Indie Authors

The Quick Six – with Sara Whitford

Welcome to this week’s The Quick Six – an ongoing series of posts, where I interview independent authors on their self-publishing stories, using six quick questions to gain insight into their processes, thoughts and works.

This week, I’m interviewing Sara Whitford – a stay-at-home, work-at-home, homeschooling mom living on the North Carolina coast, who also juggles work as a web designer and part-time magazine editor.

Sara Whitford - The Smuggler's Gambit

I first met Sara through the monthly writing challenge and was impressed with her support and encouragement of writers and self-publishers. Sara has recently published her first novel –  The Smuggler’s Gambit – the story of 17-year-old Adam Fletcher, who upon being bound into an apprenticeship finds himself a pawn in the middle of a smuggling war.


1. What has been the most rewarding thing about self-publishing?

​My first novel, The Smuggler’s Gambit, is only up for pre-order now. It won’t debut until March 20, so my answer may change once my book is in public circulation, but for now, I’d have to say the most rewarding thing about self-publishing is tied directly into the reason I did it in the first place. I wanted total control over my own creative work.

Let me put it this way: As much work, as much research, as much heart, as much everything that goes into creating something like a novel—I just can’t see doing all of that and then signing the rights over to a publishing house so that they can pay me a fraction of what the book is bringing in. Not to mention, the only deadlines I had were those I imposed upon myself. I designed the cover art for my book. I did the layout for the interior. I hired my copy editor. I developed the website for the book series—all on my own. It’s a labor of love for me. There was no one else standing over me telling me what to do and when, and I think that was​ the most rewarding aspect. Total control, which also means whether my book really takes off, or whether it tanks, I will know that, by God’s grace, I was able to bring it all together and make it happen. I was able to create something that’s never been in the world before—this unique story, with these unique characters, and the circumstances they live through.

2. What has been the most challenging thing about self-publishing?

​The most challenging thing about self-publishing is ​the same thing that makes it rewarding. Total control. That also means the pressure is on. You have to not only make sure you turn out a great story that’s clean, well-edited and with a nice layout and cover, you also have to do the work of marketing the thing. Then again, I’ve heard from some traditionally published friends that even authors who have books with the big publishing houses—unless they’re already bestsellers—have to do a lot of the marketing for the books on their own… so maybe that’s not unique to self-publishing.

I do know that once my book launches in a few weeks, I’m going to have to do some public events—things like mini-lectures with question and answer sessions at the end, along with a book signing. I have to confess, I don’t mind promoting my stuff online all day long, but when it comes to getting out in public, it’s a struggle. I’m pretty introverted, as writers can often be, and so it takes a lot out of me to do public speaking—at least I’ve found that to be the case in the past when I’ve done local history lectures.

3. What have you learned during the process that you wish you had known from the start?

​I wish I had realized that writing the first draft really is just getting the basic story down. It’s not meant to be anywhere near perfect, and it will go through so many revisions, and then hopefully a good copy edit. The final product will be quite different from that initial draft.​ I am glad that I learned a great technique very early on in producing my first draft. I call it “writing as if.” I won’t elaborate on that here, but if anyone is interested, I have a post about it on my website.

4. Who or what has been your biggest source of help or inspiration?

​I have a son who’s nearly twelve. He’s a huge inspiration to me—in fact, I dedicated my book to him. I hope that it will show him that if you set a goal and you are willing to work hard to achieve it, then Lord willing, you can make it happen.​

I’ve also had some great motivation along the way from the community, in fact, that’s how we met, Mikhaeyla.

As far as help, I have had two very good author friends who have both been a tremendous help to me: Terrance Zepke and Kevin Duffus. Terrance has had lots of advice for me relating to the publishing industry and the business of actually producing my novel. Kevin is a very knowledgeable historian when it comes to North Carolina coastal history. He has been there answering any of my questions along the way about historical details in the novel.

5. What do you think the future holds for indie authors and self-publishing?

​I am so excited about the future for indie authors and self-publishing. And along with that, I’m even excited about what this will mean for traditional publishers and their relationships with authors. As time goes on, traditional publishers are going to have to work a lot harder to convince authors to sign on the dotted line.

Things are so much easier now—especially with the print-on-demand services by CreateSpace and IngramSpark—that there’s really nothing holding anyone back these days from being a published author.

Some say that ends up creating far too much inferior work for readers to wade through, but I am a big believer in the idea of the cream rising to the top. I think good books will be enjoyed by readers. And readers will see to it that those books are successful. Of course it’s also on the indie author to make sure folks know about their book. With the ease of creating websites these days, and all of the social media outfits where you can enjoy all kinds of free publicity and interaction with potential readers—there is no excuse for people to not know about your self-published books.​

6. What is your published work about and why are people going to love it? 

​The Smuggler’s Gambit is the first book of the Adam Fletcher series. The back of the book blurb describes it like this:

Port Beaufort, North Carolina — May 1765When 17-year-old Adam Fletcher is forced into an apprenticeship, he unwittingly becomes a pawn in a smuggling war.Soon, he’s forced to make a tough decision. Will he agree to become a spy performing a civic duty to the Crown? Or will he risk everything — possibly even putting his own family in danger — to protect his new master?Secrets will be revealed, loyalties will be questioned, betrayals will be uncovered, and a young man’s character will be put to the test in The Smuggler’s Gambit.

Why are people going to love it? Well, it remains to be seen whether or not they will, but I can tell you that I love this story and these characters. It is a mild adventure—at least compared to the wild circumstances Adam will find himself in in book 2, Captured in the Caribbean. ​In The Smuggler’s Gambit, the action builds slowly as the full cast of characters is introduced, but once the ball starts rolling, readers aren’t going to believe how things turn out!

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