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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Adding a Comedic Touch: Author Interview with Dortha Jackson

Your bio says you’ve won multiple writing contests over the years. Most recently you won an award from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association for their EVVY competition. How is that competition judged?
Yes, it’s true that the first writing contest I won was way back in 1979. The recent CIPA EVVY Awards nomination was for my first book, Isn’t It Funny? My publisher for the book, Outskirts Press made the nomination. For this particular Award, books are judged for their cover designs, interior layouts, editing, content, and overall quality.

What is your criteria in deciding whether or not to enter a writing contest?
I like to enter writing contests as a challenge in genres that are not my primary writing interests. This helps me stretch and grow as a writer and get beyond my comfort zone.

What is the maximum entry fee you’d be willing to pay?
I’ve paid entry fees ranging from $10 to $95. The most common are from $20-$45.

What’s been the best prize you’ve ever one?
The best cash prize was $50 back in 1979 which seemed like a lot then. I was headed off to college at the time, so appreciated the money. But, “the best” would have to be just last year when I finished in the Top Ten of the 2014 Erma Bombeck International Writing Competition. When I saw that the entries represented 13 different countries and 48 states in the U.S., placing in the Top Ten was an honor. Also, the piece I entered was a personal piece about my mother, and the judges had such good things to say about it. So, the whole experience was exhilarating.

How long did it take you to write your current book?
It took me about four years to finish Seeds. I began to research and got the story line and characters developed first. Then, life interrupted several times. I put the finishing touches on it early in 2015.

How many rewrites did you do on it?
I did three major re-writes. Being an advocate for printing to proof-read, I had the chapters bound in comb binding three different times so that I could edit the old-fashioned way- with a red pen. This process helps me see and hear things in my writing that I cannot with a computer screen.

Are you active with any critique groups who helped you along the way?
My family is my favorite critique group. There are several published writers in my family including my mother and an aunt and uncle. When my mother was alive, she was my primary proofer. Now, my husband has the job. This helps me with another set of eyes until the book is ready to hand over to the editors.

Who helped you with the editing?
I tend to be a perfectionist, so it’s my opinion that hiring a professional editor is the best gift I can give myself. I had two editors for Seeds, a line editor and a copy editor. They specialize in different areas of editing, each giving me their expert insight to help my words shine.

Have other books been started and stopped along the way?
I tend to have at least a dozen books on the burners at any given time- all at different stages. I’ve learned the importance of writing things down the moment it pops into my mind. Otherwise, it will be lost forever.

What do you think is the most common misconception about self-publishing?
The most common misconception about self-publishing would be that you are going through the process alone. Or, at least that’s what I thought before I experienced it. In reality, you’ve got a team behind you helping along the way.

How much research did you do on self-publishing before choosing your sources?
I’ve done years of research only to find that there are as many different ways to self-publish as there are publishers. It can be a daunting task for someone just beginning the process.

You've now started your own publishing company for others wanting to indie-publish. With all the other options out there, what makes your services stand out?
Thank you for asking about it. At Book Mouse Publishing, we believe that “Everyone has a story to tell.” Our mission is to provide a venue for people to tell their story in an affordable publication that supports integrity and wholesome values. Our unique specialty benefits our customers in that we specialize in “Ensemble Publishing” with 50-100 authors per book. This allows you to self-publish a single story in a book format for an affordable price. Other publishers charge thousands of dollars to self-publish a book. We also offer special projects for individuals only interested in “Solo” publishing. One of the most attractive features we offer Non-profit organizations is a FREE fund-raising opportunity.

What has surprised or frustrated you the most in marketing your book?
The surprise and frustration for me were how long it takes to get the word out. You spend so much time at the typewriter, or keyboard that when you finally get the book published, you feel everyone should be as excited about it as you. Then, you’re hit with the reality that your book is just one of millions of books vying for attention. So, it takes time to market it. As an author, we feel that publishing is our goal and the climax of our experience. As far as marketing goes, I’ve heard others say that publishing is just the beginning, and I’m inclined to agree.

What type of promotion has worked best for you so far in generating sales?
I’ve learned to be patient with the whole process. The occasions I’ve had the most success in generating sales is when I take the time to talk to people about the book. I guess my enthusiasm is more contagious than their will to part with $8.50. So, I talk about it online, at gatherings and parties, at church, and at work. That always helps with immediate sales and future sales.

What do you know now about writing/publishing that you wished you had known sooner?
I wish I had not been so afraid to reach out to a self-publishing company to help me through the process. I mulled it around in my head for years. Meanwhile, the clock kept ticking and life went on.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
As an educator, I’ve always been in the business of helping others be the best they can be, so becoming a publisher is a continuation of that mantra. I love helping people realize how simple self-publishing can be when you have competent professionals handling the details. On both of my books, it was a joy for me to have professional cover designers, editors, and interior layout designers. That gave me great pleasure knowing that once my writing was complete, my support team would take it from there.

Are there any other books in the works that you would like to tell my readers about?
Yes, I’m gathering data and research for my next book, How to Marry Mr. Right. It’s a book for young adults about longevity in a marriage and what to look for in potential partners. I’m in the process of interviewing couples that have been married for over forty years. If you would like to contribute to this book, please send me a message through the Contact Us page on the website for Book Mouse

Also, the publishing company has several books that are currently open for submissions, and a couple of writing contests and an illustrator contest.

Thank you for your insights. If you would like to learn more about Dortha's books or her publishing company, here are some links to get you started.

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