Santa Cruz-based author Charise Olson writes contemporary “California fiction” including the upcoming “California Cocktails” series, and, under the pen name Leo Colson, the historical fiction series “The Roaring Redwoods.” She owns and publishes under the imprint Bon Temps Publishing. The indie author and publisher shared a few of her secrets with us.
Under your pen name Leo Colson, you’ve recently debuted a new e-series of historical fiction. Tell us what you mean by an “e-serial” and tell us about some of the tools of modern publishing you’re using to operationalize this.
First, thanks for inviting me over to the blog today! I used the term “e-serial” to be clear that the individual “episodes” would be only be digital. Also the term let readers know the story would be a continuing one.
The primary tool I use is Pressbooks.com because I find the interface familiar and intuitive. I don’t think I could have kept up with the publishing schedule (one to two episodes a month) with anything else. I publish with KDP, Nook, Kobo and iBooks. I write my manuscripts in Scrivener.
Two other important tools—though not especially modern—is a group of indie authors I am part of for advice, guidance, and support. And my coffee pot.
You’ve formed your own indie publishing imprint, Bon Temps Publishing. How has this helped in your self-publishing ventures, and do you recommend the same for other writers planning to self-publish?
I think each writer has to do what fits for them. But, yes, I would recommend it. I think having the imprint is more professional and sets me up for growth. If I help others publish or need to form an LLC, I’ve already established the name. Also, we all know indie work can vary in quality/professionalism. As readers become more savvy at identifying indie published work (and perhaps avoiding it), an imprint name can be a point of assurance that the author is a professional.
Lastly, it’s also a reminder to me to make sure I am enjoying writing as a career—as much as I did as a hobby (Bon Temps is French for Good Times).
You say you write “California fiction,” and much of your work is set in the Santa Cruz redwood mountains where you live. Do you have any secrets for other writers on how you infuse setting and a sense of place into your books?
“California Fiction” started as a joke in response to the profusion of “Southern Fiction.” I tell people it’s just like Southern Fiction but without all that humidity. But then I took a step back I realized that California is also my style of writing—just as much as it is the setting: Beauty, variety and an oddball or two. I think it’s important to think of what makes the setting special and have that match your writing. Also, try to make it universal so readers who have never been to your area will be able to “get it.” Throw in enough “inside info” so locals can identify too. I had a reader tell me that she wants to come visit and find the Grandmother tree I reference in The Roaring Redwoods. I loved that!
How did you use Pressbooks in your writing and publishing process?
When I get the manuscript back from my editor (and fix her concerns), I paste it into Pressbooks. I write the back and front matter and fill in all the book info. From there I can export and then preview as an ebook. Loading the files from Pressbooks to the various publishing platforms is very easy. I don’t consider myself very tech-talented so “easy” is essential.
Beyond writing, your background also includes marketing, grant writing and community development for nonprofits. Any thoughts on how these types of organizations might use books to achieve their missions?
With grants, you often need to create something tangible as part of the project (a handbook, a curriculum, testimonial, etc). Pressbooks would allow the creation of a professional product with minimal learning curve. I consult with a couple of nonprofits now and we’ve discussed creating small histories of the organizations or annual reports as books. Being able to create a book (ebook and print) would allow for high quality and broader distribution.
What have been the top things you’ve learned as an indie publisher so far? And do you have any tips for other authors?
The devil is in the details. I’ve learned to pad my timeline to allow for sufficient review of all the little details that add up to a polished book. I’ve also learned how much I like all the elements related to publishing, so the indie route is a good fit. Tips? Find others you can share the journey—you may independent, but you don’t have to be a lone wolf.
Learn more about Charise Olson and her books at http://chariseolson.com/.