Ask an Author: Debra Holland-Why She Chose Self-Publishing

Heather: This week I have self-published author Debra Holland on my blog for Ask an Author. There’s been a lot of chatter lately about the benefits of self-publishing for authors in all stages of their careers, so it seems like a good time to interview someone who’s actually doing it…and doing it well! Debra has sold over 15,000 books in just under 4 months!! That’s outstanding.
How did you come to the decision to self-publish or was that always your chosen path?
Debra: It was never my chosen path for fiction. My first book, Wild Montana Sky, won the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award in 2001. I had two agents try to sell WMS and the next in the series, Starry Montana Sky. But alas, a “sweet” historical Western, as opposed to a sexy historical Western, couldn’t sell. I wrote two other series, one a fantasy romance, the other a science fiction/fantasy romance, both of which were Golden Heart finalists. My agents also tried to sell the fantasy romance and couldn’t. (So I’ll be self-publishing them too. I’m aiming for mid July.)
I had planned to self-publish the book I’m writing on dealing with difficult people when my agent couldn’t sell the proposal. I knew I could sell the books on my website and in the back of the room when I give talks (I’m a psychotherapist and speaker.) Then last year, Delle Jacobs started self-publishing some of her books. Delle and I are members of the Wet Noodle Posse, the 2003 Golden Heart finalists. Delle has won the Golden Heart multiple times and couldn’t sell to New York, although she has published with small presses. Delle began having amazing success. I was buried in deadline hell writing The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving for Alpha Books (the publishers of the Complete Idiots Guides) and was stricken with envy. Not that that I envied Delle’s success, I’m thrilled for her. But it gave me the idea the self-publishing could be successful, and I wanted to do it right then and there. But I had to wait until I turned the grief book in. In the meantime, I’ve watched my other Wet Noodle Posse sisters start self-publishing–Norah Wilson, Trish Milburn, Theresa Regan, Colleen Gleason, and MJ Fredrick–all put out these amazing books.

Heather: It’s amazing that so many Golden Heart finalist have trouble selling to New York. I don’t think that it speaks to the quality of their writing at all. I think it simply speaks to the state of the publishing industry in our current times. It’s good that there are now multiple options available for authors who seek to have their stories published. I know there’s a lot of work involved when you have to not only write the book but also edit it, format it, make cover art and promote it. Did you find the process of self-publishing challenging?
Debra: Actually much of the work is the same as for any book. You write the best book you can and make sure it’s well edited. I had mine professionally edited before I submitted them to agents and editors. Early on in my writing journey, in an RWA chapter meeting, I heard a multipublished author say you should always have your books professionally edited before turning them in. So I followed her advice.
The cover…I had an idea for each cover that I described to the designer, Delle Jacobs, and she produced them. I LOVE them.
I paid someone the vast sum of $20 per book to convert them. Although I know friends who have done it themselves. It’s time consuming, but doable. Not worth the time and effort in my opinion. I would have paid far more to have someone else do it. You market the book just like you would with a book put out from a publisher.
Heather: I think your covers are beautiful! The cover artist did an amazing job. What’s one thing you wish you would have known before self-publishing?
Debra: I studied articles about self-publishing and read posts on forums. I have my Wet Noodle Posse friends coaching me. So as far as I know, I didn’t make any mistakes. I wish I could have started six months ago, but I couldn’t with my crazy deadline.

Heather: Research is definitely key in all aspects of writing and publishing! How do you come up with your story ideas?
Debra: Wild Montana Sky came about because I was dating a young cowboy at the time. We had nothing in common, but he was cute and fun. I thought to myself, “If we’d lived 100 years ago in the West, this might actually work.” That young cowboy changed my life, and I’ll be forever grateful.
The other ideas all came in different ways. I thought of a story when I was in San Diego with my boyfriend last weekend. We walked around the USS Midway, and I found myself toying with an idea. It played in my head for the rest of the afternoon, and I jotted the ideas down on the way home.

Heather: I love when an idea comes to you out of the blue and just seems to stick. It can settle into your brain like it has always been there and then we just have to write the story to be rid of it! And last but not least, the most important question of them all… If you could be granted one wish, what would it be?
Debra: You besides World Peace? Let me think for a few minutes. This is actually a very good question. I’m very blessed in my life, so as much as I’d love to say millions of book sales, which I’d still love to have, I will say World Peace. 🙂
Heather: Ah, good old world peace. Easy-peasy, right? Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today!


About the author


6 pings

  1. Shoshanna Evers says:

    Congrats on your success! I’ve got five books with 3 more coming soon from a mix of 4 publishers, but I’m so excited by the idea of self-publishing. I’ve dipped my toes in the water with a short story (Overheated) and I’ll be self-pubbing a non-fiction writing book and a romance novel *very* soon.

    15K books in 4 months is inspirational! If you wrote a book on how you did it, I’d be first in line to buy it! 🙂

  2. Debra Holland says:


    I’ve been blogging about self-publishing on my site: http://drdebraholland.blogspot,com

    Best of luck with your self-publishing!

  3. Nadeem says:

    I would like to congratulate Debrah for the great achievement of selling 15000 books in just 4 months wow! amazing … now I am thinking to start self-publishing, but for doing so I also need an intelligent piece of mind like Debrah 🙂 any ways! well done!

  4. Theresa Ragan says:

    You have done amazing, Debra. I’m so happy for you! So, you dated a young cowboy, huh? And so began your writing career. Awesome! CHEERS to many more books sold in 2011!

    Great interview, Heather.

  5. Heather says:

    Hey Debra!

    Thanks again for coming on my blog today! It was a pleasure having you here. You’re sales numbers are staggeringly impressive. Well done! Here’s to many more sales to come!!

  6. Debra Holland says:

    Thanks Nadeem, Theresa, and Heather.

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