Author Spotlight

A E Dooland on ‘Solve for i’

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Describe your latest book in under 50 words.

Maths whiz Gemma Rowe has found the one problem her maths can’t solve: she’s fallen for her female and very heterosexual best friend.

Essentially, my latest novel, Solve for i is a lesbian rom-com with a storyline many folks can relate to: falling for someone who is unavailable.

Why self-publish?

The reason I self-publish is that the format I write my stories in isn’t typical of books—I write them as weekly chapter-by-chapter web series, with each chapter going through an editing and redrafting process each week before being published online on my website. When the series is complete, I collate the chapters, edit them again as a whole, and then release the story as a book.

I did initially inquire with some publishers about whether it would be worth submitting a manuscript when I’ve already published the story online (usually to paid readers), and I was met with a lot of hesitation rather than enthusiasm. Given that response, I opted to give self-publishing a shot.

Self-publishing is expensive but I’m very lucky in that I already had a fan base of regular readers who have been following my writing for some time. I asked my fans whether they’d be interested in financially supporting me and got an overwhelmingly positive response, so I decided to crowdfund the cost of my books. I’ve successfully done that three times now and I plan to crowdfund my next book, too.

There are lots of benefits to self-publishing: I have complete creative control of every aspect of the process, I commission artists I like and choose the cover art myself, I control deadlines and, while I do listen to the advice of my editors, I have the final say in which parts of the plot stay or go.

What year did you start and where are you based?

I crowdfunded my first book in 2014, but I’ve been publishing stories online since the late 90s. I’m Geelong-based.

How many people did you contract on your book and what did you do yourself?

I need to contract at least five other service providers per book.

I had three artists on all my books: one person to do the cover art and graphic design, and the other two for promo art and marketing design. I have two editors: one story editor and one copyeditor. I also periodically contract sensitivity readers for content related to characters from minority groups I’m not also from.

Everything else I manage myself: marketing, project management, type-setting, promos, campaigns, phone calls … everything! I had no idea of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into publishing a book until I did it all myself.

What makes your book unique?

I’ve been told my books are page-turners because of their origin as web series; I need to keep people reading and coming back next week for the next chapter, so I try to create interest for the next chapter in every chapter I write.

What has been your biggest success?

Hitting bestseller in my category on Amazon USA!

What has been your biggest challenge?

I face two big challenges, and those are finding the energy to write when I work full-time (in a job I unfortunately love!), and the fact that when you self-publish, writing the story is just the beginning. Once the story is finished, the publishing process begins and it’s exhausting and time-consuming. I spent 1000 hours writing Solve for i and probably about 200 to 300 hours on administration related to publishing the story.

What would be your top tip for those starting out in self-publishing?

Don’t be afraid, take the plunge! Self-publishing is hugely daunting at first, but there are so many guides out there about how to get the best out of your story that it’s never been a better time to start.

If I can also sneak in a cheeky second-to-top tip, it would be to always make sure you have a written, legally binding contract when you commission services from someone. Things go wrong more often that you’d like them to—little things like missed deadlines, or big things like completely substandard work. A contract protects you.

What will you publish next?

I think I’m going to try my hand at fantasy next! I’ve loosely planned a couple of different web series, so it’s a toss-up between pirates and dragons at this point. Whatever I write will have a mostly queer cast.

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