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If you're a fan of epic fantasy, you need to check out M.A. Ray's Menyoral Saga. She's got three books out so far, and in a short period of time, has developed something of a cult following. Her fans praise the complex characters and humor. And the food description at the start of Oath Bound was enough to make this lifelong vegetarian crave a plate of grilled beef with mashed potatoes. 

Anyway, because she is a self-published author who is developing a dedicated fan base, I wanted to find out what she did to get the word out.  I also wanted to know a little about the emotional side of publishing:

What did you do to prepare before you launch your books?

Mostly, I focus on making sure the book is as good as I can make it, with edits (I hire an editor) and formatting. Really, I think it’s the book that counts most. I show off the cover a few times on social media, and say things like, “Oh, it’s this much time, I can’t wait. I’m excited for you all to see it.” I’ve been lucky enough to acquire a goodly number of fans in less than a year, so that’s all I’ve really needed to do with the second and third books.

This is something I’m really curious about having never published: is it nerve-wracking when it’s actually launched? Are there last minute moments of total doubt?

You mean the time when I hit “save and publish” on the first one, and woke up crying because I’d made a terrible mistake and it was never going to be all mine again? Because if not, then no.

Seriously. So much. I always have to freak out or cry. Maybe someday I’ll get past that.

You now have three books out as part of the same series. Have you taken a different approach to promotion as time has gone on?

At first, I limited my marketing to Facebook. Now I rarely post my links there, unless it’s to a blog post. I’ve been trying to feed people into my website, especially through Twitter, which would probably go better if I weren’t so wrapped up in writing stories.

Your first book is being offered on discount ($0.99). Has this helped to lure in new readers, or is it too early to tell?

It seems to be helping, at least in the short term. Sales were quite slow on it, but I’ve been selling more of them and garnering new reviews, which is a very good thing in terms of increasing visibility on the book. In the long term, who can say? I’ll have to wait and see.

Did you participate in any promotions for sale periods, or buy any advertising?          

I’ve never bought advertising. I have done two free promotional periods through KDP Select, and the first one, in particular, was amazing for increasing my readership. If anyone ever wants to do this, I strongly recommend a holiday weekend—I ran my first promotion on Easter weekend and received over 1400 downloads with no ads but shares, and free e-book websites that picked it up once it gained steam. I also recommend it be done when the writer is working on a series. KDP Select really lends itself to that, and sales were very strong on the second book (which I’d just released) in the months after I ran the free promotion on the first.

Was social media helpful, and if so, which site has been the most useful?

Social media was everything. I wouldn’t have decided to self-publish if it weren’t for Facebook. The friends I’ve made online have helped me so much in marketing, sharing my promotions, and every other thing. I don’t know how to thank them. I never could thank them enough. I’ve been dedicating books to them as a result.

How did you decide which keywords to use in Amazon?

I had no idea what I was doing, to be honest with you. I’m still not sure I do. I tried to think of different elements in my book that I thought people would be likely to search for.

Overall, what was the most successful strategy you employed and what advice would you pass on to new writers?

I think the free promos helped me the most, but I definitely couldn’t have had so many downloads without my friends’ help. Be a person, be open to making new friends. Talk to people and get excited about what you’re doing. By God, make sure it’s something you really love and are interested in. Be obsessed, but be open to being obsessed with other people’s things, too.

And be grateful for every last sale. I really am. I’m flabbergasted by the response, because I never thought anybody would like it but me, no matter how much I loved it (and I did, and do).

Do your best work. Don’t just slap it up there. Your best work, and put it through as many hoops as you can, and make something beautiful. That’s all, I suppose.

And this isn’t quite marketing related, but I have to know – how do you write so quickly? You’ve had three books out in one year?

Three books in ten months, yeah. I wish I had some kind of secret, but I’ve been writing Menyoral in some form for ten years or more. The story’s always sort of been there, and it’s been developed and tweaked and played with thousands of times over. It’s all there. I just have to put it down.

Also, I don’t think my words-per-hour rate is really that impressive. I’m actually kind of slow. It’s just that I have plenty of hours to put in, especially since both of my kids started school. This is my job. I want to keep writing, so I do.