You used to go by Michelle Davidson Argyle and now you go by Michelle D. Argyle. How come?

As funny as it sounds, I feel that Michelle D. Argyle is more manageable on my covers since it’s not so long. Okay, so it’s still long, but not as dreadfully long with the Davidson in there. It’s also easier for people to remember. If I ever publish with a large publisher, I’ll probably stick with Michelle Davidson or Michelle Argyle, no middle in there.

What genre do you write?

I’m currently in a contemporary Young Adult and New Adult streak. Some of my past work is in the adult genre.

When is your next book coming out?

No books are currently set for release at this time. Check back here, or sign up for my newsletter to be the first to know when another book will be released!

What are you working on now?

I am currently drafting a YA sci-fi suspense about cyborgs.

Do you outline your books before you write them?

It depends on what you mean by outline. I loosely “figure out” a book before I write it, and often use the Save The Cat method, as well as several other writing methods all combined into a crazy mess that works for me. I do a lot of research beforehand, and I build a basic road map of what might or might not happen all the way to the ending. I usually tear up that road map by the time I’m finished writing the book. The story always takes on a life of its own, which is how it should be.

Can you send me a signed copy of any of your books?

Maybe! Visit my MDA Books Storefront to see what I have in stock. I take payments through the site and/or PayPal.

Do you have an agent?

I currently do not have a literary agent.

Are you independently published?

Yes, I am. After my publisher closed their doors, I re-published my work under the imprint MDA Books. For now, I plan to keep publishing under this imprint until I feel the need to move on to other publishing avenues. I do everything professionally, from hiring my editor to using a professional distributor and press for my print copies.

I’m writing a book! Will you read and critique my manuscript?

I’m sorry, but my time is very limited. I do, however, sometimes offer contests for full manuscript critiques. Subscribe To My Newsletter to get updates on these contests.

I’m working on my first book. What should I do once I’m finished?

First of all, congratulations! Starting your first novel is a huge step that most people who say they want to write a novel never do. Some writers need some nudging along the way, but I suggest not letting too many people read your work while it’s in first draft form. Too many cooks in the kitchen can be really overwhelming. Finish it and then think about securing some experienced beta readers for the first draft.

Many writers will tell you that first novels are terrible — that none of them are good. I might say the same thing except that I do believe every novel has potential no matter how bad you think it might be. If you think the first draft of your first novel is the most brilliant piece of work to grace the literary realm, you’re most likely wrong, but who am I to tell you your book isn’t great? It might be! Or it most likely needs a lot of work and attention. Everyone is different, and every book is different.

My suggestion is to First, finish your book and then secure your beta readers and get their feedback and critiques. Second, keep your mind open to revisions and change and criticism. One of the most valuable things I’ve ever learned as a writer is that absolutely nothing is set in stone when it comes to stories. Everything can change, and only a good writer willing to change their stories to make them better will succeed and grow. Third, research! If you haven’t already, read other writing blogs, agent blogs, publisher blogs. Read as many good books as you can. Go to writing conferences. Study the craft of storytelling and writing as much as you possibly can. Eat and drink it. Fourth, set aside your third or fourth draft of that first novel and write another novel. Then write another one. Your first book may be brilliant and ready, but it doesn’t hurt to have another book (not to mention more writing experience under your belt) ready to go after the first one when you do decide to publish. But, remember! Only you can decide when you are ready to try publishing and sharing your work with the big wide world.

Will I make a mistake self-publishing my book?

Only you can answer that, but read this carefully! I have many author friends who are succeeding in their self-publishing career. Some of them are making a living off what they make, but years of work have gone behind all of it. I have yet to see a self-published author make it on only one book, however. Successful indie authors continually put out new work, and they are continually marketing themselves and their work. Self publishing is a business, no matter how big or small you make it. If you want it to be a successful business where your name and work are widely known and you’re bringing in some significant royalty checks, you have a lot of work to do!

If you decide to independently publish, you most likely don’t run the risk of harming your career for future traditional publishing. The publishing industry is in a state right now that indie authors are more accepted, and if you happen to move on to traditional publishing after independently publishing, your self-published books should not harm your chances of signing with an agent or publisher. It could even help you. There is also the choice of pen names, if you wish. Also, self publishing may be great for one book, but not for another. It’s nice that we’re in a time we can pick and choose which path to take each book.

I think the biggest mistake writers make is thinking that they’re running out of time to publish their work. They get really antsy. They watch their birthdays slide by one after the other and they’re still not published. The truth is that, yes, publishing can take a very, very long time. Especially traditional publishing. It’s kind of insane how long it can take, so it’s depressing, absolutely. But I also think that it isn’t a bad thing to publish later than sooner, if it means you’ll be more ready (self publishing your very first book right off the bat is not the best idea, in my opinion) to launch a business on your own.

How do I get a literary agent?

Securing a literary agent can be a daunting task. First of all, a literary agent isn’t necessarily an author’s client. It’s more like a partnership. The literary agent takes an author’s book and tries to sell it to editors of publishing houses to get the best deal for the author. When the book sells, the literary agent helps the author deal with contracts, foreign rights, marketing advice, etc. An agent usually makes 15% of the author’s advance. Many authors believe they need a literary agent in order to secure large publishing contracts with any of the larger publishing houses, and they may be correct. It’s quite difficult to get a large publishing contract on a fiction novel otherwise. So how do you get an agent? You query them. You can find out about queries, agents, and more on QueryTracker.net, a free and valuable resource to every serious writer.

How do I get a publisher?

Many writers choose to get a publisher for their work by first securing a literary agent who then sells their work to a publishing house. Even if you sell a book to a publisher (through an agent or by other means), that does not mean you are set for the rest of your author career. Sometimes book contracts cover multiple book deals, but more often than not, they are only for one book or series — especially if you are a debut author. This means that to publish other books, you must go through the submission process all over again. Once you’re “in”, however, with one book, you are known and that makes a difference. If your book sales for your first book are good, you have an even better chance at contracting subsequent books. Many small presses, and even some larger fantasy and nonfiction presses, take manuscript submissions without agent representation on the author’s behalf. This means you can send your manuscript into the publisher directly. I’ve heard that even larger publishers will take unagented manuscript submissions, but you are far less likely to get looked at going that route. Whatever you do, make sure you are happy and comfortable with where you or your agent is sending your work. If you are doing it on your own, make sure you read all the guidelines. And follow them. Nothing will get you rejected faster than looking unprofessional.

What’s the difference between a large press and a small publisher?

A small press is a publishing company which produces a small amount of books every year — usually less than 10 a year. Some small presses produce more, but then they are getting into mid-size press category. The definition can also ride on the amount of revenue per year. Small presses are also often called small publishers, indie/independent publishers or indie presses since they are not part of multinational corporations. From an author’s standpoint, a small press differs from a large publisher in a few key respects. Most small presses do not offer widespread distribution to brick and mortar bookstores, nor do they offer large offset print runs, but rely on print-on-demand technology for their print books. Many rely heavily on e-book sales for revenue. Because small presses have more limited budgets than larger publishers, they are also restricted on how much money they can put into marketing for each book. There are exceptions, of course. Since small presses often have a narrow profit margin, their motivation often comes from other sources such as their love for literature, desire to nurture the careers of new authors, and a need to see all forms of literature represented since larger publishers often neglect niche genres. One of the main reasons small presses are a fantastic choice is because of their ability to give a good amount of attention to each and every author. Authors with small presses are often very happy with the amount of input and choices they are offered with their work instead of feeling buried with thousands of other authors in a larger publishing house.

What is a vanity press and how is it different from small press and self publishing?

A vanity press is a subsidy publisher who charges the author to publish a book. This means the author is often responsible for all costs which go into printing, editing, cover art, distribution, etc. for the book. This can be very expensive. Some vanity presses will cover some costs, but require the author to spend a certain amount or buy a set amount of copies. The important thing to remember with a vanity press is that unlike self publishing and traditional publishing, a vanity press’ intended market is the author, not the general public. A small press makes money from book sales, not from the author’s pocket. Any small press which charges the author for any expenses is more often than not a vanity press in disguise. Be wary of these! Publishing your book with a vanity publisher is often not seen as as prestigious because it is implied that the work could not get published otherwise. Self publishing – which is publishing completely on one’s own — can also carry this stigma. This is one of the reasons authors find the traditional publishing system a much better alternative.

Where should I self publish my book?

No matter how you publish a book, it’s going to be a lot of work — even if someone else is doing it for you. I say that because I’m always afraid that authors who choose to self publish somehow think it’s simpler because you “just upload the book and push the publish button.” Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. There are many, many options for places to self publish. First of all, don’t get a vanity press mixed up with a self-publishing model. If you want to go all technical, self-publishing with anyone who handles the distribution and printing for a portion of your revenue is not self publishing – but vanity publishing. True self publishing would be finding a printer on your own, distributing the book all on your own, hiring your own editor, cover artist, etc. But, since the times are changing, self publishing now encompasses other models such as print-on-demand publishers such as Create Space, Lulu, Lightning Source, and Ingram Spark. As far as who to go with when choosing a print-on-demand publisher (POD), I believe it depends on why you’re publishing. Here are my thoughts on the three main print-on-demand services that are around at the moment.

Lulu Lulu is, by far, the most expensive of the three POD services I’ve found. However, they are the easiest to use, in my opinion. I sometimes use Lulu to print a copy of my manuscripts in book-form for final revisions. They are the easiest for setting up an account, printing without handing over a Tax-ID number and all that junk, and simple cover design and upload. Since I don’t use Lulu to sell books, they are perfect as a service which allows me to order one copy of my manuscript in a nicely bound book form. I know several self-published authors who use Lulu as their publisher, and they seem quite happy with them. I haven’t been impressed with their share of royalties; they keep a good chunk since they don’t require a Tax-ID, meaning they are paying the taxes for you. If you choose to use their distribution model to get your book in Amazon and other large-chain retailers, you are required to hand over a Tax-ID. I’m not sure how the royalties are handled from there, but I do know that Lulu keeps a very large cut. This means your book must sell for higher per book, meaning your customers aren’t going to be super-pleased with the high cost of your work. Lulu also does not require you to purchase your own ISBN numbers.

As for quality, Lulu’s seems to comparable to Create Space, although I’ve found the glue they use on their binding “bleeds over” into the pages much more often than Create Space. Lulu seems to change their cover paper a lot, too. I never seem to get the same paper each time I order if a few months have gone by.

final verdict: use Lulu for very personal projects you aren’t planning to use for making much or any money. 

Create Space This is the POD service I used to independently publish my novella, Cinders, and what I use now to publish my older and less popular titles. I’ve had a good experience with them so far, but their printing options are limited. They are easy to use, and their quality is nice. Create Space is owned by Amazon, and they do require a Tax-ID, but like Lulu, you won’t need to purchase your own ISBNs. You can if you want to, but it’s not a requirement. I find Create Space’s royalties fair, but their expanded distribution to other retailers does eat at your royalties.

Create Space now has the option for matte covers, which is a good bonus, and they no longer charge for expanded distribution. This has made them a better option than in the past.

final verdict: use Create Space if you’re not planning on self publishing all of your work, but only a few projects.

Lightning Source This is a professional printer and distributing service which many small presses use these days. Lightning Source requires anybody who uses them to own their own business. In essence, you are a publisher with them, not an individual. You must purchase your own ISBNs. They work directly with Ingram Book Group – one of the largest wholesale book distributors in the book industry. This is a huge bonus. Lightning Source also offers different printing options that I haven’t seen in smaller print-on-demand services. They offer matte covers and hardback covers in addition to the soft cover options, as well as color interiors, matte paper on color books, etc. Their quality surpasses Create Space and Lulu, in my opinion.

I am now using Lightning Source for my newer and more popular titles. They do not take a cut of your royalties, leaving them hands-down the most professional and cost-effective way to publish and distribute your titles print-on-demand. They do, however, charge high fees for uploading your books, which is part of where they make their money, I am sure. So using them is a more cost-up-front matter.

final verdict: Use Lightning Source if you plan on self publishing as your full writing career. Lightning Source is hands-down the most professional option of these three I’ve talked about.

Ingram Spark This is an arm of Lightning Source for self published/independent authors. Think of Ingram Spark as similar to Create Space. As far as I’m aware, you don’t have to apply for an account or have a business license — two requirements for Lightning Source. Ingram Spark, however, does take a cut of your royalties, just like Create Space and Lulu. It’s a fair trade off, I suppose. Because this offshoot of Lightning Source is so new, I don’t have much information to give you on them. Visit their site and read up on the statistics if you are interested in using them.

final verdict: A good alternative to using Lightning Source or Create Space.

How do I find someone to help me with revisions?

This is where I direct you to a previous post I’ve written about finding alpha and beta readers: How Do You Find a Beta Reader?

Do I need to hire an editor?

I think it’s important for every writer to get first-hand experience working with a professional editor on their work before seriously trying to publish. The main reason for this is that you’ll learn more in that one experience than in years of working with other writers. A professional editor will not see your work as something connected to your ego that needs careful protection; they’ll see your work as a professional project, and they’ll treat it as such — just like the publishing industry will treat your work. If you’re planning to self publish, especially, I recommend finding a professional editor for your work. Nothing replaces that polish an editor can give. Choose wisely, however. Finding the right editor for you and your work can be a case of trial and error, and may cost you some money, but it will be worth it in the long run. If you’re planning to traditionally publish, at least try and gain some experiences where you have your work looked over by a professional in the field — an agent, editor, or publisher. Sometimes the easiest and most professional route for this is to simply hire an editor. You shouldn’t have to do this on every book, but having that one experience can make a huge difference in your approach to publishing and entering the professional world of publishing.

If you’re looking for a great editor, you can contact my editor at prettyredpen@gmail.com. Her name is Diane. 


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