yes it is.

It's so perfect for Stone of Heaven and the colors so bold, like us Indie pubs, it had to go on the blog as well.

I'll post the whole watercolor some time, it's really stunning.

Ellis Vidler said...

Good, Leslie, I'd like to see it.

Audra Harders said...

Ellis, what an inspiring post. So glad you shared journey.

I agree with the Indie Publishing route. Let's face it, there are so many great books out there ie, Dare To Believe, and only so many slots the traditional house have to fill. Why can't all the great books find a home in publishing?

I also agree with your comment of needing other sets of trusted eyes on your manuscript before offering it to the masses. This is only smart editing. I know I get too close to my own work to see it objectively. In a market as competitive as publishing, you must offer the best product you can right off the bat.

Great post. You've confirmed that it's a great time to be an author!

Audra Harders said...

Leslie, thank you for hosting such great guests on your blog. Ellis has wonderful insight as did Vince Mooney.

Thanks for sharing all your resources with us!

Ellis Vidler said...

Audra, thanks for stopping by. I think most of us get too close to our stories and love our characters too much to see the problems. It certainly applies to me.
We may not agree with a suggested fix when someone points out something, but it should at least make us analyze the problem. Often hard to do though. :-)

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Eliis,
I'm late, but I'm finally here. You make a great case for indie publishing and I recognize the talent of your cover artist. Your cover has an edgy look, which is a big help in catching people's eyes.

You make a good point of making sure you have combed through the story enough times to make it a smooth read. As a reader, there's nothing I hate more than a book chock full of mistakes.

Great post!


Lisa Potocar said...

We're thrilled, Leslie Ann, that you’re hosting and exposing us to the wonderful writing of Ellis Vidler. Her excerpt and book cover are amazing. She makes a great point of which ALL aspiring authors should be aware: Whether you’re submitting to an agent, editor or for self-publication, make sure your story is polished to the very best it can be. This means having the support of readers who can be depended upon to catch flaws in your writing and story. If these same flaws are not caught and slip past even an agent or editor and make it to print, they either can’t be rescinded or are very costly to rescind. One little error can ruin an author's credibility. BTW, L.A.’s blogs from a few weeks ago (November 1 and November 18) on a book cover art’s impact on sales were a must for anyone designing their own!

Anyway, I wish you, Ellis Vidler, the very best in your journey with "Time of Death." It looks like a bestseller to me, and I can't wait to read it. Sign me up for a chance to win. My email address is:

Ellis Vidler said...

Maggie, thanks. I hope my books read smoothly, but there's always something. Usually those things only show up after it's published.
And thanks for the nice words about the cover. I'm the artist (she said modestly). :-)

Ellis Vidler said...

Lisa, Thank you! I'd love for ToD to be a bestseller, but it has a little way to go.
I thought L.A.'s posts on covers were excellent and copied them to keep. Since I do my own covers now, I need to remember those things.

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

I didn't realize you did this cover. Why I don't know, but I didn't. Did you do all yours?


Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Always better late than never :)

I can't wait to read ToD. And I love the cover.

You're so right, mistakes can kill even the best of books. They stop me every time.


Leslie Ann aka LA said...

You make me blush. I've had great guest bloggers and it's been a treat to host them.


Ellis Vidler said...

L.A., I did this one, Tea in the Afternoon, and The Peeper. Anne Cain, a terrific cover artist, did Haunting Refrain, and Karen Syed, the publisher, did Cold Comfort.
I expect to do them all from now on. I have too much fun to let someone else do them. :-)

Ellis Vidler said...

We have a winner! Theresa won the book givewaway. Theresa, let me know what you want, print or Kindle, Cold Comfort or Time of Death. Email me at ellis [at] ellisvidler [dot] com