Ebony McKenna, winner of the 2018 Romance Writers of Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year, spoke with Independent Publishing about her book The Girl and the Ghost, and her experiences in self-publishing.
Describe your latest book in under 50 words.
In The Girl and The Ghost, publicity-shy student Morgan Parker has a family who lurch from one PR disaster to another. To Morgan’s shock and surprise, she finds a ghost in her room. He’s come with the house and provides a welcome distraction to the mayhem of real life.
I love being able to control the timing of my stories to take advantage of different celebrations through the year. I have a Christmas story coming out in early December. I’m part of an anthology of ghostly romances released last year around Halloween, and the next will go out in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day. I also launched The Girl and The Ghost on an auspicious date—Friday the 13th!
Self-publishing means I get to mix shorter stories in between longer novels and bring out incredibly useful nonfiction editing and business guides to help other authors.
What year did you start and where are you based?
I was traditionally published in 2010, then started self-publishing in 2014. I published ebooks to begin with, as distribution was so easy! A year later I dipped the proverbial toe in the ‘print waters’ and love how practical that side of self-publishing (and distribution) is now. I’m based in Melbourne, and I’m really lucky that the printer I use—IngramSpark—is in the same city. That keeps delivery prices low when I need copies.
How many people did you contract on your book and what did you do yourself?
I’ve hired editors in the past but these days I’ve developed a thorough checklist, so I can edit my own work. This prompted me to create an ‘Edit Your Own’ series for authors to follow.
When I first began and knew nothing, I used other companies to format and distribute my ebooks. Since then, I’ve learned as much as I can about formatting for ebook and print, so I can do that myself. I also format for other authors.
I buy my own ISBNs, fill all the forms in, register for lending rights, list my titles with library suppliers, contact libraries etc. I do just about everything myself these days except the covers.
I always bring in professionals for cover designs. Covers are incredibly important and must convey to the reader that the book is not simply worth their money, it’s also worth their time.
What makes your book unique?
My ‘voice’ is very Australian, with local references and humour. The Girl and the Ghost is packed with lashings of swoon-filled moments and bold teenagers with crazy ideas that sometimes even work.
What has been your biggest success?
The Girl and the Ghost is my seventh and most successful novel—the reviews have been consistently incredible and it recently took out the Ruby award for Romantic Book of the Year from the Romance Writers of Australia. It’s unusual for a self-published book to win, and unheard of for a YA novel to win. Plus, I edited this book myself using all the methods I’ve gathered over the years, so this feels like a true validation of my efforts.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Cutting through a crowded marketplace is by far the biggest (and ongoing) challenge—and it’s not unique to self-published authors. Traditionally published authors also face this huge challenge, even when their publishers have marketing budgets. You must consistently produce the very best quality books you can.
What would be your top tip for those starting out in self-publishing?
Be as professional as possible in all aspects of the business—because this is a business.
What will you publish next?
I’m writing rebooted fairytales which tie in with my four-part ‘Ondine’ series. It’s so much fun playing in this fictional sandpit. I’m writing with a huge grin!
For more information on the author and her books, visit www.ebonymckenna.com.