Author Don Massenzio

Independent Authors Unite!

Author Don Massenzio

More Challenges Faced by Indie Authors

ChallengesThis is the second in a series of posts centered on the challenges faced by indie authors as we try to compete in the vast ocean of competitors/cohorts that is filled with sharks and other predators. Here are more that I’ve come up with to get you thinking and to foster a discussion:

bad reputation speedometer illustration designThe Stigma of Self-Publishing

I refrain from calling what we do self-publishing. I am an independent author. My publisher is Amazon. Instead of having services provided to me by a traditional publisher, I outsource them to providers that fit within my budget and style.

I recall trying to join a local author group and being refused because I was “one of those self-publishers”. Truth be told, I had essentially published more books than the total of all of the authors in the group. Many of them were waiting for some big publisher to say yes. Of those that had been “fortunate” enough to land a publishing deal, my sales were much higher then any of them. The reviews I’ve received for my books were also very positive.

Yet, despite my “writing resume”, I was snobbishly turned away for being an indie.

So, what is the root cause of this stigma? Books published by indie authors range in quality from poorly constructed pamphlets and short books to masterpieces that stand together with any traditionally published author. The differentiation, besides stories that appeal to the masses, is often the quality of the work.

You’ve seen me repeatedly post on the benefit of having an editor, quality book cover, good formatting and other items that improve the overall professionalism of indie author books. These things are not free. If your book is traditionally published, you might think these services are fee, but they are not. They are deducted from the profit you might otherwise realize on your book. The results of these services are also usually beyond the total control of the author. In the indie publishing world, you control everything. This is one of the best and worst aspects of being an indie.

Cheap Vs Expensive See Saw Balance Comparing Prices CostsIt’s Cheaper, Right? Right?

If you landed on self-publishing thinking you can save money by editing yourself, creating your own book cover, and recording your own audiobook, well, you can.

You just might not sell many books (see the previous section on the stigma). You could be an English major with an impeccable understanding of every nuance of grammar and punctuation. You’ll probably make a great editor…of someone else’s books. There is scientific proof that when you read through something that you wrote, your brain will subconsciously skip over errors that are blatantly obvious to someone else looking it over.

A second set of eyes (and maybe a third, fourth and fifth) is an essential part of producing an independent work. Don’t trust yourself to edit. You will miss something.

If you insist, however, (I can see some of you rolling your eyes) put the manuscript aside for a couple of months without looking at it. When you read it, it will seem fresh to you and you may (emphasis on may) find the majority of your mistakes.

As for your cover, unless you are adept with programs like Adobe Photoshop and/or Illustrator, I would leave this to an outsourced expert. You can find experts in graphic design lining up to create an excellent cover for you on services like, and I’ve had good luck with these services. I’m especially proud of the latest cover for my book, Extra Innings. The cover designer hit my vision dead on.

If you create your cover on your own using the KDP tool from Amazon or your own software, be prepared to have your book skipped over. I’ve been able to have a great quality cover designed for under $50 for my books.

Am I Good Enough Question Speech Bubbles AdequacyAm I good enough to be published?

My initial answer to this is, who cares. Are people reading your books? Are you getting reviews and useful feedback? Do you feel good about what you produce?

If you can answer ‘Yes’ to these questions, then I invite you to say ‘who cares’. The myth that only published authors are successful depends on how you measure success. If you made more than you spent, you are ahead of the game. Sure, traditionally published authors get advances (sometimes). Those advances, however, are not very large for most authors and aren’t earned until enough books sell to cover them. After the advance is covered, authors typically make 10-15% of the book’s cover price in royalties. If you sell a $20 book, you make $2-3. I’m no genius, but if I sell a $20 book on Amazon as an indie publisher, I make $14.

You might counter with, “I’m not going to sell that many books on Amazon as an indie published author.” Well, with that attitude, your not. Is there a magic formula for selling a million books. Not really, but it has happened for indie published authors.

Have you ever heard of Hugh Howie, Andy Weir or Mark Dawson. They are just three example of indie authors that have hit it big, really big. They are also some of the most generous in terms of passing along tactics that worked in their own success. Mark even has a podcast designed to help indie authors and a series of courses on marketing that are intricate and extremely useful.

The chance of success is out there for indie authors. You have to be in the right situation at the right time with the right book…pretty much like traditional publishing…except the potential rewards are much higher.

I hope this post generates some discussion. Share what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you. If any of you have done both the traditional and indie routes, I’d love to hear your stories.



The Top Myths Of Self Publishing – From The Uncensored Writer Blog

While I’ve been writing about publishing a lot lately, I feel like there is still one last thing that needs to be addressed before I wrap up my thoughts on the whole thing.

When you say the words “indie author” or “Self-Published author” to someone, you can almost see the judgemental preconceived notions flash across their eyes. It isn’t their fault though. We’re all human, and we all have our own set of beliefs that informs the way we view the world. It’s not as much our own fault as it is the circumstances that shaped us as people.

The only things we can do to combat these negative judgements are to give the facts and to point out the myths. I feel like I’ve adequately done the former, but what about the latter?

Today’s post will focus on all the myths around Self-Publishing and just how ridiculous some of them are.

Let’s jump straight in!

via The Top Myths Of Self Publishing

Writing Influences – Who are Yours?

I am passionate about writing mostly because, throughout my life, I have been passionate about reading.  When I was a kid, I lived in a neighborhood that had very few children. I lived in a house on a busy road that served as the main access road to a hospital emergency road. I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was about 13.

I realized early on that my only escape was reading. I read everything I could get my hands on. Luckily, I lived in a house that had collected a lot of books over the years. My brother is 13 years older, so there were many books that he read as a child hanging around.

somerville-two-familyThe house I lived in was over 100 years old and the full-sized walk-in attic had a finished room that was once a laboratory for a scientist that lived in the house. There were bookshelves with all kinds of very old books and encyclopedias.

wwiI knew that the encyclopedias were old when they listed an event called ‘The Great War’. It hadn’t earned the label ‘World War I’ yet because the books were published before World War II. I also found another book that had a clipped newspaper article wedged in the pages that covered the funeral of President George Washington. It was a fascinating place full of discoveries and fertilizer for the imagination.

bobbseyThe first books I can remember reading that were ‘chapter books’, as the kids call them today, was the Bobbsey Twins series written under the pen name, Laura Lee Hope. The books, published first in 1904 and followed the adventures of two sets of fraternal twins. These books were predecessors to The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books (which I also read). Since my brother was so much older and was married and out of the house when I was seven, these books taught me about families with multiple siblings and made me wish I had a twin or even another sibling closer in age that I could play with.

Around this time, I started writing my own stories. I remember writing a series of illustrated stories based on the character “Tiny the Giant” when I was about eight or nine. Tiny experienced all manner of adventures with special attention paid to his enormous size in relation to his friends. It was sort of a Clifford the Big Red Dog kind of scenario.

godfatherI remember the first adult-oriented book that I read. It was The Godfather. My parents went off with the rest of the adult members of my Italian family to see the movie in 1972. My mom had read the book and then put it on our bookshelves telling me not to read it. Of course, I did, and I was transported by the style of writing. I’m sure there were parts of it that I didn’t understand, but the sense of family among the brutal events of an organized crime syndicate resonated with me.

jawsI also read Jaws after sneaking it out of the library a few years later. I had seen the movie and was amazed at how different the book and movie turned out to be. That was the first of many such experiences.

Flashing forward to my senior year of high school, I had a great English teacher that introduced the class to a number of classics that I still reflect on today. Among them were To Kill A Mockingbird (one of my all time favorites), Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, The Fixer, and many others. It was a refreshing change from books like Ethan Fromme and The Heart of Darkness that I suffered through in my junior year.

Around that same time, I was introduced to Stephen King’s works. I immediately took to these books as I experienced feelings I had never felt before as I read books like Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot and The Stand. These books shed the conventional constraints on back story, character development and length as King transported his readers with rich, complex sagas that scared the bejeepers out of them. It was the first book I ever read that literally scared me enough to keep me awake.

Around this time, I also read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time. That was another series of books that transported the reader to a totally fabricated world with rich, complex characters.

In my adult life, I’ve added other authors that have influenced my reading and writing life. Jonathan Kellerman, Harlan Coben and, to some extent, Dean Koontz and James Patterson have influenced the types of fiction I enjoy. I’ve also gone back to red classic books from authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens and have enjoyed them thoroughly while learning a lot about writing.

frankly_speakingThe pivotal moment in my writing career began about four years ago when I was sitting on a plane waiting to fly from Jacksonville, Florida to Chicago for a project related to my ‘day job’. We were delayed because of weather and I had nothing with me to read. After flipping through the airline magazine, I pulled a notebook and a pen out of my computer bag and began to write a short story based on a news headline I had seen. By the time I landed in Chicago, I had about 3,500 words written and had completed a story that I didn’t think was half-bad. After typing it out, I decided to start working on something more ambitious. My first novel, Frankly Speaking, was born and filled two and a half notebooks with barely legible longhand. I then began sharing bits and pieces of it on a writing group web site where I received some very constructive criticism. The bottom line was, I had a pretty good story and my writing didn’t suck too badly.

The next step was to let my biggest supporter and toughest critic read it. That would be my wife. She is not an enthusiastic reader, but my book captivated her and she encouraged me to publish it.

I first sent out queries to literary agents and received a good number of rejections. I had no idea what I was doing. I then heard about publishing through Amazon and was hooked. I’m not sure I would have ever pursued writing as far as I have without this option. I’m in my fifties and I only have so much time for rejection.

So, here I am, almost four years in and I have five novels in the Frank Rozzani Detective Series complete. Another standalone thriller novel, Blood Orange has seen some success and is now my first book offered in audio book form. I also have a book of short stories, Random Tales, that includes that first story I wrote on the plane to Chicago called Heal Thyself. I have two more books that I’ll likely release this year.

I’ve exceeded my goal of publishing a single book in my lifetime and I’m busy establishing new goals.

That leads me to ask the authors out there, what kind of experiences led you to become an author? What/who influenced you and has the writing experience fulfilled you?

Book Review – The Experimental Notebook of C.S. Boyack



Goodreads Blurb:

A speculative fiction selection of micro-fiction and short stories. These were designed to be short reads for your commute, coffee break, and other times when readers are pressed for time. This book contains a bit of science fiction, some fantasy, and paranormal stories.

My Review:

I am a huge fan of short stories, both creating and reading them. The problem is, not many writers do them well. Stephen King has published several collections and even his stories are sometimes hit and miss.

This is not the case with C.S. Boyack. In his Experimental Notebook he scores with one great story after another. Many of them have a pattern of reeling the reader in and then leaving you breathless with a surprise ending. From the very first story, Jack O’ Lantern, to gems like The 50 Gallon Drum, Boyack sets up the reader and then delivers some surprise that leaves you smiling.

For anyone who enjoys short stories, this book is a must. One bit of false advertising appears in the Goodreads blurb. The author states that the book was designed to provide short reads. I stayed awake in my hotel room telling myself, “just one more” until I had finished the book and then downloaded the second one.

I highly recommend this book and will be reading more by this author. He shows a depth and breadth to his writing seldom found in the indie author community. Please give his stories a try and spread the word like wildfire.


Indie authors, do you read work by other indie authors?

Over the past two years, I have done book reviews sporadically on my blog. Mostly the reviews were for detective/mystery novels by well-known authors. As an indie author, I avoided reading work by other indie authors. I made some exceptions early on reading books by Nicholas Rossis and my good high school friend Nick Davis. Both of those reading experiences were positive.

Lately, I read works by John Howell, an author and blogger well known to many of you. I enjoyed reading his work and I believe the reviews I posted resulted in some positive exposure for John.

This led me to approaching the reading of work by indie authors in a different light. I’m going to continue to read and review work by indie authors as another outlet for helping the community. I am going to lay out some ground rules, however:

  1. I will not have a set schedule for reviewing indie works
  2. I will not accept requests to review books. I want it to be spontaneous and something I continue to enjoy
  3. If a book is not at a a certain level of quality in terms of formatting, story telling, grammar, etc., I will likely not finish it and will not post a review.

I really want to continue to help indie authors and I think posting negative reviews will defeat that purpose.

Anyway, I’m already in the process of reading an indie author’s book and will be posting a review sometime this week. Hopefully some of you who do not generally post reviews will emulate this process and pick up one of my books or another indie author that needs some exposure.

If you have thoughts on this, please let me know.

Indie Author/Publishing News

Independent Publishing Awards for New Telos Press

Book Deal For What? How To Self Publish Your Book

A Trip Through Self-Publishing Hell

Published Author of Good Books for Teens Dispels Self-Publishing Myths


Independent Publishing in the News

I thought I would start a Sunday feature this week where I point you to various independent publishing and independent author stories that are in the news. Simply click on the links provided and learn.

Fast-Growing Independent Publishers, 2016

Why Fiction Authors Benefit from Indie Publishing

The New Indie and the Self-Publishing Revolution



Author Talk – Theresa Nash

Theresa NashToday’s interview is with Crime/Thriller author Theresa Nash. This is a genre that I’m very fond of as a reader and writer. She is going to take this opportunity to tell us about herself and her work.

DM: What is the title and genre of the book you want to tell us about?

TN: The book is The Cruelty of Love. It’s a crime, thriller

DM: Can you summarize your book in one short sentence?

TN: It’s a tale of betrayal, injustice and retribution.

DM: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

TN: Anyone who loves a crime/thriller with a bit of romance mixed into the equation. Also I think that the book will appeal to those who have experienced a particularly painful break up.

DM: How did you come up with the title?

TN: The story itself naturally led me to the title. A romantic relationship is wonderful but it can also be cruel. When it breaks up both partners are hurt and perhaps carry emotional scars for the rest of their life.

DM: Tell me about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?

TN: Jessica Bell did the cover design. We agreed on the concept together. I wanted to show the faces in an environment of captivity and/or violence. She proposed three designs and I combined two of them to come up with the final cover. I really like it.

The-Cruelty-of-Love-eBookCov_upload-ready- SMALL

DM: What are your biggest writing influences (another author, another book, a movie, etc.)

TN: My imagination, my past experiences and of course other authors. My favorite genre, or at least my preferred one, is crime and thrillers. However I love a well-written book in almost all genres except maybe science fiction.

DM: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

TN: All my characters, but I would probably choose Max, Kate’s colleague, the character whose love (for Kate) is not returned.

DM: How about your least favorite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?

TN: The least appealing – Charles – what a self-opinionated, self-centered person with such a low esteem for women!

DM: If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?  Why?

TN: You know, we can probably always change things. But I told the story I wanted to tell, so I wouldn’t change anything.

DM: Give me a fun fact about your book or series:

TN: I did a lot of research into guns, drugs, US prison systems and called on some of my relatives for help or confirmation on certain elements I wanted to use in the book. In addition, no specific place is mentioned but I did have one in the back of my mind which guided the action.

DM: What other books are similar to your own?  What makes them alike?

TN: I Don’t know. I hope my story is unique.

DM: Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

TN: I love music, dance and art. I play the violin in an orchestra here in Geneva, and love to sing.

DM: How can we find out more about you and your books?

TN: Here is my author page on Amazon

Here is my author page on Goodreads

Here is my blog

DM: What can we expect from you in the future?

TN: I’m working on a memoir about my childhood in Iowa (USA). I also have an idea or two about a crime story in Geneva involving a real event and Martha, the heroine of my first novel “Il Molo”

DM: What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

TN: Those who have or will read it can leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, and they can tell their friends about it.

DM: Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?

TN: Self-publishing, which is how I published my two books, is relatively easy. CreateSpace is very user-friendly and the staff are extremely helpful. Also make sure you have a couple of beta readers as well as a good proof reader.

The hard part is marketing and selling the book. It takes a lot of time and you have to be willing to spend some money to make a successful marketing campaign. Also pick your marketing channels carefully. There are a lot of promotion channels, especially for indie authors, but you have to be choosy about who you use.

DM: Can you give us an excerpt from your book?

TN: Sure

From Chapter One:

“The sharp metallic sound of steel-capped heels on black combat boots echoed through the corridor, keeping time with all the paraphernalia tapping against the guards’ thighs—keys dangling from metal chains, walkie-talkies, and black wooden Billy clubs. The stocky female escorts, a blonde and a brunette, both with hard chiseled features, were bored and uninterested. This was routine for them; another day, another prisoner.

Musty sweaty odors, mingled with those of stale food, drifted through the air. Walking along on either side of their prisoner tightly holding her upper arms, the guards escorted Kate to what would be her new home for a few years. She stared straight ahead, her peripheral vision taking in the gray cell bars, the gray walls, the gray atmosphere, and the empty cells. All the “ladies” were at lunch. She thought the city jail drab and unwelcoming. This one was slightly worse.

“Here we are, ma’am.” The blonde guard stopped in front of an empty cell. She let go of Kate’s arm while the brunette tightened her grip. The blonde picked up one of the dangling key chains and rifled through them until she found the one she wanted. The guard stepped forward and unlocked the cell door. “In here. Your roommate will be back in a few minutes. Lunch’s almost over. In the meantime, make yourself at home.” Both guards laughed.”

About Theresa Nash

The second of seven children, Theresa Nash was born in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1950. Her father was a well-known doctor, and her mother was active in many community organizations. Nash grew up to earn her BA in economics and an MBA in finance. She moved to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1975 and has lived there ever since.

Although the world of finance has always dominated her professional career, she exhibits her artistic side by playing the violin in a local orchestra, singing in choirs and as a solo vocalist, and acting in plays and musicals. The Cruelty of Love is Nash’s second work. Il Molo is her previously published novel.

Nash is married to a famous Swiss artist. Her daughter is currently pursuing a master’s degree in marketing and management.

What Steps Do You Follow Leading Up To A Book Launch? – Part 1

I’m about to launch my eighth book in a month or so. As I start laying the ground work to get to that goal, I’ve been looking back on the steps that I’ve taken with each one. I want to look at what’s been successful and what hasn’t. Trial and error has been my method and I’ve tried to hang on to the things that work and that fit in to my schedule.  I’ve tried to look at where to spend some money and where I can do things on my own.

In laying these steps out for you, I’m going to separate things into what worked, what didn’t, what you should pay for, what you shouldn’t, and what order you should do these things in.

Disclaimer: These steps assume that you are an independent author (I prefer this term to self published since we are not physically printing and binding books). If you are a traditionally published author, congratulations to you. I was too old when I jumped into the writing pool and I’ve already had enough rejection to last me a lifetime, so indie-publishing was the ticket for me.

The First Draft

What do you do first? This question may not be as easily answered as you think. You’re probably thinking write the book. That may indeed be the first step. For my first book, it definitely was. I started writing it and soon began to question my sanity. Why was I spending my free time while on glamorous (not) business trips writing a book while all of my co-workers were out having fun. There were many reasons, but above all, it felt like something I should do.

The first draft was written completely longhand in notebooks. Although I would not do that again (my writing is hard to read), it was like taking a first draft and editing it when I typed it in. In this first effort, to my editor’s horror, I punctuated every bit of dialog incorrectly. I could have sworn that the period went outside of the quote.

At any rate, I turned this first manuscript over to my wife first. After 30 years of marriage, I knew she wouldn’t spare my feelings if the book sucked. To my delight, she loved it. This gave me the courage to turn the book over to a generous friend of mine who is a talented editor. She agreed to edit this first book for free (with the promise of later riches).

I highly recommend getting an editor you are comfortable with. My editor’s process is to read the manuscript as a book first and give me her impressions of things that do and don’t work. She then goes through it in iterations for punctuation, grammar and usage. These latter things have gotten better on the first pass with each book. Luckily, I have not run into any insurmountable story elements that have required a massive rewrite.

Cover Design

Traditionally, when I turn that first draft over to my editor, it’s time to get the cover design nailed down. For my first book, I designed my own cover and it looked like garbage. Check it out below: FS Book Cover

For one thing, I am not a big fan of the color yellow, and for another it doesn’t say anything about the story. When I published on Amazon with this cover, the sales didn’t exactly jump through the roof.

I decided to try out one of the freelance sites. I used This site offers all kinds of services. Of particular interest to indie authors are the book cover design, editing, and book trailer services. I was particularly lucky that I picked a cover designer for the Frank Rozzani series that really nailed it. For $50 he provided a fully editable, multi-layer .PSD cover for the print book and a front cover for the eBook.

The book is about a young girl that is kidnapped. Behind the scenes, the main character, Detective Frank Rozzani, has mob figures from his past haunting him. From this brief description, I ended up with this cover instead:

Newcover - Small

I was very pleased with it and have used this designer on every cover up until my most recent two books. He was from Pakistan and has disappeared from Fiverr. I was fairly happy with the cover of my last book, which was not one in the Frank Rozzani series. My upcoming book is, however, and I had a great deal of back and forth getting it finalized with the designer.

That’s enough for this post. In my next post on this topic, I’ll be talking about getting a book trailer completed along with getting your social media platforms ready for a new book.

Upcoming posts will talk about press releases and tricks for getting newspaper and television interviews.

Reviews Are The Lifeblood of Authors


As many authors will attest, reviews are one of the most important gifts that readers can bestow upon us. Yes, buying our books is a great thing, but giving us feedback about the books that you’ve read is much more important.

When I buy products on Amazon, because I can’t see or feel the product beforehand, I relay on reviews from other people that have purchased the product to guide me in my purchase. This is true of books.

Reviews also help authors get recognition from Amazon and other venues. They help with ranking and placement in ads.

Your reviews don’t have to be essay’s. You can simply select the number of stars as a rating and leave one or two words. Of course, the more constructive feedback you give, the better it is for the author. We always want to improve our product for future readers.

Recently, I did a sale on my new book, Blood OrangeThe response was great. I’m asking now, if you took advantage of the sale and you were one of the many people that downloaded it, please leave an honest review when you’re done. I have the same plea for my other work.

Your feedback is welcome and greatly appreciated.

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